Srinagar in 1900


In the concluding part of the 2-part series excerpted from Duke’s Guidebook to Kashmir, Joshu M Duke, the military doctor, who had spent almost 20 years in the valley, offers a detailed narrative of the names and the nomenclature of the 19th century Kashmir city that is, by now, forgotten and consigned to history

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Durimg one of his visits, Viceroy from India being taken to the Sherghari Palace in Srinagar.
During one of his visits, Viceroy from India being taken to the Sherghari Palace in Srinagar.

Opposite the Museum (right bank) is a large enclosure known as the Sheikh Bagh. In the centre is a large building, once a mosque, then an English Church and now used as an office by the Public Works Department. On the east side are several State houses occupied by the missionary clergymen and ladies of the Church Missionary Society. In the South-west corner is the European cemetery, consecrated by Bishop Johnson of Calcutta in 1867. It then contained 14 graves; in 1887, 42, and in December 1901, the number had increased to 115. One is glad to see that the cemetery is now kept in very good order.

Below it, facing the State Hospital is the High Court of Kashmir. The city of Srinagar now commences, and one soon passes under bridge

No I, the modern, unhandsome structure put up after the floods of 1893. It is built partly of stone, brick and deodar. At the north end is a small drawbridge, put up at the special request of HH the Maharaja Sahab to permit boats passing at flood water. As one clears the bridge the palace comes into view. On the right, the Royal barges, steam-tugs and fire-engine are mooted. A little below the bridge one gets a very perfect view of the river, for a stretch of some 800 yards, to the second bridge.

The Palace

Above the palace are some curious old houses, and below them, the modern building for the Private Secretary. The Royal Palace itself is a mixture of the old and modern, an immense building, which, with offices, extends as far as the Kut-i-Kull Canal. In the old portion is a very fine durbar room, with panelled ceiling, and other large rooms, where State entertainments are now held. The more picturesque and old portion is handicapped by a new style of architecture, and reminds one of the sayings of “putting new wine into old bottles”.

The Maharajah resides here while in Srinagar. A visitor’s book is kept at the private entrance, which is near the gold-beaten roof temple. Below the palace, two canals open out from the river on either bank. The channel on the left is known as the Kut-i-kul, that on the right as the Sunt-i-Kul, the (left) Kut-i-kul passes through the SW portion of the City and re-enters the river below the sixth bridge. It was deepened, as a sanitary work, in the winter of 1901. When the river is in flood, house boats and doongahs corning up the river generally follow this canal to avoid the great rush of water which pours through the narrow city bridges.

This is how the families would chip in and row the bigger boats carrying visitors to Kashmir. This illustration belongs to 1870 period.
This is how the families would chip in and row the bigger boats carrying visitors to Kashmir. This illustration belongs to 1870 period.

Hadow’s well-known factory can be reached by this canal. The pretty modern house, overlooking the entrance, completed finally in 1900, is the summer residence of Rajah Sir Amar Singi, KCSI.

The canal to the right, the Sunt-i-kul, leads up past the Chenar Bagh, the bachelors’ sanctum, to the entrance of the Dal lake, whence its water is derived, and on to the river, above the Library. A quarter of a mile above the entrance, are flood gates of modem construction, closed during big floods, and stopping all traffic. Beyond it is a bridge leading to the city. Further up, the channel turns to the tight. From this point is a view towards the Chenar Bagh that is often painted.

Above the skeleton bridge is the Chenar Bagh, with its grand trees and cool encamping. A good deal of boatbuilding is carried on here nowadays.

The kerosene tin domed temple, on the left and dense foliage on the right, forms a good picture, a fine combination of wood and water. Beyond the Chenar Bagh, the canal again turns to the right and makes for Dal gate, opposite which are some very fine Chenar trees. The Mission Hospital looms in front. The canal continues on under this, through the bridges at the head of the Poplar Avenue, and rejoins the Jhelum half a mile ahead.

The Slate houses adjoining are those of the Superintendent of Telegraphs, the Residency Surgeon, the First Assistant; on the left that of the Chaplain and the Church. When the river is high, this new waterway is not convenient for people bound for Dal Lake.

Basant Bagh

Basant Bagh is just below the Sunt-i-Kul, and is an open space of ground, with a handsome frontage, composed of limestone slabs, the ruins of the mosque, Hasanabad, on the Dal Lake. The large modern-looking house on the right belonged to a former Governor of Kashmir, Sirdar Roop Sing.

The second bridge, with four piers, was formerly lined on either side with shops. These were burnt down in 1870 and have not been replaced. Below it, on the left, is the largest modern temple in Kashmir –the Mian Sahib ka Mundir. A Buddhist inscription of a very ancient date will be found upon the face of a stone adjoining the Mallikyar Ghat, a little below this temple from which impressions have been taken by different experts. It is only visible at low water.

An 1870 lithograph showing a group of Kashmiri Mulsim women in Srinagar.
An 1870 lithograph showing a group of Kashmiri Muslim women in Srinagar.

As the boat glides slowly down with the stream, one sees that Srinagar is a very picturesque town. Nearly every dwelling is double storied; many of the larger have three and four stories. The quaint grouping of the buildings, the finer balconied houses of the rich, the frail tottering tenements of the poor, the airiness, the irregularity of all, help to form a city interesting and unique. The city is supported on each side by an embankment which, at one time, extended from the first to the last bridge.

Now it is very imperfect, and, like the edifices, broken and tottering. This embankment is a curious ruin, in that it forms a standing though the silent record of iconoclasm; a grave where the Mahomedan first and greatest, and, later the Hindu, uprooted, destroyed, and then finally buried the emblems of each other’s creed. For in it are jumbled incongruously, elegant cortices, cornerstones of temples and mosques that have fallen forever.

Above the third bridge are the warehouses of several well-known shawl merchants and bankers, whose names are posted in large English letters above their respective shops, their owners clad in snowy white ready to sell their very fetching wares at the most advantageous prices.

Further down, on the left bank, is the High School, of which the Revd C E Tyndale-Biscoe, a reformer and a true missionary, is principal.

A Celebrated Mosque

The Shah Hamadan Masjid is situated on the right, just below the third bridge. It is one of the most celebrated mosques in Kashmir.

The top of it commands a comprehensive view of the city. Like all the mosques of Kashmir, it is built of cedar with a golden ball on the top instead of the Mahomedan crescent; ornamental bell flowers, carved in wood, are bung around the projecting roof. If the visitor wishes to see the interior be must remove hit shoes.

The Bagh-i-Dilawur Khan is an old Pathan garden about five minutes walk from the ghat adjoining the Shah Hamadan, and is situated on a branch of the Dal Lake, from which it may also be visited by the Nalla Mariana! It is about 128 yards long and 70 yards wide and is interesting to the visitor as having been the residence of the travellers Huge), Vigne, and Henderson, during their stay in Srinagar in 1835. Jacquemont also stayed here.

The Patar Masjid is on the left bank of the river and nearly opposite the Shah Hamadan; it is still a very fine building of polished limestone, and “was built by Noor Jehan Begum – the beautiful Nurmahal, or Light of the Harem, of Lalla Rookh; its interior is divided into three passages by two rows of massive stone arches, which extend from one end to the other. It is now used only as a granary, and why? Because it was built by a woman, and, 1 has heard also because it was doubtful whether she was a Suni. The outhouses are now used as a State dispensary.

Adjoining the fine old ghat leading to this mosque is a burial ground, where three or four massive fluted limestone columns are lying about; and near them is an old zearut, called the Haji Ahmedi Khan.

The Zaina Kadal is the next or fourth bridge. The Shaik Mussa ke Mausjid is just below it on the left.

The Badshah, one of the oldest and most interesting ruins in the city, is built of brick and is situated on the right, just below the above bridge; it is the mosque of Zainul Abodin, who, lived in the early part of the 15th century, and was the eighth and most renowned of the Badshah’s or Mahomedan Kings of Kashmir. Shawls are said to have been first made in his reign by weavers brought from Turkestan, and the Lanka on the Woolar Lake is attributed to him; the adjoining bridge and many other places in the country also bear his name. The tomb surrounded by many others, said to be those of relatives, is placed in an inner enclosure on the left, a very modest resting place for one of the greatest of the Kashmir kings.

The Jamia

The Jumma Musjeed or is about eight minutes walk from the Badshah Ghat; it may also be reached from the Mar Canal. According to the inscription outside the entrance, it was built by the Emperor Shah Jehan. It is a very large four-sided building, with an open square in the centre, and a wooden steeple in the middle of each side. The roof is supported by wooden pillars, each formed of a single deodar tree more than 30 feet in height.

These pillars rest on stone bases, the height of the whole column being about sixty feet. The grand unique deodar supports of this mosque make it worthy of a visit by all, and it is really one of the best sights in the city. On the West side, a fine gothic arch opens from the square to the altar, over which the roof is higher than in any other part. A winding narrow staircase leads up to the highest point on the roof, whence the view, on the whole, is disappointing. The water centre square is now supplied by the Harwan works. It was originally brought in from the Sind Valley.

Outside the western wall of the mosque, there are several Chak tombs; amongst which is a small miniature temple with four sides, each of which is supported upon a fluted stone column. The roof of this temple is divided into three tiers by horizontal bands – an innovation on the rules followed in other temples. About four minutes walk to the North-north west of the mosque, and just beyond the ruin called the Pir Haji Mahomed, there is a very large Chak burial ground, containing many curious and ancient monuments. The Chaks, were a noble family, and some of them became Kings of Kashmir.

The Maharaj Gange Bazaar adjoins the Badshah Mosque. It was destroyed by fire in 1895. It is now being rebuilt on wiser principles, with a fine frontage and good approach.

The Raintan Shah ke Masjid is an old stone building on the right, immediately below the next or fifth bridge. It bears a peculiar inscription in the Nagri character, supposed to the Buddhist, which may be found upon the end of a stone in the middle of the outer side of the western wall, about 6 feet above the ground. The Wyasee Sahib ke Zearut is just below this building.

The Bulbul Lankar is a very old wooden mosque on the right, about 200 yards below the fifth bridge; it is thought to have been the first erected in Kashmir, and to contain the ashes of the fakir named Bulbul Shah, by whom Mahomedanism is said to have been introduced into the country in the 12th century: trees are growing through the roof of the building, which is in a ruinous and neglected state.

The Naya Kadal is the next or sixth bridge, and about 300 yards below it, on the right, an old brick building called the Dudmood Khan ke Masjid. Just below again, on the same side, is the mansion of the late Pundit Raj Kak, the minister of shawls, to whom was attributed the serious outbreak of the weavers in Srinagar, on the 20th April 1865. The kerosene tins that cover the domes, look very effective in the sunshine; and, close by, the new temple built by his son Pundit

An undated photograph of Jamia Majid in nineteenth century.
An undated photograph of Jamia Majid in nineteenth century.

Ram Ju in 1880. On the left, the handsome building is the State Zenana Hospital, opened in 1899. It is now under the care of an experienced lady doctor, a skilled operator; and supplying, as it does a great want, has a good future before it.

The Thaggi Baba-ke-Zearut, or Mallick Sahibs, lies below and immediately above the junction of the Kut-i-kul Canal with the river; it contains eight marble tombs, and some exquisite specimens of lattice-work in plaster of Paris, which, however, were much injured by the earthquake in 1885.

The Eedgah, the place at which the great assemblies of the Mahomedans are held during their religious festivals, is about ten minutes walk from the ghat called Luchmanjew-ke-Yaribal, which is on the right, and about 100 yards above the last bridge or Suffa Kadal:

it is a beautiful park-like plain, smooth, level, and carpeted with fine grass, about a mile in length and a quarter of, a mile in width, surrounded by large trees, and bounded on the East by the Mar Canal; it is the prettiest spot about the city, and has been well compared to an English village green. At its northern end there is a fine old wooden mosque called the Alli Masjid, which is half concealed by some of the largest Chenars in Kashmir, one of them being, in 1865, 32 feet in circumference; the roof is flat, and supported by four rows of polygonal wooden pillars, each resting upon a plain triangular stone pedestal. Upon the floor, near the Western wall, there was a stone stab, bearing an Arabic inscription stating that this Alli Masjid was built in the time of Sultan Hassam Badshah by Kaji Hasti Samar, about AD 1471.

The Suffa Kadai is the last or seventh bridge; just above it is the Yarkund Serai, the largest in the City where Yarkuud ponies and merchandise, chiefly namdahs, are procurable in the autumn. The bridge now is of more modern construction, with skeleton uprights. Immediately below it, on the left, is the Zearut of Naimatullah, which contains a stone slab with an inscription upon it, stating that the adjoining bridge was built by Saif Khan in AD 1664; hence its name. Four hundred yards further down is the mouth of the Dudhganga or the Chassa Kul, and below it again is the Noor Bagh— the place of execution — where the old gallows formerly stood.

If the water is high enough, the visitor may return by the Kut-i-Kul Canal, which enters the left bank of the river immediately below the zearut of Thaggi Baba; it intersects the Southern portion of the city and is crossed by several bridges, the principal of which is the Tainki Kadal near the Sher Ghari, where it rejoins the river.



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