Sunday, April 1, 2012

Old Photographs of Hazrat Bal, 1917

I asked my mother if she had ever been to Hazrat Bal. Yes. She has been. She went many moons ago with her then office colleagues. It must have been the 80s. The way a little stream of free flowing water washed your feet as you entered the complex impressed her much. 'Like it does at Golden Temple,' I propose to come up with an appropriate image. 'Not a lot of Pandits used to go there, certainly not the older generation. They would go to Makhdoom Sahib on Parbat but seldom to Hazrat Bal. But younger generation had started exploring.'

The image of the famous Srinagar mosque that now comes to mind is of a hard marble dome and a minaret on the banks of Dal. But it wasn't always like that.

Here are photographs of the old Hazrat Bal in around 1917 that I came across in a wonderful book titled 'Cashmere: three weeks in a houseboat' (1920) by Ambrose Petrocokino.



Hasrat Bal. Arriving for the Fete.

Hasrat Bal. The Ghat.

Hasrat Bal Ghat during the Fete. Sona Lank in distance.

Hasrat Bal. The Fete.

Hasrat Bal. The Mosque.



The story of the spot goes back to Mughal times when Sadiq Khan, the governor sent in by Shah Jahan, built a garden and palace at this picture perfect spot on the side of Dal. He called it Ishrat Mahal or the Pleasure House. It was 1693 and in time the place around it came to be known as Sadiqabad or Bagh-i-Sadiq. When Shah Jahan visited the place in around 1634, he converted the pleasure palace into a mosque. Around the same time, in around 1635, a holy relic was brought to India by one Sayeed Abdullah, a keeper at  Kaaba, who settled somewhere at Bijapur in the state which in now known as Karnataka.. Syed Hamid, son of Sayeed Abdullah, having fallen on hard times after Aurangzeb's conquest of Bijapur, sold it to a Kashmiri trader named Khwaja Nur-ud-Din Eshai. One knowing about the sale of such an artifact, Aurangzeb imprisoned the Kashmiri trader at Lahore on charges of perpetrating hoax, but later had the said relic sent to the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer. Aurangzeb later had a change of heart (some say it was 'divine intervention') and allowed for the relic to be sent to Kashmir. But by this time Nur-ud-Din Eshai was already dead in prison, so the relic was brought to Kashmir in around 1699 by his daughter Inayat Begum whose progenies came to known as Nishaandehs -  keeper of the sign. Initially, the relic was kept at Naqshband Sahib Shrine at Srinagar. But soon, keeping in mind the growing number of people thronging to take a look at the relic, a new place for keeping the relic was proposed - the shrine at Bagh-i-Sadiq.  And so moi-e-muqaddas was placed at the shrine that came to be referred as Madina-i-Sani and Dargah-i-Sharif.  The mosque was set to distinct Kashmiri  architecture - wood, slanting roof and iris on the roof. The present look of the shrine came in around as late at 1968 when Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as head of Muslim Auqaf Trust had the old structure dismantled and started work in a new structure. This new structure was completed in around 1979.


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Aside: To get a better understanding of the politics and economics of Shrine culture in Kashmir, do check out Chitralekha Zutshi's 'Languages of Belonging: Islam, Regional Identity, and the Making of Kashmir.

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Update:
"All round the sides of the Dal Lake there are broken walls and terraces, the remains of early Mughal gardens. Hazrat Bal, the village close to the Nisim Bagh, stands on the site of one of these. The large mosque, where the hair of the Prophet is preserved, and specially venerated once a year at a great mela, is built round the principal garden-house. The narrow stone water- course runs beneath it, and through the village square, in the midst of which a beautifully carved stone chabutra figures conspicuously and still forms a convenient praying platform. The old entrance can be seen in the long line of stone steps leading down to the water, but the most interesting feature at Hazrat Bal is the carved stone fountains. "

C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913)

3 comments:

  1. Dear Vinayak, With no intention to create a fuss and commentary by Bleeding hearts... and just in case you are not aware of this.

    Hazratbal Shrine is erected upon a Vishnu Temple, as are so many Muslim mosques in sub continent. In fact there is a huge stone tablet inside the main mosque ( at least it was there till 1987 when my father showed it to me) with mega size one pair of human foot prints. On close inspection you can trace outline of a Shankh. My father told me it was Vishnu Paadh ( Vishu's foot prints)

    Post at your peril. Dinesh

    ReplyDelete
  2. Case of 'Kadain-i-Rasul' - the Prophet's footprint vs 'Vishnapad' - Vishnu's foot.

    Walter Roper Lawrence mentions it in his The Valley of Kashmir (1895). But it was at Fattehpura in the Vernag Ilaka, and at Waripura in the Magam Ilaka that he witnessed a single piece of rock being worshiped by the both communities. I couldn't find a single reference to Vishnpad and Hazrat Bal or in fact any Hindu temple and Hazrat bal. The connection between tomb of Badshah's mother and Hindu temple is probably most well documented and probably is what you are referring to. (Had post a pic of Pillar Near the Jumma Masjid in Srinagar, 1868. HERE along with other pics)

    It is common in the sub-continent to find people venerate symbolic footprints of the Prophet and anoint it in sandalwood paste (most famous of it is in Dacca). It is common in the sub-continent to find people venerate symbolic footprints of the Mata, Pandavs, Hanuman and everything else above the earth. Most of these will be found in every nook and corner of the country.

    What to write about stones. And the economy of stones. Their use and re-use. Even their use in toothless stories, fables and memories. Stories of Victors and Defeated. Defeated and Victors, then Victors and Defeated, devouring each other's beloved stones. The simple math of it. How Noor Jahan's bricks ended up at Golden Temple. How her stone masjid was used as granary. How they say but it was already not in use by them (since built by a woman, they wouldn't go there) but how they contest and bemoaned the loss of their mosque. How it became part of their story. O the fighting stones!

    The great king is building a great house of god they say. And man likes to believe: Gods as a heavy specie like to leave footprints, it's another matter that they probably get some class of poor men to put their blood and sweat into carving it in a stone brought down from some high mountain on back of some other poor man. Another class of vain humans on the other hand call the odd shape a 'Kosmic-Device-of-many-mysteries', so many mysteries that no body knows or cares for what it really is. It is just another tale. Then there is class of humans that like to get straight to business, then they open shops around footprints and sell miniature footprints of all great god. In deed footprints of our great creator can be seen in the scheme of this set-up.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was going to post something really interesting today. But instead...the blah blah.

    ReplyDelete

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