Kashmir is often referred to as the cradle of Hinduism and Sufism; here Buddhism rose to great heights and spread to Ladakh. The Bagh-e-Suleiman, also called the Shankaracharya Hill, is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus. Kashmiri mystic Lal Ded’s poetry combined Buddhist, Shaivite and Sufi precepts. Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani, popularly known as Nund Rishi, is regarded as the patron saint of Kashmiris.
Against such a background, it is but natural that Kashmiri architecture is influenced by all these philosophies. The taq and dajj diwari style of construction, windows with intricate pinjrakari; zoon dub, special balconies to enjoy the sun and the moon; ceilings with an intersecting maze of khatamband and shrines with burze pash, living roofs that grow flowers, reflect the skill of Kashmiri craftsmen. But above all, they celebrate the syncretism of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic architecture with spiritual elements and sacred spaces.
Long-drawn conflicts have obscured many aspects of Kashmir’s syncretic culture, including its architectural tradition that goes back centuries and manifests itself in temples, stupas and mosques.
A panel discussion and an exhibition, titled Sacred Architecture of Kashmir, held recently in Delhi at the India International Centre, gave the audience a glimpse of the rich architectural heritage of Kashmir through materials like drawings, photographs and write-ups. Organised by the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage, Intach-J&K Chapter, the exhibition showcased the genesis and synthesis of Islamic architecture in medieval Kashmir and the traditional inspirations that it draws from.
The exhibition covered conservation and restoration projects by Intach, providing a detailed context of every building in terms of drawings, photographs and text. Some shrines covered in the exhibition include Srinagar’s 14th-century Khanqah- i-Maulla, also known as the Shahe-Hamadan Masjid, one of the oldest mosques in Kashmir, the Peer Dastageer Sahib Shrine and the Mosque of Madani.
Addressing the panel discussion on the genesis and synthesis of architecture in medieval Kashmir, Saleem Baig, convener of Intach’s J&K Chapter, said, “The idea behind the exhibition was to reach out to a broader audience, to tell them the story of the evolution of the sacred architecture of Kashmir. This architecture has evolved with the synchronization of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic architectural, spiritual elements and sacred spaces. However, not much work has been done so far in studying this continuity of traditions.
Baig emphasised the need to look at the geography, oral and literary traditions of Kashmir beyond political contestations. He referred to the 7th century Sanskrit treatise Neelmat Purana and the historical chronicle Raj Tarangni where Kashmir has been imagined as a sacred space created by divine
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