NEW DELHI — With an aim to highlight the marvelous and uniquely synthetic aspects of Kashmir’s Islamic Architecture to the world, INTACH-Kashmir Chapter under the Department of Tourism of Jammu and Kashmir and the India International Centre (IIC) has jointly mounted an exhibition at the IIC here.
A panel discussion was also held before the exhibition’s inauguration and it brought spotlight on the genesis and synthesis of Islamic Architecture in medieval Kashmir. Initiating the discussion on Tuesday, noted architecture expert and convener of the INTACH J&K chapter, Dr. Saleem Baig, noted that the Islamic architecture of Kashmir was a continuation of spiritual traditions of the past, represented through religious architecture.
Dr Baig has noted that the story of evolution of Islamic architecture of medieval Kashmir is the story of harmonizing the Islamic practices with the spiritual constitution of the historic Kashmiri subject. Stressing the need to look at the geography, as also the oral and literary traditions beyond political colours, Dr Baig referred to Neelmat Purana, the 7th Century Sanskrit treatise, and Raj Tarangni where Kashmir has been imagined as a sacred space created by divine intervention.
The philosophical setting laid out in these Sanskrit texts was carried forward in Persian by Muslim historians and poets in historic texts and literary works, thus providing continuity in terms of sacredness described famously as Jannat — the Paradise on Earth, he said.
Dr Baig also highlighted the central feature of Kashmir’s history that it has been the melting pot of cultural practices of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.
Echoing his observations, Dr. Sameer Hamadani shed light on the integrated architectural practices among Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists vis-à-vis the sacred architecture in Kashmir. Dr Hamadani is attached with INTACH’s Kashmir Chapter.
Another panelist, Professor Narayani Gupta, who teaches history, maintained that art and architecture are the expression of human creativity and it cannot be classified into divisions like Hindu architecture/Rajput architecture/Muslim architecture and so on. She stressed that in creative human enterprise, such types of classifications did not exist.
Putting forth his views on the subject, Ratish Nanda from the Agha Khan Trust for Culture has talked about the similarities in architectural expressions in mosques and temples, and said this is not a co-incidence. Expression of creativity is uniformly expressed in the monuments and the thought behind these buildings.
Dr. SM Akhtar, head of department of architecture at Jamia Millia Islamia said the architecture of buildings represented the milieu of a specific period.
The panelists referred to the 14th Century AD that marked a watershed in the history of Kashmir. The local traditions of art and architecture encompassed the whole landscape of Kashmir –synthesizing Hindu and Buddhist architectures and the cultural mosaic, there by establishing a synthesis and continuity of cultural streams, both living and past, in Kashmir.
In the lively debate, they also established a linkage with Buddhist and temple architecture of Kashmir by appropriation of symbols, spaces and elements in the Muslim shrines and mosques. The panel discussion was presided over by IIC president and former J&K governor, NN Vohra, and it was moderated by eminent theatre personality and film maker MK Raina.
In his presidential remarks, Vohra has appreciated the work being done by INTACH in preserving the cultural heritage of the country. He referred to his tenure in Kashmir when he witnessed the restoration and conservation of public spaces and religious monuments undertaken by INTACH. He emphasized the need for revisiting our understanding of history, mainly in the field of art and architecture; and in doing so, we move away from the colonial interpretation or division of sacred narratives.
Dr Saleem Baig said the focus of the exhibition is to throw light on the uniquely synthetic aspects of Kashmir’s Islamic architecture, emphasizing the spiritual landscape of Kashmir as a melting pot of various religious and philosophical traditions.
Later on, the exhibition of drawings and descriptive pictures was inaugurated by INTACH chairman Rtd. Major General LN Gupta in the gallery at IIC annexe. The exhibition showcases the architectural drawings and photographs of the shrines that explain the architectural features and the processes at various historic shrines in Kashmir.
This exhibition celebrates the genesis and synthesis of Islamic Architecture in medieval Kashmir. It covers years of conservation and restoration projects by INTACH Kashmir Chapter, providing a detailed context of every building in terms, drawings, photographs and text. Some of the representative cases covered in this exhibition were the Khanqah- i- Maulla, Peer Dastageer Sahib Shrine, Mosque of Madani among others.
The creative synthesis is a material testament to the spiritual dynamics in the Valley of Kashmir, where the traditions of Kashmiri Shivaism and Mahayana Buddhism were reinterpreted during the transitions of Kashmir. The multi-tiered pyramidical roof topped by a spire is reminiscent of the pre-Islamic architectural skyline of Kashmir as are the various motifs incorporated into the building elements of our architectural enterprise. The unique exhibition will remain open till February 4, 2020.