Even in the most turbulent phase of its history, Kashmir, the ‘Paradise on Earth’, has always been a crucible of diverse faiths melding harmoniously to become a signpost of eclecticism: its capital city Srinagar houses some of the exquisite shrines of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Sufis – a historical fact that may not be known to the current generation.
There is yet another facet of Srinagar that draws tourists in droves — the Jhelum, the lifeline of the city that has flowed and gurgled serenely since time immemorial with several heritage structures of conspicuous grandeur emerging around it. The river, with seven historic bridges built over it, divides Srinagar into two parts.
The stories behind these heritage structures and cosmopolitanism of Srinagar will be vividly recounted to refresh the memory of its residents during two curated walks as part of the ongoing India Heritage Walk Festival (IHWF).
The month-long, multi-city IHWF 2018 is organised jointly by Sahapedia (sahapedia.org), the online encyclopedia of Indian arts and culture, and Yes Culture, the cultural division of Yes Global Institute, a practising think tank of Yes Bank, to encourage citizens to explore the tangible and intangible heritage of their cities and towns.
The first of two walks scheduled in Srinagar, titled Trysts with Kashmir: A Walk around River Jhelum, will be held on February 26 (Monday). Led by Taha Mughal, an architect associated with INTACH Kashmir, it will be conducted along the banks of this historic river and cover landmark structures like Noor Jehan’s Pathar Masjid, a mosque architecturally distinct from all other mosques of Kashmir; Bushah’s Tomb (1430 AD) that reflects a confluence of Buddhist and Islamic architecture; and shrine of Mir Syed Ali Hamdani Khanqah-i-Moulla (1395 AD), a place historically housing a spring sacred to Goddess Kali.
INTACH Kashmir is the partner for this walk, which will wind through the old markets to reveal a compact understanding of Kashmir’s cosmopolitan history and its magnificent cultural heritage.
The second walk, also to be held on February 26, will take participants to Hari Parbat (also known as Kooh-e-Sulaimani), the site of the famous Sharika Devi temple dedicated to Goddess Jagadamba Sharika Bhagwati who is regarded as the presiding deity of Srinagar city. The first fortifications on the site overlooking Srinagar were constructed by Mughal ruler Akbar in 1590 as part of his plans for a new capital called Nagar Nagar. The present fort was built in 1808 during the reign of Shuja Shah Durrani.
Led by Umar Farooq, an architect associated with INTACH Kashmir, the two-hour walk will be conducted on and around the hill that epitomizes religious diversity of Srinagar. The southern side of Hari Parbat features Makhdoom Sahib, the shrine of Hamza Makhdoom, a 16th-century Kashmiri Sufi saint locally known as Hazrat Sultan-ul-Arifeen. Another shrine on the hill’s southern slope is dedicated to Shah Badakhshi, a 17th-century Sufi saint.
Gurdwara Chatti Patshahi, on the foothills of Hari Parbat, is believed to have been the preaching spot of the sixth guru of Sikhism, Guru Har Gobind, making the place highly venerable in Srinagar. Mullah Akhoon mosque, Hamam Dara Shikwoh, Badaamwari and Kathi Darwaza are some other important places that will be visited during the walk in partnership with INTACH Kashmir.
Details about the walks and other programmes of IHWF 2018, map routes and registration information are available on http://www.indiaheritagewalkfestival.com.
Vaibhav Chauhan, Festival Director (IHWF) and Secretary, Sahapedia, says, ‘The India Heritage Walk Festival 2018 is a celebration of all that Sahapedia stands for. In an attempt to create authentic, credible, and exhaustive content on our rich heritage and culture, we are developing a network of cultural practitioners across the country. This festival is a part of this pan-India movement, making heritage spaces more popular, more accessible, and more experiential.”
Rana Kapoor, MD & CEO, Yes Bank and Chairman, Yes Global Institute, says “India is blessed with a rich heritage and cultural history, which is abundantly manifested in monuments and architectural sites across our country. Civil society participation in our Nation’s heritage, aided by activities such as heritage walks, is integral to the preservation and conservation of these sites. Such heritage tourism initiatives, with the wholeheartedparticipation and involvement of local communities and citizens, have the potential to instill immense national pride and further the agenda of heritage development,”
Preeti Sinha, Global Convenor, Yes Global Institute, says, “The understanding of heritage in 21st century India has expanded from the protection of historic buildings and monuments to focus on more general understanding of the wider context and preservation of tangible and intangible cultural forms. Through active engagement with built, natural and living heritage through the design of walks, talks, and digital media such as films and social forums, the festival is a touchstone for conscious thinking towards formulating historically-sensitive policy and decision making.”
IHWF 2018, covering 20 cities and towns around the country, features walks to historical monuments and shrines, well-known landscapes, places known for art and culture, cuisine and flourishing trade. There is also an online film festival of documentaries based on cultural themes and lecture series curated as Baithaks and Instameets as part of nearly 70 events scheduled throughout the month.