The old-city of Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar, known for its historical buildings, bridges and artifacts, is still throwing more surprises.
In a chance discovery, an old house, believed to be built around 1350-1450, was unearthed in Maharaj-Gunj area of the city, after a portion of road being constructed over the area caved-in.
The area is already home to the tomb of 15th century king Zain-ul-Abidin, popularly known as Budshah, who ruled Kashmir from 1420-70. Just near is the Rinchan Shah Mosque, the first mosque to be built in Kashmir.
The place where the structure was revealed already had a house over it, which was demolished recently to pave way for a road.
Archaeologists say, the structure belongs to early Sultanate period of Kashmir, a reference to Shah Mir Dynasty which ruled Kashmir from 1339.
“The architectural features and material, including the bricks and the arches used in the building, indicate that the structure might belong to Budshah’s period,’ says M.Shafi Zahid, director of archives, archaeology and museums.
“We are consulting research scholars, analysing records and even relying on folklore to come to a final conclusion,” he says.
However, Dr Aijaz Bandey, an archaeological expert who retired as director from the centre of central Asian studies at Kashmir University, believes that the structure may have been constructed even before Budshah’s period.
“Budshah took his throne to the other end of the city. I believe the house may have been built during the time of Alauddin (period of rule 1343-54) or Qutubuddin (period of rule 1373-89). These Sultans established their thrones around the area during their respective rules,” he says.
Despite the initial enthusiasm, the locals of Maharaj Gunj are worried that the government might not be serious to protect the site. They allege that the site has been allowed to be vandalised by the roads and buildings(R&B) department as well as by the onlookers. Even after three days of its unearthing, the site is yet to be marked as protected and has been “partially filled” with soil by the R&B department. Locals said that an arch of the structure was also damaged by the officials of the department.
Zahid says that they have been consulting different government agencies to preserve the site. “We have told R&B department to stop work near the site. We have to find a way as a road project passes through the area,” he says.
Banday, however, has a suggestion. “If government wants, it can do both; preserve the site as well as construct a road. All it needs to do is to first secure the site and then make a road overhead. There are numerous examples of such projects around the world,” he says. “It can be a great tourist attraction.