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ASI unearths 17th century mughal structure in Srinagar

Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has unearthed an extension of a Mughal structure in Srinagar built by Shah Jahan's eldest son and a Sufi, Dara Shikoh, credited with the distinction of translating Upanishads into Persian, reports Ashiq Hussain.
By Ashiq Hussain | Hindustan Times, Srinagar
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2010 05:13 PM IST

Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has unearthed an extension of a Mughal structure in Srinagar built by Shah Jahan's eldest son and a Sufi, Dara Shikoh, credited with the distinction of translating Upanishads into Persian.

The structure, built by Shikoh in mid seventeenth century at Kathi Darwaza in old city for his spiritual teacher and Sufi saint Mullah Akhoon Shah(also called Mullah Shah Badakshi) , consisted of a mosque, an Islamic seminary (in ruins now) and a Hammam.

However after the excavation, an extension of the structure, including a meditation room, believed to be used by the Sufi saint, a pavement for the Mughal prince to ride his horse and some food stores were unearthed. The structure is a typical Mughal construction with arches, alcoves made of stone and brick.

"It was a chance discovery. We were removing the soil to renovate the structure when we found more rooms beneath. As the structure is in the form of descending steps, we expect some more structures would be lying under the soil," said Mohammad Yousuf, monument attendant of ASI. Yousuf has been care taking the monument for the last twenty years.

Prince Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan was a follower of the Qadiri order of Sufi Islam. Historians say that Shikoh had a great interest in mysticism, and he built the structure for his Sufi tutor Mullah Akhoon Shah. Besides, the only other structure built by Shikoh was an observatory, a seven-terraced garden with a structure, on Zabarwan hills overlooking Dal lake. The structure is called Pari Mahal (palace of fairies).

"For his peer's (spiritual teacher) meditation Shikoh built the structure at old city and for his own meditation he built Pari Mahal," said Fida Mohammad Husnain, a historian and former director of Archives and Archeology.

"Shikoh was a Sufi. He knew Sanskrit as well as Persian and it were him who translated Upanishads into Persian," Husnain said.

Being highly fragile, it took the excavators seven months to dig the earth to unearth the structures.

"We had to do it manually with hands as use of machines and bulldozers was risky," said Yousuf.

"After all the hard work we are happy to have found the most beautiful room of the structure. It is the meditation room of the Sufi saint which is plastered and has intricate designs," informed Yousuf.

Javaid Ahmad Sheikh, a local and a mason hired by ASI was overwhelmed. He was surprised to see the pavement which was buried 30 feet below the ground where he had played on during his childhood. "When I was young I would play here. It was amazing to learn that Dara Shikoh would ride horses here more than 350 years ago. We are digging out the buried history," he said.

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