Heritage week and conservation

Join hands to guard the precious capital

The present condition of these two structures is a best case study to assess our negligence levels towards our heritage.

World Heritage Week was celebrated from 19th to 25th November to increase the awareness and inspire the people about the conservation and protection of the cultural heritage and monuments inherited from our ancestors. Here in Kashmir at the government level, the activity remains confined to debates, whereas as people we are least bothered about awareness regarding heritage. Except for few stakeholders in the tourism sector, most of the people in Kashmir are unaware of the importance of rich cultural and architectural heritage Kashmir possesses and should have been proud of. Kashmir by every standard is a rich heritage repository and showcasing it is a never-ending process.

Anyways, whatever our intentions and plans of creating awareness about heritage and celebrating it we have to have a clear policy regarding conservation and protection of our legacy and a strong desire not only to showcase and market the rich heritage but preserve it for our future generations. And for that, it is not the administration alone that can ensure the protection of inherited heritage but people at large as a conscious nation has to rise above all considerations and work as ultimate saviors of their legacy. The history of Kashmir reveals a glorious past where even in abject poverty and extreme subjugation people would contribute a lot to preserve the heritage. It is very unfortunate and painful that for last seven decades while we claim to be fully empowered and emancipated we have ruined a substantial part of our culture and architecture that makes the core of our heritage. We started with marvellous waterways traversing most parts of the Srinagar city and its adjoining areas that would once bring Srinagar at par with Venice. This brute act of vandalization became a double-edged sword that not only ruined the heritage designed by our forefathers but inflicted extremely negative impact on our ecosystem. The well-orchestrated death of Nala-maaar at the hands of people’s leadership and vandalization of other water bodies by the materialistic public mindset reveals the ugly face of this nation and its leadership. A simple visit to the old city of Srinagar where every stone and brick speaks of rich heritage; where every craft still trying to survive the onslaught of brute transformation is heritage in itself makes anyone cry over the existing state of our prized inheritance. And this bug of ignorance and materialistic greed is not confined to Srinagar city only but it has spread to length and breadth of the Kashmir valley.

A visit to the Badshah Tomb and Pathar Masjid in Srinagar city speaks a lot about our ignorance vis-à-vis our legacy. The present condition of these two structures is a best case study to assess our negligence levels towards our heritage. At Badshah Tomb, the whole peripheral wall and the main entrance have been damaged and encroached to the extent that even after great efforts it is quite difficult to locate the entrance of this heritage property. A closer look at the outer wall divulges a magnificent past; inscribed with artistic and calligraphic treasure from our ancestors, these blocks of history are now used to support carts and shanty huts of greed and materialism. Within the premises where many of our learned people are resting in their grave the situation is not pleasing. At Pathar Masjid the most prominent side of the mosque opening on the main road stands completely covered with shabby structures hiding the vital façade and history of our legacy. Another grave example of negligence on heritage front of Kashmir is an encroachment of Nagar Nagar wall (Hari-Parbat Fort wall). Like Badshah Tomb and Pathar Masjid, this wall also suffered during the regime of people’s governments, particularly during last two decades the damage inflicted on the wall was more severe. These are only a few examples of indifference towards our heritage. On the cultural front, we have lost the track of cultural exclusivity and are emulating traditions that are not even remotely related to our ethos or gel with our customs. We are drifting from our traditions and time-tested practices adopted by our ancestors.

In the contemporary era of the diversified tourist trade heritage is one of the most important aspects that attracts high-end inquisitive tourism. Kashmir has enough to showcase on heritage front, but unfortunately, our shortsightedness and apathy towards it make a negative impact on the tourism. Now is the right time to join hands and make a collective effort to restore, conserve and preserve our heritage not for our own advantage but for our posterity as well.