Kashmir is architecturally outstanding too
Kashmir in India is known as Paradise on earth as well as Switzerland of India due to its scenic and picturesque landscapes. It is even praised for its houseboats, apples, nuts, dry fruits, saffron, but no one talks much of its architecture of its heritage religious buildings. The Kashmir valley for long has been a conflation for Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Muslims, especially in the 14th century when different traditions of art and architecture conjoined and may be observed in its pagoda like architecture of mosques like the Khanqah-i-Maulla (Great Khanqah) or Madin Sahab.
Khanqah-i-Maulla is one of the finest examples of traditional Kashmiri wooden architectural forms. The headers and stretchers are entirely made of robust wooden blocks with brick infill. The central hall on the ground floor of the shrine consists of double-height hall with a series of seven small cloisters on both sides meant for spiritual use.
The layout of the Khanqah-i-Maulla, Sufi Shrines and other medieval Kashmir temples very closely resemble a Buddhist Chaitya hall and where the ceiling of the central chamber is supported by four wooden columns. The entire structure is placed on top of multi-tiered pyramidal roof with an open square pavilion known as brangh in the center. The brangh is installed with a spire, thus confirming the progression of the Hindu and Buddhist building heritage.
Some extraordinary architectural features
Jama Masjid in Srinagar originally built in 1402 and subsequently destroyed by fires in 1479, 1620 and again in 1674. This mosque does not resemble any mosques which were built in the Islamic world. This is owing to the fact that there are no domes, the domes here are replaced by multi tiered pyramidal roofs with a central courtyard and spire.
The Shaikh Hamza Makhdum mausoleum, a leading Suharwardi Saint of Kashmir, is a built in a traditional Kashmir Style with Mughal Motifs and elements. The shrine was built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1600 and was renovated in 1703. The traditional Taq style of building, which is traditional to Kashmir, is known for its resistance against earthquakes. The Taq system involves load-bearing concrete walls with horizontal timber planks embedded in them. The building has ornate Naqashi (carving) and the main hall is adorned by a three- tiered pyramidal roof topped by an umbrella (Chhatri) surmounted by a small open wooden dome.
This clearly points to the art and architecture and are mere expressions of creativity by humans and classifications such as Hindu, Rajput and Muslim architecture have no meaning.
How cultures amalgamate in Kashmir
Though it is sad to see how conflicts in Kashmir have eclipsed everything in the region including its culture, heritage art and its amalgamated architecture. But one needs to continue with the legacy of blended and amalgamated styles for the continuity of tradition of rich cultural past. Buildings build by people of different faiths and religions regale the antiquity of Kashmir by giving an account beyond textual readings.
Beyond political controversies, Kashmir is notable for its geography as well as its oral and literary traditions. A Sanskrit text Nilamata Purana and Rajatarangini describes Kashmir as a hallowed space created by celestial intercession. The metaphysical settings of Kashmir was furthermore romanticised in Persian language by Muslim poets and historians in various texts and other literary works, in which they too continued the idea of Kashmir’s divinity by recounting the land as ‘jannat’ or paradise on earth. Amir Khusarau, a 13th century sufi poet immortalised the valley by the following verse:
Gar Firdaus bar roo-e-zameen ast,
hameen ast-o, hameen ast-o, hameen ast.
(If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.)