Every exploration in Srinagar must start from Downtown, the old Srinagar. For this area has been a witness to the most beautiful as well as the most turbulent time of Kashmir. The land which is now predominantly Islamic lacked monotheism until the early 1360s. Around 1365, Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, also known as Shah-e-Hamdan came to Kashmir from Iran and preached the teachings of Islam in the region. Today’s Kashmir has a lot of influence from the teachings of Shah-e-Hamdan. Our first spot was the Shah-e-Hamdan mosque in Srinagar.
The saint visited Kashmir thrice between 1365 and 1383. There were several saints who came to Kashmir before him but he was the only one who used the theories of brotherhood and love to preach and didn’t force anyone to embrace Islam.
Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani convinced the Buddhist and Hindu people of Kashmir to accept Islam. It is believed that he converted around 35,000 to Islam with peace.
Situated on the banks of river Jhelum, it is considered to be one of the oldest mosques of Kashmir. It was built by Sultan Sikander in the fond memory of the saint and the shrine has withstood three devastating fires. The most recent one was in 1731 AD which was later reconstructed by Abul Barkat Khan.
The ceiling inside the mosque is intricately carved with the traditional Kashmiri technique known as Khatamband. In this technique, blocks of wood (walnut or deodar) are interlocked with each other in a geometrical pattern without the help of any nail.
There has been a lot of emphasis on art while making this mosque. Here the ceiling is crafted with papier mâché and one can feel the profound Islamic beauty here.
A strange yet calming peace surrounds the mosque and one can sit here for hours at a stretch.
Apart from the liberal use of wood, one can notice the dominance of green colour which is considered holy in Islam.
Along with the teachings of Islam, Shah-e-Hamdan brought with him many skilled masters who taught various trades and crafts to the Kashmiris.
This man sells fritters just outside the shrine and they are delicious. When you go to Srinagar next, do try the lotus stem fritters.
Text and images by Supriya Aggarwal
PS: THN was invited by RK Sarovar Portico for a media visit to Srinagar.