MUGHAL ROAD: Negligence spoils legacy
Historic Way Has Ample Scope For Heritage Tourism
FAHEEM ASLAM/GOWHAR BHAT
Aliabad Sarai (Mughal Road), Oct 24: The 84-kms-long historic Mughal Road is not only a house to rich flora and fauna but the legacy of Mughal emperors too, indicating the scope that the road has for “Heritage Tourism.”
A journey through the road from Shopian takes you to a number of historically significant places which can be well protected by the Archeological Survey of India and developed into heritage places by the Tourism Department, it at all they are interested in doing so.
Among other places, some of the prominent Sarais (resting places) established by the Mughal emperors along the Mughal Road are in a shambles, and for the past many years, awaiting conservation and restoration.
A famous Sarai on Valley-side is the Aliabad Sarai. Historians believe that the Sarai has been constructed by the Shahjehan’s Governor of Kashmir, Ali Mardan Khan, after whose name is a Srinagar area—Bagh-e-Ali Mardan Khan—known hundreds of years since. Aliabad Sarai, it is understood, served as an important stopover for the Mughal journeys into the Valley where the caravans took rest and royalty and the accompanying nobles refreshed before proceeding further on their passage.
A square construction, it is a typical Mughal architecture raised of rubble boulders and bricks in red lime mortar. Though it is an ASI protected monument, it doesn't look like one. For the past many years it was used by
the paramilitary forces who later vacated it.
The Sarai is in a shambles a house to migratory shepherds besides some stray cattle. It should have ideally been conserved to the best-possible extent. The Sarais or resting places reflect the grandeur and majesty with which the Mughal emperors’ caravans travelled into the Valley.
The Mughal Governor is said to have constructed seven sarais on the Mughal Road between Kashmir and Rajouri-Poonch.
Another significant spot along the Road is Peer-Ki-Gali, housing the Ziyarat of Peer Baba. It is situated amidst lush green meadows. The place, which marks the centre point of the Mughal Road from Bafliaz in Poonch to Shopian, is yet to be developed properly.
According to locals, the place is visited by a number of devotees from different parts of India, every year. “There is nobody to develop the place properly,” says Bashir Ahmad, who runs a makeshift grocery there. “Despite poor road connectivity the place is thronged by scores of people from both sides on weekends.”
On Poonch side of the road, some historic Sarais too are in a dilapidated condition while a few of them are under the occupation of the troops. These include the famous Thana Mandi Sarai, which, according to officials, is being occupied by Army for the past many years now.
A rest house also exists in Chingus in Rajouri district, but this too has not been properly protected and conserved. “There are scores of springs along the road which also need to be protected. The places like Dobjan, Hirapur Wildlife Sanctuary, Lal Ghulam can be developed as heritage sites if properly protected and conserved,” said Najam Chaudhary, a resident of Poonch. “But the sites must be protected and not vandalized as has been the case with so many sites in Jammu and Kashmir. We must understand that these places are of historical significance which is there because of their architecture and other things. So this architecture and ambience must give the visitor a feel of the Mughal era. So the protection must be done accordingly.”
Right now, it is still unclear as to whether the state government has any plans to take up the conservation of the monuments and places along the historic route, thought the chief minister Omar Abdullah during his drive along the road to Baflihaz, asked the executing agencies to immediately prepare a project for development of the Sarais.
“It is a very important route which is scenically very beautiful and rich in historically significant monuments,” says Saleem Beg, who heads of the Kashmir chapter of INTACH. “Most of the Sarais along the route are in a shambles and need to be conserved to the extent that they can use used again.”
Beg, however, cautioned that it was mandatory to protect the places in a way that their glory was tampered with. “These places carry with them a unique glory and charm which should not be compromised at any cost while going for their conservation,” he said.
Though the INTACH has, in 2008, presented a ‘concept document’ about the sites to the Tourism Department, the latter is yet to respond. “The Mughal Road has ample room for future tourism. But there are some things the state government needs to do forthwith. It must issue an order banning any type of construction around 100 meters from the road. We must not allow encroachments and inappropriate constructions on it,” Beg said. “After this, the conservation of the heritage sites along the route can be taken up. But primarily we have to stop the constructions and encroachment so that this road doesn’t look like an ordinary road once it is thrown open for vehicular traffic. It must have that grandeur and ambience of the Mughal Road so that those who travel by it can have a feel of how Mughals must have used the road.”
Beg said people need to be educated about the importance of the road. “There is need to build the capacity of the people so that they don’t go for massive construction of Dhabas and tyre-repair outlets as is the case with highways. That would mar the essence and historicity of the road,” he said.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 24 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 24 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 25 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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