Shahr-e-Khaas silently losing ‘window of life’
FROM LIVING HERITAGE TO CALENDARS
ARIF SHAFI WANI
THE boom of constructing modern day glazed buildings and houses is not only gradually consuming heritage structures in the Old Srinagar City but also the traditional windows, which stand witness to its revolutionary history. In absence of any efforts to save the dying heritage, the splendid architecture has rolled onto a unique calendar in hope of its preservation.
The admirers of Shahr-e-Khaas grandeur are leaving no stone unturned to preserve it for posterity—atleast through photographs and calendars.
The mesmerizing photographs in a calendar themed The Window of Life focuses on different forms of windows in nearly century old houses in Old City. And each of the photographs has a brief note about history of the windows and the make.
‘The wooden Pinjra shutters and Maharaji brick of this modest house define the vernacular architecture of Kashmir in this building,” reads a footnote of a photograph, an old house in the calendar.
“Pointed arched window with upper part showing colonial influence in the use of glass and mullion, late in 19th-early 20 century building,” another footnote reads. The Valley’s famed landscape photographer, Mukhtar Ahmad, said during his visit to Old City last year, he was pained to see some old houses being demolished to pave way for modern bungalows and glazed high rise buildings.
“The sight of old, artistic windows being ripped apart, touched my heart as with it we were gradually losing important part of our architecture. I instantly decided to take photographs of windows of the intact houses to preserve the splendid piece of architecture for our future generation,” Mukhtar told Greater Kashmir.
Elaborating, Mukhtar, who born and brought up in Shahr-e-Khaas, said the windows have a mystical beauty. “A window is not just an architectural necessity; it is metaphorically speaking the gateway to our world. You open a window, and you allow the world inside yours. You close it and you open a world of intrigue, mystery, a world illuminated by darkness and pregnant with limitless possibilities,” he said.
Mukhtar said he approached many corporate houses for including the photographs of the old windows their calendars to create awareness about their historical importance and need to preserve them. Finally, Khyber Cements liked Mukhtar’s photographs and agreed to incorporate the pictures in its calendar for 2011.
“We at Khyber wanted to show that despite being in construction sector, we too care for our traditional architecture. Even if people go for modern architecture, there is possibility to blend it with traditional architecture to give it a Kashmiri touch,” said Omar Tramboo, the Director of Khyber Cements.
“For centuries, Kashmiri artisans have crafted exquisite window patterns in wood involving subtle play to light and shade. The mesmerizing effect of light as it filters through the Pinjarkari works gives an inkling of the inner space and the life that lives inside, oblivious of the peering eyes of the outside world,” Tramboo said.
Prominent expert on heritage and former Director General Tourism, Muhammad Salim Baig minces no words to term the window designs as significant architectural element.
“Lattice work is significant element of Islamic Architecture… The first impact of Arab architecture on world since 10th century,” Baig said.
Baiq who is heads the Kashmir Chapter of INTACT, an organization working for heritage conservation, said 32 designs of windows still exist in Kashmir.
“The number must have been bigger in the past but for now 32 design forms exists in houses and other building structures,” he told Greater Kashmir.
Mukhtar who has a collection of over 60,000 photographs, and state-of-the-art studio, said calendars are not merely marketing tools. “Calendars act as ambassadors. If any organization of individual makes a calendar with landscapes of the Valley, it markets Kashmir. If I have to make a calendar on any place, I have to understand its culture and traditions first to do justice with the job,” he said.
“For taking photographs of old windows, I had to travel extensively through the Old City, identify the houses and importantly motivate the owners to let me take pictures. It was a challenging task but I feel proud to have accomplished,” he added.
Last year his calendar depicting the village life, culture and innocence of villagers well acclaimed. This year Mukhtar’s pictures were used in calendars of many corporate houses and JK bank.
His latest on Gondola was sent to Parliamentarians, CMs of all states, Bollywood stars and travel agents in the Country and abroad.
Mukhtar’s calendar for Cemtac Cements comprises of black and white photographs and another one for TCI Cements has the sayings of renowned Sufi poet and saint Alamdar Kashmir-Sheikh Noorudin Wali “My endeavour is to make every calendar a masterpiece so that people will get a reason to place the calendar on the wall. Calendar making is not my business but passion where I always want to highlight the natural beauty, culture, heritage, handicrafts of my state in a professional way. I want every calendar maker to make the calendars with all their zeal, zest and honesty by not downloading the images from the internet or stealing the images of professionals but portraying the objects and themes in their original form,” he said.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Mar 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Mar 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 7 Mar 2011 00:00:00 IST
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