The Mughal era camel hump-shaped Oont Kadal in middle of Dal Lake will be restored to its past glory with support of government of Germany owing to the 17th century structure's outstanding global heritage value.
Oont Kadal is stone masonry bridge which was built around later part of 1670s during Mughal rule. It was essentially part of the erstwhile Chaudhri Soth also called Soth-i-Chodri that started at end of Naidyar Bridge in Kralyar, Rainawari and opened at Ishber Nishat.
It is believed that the length of the causeway was supplemented with a series of bridges, some of timber and some of masonry, which could not survive the vicissitudes of time.
The Oont Kadal (camel bridge) forms an important part of the public realm that constitutes combined environ of Dal Lake, Zabarwan Mountain range and potential World Heritage Site of Nishat Bagh.
"However, over the decades, lack of attention, as also difficulties in accessing the structure has resulted in its severe deterioration. If immediate attention is not given to conserve this significant historical structure, it is a matter of few years that the structure will succumb to external agents of erosion or even pilfering of building material," convener Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) J&K Chapter, Muhammad Saleem Beg told Greater Kashmir.
Oont Kadal has always been part of Mughal landscape of historic gardens and as such figures in historic references to Dal Lake as well as Mughal Gardens.
Naidyar Bridge marked starting point of causeway and the date of construction inscribed on a plaque on Naidyar Bridge indicates in Persian that it was built in 1676 AD by Chaudhri Mahesh Das. Historical images from 1890s to 1960s illustrate the structure as part of causeway with a series of poplar trees lining both edges of causeway.
In 2010, Nishat Bagh, along with six other Mughal Gardens was placed on UNESCO's Tentative List of World Heritage Sites. "As such Oont Kadal is considered an integral visual component of Nishat Bagh and is delineated as part of potential World heritage property of Nishat Bagh and as such part of Outstanding Universal Values associated with Nishat Bagh," said Beg.
INTACH has been working with Cultural Division of Embassy of Germany in New Delhi for last few years and during this time the Embassy has provided financial support for restoration of papier mache ceilings at the Black Pavilion of the Mughal garden Shalimar Bagh in 2015.
'Based on the high degree of professionalism displayed by INTACH, Kashmir Chapter in implementing the project, the German Embassy, New Delhi, desired that further proposals for funding by the Embassy in India for restoration of other significant cultural properties could be considered by them," Beg said.
Subsequently, considering high historic and contextual value of Oont Kadal, an elaborate conservation plan prepared by INTACH was sent to the German Embassy, New Delhi for its restoration.
Beg said after INTACH's request for considering funding for restoration of Oont Kadal, Arno Kirchhop, political minister counselor, Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany in India visited Srinagar for spot inspection of the feasibility and potential of proposed project.
He said INTACH, Kashmir Chapter has received a confirmation from the Embassy that the funding for the restoration of this significant cultural property is approved. Dr. Jasper Wieck, deputy chief of mission and Thomas Schmidt cultural officer German Embassy shall be signing an agreement with INTACH at the Black Pavilion, Shalimar Garden on 1st October.
"The restoration of Oont Kadal will bring focus on significance of Dal Lake as part of global cultural and natural heritage," Beg added.