Historical Monuments of Srinagar

Kashmirnetwork.com presents a 2021 calendar featuring digital art from the Kashmir ReImaginedseries depicting visit-worthy monuments of Srinagar built during successive historical periods of Kashmir.

Monuments in Kashmir may be broadly divided into the ancient stone monuments of the Buddhist-Hindu period, the wooden architecture of the Sultans of Kashmir and the resurgence of stone during the heyday of the Mughals.

The most prominent stone monument, visible from anywhere in Srinagar, is the Shankracharya Temple on the Takht-e-Suleiman hill.


Shankracharya Temple

Initially the Sultans of Kashmir built a few unique monuments – the tomb of Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother with its predominant use of brickwork, domed roofs and tile-studded walls, and the tomb of Madin Sahib exhibiting coloured tile-work representing ‘Al Kaus’ or Sagittarius depicted as a leopard-human figure shooting an arrow at its own dragon-headed tail.

The classic monuments of the Sultanate era, however, are predominantly wooden – inspired mainly by the architecture of Central Asia. The Khanqah-e-Moula is the archetypal example of the style. Other notable monuments are the Jama Masjid, the Aali Masjid and the Jama Masjid at Pampore.


The tomb of Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother at Zaina Kadal


Reconstruction of the tile-work at Madin Sahib. Highly unusual for the Indian subcontinent, the tiled figure of Sagittarius is a common horoscopic motif in medieval Persian architecture. Curiously, most observers fail to realise that the tiles were originally mounted on the inner walls of the tomb.


Khanqah-e-Moula

The Mughals brought to Kashmir the perfection of their garden-building and stone-working skills. Mughal craftsmen worked the local limestone to a degree comparable to marble, most notably at the ‘Black Pavilion’ at Shalimar. Shalimar, Nishat and Cheshma Shahi are a series of exquisite gardens laid out by the Great Mughals on the foothills of the Zabarvan Hills overlooking the Dal Lake in Srinagar.

Other remarkable Mughal monuments include the Pathar Masjid built by Empress Nur Jahan, and the ruined Mosque on the Hari Parbat and spiritual retreat at Pari Mahal built by Dara Shikoh for his Sufi guide Akhund Mullah Shah.

The Hari Parbat fort may be the only noteworthy contribution of the Afghan rulers while nothing quite memorable was constructed in Kashmir during the Dogra rule. (In Jammu, they did build the exquisite Amar Mahal).

In Srinagar, beyond these three styles, monuments of archaeological interest are the menhirs at Burzhama (the remnants of a stonehenge from prehistory) and the the ruins of the ancient Buddhist stupa at Harwan which exhibit uniquely painstaking styles of using pebbles as the basic material for construction. The latter is also notable for its extensive use of embossed terracotta tiles.

The immensely important neolithic site of Burzhama is currently being ‘vandalised’ (for want of a better term) as an improptu cricket stadium while the Harwan site fortunately seems to have escaped encroachment due to its relative inaccessibility.


Present-day Burzhama


Reconstruction showing a pit dwelling and a dolmen with menhirs at Burzhama


Present-day Harwan


Schematic reconstruction of the apsidal stupa at Harwan

As for the native houses, let us quote from the ‘Jehangirnama‘:
The buildings of Kashmir are all of wood; they make them two, three or four-storied, and covering the roofs with earth, they plant bulbs of the chaughashi tulip, which blooms year after year in the spring season, and is exceedingly beautiful

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Hope you enjoy a healthy 2021 !

Disclaimer: You are encouraged to share this calendar but please note that all rights to these images are retained by Dr Bakshi Jehangir. Commercial usage of these images is strictly forbidden.