Here is a series of images from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that focus on the the southern part of Srinagar city. The total absence of any kind of human settlement is striking.
Photograph taken from the Takht-e-Suleman (Shankracharya Hill) circa 1865
An engraving in 'Letters from India and Kashmir' by J. Duguid, 1870. The caption in the book reads ' The curves of the Jehlum, the inspiration for the shawl or pine pattern…'
From a stereoscopic photograph taken by James Ricalton in 1903. The caption reads 'An earthly paradise, famous Vale of Cashmere, watered by the winding Jhelum, India'
The area in the centre of the images, enclosed almost fully by a loop of the Jehlum, is the locality of Shivpora – my neck of the woods.
The first house built in Shivpora was 'The Chenars'. As the name would suggest it was built on the banks of the Jehlum, under a row of enormous chinar trees.
A hundred years later…
The population of Srinagar has exploded from 1,18,960 at the start of the twentieth century to 10,81,562 at the present time.
To illustrate the frenetic pace of construction in and around Srinagar:
My home in 2005, surrounded by a veritable forest of trees.
The same area in 2010. A colony exists where only a couple of houses stood a few years ago.
It is painfully evident that, even allowing for the change in seasons, trees have borne the brunt of our insatiable desire for construction. Maybe I should reconsider the title of this post. My Neck of the 'Woods' seems a bit ironic when the woods are vanishing at an alarming rate.
Unfortunately my old home had to be demolished due to age-related structural damage compounded by the devastating earthquake that struck Kashmir in 2005.
The house in the centre of the colony is my new home. It is still under construction. Here's a sneak peek:
P.S: The low quality of the photographs is due to the fact that cameras are no longer allowed on the Shankracharya Hill.