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Smart City: Mission Restoration of old shrines continues in Srinagar

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Srinagar: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Srinagar administration carried out the work on restoration of historic buildings and conservation of old shrines of all faiths under the Smart City Mission at a steady pace.
Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar Shahid Iqbal Choudhary reviews progress of the work on restoration of shrines, temples and churches of historic importance regularly in the middle of managing the pandemic and dealing with other important matters of the city.
Quoting American conservationist Mollie H Beattie — “what a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself” — Choudhary says, “We owe this to our future generations. Due to militancy of nearly three decades the attention has drifted towards law and order. But at the end, the guns will fall silent and the historical heritage will speak for the city.”
As a pilot project, 39-year-old Choudhary and his team took over the renovation of a 19th century church located on the foothills of Shankaracharya hillock and the famous Raghunath Temple on the banks of the Jhelum river in downtown Srinagar city.
Restoration of shrines such as Khanqah-e-Moula and Khanqah Naqshband Saheb has also been taken up under the conservation and heritage revitalisation programme as part of the Smart City Mission, which aims to make cities citizen friendly and sustainable.
“Even parts of Hazratbal Shrine approach has also been developed under conservation and beautification plan, besides improving the fa ade around the historic Jamia Masjid the work on which is nearing completion,” he said.
He said there were many requests for including Raghunath Temple in the list of structures being restored and it was taken up on a priority basis.
Located on the banks of the Jhelum in downtown city of Fathekadal, around 10 km from the city centre Lal Chowk, the temple was constructed by first Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1835.
The temple had remained abandoned for more than three decades before its restoration was started by Choudhury, who is also the CEO of the Smart City Project.
“The work was started a month ago and is likely to be completed by December end,” Choudhary, an IAS officer of 2008 batch, said.
Dedicated to Lord Rama, the temple, which was upgraded in 1875 by Maharaja Ranbir Singh, is also known as Ranbir Swami Temple.
The abandoned Saint Luke’s Church on the foothills of Shankaracharya hillock, which was established in 1896 by two eminent doctors Dr Earnest and Dr Arthur Neve, is also being restored under the project.
The church had remained abandoned for several decades and the damage to its structure has been severe, Choudhary said.
“Roof and ceiling of the church are in the traditional Khatamband style (a ceiling made of wood work in a geometric pattern),” he said.
The city administration has also initiated work for the conservation of Imambara in the Hassanabad area, 11 km from Lal Chowk.
The area, known as Bagh-e-Hassan, is named after Baba Hassan, a prominent 16th century saint. In 1764, it was rebuilt by Mughal Governor Fazil Khan in an Indo-Iranian type style.
“Under the project, conservation of the Imambara has also been taken up,” he said.
Choudhary also included in the project Gurudwara Dumdama Saheb on the Srinagar-Baramulla road, which was dismantled with the consent of the Sikh community last year to pave the way for widening of a national highway.
Sikhs had agreed to shift the 72-year-old gurudwara to make way for the national highway connecting Srinagar with Baramulla after intervention of the Deputy Commissioner, ending a 13-year-old legal process.
Established in 1947, Gurudwara Damdama Sahib had offered temporary refuge to many migrant families from Pakistan.
“The board of Smart City has approved reconstruction of Gurudwara Damdama Sahib which was demolished to pave the way for the highway. A pre-fabricated gurudwara was constructed before dismantling the existing one and now a heritage building, using the material and artefacts of the dismantled gurduwara, is being constructed near the old location,” he said. (PTI)


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