Khanqah: ‘Civilizational Soul’ of Kashmir Damaged in Mystery Fire

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Pyre of Khanqah Moula Srinagar caught fire in 2017 and was replaced on the old pattern

Srinagar: Over 620-year-old old Khanqah of Mir Syed Ali Hamadani, popularly known as Amir-e-Kabeer and Shah-e-Hamadan, in the heart of downtown Srinagar, suffered damage due to the nocturnal mystery fire.

While the real cause of the fire remained unknown, there was shock and anger in Kashmir.

As soon the flames were spotted from the spire of the Khanqah, locals, braving cold, rushed out of their homes and started to douse the blaze on their own.

Soon officials of fire and emergency department reached the spot and pressed 22 fire tenders to control the fire. The incident took place around 1 am.

While fire damaged the spire, the water used to douse the flames caused extensive damage to the intricately built massivev structure made of deodar wood with marvellous carved roof and walls and flooring.

Sultan Sikandar built the Khanqah, a Sufi place for spiritual retreat, in honour of Mir Syed Ali Husayni of Hamadan.

There were conflicting versions available for the cause of fire. Dominant one blamed lightening as the fire appeared during heavy rains.

However locals gave vent to their anger by blaming the Wakf Board authorities for the fire incident, irrespective of the actual cause.

“Whether the cause is short-circuit, lightening or attempt by any unscrupulous element or something else, it’s failure of Muslim Wakf Board to put in place the preventive measures,” Nazir Ahmad, a local said.

He said from electricity to personnel, everything falls in the realm of Muslim Wakf Board which was not present there.

“Do we have fire extinguishers inside the Khanqah? Have they turned defunct? Who knows?  Isn’t the Wakf Board responsible? he asked while talking to Kashmir Observer. Scores of other people flanking him seconded. “Tell me should they concentrate on fatty salaries. Are they required to work”, he said.

The government’s response was on predicted lines. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti rushed to the shrine, accompanied by top officers of the administration besides education minister Syed Altaf Bukhari and PDP MLC Khursheed Alam.

An official spokesman said Mehbooba interacted with locals who demanded installation of CCTVs in the shrine complex, availability of fire tenders in the locality, scientific protection to the wood structures at the shrine and expediting shrine expansion plan.

Later Chief Minister directed conduct of safety audit of shrines in the Kashmir Valley by the concerned Departments and immediately taking all fire prevention measures at these places.

Chairing a high-level meeting to review the safety and protection of all the shrines of the Valley in the backdrop of last night’s fire incident at Khanqahe-Mau’la, the Chief Minister directed all concerned Departments like Wakf Board, Fire & Emergency Services, PDD, PHE, Police, SMC and other related Department to jointly conduct the safety audit of all the shrines and come up with whatever precautionary measures are required to protect these places of reverence.

It’s note worthy that when fire destroyed the historical Dastgeer Sahib shrine in June 2012, the government had announced the fire safety audit of all major heritage shrines in Kashmir by a committee of experts.

The then Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon chaired a high level meeting where the decision was taken.

It was also announced that a fire safety audit of all major heritage shrines of Kashmir would be done by a committee of experts very soon, an official spokesman had in a statement. What happen to assurance? Was audit undertaken? If it was done, what is the need for the Chief Minister to announce the audit?, said a senior officer of fire and emergency department.

Meanwhile, politicians cutting across the party lines expressed their anguish. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq besides Chief Minister was first to reach the spot.

When shrine of Dastageer sahib was gutted, then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had cut short his visit to the United Kingdom and rushed back home.

Omar, on returning from London, drove straight to the 200-year-old shrine complex for a firsthand assessment of the damage and issued instructions for early start of work for its reconstruction.

Similarly, Mehbboba Mufti cancelled all her engagements,  and dashed to Srinagar early morning and straight away drove to Khanaqah.

Khankha-e-Maula and Amir-e-Kabir

Khanqah-e-Maula, popularly known as just Khanqah, is a mosque and a shrine of Said-ul-Auliya Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani located in the city of Srinagar. It is located in the Old City on the right bank of the river Jhelum between the Fateh Kadal and Zaina Kadal bridges. First built in 1395 AD, it is one of the oldest mosques in the Kashmir Valley.

Sultan Sikander ruled Kashmir from 1389 to 1413 AD. He constructed the shrine in memory of Mir Syed Ali Hamdani. The shrine has a wooden structure with a carved roof space which is an architectural marvel. It has hanging bells inside along with ancient religious sermons and inscriptions from ancient times.

The Khankah in Kashmir houses two relics of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). These were a Standard flag that the prophet used in his campaigns and also a pole of tent that belonged to him.

Presently, the shrine has a square plan. It is supported on a rough walled base and follows the structure of other ancient temples. The roofs are in the form of pyramids. There double-arcaded verandahs that deserve a special mention. These verandahs run all around the building in the first tier. There is an arcaded balcony extending on all the four sides of the second tier.

Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, (1314-1384), was a Persian Sufi saint. He was born in Hamadan, and was buried in Khatlan Tajikistan. He played a major role in spreading Islam in Kashmir and also influenced the culture of the Kashmir valley. He was known as Shah-e-Hamadan (King of Hamadan), Amir-i Kabir (the Great Commander), and Ali Sani (second Ali).

Hamadani travelled widely. It is said he traversed the known world from East to West three times. In 774 AH/1372 AD Hamadani lived in Kashmir.

During his visit to Kashmir Mir Syed Ali Hamdani preached about Islam. It is believed that due to his efforts a majority of Buddhists and Hindus in Kashmir started accepting Islam. He was successful in converting 35000 people in Ladakh and Kashmir valley. During his third trip to Kashmir valley, Shah-e-Hamdan passed away in 1385 AC.

After Sharaf-ud-Din Abdul Rehman Bulbul Shah, he was the second important Muslim to visit Kashmir. Hamadani went to Mecca, and returned to Kashmir in 781/1379, stayed for two and a half years, and then went to Turkistan by way of Ladakh. He returned to Kashmir for a third time in 785/1383 and left because of ill health.

Hamadani is regarded as having brought various crafts and industries from Iran into Kashmir; it is said that he brought with him 700 followers, including some weavers of carpets and shawls, who taught the craft of pashmina textile and carpet-making to the local population.

Ladakh likewise benefited from his interest in textile weaving. The growth of the textile industry in Kashmir increased its demand for fine wool, which in turn meant that Kashmiri Muslim groups settled in Ladakh, bringing with them crafts such as minting and writing.

Hamadani travelled and preached Islam in different parts of the world including Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, China, Syria, and Turkestan

Syed Hamadani died in Kanar, near Pakhli. His body was carried to Khatlan, Tajikistan, where his shrine is located.

In 1480, this Shrine was almost ruined in a devastating fire. Sultan Hassan Shah was ruler at that time. He constructed the shrine again in 1493 AD, in a two-storied form. The shrine was destroyed again in 1731 AD, which was later on reconstructed by Abul Barkat Khan.

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