Revealing Reminiscence: Baithak(s) of Heritage Kashmiri Houses

By Hakim Sameer Hamdani

IN Kashmir Diwan Khana usually refers to a large room/ hall located on any of the floors (mostly ground/ top) used to entertain guests and host ceremonies like weddings. Also known as Baithak, the larger ones in the mohalla would be used by neighbors lacking such large spaces.

Handoo House, Narwara

These images are of Handoo house at Narwara. The house known as Draag-i Laer (Famine House) was constructed by the family during a famine in the 19th century as a relief effort. Those who worked would be paid and would also be given free lunch and dinner.

Begum Park, Dana Mazzar

The next image is from an imposing house at Dana Mazzar constructed by the Shah family, with a rather catchy name of ‘Begum Park’. It dates back to early 20th century.

Ganai’s House, Nawa Kadal

This image is of the family house of the Ganai’s at Nawa Kadal. A large rambling mansion- partly used as a school partly as a residence, the house was about to be dismantled when I last visited it.

Darayal “Heritage Homes”, Nowhatta

These next images are from the Darayal family who own four “heritage homes” at  Nowhatta. Again, these buildings date from the 20th century and are located on the top floor of the house: kani.

Jalali House, Zadibal

This image is from the famous Jalali house at Zadibal dating back to the 19th century. The house has two other halls on the ground and the first floor.

Image credit Zainab Mustafa

Dewan Khana, Safa Kadal 

My personal favorite is the Dewan Khana on the first floor of a house built by a Pandit family at Safa Kadal along the riverfront. Particularly love the floor tiles, known as Minton tiles. These used to be manufactured in Bombay.

Khan House, Aali Kadal and Zaz House, Bohri Kadal 

Ending with some images from Khan house at Aali Kadal & Zaz house at Bohri Kadal. ( I hope I remember the house right). These images were taken in 2004 as a part of INTACH’s listing of Srinagar. Those interested may check the 2nd volume of INTACH publication, Shehar-i Kashmir.

I may add that the owners have always been open and welcoming about allowing people (complete strangers) to visit and take pictures of these wonderful houses. Those interested must surely visit them. One must also listen to the owners as they reminiscence about the times and people who built them!

  • The author is the Design Director at INTACH Kashmir and holds a PhD. Islamic Architecture. Tweets at @hamdanisameer 

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