SRINAGAR: Three back-to-back bolts of lightning hit the spiral and roof of the centuries-old Sufi shrine of Mir Sayyid Hamadani in downtown Srinagar on Monday night. Yaseen Ahmad, caretaker of the shrine, said that the shrine caught fire at around 1am, immediately after three bangs of lightning were heard. The flames were so intense, he said, that the entire area surrounding the shrine began to feel warm.
“Initially, locals came with buckets to douse the flames, before fire tenders were rushed to the spot,” Yaseen said. “The fire was doused at around 4:30am after multiple fire tenders were pressed into service.”
The khanqah, built by Shah-e-Hamadan’s son Mir Sayyid Mohammad Hamadani on land purchased from the 14th-century king Sultan Sikandar, is a two-tiered square structure with gentle sloping, pyramidal roofs. It has classic wood architecture, with beautifully carved eaves and hanging bells. Constructed of cedar wood, the interior walls are beautifully decorated with panelled wood-work that has floral patterns carved on it. The largest panel on the walls is carved with names of God and is painted in gold. There are 14 cloisters and a small shrine inside the building.
Yaseen said that the roof and a part of the decorated walls had been damaged, but the exact damage was yet to be assessed. The relics and other belongings of the Sufi saint had been saved by the locals, he added.
After the fire was doused, special prayers were held at the shrine to thank for the comparatively less damage it had suffered. Some devotees believed that the shrine had attracted the lightning bolts to itself to prevent bigger damage to other people. Another group of devotees believed it was a warning from Allah to make believers desist from sins.
Beliefs apart, the authorities were ascertaining the material cause of fire. Their report will be made public in the coming days.
Following the incident, scores of people, resistance leaders, and pro-India politicians visited the shrine.