SRINAGAR: A 400-year-old Mughal hamam built at the base of Kohimaran hillock by Dara Shikoh, the son of Emperor Shah Jehan, has been occupied by the family that was once employed to protect the monument.
The extended family of a former Archeology department worker has occupied much of this hamam, which is similar to structures one sees at Achabal, Shalimar and Pari Mahal.
Locals say the hamam, built of brick and lime mortar, used to have several washrooms and a prayer room inside it.
Arshid Ahmed, a local, said the hamam is now in a completely dilapidated condition and the authorities are not serious about preserving it.
“A few years ago, some repair work was carried out here by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), but it could not be completed as a portion of the hamam remained occupied,” he said, adding that the work INTACH did has almost fallen apart over the years.
This hamam, as per noted writer and local Zareef Ahmad Zareef, was used by people from various parts of Kashmir who would come to offer prayers and take spiritual instruction at the seminary built adjacent to it.
The hamam also had a beautiful pool inside, built in the Iranian style, along with eight bathrooms and an exquisite mosque in the centre.
“But now it is occupied illegally by the former caretaker’s widow, Shah Begum. The irony is that she and her family are demanding compensation from the government as her husband used to work in the Archaeology department and was appointed to take care of this monument. But after his death, his family illegally occupied the hamam and turned it into their home,” Zareef said.
He lamented the fact that the state Archaeology department has left this precious monument to wither away over the last 30 years.
Shah Begum, however, told Kashmir Reader that, on the contrary, “It is because of [her] family’s efforts that the monument is still here.”
“We have protected this monument from so many years. We don’t have a home and our family size is increasing. It is impossible to accommodate us in a single room,” she said.
She even blamed both the state and central Archaeology departments for vandalising the structure.
“They want to demolish this monument and construct a building here but, because of our resistance, they have failed to do so,” she said.
Meanwhile Mohammad Shafi Zahid, the state Archaeology department Director, told Kashmir Reader that action will be taken against those who violate rules.