SRINAGAR: From Bohri Kadal area in Srinagar’s Downtown, also known as Shehr-i-Khaas, goes a narrow lane dotted with vendors stocking different kinds of spices in their shop fronts, the fragrances of which pervade the air on the way towards the congested roads of Zaina Kadal, the bridge on the river Jehlum that connects the locality to the other side of the town.
On the left side of the bridge is a beautiful view of the magnificent wooden marvel, the Khanqah-i-Moulla, while quietly placed on the right is the Budshah Tomb, an octagonal dome constructed over the resting place of Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother, the Empress Miran.
The tomb was constructed in 1465 AD by Zain-ul-Abidin (1418-1470), who was the eighth sultan of Kashmir and was popularly and respectfully referred to by his people as the ‘Budshah’, meaning the ‘Great King’. His reign in Kashmir, spanning over 50 years of the late 15th century AD, is referred to as a ‘Golden Period’ in the history of Kashmir as the region not only prospered economically during his time, but flourished culturally as well, with the Budshah inviting artists, architects, craftsmen and artisans from different parts of Central Asia.
The Budshah Tomb is considered the only one of its kind in and around Kashmir when compared to the other edifices and tombs of the medieval era. As opposed to the typical wooden structures of the Shahmiri period in Kashmir, this tomb is laid down with bricks. The tomb is decorated with unique blue tiles embedded in the brick masonry that give the structure a distinctive look.
The tomb adjoins a small graveyard called Mazar-e-Salateen, where apart from Zain-ul-Abidin are also interred his father, Sultan Sikander, and the Budshah’s wives and children. Many other greats like Mirza Hyder Dughlat of Kazakhstan, who ruled over Kashmir for 11 years, are also buried here along with other nobles of the time.
The place is visited by locals and tourists alike, particularly by heritage lovers and students and researchers of history. The former Ambassador of Kazakhstan, Mr. Kairat Umarov, has visited the grave of Mirza Dughlat, and delegations from Central Asia also visit the site time and again.
But unfortunately this historical marvel, despite all its unique features, presents a dismal picture today, as heritage lovers say that neglect by successive governments has utterly failed to protect the monument, especitally from encroachments along its boundary walls.
“People have erected shops around the compound walls, which has resulted in its damage,” a local said, wishing not to be named.
According to the members of Zaina Kadal Committee, the place has become a “hub of gambling and substance abuse” and is a “favourite hangout” place for boys who “play cards” and “smoke hash in the shade of the tomb”.
“The boys, most of them teenagers, come here every day as the place lies desolate and provides a private environment from the otherwise busy locality,” said Mushatq Ahamad, Joint Secretary of Zaina Kadal Committee.
Pertinently, the Budshah Tomb is protected by the New Delhi-based Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which has shifted its office from Srinagar to Gandhinagar, Jammu. The monument has a caretaker but, according to the locals, he “doesn’t dare” to ask the boys not to sit at the site.
The monument has been declared to be of national importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (24 of 1958). According to the Act, whoever destroys, removes, injures, alters, defaces, imperils or misuses such monuments shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to two years or a fine of Rs. 1,00,000 or both under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010.
Further, under sub-rule 32 of the same Act rules 1959 and notification issued in 1992, land area up to 100 metres around the protected limits has been declared as prohibited area, where no construction/mining is allowed and further beyond up to 200 metres is declared as regulated area. Any addition, alteration of construction/reconstruction within the regulated area needs the prior approval of the competent authority.
Muneer-ul-Isalm, Director Museum, Archaeology and Archives Department of Kashmir, said that they are “not satisfied” with the work done by the ASI in the Valley.
“We are not satisfied with the work they are doing here in the Valley. Not only the tomb but the other sites are also in dire need of care. Most importantly, the Neolithic site in Burzuhama suffers the same fate,” Muneer said.
Despite repeated attempts by Kashmir Reader, nobody responded to calls to the Ghandhi Nagar office of the ASI in Jammu.