A forgotten masjid | Life in Kashmir


Shah Jehan’s son and daughter built complete premises for their teacher and spiritual leader on the hills of Kohi Maran within the Mughal city of the government. As historians offer more recent details about the impressive monument, Khalid Bashir Gura saw the former spiritual space abandoned and abused

Mulla Akhoon Shah Masjid in Srinagar KL Image: Syed Ahmad Rufai.

Between Bachi Darwaza and the shrine of Makhdom Sahab, there is a terraced garden in which a mosque is forever locked. The small mosque, abandoned and desolate for centuries, was built by Dara Shikoh, son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658) for his spiritual teacher Akhoon Mulla Shah, according to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The mosque was a center to preach and promote Islam. aside from that namaz, Mulla used the mosque as a Madrasah to teach his students. To complement teaching and praying, the prince was given an additional option Sarai built for his teacher’s students. Those glory days of the living historical monument faded with the Mughal era in Kashmir.

The established story, however, has a contrasting detail. Mullah, originally from Badakshan, immigrated to India during the reign of Shah Jahan before settling in Kashmir.

Some historians believe that the mosque was actually commissioned by Dara’s sister Jahanara Begum. They believe that Dara and Jahanara were disciples of the mulla. They say that Dara’s mosque, which is a small building, was on a lower terrace.

Hakeem Sameer Hamdani, author of The syncretic traditions of the Islamic religious architecture of Kashmir, and Design Director at INTACH Kashmir said Jahanara actually sponsored the construction of this mosque. Before her, her brother had built a smaller mosque on the lower terrace. Although Dara’s building has lost all traces of its original decoration, its planning is itself an indication of the unique architecture that the prince experimented with in Kashmir. “Together these two mosques, which are in a common bagh, would represent an architectural undertaking that would be unsurpassed in size in the medieval history of Kashmir, ”said Hamdani. “Under the influence of their spiritual master, the royal siblings helped expand the scope of this earthly paradise from a royal retreat of sensual joy to a place of spiritual retreat.”


The Mullah Shah Mosque was built in 1061 Hijri (1651 AD) for 40,000 rupees. Hamdani said the enormous complexity of the mosque included a courtyard mosque on the southern foothills of Kohi Maran Hill hujras (Cells) built on three different levels for an additional charge of Rs 20,000 which has led to its interpretation as a mosque.KhanqahSarai Complex.

Further down to the east is the Hammam Dara Mosque. Both mosques are on the same east-west axis, which indicates the collaboration in the implementation of the project between the royal siblings and their spiritual teacher.

“Since the two mosques were completed within two years, it is quite possible that the planning and execution of both buildings at the same time as the smaller H. startedammam Mosque completed earlier, ”said Hamdani.


In his Ancient monuments of Kashmir, Ram Chandra Kak, pioneering archaeologist and former prime minister of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, wrote that the lotus pommel over the pulpit in the mosque is the only surviving example of its kind in Kashmir. Kak touches on the fact that the only decorations in the mosque are the rectangular panels that enclose ogival arches.

Mulla Akhoon Shah Masjid at the foot of the Srinagar Fort, KL Image: Syed Ahmad Rufai

“The floor plan is unique, the design of the prayer chamber is repeated on the east side of the courtyard and forms the gate. There are arcades on the north and south sides of the courtyard, which are treated like the wings of the prayer chamber, ”reports Kak. The somewhat cramped proportions of the courtyard could, in his opinion, be due to the slope of the hill and the associated difficulty in widening it.

However, Hamdani believes the mosque’s location follows the pattern of the Mughal Gardens in Kashmir, particularly those carved out of mountain slopes like Nishat and Pari Mahal, with man-made terraces preserved with masonry walls. “The mosque, which is located on the top of the retaining wall, is a central architectural marvel of a. designed bagh, the terraces extend to the city wall, ”he said.

A series of cells hujras Located in the south of the mosque, they serve both as a retaining wall and as a fence around the mosque. Access to the district from this level is under an arched opening located on the northeast corner of the retaining wall.

In his book, Hamdani goes into the architectural planning of the mosque. He writes that the outer square of the mosque measures 24.3 / 21.4 m, with a series of vaulted and vaulted chambers; a bay deep that opens into little ones saw Measure 12.98 / 12.1 m. The entrance to the mosque is from a pishtaq centrally located in the east wing of the mosque.

An interesting entrance

The book also mentions an interesting feature of the entrance pishtaq is the presence of the highly polished stone door frame, which is also inscribed with two calligraphic panels. The panels bear two Koranic verses “O Allah, who opens doors!”, Which can be found at the entrance of many Arab houses, and “Whoever enters is safe” (Quran 3:97), which is part of a larger Koranic verse, which signifies the holiness of haram. Both inscriptions are reproduced in very good quality naskh Script, ”said Hamdani.

The entrance pishtaq is repeated in the main yoke of the prayer hall with a view of the qibla. Interestingly, all three bays of the mosque, like the Pather Masjid, have individual ones moreabs. Spatially, the mosque is in the tradition of imperial mosques, which were built for private use, such as the Nagina mosque in the Agra Fort, built by Shah Jahan.

“Nevertheless, the paved inner courtyard with the surrounding arcades, which reach a height of 7.62 m from the floor to the roof, seems of cramped dimensions,” he says.

For lonely prayers

The layout of the building, despite its overall size, makes it unsuitable for larger church prayers. The mosque seems more suitable for solitary rather than communal prayers.

The roof of the building with vaulted ceilings is plastered on the outside in the form of a sloping roof, but with a pronounced curvature at the end. Within the saw In the mosque there are fragments of the lotus-shaped stone knobs, a part of which is still preserved above the main prayer chamber. The mosque also depicts a finely rendered one mihrab project from the qibla Wall.

The east main entrance facade of the mosque consists of two rectangular openings within the arches. From the two arches the one next to the entrance pishtaq is wider and deeper.

The type of experimentation can be seen in the rest of the building’s exterior facades, none of which are similar. While the east, west, and north facades include simple arches in rectangular panels; the arches on the south facade are designed in the form of the typical Shah Jahani arch with a series of multi-leaf cusps.

The decorative character of the facade is also evident in the calligraphic ribbons that were designed on the facade but never completed. The poetic verses contain verses from Shah Jahan’s poet award winner Abu Talib Kalim, Hamdani informed.

Never completed

Overall, the building gives more than enough evidence that it was never completed, as the work was apparently interrupted by Aurangzeb’s seizure of the throne and Dara’s execution.

“Aside from unrealized calligraphic bands, the entire site is littered with unfinished architectural elements that indicate the interruption of work, and in the arcade that extends into the saw, regularly spaced and shaped holes can be seen. What purpose they served remains a mystery and can be guessed, ”he writes.

The archaeologist Kak mentions the mosque and its lower buildings. “On a lower level are the ruins of the vaulted halls where the pilgrims lived. A little further away is that Hammamwhich is now closed, ”he mentioned. He traces the construction date of the mosque from its chronogram back to 1649 AD. On the lintel is the inscription with the date of construction of the Hammam and the mosque of Sultan Dara Shikoh.

Since the mosque was on a promontory, ponds, fountains and wash basins were created nearby for washing and living purposes, of which remains are still present.

The change in the political climate at the imperial court with Dara’s execution led to the abandonment of this architectural experiment as well as the mosque of Mulla Shah. Soon after, the saint would be called back to Lahore, and the many associated buildings in Kashmir would be abandoned, forgotten, and abandoned.


Saleem Beigh, who heads INTACH in Jammu and Kashmir, said the protected monument was only part of the overall complex. The mosque is surrounded by a large number of buildings that were supposed to be part of the mosque complex, but only the main mosque has been reported as under protection and conservation by the ASI, with the exception of the Hammamwho have favourited the mosque on the lower terrace and the Sarai. These three structures are assigned to the Waqf Board. The mosque built by Dara, which is also a Hammam, was partially restored by INTACH, but part of it remains under the illegal occupation of a Waqf member.

Due to fluctuations in the weather, the architectural richness will deteriorate without proper maintenance. The lotus knob over the roof is in pieces. Beigh said one of the lotuses on the dome was said to have been stolen three decades ago and sold by a staff member.

After the Mughals left, many of their mosques became less frequented by devotees and found no favor with the locals. He also debunked the myth that the mosque has a tunnel that connects it to the fortress. “The fort was built after the mosque during the Afghan rule in Kashmir in the 19th century. It’s not true, ”said Beg.

Inside the government city

Dr. Sajad Ahmad Darzi, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Kashmir, said the Hari Parbat Fort and its surroundings remained a military quarter and a place of royal residences. It was a seat of government and a city within a city. It was fortified and its strategic importance was that it overlooked the city. “It used to be near the seat of government, and when officials living in the fortified area moved their homes and capital, it too was abandoned,” he said.

During the Sikh rule in Kashmir, this mosque, like many prominent mosques, was closed, which underscores its importance during this period. “The Sikhs uprooted the stones of this mosque like many other mosques,” said Darzi.

It would have been a wonderful spiritual complex that the children of Shah Jehan created for their guide and teacher Mulla Akhoon Shah in Srinagar KL Image: Syed Ahmad Rufai.

Grim state

Nowadays the mosque area is frequented by “gamblers, drug addicts and dogs,” say visitors and locals.

Asked about the closure and the dilapidated condition of the mosque, Vinod Singh Rawat, ASI chief in Jammu and Kashmir, said the mosque would remain open during the day. However, he asked to email the request regarding the preservation and protection of the monument, which remains unanswered.


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