The history of the Jama’ Masjid of Srinagar is a singularly chequered one. Its original conception and erection are ascribed to Sikandar But-shikan, who reigned in Kashmir from A.D. 1390-91 to 1414-15. He is said to have laid its foundation in A.D. 1398 and completed it in 1402. His illustrious son Zain-ul-abidin is reported to have greatly exerted himself in adding to its aesthetic attractions. He also established an Islamic school as an appendage to the mosque, and endowed it with estates to enable it to defray the cost of maintenance. In A.D. 1479 a large conflagration reduced it to ashes, and the then reigning sovereign, Sultan Hasan Shah, set about its reconstruction with greater splendour. Unfortunately the king died before completing his task, which was brought to a successful end in A.D. 1503 by Ibrahim Magre, Commander-in-Chief of the Kashmir forces, in the reigns of Muhammad Shah and Fateh Shah. In the year I620, in the reign of Jahangir, a severe conflagration again broke out in Srinagar and destroyed twelve thousand buildings, among them the Jama’ Masjid. The emperor, who is stated to have been in Kashmir at the time, immediately directed its reconstruction, which was taken in hand and completed in the space of seventeen years. Malik Haidar of Tsodur, the historian of Kashmir, was entrusted with the execution of the work. The inscription on the southern entrance, which was erected about this time, gives the history of the mosque up to this date. In addition to restoration of the mosque the emperor bestowed munificent grants of land, not only for its upkeep, but also to provide subsistence allowance for the caretakers. I’taqad Khan, a provincial governor of Kashmir during the reign of Shah Jahan, was a gross tyrant. The emperor on a visit to Kashmir dismissed him, and appointed Zafar Khan, the son of the Prime Minister, Asaf Khan, as his successor. The latter drew up a list of the irregularities practised in Kashmir by his predecessor, and submitted it to the emperor, who in a royal farman, or decree, directed remission of all the petty exactions which the former local governors had inflicted upon the inhabitants of the valley. The royal farman was engraved on a block of black marble and set up on the right wall of the southern gateway of the Jama’ Masjid, for the benefit of the public. The document is of extraordinary interest, not only because it illustrates the ways and means to which some unscrupulous governors, gifted with more ingenuity than conscience, had recourse in their haste to amass a fortune, but also as an honourable testimony to the emperor’s solicitude for the welfare of his distant Himalayan dependency.
In A.D. I674 the mosque was for the third time destroyed by fire. It is stated that when the emperor Aurangzeb heard of the accident, his first enquiry was whether the chinars were safe; for he said ” the mosque could be rebuilt in a short time; a full-grown chinar can never be quickly replaced.” He impressed all the bricklayers and masons of the city into his service, and had the mosque completed within the short period of three years. In his restoration it is evident, both from the building itself and on the authority of history, that the Mughal strictly adhered to the plan of the original mosque of Sikandar Butshikan. Aurangzeb seems to have spent a considerable sum of money on gilding and other evanescent embellishment of – the mosque.
From the time of Aurangzeb down to 1914 the structural history of the mosque is a record of steady decay. The fitful repairs by the Afghan governors did not arrest its downward progress to ruin. In the earlier part of the Sikh regime in Kashmir the mosque was closed and its doors were blocked up. After a period of twenty-one years, it was reopened by Ghulam Muhi-ud-din, the Sikh Governor, who spent nearly a lakh and a half of rupees on its repair. In Dogra times attempts were more than once made to put it into repair, but they do not seem to have led to any appreciable result. Since the year 1913, however, the Muslims of Kashmir, substantially aided by a grant from His Highness’s Government, have put forth their best energies for the achievement of the difficult task, and it has recently been brought to a successful conclusion.
The western minar differs from its companions of the other three sides in having slightly larger dimensions and two stairs, one in each jamb of the arch, giving access to the roof and each surmounted by a small brick dome. The gachh (gypsum) plaster is inartistic and of recent date.
The compound is bisected by two broad paths, planned after the manner of a formal Mughal garden. At the point of their intersection has been built a small and insignificant barahdari.
Formerly a small canal which entered through the eastern entrance used to feed the large, but now dilapidated, tank in the compound. The canal fell into disuse when the Srinagar waterworks system was instituted. Its place is now taken by an ordinary P.W.D. water-supply. The water from the tank flows down a small ornamental stone chute, and passing out of the channel leaves the mosque by an underground passage in the west wall. After a meandering course of a quarter of a mile the pretty little rill, now replaced by the usual gutters, emptied itself into the Mar canal. The streamlet was in existence as recently as thirty years ago, and bore the name of Lachhma-kul. It was originally brought from the Sindh by King Zain-ul-abidin, and its first name was Zaina-Ganga.
The most charming feature of the compound, apart from the singularly imposing aspect of the arcaded front of the halls, is a group of shady chinars, which tradition assigns variously to Zain-ul-abidin’s and Hasan Shah’s reigns. But there seems to be little doubt that some, if not all of them, are of more recent growth.
Courtesy by : koausa.org