Very close to the Nishat Baug at Srinagar there is a very famous place known as Hazratbal. Once it was a village which now is a suburban locality of Srinagar. “Bal” literally means a place and it is some times misconstrued as “Baal” meaning “hair”. Hazratbal if literally translated could mean a holy place. Interestingly it does have an association with the “hair” of the Prophet Mohammed, the precursor of Islam. It is believed by the muslim community of Kashmir that a strand of hair from Prophets beard is preserved at a shrine thereat which is also referred to as Hazratbal. A gang of terrorists even occupied the shrine with an intent to take away the holy relic and in the shoot out that followed, the security forces succeeded in eliminating them. Even thereafter there had been few skirmishes. Now it seems that peace has finally dawned. There are hundreds of pigeons here and people say that the white ones, representing peace, are on an increase. Because the entire area is sensitive, security forces have been posted at the shrine.
|The structure as it appeared in 1920|
It was in 1699 that the remains of Nur-ud-din Eshai’s body as also the holy relic were brought to Kashmir. Inayat Begam, daughter of Nur-ud-din got the remains of her father’s body cremated and a shrine erected at Hazratbal. She also took the holy relic under her protection. The present structure made of marble was constructed by the Muslim Aukaf Trust administered by Sheikh Abdulla (a renowned politician of yester years). The construction started in 1968 and got completed in 1979. The shrine, apart from religious activities, was also a nerve centre of all political activities at Srinagar. Sheikh Abdulla used to address the public from this venue and became very popular. After his death, his son Dr. Farooq Abdulla desired to have control over the affairs of the shrine but terrorists had a upper hand from 1990 onwards. The shrine proved to be a safe heaven for them.
We roamed about the residential areas adjoining the Shrine and then proceeded towards the left. The road was going down, not steep though. To our right there was one opening leading towards the left side of the Holy Shrine. Amidst a well laid our lawn, there were some ornamental trees. The main dome of the shrine had scaffoldings and it appeared that some restoration/repairs were being undertaken. There was a group of Kashmiri women at the extreme end of the lawn singing and rejoicing. We asked a gentleman there, probably belonging to that group, about the happenings. We were told that a family from a nearby village had no issues and they had prayed at the Shrine earlier. As a result a baby was born and that the family has brought the child here and were expressing their gratitude. We sought their permission to take few photographs and they gladly agreed. After enjoying their traditional group song with the accompaniments, we proceeded towards the shrine. There were not many tourists. Most of the people there were local women who were entering a side hall to offer their prayers. We had a peep through a window. When we were proceeding towards the front side, we encountered few security personnel. We once again enquired if it would be proper for us to take photographs. We were advised not to do so inside the hall leading to the main Shrine (tomb). There was a covered porch outside through which we could enter the main hall, The hall was fully decorated and carpeted and looked like the hall of a church without the seating arrangement (benches). Thereafter we came out and we were on the main street after passing through an arched gate.
The visitors from different parts of country generally pay a visit to the shrine. In the past, even the political delegations, including from the BJP, also made it a point in the past to pay obeisance at the shrine. Former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Presidents Neelam Sanjiva Reddy and APJ Kalam had also visited the shrine. But now a days It seems that tourists are not very comfortable coming here as it is perceived that any thing could happen anytime.
Here is a small video: