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The Mughal Imperial Road

Statement of Significance

Upon the annexation of Kashmir by Emperor Akbar in 1586, efforts were made by the Mughal Empire to strengthen communication and better integrate the Valley with the rest of their Indian sub-continental empire. During the Mughal reign, of the three routes that connected Kashmir to the plainsthe Northern Road following the course of the Jhelum River entering Kashmir from Rawalpindi via Baramulla on a waterway, the Southern Road from Jammu via Banihal, and the Middle Road from Lahore across the Peer ki Gali mountain pass traversing the Pir Panjal rangethe last emerged as the most favoured route, having been infrastructurally strengthened by improved roads and a chain of halting stations for the royal entourage’s comfort. What was once a humble pedestrian track known as the Namak Road, used solely for the import of salt from Punjab to Kashmir, witnessed Emperor Akbar travelling down it twice, Emperor Jahangir at least eight times by his own accounts, and Emperors Shah Jahan and Aurungzeb once each, in the period of its peak glory between 1586 and 1664 as the Mughal Imperial Road.

 

Even as the Indian segment Mughal Road was resurrected in 2014, albeit not in absolute alignment with the historic road, much of the public memory surrounding this cultural route had by then been eroded, as it was kept alive in the interim period of more than 300 years by only the Gujjar and Bakkarwal herders during their annual migration from the hills of Kashmir to the plains of Jammu and back. The historicity and former glory of this road can now be established only through records from the Mughal and Early Colonial Era, oral histories collected from contiguous communities, and the heritage assets that exist primarily in the form of caravanserai remains lining the route in varying degrees of obsolescence.

Sites

The key sites that remain along the Indian section of LahoreKashmir Mughal Imperial Roadand have been scrutinised under the scope of this study are a combination of natural and cultural assets and can be sequentially named from Jammu to Kashmir as Nowshera, Narian, Chingus, Muradpur, Rajouri, Fatehpur Thanamandi, Buffliaz, Noori Chamb, Chandimurh, Peer ki Gali, Aliabad Sarai, Lal Gulam, Sukh Sarai, Dubjan, Shadimarg and Khampur Sarai.

Building Typology

According to their use, typology of built assets defining the Road include caravanserais/sarais, mosques, shrines, gurudwaras and temples.

Materials

Majority of the built assets along this road are constructed of rubble masonry, brick masonry, lime mortar, lime plaster and mud plaster. Remains of stone latticework and painted cornices can be seen in the sarais at Aliabad and Nowshera.

 

Protection Status

While the sites at Nowshera, Chingus and Shadimarg are state protected (by the Department of Archives, Archaeology, and Museums. Government of Jammu and Kashmir), and sites at Aliabad Sarai and Khampur Sarai and centrally protected (by the Archaeological Survey of India, Government of India), remains at all other sites are in unprotected and in urgent need of identification, delineation, protection and conservation.

 

Sarais at Narian and Thanamandi are currently being used by the Indian Army.

Condition

Apart from Chingus Sarai and Khampur Sarai, all others historic sites along the Mughal Road are in advanced stages of decay with elements of weathering and erosion, earth movement, structural damage, material disintegration, incompatible interventions and usage, unchecked sprawl of contiguous settlements and agricultural fields into historic fabrics, and growth of vegetation being some of the key factors responsible for their dilapidation. Further, the lack of information, accessibility, interpretation and visitor amenities prevents both individual sites and the larger circuit from engaging public attention.