|The Hammam of Dara Shikoh|
In Kashmir, there are four hammams that were built by the Mughals, during the reign of Shah Jehan – at Shalimar, Acchabal, Naagar-Nagar and Pari Mahal. Of the four, three were built under the joint collaboration between Dara-Jehanara-Mulla Shah, those at Acchabal, Naagar-Nagar and Pari Mahal. A documentation of all these hammams excepting Pari Mahal has been undertaken by INTACH, which indicates a fairly clear distinction between the three functional units at Shalimar and Acchabal, unlike the hammam at Naagar-Nagar.
According to traditional historical references, Prince Dara Shikoh constructed a palace for himself on the foothills of Koh-i-Maran hillock. The palace was built within the walled Mughal city of Nagar Nagar, founded by Emperor Akbar. Of this palace, the only surviving remnant is a well or hauz most of which has been filled with debris and garbage. Isolated masonry remnants can also be observed in the area. To the west of the palace on a slightly elevated piece of land, Dara Shikoh constructed a mosque for his mentor Mulla Shah.
The mosque which is locally called as “Mulla Shah Masjid” essentially comprises an enclosure set within an enclosure with a square courtyard mosque surrounded by a series of cells on its northern side along the slope of the hill. The lower level of the mosques comprises of a series of cells or cubicles at two levels which formed a part of a caravanserai. In between the sarai and the palace, a public hammam was constructed at a lower level. The entire area between the hammam and the mosque was laid on the pattern of a traditional Mughal bagh comprising series of terraces.
The absence of any archaeological studies makes it impossible to co-relate the Mulla Akhoon complex with its surrounding area. Nevertheless, fragmented information gathered from available historical records reveals that the palace of Dara was situated on a lower level further east of the hammam in close proximity to Kathi Darwaza – the main entrance gateway to the city of Nagar Nagar.
Over a long period of time, the hammam has been exposed to the pernicious effects of atmospheric and capillary damp, which has resulted in the degradation of the construction and its materials, as well as caused the destabilization of the structure. Other causes of degradation include destructive behavior by citizens who have misused the structure for residential and public activities, like running a gymnasium within the building.
The conservation of the hammam building is proposed has been taken up in a phased manner that will result in restoring the historic character of the entire Mulla Shah precinct which comprises the mosque, sarai, hammam and the terraced garden.
The Phase I of the project was primarily focused on the conservation of the hammam building involving structurally strengthening and restoration or replacement of building elements based on established conservation principles. The structural stabilisation of the building involved repair to the dome by means of “stitching”, using galvanized “tor-steel” hooks to be dowelled in the cracked area and grouted in Lime Mortar and Masonry. This has served well to pre-stress the dome area and mitigate any further distress. The cracks in the masonry walls may be repaired by insertion of devri stone (local building stone) dowels in lime mortar. These prefabricated stone dowels would act as bond or through- stones and help in mitigating further spreading of the base-supports (i.e., walls) of the dome. The archaeological excavation of the pool in between the hammam and the sarai was also taken up in the Phase I.
This phase will also involve the provision for entrance to the whole complex near the Makhdoom saheb gateway (deedh).
The Phase II of the project will involve the conservation/restoration of the sarai and the associated terraced garden. On the basis of the documentation and condition assessment undertaken the following recommendations for the conservation of the buildings were proposed and are being delivered at the site: