By Nissar H. Gilani
In the recent past Gupkar made, headlines for so called ‘Gupkar declaration’ most of us know the political reason behind the much publicized event.
Since place names are an important part of our geographical and cultural environment, more so when the place is abode of ‘men in power’ or represent irreplaceable cultural values or is of some historical importance etc. Gupkar has a few of them that creates curiosity to know background of the place.
Barely 10 minutes’ drive from the buzzing Srinagar famous Lal Chowk area and just south of famous Zabarwan range, Gupkar gives way to the ‘Takht-i-Suliman’ forests nearby, rugged slopes, and rocky land form.
Meditation by the Saints in the past around the area is reported. Roop Bahwani (Alakeswari birth name) a pious pandit lady from the upper cast ‘Dhar family’ born in 1620 of Khanakh-e-Shukhta, near Nawakadal Srinagar is believed to have performed meditation many a times in nearby forests of Gupkar. A small temple stand built near Cheshma Shahee few kms away where she is believed to have performed ‘Sadhana’ for 12 long years.
Takhti-Suliman or (Throne of Solomon)
Is in fact a part of Gupkar hills also known as Shankarcharya Hill, rises to a height of 1000 feet, and overlooks the Srinagar city, has a temple on its top, believed to have been built by Jalaka, the son of emperor Ashoka, around 200 BC, and is visited by hundreds of tourists every day.
Most place names are named after prominent geographical features, such as river and lakes. Others are named after personalities such as kings or historical figures.
In Greater Kashmir, record of rights maintained by the custodians of revenue department show the detailed account of each village/estate along with the information about a village name. But in case of Gupkar it is surprisingly missing.
The first gazetteer of Kashmir published in the year 1890 has an elaborate reference about Gupkar which reads as
Gupkar Latitude 34o5’ Longitude 74o.54’ Elevation
A village situated at south –east corner of the Dal Lake close to the Gap between the Baswan peak of the main range and isolated spur of the Takhti-Suliman. It lies on both sides of the path, and is divided into two mahallas, the upper being inhabited by Muhammadan’s of the Shia sect and the lower by Sunnis. At the east of the village there is an old ruined hamam, and the Ziarat of Rishmail Sahib, north-west of the village on high dry ground is an open orchard containing some fine chunar trees, it is called the Mirza Raza-Ka-Bagh. Between gupakar and drogjun the path lies along the edge of the lake, and is mostly raised but in places it is liable to be, encroached upon by the waters of the lake when flooded.
Here again, the reason to name the place as gupkar, is missing. However, writer Khallid Bashir has painstakingly in his article (gupkar, the name behind a declaration August 31-2020) explained the history of gupkar and reasons of naming the place after 4th b.c. ruler of Kashmir ‘Gopaditya’
Whatever the reasons might be behind the name of ‘Gupkar’ the fact remains the area has been occupied by celebrities, over the centuries. Among the notables three former chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir have their residences in the Gupkar area.
The Dogra dynasty’s has the royal palace, turned into 5 Star property that operates under the name and style of ‘Grand Palace’, Srinagar is the historic monument, because of its historic and symbolic significance.
The last hair apparent, Karan Singh, a prince regent of Jammu and Kashmir until 1952, and the youngest head of the state from 1952 to 1965 has beautiful Royal residence, named as ‘Taley Manzial, annexed with vast landed estate.
In the year 1980, G.M. Shah son-in-law of Sheikh Abdullah, holding the portfolio of minister of works and power conceived an idea of acquiring the land of erstwhile ruler in the area, for public purposes, namely for promotion of tourism in the state.
The subsequent notifications under the land acquisition act sent shivers down the spine of Dr. Karan Singh who reportedly became so nervous to leave no stone, unturned to stop the land acquisition in which he succeeded partially. Mr. Gulam Hussan Bhat ex. girdawar who was posted in the area around that time recalls his meetings with the former ruler at Palatial ‘Taley manzil’ residence where he was always entertained with the lavish garden breakfast and other eateries. During the meetings. Mr. Bhat say’s Karan Singh was so depressed and nervous those days and would not hesitate to express his anguish and fear about G.M. Shah’s malice towards him.
During the long time Mr. G.H. Bhat spent in the royal quarter allotted to him temporarily enabled to demarcate the royal land and issue fresh extracts of revenue records of royal estates that of an emperor whose fore father had purchased the whole of Greater Kashmir for a sum of Rs. 7.5 million Nanak Shahee rupees from the British government. I felt so powerful those days’’ says Mr. Bhat, with a smile.
In fact most of the Gupkar land is that of the state administered by Nazool organization of the revenue department of j&k government. Some known persons reside in the area who have either managed to transfer the state land in ownership rights or continue to hold lease rights under land grants Act. Some of the influential Kashmiri Pandits like Wazirs, Kak’s, Dhar’s hold the land with lease rights, some of them are overstaying authorized/unauthorized lease holders, with much in recoverable rent areas. Affandis of the Afghan dynasty also have land in the area. The imposing historical buildings in the gupkar village are masonic buildings, now used as the office of special security group meant for chief ministers security cover, besides UNMOGIP office, that has remained in the area to observe developments pertaining to the strict observance of the ceasefire on l.o.cs. in j&k. In the year 1979, on 4th April when former Pakistan prime minister Z.A. Bhutto was executed, that evoked instant mindless violent demonstration in Srinagar that saw nine innocent lives killed in and around the premises of united nations of (UNMOGIP) office by the security guards.
The Kashmir Government has a nursing home on the main gupkar road where once upon a time Mooley Abdullah w/o. Dr. Farooq Abdullah worked tirelessly to help upkeep the hospital cleanliness.
Over the years the village ‘Gupkar’ has evolved interest and priests, princes, Politician’s, and people have made it important and is now a well-known addresses in Srinagar.
Nissar H. Gilani can be reached at [email protected]