Verinag: So tranquil, so soothing an ambience!
A famous legend attributed to Mughal emperor ‘Jahangir’ is recorded in several chronicles having said that he (Jehangir) so wished that he be buried at Verinag.
Verinag with its mighty trees, cold-water and murmuring streams nestled amidst serene pine-clad hills is situated in South Kashmir, nearly 74 Kms from Srinagar. It is considered to be the original source of river Jehlum and its waters with its tributaries like Nallah Lidder and Nallah Vishow supplying water to nearly all south Kashmir and finally merging with Jehlum.
The site also threw up several archaeological evidences of ancient period when a group of sculptures pertaining to later Lahore dynasty were exhumed from its neighbourhood. These sculptures are now displayed in the archaeological gallery of the state museum at Lal Mandi Srinagar.
These are the magnificent sculptures of various Hindu gods and goddesses raised in high relief that speak volumes about the ancient Kashmir art. Besides, Verinag has been the place of great interest for several travellers. Abul Fazl in ‘Ain-e-Akbari’ says of Verinag that it is, “a pool measuring one Jareeb, which tosses in foam with an astonishing roar and its depth is unfathomable and is surrounded by a stone-embankment.”
The initial construction work of the spring was undertaken during Jahangir’s regime ((1014-1037 A.H.) and completed by Shah Jahan (1037-1068 A.H.). The developmental work of Verinag included outlining of a garden around it, raising pillared pavilions, constructing royal bathrooms and an octagonal arcade around the spring. Jahangir, in a brief account of the spring writes, “It is an octagonal reservoir, about 20-yards near it are the remains of a place of worship for recluses; cells cut out of the rock and numerous caves. The water is exceedingly pure, although I could not guess its depth. A grain of poppy-seed is visible until it touches the bottom. There are many fish to be seen in it. As I had heard that it was unfathomable, I ordered them to throw a cord with a stone attached and when this card measured in gaz it became evident that the depth was not more than one and a half the height of a man. After my accession I ordered them to build the sides of the spring with stone, and they made a garden round it with canal and built halls and houses around it and made a place so that travellers from world over can point out a few like it.”
Of the buildings that Jehangir ordered to be constructed here, only the range of twenty-four arches round the spring remains partially intact. The rest constructions are either in ruins or invisible.
The arcade originally formed of stone was repaired by Maharaja Ranbir Singh (1857-85 AD) in bricks. The two inscriptions rose into the wall of arcade, one by Jahangir and the other by his son Shah Jehan retain the physical memories of the monarchs. One of the inscriptions that belongs to Jahangir, reads as: Padshahi haft-Kishtiwar `adalat-gustar’ Abu-al-Muzaffar Nurud-ud-Din Jahangir Ibn Akbar Shah Ghazi Batarikhi.
Sanah 5 Julus darin Sarchashma faiz-amin nazul ajlal formudand Tarikh.
Az Jahangir Shah-e-Akbar Shah.
Inn bina Sar Kashidah bar aflak.
Abani-e-equal yaft tarikhash.
This inscription carries the foundation date as 5th regional year of Jahangir with King’s higher titles in Persian. The other inscription of Shah Jehan’s period read as:
Haider ba Hukmi Shahi
Jehan padasi dahr.
Shukre Khuda Ki Sakht
Chunin ab shar Jui.
In Jui dada ast Ziju-e-bahish yad.
Zin abshar yafta kashmir abrui.
Tarikh-e-jui guft ba gosham.
Az chashma-e-bikhif birum amadast Jui.
This inscription provides work done date as 1036 AH by one Haider, which was completed under the orders of Shah Jehan.
Since many historical sites were facing a decaying era during the turmoil period, Verinag too couldn’t remain undisturbed. The negligence by the public and state authorities turned this historical site into a ruin. The situation facilitated human vandalism that resulted in the crumbling of its olden structures. The poor maintenance of the garden, arcades and its walls also became the victim of human vandalism to the point that this magnificent historical site lost the Pillared pavilions and royal bath rooms. Although the octagonal arcade renovated in the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh is still intact, but in poor condition.
During the turmoil period, the site presented a deserted look as no tourist paid a visit. Besides it also remained out of bounds for local tourists as well. Gradually with change in ground situation the tourism of the neglected site also got revived, which helped the authorities to restore these sites. Verinag has also got restored and has been now attracting domestic tourism as well. But the historic inscriptions of the Mughal era are still to be documented and preserved as these inscriptions are the most significant epigraphic heritage of Mughals which needs to be preserved on modern scientific lines. Steps are required to be taken on priority basis to save this heritage site from further decay.