Pictures of Ramkot Fort on the banks of Mangla Dam lake, the Buddha Mujassama in Gilgit, Sharda Peeth in Neelum Valley, Ali Baig gurdwara, and the fountains and gardens at Khuiratta are on display as part of an exhibition titled ‘National Unity Through Monuments’, which opened on Tuesday to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 69th birthday.
‘Cultural Heritage Sites in PoK’, announced a board outside the National Monuments Authority (NMA) complex here, listing 28 heritage sites that fall in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The list — which covered the districts of Bagh, Bhimber, Haveli, Kotli, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Neelum Valley and Sudhanoti, and had forts, mosques, shrines and archaeological ruins — was incomplete, it added.
Officials at the NMA said the three-day exhibition was organised to celebrate “national unity, peace and tranquility under the leadership of Narendra Modi”. It was inaugurated by Union Culture and Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel in the presence of Union Minister and Udhampur MP Jitendra Singh and NMA Chairman Tarun Vijay.
Singh said: “There used to be an annual pilgrimage by Kashmiri Pandits to Sharda Peeth, but it stopped after Independence. Like Kartarpur, concerned ministries will take up the issue with Pakistan if this yatra can be resumed.”
Apart from photographs of monuments in PoK, the exhibition showcased pictures of monuments in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Vadnagar in Gujarat, the birthplace of Modi. There were pictures of the Shankracharya temple on the hill overlooking Dal lake in Kashmir; Raghunath Temple built by the first Dogra ruler Maharaja Ghulab Singh in 1835, now in PoK; and Lamayuru, one of the largest and oldest monasteries in Ladakh.
A picture that drew attention was that of Kirti Toran in Vadnagar, flanked by Modi’s present-day and childhood photographs. “The village where our Prime Minister was born, the boy who sold tea near the Kirti Toran became the greatest icon of India,” reads the caption.
“Everyone has the right to celebrate the PM’s birthday in the manner they want. I find this a unique way to celebrate the momentous occasion and want to congratulate the NMA for it,” said Patel. “The world should know how many monuments we have, be it religious, historical or of archaeological importance in PoK and at other places.”
The NMA also released its new logo, which features the Martand temple of Kashmir and the Ashoka Pillar emblem embedded inside. Navneet Soni, Member-Secretary, NMA, told The Indian Express, “This is an attempt to document the heritage of Jammu and Kashmir and showcase the historic and cultural connection we have with the entire region.”
The NMA — which functions under the Ministry of Culture — is primarily tasked with protecting and preserving monuments and sites through management of the prohibited and regulated area around the centrally protected monuments. Most of the photos have been sourced from the archives of the Archaeological Survey of India, said an NMA official.