A fire on Tuesday night damaged the oldest shrine in the Kashmir Valley in Srinagar’s Downtown area.
Built in 1395 AD, Khanqah-e-Moula, popularly known as Khanqah, is a mosque and a shrine of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, located on the bank of the Jhelum.
The fire, which started around 1 am on the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday, was doused after a seven-hour effort during which its top spire was ruined. Some fire officials said the blaze was triggered by lightening on the wooden structure but there was no official statement on the matter.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti cancelled her official engagements and reached Srinagar early morning and drove to the shrine of the saint in the Shahr-i-Khaas (Old City).
She spoke to members of the mosque’s management committee and devotees. “The shrine symbolises the pluralistic ethos of Kashmir society from which every citizen of the state draws spiritual solace,” she said.
As Mehbooba was leaving the shrine after taking stock of the damage caused by the fire, pro-freedom and pro-Islam slogans were raised by men and the women who had assembled outside the shrine.
Mushtaq Ahmed, a local shopkeeper, said that around 1 am he heard people screaming. “When I looked outside my window I saw fire emanating from the spire of the wooden shrine. I could not believe what I saw. It was unexpected.” He said hundreds of people had rushed to the spot as everyone was trying to douse the flames.
Several fire tenders were dispatched to the spot immediately. A fire official said: “With the timely intervention of firefighters and the help of locals we managed to control the flames. But by the time we reached the top to control the flames, the fire had damaged the spire of the shrine.”