Photographer's Note

As India steps into its 60th year of Independence, I continue with my mini series on the Secular structure of India.

Muslims in India
Contrary to general belief, Islam came to India long before Muslim invasions of India. Islamic influence first came to be felt in the early 7th century with the arrival of Arab traders. Arab Muslim traders attracted the people to Islam by their friendly behavior, honesty in trade, discipline in dealings and peaceful religious and pious life A number of Indians living in the western coast were moved by the principles of Islam and converted. Infact the first Indian mosque was built in Kerala as far back as 629 A.D during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad. The Muslim invasions of India started in the 8th century with the invasion of Sindh by Syrian Arabs and were followed by rulers like Mahmud of Ghazni and Muhammad of Ghor. This eventually led to the formation of the Delhi Sultanate in 1210. It lasted for 316 years and was finally overthrown by another Islamic ruler, Babar from persent day Uzbekistan who established the famous Mughal Empire and hastened the spread of Islam in India.
Sufi saints or the moderate Islamic preachers played an important role in the spread of Islam in India. Many aspects of Sufi belief systems and practices had their parallels in Indian philosophical literature, in particular non-violence and monoism. Sufis' unorthodox approach towards Islam attracted many Hindus. The Sufi movement played a crucial role in bridging the distance between Islam and the indigenous traditions. Even today Sufi tombs are visited by Hindus and Muslims alike.
Muslims in India had an important role to play in India's freedom struggle and their contribution in the religious, artistic, philosophical, political, social and cultural aspects is second to none. Even after the partition of India in 1947 and the formation of Islamic state of Pakistan, majority of Muslims decided to stay back in India and are today an integral part of the country. One cannot deny instances of Hindu-Muslim conflicts in the country but these are more exceptions than the rule. Today Muslims form the largest minority group in India with a population of 190 million (17.3% of Indian population). India has the second-largest population of Muslims in the world after Indonesia.

Pictured here is the Hazratbal Mosque in Srinagar - the most important Muslim shrine of Kashmir. Situated on the west bank of the Dal Lake, it commands a grand view of the lake and the mountains beyond. The importance of the shrine lies in the fact that it houses the Moi-e-Muqaddas (The Sacred Hair) of the Prophet Mohammed. The history of the Shrine goes back to the early seventeenth century when the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's Subedar, Sadiq Khan, laid out a garden here and constructed a palatial building, Ishrat Mahal or pleasure house in 1623. However, the Emperor, during his visit in 1634, ordered the building to be converted into a prayer house. During the time of Emperor Aurangzeb, when the Moi-e-Muqqadas arrived in Kashmir in 1699, it was first kept in the shrine of Naqshband Sahib in the heart of the city. Since the place was found to be insufficient in view of the unprecedented rush of people who thronged the place to see the relic, it was decided that it would be shifted to Hazratbal. The construction of the marble structure that stands today was started by the Muslim Auqaf Trust in 1968 and completed in 1979. The mosque is a blend of Mughal and Kashmiri architectural styles, with a three-tiered roof topping walls and porticos of brick masonry on a base of dressed stone. The Hazratbal mosque, standing like a glowing dream with its pristine grace reflected in the waters, is an abiding symbol of the potential for warmth and amity among different people.
I have provided two WS, one of the original image and the other giving a closer view of the dome and the minaret.

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Additional Photos by Sabyasachi Talukdar (sabyasachi1212) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3140 W: 281 N: 5210] (19779)
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