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Imambara Zadibal is the first Imambara constructed in Kashmir Valley by Kaji Chak, minister in the regime of Sultan Mohammad in the year 1518. This Imambara has a horrifying history as it was burnt down and destroyed number of times.
One of the most ancient monuments of Kashmir, Imambara Zadibal is in the state of Jammu and Kashmir administered by India. It lies in Zadibal locality of Srinagar to the west side of the fort. Made in 1518, this shrine was erected by Kaji Chak, who was a minister with Sultan Mohammed Shah. This two-storey building is one of the oldest historic places in Kashmir valley. Sitting on the lines of Persian architecture, this shrine looks antique and a popular tourist spot. From 1548 AD to 1872 AD, the building went ablaze eleven times and it was rebuilt each time. Of recently, the ancient Imambara was taken down in 2004 to restructure and rebuild the new structure of the shrine that stands today. The shrine is large enough to hold more than 32,000 visitors at a time.
There are different stories about the construction of the Imambara Zadibal but the relevant history is that Tajik Shah donated the land of the zadibal to Mir Shamshud din Iraqi who introduced Shia Islam in Kashmir and influenced the cabinet ministers of that time.
Then the family of Mir Shamshud din Iraqi, whose mausoleum is only few feet away from the imambara zadibal, lived in the place. The fifth generation of his family constructed their private mosque and lived around it, continuing to live there in the early 21st century. They constructed the imambara as their personal mosque. For the upkeep of the mosque they set aside productive land. They kept the rights of ownership to themselves but allowed the neighbors to pray there.
It became the main center of learning for the the followers of Ahlul bait and the elders of Markdar family would impart the education about the religion there. They also constructed a Hamam which would be used as a guest house for travelers coming from Baltistan and other distant areas. Then it was during time of Maharaja Ghulab Singh who wanted to keep all the centers under the control of his rule through his representatives( Jalalis) so that no one could revolt against him. That is when the dispute broke between Jalalis and Markdars. It went on for 150 years.
At the time of prime minister of Kashmir Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, the markdars donated the imambara to the Shia public and later on its guardianship was taken by Shia association. The Shia association procured the land around the imambara from the markdars under different deals sometimes exchanging it for land or paying cash. Recently the imambara was repaired by the late Molvi Iftikhar Hussein Ansari.
Inspired by Persian style architecture, Imambara Zadibal is a two-storey building. It is constructed of oriental bricks and this structure holds Maharaji bricks that cover an area of over 75 square meters. Antique and striking, this shrine has various sideways floor raisings known as Gulam Gardish. There’s a central ground level floor that’s called Pokhr. It also houses a large gallery of four gates.
Currently, the structure is under the supervision of All Jammu and Kashmir Shia Association, who take care of its maintenance. However, the structure that we see today is still undergoing construction work at a slow pace.
Shia Muslims are a minority in Kashmir. During the first 10 days of Muharram, Imambada Zadibal becomes a centre of mourning and religious gathering in Zadibal. Shia followers join the mourning, usually ending in the festival of Ashura when a large procession parades through the streets of Zadibal ending at Imambada Zadibal, though mourning continues from 1st day of muharram to 8th of the Islamic month Rabi al Awwal after which Eid al Zahra also known as Eid e Shuja is celebrated and marks the end of 2+ months mourning period.
At the time Imambara Zadibal was constructed, it was a majestic building. Soon, it turned into a pride of Kashmir Valley. However, this shrine is witness to a horrific past. The structure was set ablaze the first time in 1548 AD. This was done by Mirza Hyder Kashgari Douglat due to communal violence. Later on in 1551, Daulat Chak took over the work to reconstruct this Imambara. Once again in 1553, this structure was set ablaze by Zafar Kupawari for the second time. That was not all, the destruction soon followed in 1653, when the building was burnt down by adversaries of Ahlul Bayt during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Later on, in 1682 AD, Imambara Zadibal went on fire again. This occurred at a time when Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir was the ruler of the region. Then in the 1719 AD, the structure got burnt down a fifth time during the Mukhtawi Khan clash. For the sixth time, Imambara Zadibal caught fire in 1748 AD. This was done by mysterious enemies of Ahlul Bayt who set the building on fire once again in 1763. During Afghan rule in Kashmir, on eve of Ashura event, Imambara Zadibal went into flames in June 1801. It was in July 1830 that this place saw a horrific massacre as Imambara Zadibal faced fire when Jammu and Kashmir was under Sikh rule. This same day, many Shias were cruelly murdered. This happened at Ali Park in Zadibal or Margibal. Imambara Zadibal got reconstructed with the help of financial aid sent by a minister of Awadh’s Sultan Nasr-ud-din. This grant was sent to Haji Baqir Khan Irani, who passed on the duty to rebuild this structure to Hatim Mir. However, in September 1872 the building was again set ablaze under the rule of Maharaja Ranbir Singh. He was a Dogra Ruler of J&K. This time the king gave away a financial aid of about Rs. 3 lakhs to renovate the Imambara to the current prosperous condition. Every time the shrine went through fire, followers of Prophet Mohammad and Ahlul Bayt were only more convinced to make it again.
Immabara Zadibal carries a strong tale of destruction but each time the shrine was rebuilt again. From the period of Sultan Nazuk Shah by Mirza Douglat in 1548 AD to the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1872 AD, this shine was burnt down around eleven times.
Reaching this shrine is easy because it is close to Srinagar Highway. The Imambara lies in the middle of Zadibal nearby the Khushal Sar lake and Hari parbat fort known as Qilla among the common masses. The nearest railway station for Zadibal is Srinagar railway station which is merely just an hour distance by car. Sheikh ul alam international airport is also just few kms far from the Imambara. Taxi services are also available within the Srinagar city.