Object of the week: A rare photo of Dal Lake in the 1800s

Part of the Spotlight feature Open Roads

Object of the week: A rare photo of Dal Lake in the 1800s - 19th Century Photography, Dal Lake, featured, Fort, Gurudwara, Hari Parbat, Kashmir, Lake, Object of the week, Open Roads, Srinagar, Sufi, Temple, Travel

Hari Parbat Fort From Dal Lake, Dr. Aurther Neve, Dr. Ernest F. Neve, c. 1880 -1900 © Sarmaya Arts Foundation [2018.48.2 (6)]

This photo presents a quintessentially Kashmiri scene. It was taken in the late 1800s and contains all the components we have come to associate with the Srinagar valley: the Dal Lake with shikaras, complete with pheran-wearing boatsmen, against the backdrop of the Hari Parbat mountain.

At the top of the Hari Parbat we can see a fort. These fortifications were begun by Mughal emperor Akbar but completed only in the 19th century by Atta Mohammed Khan, a governor of the Durrani empire. Hari Parbat is sacred to Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. It is the site of the Jagadamba Sharika Bhagawathy temple; two Sufi shrines, including one to Makhdoom Sahib; and two Gurudwaras, one of which is the historic Gurdwara Chhati Patshahi.

This photo is from an album compiled by British physicians, and brothers, Arthur Neve (1859-1919) and Ernest Neve (1861-1946). It comprises of Kashmiri and Ladakhi landscapes, which were geopolitically significant even during the 19th Century. The Neve brothers were possibly among the earliest photographers to document Ladakh. Both worked at the Srinagar Mission Hospital and travelled extensively in the region; Dr Arthur Neve even became a skilled mountaineer and explored remote glaciers. He published books about his travels, including Tourist’s Guide to Kashmir, Ladakh and Skardo and Picturesque Kashmir and Thirty Years in Kashmir.

The Dal Lake, which is today a protected wetland, was the site of the Neves’ professional accomplishments too. Apart from decades of service at the Mission Hospital, the brothers established an asylum for people with leprosy on the Lake. In 1900, Dr Arthur Neve was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind Medal of the First Class and later, he would be named Vice President of the International Medical Congress at Bombay. He carried his medical service—and his camera—to the most remote corners of Kashmir.

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