Meeras Mahal Museum: Continues the Legacy of Atiqa Bano

Meeras Mahal is the only private museum in Kashmir located in the city of Sopore, in the north of Kashmir. It was created by the famous pedagogue Atiqa Bano, who died at the age of 77 on October 4, 2017.

The museum houses a collection of ancient ornaments, papier-mâché objects, traditional dresses and traditional Kashmiri utensils. It contains manuscripts of the Holy Quran and other masterpieces of Islamic calligraphy.

The two-story museum was established by the late Atiqa Bano, who was popularly known as Behan-Ji throughout Kashmir. She was born into an educated family in the 1940s and received her BA from Women’s College in Srinagar, followed by an MA in Urdu and Economics.

Later, she also graduated from M.ED in Rajasthan. In 1958, she joined the School Education Department and retired in 1997 as Director of Libraries and Research, Jammu and Kashmir.

After serving in the education department, Bano had in mind that she wanted to start her own museum in 2002 in the city of Sopore illustrating the culture and diversity of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

She has spent her life for her dream, including 16 full years preserving the culture. Currently, his nephew is the guardian of the museum.

Museum keeper Muzamil Bashir Masoodi told Rising Kashmir that the museum portrays 90 percent of Kashmiri culture and has been one of the emerging tourist spots across North Kashmir.

“It was his idea to create a unique museum that will reflect the collection of the three regions of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

Masoodi said that before 2019 people came here to visit the place and explore the different sections of the museum. Now, after Covid-19, some schools and colleges have started to visit the place, he said.

Masoodi said his paternal aunt had a unique passion for keeping ancient Kashmir alive by preserving art and culture. For years, she has gone door-to-door looking for valuable additions to her “heritage palace,” he said.

It also has a good collection of woven Kangris, dozens of wooden and jute shoes, traditional Kashmiri costumes, Ladakhi caps, shawls and dresses, scarves, hats, jewelry, watches, clocks. , headgear, necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, stone utensils, tools, radios, a milk jug and other items, he said .

“We have also preserved earthenware, grass work, dresses, wooden objects, old paintings, stone objects and even fossils. A few copies of an old weekly newspaper ‘Diler’ are also kept here, ”Masoodi said.

“There are house tiles that were used in Kashmir around 2,500 years ago and traditional Kashmir used before a century ago. She worked day and night for the staging of this museum.

About the idea of ​​establishing a museum in Sopore, he said, it initially started with traditional Kangri clay pots, 32 pounds from his grandfather Ghulam Mohammad Hanfi, who was a famous author. .

“Apart from these books, there are thousands of books, including manuscripts and rare books. The museum’s collections are stored in 7-8 rooms, including a separate traditional Kashmiri house (Dahati Ghar).

He said that in recent years the government had approached the family to move the Srinagar-owned museum but the family was not ready for this decision.

“Even they promised me a job in the government in exchange for moving the museum, but I refused. I want to pass on his mission (Atiqa Bano) and keep his lost charm,” Masoodi said.

He said they also asked officials from the archeology department to visit the museum, but things remained unchanged on the ground. “Now we manage everything. Once the government provided us with preservative acid, but after that they never helped us in any way, ”he said.

“The work can only last 20 to 25 years, but the legacy of a museum lasts for centuries. It gives us unique peace of mind. We want to work on this project and explore more possibilities in the future, said Masoodi.

Regarding the current plans, Masoodi said they are also continuing to collect the rare items across the valley. “Whatever historical artifact we find in any part of the valley, we add it to the collection,” he said, adding that they also had a collection from Rajasthan, ”he said. he declared.

He said there was a lack of space in the museum and that there were five to six rooms full of a collection of cultural objects. “We plan to expand it in the future,” he said.

He said they have a traditional oil spoon (Till Krund) and a lightning instrument (Tchoong). 18th century Kashmiri coins (sansu approx.6.2 g). Traditional Kashmiri Basket, Pann Dabb, Samawar, Sorma Stone, Wooden Kitchen Vessels. Traditional Kashmiri cuisine, cooking in an earthenware fireplace (Dambur).

Bano suffered from cancer and she passed away in 2017. “A deadly cancer could not deter her struggle, love and affection for her work and her community. She continued to visit her college and other offices until her last breath, ”Masoodi said.

About his paternal aunt, he said that she also established the Kashmir Women’s College (B.ED College) in 2001 and also contributes to society by setting up the Islamic Darasgah in the villages around Sopore. , where she helped children participate in religious activities and modern education.

“She had set up 15 Darasgahs for the children and she was paying the preacher (Molvi Sahibb) and housing. After his death, these schools are now closed, ”he said.

Masoodi said she was the inspiration for young women in northern Kashmir and was also vice president of Adbee Markaz Kamraz Jammu and Kashmir, which is the oldest and largest cultural and literary organization of J&K focused on the promotion and preservation of Kashmiri culture, literature and culture. art.

“Atiqa Ji will be remembered for his great contribution to Kashmiri society and its rich culture,” he said.

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