Letter to the Editor – Kashmir Times

By Dr, K.N. Pandita, Jammu – Toshkhana treasure

Dear Sir,
Apropos of ‘Priceless royal treasure: Where has it disappeared’ by Shuchismita (April 5), I am reminded that in 1976, Kashmir University, in consultation with the UGC, decided to open an Area Study Centre called the Centre of Central Asian Studies in Kashmir University. Shiekh Muhammd Abdullah, then chief minister, evinced keen interest in its establishment, and directed that a Central Asian Museum should also be developed as a unit of this institute. He was monitoring its progress, and on being informed that the infrastructure for the said museum was brought to completion, Shiekh Sahib sent us a word to see him. Three of us, late Prof Maqbul Ahmad, the then Director of the Centre, Mr. J.L. Bhan, the Curator and me, the senior most among the faculties in the Centre, met with him at his private residence. After hearing our report about the progress of the Centre and its museum, Shiekh Sahib said that he had directed the state government authorities to transfer as many artifacts preserved in Toshakhana to the upcoming museum in Central Asian Studies Centre of the university as were related to Central Asia.

In pursuance of his instructions, the curator Mr. Bhan and I paid several visits to Toshakhana at Aitgaji/Gupkar Road and selected about 232 artifacts. These were mostly terracotta items like statues of Buddha and Bodhisattvas, some apparels like gowns from Ladakh and Chilas, metallic utensils and decorative pieces etc. all more or less of historical value. With this list in hand, we met Shiekh Sahib again and explained to him the details about the selection made. He called in his private secretary and told him to fix a day for his visit to the Toshkhana along with us. On the appointed day, a bitter cold and wintry day, Shiekh Sahib, donning a woolen gown and heavy woolen cap took us along with him to the Toshakhana. He examined our selection item by item, and approved them all for transfer. Then suddenly addressing the custodian of Toshakhana, Shiekh Sahib said that there was a kettle/jug made of neelam stone which he himself had donated to the Toshakhana many years ago and demanded that it was brought to him. The custodian looked up and brought it to him. Taking the jug in his hand Shiekh Sahib told us that once during his freedom movement a delegation from Askardu had brought to him that kettle/jug as a gift and he had passed it on to the Toshakhana. On his instructions this jug was included in our list and later on all selected items including the kettle/jug were shifted to Central Asian Museum. When the Museum was completed, Shiekh Sahib along with Begam Sahiba visited it and was glad to see the artifacts exhibited gracefully in showcases. This incident shows that Shiekh Sahib had a great sense of preserving and maintaining our heritage of art and culture.

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