Kashmir’s first e-museum to showcase door-to-door collection of a teacher 

Lifetime dedication of an ordinary woman living in a far-off rural pocket is beginning to bear fruit

Published - April 05, 2022 08:11 pm IST - SOPORE (Baramulla)

Hand-woven baskets in the collection

Hand-woven baskets in the collection | Photo Credit: peerzada Ashiq


Finally, a rare virtual museum from Sopore, 40 km from Srinagar, will showcase the lifetime collection of a female Kashmiri educationist, Atiqa Bano, who managed to create a huge repository of artefact through door-to-door collections. She died at the age of 77 in 2017, leaving behind a collection that throws light on the life and customs of 18th and 19th Century rural Kashmir.  

The Aliph Foundation, an international organisation involved in protecting cultural heritage, has approved grants for the e-museum as part of their post-COVID rehabilitation programme.

“We are hopeful that our efforts will create a comprehensive and interactive virtual museum of the artefacts, which will make Bano’s collections accessible to people across the world,” said Saima Iqbal, principal conservation architect at the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

Bano served at different teaching posts across several districts of Kashmir and dedicated her life to collecting artefacts from locals across the length and breadth of the Valley. However, her death due to cancer almost brought the curtains down on her dream project, Meeras Mahal, where she wanted to set up Kashmir’s first community museum in Highland Colony at Sopore in a multi-storey building on land donated by her.

Ms. Iqbal and her team, mainly women professionals, have come together not to let the artefacts die in oblivion. The task is daunting though. Bano has collected a whopping 8,000 artefacts --- ranging from kitchen utensils to agricultural tools, clothing, earthenware and manuscripts. The collection includes donations from Kashmiri Pandit families of old-style earthen puja thalis and wooden palanquins with god and goddesses. 

Among other things, the collection has terracotta items from the 4th Century Kushan period, coins from pre-Islamic era and artefacts from the Buddhist period, which is likely to open a new gateway to understanding the life and times of Kashmir.  

Ethnographic collection

“It’s an ethnographic collection and highlights the day-to-day life of rural Kashmir, whether that of a farmer or of someone from the elite class. The collection reflects a syncretic culture of Kashmir. Her artefact is inclusive and give representation to Muslims, Pandits, Sikhs, and Gujjar culture,” Ms. Iqbal said.

“Bano would spend from her pocket to ferry these artefact. She would tie up with truck drivers to shift them. This only shows her resolve towards the cause,” Ms. Iqbal said.

Moved by Bano’s life and dedication, Basita Shah, an architect, is working on digital data by taking pictures of the artefacts and drawing sketches to narrate the story being worked out by Ms. Iqbal’s team.

‘In dire state’

“We used to be neighbours. But I never knew about her collection till she died. After her death, the artefact were in a dire state. She had no resources to store them properly. But the grandeur and beauty of these could not be taken away. This project will be a beginning to realise her dream,” Ms. Shah, who is working on a dynamic and interactive website, said.

The e-museum would be rare in the country for it’s not a typical private museum set up by any heiress or someone from an elite gharana. It reflects the dedication of a lifetime of an ordinary woman living in a far-off rural pocket in north Kashmir. In fact, Bano is buried in front of the museum as per her last wish.

“Bano was not married. She was focused on culture and traditions. She must have collected these things one by one over four decades. She would convince people about the importance of these artefacts. The museum throws light on the vernacular functional life, which would have been otherwise unknown to us. She was aware of preserving a layer of culture,” Saleem Beg, head of the INTACH’s Kashmir chapter, said.

The virtual museum is likely to be online by May this year and is likely to be the stepping stone to set up Kashmir’s first community museum in Sopore.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.