Sopore: Transformation of a Dream into Despair

Once the town of a great significance and hope, Sopore suddenly fell into the lap of misfortune and despair with odour of the blood of the innocents caused by the wrath of militancy and anti-national sentiments. Once blooming faces has turned into hazy and gloomy hearts under the clout of greed and opportunism. The lost paradise will always echo its voice and ask for the eternal justice from its people who have handed over its joy to the lap of hatred and ire and turned the flowers stained with blood. The land of heroes and entrepreneurs has over a period of time converted to an ideological bastion of separatist and radicals. The paradigm cultured shift from “Kashmiriyat” to puritanical Islam have stained the fragrance of this dreamland which once possessed a beautiful heritage and divinity.

Suyyapore or present day Sopore was founded (in later part of 9th century) by Suyya the great medical hydraulic engineer in the court of King Avantivarman (855-883 AD) after he dredged ‘Vitasta’ (name of the river Jhelum in the Rigveda) near Baramullah to save Kashmir from the fury of recurring floods. Suyya had thus many villages reclaimed by regulating the flow of Vitasta to Wular Lake. Suyya got the boulders removed that were would blocking the flow of the Jhelum. As a result; areas where the Jhelum’s waters used to spill now became dry and available for cultivation and living.

Is water transport in Kashmir a practical option?

The legend of how Suyya reclaimed Jhelum is remarkable story. People in that era were afraid of plunging themselves into the gushing water of Jhelum. So he took pots full of gold coins in boats and dumped them into the waters of Vitasta at present day Khannabal, Shadipora, Baramullah and all the places where its water overflowed over the banks. People jumped into the river everywhere and dug the bed of river to find the coins for months. A large amount of boulders and heaps of silt were thrown on the banks of the river. In this process the river bed was dredged. Suyya thus, in process reclaimed many villages. Throughout these large areas of reclaimed land, paddy cultivation was extensively undertaken. Despite of Suyya‟s comprehensive irrigation scheme, one kharwar of rice in Avantivarman‟s reign dropped from 200 dinars to 36 dinars. He also diverted the Sindh Nallah water to the Shadipora Vitasta, the present day Prayag of Kashmir. Also, Sindh Nallah used to meet Vitasta at Trehgam, Suyya regulated the flow of Vitasta to Wular Lake, resulting in growing economy during that era. Within few years, Suyyapur became the centre for flourishing trade and transit with a promise and prospect for steady growth and expansion.

Chankhan Bridge

Under the reign of Zain-ul-Abdin (1420-1470 AD), a mention of the old “Chankhan Bridge” cannot go unnoticed. As mentioned in “Kashmir under Sultans” written by Mohib-bul Hassan, a swinging wooden bridge was constructed. This bridge continued to be the sole communication link across the river until 1955, when it was discarded in favour of an R.C.C. bridge, now known as the Chankhan Bridge. With time as Sopore grew more prosperous, one name which remained strong with the town was of Khwaja Sawad Pandit. He was also named “Hatim Tai of Kashmir” for his extreme generosity and would out do anyone in deeds of charity. He was also an entrepreneur and was instrumented in setting up the first movie theatre of Kashmir, which was named “Sawad Talkies‟ after him. Cinema theatres, state of the art workshops, petrol pumps, and mills were symbols of economic activities. This place which was once a glaring hope to the future of Kashmir and Kashmiriyat, is now slowly returning to it’s past glory.

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