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Kashmir’s showpiece shopping plaza Sangarmaal thrown open

Kashmir’s showpiece shopping plaza Sangarmaal thrown open

With front porches lifted from Chrar-e-Sharief shrine, façade worked on stones and bricks’ influenced by Jama Masjid and water fountains a replica of Mughal garden Chesmashahi — Srinagar’s first government-owned showpiece shopping mall, Sangarmaal, was thrown open to the public on Saturday evening by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

The much-talked multi-story shopping mall is the biggest of the state and first to epitomize Kashmiri architecture by using Khatam Bandh (woodwork) ceiling, mud-shade walls, mat-style windows and shrine-influenced porches.

“I was conscious of style while conceiving the mall. I traveled through the old city and was fascinated by Jama Masjid. I also visited other historical places in the run-up to conceive the idea. So I lifted architectural pieces from here and there. I wanted Srinagar architecture to come under one roof,” said Sharad Das, the chief architect of the mall.

With association of more than two decades with Kashmir, Das said he did not want to tear a page of architecture from Gurgaon or New Delhi for the mall. “It has to be pure Srinagar architecture. Everything we used is local. Nothing was imported from outside,” he added.

Constructed on eight-and-a-half acres of land for Rs 21 crore, the Sangarmaal, which means the first ray of dawn, is equipped with the state-of-art facilities like escalators, underground parking.

“To maintain temperature we have used cavity walls. In summers, it will be 4-5 degree Celsius lower than outside and in winters it will be 4-5 degree Celsius higher than outside,” said Das, adding escalator was included in the plan after the then chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed dropped in from his residence, then next to the mall, and suggested a few things.

Das insists the mall is not just for shopping. “I wanted a place of gathering for Kashmiris where families, friends hang out and meet over a cup of coffee or for meals. We have deliberately kept open spaces for people to meet at ease and with all comforts,” said Das.

The shopping mall has expansion plans too. Besides a children park, a multiplex-cum-convention centre has been conceived on the premises of the mall.

“Oce the police headquarters are shifted, one can see the mall while passing by M.A. Road,” said Das, who won the project in a contest thrown open in 1999 by the Srinagar Development Authority.

The opening of the mall in the violence-torn state has given its residents a reason to smile. “Finally, we have a place to meet at with good ambiance. Of course also brands to choose from. It will be a good place for middle-class Kashmir to shop and dine,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a government employee.