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Sir Syed’s interest in documenting historical buildings highlighted

Sir Syed’s interest in documenting historical buildings highlighted

KARACHI: Popularly known as a reformer, educationist and philosopher, not many are aware that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan published an Urdu text, listing and describing several notable historical monuments in Delhi which was titled Asar-us-Sanadid. To mark his 200th birth anniversary, a seminar was organised at the NED University on Friday that presented his observations on the cultural and built environment of Delhi in the 19th century.

Some of the buildings of Delhi profiled in Asar-us-Sanadid by Sir Syed are the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid.

Poet, critic and writer Satyapal Anand was present at the seminar and presented an intimate account of how Sir Syed could be found on different architectural sites inspecting and admiring the buildings, and at times even hoisting himself to great heights to inspect inscriptions and carvings on the structures. This, said Mr Anand, is a reflection of Sir Syed’s passion and hard work when he visited the sites to take measurements, often putting him at some risk.

“Asar-us-Sanadid by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan is a reflection of history and a document that should be revisited now and in the future.”

Writer and poet Dr Fatima Hassan said holding the conference in Urdu was a necessary step to eliminate the alienation that was happening in society with regards to the language. Urdu is our friend and we must treat it as such, she said.

There were two distinct eras to Sir Syed’s life, she said, and both were interconnected. The first was when he focused on history and his dedication and attachment with his work was fully expressed in Asar-us-Sanadid. The historical monuments discussed and dissected in the volume are a reflection of the architectural elements, as well as a documentation of history which Sir Syed has accomplished remarkably.

Writer Asif Farrukhi said that Sir Syed was not often acknowledged for documenting history and gave examples of how this was so.

There was a time in Delhi’s history when a campaign was under way to raze to the ground those monuments that were mostly present in Muslim neighbourhoods. The fact that these buildings were left without being damaged was by chance, explained Mr Farrukhi. And Sir Syed turned this around, protected them and immortalised them by highlighting their significance in Asar-us-Sanadid.

Architectural elements of the buildings are not the only descriptions that Sir Syed has penned down, added Mr Farrukhi.

Asar-us-Sanadid, he said, also reflects the cultural ethos that gave birth to these buildings, as well as capturing the localities and mohallas they were found in.

Prof Dr Noman Ahmed also spoke and shared how the seminar not only highlighted Sir Syed’s interest in architecture, but also recognised his contribution to the Urdu language. As an educator, Dr Ahmed questioned why Urdu was being neglected in technical education in the country.

According to the organisers, “Asar-us-Sanadid, a treatise written in three volumes, must be read by university students, particularly from architecture and civil engineering to familiarise themselves with historic traditions in building design and related crafts”.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2017

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