Lal Chowk’s heartbeat finds a new tune


Faleen Wani

NESTLED in the heart of Srinagar’s bustling marketplace Lal Chowk, stands an eternal sentinel that has witnessed the passage of eras, generations, and stories. The Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower, locally known as the ‘Ghanta Ghar’, stands as a symbolic landmark that not only marks time but also encapsulates the rich history and cultural vibrancy of the region. Here, we delve into the history, significance, and allure of the Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower in Lal Chowk , Srinagar.

A historical custodian

The clock tower was built during the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh in the late 19th century, serving as a testament to the architectural finesse and craftsmanship of that era. Its construction was aimed at enhancing the urban landscape and providing a focal point for the City. Standing at a height of over 25 metres, the tower is a fine amalgamation of Persian and Mughal architectural styles, reflecting the region’s cultural diversity.

The Ghanta Ghar, with its resplendent facade and intricately designed clock faces, embodies more than just a utilitarian purpose. It holds cultural and historical significance as it has stood witness to the tumultuous events that have shaped the region. From the era of maharajas to the modern struggles and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the clock tower remains a silent spectator to the evolving narrative of the land.

Lal Chowk, the bustling commercial hub of Srinagar, finds its rhythm and heartbeat in the Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower. Its prominent location makes it the epicentre of the City’s activities, serving as a reference point for both locals and tourists. The steady tick-tock of the clock resonates with the energetic pace of life in Lal Chowk, reminding everyone of the continuous flow of time.


Preserving history

Despite the passage of time and the challenges faced by the region, the Ghanta Ghar remains a steadfast symbol of continuity and resilience. Efforts by local authorities and heritage enthusiasts have ensured that this architectural gem is preserved for future generations.

Restoration projects have aimed not only to maintain the tower’s physical structure but also to infuse it with a renewed sense of vitality of this historical monument; it has thus become a cultural icon. Its image graces postcards, photographs, and souvenirs, acting as a gateway for visitors to delve into the region’s history and culture. The tower’s timeless allure transcends generations, bridging the past and the present.


Changes since G-20

The Clock Tower has been enjoying a major makeover under the Srinagar Smart City Project and has emerged as an amusing surprise, capturing the attention of the locals and tourists alike. After the new makeover under the project, the melodious clang of its bells is echoing through the streets every hour. As the bells levy steadily, they not only mark the hours but also signify history that binds generations.

The locals feel the refurbished city square, named after the iconic Red Square in Moscow, will add to the City’s hang-out options. The business community of Lal Chowk claims that it has suffered immensely over the past seven months due to the maintenance work, yet hopes it will be worth the trouble in the end.

Commissioner of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) Athar Amin Khan says the renovation work is on full throttle and is being done with the latest technology. “The renovation, using the latest technology, is on in full swing to make the Ghanta Ghar beautiful. After renovation, the Ghanta Ghar gets new time clocks, new roof decoration, new technology display for important updates and information which would be for all the people to see,” he adds.

The locals love it

Tasaduq Deen, a wholesale and retail shopkeeper in the area, is loving the changes and feels they add to its splendour. “The tower’s hourly chime serves as a gentle reminder of the constancy within the ebb and flow of daily life, inducing a sense of comfort and unity. The new look is indeed attractive, and the transformation has bolstered the vibe of the area. I have witnessed the efforts of Commissioner Khan who would come here regularly to visit the construction site. It’s all because of his efforts that this project has been successful here,” he feels.

Tassaduq Deen

Another shopkeeper in the area – Qasim Manzoor – feels the new look of the clock tower has made it a major point of attraction for one and all. “We are seeing the changes. Earlier we would shut our shops at 9 pm but now we have to stretch our shutting time to midnight or even 12.30 am. But along with these changes, new safety rules too have been implemented here because of which people are not able to shop here freely and thus our business too has been affected. People find it tough to walk from a distance since the local bus facility and e-rickshaws are not allowed on the newly-built area of Lal Chowk. MC Commissioner Athar Amir Khan should consider the interests of the locals and the shopkeepers too. The project should benefit the locals as much as it does the tourists,” feels he.

The locals, broadly speaking, appreciate the initiative, saying it will attract tourists and boost the economy in the Lal Chowk area. Ghanta Ghar is the main attraction for tourists and locals in the main Srinagar city. Its reconstruction has enhance the tourist inflow, which, in turn, should boost the economy in the Lal Chowk area – is the general feeling.

The Ministry of Urban Development had launched the Smart City Mission wherein 100 cities were selected for renewal and retro-fitting so to promote the cities that provide core infrastructure, provide a decent quality of life to their residents, and apply smart solutions to improve services and infrastructure.

In a world that seems to move at an ever-accelerating pace, the Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower stands still, marking time with a sense of timeless grandeur. As it continues to gaze over the bustling streets of Lal Chowk, it reminds us that while the world around us may change, the essence of history and culture remains unaltered.

The Ghanta Ghar Clock Tower is not merely a monument; it’s a living testament to the spirit of the place and its people.




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