Monday, September 21, 2009


In Kashmir , photography business was the domain of men from the plains or Punjabis only. We had Dattas( The Bund ) ,Suris ( Regal Chowk) Mahattas or Mehtas

( The Bund) ,Darly (Partap Park Road but now in Lambert Lane ), Royal Photographers ( Lal Chowk near Kapoor Brothers the book sellers of Kashmir ), Preco ( Residency Road ) and Longman ( Pahalgham ). Then came a new group of photographers who were Kashmiris like Mimic Studio, Lica Studio, College Studio and many more . While Suris sold the business in late seventies , Datta and Royal Photographers migrated out due to turmoil  but one family that continues to stay in Kashmir is the Mehta family which manages their 90 year old business of photography through their shop on the Bund known as  Mahatta And Co .
It was in early 1915 when Amar Nath Mehta and Ram Chand Mehta ( two brothers ) established Mehta And Co , a photography shop in Srinagar . Initially the brothers operated from a houseboat .Some years later, they shifted to the Bund area and also set up a shop in Rawalpindi ,  Sialkot ,Lahore and the picturesque hill station Muree . Later,  the firm changed the name to Mahatta And Co  . The partition turmoil made the family  suffer heavy losses as they had to close the business In Lahore , Muree and Rawalpindi . They had only the Bund Shop to go ahead with their photography business . The brothers toiled hard to make this shop a premier photography unit in entire north India . Some of the most beautiful photographs , Colour transparencies and slides of various events shaping history of Kashmir have been photographed by this family . Their stock includes bewitching scenes of Dal , Wular , Birds of Kashmir , flora and fauna of Kashmir , Vitasta in different colours , autumn Chinars , Mughal Gardens and common man or road side scenes portraying the soul of Kashmir . Their customers included The British Resident , Maharaja Hari Singh , Nehrus , Prime Ministers of Kashmir , Sheikh Mohd Abdullah , Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and scores of Bollywood personalities like Dilip Kumar , Lata Mangeshkar , Rajesh Khanna , Raj Kumar , Raj Kapoor and Balraj Sahni.The firm opend two more shops in Kashmir ; one at gulmarg and the other at Pahalgham.

The old  shop on the Bund   has two entrances ; one from the Bund side while the other is from down the road opposite Polo ground . Presently the business is being managed by  Jagdish Mehta ( son of Ram Chand Mehta ) who is deeply attached to Kashmir  . Jagdish Ji speaks fluent Kashmiri .

I vividly remember that we used too walk down from Lal Chowk to Srinagar Club near Zero Bridge every Saturday to enter this neat and clean shop to check up our body weight . This family had put up a weighing machine too near the entry door from the Bund side .We would also relish a cup of tea with chicken patty at Ahdoo’s Restaurant on the Bund . This Hotel has maintained the quality of the tea they offer .Having tasted tea in various restaurants in the length and breadth of the country , I have yet to find equivalent of tea served at Ahdoo’s Hotel, Srinagar . Another prominent export house near this shop on the Bund side displays a huge Board titled Suffering Moses . This name has also remained etched in my memory. Long back , the kind and generous proprietor ( A Kashmiri Muslim ) of this export house gave a hefty sum of money to a poor Kashmiri Pandit boy for his open heart surgery in New Delhi. The Bund is under beautification drive . Land reclaimed from Vitasta ( Jhelum river ) bank has been converted to parks all along the Bund .
I end up this write up by a small poem of the Bulgarian poet NIKOLA VAPTSAROV on parting which he addresses to his wife. This poet has already been introduced to you .

Sometimes I’ll come when you’re asleep,
An unexpected visitor.
Don’t leave me outside in the street,
Don’t bar the door!
I’ll enter quietly, softly ,
sit And gaze upon you in the dark.
Then, when my eyes have gazed their fill,
I’ll kiss you and depart.

  • (Avtar Mota)


  1. Autar Mota-ji, there used to be an ice cream shop called "Ala Salka" not far from Mahatta's. Also, the wonderful Ahdoo's bakery. Do they still exist? Could you please post pictures of these if they do? Most grateful.

  2. Sorry, it was Alka Salka, not "Ala Salka".
    So glad to see the venerable Mahatta's still going strong.

  3. Dear
    The desired photographs have been uploaded to this post

  4. Thank you very much for the wonderful trip down memory lane!

  5. Autar ji, in june 09 i visited Srinagar after 20 years, so I understand the sentiment of trying to capture it all in pictures. I liked this post about photo studio, because I found at home withering Black and white photographs taken at the Mahatta studie for "matrimonial purposes"


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