Poonch

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Contents

Authorship

Naved Masood, based on information contained in K.D Maini’s Poonch - The Battlefield of Kashmir

Area

The area of Poonch Jagir (rather inaccurately called Principality by the Poonchis, which became a misnomer after Hari Singh's 'administrative measures in 1947) was 2618 sq Km at the time of commencement of hostilities in 1947. (Mr Maini gives the area in square miles which Masood converted into square kilometres)

Following the cease fire of 1948 the following territorial dimensions of Poonch have emerged:

Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir - 1019 sq km

Poonch in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (the so-called Azad Jammu and Kashmir)- 1609 sq km

In POK the areas are carved into the following Districts:

District Area (sq km) | Poulation (1998)

Poonch Rawalkote 855 | 4,12,000

Sudhnutti 569 | 2,14,000

Bagh 1,368 | 3,95,000


Total 2,792| 10,21,000

It is thus clear that these Districts now comprise some areas that did not originally form part of the Poonch Jagir.Prima facie the extent of such areas will be 1188 sq kms (2792 minus 1609).

Surprisingly, Mr Maini does not give the present area of Poonch in square miles or kilometres but only as "1.14 lakh hectares". This works out to 1140 sq km implying that either areas not forming a part of the Poonch jagir now form part of the present Poonch District in J&K or there are serious anomalies in the data used/ relied on by Mr Maini.

Dashnami Akhara

K.D Maini , Dashnami Akhara "Daily Excelsior" 14/8/2016

Dashnami Akhara Poonch has remained the centre of spirituality from 17AD when it was established by a Muslim Raja Rustam Khan of Poonch in respect of a spiritual sadhu. During the rule of Dogra Rajas of Poonch from 1852 to 1942 this place was also a centre of power where Raj Tilak was given to the Rajas of Poonch. In 1872 Chhari Yatra towards Swami Buddha Amarnath for the first time was started by Raja Moti Singh of Poonch. During the Raksha Bandhan festival, Dashnami Akhara Poonch becomes the centre of religious tourism as thousands of pilgrims reach the Akhara to participate in Chari Mubarak Yatra which starts from Dashnami Akhara Poonch and leads towards Baba Buddha Amarnath temple Mandi headed by Swani Vishav Athama Ji Maharaj. This year the annual yatra shall proceed towards Mandi on 16th August when a big function shall be organized at Dashmani Akhara Poonch.

Akhara complex is spread over 26 kanal area and there is an old Hanuman temple, a Shiv temple, a building where food is served, an ashram building of Mahant of the Akhara, Samadi Sthal, an inn for pilgrims, old well, water tanks, a kitchen garden and a piece of cultivation land. The complex is located to the south of Poonch town. It touches Bag Deodi gate of Poonch from northern side and Shanker Nagar Mohalla Poonch falls in the south of shrine complex.

Dashnami Akhara had remained centre of power when Poonch was principality of local Dogra Rajas from 1852-1947 AD. The new Rajas of Poonch would be coronated in Dashnami Akhara temple and then they were taken in a procession to Poonch fort for taking oath as Raja of Poonch. The Mahant of Akhara was known as Raj Guru. The local Rajas used to visit Akhara along with families to get the blessing of the Swami.

If one turns the leaves of history one finds that Raja Moti Singh (1852-1892 AD) started shifting his Darbar for about two months from Poonch town to Rajpura Mandi in summer season. It was this period when the ancient temple of Buddha Amarnath, Rajpura Mandi, got importance. This Raja had started the pilgrimage of Chhari Mubarak from Poonch to Baba Budha Amarnath.

Dashnami Akhara Poonch is also a symbol of tolerance and composite culture of this place. This temple was contructed by a Muslim Raja Rustam Khan Rathore of Poonch during 1760 to 1787 AD. There is an interesting story behind the construction of this temple.

As per Tariq-e-Aqwama-e-Poonch written by Mohd Din Farooq, Raja Mohd Zan Khan of Poonch was killed in a revolt in 1749 AD and his minister Latief Ullah Khan became the Raja. Latief Ullah Khan tried to kill Ali Gohar Khan, the son of the deceased Raja Mohd Zan Khan Rathore, but he escaped. In the meantime, Latief Ullah Khan fled from Poonch town and took shelter in Kahuta village which is 12 kilometers from Poonch located in the foothills of Haji Peer, now in PAK. Ali Gohar Khan changed his life style and his identity from locals. One day when he was grazing goats on the slopes of Haji Peer, a Hindu hermit after crossing the pass of Haji Peer, entered Kahuta village of Poonch area. He was extremely thirsty and searching for a water spring. He saw Ali Gohar who was grazing goats in that area and requested him for some water. Ali Gohar told that water spring was far away from that place and then offered fresh goat milk to hermit. Hermit got impressed by the kindness of Ali Gohar and after knowing his family background he blessed him that he will become Raja of Poonch very soon. Then he suggested Ali Gohar to go to Kashmir, get help from Kashmir Governor and capture Poonch. Then the hermit left for Poonch and started meditation at a place that is at present the Akhara site.

Ali Gohar on the directions of hermit left for Kashmir in 1760 AD along with his mother. At that time Kashmir was taken over by Afghans who were against Aslam Yar Khan, the Mughal Administrator of Poonch. Afghan Governor welcomed Ali Gohar Khan, gave him a big military force and designated him as Raja of Poonch. Ali Gohar along with Kashmiri force reached Poonch and after a small resistance from Aslam Yar Khan captured the principality.

Then Ali Gohar came to know that the hermit which had blessed him is residing in a small hut in the town, Ali Gohar decided to immediately meet him. Following the suggestion of the hermit Ali Gohar became Raja of Poonch under the title of Raja Rustam Khan Rathore in 1760 AD. Raja Rustam Khan constructed a hut for hermit, Pacca temple and allotted large estate for the temple. This temple later on became famous as Dashnami Akhara Poonch. During the period of Raja Rustam Khan the old Hanuman idol was installed in the temple.

After the death of Raja Rustam Khan (1760-1787 AD) Poonch remained under the rule of Muslim Raja Shah Baz Khan, Bhadur Khan and Ru-alla-Khan Sangu up to 1819 AD. These Rajas gave full respect to Dashnami Akhara shrine. When Moti Singh (1852-1892 AD) became the Raja of Poonch Swami Jawahar Giri was the Mahant of Akhara. Keeping in view his spiritual power, Raja Moti Singh designated Swami Jawahar Giri as Raj Guru. Moti Singh also sanctioned more estates and property to the shrine and constructed the temple in Akhara where saints and seers used to stay. After Jawahar Giri, Swami Shama Nand, Swami Shankra Nand, Swami Padam Nand, Swami Satya Nand etc remained the Mahants of this shrine.

The main function is organized in Dashnami Akhara Poonch two days before the Raksha Bandhan. The religious rituals start from early morning in which thousands of devotees, pilgrims, sadhus and local people from Jammu province and other areas participate with devotion. After the Yajna and Sermons delivered by the head or Mahant of Akhara the religious procession starts at 9 am.

A contingent of police force salutes the holy silver coated Chhari Mubarak and then the Mahant leads the procession that comprises of sadhus, pilgrims and thousands of local people of Poonch town and other villages. Local people including Muslims of Chandak and Mandi town offer refreshment to yatries. In this way the function becomes the symbol of composite culture of this soil.

Suitable arrangements are made by several organizations for proper boarding and lodging of pilgrims. Proper security and other arrangements in and around the Akhara complex are also made by the administration.

Poonch Link up day

K.D Maini,Poonch Link up day "Daily Excelsior" 15/11/2015

Pictorial depiction of a battle scene in Poonch


Jammu Poonch Link up on 21st November 1948 was the climax of Kashmir war during 1947-48 when the whole 250 Kms long strip in the south of Pir Panchal was liberated by the Indian Army inspite of great resistance and fourteen months siege of Poonch town by Pak forces. Major General Akbar Khan of Pakistan Forces who led the operation against India in 1947 under the code name of ‘General Tariq’ wrote in his book ‘The Raiders in Kashmir’ that Jammu Poonch link up was the biggest defeat of Pakistan sponsored forces in 1947-48 during Kashmir war. This day every year is celebrated by the Indian Army with the active participation of the people of Poonch with pride to remember the sacrifices of Martyrs of 1947-48 Kashmir war. This year an elaborate programme has been finalized by Commander Navdeep Singh Barar of 93 INF Brigade in collaboration with the public of Poonch.

Poonch principality had become a centre of disturbances immediately after 15th of August 1947 AD. Sardar Mohd Ibrahim Khan, the member of Praja Sabha from Bagh, Sudhnutti who was earlier sent to England by Raja Jagat Dev Singh of Poonch on his expenses for Bar Act Law was practicing at Srinagar. He rushed to Poonch and started underground activities against Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in June 1947. Initially he organized about 60,000 ex-servicemen of Poonch principality (who participated in second world war) and motivated them for revolt against the scattered Maharaja’s forces operating in Poonch principality. In the last week of August 1947 Ibrahim Khan went to Pakistan, met Raja Yaqoob Khan of Hazara, the officers of Pakistan government and finally the Chief of NWFP Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan and sought their armed help for revolt against Maharaja’s forces in the state. Pakistan Government not only provided him arms and ammunitions, contingents of armed forces but also allowed about 30,000 tribe-men to participate in revolt against the government of Jammu and Kashmir.

At that time there were only two battalions of Dogra forces in Poonch area, one at Bagh under the command of Colonel Malook Singh Hakal and other one was stationed at Palandri under the command of Brigadier Krishan Chand. These forces were further scattered in the whole Poonch principality. By assessing the situation that this small contingent of Dogra force can easily be eliminated, Sardar Ibrahim Khan along with the contingent of Pakistan forces, local ex-servicemen and tribes-men (Afradies) of NWFP started big offensive in Poonch area against scattered Dogra forces.

Therefore these Dogra forces were not in a position to stop the big thrust of Pak sponsored attack and started retreating towards Poonch town. Upto 3rd of October 1947 the whole area of Poonch principality except Poonch town was captured by the rebels and Pakistani forces. On 24th October 1947 Sardar Ibrahim Khan declared the formation of ‘Azad Kashmir Government’ at Plandri in Poonch principality. In these circumstances, Brigadier L.P Sen of Indian forces stationed at Uri was directed to move towards Poonch via Haji Peer for the relief of Poonch town. Due to the burning of an important Chanjal bridge in the base of Haji Peer, the Indian offensive brigade could not move towards Poonch. Only Brigadier Sen, Lt. Col. Pritam Singh and Kamaun battalion marched on foot towards Poonch and reached the town on 20th November 1947. After assessing the situation Brigadier L.P Sen after directing Lt. Col. Pritam Singh to command Poonch garrison left back Uri on the same day. Immediately after the return of Uri Brigade, the raiders again cutoff Uri-Poonch road.

The people residing in the city were badly harassed and demoralized. About 50,000 people in the city were under the siege. These included 40,000 refugees who migrated from the rural areas of Poonch Illaqa. They were facing great accommodation problem. Every nuke and corner of the city was occupied by migrants. All the Government and non-Government buildings were fully occupied by them and thousands of people were living without shelter. The refugees whose kiths and kin were brutally slaughtered by the enemy were full of sorrows. Even in the city the life of the people was in danger. There was a vacuum of administration. The officers were either shifted to safe places in Pakistan or migrated towards Indian side. The law and order situation was bad to worse. The goonda elements started looting and harassing the innocent people. Fortunately there was about 6,000 qtls of food grains available in the Government stocks at the time of siege, which was distributed among the people. But after some days the scarcity of food grains started in the city. There was no link with the rest of the country. Therefore, it was not possible to provide food to very body. Apart from the food grains there was acute shortage of cloth, grocery items, salt, medicines, milk, oil etc. The salt was being sold at Rs. 40 per kg which was beyond the purchasing capacity of common man. Instead of taking food the poor people were compelled to eat even the roots of the bushes. The same was the condition of animals in the city. There were about 6,000 milch cattle in the city. Since all the surrounding areas were under the occupation of enemy and no grass was available, therefore, the people sold their milch animals even at the rate of Rupees five cow. But nobody was ready to purchase these cattle. Therefore, the cattle started dying of hunger and the epidemic broke out due to the unhygienic conditions prevailing in the city. The proper medical care and even life saving drugs were not available, hundreds of people died in the absence of medicines. By this way, the siege of Poonch city was painful.

The construction of the Air Field was completed within a period of seven days near Poonch town. By this way in the first week of December 1947 Poonch city was air linked with the rest of the country when the first Dakota landed at Poonch by Air Commodore Mehar Singh. In the first flight Sheikh Sahib and Gopala Swami Ayer visited Poonch, met people, heard their problems sympathetically and so the public residing in the besieged city got some relief.

After consolidating his forces, Pritam Singh started offensive on the enemy from April 1948 onward. Colonel Malook Singh with Dogra contingents assaulted on Krishana Ghati and captured it. Then Mulouk Singh captured Khanater, Salootri, Degwar, Serian posts and reached upto to Madarpur bridge. Dogra Hawaldar Krishan Singh and constable Buaditta fought so gallantly in these battles that they got Virchakar. On 10th of April our forces assaulted on Khari Dharmsal picqet and captured it. On 13th of April Indian forces snatched Chhaga piquet from the enemy.

On the other hand, the operation rescue was started from Jammu side to link Jammu with Poonch in the month of March 1948. On 18th of March determined Indian forces captured Jhanger after killing 300 enemies. On 12th April 1948 our forces snatched Rajouri from Pak sponsored forces. Upto 20th June 1948 the Indian forces under the command of General Kulwant Singh compelled the enemy to vacate Thanna Mandi, Dhera Gali, Budhal, Buffliaz and Surankote. On 14th October Pir Bardeshwer and on 26th October Pir Kaleva in Rajouri were captured the Indian forces under the leadership of Brigadier Yado Nath Singh and Lt. Col. Jajgeet Singh Arora stormed Bhimber Gali and snatched this important pass from Pakistan. The advance continued on 19th November, Pir Topa was captured by Brigadier Umrao Singh of 19th Infantry Brigade. On the other hand, the forces of Poonch garrison under the command of Lt. Col. Chadnan Singh started advance from Poonch town towards Pir Topa. After crossing Panj Kakrian ridge reached Dhanina Pir on 20th November by killing more than one hundred Pakistani forces stationed there. On 21st of November the forces of Umrao Singh started advance from Topa towards Dhanina Pir reached there on the same day and completed the Jammu-Poonch link up. This had become possible only due to the strong defence of Poonch town by Brigadier Pritam Singh who kept holding the town for 16 months inspite of repeated attacks by two Brigades of Pakistani forces, the 60000 rebel of Poonch principality and 3000 lashkar of Afridi tribes. He fought such a courageous and determined battle during this period that enemy could not dare to take even one post from Indian jawans rather Pritam Singh captured all surrounding areas like Gulpur, Jhullas, Dokhri, Chajja, Kanuyian, Khanater etc before the operation Link-up.

By this way, the 14th month siege of Poonch city was got vacated. This was the biggest loss suffered by Pak sponsored forces in this sector. The nefarious design of Pakistan of capturing Poonch by besieging the city of Poonch was foiled by the Indian army with the help of patriotic public of this region.

On 22nd November a full day Poonch Utsav shall be organized. The programe shall start with laying of wreath at Namman Sthal, releasing of balloons, homage to heroes and martyrs of 1947-48 war, displaying of Gattaka, Bangra, Malkham, Para motor and band display, Kashmiri, Pahari and Gojri dances and Demo of Bunker bursting. For the first time in the evening, a colorful music concert shall also be organized in Poonch stadium in collaboration with All India Radio Poonch and J&K Cultural Academy for the amusement of public.


Baldev Mahal

K D Maini , Symbol of Dogra legacy "Daily Excelsior" 22/1/2017

Baldev Mehal was the first memorable building constructed in 1905 by the local Dogra ruler Raja Baldev Singh of Poonch Principality on the initiative of Captain R.E.A Hamelton, the then settlement officer of Poonch. Exactly after one hundred years during the severe earthquake of 2005, this palace was shaken and damaged badly.

Fissures and cracks developed in the walls and roof was broken at a number of places. Since the building was under the occupation of defense forces who felt impossible to put it right and after examination declared it unsafe and accordingly abandoned it. Therefore no attention was paid towards its further deterioration till 2015. It was only in 2015 when a youthful and visionary officer Y.K Gautam heaving the aptitude of culture and heritage after inspection of this important monument felt that it can be restored. Accordingly he convinced higher officers for the restoration and revival of this palace which was otherwise forgotten. After that the restoration work of the palace was taken up on March 2016. During last one year, the main portion of the palace where Raja Baldev Singh resided with his family has been restored, renovated and made habitable. The work on rest of the building is in progress and day by day Baldev Mehal is regaining its past glory and glamour. This gesture of Indian Army is considered a Sadbawana with Bawana towards the rehabilitation of the heritage of Dogra legacy in Poonch area.

Baldev Mehal (Palace) was considered the attractive building complex in Poonch principality during an rule of Raja Baldev Singh and Raja Sukh Dev Singh from 1904 to 1926 AD. The Palace is known after the name of Raja Baldev Singh of Poonch who ruled the principality from 1892 to 1917 AD. This beautiful glorious Palace is situated on the eastern bank of Betar River at an elevated place on the western edge of Poonch air field which is about one kilometer in the west of Poonch town. From the first floor of the palace, the whole of Poonch Illaqa from Pir Pass to Toli Pir and from Neelkanth top to Pir Margote Gazi is visible. It is a double storey building and a combination of English and Kashmiri architect.

The building is constructed on a ten feet high basement. The ground floor comprises of 21 small and big rooms including conference hall, Darbar hall, relaxing rooms, Raja’s personal office, staff rooms and security rooms. These rooms are attached with 12 feet width corridor. The main entrance is on the southern side which leads towards inner premises and first floor. The stairs 24 in number starts immediately from the main entrance and leads towards first floor. There are 10 well constructed big ventilated rooms in the first floor attached with 10 feet corridor on the internal and external sides. These rooms include the bed room of king’s, queen, children, drawing rooms, Rajas personal office and two guest rooms for VVIPs. A small temple in the inner premises on ground floor has been constructed for Pooja and religious ceremony. The inner portion of ground floor is attached with kitchen building and six rooms for security personnel’s. There is another double storey building located in the premises of the Palace known as Padam Mahal constructed for Padam Dev Singh, the third son of Raja Baldev Singh.

The Palace complex includes Mahal building, Padam Mahal, Gardens, Vegetable fields and playfield. The complex is spread over 6.38 acres of land. The stone, lime, deodar and walnut wood have been used for the construction of the Palace. The timber was brought from Sawjian forests while the construction material was imported by Raja on camels from Lahore. The Deodar and walnut wood have been used for ceiling and decoration of the first floor. The ceiling has been done with Kashmiri style of architect known as Khatam Band and Mumbat Kari while the walls have been decorated with Pahari paintings. The original roof of the Palace was constructed with Kashmiri style wood work. Later on it was replaced by G.I sheets.

After the happenings of 1947 AD, Baldev Palace was taken over by defense forces. The Palace was maintained properly and all necessary repairs and alterations were also done from time to time and kept this old historical monument intact and in original position. However, due to the earthquake of 2005 AD severe damages occurred in the Palace which is being renovated now.

There is an interesting story history behind the construction of Baldev Mahal. In 1898 AD, an English Officer Captain R.E.A Hamelton was posted in Poonch as Land Settlement Officer. At that time, Raja Baldev Singh was putting up in Fort building Poonch along with his family and staff. Raja offered accommodation to Capt. Hamelton in the Fort complex. However, Hamelton refused to shift in the Fort building and proposed for the construction of a bunglow at present Baldev Mahal for his residence and office. Raja immediately approved the proposal and the first phase of the building was completed in 1903 AD and Mr. Hamelton shifted there. In the meantime, Raja Baldev Singh approached British Government for the status of state for Poonch principality. Since Raja had a strong lobby at Lahore within British officers. Therefore, he succeeded in inclusion of Poonch in the Atchison’s treaty (Page 251) and thereafter British Government started writing Poonch as ‘State’ and created the post of Special Assistant Resident for Poonch in 1905 AD. Captain R.E.A Hamelton was appointed as first Special Assistant Resident. Therefore Hamelton converted this building into Residency. But in 1908 AD when Hamelton was transferred from Poonch, the new Special Assistant Resident D.M Field was provided another newly constructed building which is presently known as Residency office located near the Moti Mahal and the Raja Baldev Singh after partial modifications and additions shifted in the present building and named this building as Baldev Mahal.

In 1917 AD, after the death of Raja Baldev Singh his son Sukhdev Singh was nominated as the Raja of Poonch by Kashmir Darbar. He also stayed in this Palace upto 1926 AD. In 1921 AD when Raja became mature he was given full power to rule the Poonch principality by the Kashmir Darbar. In the same year, the marriage ceremony of Raja Sukhdev Singh was conducted in the Palace with great pomp and show. In 1922 AD, the post of Special Assistant Resident was revoked by the Britishers on the request of Kashmir Darbar. The large scale demonstration started against Kashmir Darbar in Poonch principality. Baldev Palace had become the centre of intrigues against Kashmir Darbar because the status of Poonch State was reduced to Poonch Jagir. Raja Sukhdev Singh was prevailed upon by the local religious and political leader Pir Hassam-ud-Din, Chowdhary Ahmed Din the Wazir of Poonch and Mian Nain Singh the Commander of Poonch forces for revolt against Kashmir Government on the assurance to Raja that he is having the backing of 26000 ex-servicemen of First World War residing in Poonch principality. After knowing about the Poonch revolt and the involvement of Raja Sukhdev Singh, Kashmir Darbar deputed Thakur Janak Singh the revenue advisor along with army for the arrest of Raja Sukhdev Singh.

Thakur Janak Singh came to Poonch, met Raja Sukhdev Singh in Baldev Mahal and asked him to accompany him to Srinagar otherwise he will be arrested. At that time, Baldev Mahal was surrounded by thousands and thousands of rebels. They were shouting slogans against Kashmir Darbar and in favour of Raja Sukhdev Singh. At this stage, RajMata the mother of Raja Sukhdev Singh motivated his son to go to Srinagar. Therefore Raja Sukhdev Singh came out from Baldev Palace, addressed the mammoth rally of rebels in front of the Palace and left for Srinagar. Raja was then deputed to England for higher education and after that, he was dispatched for Ladakh on tour and never given the power of the Raja of Poonch. In 1925 AD Raja Sukhdev Singh came to Poonch but now he was a powerless Raja. Raja was confined to Baldev Palace and this was a big shock for him. He tried to divert his attention and started engaging himself in other activities and converted the Baldev Palace into the centre of great hustle and bustle. The Raja was fond of art, culture and music. The music and dance show were organized in the Palace every month. Wrestling, Bull fighting, Ram and Cock fighting were also organized in the premises of the Mahal but the Raja could not digest the new scenario. Therefore, Raja died due to shock in his prime youth at the age of 26 in 1926 AD. In 1927 AD, Jagat Dev Singh the younger brother of Sukhdev Singh was appointed the Raja of Poonch by Kashmir Darbar. He ruled Poonch principality from Baldev Palace upto 1935 AD when he shifted to newly constructed Moti Mahal Poonch. After that the Baldev Palace was used by the relatives of Raja Jagat Dev Singh.

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