Jammu: history

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

The first tunnel on the Banihal Cart Road. It connected Srinagar with Jammu and was constructed at the behest of Maharaja Pratap Singh. Photo: from the Facebook page of Vikram Singh Rathore


Pre-historic footprints

Prof(Dr) P K Koul , Footprints of history in Jammu region "Daily Excelsior" 5/3/2017

Human feet are the symbols of human movement, of life, advancement from the hoary past to the wonderful present, achievements, progress and learning. We try to follow the lifestyle and achievements of those greatmen who had lived ahead of us. We try to copy them and get inspiration from their life style.

A sence of respect and admiration is generated in our mind which makes us to bow before them. All greatmen, the world over, have struggled hard, in their life times, to follow the path of progress, goodness and humanity. We follow them on their path and foot prints to acquire similar results that they had achieved. And thus, foot prints, the symbols of one’s journey and progress of a celebrity become the objects of respect and reverence for others. Lord Rama’s younger brother, Bharat carried Ramas wooden sleepers (Charan Paduka) on his head, placed them on the throne of Ayodhya and ruled in his name for 14 years. Such is the respect for those foot prints in the common man, for the greatness of the great souls. The reasons for this devotion of people for footprints is thus simple to understand.

The journey of life, like the journey to a station or destination has always been covered on foot and therefore, glorified, praised and symbolised with life. There is hardly any life without movement, without journey or foot. All the greatman have worked for the goodness of humanity, and therefore their life journey symbols, their footprints have also been compared and symbolised with the goodness, beauty, charm and fragrance that of a flower, especially of Lotus. In Indian literature and carvings, we find extensive use of this comparison of feet of greatmen with Lotus flower, as in Padkamal, Charan Kamal, Pad Pankaj Padambuj etc mentioned in Puranic literature, devotional prayers, rock and slab carvings, care roofings, temple floorings at various religious or historic places and hermitages. These can be seen throughout Indian subcontinent, right from ancient times to the present day and includes foot print traditions of Jains, Buddhists, Shavites, Vaishanavites and Shakti traditions, as also of smaller local or regional deities.

In Indian tradition, the reverence to and worship of footprints, goes back to much earlier times than Christian era (B.C) We have the carved footprint marks on slabs and rocks, at various places in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. Lord Buddha’s footprints are worshiped in ceylon monastry, (Perhaps Anuradhapuram), Nagarajun Konda Monastry, and in Bihar and many other places of Buddhist World. In Indian devotional and Bhakti literature, pertaining to Lord Rama and Krishana and also in Kashmiri Shakti worship (Sharika, Durga, Ragnaya etc) We find extensive foot worship in literature (Sanskrit and Kashmiri) in the words as Padambuj, Pad Kamal, Padpankaj etc etc.

In Jammu region also we find extensive presence of carved footprints of gods and godly persons, saint, hermits, historic identities, local deities, goddesses, throughout the region.

The ancient most and historic footprint, of one, literate shephard (Gop Pasha) is found from the ancient cave temple (Buddhist) of Gupt Ganga on the bank of river Neeru, in Bhadarwah. This carved footprint on the cave roof, along with a carved cisterm on the floor, also carries a few letters in Brahmi script on the roof top, which reads “Gop Pash Dev Dham Yam Ketu’’ indicating thereby the visited place, was a religious place as well as a crematory, which it is even today after some 1500 years. The Brahmi script of the site is of 4th-5th century A.D, and thus this carved footprint in Jammu region is perhaps the oldest one found in the region.

Next mention can be made of the ancient region of Sudhmahadev, from where footprint marks have been reported from some places, Buddi Sudhi etc Sudh Mahadev Shrine in Chenani tehsil is an ancient as Gupt Ganga of Bhadarwah, of 4th-5th century A.D, with an eight mettled alloy (Ashat Dhatu) Trishul (Trident), carrying carving in Brahmi letters of 4th, 5th century AD. The trident is said to have been offered by a king of Padamavati (Gwalior) indicative of the sacredness of the place as Shivas abode as early as 4th/5th century AD and the offering was made by a King (Vibhu Nag) from the Nav Nag dynasty, son of Gampati Nag various foot prints reported from this ancient sacred Tirtha have not been investigated and evaluated so far. Sudh Mahadev region in ancient times had been considered a sacred Shavite pilgrimage and religious site, on account of many religious traditions, associated with this place, and its name associated with Shiva legends, and local place names, i.e Rudra Dhar, Shiv Garh, Sudh Mahadev, Gauri Kund Kailash, as also a very long tradition of Shaivite peers, jogis whose samadhis can be seen at the sites of Veni Sangam, Gauri Kund and Sudh Mahadev Shrine. The footprints from this region need to be properly evaluated.

Next comes the footprints relics, available from the rich archaeological site of Devika stream, bowlis, temple site near Udhampur town itself. Here we come across a finely carved footprint slab of some important celebrity of his times un-identified so far. Devika near Udhampur town is an important site of rich antiquity of Jammu of an unspecified period, and has many statues and icons of traditional and local deities which need technical and specialised attention and protection. But the negative side of the preservation effort is that some very enthusiatic persons with, political, religious and casteist affiliation do a great harm to this great regional heritage by interfering with it, in their own ignorant and non technical way, by painting and cementing them and placing them at the wrong places or in an unscientific way.

Another carved footprint slab has recently been acquired by State Archives Department Jammu from somewhere in Pancheri block of Udhampur Distt close to historic Krimchi temple site, perhaps not evaluted and identified so far but in a very good condition.

These few but very important foot prints carvings of the region are indicative of a great living tradition of respect and reverence of the common folk for the enlightened elders, religious and saintly people, and others who always, in their own way or capacity tried to help the people in need or in difficulty of pain.

Jammu of 1880

Sunny Dua,Jammu Of 1880 "Daily Excelsior" 31/7/2016

Map Depicting Jammu of 1880

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” ?

Edmund Burke

This adage has today become more or less relevant because of the fact that there’s nothing that we have left to be known as ‘History’. Out on a rampage to demolish and destroy our past, we in Jammu and Kashmir State are virtually heading towards an era where we will be soon made to repeat history as said by Burke.

Nevertheless, there still is a ray of hope in the form of some human beings whose hearts beat for this state and its lost treasure. Some private as well as government collections of art pieces, literature and pictures while are enough to take anyone down the memory lane and abreast him/her with Jammu and Kashmir State, a 1880-90 Jammu map on a piece of cloth dated AD 1880-90 and belonging to company period, Punjab, Circa housed in National Museum of India at Delhi has a lot to tell about Jammu of yesteryears.

Today when finding a solution to complex traffic, administrative and housing issues besides water scarcity; way back in 1880 Jammu City located on the bank of river Tawi had one of the finest systems of governance in place leaving little or virtually no scope for any inconvenience while dealing with such complexities. Still important was that people were living in such a composite culture that their cultural, regional or religious diversities never became any hurdle in their prosperity. And strangely this all could be found in this map of 1880.

This painted piece of cloth pasted on paper, 128X208 cm is a revenue map, an engineering drawing and a piece of art – all drawn together. The map depicts geographical features of City of Temples, its slopes, River Tawi, green forest cover, water bodies, roads, streams and all government as well as private buildings of importance thereby suggesting that the city was well located, well nurtured and very well governed to the utmost convenience and satisfaction of its subjects.

The multicoloured map also depicts localities of different traders, a well laid down sewerage system, water reservoirs and canals, bungalows and Havelis of rich and famous, pilgrim centres, army and civil areas, cantonments besides Dhakis (Slopes) and beautifully painted stairs leading to temples and Maharaja’s palaces. A visit to the Museum is must for the simple reason that one is sure to know how Jammu city existed and how much self-reliant it was during that era.

The water reservoirs which today stand converted into parks or parking spaces have not only been painted as well maintained but well laid out and evenly distributed in the city and its peripheries to cater to the needs of city people and its environment besides augmenting ground water or serving the purpose of feeding domestic animals. Ghrats (Water Mils), cleanly visible Dewan Mandir; the entrance of which is still intact on ground zero could be very well located on the map. Shop lines scattered in the city reveal how the planners were concerned about conveniences of people.

Like any medieval period map, this too is not to the scale but the map or fine piece of art definitely portrays original character of Jammu city wherein its history, structure of society, religious thrust, economy and political set up, strategic positions, important personalities besides various civic amenities have been artistically drawn and coloured.

Very important structures like Pentagonal Government Mandi, long row of shops, the Urdu Bazar, other commercial key-positions like bazaar ‘Maga’, Kanak Mandi, Mandi of firewood and timber, Purani or Old Mandi, ‘Chhapekhana’ or the printing shops, ‘Mishtri Khana’ or the market of mechanics, ‘sarain’ or the inn of Vedanti Shah have all found a place in the map which has also been labelled in Urdu.

Though, a few aged persons would be able to connect people of Jammu and Kashmir to that Jammu of 1880 through this very important map, yet for majority of next generation boys and girls this could be nothing but a piece of art. It is said that a picture says a thousand words and this perhaps holds true for this map which is housed in National Museum and has houses and bungalows of Jammu’s elite marked and drawn in most beautiful manner. The owners of Havelis like Virji, Miyan Jagat Singh, Badri Nath, Miyan Manjit Singh, Sardar Itar Singh, Pandit Ram Kiran, Raja Moti Singh, Mahate Sultani, Dhaki Gomtiwale etc have all been drawn and labelled in the map showing how important these people were and how they, irrespective of their caste or religion contributed in the society.

This map takes one to the 19th century Jammu wherein one could gather details about well developed trade and market system. ‘Bari Pandita’ or the enclosure of Brahmins, Mohalla of ‘Chudian’ or the ward of sweepers, locality of ‘Jogian’ again reveals that Jammu had a strong caste-based society but despite that the importance of people and societies was as important as any other. Saying that it was a well knit society wouldn’t be wrong.

It was believed that Jammu was a Hindu dominated city yet the shrine of Jay Sheikh Jahar Auliya, tomb of Miyan Sahib, Mosque, Madarsa and cemetery, the Kabristan all existed here and have also been depicted in the map which shows religions coexistence. Most interestingly, the city that remains choked with traffic had a wonderfully developed transport system and well laid network of roads and lanes. The cable bridge on river Tawi was not only centre of attraction but its brickwork and cables were not less than London Bridge which was later demolished for no reasons.

Interestingly the defence structures like Kotwali for civilian security, Maheshi Darwaza for cantonment and artillery, cantonment and artillery of Begum, cantonment of Dhyan Singh, the Prime Minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and Dhohal Khana or the Drum House were all there and find a mention in the map which again states that Jammu city was fortified and remained prepared for any invasion. The date of this map is believed to be sometime in between 1860 to 1870.

The massive bridge on river Tawi was named “Khata Gallat”, as per the map. A small rivulet has been marked in Urdu as “Yeh Nehar Bagh Bhulami Ko Jaati Hai’ (This river goes to Ghulami Bagh) on the map. This again signifies that water reservoirs and ponds named as Talab Rani or Talab Khatikan besides rivers and streams were very much a part of Jammu city that helped people harvest water for meeting their needs.

The map says that one of the reservoirs is attributed to Rani of Jhansi and the other to Wazir Sahib Lajiyo. People like Miyan Sahib owned private ponds for bathing his elephant. It is also said that Rani of Jhansi had also visited Jammu which is evident from the fact that the map marks a temple and a water reservoir constructed by her, obviously, in memory of her visit to the place. Rani Jhansi, it is believed had visited Jammu around 1850 seeking support for her mission against British rule.

Royal mansions like Kothi Sarkari, Royal Palace, the Mahal Sarkari and Treasury, the Toshakhana are other buildings of significance have also been marked and drawn in colours to enable one to detect the places of importance right on the map itself. Believed to be a map drawn for the reference of Maharaja, the flawless piece of art is worth a watch and if possible a copy of same must also be brought to Jammu for people’s viewing.

The map mentions that “Dhyan Singh, the Prime Minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, is known to have shifted from Lahore to Jammu after 1849, when with his help British power was able to capture Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s part of Punjab. After Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death Dhyan Singh had betrayed all his three successors. Obviously the cantonment of Dhyan Singh, mentioned in the map, could have come into existence only after he had settled in Jammu”.

Now that this map is open for viewing, the opportunity must be seized for the reason that those who will choose to forget the past will miss out on its fullest potential. There are valuable lessons to be learned from it. However, those who will desire to ask the right questions about their past will most likely be prepared to live life to the fullest in the present.

The 1940s, till Oct 1947: By Sorayya Khurshid

Sorayya Khurshid has written a very moving and affectionate chapter about the Jammu of the 1940s.

The clean and beautiful stone city of Jammu, the winter capital of the Jammu and Kashmir state, shines through the haze of memory to this day. Those were different times. Life flowed at an even, unhurried pace. There was no fitfulness to it, no haste, no restlessness. This city of clean, stone-paved streets surrounded by hills had a story-like quality, as if it were a tale out of Arabian Nights where legend has become reality. Its scented air made you believe that a fairy, her wings spread out, could land at any moment to make this dwelling of mortals her home. I associate Jammu with the fragrance of motia, rose and bela, the whiff of jaman, guava and wild berry bushes. These fruits still grow and you can buy them if you wish, but they do not have the taste and aroma of those I remember from my Jammu days.

There was something about that city which was different, otherwise why would one feel haunted so many years later by its eternal magic. Its extraordinary quality! Poets, storywriters and historians have written eloquently about the beauty of the Vale of Kashmir. They have written about its valleys, its green, waving fields, its sky-high mountains, the special quality of its air, its waterfalls and singing brooks and its heartbreakingly beautiful flowers. When I think of hilly Jammu, a part of the same state of Kashmir, in no way do I find it to have been any less beautiful.

The Bahu Fort, dating back to early Dogra days, was Jammu’s special mark of recognition. Down below the Fort ran the Tawi river, its water so clear that the eye could see stones, big and small, that lay at the bottom and the plants that grew out of the riverbed. The Tawi flowed very gently but its rhythm changed as it widened and began to move over a more spread-out course. To the left of Bahu Fort, lay the vast nature reserve known as Parli Bagi. Trees bearing berries, guava, lokat and gharna grew here in abundance. The gharna, black in colour, resembled a raisin and was delicious to eat. Poor Dogra women of the area would gather these fruits in small baskets and go from neighbourhood to neighbourhood selling them. This was their means of earning a livelihood.

They wore tight, leg-hugging trousers, long shirts and wide dopattas. Every morning, they would set out with their baskets of fruit and return to their tiny mud-built huts as the evening fell, only to go out on the same errand next morning. Their men folk gathered fuel wood from the forest which they would tie up is small bundles that were called “muthoo”. These small bundles of dry twigs were bought by city households and used as firewood.

This is just one more insight into the simple way of life of people in those days. Incomes were limited and so were resources. Their needs were modest in keeping with the simplicity of their lives. In just half a century, the world has changed so dramatically. Science and technology have made amazing advances and distances have shrunk. A journey that used to take months can now be completed in hours. No matter what part of the world you are living in today, it takes you no time to find out what has happened in places thousands of miles away. Not so long ago, you could not even imagine such things to be possible. Sometimes one wonders if these great advances that the world has witnessed in the last few decades have taken mankind to the apogee of its achievement or its decline. Sometimes one wonders what has happened to the old ways, to the Jammu one knew, a place of peace, stillness and beauty!

There were settlements of snake charmers around Parli Bagi. Every day, these men would come to the city, bearing small baskets on their heads containing snakes. It would be evening before they would return home. The hills of Jammu were host to a large variety of snakes. The city’s elevation was not very high and summers were intensely hot. It was the sort of environment that abounds in snakes. The snake charmers would produce snakes of every size and colour from their baskets, including the most fearsome kind. However, it was the snakes that earned them their daily keep. The snake charmers were also great storytellers and people would listen to their tales of fantasy with great interest. Some snake charmers would gather rare, curative plants from the jungle or stones with allegedly miraculous qualities which people would buy from them. Nowadays, nobody has much time for this sort of thing. In those undulating hills also lived families whose women would sell clay toys such as dolls and everything that a doll’s house needs, including fruits and vegetables, made of clay of course. These women would also sell rag dolls. A child could buy a bride, a young girl, a mother or even a washer-women.

Summer mornings and evenings were always very beautiful in Jammu. The sun would rise in a blue sky and light up this city of green hills and sharply edged rocks and stones. As the morning would make way for noon, the heat would become intense, but by evening it would become cooler. People would gather in small groups at the canal, dip the mangoes they had brought in its ice-cold water and enjoy themselves. Glowworms would appear in droves and twinkle in the dark like stars. Sometimes there would be so many of them, that the air would glow with them as far as the eye could see.

Jammu winters were also quite lovely. Dark clouds would take over the sky and it would start raining. We would lie under thick quilts in rooms with the doors closed, listening to the rain fall. Sometimes it would rain for days. The sun, when it came out, would feel warm and good. Winter vegetables and fruits were always plentiful and friends would invite one other for parties. Breakfast was always something special. Every morning, a member of the family or a servant would be sent out to fetch freshly baked baqarkhani from the neighbourhood tandoor which would be eaten with relish with a cup of salted Kashmiri or black tea, depending on which you preferred. That would suffice as breakfast because the freshly baked, lightly layered baqarkhani had a taste that stayed on the palette for hours. Life would begin in the city with the break of day. People would greet each other on the street because everyone knew everyone, unlike today when people walk past each other like strangers. Everyone is preoccupied with himself and disinterested in others, concentrating only on getting ahead. Unlike those time, it is each man for himself today.

Mrs Khurshid’s affectionate recollection of Jammu’s temples

Jammu was also called the city of temples. Every morning, we would hear the sweet sound of temple bells which would be rung all together. The great temple of Raghunath was surrounded by other temples. I can still hear those bells and their music reverberates in my ears.

One could also hear the call for morning prayers from nearby mosques but there were no minaret-mounted loudspeakers then. Sometimes, these competing calls to prayers from temple and mosque would generate tension.

Off and on there a riot would break out and to deal with it effectively, a curfew would be imposed on the city. The Muslims of Jammu were poor but united; they were also religiously devout.

It was generally believed that Maharaja Hari Singh was not communal-minded but that he was surrounded by his Dogra ministers and advisers. He was also a man given to luxury and such rulers do not really think of their subjects’ welfare. … He lived in exile in India and in his solitude he must sometimes have felt troubled by the thought that his Muslim subjects had undergone untold suffering. As for himself, he lost his throne and with it the good life he had always known.

The Maharaja never lived with his wife and son again. It was his duty to protect his people, regardless of what faith they belonged to….

Jammu city was divided into two parts, the upper and the lower. While one did not quite understand as a child why the city was laid out like that, years later when I had the opportunity to visit Europe, I found many Italian cities similarly laid out. In Jammu, the upper or the elevated part of the city was mostly peopled by Hindus – though there was a Pathan mohalla right in the middle of it. These Pathans had moved to Jammu at various points in time and made it their home. Some of the families had gained great success in the state and were much respected.

One such family was that of Air Marshal M Asghar Khan, whose uncle Sumandar Khan was a General in the State Army. Members of the Maharaja’s family, who were known as Wazirs, also lived in this neighbourhood. The Wazirs were known for their fair skin and good looks and some of their women were great beauties of their time. They would go around heavily bejewelled and always looked resplendent in their expensive silk saris. Theirs was a life of leisure.

The Maharaja’s winter palace was located in the higher section of the city which was where he lived from October to April when the royal court moved from Srinagar because of the onset of winter. All key officials of the state moved with the court to Jammu and the city would come to life. There was also a royal mint in Jammu, built by the Maharaja’s ancestors. The streets of the city were paved with stones and they were laid on steep inclines. Most people walked, though there were tongas for hire.

We lived in the lower part of the city in Residency Road and I went to the Government High School for Girls which was located in the upper part of the city. You could go about your business in peace and nobody bothered you. While on our way to school, we would sometimes come across friends of the family and we would greet them. Father’s friends were like uncles and that is the way they treated us youngsters. It was a different world from the one we live in now. There was much fellow feeling among people.

There was a grain market in Jammu, called Kanak Mandi where you could buy food of every kind. Most of the family shopping was done there. Jammu also had more than its share of monkeys and they could be seen sitting calmly on housetops and parapets. They were perfectly at ease with people and behaved as if they had as good a right to live in the city as its human inhabitants. I do not recall ever seeing garbage piled on the street in Jammu. The roads were kept clean and municipal water wagons kept them showered both morning and evening. When a water wagon passed, children would run after it. The city would wear a clean, washed look after rains because of its stony streets. You never saw any puddles of standing water in Jammu. The water that rain brought always flowed down, ultimately finding its way into the Tawi river that ran languidly on a flat plan, several hundred feet down from the city.

The lower quarter of the city was mostly Muslim. The Muslims of Jammu were poor but hard working; many of them being in state service. However, there was in inbuilt prejudice against their reaching higher positions as all those posts were the preserve of Dogras and Hindus. Education was free but because of poverty, many Muslim children did not manage to go beyond high school. However, despite that the number of highly educated people among Jammu’s Muslims was sizeable. Some of them had made a name for themselves in education. During the 1947 holocaust, Prof Abdul Rashid, a popular teacher, and Malik Fazal Haq, a senior educationist, lost their lives.

In the lower quarter of the city lay Mohalla Dal-Patian, Urdu Bazar and the residential areas around the Police Lines. Senior government officials lived in Residency Road where also stood the state rest house where in 1944 the Quaidi-Azam and Miss Fatima Jinnah stayed for lunch while on their way to Srinagar from Sialkot. The Jammu railway station was located lower down in the Satwari area. Trains ran from here to Sialkot and other points in British India. I can still remember that railway station with its dim lights. Life went on at an easy pace and nobody ever seemed to be in any particular hurry.

Jammu was also famous for its Urdu mushairas or poetry readings as well as other literary events. Famous writers and poets from all over India often came to Jammu. My father, Dr Noor Hussain, a very literary person, was never to be found missing from these gatherings. He was appointed health officer and chemical examiner of Jammu in 1942. Except for summers when we would move to Srinagar, we lived in Jammu until 1947. That was where my youngest brother Masood was born. In 1944, my father was promoted deputy director of the State’s medical services. In the summer of 1947 we were in Srinagar when my father was promoted and asked to take charge as director with effect from October.

As stated earlier, we lived in Jammu’s Residency Road in an officially provided residence. It was a large house built in the Victorian style, fronted by a garden where highly fragrant roses and motia grew. There was also a large backyard with jasmine bushes and two large fruit trees under one of which my mother always had a cot on which she sat to perform household odds and ends. The kitchen lay on one side and there was a wide corridor that ran through the middle of the house, with rooms on either side. In 1981 when I went to Jammu, I went to see that house and found it to have hardly changed. The fruit trees stood exactly where they always had, silent witnesses to time and change.

There was a Muslim doctor living there now.

In October 1947 – the Srinagar-Jammu road via the Banihal pass being closed – we left Srinagar on our way to Jammu by the Jehlum Valley Road. It took us several days to get to Sialkot because the troubles had already begun and armed tribesmen from Pakistan’s Frontier province were in the state. We were forced to stay a few days in Rawalpindi because we could find no bus or train for Sialkot. When we finally arrived in Sialkot, the Jammu massacres were well underway. We found ourselves stranded in Sialkot, the city that ultimately became our home. When we arrived in Sialkot, my father phoned his Kashmiri Pandit assistant in Jammu and told him that he would be arriving the day after.

However, the man kept saying, “Dr sahib, please don’t come to Jammu yet, it is not the right weather yet.” It was only later that we realised what he was trying to tell my father. It is strange how in the middle of barbarity, there are individuals who retain humanity. There are many such stories from the blooddrenched days of 1947.

I would also like to record here that ours was the last bus to leave Srinagar for Rawalpindi. With us on that bus were the families of Sardar Effendi and Syed Abid Hussain Bokhari, close friends of my father. Had there been no tribal incursion, the history of Kashmir might have been different …

(Excerpted from Rehmatullah Rad and Khalid Hasan (eds), Memory Lane to Jammû (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications 2004)

Sorayya married Mr Khurshid H Khurshid, the private secretary of Mr Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Quaid-i-Azam. Mr Khurshid was appointed President of the so-called 'Azad' Jammu & Kashmir (POK) on 1 May 1959

Jammu of the 1950s

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Veteran) , Jammu of the fifties "Daily Excelsior" 13/9/2015

My relationship with Jammu goes back almost 60 years. What can humans remember from the time they are aged all of three years. My family and friends laugh at my ability to recall details of my days when I was a mere infant but there is nothing I can do about that because pictures of the past are stuck firmly in the mind. Of Jammu, there are just too many.

There was no railway from Pathankot to Jammu then, in 1955-56. My earliest memory is of the journey from the Army transit camp at Pathankot with my parents, cuddled in my mother’s warm lap and seated at the back of an Army 7 ton vehicle. It was raining and the water in the numerous nalas was overflowing. Jammu was a sparsely populated city but we were headed to one of the satellite military locations at Damana where my father was being posted as Brigade Major (BM) with the famous Brigadier (later Lt Gen) Harbaksh Singh (of 1965 fame). Damana was located with the Ranbir Singh Pura canal next to it. Our house was virtually on the canal; a mud baked, thatched house with no power but a huge compound. My elder brother was admitted to the Presentation Convent. It was the best school and all fauji children studied there; admission was guaranteed. I was too small and perhaps too unintelligent to be given a chance at education. So I whiled away my time in my own world. The RS Pura canal was our home’s refrigerator because its water was ice cool at most times. My mother would put milk bottles, vegetables and even butter in a plastic cover and then place it in a jute sack (probably a sand bag) and have Inder Singh, my father’s loyal World War II buddy, tether the sack to a stump on the bank and immerse the sack into the water. The more ingenuous was my father’s technique of cooling his beer bottles,in a sack with a stone attached to it because cool water would flow at the bottom of the current in the canal. Once in a while the canal would be shut down for maintenance I suppose and those were bad days in our house because our provisions were not cool enough and my father’s weekend beer with his headquarters mates was incomplete.

How did children get transported to school in those days? The Army was poor in funds so there were no school buses authorized. The kids from Damana used to go by ‘tanga’ (the horse drawn little buggy that the new generation knows nothing about). I am not even sure what the distance was but there were about 10 kids in my brother’s tanga and Ram Singh the tanga man would tie them up because they all fell asleep while going and coming to/fro. Between Damana and Jammu was a huge khud and the tanga had to negotiate the down slope very carefully. I have tried searching for that khud or depressed road today but never succeeded. Even once in three months outings in Jammu were by tanga, with my parents. A very famous Kwality restaurant existed somewhere near Jewel theatre, I think. I recall that the best ice cream served anywhere in India could be found at Jammu Kwality; a particular ice cream called ‘My Fair Lady” was a hit with kids and adults.

The iron bridge over the Tawi River was perhaps the only connection between the segments of the city. Pedestrians were not permitted on the bridge and had to walk on a most dangerous pedestrian walkway on both sides and the path was barely 12 inches or so. I was mortally scared of this walk and clung to my mother as I saw the water of the Tawi swirling below.

It was hot as hell at Damana and there was no power. We did not even have a petromax but for my father’s homework (BMs are very busy people) there was a battery powered light; the battery was recharged every two days. We sat in the compound cooled by the evening ‘chhirkao’, or sprinkling of water on the parched earth; all seating was on ‘sarkandamundhas’. At night we had cobras that fought with each other on the tarpaulin ceiling beneath the ‘chhappar’ of the roof of our four room hut. One day a cobra fell into the room where I slept with my parents. I was petrified by snakes, then.

In 1957, my father’s tenure as Brigade Major was over but luckily his unit First Garhwalis, moved to Jammu. We had our shortest move ever, from Damana to Jammu. The GOC of the Division I learnt much later was first Maj Gen PP Kumaramangalam and then Maj Gen SHFHJ Manekshaw. I never knew that the Tiger Div was such a high profile one which produced two successive Chiefs and later a third in Gen Krishna Rao. We were now staying somewhere near the Tawi bridge and the river flowed about a kilometer away from the house. We were in luxury as the house had cement walls and asbestos roof. Evenings were spent on shikar with my father who would walk us a distance and shoot ‘Tilyar’, a delectable table bird. Shikar was not banned then and all good faujis had BSA 12 bore guns. Once in a while a picnic was organized by the unit. The most common spot was the Akhnoor bridge; the same iron bridge which was the objective of the Pakistani armour in 1965. I have been able to discover the exact spot of these picnics during visits to Akhnur in the recent past.

The Army had many sports competitions in those days and for us children there was no better occasion for entertainment and to munch some nice Army snacks besides sipping ice cold Vimto and Orangeade made by Army units. No television, no video games and no internet, we did more roaming around in the open air. In a particular event, the Division athletics (probably at the stadium of the Tiger Division), I got away from my mother’s gaze and decided to take a walk. No time and space restricted my mind so I walked and walked, past parked vehicles and troops. I was told later that I was missing for over two hours by the time I was found and restored to my mother.

Jammu being close to the border has always been vulnerable to espionage activities. I was exposed to the needs of security very early in life because every evening the night password would be conveyed by the Havaldar Major to Inder Singh in whispers and then to my father in whispers again, lest some Pakistani spy gets to know it. It fascinated me that they all spoke in hushed tones at this particular time in the evening. So I also joined in conveying things in whispers. That was the beginning of my security training.

My first ever trip to Kashmir was also undertaken at this time, probably in a JKSRTC bus and it met with an accident enroute, nothing too serious though. I distinctly remember the dripping roof of the Jawahar tunnel. Adoos was the favorite for the most delectable cold coffee and my parents could not get enough of Suffering Moses.

When it was pack up time in 1959, after almost four continuous years in the City of Temples, none of us were happy to leave. Jammu had grown on us and we had grown used to Jammu. Ram Singh’s ‘tanga’, Kwality’s ice creams, Presentation Convent’s annual days, Division sports of the Tiger Division, the RS Pura Canal (our ever present refrigerator), long journeys by bus and back of Army trucks; all this is a maze of memories which gives Jammu a special place in my heart and the head.

Personal tools