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PLACES OF HISTORICAL INTEREST

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PLACES OF HISTORICAL INTEREST

During the Mughal period, the route from Jammu to Srinagar passed through Rajouri. It is said that the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and his queen Noor Jehan had traveled on this route frequently during their journey to Srinagar. Two important places are associated with them, namely Chingus and Noor-e-Chhamb.

The Mughal entourage while passing from Rajouri to Srinagar halted at convenient places. This is the reason why we find a number of mini forts on the entire route. All of these are not forts in the real sense. Many of them are only inns (Sarais).

Short descriptions of these forts in the Div Sector are given below. The historical description is based on the Gazetteer of Kashmir and Ladakh, local folklore and information obtained from the local elders :-

(a) Chingus Fort : Chingus fort is said to be the place where Emperor Jahangir died and where his Queen Noor Jehan got his entrails interred. His dead body, less entrails, was taken to Lahore without it being disclosed that he was dead. This was done to prevent the Kingdom from being taken over by his Kinsmen before the Queen reached the Capital.

(b) Dhanidhar Fort : Dhanidhar Fort is situated near Dhanidhar village overlooking Rajouri. Before the advent of the Muslims, Rajouri was ruled by Hindu Kings belonging to the ‘PAL’ dynasty who claimed to be descendants of the Pandavas. Dhanidhar Fort is believed to have been built by one of the kings of this dynasty. The fort commands a complete view of the Rajouri town. The name Dhanidhar was given to this highest elevation of land portion overlooking Rajouri town and the valley below, on the basis of a village called Dhanidhar in its close proximity.

(c) Ajimgarh Fort : The fort is situated on the range of hills west of the road Rajouri-Bhimber Gali and about 20 kms from Rajouri. It is also called Ramgarh fort by locals. Gazetteer of Kashmir and Ladakh has, however, recorded this fort as Ajimgarh Fort.

(d) Poonch Fort : It is situated on the summit of a hillock. This fort is believed to be the ‘Zenana’ of Raja Moti Singh. According to Muslim traditions ‘Zenana’ denotes specially built apartments for women where they used to reside in seclusion. To maintain the security of the fortress, guards were also stationed inside the fort. The guard inside the Poonch fort was under command of Devi Din. There is a magazine located inside the fort.

(e) Mangla Devi Fort : It is a small fort near Naushera on the summit of a rocky precipitous hill. Remnants of number of similar fortlike constructions exist on either side of the rivulet flowing past Naushera. These fortlike structures are said to date back to the period when each little tract had its own ruler and each ruler had to defend himself against his neighbour.

(f) Darhal Fort : A tactically sited fort, dominating the Lam and Darhal Valley, it is constructed on a massive rock. It has steep sides and is inaccessible from all sides. It is located approximately 12 kms from Naushera. It is 150 yds in length and 20-35 yds in width. This fort was constructed by a General of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and was a stronghold of his forces till 1886. Later it was occupied by the forces of Maharaja Gulab Singh. The area is said to have been sold by the British to the Maharaja. Darhal Fort was occupied by a detachment of Kashmir Infantry till 1947 under the control of Dogra Rajput rulers, the last of whom was Maharaja Hari Singh. At the time of partition in 1947, the Muslims wanted to occupy this fort, but it was quickly occupied by the local Hindus and Sikhs. In October 1947, Pakistan Forces launched many attacks to capture the fort, but the attacks were repulsed by staunch resistance of the local farmers under the leadership of Sub Ranjit Singh who was subsequently killed in one of the skirmishes

HISTORICAL BUILDINGS

Budha Amarnath : This famous Shiv Temple is located at Mandi on the bank of the Mandi Nadi. Legend has it that Chandrika Rani of Lohran who was a true devotee of Lord Shiva would unfailingly go for her annual pilgrimage to Amarnath beyond Srinagar. One year when she could not undertake the pilgrimage on account of feudal wars in the region, she grew desponded and sad. She was so dejected that she gave up food and water and kept praying to the Lord. Then, Lord Shiva appeared before the Rani in the form of an old Sadhu and told her that Mahadeva has accepted here devotion and shifter below the Loran mountain on the banks of a stream. The Rani collected a large gathering and set out in search of Amarnathji. The Sadhu led the devotees to a projection of the Chakwak Rock in the form of a Shiva Linga. The shrine was constructed by the grateful Rani and other devotees at that spot and came to be called Budha Amarnath after the Sadhu. It is believed that offering of new grain at the Shrine is auspicious. Both Hindu and Muslims of the region follow this practice. The Lord is especially kind to barren ladies and unemployed youth who come here from far and wide and go back blessed. The Shrine is cared for by the BSF Battalion, which is lodged near by.

Nagali Sahib : Gurdwara Shiromani Dera Shri Sant Pura Nagali Sahib is situated approx six. km from Poonch, on the Eastern Banks of Durangil Nadi. It is believed that Sant Mela Singh alongwith his disciples was at Poonch to preach Sikhism and the teachings of the great Guru. After giving a few discourses at Poonch, Sant Mela Singh moved towards Durangil Nadi where he found an isolated piece of land, which was covered, with a dense growth of gram called ‘Nangal’. He was so impressed by the serene atmosphere of this place that he decided to make this his permanent abode. In 1803, he laid the foundation for his abode and named it ‘Nangali’. His disciples later built a Gurdwara where the said had meditated and it was called Nangali Sahib. It is now known as Gurdwara Nagali Sahib. Traditionally, the saints looking after Nangali Sahib Gurdwara have been Brahamcharyas.

Shiv Mandir Behramgala : This temple to Lord Shiva was constructed by Raja Moti Singh to celebrate the Birth of his son Raja Baldev Singh. It is said that for many years Raja Moti Singh remained childless and to get his wish fulfilled he worshipped a saint at Behramgalla, who predicted that he could have a child only when hi the saint himself took re-birth in his house. On the persistent requests of Raja Moti Singh the saint took to Maha Samadhi and after 10 months of his death Raja Baldev Singh was born.

Moti Mahal : Moti Mahal is situated on the outskirts of Poonch city. It is the most imposing of the palaces in and around the city of Poonh. The foundation of Moti Mahal was laid by Raja Sukhdev Singh on 15 February 1926 and it took nearly ten years for its construction. The palace has a British design with sloping red roofs, dormer windows and wide eave boards though its architecture was actually developed by a Sindhi engineer. The location of the place has in the background the Garhi Jungle. This was the Maharaja’s personal shooting enclave but is now a mostly barren feature. Some of the trees in the palace grounds are over 200 years old. Moti Mahal has been associated with the Indian Army since 1947 when Brig. Pritam Singh first made it the Headquarters of the gallant Brigade which held on through the siege for almost a year till the Poonch Link Up.

Kasian Temple : The story of this Mandir dates back to the Mahabharat period. Duryodhan, eldest of the Kauravas, conspired to burn the Pandavas in their house and legend has it that the Pandavas stayed at this temple after the Lakhsgarh period. The history of the temple is as under :

(a) Old Four Walled Temple : This temple was built by Pandavas themselves. It has been cut from a single piece of rock. It is said that in earlier times milk used to flow from the ceiling of this temple. Even now some liquid resembling milk drips from the ceiling. The original old shrine in the temple is that of Lord Shiva. Rest of the shrine has been built by various Army units stationed in the area later.

(b) Bhim Ganga : There is a spring next to this temple which is a good water source and is known as Bhim Ganga. The history of this spring is that when Mata Kunti felt thirsty, she asked her son Bhim to get some water. As this place did not have enough holy water, Bhim took a mud pitcher (Kalash) and brought water from Haridwar. While returning from Haridwar he slipped and the pitcher fell on the ground. Since then this place has been named as Kalsian. In a rage, Bhim struck the ground with his ‘Gada’ making a hole in the ground, through which water started gushing out. This water was used by the Pandavas thereafter during their stay here.

(c) Pandava Cave : This truly enhances the interest and the beauty of the place. Most probably this cave was completely covered by boulders in the time of the Pandavas. But now due to change in the environmental conditions, mouth of this cave has been covered by the trunk of a tree. It is also said that the Pandavas used to pray in the temple during day and whenever somebody approached the place, they used to quietly move into the cave under the temple to avoid being identified.

Hati Mata On the old Mughal route, through which Emperor Jahangir and Empress Noorjahan used to travel from Delhi to Kashmir, stand two huge rocks approx 7 km from Rumlidhara. There is a prominent pass near these rocks. Two local Hindu sculptors cut out two lifesize images of elephants from these rocks. On their next trip while passing through the pass Jahangir’s caravan of elephants took to their heels on the unexpected appearance of these life like and lifesize elephants cut in the rocks. The Emperor was furious. The sculptors were brought to him. Instead of being rewarded, their hands were chopped off so that they could not do such mischief again. These rocks still stand today though they have been defaced and damaged to a great extent, yet these present a monument of architectural beauty of the area. The locals call this place Hathi Matha or the Elephant Heads.

The Mangla Devi Fort Mangla Devi Fort was constructed by a Rajput prince on a hill feature South West of Naoshera. It is inaccessible from North and East. A fair weather road winds upto about 600 yards short of the Fort. There are four sentry posts along the ramparts of the Fort. Two big wells, one of which is being used even today had been sunk inside the Fort. It is believed that about 2000 Hindus took refuge in this Fort in 1947 and were saved from the atrocities of the Pakistan Army. A temple was constructed by the locals inside the Fort in 1975, as thanksgiving to the Almighty for having saved their lives in 1971 Indo Pak War.

Khamba Fort The fort is situated 29 kms from Naoshera and 800 yards from Line of Control. As per folklore the fort is known to have been constructed by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1815 AD. It has been constructed on a huge rock. The fort is inaccessible from all sides with just one narrow entrance to the South East. There are three semicircular rooms/compartments known as Gumbaj inside the fort. The compartments have a radius of 9 feet each. A 120 feet deep well, neatly dug through rocks is a tourist attraction. In the middle of the fort there is a temple as old as the fort itself. Legend has it that this place was used by the Pandavas during their exile. After Bhima had thrown the pitcher containing holy water from Ganges near Pirthal Naka and destroyed the demon, he asked his mother Kunti to keep her eyes closed till the water filled her cupped hands. He then struck the rock with his knee, causing such a tremor that Kunti was forced to open her eyes.

Mangla Mata Approx 4 km short of Jhangar on Road Naoshera Jhangar are the caves of a holy shrine ‘MANGLA MATA’. Local population has tremendous faith in this shrine. They believe that she is their protector and provider. Consequently, religious rites for blessings, ranging from sowing and harvesting to childbirth are performed at this place. This shrine came into existence in 1945 when the Goddess Mangla decided to shift from Mangla (POK) to the present location. According to local folklore the place was indicated to the priestess by the Goddess in her dreams. The priestess traveled on foot, came to this area, identified the place and the myth of Mangla Mai started. The shrine is visited by devotees everyday. However, devotees from Jammu and such far areas come for paying homage on Tuesday. ‘Chandi Paksh Tuesday’ i.e. Tuesday just prior to, or after the full moon is supposed to be the most auspicious. The area of the shrine is picturesque and provides solace from the hustle bustle of outside world. According to a Sadhu from Haridwar, who visits the shrine fairly often, this area has most of the ‘Sthan Guns’ as described in the ‘Vedas’. ‘Ramayan Path’ and ‘Havan’ are common features in the shrine. A ‘Havan Kund’ has been constructed for the purpose.

Vir Bhadreshwar It is known as Pir Bhadreshwar in popular parlance. The legend of the temple goes back to the days of Lord Shiva and Sati. The temple was built about 2500 year ago, by King Kanishka, to commemorate the victory of Vir Bhadreshwar, Lord Shiva’s son, over his rivals. As the legend goes, during ancient time King Daksha, organized a ‘Yaga’. For this celebration he did not invite Lord Shiva and Sati, but Sati attended the ‘Yaga’ uninvited. During the ‘Yaga’ Lord Shiva and Sati were insulted by King Daksha. Sati could not bear it, and ended her life by immolating herself in the fire of ‘Yaga’. When Lord Shiva learnt about it, his anger knew no bounds. He threw his jata (lock of hair) on the ground, out of which Vir Bhadreshwar emerged and vowed to take revenge for the death of his mother. After destroying King Daksha who had insulted Sati, Vir Bhadreshwar came and rested at the place, where the temple now stands. During 1947-48 J & K operation, the temple was completely desecrated by the hordes of invaders from Pakistan. The temple and the area around was freed by Indian Army in the year 1948.

Martyrdom Immortalised In the divisional sector three eventful celebrations are held each year – Rajouri Day, Naushera Day and Shaheedi Day. Each year men in uniform and the civil population pay their homage to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the recapture of Rajouri, Jhangar and Mendhar and liberated the locals from the cruelty and barbarism of Pakistan domination. These eventful celebrations not only remind us of the bravery and heroic deeds of our soldiers and civilians in the defence of this sector but also bind us into lasting bonds of love and brotherhood for the great cause upholding the territorial integrity of our country.