History beckons
Jammu, gateway to the sprawling mountain regions of Kashmir and Ladakh, is currently being developed as a heritage city, reports Suraj Saraf

FIVE prestigious heritage projects are presently under execution in Jammu city to help boost tourism. Jammu constitutes the doorway to the Kashmir valley and Ladakh.

The first one is the Mubarak Mandi project. There is a huge complex of palaces of the old Dogra ruling dynasty spread over 120 kanals. The palaces are designed on Rajput, Mughal and European styles. The project involves an expenditure of Rs 200 crore.

The second one is the Raghunath Bazar heritage project named after high-profile Raghunath temples. The bazaar, business hub of the city, offers a captivating sight of numerous large and small composite statues.

The third project involves the ancient Bahu fort-cum-palace that is proposed to be linked with Mubarak Mandi through a ropeway spanning the Tawi.

The fourth project would result in the beautification of the ancient Shiva shrine, located charmingly in the wild environs above the right bank of the Tawi.

Under the fifth one, old historical records dating back to the early 18th century would be digitalised. According to J&K Tourism and Cultural Minister Nawan Rizgin Jora, the government has sanctioned Rs 5 crore to improve the archive repositories in Jammu, Srinagar and Ladakh.

A temple over the Shiva shrine in Jammu city
A temple over the Shiva shrine in Jammu city

Gol Ghar, a unique architectural feature of Mubarak Mandi
Gol Ghar, a unique architectural feature of Mubarak Mandi Photos by the writer

The repository at Jammu, established in 1928, is one of the oldest archives in the subcontinent. Its records date back to the Mughal times. These have been classified into Persian, English and Urdu. The repository also has a library with 30,000 books and manuscripts.

A sum of Rs 3.5 crore has been sanctioned for the development of the Pir Kho cave Shiva shrine. The cave is an ancient one and connected both with Ramayana and Mahabharta.

Popularly known as Jamwant cave, it is linked with Jamwant, the boar chief of Lord Rama’s armies in his fight against Ravana. Later, Lord Rama is said to have ordered him to reside in this cave. Lord Krishna is said to have won over him in fight and married his daughter Jamawanti. Historically, Guru Gorakh Nath is said to have visited it. An exquisite statue of Gorakh Nath in white marble is installed in a temple at the well-known Shiva shrine of Sudh Mahadev, about 125 km north of Jammy city.

To develop Pir Kho as a tourism-cum-pilgrimage centre, crores of rupees are proposed to be spent on the construction of a reception centre, a landscape park, a gymnasium, an amphitheatre, bath ghats and footpaths, besides gateways. Bahu fort, lying on a hillock besides the Tawi and facing Mubarak Mandi, is an ancient sturdy structure.

"The fort and the town of Bahu stand east of Jammu city on the left bank of the Tawi. The fort still bears appearance of great strength and was famous in former times", say renowned archaeologist J. P. Bogel and Kutchison in their History of the Punjab Hill States.

It is said to have been renovated and re-structured by Maharaja Gulab Singh, who founded Jammu and Kashmir state in the mid-19th century. The fort is now being renovated as a heritage structure by restoration of the rampart walls, viewpoints, royal residence, water tank and construction of pathways and improvement of the light and sound system. The fort also has an old Kali goddess temple, which is visited by devotees, especially in large numbers, on each Tuesday and other auspicious occasions.

The fort is known as Bahu fort because it was originally believed to have been founded by Bahu Lochan, whose younger brother Jambu Lochan founded the city of Jammu. There is reference to Jammu in Mahabharta as Jambu.