A RUIN IN THE MAKING
We are living in a period in which conservation has acquired great importance. Sadly, a large number of monuments, ecosystems go ignored in this process due to various types of interference from the government, local people or big corporations.
Having been born and brought up in Jammu and traveling around as a kid, I always wondered about a particular derelict structure which sits on the hill just at the edge of the city. It is easily accessible and sits right at the centre of the old city but most people I know have never been here and as a matter of fact some have not even heard about it.
I am here talking about the Mubarak Mandi Palace, which was the royal residence of the Maharaja’s of Jammu and Kashmir from the Dogra dynasty. It was their main seat till 1925 before they moved to another palace.
In 1710, Raja Dhruv Dev laid its foundation. He moved his official residence from Purani Mandi to DarbarGad, a Rajput locality. The eastern edge of the Tawi river with its high plateau made for an ideal site for its construction.
Many architectural styles dominate the entire complex. Dogra-Pahari, Rajasthani, English Baroque, Gothic, Colonial and Mughal, to name a few. They built these Palaces as courtyard buildings. Open spaces (Ahata) are in the centre, while residential and official buildings surround them. The original plan saw four such spaces built, named after Dhruv Dev’s four sons.
For the construction of various buildings of this complex , a mixture of Surkhi powder, lime , husk and Mahaash Dal was used as cementing material.
After the palace was built, Muslim Artisans were brought and settled in Mohallas like ustaad Mohalla, Pakki Dakki, Mastgarh ,Dalpatian, Talab Khati ka, and other localities.They were mostly Blacksmiths, Weavers , Leather workers, Metal workers and Masons.
The complex could be entered through three main gates known as Deodi ;one at Chowk Chabutra ,second at Panjtirthi and the third from Pakki dakki side.Residential settlements were initially confined around these three Deodi. It was at the Deodi of this complex , that in August ,1813 AD , Mian Mota ,the then prime Minister of Jammu was murdered.
Apparently the palace has been under a conservation drive since the past two decades but the conservation work isn’t visible at all apart from a few signboards that have been put up.
Everyone, be it the media, people, the late state government, talk about Kashmir and address its issues with utmost importance. Jammu has been the neglected child in this case always being thrown back and not being cared for. I have observed that anything that happens in Jammu city or province gets labeled as Kashmir countless times from people outside the state, the media and the government. This neglect has escalated and is the sole reason why a late 17th century palace is in a state of ruin
The palace can now only be entered with a few permissions from the apparent conservation authority. Recently, the government has made a proposal to convert the palace into a heritage hotel or resort. At the current pace of work, I hope my grandkids would at least be able to enjoy a good dinner at the heritage resort sometime.
There are countless such monuments with an amalgam of a rich history and associated stories which lie in a state of ruin due to constant neglect. These monuments need to be preserved for future generations to experience or otherwise they will just remain as haunted places or a shooting sites for movies in the making.