Mubarak Mandi Palace: A Spectacular Blend of History, Architecture, and Intrigue

A symbol of the Dogra Maharajas of Jammu and Kashmir, Mubarak Mandi Palace is a witness to 125 years of Dogra rule. It is true that due to its continuous construction over time, there is a confluence of various architectural styles, and some of the simple methods tried in the palace for ventilation are still to be admired today. In this article, let’s have a virtual visit to the glorious past, rise and fall of Mubarak Mandi Palace.

Mubarak Mandi Palace: A Spectacular Blend of History, Architecture, and Intrigue

 

The terms ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘green’ have been buzzwords in the field of architecture for the past few years. Buildings that are compatible with the environment, maximize the use of natural resources, and minimize energy waste are termed ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘green’. The need for this type of construction is acutely felt today.

Because of the growth of urbanization, the number of buildings that waste energy and are not at all compatible with the environment is increasing, which is becoming dangerous. Such was not the case in India 150–25 years ago, and yet an impressive ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘green’ architecture was created in Jammu. Today, the grand structure standing on the banks of the river Tawi in a dilapidated condition is the palace called Mubarak Mandi Palace!

Eshtablishment of mubarak Mandi Palace

In 1824, on a small hill on the banks of the river Tawi, after the construction of Mubarak Mandi started, the new rulers of Jammu improved it from time to time over a period of one hundred years. Being on the banks of the river, its location is attractive yet strategic. It was easy to challenge the invading army due to the vast river bed, located in front of the palace. This is the reason, the palace automatically served as a fort.

Features of Mubarak Mandi Palace

Mubarak Mandi Palace: A Spectacular Blend of History, Architecture, and Intrigue

Another feature of Mubarak Mandi was its huge size. Approximately, twenty-five structures in its complex spread over 12 acres were erected, with a carpet area of ​​4,00,000. In making this palace, abundant use of architectural styles like Rajasthani, Mughal, and European, has been made in its construction. Many columns, domes, arches, openings, etc. add to the grandeur of the Mubarak mandi.

In 1925, Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra Maharaja of Kashmir, moved his residence to Harinivas Mahal, after which Mubarak Mandi Palace became deserted. However, the palace witnessed many political activities until the country gained independence.

The climate in Jammu is very strange and contradictory. Both cold and heat are very intense here. Therefore, large courtyard facilities are found everywhere in Mubarak Mandi Mahal. The courtyard is closed from all directions, but is left open at the roof. Due to this, light and ventilation are maintained in the building. In summer, the hot air from the hot floor/thermal draft automatically rises up and flows towards the relatively cooler air. The rising air gap is then automatically filled by slightly cooler air. As this process continues, the open-roofed courtyard is slightly cooler.

To protect the various rooms of the palace from the direct summer sun and yet allow for air circulation, windows were built at various points in the Mubarak Mandi. Every window is artistic. Moreover, the sheds built over them add to the decoration of the building. Depending on the position of the sun, the dimensions and directions of the shades are determined, keeping in mind when the shade is needed. A hedge of trees and vines was erected at some places in front of the building to filter the sun’s rays.

Thus, instead of mechanical air conditioners, the houses here were maintained at a comfortable temperature only in architectural sense and by using natural resources like trees and plants.

Mubarak Mandi Palace: A Spectacular Blend of History, Architecture, and Intrigue
Maharaja Hari Singh

For adequate ventilation, the architects of the time kept the windows on the huge wall small, so that the temperature of the entering wind would be measured according to the Venturi effect theory. This is explained in the article of ‘Hawa Mahal of Rajasthan‘. In addition, cross ventilation due to the windows kept in front of each other keeps the temperature in control.

The walls of Mubarak Mandi are relatively thick. Hence, the conduction of heat slows down in it. It means that the outer walls, basking in the heat of the sun throughout the day, get hot, but due to their excessive thickness, the heat does not transfer to the inner walls. Due to this, coolness is maintained in the room.

Also, due to the tall domed and inverted ‘V’ shaped roof, the temperature near the floor of the room seemed pleasant even in the heat of summer as the warm air flowed upwards.

Although this magnificent architecture incorporates various architectural styles like Rajasthani, Mughal, and European, most of the construction is done by local craftsmen using locally available materials. This makes the structure look more natural.

Rise of Mubarak Mandi Palace

Mubarak Mandi Palace: A Spectacular Blend of History, Architecture, and Intrigue
Sir_Hari_Singh_Bahadur,_Maharaja_of_Jammu_and_Kashmir

It is said that before the construction of Mubarak Mandi Mahal, the kings of Jammu used to reside in a royal house known as ‘Purani Mandi’. This continued till Raja Gaje Singh (reigned 1692–1707 AD). This king chose a site called Dhaunthali on the banks of the Tavi River for the construction of a new palace, after which his son Kunvar Raja Dhruvadev (reigned 1707–1733 CE) laid the foundation stone of the new residential complex.

As mentioned in the ancient book ‘Rajadarshini‘ written by Ganeshdas Badchra, in 1710, King Dhruvadev started the construction of a palace on the banks of the river Tavi for himself and his family. After the palace was ready, he shifted his residence and court from ‘Purani Mandi’ to this new place known as Darbargarh.

After King Dhruvadev, his son Maharaja Ranjitdev added some buildings to this complex. The process of creating new architecture continued for years after that. About four decades after Maharaja Ranjitdev, when Maharaja Gulab Singh was appointed as the king of Jammu in 1822, he had a beautiful palace prepared in the complex. Later, more buildings were added to the north-eastern part of the palace.

After Gulab Singh, Maharaja Ranbir Singh (reigned 1856–1885) renovated and expanded the entire premises. Many of the structures of Mubarak Mandi seen today were built during his reign. It was during this period that administrative offices were built around the palace, which obscured the splendor of the royal residence. In 1885, Maharaja Pratap Singh took over the rule of Jammu and ruled till 1925. Among the buildings that were built during his reign, Rani Charak’s palace was the main one.

From top right: the main entrance to the Mubarak Mandi, the Queen’s residence, and the Diwan and Darbar squares.

Fall of Mubarak Mandi Palace

Mubarak Mandi Palace: A Spectacular Blend of History, Architecture, and Intrigue

A grand court was organized here in 1898. A display of pyrotechnics (fireworks show) was held on a very large scale in the celebration, following which a fierce fire broke out. The fire spread to the administrative office area, but was quickly brought under control. It is said that the fire was not an accident but a political conspiracy.

Be that as it may, after a few years, the glory of Mubarak Mandi suddenly ended. As soon as Maharaja Pratap Singh’s nephew Hari Singh became the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1925, he refused to live in Mubarak Mandi. He went to live in another palace called Hari Niwas. After leaving Mubarak Mandi, he showed no interest in its maintenance. When India got independence and Kashmir merged with India, Maharaja Hari Singh handed over Mubarak Mandi without any hesitation. Since then, the offices of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir have been in it.

Why did the Maharaja Hari Singh decide to settle down in Hari Nivas by leaving ancestral grand and historic heritage?

This matter confused many people. The answer is found in the Famous Memoir book: ‘Song Sung True: A Memoir’, written by famous singer Malika Pukhraj. The singer of the famous and evergreen song written by Hafiz Jalandhari, ‘Abhi To Mein Jawan Hoon’, Malika Pukhraj, was very close to Maharaja Hari Singh. She used to sing in the court of the Maharaja for almost a decade. Hence the fact she described
can be considered authentic.Mubarak Mandi Palace: A Spectacular Blend of History, Architecture, and Intrigue

As described in the book, the reason of Maharaja Hari Singh’s hate for the Mubarak mandi was due to his aunt ‘Rani Chadki’, who hated Maharaja Hari Singh. Not only that, she had even tried to kill the Maharaja Hari singh. Maharaja Hari Singh strongly suspected that the death of his first wife, Lalkunwarba, during childbirth was in fact a murder at the behest of Rani Chadki. Thus, Mubarak Mandi was associated with tragic memories of the Maharaja, who decided to leave the place as soon as he became a ruler rather than remain sad.

The splendor of Mubarak Mandi Mahal, which was once magnificent and had witnessed many historical moments, became dim after Maharaja Hari Singh abandoned it. Various architectures were haphazardly altered to house the government offices that stayed here. Almost every segment of the palace became victim to it. Many artistic objects were destroyed. The mirrors on the walls of Sheesh Mahal were removed. French-designed tiles and the Italian marble floors were damaged due to random collisions in the name of renovation.

Mubarak Mandi Mahal, like a historical and political memory of the Jammu princely state, with the appearance of a 21 gun salute, is finally like a ruin. Three decades ago, Mubarak Mandi fell into disrepair after the entire complex was declared architecturally unsafe and government offices vacated the palace. Mubarak Mandi Palace: A Spectacular Blend of History, Architecture, and Intrigue

Writers based in Jammu have been continuously writing articles on the issue of the preservation of Mubarak Mandi. Former tourism minister Jagmohan sanctioned an amount of four and a half crores for renovations, and the art museum and the library were able to function well. In April, 2005, the complex was declared a ‘protected monument’. Unfortunately, the terrible earthquake that occurred in the same year was the last nail in the coffin.

After the establishment of the ‘Mubarak Mandi Jammu Heritage Society‘ to look after this wonderful architecture, some steps were taken in the name of conservation, and quite a bit of work was done. Even so, how much restoration can ultimately be done after wanton destruction? To preserve this palace, it has been proposed to convert it into a ‘heritage hotel’, but nothing has been done in that direction. 

In the past, Jammu was an important center of power. Now the work on the Delhi-Amritsar-Katra express highway is going on in full swing. Jammu is gradually being marginalized due to the proposed ring road around Jammu, the direct route from Lakhanpur to Bhadravah-Kishtwar-Doda and the direct rail link to Kashmir. It seems unlikely that the Mubarak Mandi Mahal will ever regain its original glory, but even in its ruined state, its grandeur remains undeniable. Hence, whatever is restored, it is great if it reveals its original glory to some extent.

Our indifference towards the cultural and historical heritage of the country is well known. It is natural to feel sad to see the dilapidation of a heritage like Mubarak Mandi, but more distressing is the neglect of its maintenance. Ultimately, dilapidation is a natural process, while neglect is a gift of human nature.

The Dogra rulers of Jammu turned from vassals into powerful Kings

Mubarak Mandi Palace: A Spectacular Blend of History, Architecture, and Intrigue

Dongra or Jamwal caste people mainly ruled in Jammu and Himachal Pradesh. They were basically feudal lord. In the seventeenth century, King Harideva defeating the vassals, and Jammu became an important region. Gulab Singh, the original founder of the Dogra dynasty, was actually a Sikh vassal of the royal court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In 1808, Maharaja Ranjit Singh conquered Jammu, and merged it into the empire. After 12 years, he appointed Gulab Singh’s father, Kishor Singh, as administrator of Jammu.

Gulab Singh after the death of Kishore Singh, took over the administrative affairs of Jammu. Rather, Maharaja Ranjit Singh appointed him as king of Jammu in 1822. Thus, the Dogras became kings, who were only the vassals till then. Hence, the rule of the Dogra dynasty
started with Maharaja Gulab Singh. This ruler, with the help of his general, Joravar Singh, also known as ‘Indian Napoleon’, extended the borders to Tibet, Baltistan and Ladakh.

With the death of Sher-e-Punjab Ranjit Singh in 1839, chaos began in his Sikh kingdom. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the East India Company waged war against the Sikhs. In 1845, the first Anglo-Sikh war was fought, in which the Sikh army was led by Raja Lal Singh. The Anglo-Sikh War ended with the Treaty of Lahore, in which the Sikhs ceded Jammu, Kashmir, Hazara (now held by Pakistan) and some territory between the Sutlej-Beas rivers to the East India Company.

Following this treaty, the Treaty of Amritsar was also concluded between the British and Maharaja Gulab Singh. Gulab Singh was now estranged from the Sikhs, so he paid huge sums of money to the British and bought several territories, including the eastern part of the Indus River and the western part of the Ravi River. Gulab Singh was given some territory near Balakot (now held by Pakistan), but to avoid conflict with the warring tribes of the area, he took the area near Jammu.

Several parts of the Mubarak Mandi was renowned during the rule of king Gulab singh. Eventually, he gifted the complex to his son, Ranbir Singh. After Ranbir Singh, the administration came in to the hands of Pratap Singh. Hari Singh, the nephew of Pratap Singh, became the king in 1925, and signed the merger of his kingdom in 1947. Thus, the rule of Dogra kings lasted for about seven hundred years, from 1822 to 1947.

Dogra stars who have shone in various fields

The Dogra caste people living mainly in Jammu and the surrounding states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are mostly Hindus. The word ‘Dogar’ is said to be originally derived from ‘Durgar’ or ‘Dugar’. According to one belief, the ‘Durgar’ people were the original inhabitants of Rajasthan, and the reference to ‘durg’ meaning fort in their name indicates that they would be warriors. The Dogras had as many as eleven territories under their dominion, which eventually merged into Jammu.

The Dogra language of the Dogra people is now written in the Devanagari script. Some films are also made in this language. The Indian Army has an isolated Dogra regiment, which has a long and flamboyant history. Maharaja Gulab Singh’s general, General Zorawar Singh Kahluria was also a Dogra warrior. Dogra warriors like Paramvir Chakra winner Major Somnath Sharma and Kargil war hero Captain Saurabh Kalia are very famous. Apart from the military, the Dogras have been shining in other fields as well.

The famous tabla player Ustad Allarkhan was a Muslim dogra. Maharaja Hari Singh’s son, Dr. Karan Singh, is a well-known politician. Names like actor Vidhyut Jamwal, singer-actress Monika Dogra indicate that they are shining in various fields. Poet and novelist Padma Sachdev was an important writer of the Dogri language. The Dogra people of a limited geographical area have made a name for themselves in various fields and have distinguished themselves.

Good to Know for a Perfect Trip…..

When to Go:

  • Jammu experiences extremely cold winters and extremely hot summers.
  • The weather is cool from September to April.
  • October to February sees the temperature begin to drop, with December-January being bitterly cold.
  • The spring season starts in March, and temperatures begin to rise in April.
  • May-June is extremely hot, while it rains a lot from June to September.

How to Go:

  • Jammu Tawi is the nearest railway station, well connected by rail to major cities.
  • Jammu city is connected with important cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Srinagar, and Leh by air.
  • The road transport bus service network is well extended.

Where to Stop:

  • Options available in Jammu include visiting the Mubarak Mandi Mahal, now converted into the Dogra Art Museum.
  • Various specimens of Dogra art, coins, ornaments, paintings, and manuscripts from various eras are displayed.
  • Miniatures painted in hill painting styles like Kangra, Jammu, and Basholi can be seen at the museum.
  • Mubarak Mandi Mahal is open to tourists daily from 10 am to 6 pm.
  • Jammu serves as a departure point for places like Srinagar and Katra, with many places of interest including Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and Christian places of worship.

Plus Know This:

  • Historical places like Akhnoor Fort, Amar Mahal, and Bahu Fort are worth visiting.
  • It is advisable to allocate a day for Jammu darshan en route to Srinagar.

Local Delicacies:

Enjoy local delicacies like Kashmiri dum aloo, rajma-chawal, kaladi kulcha, gul gule, kachalu chaat, patisa, and drinks like kava, sheer chai, and noon chai.


 

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