Our heritage reminds us of our glorious past, the wars we won, the kingdoms we built, and the legacies our forefathers left behind. And Jammu and Kashmir houses some of the boldest stories of warrior kings and clever politics.
We must learn about our past and take pride in it. Modern times have propagated western ideologies that have our citizens questioning their existence and relevance in today’s world. To destroy this imported narrative that the East is weak, and India is weak, J&K has started a series of works to restore its ancestry. It began with the declaration of a holiday on the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh by the Home Minister this October.
Across the world countries erect structures and monuments displaying the finest architecture that showcases their past grandeur, their art and culture, values, and lifestyle. And that is what the administration has in mind for Mubarak Mandi Complex in Jammu.
Mubarak Mandi was the Royal Record Office during the rule of Maharaja Ranbir Singh (1857-1885). It is situated in the old walled city next to the Tawi river. It was the main seat of the Dogra Dynasty till 1925 before Maharaja Hari Singh relocated to the Hari Niwas Palace in northern Jammu. All the classified and other important royal documents have been preserved here.
In 1947, the Government of India brought the Complex under the State Archives Department. The Department holds the distinction of being one of the oldest Archival Repositories in the subcontinent with a record dating back to the Mughal period (1724 AD). There are nearly 14 lakh files of administrative and historical importance. Some documents from the 17th century are in the form of rare copper sheets written in the Sharda script. The archive has about 6 lakh manuscripts and 27,000 old books collected over centuries. History lovers including foreigners have been visiting this facility for decades for its rich material. Many important records are being digitalized for greater access.
The resurrection of the complex will help immensely in tourism generation. The restoration work across India of historical structures has attracted a large audience lately. Hence there is no question that Jammu’s Mubarak Mandi Heritage Complex will not be the upcoming favourite destination of explorers.
It will teach people about the Maharajas, the generals, and the warriors of the Dogra era, their military strategies, political astuteness, and values that assisted them in ruling this strategic region for so long.
The complex has 25 heritage buildings along several courtyards. The plan is to transform the space into galleries depicting the timelines and achievements of all the celebrated contributors of Jammu and Kashmir. Besides the glorification of the past, the complex will also be an introduction to our future to the onlookers. It will have dedicated spots for the display of cuisine, culture, arts, etc., of the erstwhile undivided state including, Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral dominions.
In 2006 the J&K Tourism Department approved the conservation plan of the complex and the Center released funds for the same but due to political turmoil and ineffective administration, inaction settled fast. In 2019 a comprehensive ‘Conservation and Adaptive Reuse Plan’ for the Complex was prepared by international consultants and approved by the government at the cost of Rs 65 crore. The work will shortly begin for the Central Courtyard, Durbar Hall, Dogra Art Museum, Raja Amar Singh Palace, Raja Ram Singh Palace, and Mahals of Raja Ram Singh’s Queens.
The complex will be divided into six zones: Zone 1- Central Courtyard which will take the centerstage; Zone 2- Knowledge Centre that will facilitate exhibitions, conferences, and libraries; Zone 3- collections of paintings, armoury, sculptures, etc.; Zone 4- lifestyle galleries of the royals and different regions; Zone 5- architectural marvels; Zone 6- crafts centre.
On December 3, the Directorate of Tourism organised a mega cultural extravaganza at the Mubarak Mandi Palace Complex, a part of the ‘My Town My Pride’ program ongoing in J&K. These festivities are taking place in the old city area for an immersive experience of the indigenous culture.
As Mubarak Mandi gets a new lease of life, the curse of underdevelopment and the cloud of depression will be lifted. The complex construction also has the added benefit of being raised at the time when the Jammu Smart City Project is in full swing.
With the fillip to the education and economic sector in the Union Territory, her people have started to trust themselves again. Their morale and enthusiasm are on cloud nine and this energy must be converted into tangible social and economic outcomes.
Chairing the governing body meeting of Mubarak Mandi Jammu Heritage Society last week, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has asserted that the responsibility of the complex is his top priority. He said that the conservation efforts will reflect the true historical, artistic, and aesthetic values of Jammu-Kashmir Virasat. The restoration of the last-standing legacy of the Dogra Dynasty will mark the beginning of Jammu’s resurgence in the mainstream.