Rajeshwar Singh ‘Raju’
Ironically, whatever we say, seldom we follow. It has been tragedy with us, the Indians in particular. When it comes to preservation of ancient monuments of historical relevance, everyone will say with one voice that it’s our duty. But, what we do in real terms is quite paradoxical. After Independence, we have given step motherly treatment to our ancient monuments.
One such monument is the very beautiful Fort situated almost 16 Kms from Nowshehra and about 126 Kms from Jammu, winter capital of J&K State at Qila Darhal, from where Kotli, Pakistan Border is 17 Kms approximately.
The ancient Fort of Darhal called Qila Darhal has a very significant history. It is said that the fort was built during the 18th century when the king of Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the ruler of the state. At that time, When Fateh Ali Khan, an Afghan invader planned to attack Kashmir, Maharaja Ranjit Singh decided to march to Kashmir through the shortest route and Darhal area route was selected.
For the comfort of Punjab Army, a Qila was constructed here under the supervision of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s minister, Wazir Mokam Chand. Later on when Maharaja Gulab Singh was made ruler of Jammu & Kashmir by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the fort of Darhal also came under Dogra Ruler.
The fort has been a source of inspiration for patriotism and instinct for Independence. In 1947, when raiders and Pakistan Army attacked the region, Sikhs of nearby areas Lam and Qila Darhal along with their spouses and children took shelter in the Fort and fought the battle with the enemy right from the Fort to defend their motherland.
While the enemy captured Rajouri and reached Nowshehra, numerous attacks were repulsed in Darhal by the brave civilians as they held the ground from September 04th 1947 to October 28th, 1947 till arrival of the Indian Army.
On October 28th, 1947, a fierce battle ensued in the area of Darhal Fort wherein heavy causalities were inflicted on the enemy. During this action, Jathedar Ram Singh, Hukam Singh, Sohan Singh, Suchan Singh and Pritam Singh laid down their lives. Even women being led by Sardarni Bhagh Kour fought with enemy very bravely from the top of Fort.
After that the fort has become an integral part of the sacrifices made to preserve Independence. To fondly remember and commemorate the heroic deeds of civilians and army personals for saving the day, 28th October is celebrated as Qila Darhal Defense Day ever since.
In the memory of the supreme sacrifices made by villagers & army Personnel, a memorial has been made to immortalize the sacrifices. Shaheed Garh (Qila Darhal) War memorial made at some distance from Fort stands tall as a testimony of bravery and sacrifices. The twelve feet high marble and granite super structure on a four feet high platform showcases the names of all army personals and civilians who achieved martyrdom in the areas of Jhangar and Lam since Independence.
It’s a fact that Fort of Qila Darhal has played an important role in safeguarding the independence of region. The Fort being built at quite a high place on the top of a hill covers an area of almost 14 Kanals.
The fort has 5 wells which are 8-10 feet deep and are best sources of rain water storage. It has a Gurudwara too. It has all the potential to emerge as a perfect tourist destination. Picnics of Colleges and Schools are regular features but this place needs development desperately to emerge as a tourist spot.
Sardonically, The Fort Qila Darhal needs immediate renovation. It has been in dilapidated condition and if not preserved at an earliest it will collapse completely. The central Government and State Government should take care of these monuments. We should be honest to our ethnicity. The roots have to be preserved at all costs. When efforts are being made to explore all possibilities to know each and everything of ancient civilizations world over, we are under an obligation to protect our monuments too. Archaeological Department should come forward for this noble cause.