Bahu Fort Continuously crumbling

Col JP Singh, Retd
There is a fort in Jammu (J&K) with which the history of Jammu is said to have begun. It is situated on the left bank of Tawi river and is called Bahu Fort. This fort is said to have been built by Raja Bahulochan originally sometimes around 1000 BC. Due to various battles, changes of rulers and weathering, the monument is considered to have continuously suffered damages and decays over the long period of over three thousand years. The present fort was rebuilt, probably at the same location as the ancient fort, by Autar Dev, the grandson of King Kapoor Dev in 1585. Over the years the fort underwent demolitions and reconstructions from time to time. Maharaja Gulab Singh reconstructed the present fort in the 19th century, which was refurbished during the rule of Maharaja Ranbir Singh. Damages due to weather conditions continue even today.
History of Bahu Fort
According to a legend, a Raghuvanshi descendent, Agnigarba of Ayodhya, who was living as a recluse, came to Nagarkot (Kangra) in Himachal Pradesh. When the Raja of Kangra came to know about his ancestry, he offered him the hand of his daughter and a part of kingdom. The river Ravi was then the Northern boundary of Nagarkot. Agnigarba consolidated his Jagir, crossed Ravi and captured some villages in the Kathua area and declared himself as sovereign king. Later he became a powerful ruler of his time. After his death, his son Bayusharva married the princess of Parole (Kathua). The princess was known as Eirwan. She died young. The Raja founded a city in her memory which is still found near Parole, though now a small village called Eirwan. At the Samadhi of the queen, a fair is held on every Baisakhi. Bayusharva extended the boundaries up to the river Ujh. Bayusharva’s great grandson, Bahulochan was enthroned after his death. He migrated from Eirwan and built his fort on the left bank of Tawi river and made it his centre of power. That fort came to be called as Bahu Fort.
Layout of the Fort
The fortified structure has thick walls made
of sandstones built with lime and brick mortar. It has eight octagonal towers (gumbaj) connected by thick walls. Each gumbaj has enclosure to house watchmen. The main entry to the fort is big enough for the entry of an elephant. A water tank with access for pilgrims to take bath and to bathe goats for offerings to goddess is located on the left side of the passage. This tank is 20 X 20 X 15 ft in size. It was a drinking water pond during monarchy. There is a very thick walled pyramidal structure on its right flank which was an ammunition store. There is an underground chamber which was used a prison. There is a secret exit to escape from the fort. To the right of the temple there are few halls in ruin which must have been assembly halls and office of the Quiledar (administrator of the fort). The royal stables were also located within this fort.
Genesis of Jammu
The Principality of Jammu existed between Lahore and the valley of Kashmir since the olden times. But its origin remains shrouded in mystery, as is the history of the people inhabiting the territories in and around it. But Jammu city with magnificent fortresses, temples and shrines in and around it stand testimony to its distinct cultural identity as it existed in the olden days when this area was referred to as Dogar Pardesh. Some try to trace the origin of the name Jammu from word “Jambudwipa’, a combination of the words Jambu and dwipa (island). The famous Chinese traveller Huen Tsang describes the valley of Pamir as the centre of Jambudwipa. Some attribute the name to Jambavantha or Jamwant, the Risharaja (the king of the Bears in the army of King Sugriva in Ramayana), who is said to have meditated in the Peer Kho Cave on the bank of Tawi River. The popular belief is that Jammu owes its name to Raja Jambulochan and traces it to his genealogy.
Building of Jammu City
Bahulochan died in a battle with Raja of Sialkot. Since he had no son, his younger brother Jambulochan (1320-1290 BC ) ascended the throne. In those days the area beyond Tawi, the present city of Jammu was a dense jungle and was used for hunting. The building of the city is linked to another legend. Raja Jambulochan, once, on a hunting trip across river Tawi, witnessed a miraculous scene of a Tiger and a Deer drinking water in a pond, at the same place, side by side, without Deer getting scared / threatened of the Tiger. The scene he witnessed at that site represented peaceful co-existence. The Raja considered it as an auspicious site and a divine direction to establish a city and his capital there. He, thus founded a city on the Right bank of Tawi which later got named after him as Jammu. He moved his capital in the area now called Mubarak Mandi. Since the centre of power shifted to the other side of Tawi, Bahu Fort may have necessarily suffered the trepidations of time, attention and neglect.
Mahakali Temple
There is a temple within the precincts of Bahu Fort which is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Kali, the presiding deity of Dogra rulers and present day Jammuites. Dogra rulers constructed this temple for their deity. Goddess moorti (statue) was brought from Ayodhya. Locally the temple is known as ‘bave wali mata da mandir’. It receives lots of visitors. Tuesdays and Sundays are special days of worship at the Temple. Today the fort is more of a religious place rather than a monument. Self and Er. Madan Dogra met Sh. Hemant Magotra, a head priest of the temple, on one of these auspicious days, who graciously narrated us the story of the ancient monument and recommended ‘History of Bahu Fort by Mr Goswami’ be read for detailed knowledge of the subject. We also assessed cause of collapse of the fort wall. The Temple is said to have been built during the 8th / 9th century but it looks modern. It stands on a 4 ft raised platform which can accommodate only few worshippers at a time. In the past animal sacrifices were practised at this temple. Today a priest performs a few rites uttering some religious mantras and sprinkles holy water over the goat and lets iit go free. Shaking off the sprinkled water by the goat is considered auspicious and fulfilling of wishes of the devotees.
Bahu as a Recreational Place
The fort rests on the rocky left bank of Tawi river at a height of 1066 ft above the sea level. It is on a high plateau overlooking serpentine Tawi and show-casing commanding view of Jammu city resting on the opposite high plateau. The hill slope that surrounds the fort has been developed into a well laid out recreational Park called Bagh-e-Bahu, developed on the lines of the Mughal Gardens. The garden attracts large number of local and outsider visitors. Substantial renovation and additions to attract visitors have been made during recent years such as well maintained garden, amusement park, a wonderland, an aquarium, a lake with boating facilities and a cafeteria for refreshments. Bahu Aquarium is one of the best in Asia.
Bahu Mela
A popular Hindu festival known as Bahu Mela is held in the fort area twice a year during the Navratras which attracts a very large number of pilgrims. During the festival time, the area is decorated and special stalls are opened near the fort area selling various items such as sweets, flowers, incense, coconuts, red cloth chunari etc for special offerings to the deity in the temple.
Damage Due to Rain
On 18 August 2013, about 100 ft portion of the fort wall facing Aquarium collapsed due to many days of heavy rains. Cracks exist in the adjoining areas of the collapsed wall. Some of the reasons for the collapse of wall learnt from various sources could be, (i) reduction in the angle of repose slope due to construction of Aquarium and the lake very close by, (ii) water seepage in the wall, (iii) disproportionate lofty height of walls and towers with much lesser width and similarly shallow foundation width, (iv) lesser depth and width of foundation of the walls and poor quality material used in the foundation laying, (v) overall neglect of the monument.
The fort has been declared as heritage site by the state govt. JDA has undertaken repairs of last year’s collapsed wall under the supervision of Archaeological Survey of India for which Rs. 65 lac has been allotted. There is a proposal to link the fort with an aerial rope-way to Mubarak Mandi to make it more attractive tourist destination. The monument requires continuous repairs and maintenance.