Historical town of Karnah

K D Maini
Karnah was the biggest Tehsil of Muzaffarabad wazarat before partition. After the turmoil of 1947, Line of Control was established in the heart of this wazarat which divided it into two parts. Karnah tehsil was also divided. Presently 16 square kilometers area of Karnah is located on this side of the LoC excluding its Dhoks and forest areas. The area is having the status of a Tehsil. It is 75 Kilometers away from Srinagar. It is a small valley between Shamasbari and Karanu series of mountains.
Karnah is an attractive scenic track in the western corner of the Kashmir valley in between mountainous ranges of Qazi Nag and Nanga Parbat. This area is full of natural splendour and comprises of high mountains, snowy peaks, forests, scattered houses and habitations on the slopes of mountainous ranges, Dhoks and Margs with favourable climatic conditions. The area is known for brave, courageous and tough Pahari people, Gujjar Tribes and Kashmiri speaking ethnic groups. Their colorful lifestyle, unique hobbies like talwar bazi, lath bazi, sweet and melodious folk songs attractive dances and their delicious cuisine are characteristics of Karnah. The natives represent distinct ancient civilizations and believe that they have five thousand years old historic background.
Before partition Karnah was the biggest tehsil of Muzaffarabad Wazarat located in Kashmir Province. In those days, Titwal was an important township and trade center located on an alternate pony route linking Srinagar with Rawalpindi and Muzaffarabad. This was the shortest route between Srinagar and Rawalpindi. Therefore, Titwal was an important trade mandi from where rajmash, apricot, honey, skins of sheep and goats, wool blankets and ghee was exported to Rawalpindi while salt tea, gurd, naswar and cloth was imported. The wholesale traders of Titwal mostly Hindu Khatri had their reputation in the whole area.However, after the turmoil of 1947 and LoC was established Karnah was also divided. Now Titwal exists exactly on the Line of Control. Its original natives and wholesale traders left the township and it lost its glory and turned into a deserted area.
With the division of Karnah, the relatives, friends and ethnic groups were also separated from each other and they could not meet for about 58 years. It is a fact that the area across the Neelam River which is a dividing line also faces this side of Karnah area. Therefore, the people of both sides can see their relatives on both sides of the river but cannot meet.
It was only on 26th November, 2003 when first CBM came into effect that the people of Karnah of both sides got great relief. They got so enthusiastic that on 26th November they gathered on both the sides of the Neelam River and started exchanging good wishes. Keeping in view the public sentiments on 29th November 2003, on the eve of Eid festival, with the consent of army of both the sides, the people of both sides were allowed to meet at Chalaina. After the earthquake of 8th October, 2005 on the request of the people of Karnah the Titwali-Chalaina route was opened on 12th November, 2005 to the divided families.
Raja Shahid Sujiat writes in one of his articles published in Shamasbari that history of Karnah travels with the history of mankind. The legend goes that this area was inhabited by Raja Karan of Mahabharata who named this track on his own name as Karan-Nah (means pertaining to Karan). With the passage of time the name changed from Karan-Nah to Karnah. Dr. Sabar Afaqi a renowned scholar of POK writes in his book ‘Muzaffarabad’ that Lord Krishana had also visited Karnah.In memory of his visit, the river passing through Karnah was named as Krishan Ganga. Abdul Rashid Qureshi writes in one of his articles that on excavation a number of articles of historic value were recovered in this area. These related to Hindu civilization. Between Tangdhar and Gabra there is a mound known as Karnu. It is said that this place was the capital of Raja Karan. The ruins of the palace of Raja Karan are still available at the site.
After thousands of years of Mahabharata, Budhism spread in Kashmir including Karnah. During the rule of Raja Ashok in 273 B.C. a University was established in Karnah area on the confluence of river Madhumati and Kishan Ganga which was known as Sharda University.
This university was located in Darava area of Karnah at the foot of Nanga Parbat. In 141 BC fourth Buddhist conference was organized in this university for the spread of Buddhism. This conference was attended by Emperor Kanishka of India. Sharda Script was also introduced in this university to spread the Buddhism. However, after the downfall of Buddhism, Hinduism again prevail in this area. They constructed a temple of Sharda Devi in this university.This is still located in Darava area in between Sharda and Nardha Mountains now in POK.
Karnah remained a part of Bamba Sultans of Muzaffarabad for a pretty long time when Bamba sultan Muzaffar Khan of Pukhali established his principality in 1644. In those days, Gabra was an important place of Karnah and its territory was spread up to Drava and Sharda in North, Lipa to Margali in the south and Titwal to Shamasbari. Molvi Hashmat Ali wrote in Tariekh-e-Jammu and Kashmir that in 1790 Muzaffarabad was ruled by sultan Mehmood Khan. After his death Muzaffarabad principality was divided by the decendents of Sultan. Then Karnah came under the rule of his second son Nasir Ali Khan. He got his palace constructed at the foot of Karanu Mountains. After Nasir Ali his son Mehraj-ud-din and grand son Mansoor Ali Khan became the sultan of Karnah.
Then his son Sheer Ahmed Khan took over as ruler of Karnah. He was a strong personality and fought a number of battles with Punjabi and Dogra forces. In 1819 when Maharaja Ranjit Singh conquered Kashmir, Sheer Ahmed did not surrender and started resisting the Punjabi forces.
Then the ruler of Karnah, Sultans of Muzaffarabad and Rajas of Uri and Kathai revolted against the forces of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. To crush this revolt Sardar Hari Singh Nalva was appointed the Governor of Kashmir by Punjab Darbar in 1821. Nalva alongwith Punjabi forces moved towards Ilaka Pahar and crushed the revolts of Khakha and Bamba tribes because there was no unity among the local Rajas. C.E. Bats writes in ‘The Gazetteer of Kashmir’ that due to differences among local Rajas, Hari Singh Nalwah captured all these principalities like Uri, Kathai, Karnah and Muzaffarabad. However Raja Sheer Ahmed Khan did not accept the defeat and continued struggle against Punjabi forces.
In 1846 during the rule of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, Sheer Ahmed Khan again appeared in Karnah, revolted against the Dogras and captured the whole area of Karnah in the North of Krishan Ganga and Dogra forces were stopped at Chogal. However, the Moiz Din with the help of Dogras chased Sheer Ahmed Khan and in one battle his son Mohd Azeem Khan was injured. Then Sheer Ahmed Khan again left Karnah with his family.
Later on Mohd Azeem Khan appeared before the court of Maharaja Ranbir Singh and requested for the release of Jagir Karnah. The demand was not accepted by Maharaja. However, Maharaja allotted a small village Yaripura in Kashmir valley to Raja Sheer Ahmed Khan with restriction that he will not go to his native principality Karnah.
Then Raja Sheer Ahmed Khan along with his son and family migrated to Yaripura and passed his last day of life there.
It was his desire that after death his body be burried at Gabra in Karnah. However, when Sheer Ahmed Khan died Maharaja did not allow his burial at Gabra. Therefore, he was buried at Yaripura near a Ziarat with the decision of the family that after the permission of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir state, his body would be shifted to Karnah. However, on that never happened and the grave of Raja Sheer Ahmed Khan, the pride of Karnahis remains burried at Yaripura.