Influential Duggar Women

Ashok Sharma
Duggar is the land of warriors, statesmen, intellectuals and social workers. Alongwith Dogra men, Dogra women – from low/ middle strata families and Royal families have also proved their mettle in every sphere and rose to the occasion as and when the times demanded. Many Dogra women have played an active role in times of turmoil, aggression and peace and their names figure in the annals of Dogra History but it is not possible to pay tribute to each one of them in a single writeup. In this writeup, I have given a brief description of some of the illustrious Dogra women who are remembered in folklores and historical accounts for their acts of bravery, patriotism, social service, sacrifice and wielding considerable political influence in the times they lived.

Follow the Daily Excelsior channel on WhatsApp

Koki Devi: Koki Devi’s real name was Kokila but she was fondly called Koki. She was born in the village Kulidh in Kishtwar when Rai Bhan Jai Singh, the illustrious son of King Salhan and Queen Koli ruled over Kishtwar around 1525 AD. Worried by his conquests and uniting the neighbouring rulers, Nazuk Shah, the then King of Kashmir, ordered his Commander- in- Chief Mirza Haider to attack Kishtwar. In 1547, Mirza Haider, accompanied by commanders such as Koka Mir, Mohd.Magrey, Mirza Mohd.Idi Raina, etc marched with arms and soldiers and set up a camp on the bank of river Chatroo which was in spate at that time. Alarmed by the developments, Rai Bhan called his Army Commander Narain Padiyar and ordered him to face the enemy. As Rai Bhan came to the Choughan, he saw, among many young volunteers, a young girl seeking his permission to attack the Mughal Army to save Kishtwar. Rai Bhan was surprised at her bravery and allowed her to fight the Mughal forces to save Kishtwar. Koki Devi went all alone but Rai Bhan despatched forces to hide in the forests, fight the Mughals and protect Koki at the same time. Koki went all alone and from a distance, saw that Mughal forces, equipped with swords, spears, guns etc preparing to move ahead to climb the steep ascent of Sangam Bati, along a zig zag narrow path, which was so narrow that only one person could walk ahead and below a stream was flowing. There was a spot on the path, which had a blind curve and the person moving ahead couldn,t see the person moving behind him. Koki Devi, holding a spear in her hand, hid herself at this spot behind a flat stone called Bhuji Pal. As a Mughal soldier crossed the blind curve, Koki would kill him by thrusting her spear and he would fall into the stream below. In this way, Koki Devi killed many soldiers. As the Mughal Army Commander found the climbing soldiers missing after that spot, he was alarmed. He moved ahead to see the things for himself but Koki thrusted her spear into his belly and letting out a loud cry in pain, he fell into the stream. The Mughal Forces were frightened and they retreated back in fear to save their life. In the stampede that followed, many soldiers died by falling down the mountain into the flooded stream. Those who survived were either killed by Rai Bhan’s forces hiding in the forests or retreated to Kashmir. In this way, Kishtwar was saved from the Mughals. Rai Bhan was very happy and he honoured Koki with rich gifts. The tale of Koki’s bravery is still popular in Kishtwar.
Mali Bi : Mali was born in the region of Rajouri- Poonch of Jand K. She was not well educated but she was brave and farsighted lady. In 1971,one day, as she was grazing the cattle, she spotted some smoke coming out of some abandoned dhoks (temporary houses where nomads take their cattle in summer) located on snow clad hills. It was an unusual activity as none came to the dhoks in winter. Least frightened, she put her cattle in a safe place and went to the site. She peeped into one of the dhoks in the snow clad region,from where smoke was coming out. She saw some well armed soldiers cleaning their guns. She was convinced that they were not Indian soldiers but Pakistani soldiers who had intruded into the Indian territory with the nefarious designs of carrying out subversive activities and attacks. She decided then and there that she would not let their evil plan materialise. She talked to the local people but none believed her. Then she hurried to the nearby Army camp and met the Army officers but none could understand her as she could speak her mother tongue only. Then with the help of an interpreter, the Army officers talked to her and were satisfied that there was something wrong. The Indian Army came into action and arrested / neutralised those intruders and many more well in time and defeated their nefarious designs thus averting a major attack on the Indian territory. For this act, Mali Bi was awarded Padma Shri by the Indian Government in 1972.
Krishna Mehta : Born in Kishtwar in a reputed family, Krishna Mehta was an educated and intelligent woman. Her grandfather, Mangal Mehta was in the administrative service of Jand K Govt. and served as Governor of Ladakh. As she grew up, she was married to Duni Chand S/o Ganga Ram of Kishtwar. At the time of partition, she, alongwith her two sons and a daughter lived in Muzaffarabad where her husband was serving as Wazir-e- Wazarat. As the Tribals and Pak Army personnel in the guise of civilians marched towards Muzaffarabad on November 22,1947, after occupying Kotli, Mirpur, Bhimber and a part of Poonch,her husband established contact with local Army Commander of the State Forces, Col. Narain Singh who had only a few soldiers with him. He faced the enemy bravely but some of the soldiers were in contact with the Pak intelligence agencies and did not cooperate. So, Muzaffarabad fell into the hands of the tribals and they killed Duni Chand without much resistance.
After returning to India, she was deeply impressed by Gandhian Philosophy and established Gandhi Sewa Sadan at Jammu and remained its President for many years. She gave work and protection to poor women and encouraged the use of Khadi Industry by establishing various institutions such as Himpuri Gandhi Sewa Sadan Kishtwar and Khadi Gram Udhyog Sangh in Allahabad. She was also nominated for Lok Sabha in 1957 from Jand K and she raised the problems of women and Dalits in the Lok Sabha. Her younger brother, Om Mehta too served the people of India as an M.P. and Minister in the Union Government. She left the mortal world on October 20, 1993 at the age of 80 and as per her wish,the ashes of this daughter of the soil were immersed in Chanderbhaga near Bhandarkot.
Naratu Devi : Naratu Devi was a girl born in a scheduled caste family in Sudh Mahadev in Chenani. She was married at a young age and her husband too died at an early age.Chenani was a Jagir ruled by Raja Ram Chand of ‘Anthal’ dynasty. Raja Ram Chand used to suppress those who dared to oppose him. He opened many shops and ordered the people to purchase everything from him. It angered the people, the shopkeepers and the public rose in revolt against him. Initially, the revolt was led by the youth and Hindu Mahasabha but later it went into the hands of National Conference. In 1945, NC deputed Dinu Bhai Pant to Chenani. He wrote a revolutionary song and the revolt spread to all the villages. In August 1945, a meeting was organised in Sudh Mahadev and the leaders sought the support of women in revolt against the King. It was here that Naratu stood up and assured full support of women folk against the king. She was inducted in the party and the people later resolved that she would lead the revolt against the king. Later Dinu Bhai Pant read out a poem’ Bol Jawana Halla Bol, Bol Kissana Halla Bol’ which infused new spirit and enthusiasm in the people.It was decided that no tax would be paid to the king which made the king furious.Naratu and her women Army thrashed the ruler’s men when they went to collect tax and they returned to Chenani. After some days when Naratu was returning from Haridwar after immersing the ashes of her deceased daughter in the holy Ganga, she was arrested at Chenani and put in the prison.But the people in large no. raised slogans such as ‘ Free Naratu’, ‘Break the Prison’ etc to free Naratu from the prison. Naratu was presented before the king and she was charged with sedition, beating the officials of the King, disobedience of the orders of the king and breach of peace which Naratu and her lawyers vehemently opposed. The king said that he would pronounce the judgement after a week.On the 8th day, when the king sat in the court, he set Naratu free , after arguments by the lawyers. When she came outside, she was profusely garlanded and Dinu Bhai Pant sang a song ‘Tuuyei Jot Jalai, Naratu shernieye, Khalgat shuri Jagai, Naratu shernieye ‘Duggar ki Aithasic Naarian’ by Prof.Shiv Nirmohi. She was taken to Sudh Mahadev in the form of a procession.
When she heard that Aruna Asif Ali who had taken active part in ‘Quit India Movement’ was visiting Chenani, she was very happy and keen to meet her but Aruna was not allowed to go to Chenani. Later Jai Prakash Narayan also came and advised the king to give up power. Then the people thought of a noble plan to put pressure on the king. A large no of people with children and women decided to leave Chenani and let the king rule. Dinu Bhai Pant again wrote a song and Durga Devi, an associate of Naratu sang it : ‘Tuaen jee Jaalma, as door chaley, Tu aen rao Papiya, us Door Chaley’. When the crowd reached Udhampur, the people from Udhampur too joined and the delegation wanted to meet Maharaja Hari Singh but they were stopped at Birma Pul in Udhampur. Later the poltical situation changed and the Britishers left India. Chenani was merged in the state of JandK and the King went to Himachal Pradesh. While many leaders were honoured by the new Government, none rememberd Naratu and she died in 1948, unsung.
Maha Devi: Maha Devi was the daughter of Rana Krishan Pal of Basohli. As she grew up, she was married to Kunwar Kishore Singh S/o Mian Jawahar Singh near Purmandal. In due course of time, she was blessed with three illustrious sons named Gulab Singh, Dhyan Singh and Suchet Singh. She inculcated in them great qualities which helped them achieve great name and fame. All of them started serving in the Khalsa Army under Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Gulab Singh was a great warrior and he successfully led many operations of Khalsa Army. Later he laid the foundation of Jand K state in 1946. Dhian Singh rose to the rank of Prime Minister in Khalsa rule under Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Suchet Singh was given the Jagir of Ramnagar. Rani Maha Devi was a religious minded lady and built temples at Mahanpur, Utterbehni, Purmandal and Sui. She was the epitome of selfless service and compassion and lived a simple life.
Maharani Tara Devi: Born in 1913 in Himachal Pradesh,Tara Devi was married to Maharaja Hari Singh. She gave birth to Karan Singh on March 09, 1931 and became famous as ‘Raj Mata’. She wasn’t much interested in politics but during World War 2,when Maharaja Hari Singh supported the English Forces and fought on behalf of them, she established a women’s club in which women would assemble in Ajaibghar and sew clothes for the soldiers with due encouragement by the Maharani.She was a great social reformer and started the tradition of ‘ Kanya Pujan’ of girls from Harijan families. In 1947, when Pakistan soldiers and tribals entered various parts of Jand K state and let loose a reign of subversion, rape, loot and barbarism, she, alongwith Maharaja Hari Singh and Yuvraj Karan Singh, rendered all help to the refugees and displaced people who had come from Mirpur, Kotli, Bhimber, Poonch, Rajouri, Sialkot, Lahore etc. Many other organisations also came forward to help the people in distress. When she saw that some forces were hellbent on disturbing peace in Jammu,she also set up an organisation of Armed women named Maharani Seva Dal. Despite limited resources, Maharani Seva Dal rendered commendable service which was lauded by great leaders and intellectuals including Lady Mountbetten, Gen K. M. Cariappa and then Defence Minister S. Baldev Singh.
Maharani Charaki: Maharani Charaki was born at Birpur, about 16 Kms from Jammu. She was the fifth wife of Maharaja Pratap Singh. Maharani Charaki was very beautiful and she used to help a lot the poor and orphan girls in getting education. She also took keen interest in the religious and social affairs and constructed a pucca pond, Shiv temple , Radha Krishan Temple and a palace at Birpur. After 15 years of marriage, she was blessed with a male baby who was named Kashmir Singh. But as ill luck would have it, he died when he was just 6 months old, which shocked the Maharani.Then, the couple adopted Jagdev Singh, the Prince of Poonch as their son. Two teachers from Punjab were engaged to teach him and his Mundan Ceremony was performed with great joy and happiness. When he grew up, he was married to the princess of Trilokpur. On the 6th Ashwin Navratra in 1925, Maharaja Pratap Singh breathed his last which left the Maharani shocked and wailing. Hari Singh was crowned as new Maharaja of Jand K State. Maharani Charaki lived the life of a recluse after the death of Maharaja Pratap Singh. She would hardly go out from her Charaki Palace in Mubarak Mandi complex and used to wear a white saree.
Other women from Duggar who wielded considerable influence include Rani Rakwal who was Maharaja Gulab Singh’s wife. She was born in the village Chak Rakwalan in Tehsil Udhampur.She was a religious minded lady and took active part in building temples, bowlies etc. It was under her instructions that a palace was built at Udhampur in the memory of her eldest son Udham Singh who lost his life at Lahore. She had great faith in Devika and on her orders, her son Maharaja Ranbir Singh built a grand Raghunath temple on its bank at Udhampur. She also built an inn (‘Sarai’) on its bank and a bowli called ‘Rani ki Bowli ‘at Gangera in Udhampur. Rajmata Bhutiyal was the wife of Raja Amar Singh and mother of Maharaja Hari Singh. She was the daughter of Raja Pratap Singh, the last king of Krimachi. She too was a religious minded lady and helped in solemnising the marriage of girls belonging to poor families.
She built a big bowli at Salmerhi in Tehsil Udhampur in 1931 on the demand of the local people. Other eminent Dogra women who gained name and fame in their times by taking active part in various fields include Rani Chimbhali of Bhimbher, Rani Bhallo (Mother of Raja Nagpal of Bhaderwah), Rani Manila (wife of Raja Bhupal of Rajapuri), Numberdarin of Pandkhalar (who boosted Raja Brijraj Dev and he regained his lost kingdom of Jammu), Rani Bandral (4th wife of Maharaja Ranbir Singh), Rani Seeba ( wife of Ranbir Singh and mother of Maharaja Pratap Singh, Raja Amar Singh and Raja Ram Singh), Rani Kalhuri (2nd wife of Maharaja Ranbir Singh), Rani Blowria (3rd wife of Maharaja Ranbir Singh), Rani Guler (wife of Raja Jagat Singh of Poonch), Bua Bhaggan who revolted againt Raja Lal Dev of Jasrota for levying high taxes on the public) etc. Thus, the land of Duggar was blessed with many heroic and selfless women who rendered commendable service during their times.
(The writer is Sr. Lecturer in English (Retd.) SED, JandK)