Jammu of 1880

Sunny Dua
“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” ?
Edmund Burke
This adage has today become more or less relevant because of the fact that there’s nothing that we have left to be known as ‘History’. Out on a rampage to demolish and destroy our past, we in Jammu and Kashmir State are virtually heading towards an era where we will be soon made to repeat history as said by Burke.
Nevertheless, there still is a ray of hope in the form of some human beings whose hearts beat for this state and its lost treasure. Some private as well as government collections of art pieces, literature and pictures while are enough to take anyone down the memory lane and abreast him/her with Jammu and Kashmir State, a 1880-90 Jammu map on a piece of cloth dated AD 1880-90 and belonging to company period, Punjab, Circa housed in National Museum of India at Delhi has a lot to tell about Jammu of yesteryears.
Today when finding a solution to complex traffic, administrative and housing issues besides water scarcity; way back in 1880 Jammu City located on the bank of river Tawi had one of the finest systems of governance in place leaving little or virtually no scope for any inconvenience while dealing with such complexities. Still important was that people were living in such a composite culture that their cultural, regional or religious diversities never became any hurdle in their prosperity. And strangely this all could be found in this map of 1880.
This painted piece of cloth pasted on paper, 128X208 cm is a revenue map, an engineering drawing and a piece of art – all drawn together. The map depicts geographical features of City of Temples, its slopes, River Tawi, green forest cover, water bodies, roads, streams and all government as well as private buildings of importance thereby suggesting that the city was well located, well nurtured and very well governed to the utmost convenience and satisfaction of its subjects.
The multicoloured map also depicts localities of different traders, a well laid down sewerage system, water reservoirs and canals, bungalows and Havelis of rich and famous, pilgrim centres, army and civil areas, cantonments besides Dhakis (Slopes) and beautifully painted stairs leading to temples and Maharaja’s palaces. A visit to the Museum is must for the simple reason that one is sure to know how Jammu city existed and how much self-reliant it was during that era.
The water reservoirs which today stand converted into parks or parking spaces have not only been painted as well maintained but well laid out and evenly distributed in the city and its peripheries to cater to the needs of city people and its environment besides augmenting ground water or serving the purpose of feeding domestic animals. Ghrats (Water Mils), cleanly visible Dewan Mandir; the entrance of which is still intact on ground zero could be very well located on the map. Shop lines scattered in the city reveal how the planners were concerned about conveniences of people.
Like any medieval period map, this too is not to the scale but the map or fine piece of art definitely portrays original character of Jammu city wherein its history, structure of society, religious thrust, economy and political set up, strategic positions, important personalities besides various civic amenities have been artistically drawn and coloured.
Very important structures like Pentagonal Government Mandi, long row of shops, the Urdu Bazar, other commercial key-positions like bazaar ‘Maga’, Kanak Mandi, Mandi of firewood and timber, Purani or Old Mandi, ‘Chhapekhana’ or the printing shops, ‘Mishtri Khana’ or the market of mechanics, ‘sarain’ or the inn of Vedanti Shah have all found a place in the map which has also been labelled in Urdu.
Though, a few aged persons would be able to connect people of Jammu and Kashmir to that Jammu of 1880 through this very important map, yet for majority of next generation boys and girls this could be nothing but a piece of art. It is said that a picture says a thousand words and this perhaps holds true for this map which is housed in National Museum and has houses and bungalows of Jammu’s elite marked and drawn in most beautiful manner. The owners of Havelis like Virji, Miyan Jagat Singh, Badri Nath, Miyan Manjit Singh, Sardar Itar Singh, Pandit Ram Kiran, Raja Moti Singh, Mahate Sultani, Dhaki Gomtiwale etc have all been drawn and labelled in the map showing how important these people were and how they, irrespective of their caste or religion contributed in the society.
This map takes one to the 19th century Jammu wherein one could gather details about well developed trade and market system. ‘Bari Pandita’ or the enclosure of Brahmins, Mohalla of ‘Chudian’ or the ward of sweepers, locality of ‘Jogian’ again reveals that Jammu had a strong caste-based society but despite that the importance of people and societies was as important as any other. Saying that it was a well knit society wouldn’t be wrong.
It was believed that Jammu was a Hindu dominated city yet the shrine of Jay Sheikh Jahar Auliya, tomb of Miyan Sahib, Mosque, Madarsa and cemetery, the Kabristan all existed here and have also been depicted in the map which shows religions coexistence. Most interestingly, the city that remains choked with traffic had a wonderfully developed transport system and well laid network of roads and lanes. The cable bridge on river Tawi was not only centre of attraction but its brickwork and cables were not less than London Bridge which was later demolished for no reasons.
Interestingly the defence structures like Kotwali for civilian security, Maheshi Darwaza for cantonment and artillery, cantonment and artillery of Begum, cantonment of Dhyan Singh, the Prime Minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and Dhohal Khana or the Drum House were all there and find a mention in the map which again states that Jammu city was fortified and remained prepared for any invasion. The date of this map is believed to be sometime in between 1860 to 1870.
The massive bridge on river Tawi was named “Khata Gallat”, as per the map. A small rivulet has been marked in Urdu as “Yeh Nehar Bagh Bhulami Ko Jaati Hai’ (This river goes to Ghulami Bagh) on the map. This again signifies that water reservoirs and ponds named as Talab Rani or Talab Khatikan besides rivers and streams were very much a part of Jammu city that helped people harvest water for meeting their needs.
The map says that one of the reservoirs is attributed to Rani of Jhansi and the other to Wazir Sahib Lajiyo. People like Miyan Sahib owned private ponds for bathing his elephant. It is also said that Rani of Jhansi had also visited Jammu which is evident from the fact that the map marks a temple and a water reservoir constructed by her, obviously, in memory of her visit to the place. Rani Jhansi, it is believed had visited Jammu around 1850 seeking support for her mission against British rule.
Royal mansions like Kothi Sarkari, Royal Palace, the Mahal Sarkari and Treasury, the Toshakhana are other buildings of significance have also been marked and drawn in colours to enable one to detect the places of importance right on the map itself. Believed to be a map drawn for the reference of Maharaja, the flawless piece of art is worth a watch and if possible a copy of same must also be brought to Jammu for people’s viewing.
The map mentions that “Dhyan Singh, the Prime Minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, is known to have shifted from Lahore to Jammu after 1849, when with his help British power was able to capture Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s part of Punjab. After Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death Dhyan Singh had betrayed all his three successors. Obviously the cantonment of Dhyan Singh, mentioned in the map, could have come into existence only after he had settled in Jammu”.
Now that this map is open for viewing, the opportunity must be seized for the reason that those who will choose to forget the past will miss out on its fullest potential. There are valuable lessons to be learned from it. However, those who will desire to ask the right questions about their past will most likely be prepared to live life to the fullest in the present.