Col J P Singh
Jeo Pota, otherwise a narrow river bank bathing point, colloquially called ‘Jeo Pota Ghat’ lies in Akhnoor sub-division of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir on the Northern Bank of River Chenab. Jeo Pota Ghat got its name from the ‘Jeo Pota Tree’ under the shade of which a lengthy rituals of Raj Tilak Ceremony of Maharaja Gulab Singh took place on 17 June 1822. This historic event at this Ghat would always remain etched in the collective psyche of the people of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and most importantly the Dogras for whom it was a first concrete step towards the formation of geographically the largest princely state of India by the Dogras. The historic Jeo Pota Tree got uprooted due to floods in Chenab River in 1957, hundred years after the death of Maharaja Gulab Singh.
Akhnoor is the mythical ‘Virat Nagri of Mahabharat era’ and is one of the most significant place for its political, historical, spiritual, religious and archaeological sites in entire North India. Emperor of Punjab selected Jeo Pota to lay the foundation of Dogra Empire for the same reason. It was here that Maharaja Ranjit Singh crowned one of his ablest and favorite General Gulab Singh as Raja of Jammu on 17 June 1822. Why Jeo Pota was chosen for this solemn ceremony hasn’t been found specifically mentioned in any text but some reasons associated with historicity of the event are summerised below.
It is situated very close to Jeo Pota where Pandvas spent their Aghyatvas. As inscribed in the Gufa signboard, they served as servants of Virat Raj. Lord Krishana visited them in this Cave where they planned their war strategy and the future course of action, the consequences of which is their victory in Mahabharta is well known. Hence Jeo Pota has mythological connect with Mahabharata and establishment of new nation state. Hence laying foundation of a new kingdom at Jeo Pota wasn’t one of routine event. (Ironically social disconnect & dilapidated condition of the Cave takes away the ‘antiquity and divine connect’ of the Cave).
Magnificent and formidable Fort overlooked Jeo Pota representing the power of the state, which was to have bearing on the power of the new kingdom and political transformation in Jammu region. The construction of the fort was started by Raja Teg Singh in 1762 which was completed by his son Raja Alam Singh in 1802. Excavations around the fort by the ASI during 1991-2001 threw up relics of the 5,000-year-old Harappan and pre-Harappan civilisations. (This two-storey Fort and Palace is under the ASI’s jurisdiction since 1982 as a protected national monument. Although renovation of the historic Fort is said to be going on but nothing much is seen having changed except on river side face of the Fort-wall. Meager grant of funds is said to be reason for the neglect of such towering heritage).
Ancient Harappan sites and Buddhist monasteries from where spiritualism, wisdom and political power flowed were also in the closer vicinity. That gave the event its vision, vastness, purity and prominence.
Serenity of the River
The serenity of Chenab at Jeo Pota for a km length, otherwise turbulent and noisy up & down streams, is also connected to Mahabharata though less known in public. It was an ideal place in the summer months to perform the rituals of Coronation.
A small-scale excavation by ASI, at the River bank at Ambaran, near Jeo Pota in 2009-2010 exposed Spoked Stupa (Dharmchakra) and bases of other Stupas and walls of a monastery and important antiquities including large number of decorative Terracotta figures including heads, moulds of leaves and ornaments. The excavation revealed another significant finding that the foundation of eight Spoke Stupa which gave a further proof of a Kushana period construction, the likes of which have been found at Buddhist archaeological sites like Sanghol in Punjab and Nagarjunakonda in Andhra. This monastic complex not only served as important transit camp for the monks who were constant companions of traders’ caravans ferrying goods from the Indian mainland to Kashmir and further afield to the Central Asia, but also as center for propagation of Buddhism amongst the local hill communities.
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama of Tibet visited Buddhist monastic complex Ambaran in 2011. His majesty’s visit, gives a strong physical proof of a vibrant and distinguished culture of Akhnoor. His Holiness visited Akhnoor on 9 November 2011. He was very happy to see the ancient site of his own religion in J&K. He confirmed the excavations as one of the monasteries of Kushan period. Thereafter Ambaran shot into limelight, especially in Buddhist countries. Tibetan political head and spiritual leader’s visit established that Akhnoor is a place of entry of Buddhism in Northern India. Its wholehearted adoption by the hill and highland people during early years of Buddhism is also verified by this excavation. From Jammu region it was carried to Kashmir Valley by Majhantika during the reign of ‘Ashoka-the-Great’.
Aankhon ka Noor
Mughal emperor Jhangir called Akhnoor ‘Aankhon-ka-Noor’ after his sore eyes were cured with the cold water therapy of Chenab at Jeo Pota.
It was this place which was visited by Lord Krishna to meet Pandvas. Hence Jeo Pota was divinely blessed site and hence chosen for Coronation.
(i) Lt Governor Manoj Sinha should visit these exceptional heritage sites and promote heritage tourism in Akhnoor.
(ii) Civil society should take up a proactive stance and put pressure on the concerned State/Central Culture & Tourism ministry officials to take up immediate steps for restoration of ruined heritage at Akhnoor.
(iii) 199th Coronation Day should be celebrated at Jeo Pota on 17 June 2021 with proper corona protocol in place to enable mark the beginning of Bi-Centenary event. Public and the govt should enthusiastically participate in Bi-centenary Coronation Day celebration next year ie on 17 June 2022.
(iv) Directorate of Tourism should focus on Jeo Pota and Ambaran as heritage tourism sites.
(v) Jeo Pota’s Harki Pauri is site for immersion of Ashes. Site needs to be developed to meet the religious sensitivities of the public.
(vi) All Govt and non-Govt organizations, education institutions, sports authorities, social and political organizations should carry out various activities throughout 2022 in the honour of our founder ruler.
Coronation of Maharaja Gulab Singh at Jeo Pota has divine sanctity. Exceptionally religious, spiritual and historical places in closer vicinity were the witness to the transformation of historicity of the region. Year 2022 is bicentenary year of foundation of erstwhile ‘Jammu-Kashmir-Ladakh-wa-Tibet-ha’, the vast empire which spanned over 84,743 sq miles. Unfortunately after staying ramrod for over 100 years, it started diminishing with the dawn of independence. Yet the historic event needs to be celebrated befittingly at Jeo Pota each year. To make it memorable, public participation is very important which will give added importance to the identity to the off-shot UT of a magnificent empire.
Akhnoor has 3 Sub-divisions, 7 Tehsils, 8 BDO Blocks and 89 Panchayats. It deserves to be a District. A memorandum to make it District was presented by Th. KP Singh, Chairman Raj Tilak Celebration Committee to former LG, GC Murmu on 18 January 2020 at Akhnoor Dak-Banglow in the presence of Divisional Commissioner. People want civil society to take up this necessity of much needed administrative reform at all levels of hierarchy.
Col J P Singh