Of Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Dogri

Dvigarta Dogra

Recently Govt. Of India passed a decision to include Dogri as one of the official language of Jammu and Kashmir which has got appreciation in the entire Jammu region. Recognition of Dogri as official language was the one of the long awaited demand of the Dogras of Jammu . This demand finally got fulfilled after a wait of several decades.
In this context let us remember Dogra Maharaja Ranbir Singh Jamwal (son of Maharaja Gulab Singh) who dedicated his life for promotion of Dogri language, literature and culture.
Maharaja realized the importance of Dogri as a mass media for dissemination of knowledge and education. He gave the language official status by recognizing it as court language on equal status with already existing Persian language. Persian was introduced in Kashmir in the reign of Zain Al Abdein of Shah Miri dynasty. Since then it was continued by Mughals, Afghans and Sikhs. It were only Dogras who finally shook off the yoke of foreign rule and introduced use of own language as soon as they became autonomous.
For promotion of Dogri, Maharaja got its script standardized on the lines of Devanagari script. The modified form of the script came to be known as Namme Dogre Akkhar(New Dogra letters) as against the older version i.e.Parane Dogre Akkhar . Standardization made the script fit for purpose of litho and typo printing which was extensively done afterwards for preparing books for official use and school studies.
Dogri classes were started at Raghunath Mandir Pathshala. Sons of Nobles and respectable citizens were ordered to learn Dogri. For this purpose, scholars were provided free board and lodging as well as free books and uniform as an incentive. Maharaja himself examined the progress made by each student by visiting Pathshala every week and awarding students.
Frederic Drew notes that “New Dogri is used for petitions that are read before Maharaja and for this purpose it has replaced Persian on which petitions were written when I first came to Jammu”
Dogri script became so popular that it was used in all official publications of the state done from Patwar rules, to civil, penal and military codes in force in the state. Many a times, publications were made bilingual i.e. in Dogri and Persian. Dogra script was also used in stamp papers, currency, postal stamps & postal obliterations. Those who did not possess working knowledge of Dogri, 10% was deducted from the pay of such employees in govt. offices.
Not Only this, a number of Dogri books were printed for use in schools and public libraries. A number if manuscripts were transliterated in Dogra script. Jyotishi Vishveshwar (the then principal of Raghunath Pathshala) transliterated a Sanskrit Mathematical treatise “Lilavati” into Dogri. Another voluminous work “Vyavhar Gita” (an analogy to Bhagavad Gita) was also composed by him. Kaviraj Neelkanth Sharma wrote two Ayurvedic books “Ranbir Chikitsa Sudha Saar” and “Ranbir Prakash” in Dogra script. Sanskrit works like Amar Kosh and Persian book “Kareema” were also translated into Dogri. A Dogri school primer “Vidyarthiyon ki Pratham Pustak” was also published. Books on topics like military were also written in Dogri. A book each on Musketeer Regulation and Tent pegging were published in Dogri. Army law was published by the name of “Sri Ranbir Sainik Dand Vidhi” and Civil & Criminal law by the name “Sri Ranbir Dand Vidhi”.
But unfortunatelyafter his death, British pressurized the govt to adopt Urdu as official language. Initially the proposal of introducing Urdu was to mainly replace Persian language with Urdu/Hindustani language. Even after this move, Dogri and Hindi were regularly featured in official stamps of Jammu & Kashmir. Dogri got final blow after the end of Dogra rule and Urdu imposition by successive governments.
Now is the perfect time to revive, reclaim and cherish our heritage. Govt must certainly work for promotion of Dogri language and Dogra script in Jammu region. Recently Dogras of Jammu demanded to include Dogra script at Katra Railway Station and major tourist spots of the division. A 24×7 DD Duggar channel was so demanded by Dogras preservation and promotion of Dogri language and its sister dialects in the Jammu division. Hope the future of Dogri language is bright ahead.”