Raj Thara The Royal seat of Coronations

A view of Raj Thara building. Excelsior/Rakesh

Shiv Chander Sharma
Thousands of people daily pass through a famous road related to Dogra Kings in the old Jammu city which connects Parade Road and Purani Mandi Chowk and is known as Raj Tilak Road but hardly anyone knows why this road has been named as Raj Tilak Road. In the heart of the walled city in Jammu there is a locality which is called as Purani Mandi and it has a building which many a people still call as Raj Thara.
Since coronations of Dogra rulers were held at this famous building it is still called by this name of Raj Thara. When people walk in this busy market, it is difficult to observe this Royal seat of coronation as it has become a busy commercial hub, mainly a market dealing with the garments and other items related to females.
Raj Thara, an ancient building, now replaced by a new construction has remained the royal seat of Dogra rulers for many centuries and was the place where the Raj Tilak (coronation) ceremony of the Dogra kings was performed from 1361 AD to 1926 AD except few kings including Maharaja Gulab Singh, who was enthroned as king of Jammu Raj by Maharaja of Punjab, Ranjit Singh on 16 June 1822 on the banks of mighty river Chenab at Jia Pota. Even the last Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh was enthroned at this place in 1926 AD while the first ruler coronated on this seat was Raja Mal Dev (1361 AD to 1400 AD). Adjoining to this building is a locality named Kali Janni.
The naming of this locality has an interesting story which is related to first Dogra ruler of Dev Dynasty, Raj Mal Dev, who ruled Jammu principality from 1361 AD to 1400 AD. It is believed that he had brought a huge black stone weighing several quintals lying on his palm while coming from the bed of river Tawi after taking bath. People still discuss this story even in the present times.
As the black stone is not generally found in Jammu and it may have appeared rare to Mal Dev. He was so fascinated to see this boulder that he lifted it on his palm and brought it near to his palace and placed it at the side of a lane, said 65 years old Puran Singh living in the area. Since then, this locality used to be called as Kali Janni.
He is believed to be the founder of present Jammu city and his area used to be called as Raje Ki Mandi and he had built his palace in and around Purani Mandi, which, however, have been replaced by cement concrete structures in present times. Only one structure still remains there which is known as Raj Thara at the Purani Mandi Chowk. After Maharaja Gulab Singh built his Palace and Courts at present Mubarak Mandi, the old Raje Ki Mandi used to be called as Purani (old Mandi means old royal palace or seat).
Just near the place where the ancient huge boulder was placed by Raja Mal Dev, there once existed a Haveli of Rajputs hailing from village Kanachak, near Jammu city since they also belonged to the Dogra royal family, Shiv Dev Singh of Kanakchak said adding that he had stayed in the Haveli for many years during his college days. But now a large hall and building stands adjoining to it and hardly any evidences of the Haveli can be seen which was intact till last few decades.
Now this area has become a commercial market and being located very close to Chowgan Fattu (Now Patel Bazar) people come here for shopping. However, till date some of the houses in Kali Janni locality are very old but majority have been converted into cemented buildings. A nullah also flows below the main lane of the Kali Janni which leads to Mohalla Paharian on Raj Tilak Road, he said.
The present building of Raja Thara, no doubt, has been renovated in the recent years but still some part of it is old and seems to be have been reconstructed at the same place in about 18th century AD. However, there is no doubt that the original building of Raj Thara was also at the same place if one watches the entire locality carefully, said Dr Dewan Chand, a historian. Now a busy market dealing with the items mostly related to females and children named Patel Bazar or Fattu Chowgan gali, once this place has seen the valour of Dogra kings.
The first Dogra ruler of Dev Dynasty, Raj Mal Dev, who ruled Jammu principality from 1361 AD to 1400 AD, is believed to have set up this locality as royal seat which was called Raje Di Mandi by the people. However, when the Mubarak Mandi royal complex housing royal courts as well as residence of the kings came into existence as new royal headquarters during the rule of first Maharaja of J&K state Gulab Singh in 1846 AD, the old royal seat started to be called as Purani Mandi (Old Mandi) since new Mandi had emerged. (In Dogri language Raje Di Mandi means the royal seat).
Raja Mal Dev was the king who had brought back the capital of Jammu Raj to Jammu in 14th century AD as earlier the capital had to be shifted from Jammu to Babbapura (Now Babore) on Dhar-Udhampur road, due to frequent invasions of many invaders.
The lifting of such a huge stone on the palm speaks about how powerful was Raja Mal Dev who had tall muscular body. He is also believed to be the founder of present Jammu. He had built his palace in and around Purani Mandi which, however, have been replaced by cement concrete structures. Only one structure still remains which is known as Raj Thara at the Purani Mandi Chowk.
Surinder Singh, another resident of the locality engaged in business said that the many families of the Rajputs belonging to royal clan and royal courts had settled at Purani Mandi and adjoining Kali Janni locality and still live there since last many centuries though the old structures have been replaced by new buildings. He said that now this area has become commercial hub but once it was altogether different during the royal period.
In front of Raj Thara building, a park has been developed in the recent years for the residents of the area which was once a busy grain market but in the year 1989 this market was set ablaze by unscrupulous elements. For many years this place remained as garbage dump between two famous temples, Panch Mukhi Hanuman temple and Ram Mandir in Purani Mandi. However, with the coming up of a beautiful park, people have forgotten the ugly scene of burning of this once always busy market.