Time to Revamp Dogra Heritage

Dr Sudershan Kumar
Seventy three years ago, the date of 26th October 1947 marked the beginning of a new era in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, when the then Maharaja Hari Singh, signed an Instrument of Accession with the Government of India. This accession was finalised under the hovering menace of the Pak invaders. As per the working mechanism evolved at that time, the power was handed over to the Kashmir centric leadership and Maharaja Hari Singh moved to Mumbai, where he lived until his death on 26th April 1961. Subsequently, the then Kashmir leadership ignoring the census report of 1941, delimited the constituencies in an arbitrary manner, becoming oblivious to the large scale demographic turmoil in erst while Jammu & Kashmir state.They allotted more seats to Kashmir valley there by tilting the power centre in favour of Kashmir leaving the other two regions viz Jammu and Ladakh high and dry. Further the articles 370 and 35A were inserted into Indian constitution to provide the special status to the people of erst while Jammu & Kashmir state (now bifurcated in to two union territories Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh). This also brought an end to the 101 year old Dogra rule in princely state of Jammu & Kashmir. But ironically , while going through the perspectives of various historians, the present state of Jammu & Kashmir’s existence is the consequence of the valour and heroism of the Dogra warriors who fought and conquered small independent Kingdoms of Kashmir valley, Ladakh, Gilgit Baltistan and Skardu under the banner of Sikh empire. Therefore, it becomes even more imperative to acquaint our younger generation with the origin, history and culture of the Dogras. The term Dogra emanates from the name of the region -Durgara: “the name of Kingdom mentioned in 11th century copper plate in Chamba”. The Indo Aryan ethnic Dogri speaking Dogras historically inhabited the slopes of Shivalik range lying between Surinsar and Mansar lakes and later spread across the whole of Jammu region and largely to Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. It becomes pertinent to mention here that this race remains the age old martial race having earned its name as the bravest warrior clan in military history. They are inhabitants of the whole of Jammu region and part of Himachal Pradesh since centuries and are known as “Dogras. Talking about their qualities and persona, Dogras are basically introvert,peace loving, tolerant, simple and true nationalist people but concurrently, valiant, steadfast, reliable and battle hardened warriors. Their valour has been exemplified since ages especially during Mughal, British and Sikh period. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan conferred the title of Sher Afghan to Man Chand of Guler and his family name suffix Chand was changed to Singh(Means lion). Various legends, who made a mark in Dogra History are:Mian Nath, Rup Chand, Man Singh, Raja Basudev, Jagat Singh Pathania, Chander Bhan, Raj Singh Chambial, Raja Suchet Singh, Ram Singh Pathania,Maharaja Gulab Singh,General Zorawar Singh,Maharaja Ranbir Singh, Maharaja Pratap Singh, Maharaja Hari Singh, Chainasias, Bandrals, Sambyals and many others whose names have gone into oblivion. Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a great warrior, strategist and a renowned psychologist gauging the indomitable might of Dogra race and recognizing their valour gave them important positions in his Durbar. With the support of Raja Gulab singh and General Zorawar Singh he could extend his empire up to central Asia. In fact General Zorawar Singh prepared nearly 5000 Dogra soldiers for high altitude mountain warfare and made them battle hardened through acclimatization and training. He than proceeded to conquer Ladakh via Kishtwar. He conquered Ladakh,Gilgit Baltistan, Skardu and entered 539 miles in Tibet. His extraordinary feat is still considered by many in Western world a myth, but it was a hard core reality. Besides the sacrifice made by Brigadier Rajinder Singh by saving Kashmir from Pak intruders is another example of the indomitable courage, strength and bravery of Dogras. Besides, there were many Dogra soldiers, Junior commissioned officers and officers who while serving in Maharaja’s state force( now a part of Indian Army as Jammu & Kashmir Rifles) laid down their lives while defending their motherland whose names have gone down unremembered.
Unfortunately, post-independence, the Kashmir centric leader ship, which ruled the state for nearly seven decades turned a deaf ear to issues pertaining to Dogras. More weightage was being given to Kashmiris while neglecting the other two regions in terms of connectivity, health care, education employment and even tourism.Thus pushing the Dogra heritage into a slumber leaving this valuable treasure to its own fate. Even the sacrifices made by Dogras were not recognised. This continued till the abrogation of articles 370 and 35A from Jammu & Kashmir State and bifurcation of the erst while state in to two Union territories viz Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh. In fact the article 370 not only created regional imbalance but also perpetuated and nurtured radicalization and separatism in Kashmir valley at the behest of Pakistan. Now it is high time for the people of Dogra land to wake up and work arduously for the restoration of the pride of Dogra Warriors and also work towards over all development of the Dogra land( Jammu region) keeping in mind the needs of all communities Hindu, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and others who are residing in Dogra land peacefully since centuries. They must thwart the nefarious designs of Pakistan and anti social elements who are bent upon in disturbing peace in the region. The steps needed in this direction are: First, and foremost is to acknowledge and felicitate the sacrifice made by Dogra warriors for protecting the motherland against external aggression. The authorities should take up the case for awarding the highest battle honour “PARAM VIR CHAKRA” to Late Brig Rajinder Singh and similar honour to Late Brig Usman.
Secondly, the regimental centre of the force, raised by Dogra rulers and had been the part of Dogra rule for more than hundred years, which was earlier located at Jammu (Satwari) from the year1932 to 1951 shifted to first Gawalior (Morar) and subsequently to Jabalpur needs to be reinstated and shifted back to Jammu region. The veterans of the state force(now part of Indian Army) should take up the matter with Colonel of the regiment and other appropriate authorities. This will open new employment avenues for the Dogra youth and inspire them to join the armed forces in large number. Third, the various monuments symbolic of the Dogra Heritage especially Mubarak Mandi and other forts scattered in different locations in Dogra land need to be conserved. The historic Mubarak Mandi complex reverberates the buried legacy of the Dogra rulers as it is from here that they ruled till 1925. It encompasses a number of historical buildings including Pink Hall,Sheesh Mahal, Durbar Hall complex and many other buildings. Over the years , its glory is fading due to rains,fire, earth quakes further compounded by the complete neglect of the State Government. Although some meager efforts are evident to repair it but that too at a snail’s pace. It is high time that the new regime in Union Territory take up this task to restore its glory on a war footing and make it one of the most attractive tourist spot in line with George Washington’s palace in USA. To further adorn it, endeavors be taken for showing documentaries on Dogra History and stories of their valour to tourists.
The walls of this splendid building be embellished with paintings depicting the battles fought by Dogra Warriors. Fourth, the paintings of Basholi and adjoining area of Kathua district once famous for unique style of fusing Hindu mythology with Mughal miniature techniques and folk art of local hills need to be invigorated. The time is apt now for its promotion at national and international levels and the present regime should work out a package to revive this fine art and provide incentives to local artisans to restart this work which their ancestors were doing. Furthermore, it is a matter of pride that Dogri along with Hindi, Kashmiri and English has been made as the official language of state. Education department must evolve a short term and long term plan for introducing Dogri script for teachings in schools.Efforts should also be made to teach “Dogra HISTORY”in schools as one of the subjects. Last but not the least, the regime under LG must explore the possibility of tapping unexplored tourists spots of Jammu region. Many such areas like the waterfalls of Bani, flower gardens of Banjal, springs of Chandel in Kathua district and Noore Chamb(named after Noor Johan) in Poonch District, picturesque beauty spots in Bhaderawah district and many other historical and religious places in Jammu region, can be a great tourism luring areas. For development of these tourist spots bottom up approach has to be adopted including the improvement in connectivity, establishment of huts for staying and wider publicity through print media, and tour packages. The author is of the view that those who are living in the Dogra land(Jammu region) should join hands and work in consortium towards restoring the Dogra pride and glory.