Valley of Mandhol

River Poonch enters Pakistan occupied Kashmir a few hundred meters ahead of village challas which faces the main city. After flowing down stream for a while its span becomes wider and depth decreases consdierably.  Along the route of the river on the right flank there is a cluster of villages  seprated from each other by few kilometers. Some of these villages are Jhavda, Basni, Tetrinot, Tatapani and Rakar. Nestled among these places and at a distance of about 15 kilometers from Poonch city is located the famous village Mandhol. In the pre-1947 days village Mandhol was part of tehsil Mendhar. This area was very fertile and the inhabitants were mostly engaged in agriculture. They also indulged in business and had trade links with Kashmir valley and Rawalpindi through Hajipeer route. Because of their hard work in the field of agriculture and trade, people were very prosperous.
Village Mandhol was not only very fertile, it had also tremendous scenic beauty. Due to its close approximity with river Poonch, Mandhol had, for most of the year, very pleasant weather. Outside the village there were remains of a nine storey building popularly known in this area as Dera. It is said that Pandvas, during period of their exile stayed there for quite sometime and build this huge structure. Fine carved stones of this building were scattered over a large area . In addition, there was Mazar of a Peer which was located in a cemetery known as’ Jaran’ : Local people called this area by the name Takia’ There was also a small market with a few shops. For drinking purpose, there was a fresh water Chashma known as Pacci Bawli. Three streams were also flowing near the village Mandhol and ultimately merged with river Poonch.
During the pre-partition days Mandhol had the distinction of having a secular Indian culture.  People of all religions were living in a atmosphere of peace, love and brotherhood. Although majority of the people of Mandhol were Muslims, rest being Hindus and Sikhs, there was never any sort of communal tension. People of all religions attended each other’s religious festivals and marriages and also gave helping hands to their fellow natives in their hours of need. During havesting season majority of Muslims helped their Hindu and Sikh brethrens.
Village Mandhol, before the turmoil of 1947, had the distinction of producing outstanding personetities who made a mark in the field of administration ,medicine, police and acedemics. Most outstanding family of Mamdhol was Ishar family. The members of this family were the direct dissendents of Sardar Mehtab Singh, who, charmed by the beauty of the area made Mandhol his permanent abode.
Ancestors of Isher family originally hailed from Mathura and they were from direct linage of Maharishi Prashar. During the period when Mohd. Gaznavi was busy in his serial attacks and lootings of Somnath temple sometimes in the 11th Century, Isher family facing persecution left their native land. After a very long and hazardous journey ishars settled down in Abbotabad, Hazana in the North west frontier province of India. This area was mostly inhabitated by tribal Panthans who frequently indulged in violence and lawlessness. After spending a few years in Abbotabad in an atmosphere of uneasy peace Ishar, family shifted to Rawalpindi. It stared living in Mohalla syed. Here elders of the family constructed a huge haveli and purchased large chunks of agriculture! land.  Sarder  Sewa Singh was the first person from this family who was baptized as a Sikh. He took holy Amrit and became a staunch follower of the faith. His son S. Amar Singh joined the Sikh army of Maharaja Ranjeet singh and made a name for himself as a brave soldier. He attained martydom in the battle of Gujrat (Punjab) Amar Singh left behind his two sons, S. Mehtab Singh and S. Mohar Singh. S.Mehtab took a leaf from the life of his father and joined the Sikh army. He was attached with the famous Sikh cammander Raja Lal Singh Singhohiwale. In the battle of Multan, S.Mehtab Singh fought with exceptional valour and skill and helped his army to win the battle. He was badly wounded in the campaign but recovered soon. Maharaja was very happy with the deeds of S. Mehtab Singh in the battle field and bestowed upon him a number of rewards which included a sword which had the handle of gold.
No sooner he recovered from his wounds news came from the sadnooty area of Poonch that soodans led by khoon Alam and Umar khan had revolted and had started a reign of terror. S. Mehtab Singh joined a strong contingent of Sikh army led by S. Hira Singh which was sent to Sadnooty to quell the sookian rebelliar. S. Mehtab Singh once again rose to the occasion and exhibiting exemplary courage and bravery helped the Sikh army to put down the rebellion with a heavy hand. S. Mehtab Singh was critically injured in the campaign. From sadnooty he wrote a letter to Maharaja who was at that time in Rajouri. Maharaja sent a famous hakim of the area to sadnooty to attend to the wounds of the gallant soldier. He soon recovered from from his wounds and decided to go back Rawalpindi. But destiny had something else in store for him on his way back home. He passed through the  of valley of Mandhol which immensely fascimated him. Instead of going back to Rawalpindi , he decided to stay back. He brought his family and settled down at ihavra which was slightly away from Mandhol on northern side. But, later on, he brought down his family and permanently settled down in Mandhol.  After his death his three sons S. Partap Singh, S.Narian Singh and S.Hari Singh distinguished themselves in various field of life. Being the eldest son, S. Partap Singh succeed his father . He was- *a very intelligent and competent person. Raja Moti Singh of Poonch principality recruited him as a revenue officer and made him a tehsildar. Impressed by his honesty and working skill Raja sahib rewarded him with a Jagir consisting of 92 kanals.  S. Partap Singh was a pious person and after leading an eventful life left for his heavenly abode leaving behind five sons – S.Bagwan Singh, S. Sahib singh, S. Nand Singh, S. Sunder Singh, and S. Chatter Singh. Most prominent of his five sons was S.Bhawan singh, who later became a courtier in the Poonch Darbar.  S. Sahib Singh the second son of S.Partap singh died at a very young age. He left behind his only son S. Bhagat Singh who in the days to come became a distinguished citizen of Poonch and an outstanding police officer. Other three sons of S. Partap Singh – S. Nand Singh, S. Chatter Singh and S. Sunder singh were mostly engaged in agriculture and trade and contributed their might in the success storey of Isher family.
The second and younger son of Mehtab Singh was S.Narian Singh. He had only one son, S.Kirpal Singh, who was a very competent man. Because of his intelligence he was made incharge of properties of Isher family at Rawalpindi. S.Kirpal Singh fathered five sons- S.Balwant Singh, S.Raghunath Singh, S.Ramnik Singh, S.Pritam Singh and S. Jagdish Singh. In the years to come S.Balwant Singh and S.Jagdish Singh became very successful police officers. Their other three brother were also known figures of Mandhol.
The third son of S.Mehtab Singh was S.Hari Singh. He had two sons S.Perhlad Singh and S.Gajan Singh who were excommunicated from Isher family for violating the glorious traditions of their ancestors.
Prior to tribal invasion of the State, Ishar family dominated the area in and around Mandhol and enjoyed tremendous prosperity. In its rank were people like S.Gurbax Singh, who was a renewed Unani Hakim. There were also people like S.Bhagat Singh, S.Balwant Singh, S. Jagdish Singh and Dr. Surjeet Singh.
Tribal invasion forced the Isher family to flee the area where it had flourished. At the time of the exodus Ishar family was a big clan. It first moved to Poonch town, then its splinter groups shifed to places like Rajouri, Jammnu and kathua. Inspite of the fact that it left behind in Mandhol a rich empire of large chunks of agricultural land, big houses and cash, this family regained much of its lost glory in the years to come. It not only produced outstanding police officers, younger generation of the family made its mark in almost every field of public life be it Revenne, engineering, education, defence forces, medicine and administration. Prof.M.P Singh, the present vice chancellor of Jammnu university belongs to Ishar family of Mandhol. He is the grandson of S. Kirpal Singh.
(The author is a retired Professor of political science)