Himalayan Heritage Foundation

Center for policy research on Himalayan Region

Mubarak Mandi Complex - The Darbar Garh Vandalised

Mere visits and meetings of the ministers will not solve the purpose as we have witnessed over the years. It has only compounded the problem of vandalisation of Mubarak Mandi.

Written by: Dr. Mahesh Kaul || Posted in category: Tangible Heritage || Dated: 2016-09-10

Mubarak Mandi Complex- Darbar Garh

Heritage and culture suffer to the maximum possible extent as these  are objects of vandalisation when the society and the law makers; especially the political class does not internalize the importance of heritage in shaping the identity which they claim to represent. Mubarak Mandi located in the heart of the Jammu city in the winter capital of the Jammu and Kashmir state is not an ordinary structure  but an urban historic area that has shaped the  socio-cultural ,economic and political consciousness of Jammu region. It is a complex of ten palaces that emerged from time to time in the present space where its debris are witnessed by those who visit this place.

It’s architecture and landscape defines the evolution of the fertile mindset of the rulers of the Dogra dynasty who shaped the geographical and political boundaries of the modern state of Jammu and Kashmir in the Himalayas amid both internal and external designs to destabilize the northern frontier of India.It is an exquisite blend of the best art forms and architecture that were prevalent during the times of the construction of the various palaces  both locally and in  the neighboring states. As the name itself reveals that it represents everything  that falls under the parlance of “Mubarak” in local lexicon meaning “auspicious” but who are well aware of the strategic vision of the rules of the Dogra dynasty know well it is the soft side of the royal writ that meant safety of its subjects and officially it is the “Durbar Garh”-the royal seat.

The reality of the destruction of Mubarak Mandi gets compounded exponentially every year with an addition to its vandalisation in spite of the claims of the continuous state governments that its restoration and preservation work is going on.

A few days back a major portion of the “Toshkhana” complex was destroyed by the monsoon rains of immense magnitude leading to the further annihilation of the portion that had  already suffered due to a  fire incident  and led to the evacuation of the various heritage assets including the precious items and weaponry from the site. It is pertinent to mention before this fire incident Mubarak Mandi has witnessed 35 fire incidents major and minor from time to time.And none has been subjected to any inquiry at the official level.

Even after the constitution of the Mubarak Mandi Heritage Society and evacuation of the government offices after the J & K High Court order, vandalisation of the heritage complex has not stopped. Collaboration with the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) keeping in view the expertise of the organization in the upkeep and resourcefulness at the national level  in the heriatge areas has failed.The reason being the lack of sensitivity of the local political class to give free hand to ASI to safeguard this heritage complex.

Mubarak Mandi cannot be restored to its pristine glory and grandeur till the challenges to its restoration in terms of preservation and conservation are not identified and addressed. Adhoc constitution of societies will not serve purpose till the incorporation of the reputed and experienced experts from various fields ranging from conservation to architecture, history to sociology, tourism to disaster management is taken on priority. It needs a multidisciplinary approach. Involvement of all the stakeholders is the need of the hour.

As mentioned above that Mubarak Mandi is not a simple historic structure but an urban historic area which has in its bosom the socio-cultural evolution of the urban landscape adjoining its space. It ranges from the Chowk Chaubutra on one side and the Radio Station located at the Panjtirthi on the other side of the Jammu city. Its area has been shrunk due to encroachments and unsympathetic constructions that have come up from time to time.

It has violated the heritage character of the complex and led to the isolation of this heritage landmark that gives cultural identity to the Jammu city in particular and the Jammu region in general.

If the policymakers are serious to restore this heritage treasure to a  certain time frame in the conservation and preservation parlance accepted worldwide in terms of the charters and modules framed by ICOMOS,ICCROM and UNESCO then they need to work on the threats to this already vandalized and waning heritage treasure of Jammu region.
Mubarak  Mandi faces threats or challenges at two levels:
* Human Threats
* Natural Threats

Human threats constitute in the misuse of the complex when the local people use Mubarak Mandi as parking space and insensitivity towards the heritage character that includes the theft of the structural material besides the disfiguring of the walls and other artifacts. And the incidents of fire that have engulfed this complex more often. This has resulted from misuse of  unattended electric connections people like vendors present in the area and certain other inhabitants who occupy its various spaces .

Not only the common masses that lack the sensitization of heritage and its secular reuse but it is  sad  state of affairs that even the custodians of this treasure have indulged in vandalisation in the name of modernization of the complex

Sometime back Tourism Department of the state was inflicted with wild “innovative” idea to demolish the central marble platform in the main park of the complex. The reason given for the demolition of the platform that was structurally and strength wise totally safe  by the officials was that it was not suitable to conduct cultural programmes on it, so it had to be leveled to the ground and new structure constructed. Without realizing that any part of the complex that was constructed during the evolution of this complex from time to time constitutes the natural socio-cultural aesthetics of the complex. It is clearly defined in the international guidelines that demolition of the pre existing  structures and use of incompatible  material for renovation is another form of heritage vandalisation.

Moreover,the ethno religious conflict that has engulfed this state for more than two decades has affected the policy making. It is reflected in adoption of unhistorical names for the historical places. As heritage interpretation is being subjected to convenient interpretation  due to lack of adherence to standard procedures.

Natural threats include the present one  like the heavy rains that washed away the major portion of the Toshkahana Complex a few days back.Moreover, earthquakes that are witnessed from time to time in Jammu and Kashmir for being located in the fragile seismic zone makes the heritage that is already vandalized more vulnerable.Cracks and ruptures have already inflicted this complex due to these earthquakes. As the complex has not been subjected to comprehensive restoration. unwanted weeds have overgrown in the complex structure due to monsoon rains and seasonal changes leading to further deterioration of this heritage treasure.

Mere visits and meetings of the ministers will not solve the purpose as we have witnessed over the years. It has only compounded the problem of vandalisation of Mubarak Mandi as the solution lies in adopting the strategy of Heritage Manag-ement.  It should incorporate the involvement of all stakeholders as mentioned above at proper intervals in a time bound manner. So that benefits of heritage are accrued to all stakeholders in terms of multiplier effects of the heritage tourism in Jammu region. It will enable a self sustaining mechanism for the sustained conservation, preservation and restoration of the urban historic complex called Mubarak Mandi and more precisely, the Durbar Garh.

(The author is Chairman, Himalayan Heritage Foundation)


Keywords: Mubarak Mandi. Darbar Garh, ICOMOS, ICCROM, UNESCO, Jammu,Socio-cultural aesthetics, Tourism Department