Adding to the grandeur of Poonch, a city rich in history, the historic ‘Poonch Fort’ in the middle of the town, is a beautiful tourist attraction, which despite its dilapidated condition, reminds of the greatness of the ancient architects and the rulers here. In its era, this fort was considered a symbol of grandeur. Today, it remains a witness to historical events which saw the rise and fall of many powerful rulers of its time. Its remains seem to be in a state of disrepair, but are still visible today telling the story of its glorious past to its present plight.
Spread over an area of 7535 square meters, this great historical building hides within its long walls the stories of the reigns of Dogras, Sikhs and Muslims. The fort was founded by Raja Abdul Razak Khan in 1713 but its construction was completed by his son Raja Rustam Khan between 1760 and 1787.
KD Maini, a well-known historian of Poonch, told Daily Milap that when the Sikh rulers ruled the region, they added a central block built on the Sikh style of architecture. Several years after its construction, the fort was renovated by Raja Moti Singh from 1850 to 1892. He called European architects to design the front part.
During the reign of Raja Baldev Singh, Poonch Fort was made the secretariat of the empire while the official residence was shifted to Moti Mahal. More than 220 years old, this fort displays unique architecture. Till 2005, many government offices were established in this fort. The devastating earthquake of 2005 caused severe damage to this building. Due to the earthquake, this ‘Pikaqula’ reached the verge of ruin and destruction. After this earthquake, funds were allocated several times for the repair of the fort, and the front part of the fort was repaired to some extent.
Even today, the office of the Tehsildar Haveli and the guard house are established in the fort, but the tragedy is that the large parts of the building. The walls of the section are slowly crumbling while people are still living illegally inside the historical fort and under the shadow of its walls.
Reminiscent of ancient architecture, this fort is now a tourist attraction despite the lack of administrative attention. Tourists coming to Poonch from other districts and outside Jammu and Kashmir are the first to visit it, saying that preservation and immediate restoration of this ancient heritage are very important to maintain the ancient and historical identity of Poonch. Preserving the fort in its original condition would be its real restoration.
Several local people say that the factors that led to the destruction of the fort must be kept in mind while rehabilitating it, including climate change, accumulation of rainwater, lack of drainage, growth of wild vegetation and especially human negligence are noteworthy. Now, what got destroyed cannot be brought back, but efforts can be made to restore and save what is left. Otherwise, the ancient and priceless heritage like Poonch Fort will be erased from the pages and will remain limited only to the pages of history books.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.