Prospects of Heritage Tourism in Jammu Regional of J&K

By Mahesh Kaul


June 2011

Jammu region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India represents the rich source of heritage that has remained untapped in terms of heritage tourism. The region has been the seat of the ruling dynasty of the state which came into being in 1846 as the amalgamation of the three regions viz; Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The lack of comprehensive policy and vision on the part of the planners and political discrimination meted out to the region by the ruling elite of Kashmir based political dispensations from time to time has relegated Jammu region to the background in terms of the heritage tourism development. In spite of the rich cultural legacy that matured into heritage assets ,the only solace lies in the pilgrimage tourism. It is a great paradox that more than 70 lakh tourists visit Mata Vaishnov Devi Shrine annually  but the planners have failed to extend their length of stay in Jammu as they have given no thought to broaden the tourism circuit of the region.

Prospects for the development of heritage tourism in the Jammu region of the Jammu and Kashmir state are immense as it is immensely blessed with bounty of not only the diversity in its topography but it has a culture that manifests itself in the rich heritage in terms of forts ,palaces, folk lore’s etc. The need is to create a heritage tourism product that enables the Jammu’s heritage, which is the direct derivative of the Sanskrit civilization of the Indian nation to be the foremost element of the economic upliftment of the region.

Evolution of Jammu and its heritage

Capital of the “Jammu Raj”, Jammu stands on the outer most range overlooking the Punjab, and a terminus of the Northern Railways was once considered most oriental and picturesque towns. River Tawi flows the narrow gorges below the town. The cliffs which guard the rivers at the heights are the store house of flora and fauna. When one looks over south and West from the lofty terraces of Jammu, Punjab Mountains rise from the east to north in the form of ridges having intervening valleys which rise gradually and beyond these lie Ladakh, Kashmir and Gilgit, the other constituents of the Jammu and Kashmir state. Jammu region acquired the name of Jammu during the middle ages and played important role in the politics and history of the north-western India.(Drew,1875,p.29) The original sources that give the detailed and accurate account of the evolution of the Jammu region are the Vanshavalis of the ruling families of the chiefs of the various dynasties. Dewan Kripa Ram’s Gulabnama and Rajdarshni of Ganesh Das Wadhera are the rich sources of the evolution of the Jammu region and its Sanskrit culture.(Charak,1983)

Archaeological excavations and records carried from time to time reveal that Jammu region is as old as the civilization of India itself .The sensational discovery of the proto-historic site at the village Manda in Akhnoor on the right bank of Chenab has proved the existence of the Harrapan red ware ,grey ware and black slipped ware .Pottery remains of the Kushan period both incised and plain includes terracotta figurines ,bone arrow heads ,iron daggers and copper antimony rods. These materials having cultural significance have been discovered at various sites in Jammu and Akhnoor as well as at the places like Tikri, Guru Baba Ka Tiba,Jhiri, Jafarchak,etc. These archaeological findings highlight the cultural development and evolution of Jammu from the Harrapan Age, about 2500 B.C. to the early Christian era.

The great importance has been laid down by the historians and archaeologists on the Akhnoor-Ambaran terracotta. The Buddha heads of various sizes and male and female heads with ornamental dresses and curly hair are of great interest and attraction. Akhnoor terracotta is of unique style free from the Graeco-Buddhist influence but there are certain indications that these may have the influence of the Gandhara School of art. Buddhist sites here are of great significance as here the remains of the Buddhist monasteries dating back to the Gupta period can be easily traced from the copper coins of about 500 A.D.

Akhnoor has also revealed how deep the foundations of the Sanskrit civilization of India in Jammu are. It can be judged from the shell inscriptions on stones found in the compound of the Kameshwara temple. In fact these are the pilgrim records engraved on the stones in the conch shell script dating back to 6th to 7th century. The use of these Southern characters by the South Indian pilgrims, the ardent devotees of the Lord Shiva establishes Jammu as the important pilgrimage centre for the adherents of the Shaivism. This has helped the rulers and people of Jammu to develop the culture which is based on pan Indian feeling. Ancient evidence that establishes the antiquity of the Jammu’s religion and cultural heritage is the trishula or the trident inscription found on the Shiva trishul at Shudh Mahadev. The writing consists of three lines. It is written in Sanskrit language and the characters belong to the north-western variety of the Indian alphabet of the 3rd and the 4th centuries A.D. These deciphered lines establish the contact of the Jammu region with other states of India.

The records of Jammu’s evolution as the centre of power and hence the cultural hub are not only confined to the vanshvalis and other documents available in the region only but can be traced from the rich sources of authentic literatures like Nilamata Purana and Rajatarangini-the authoritative and professional histories of the Kashmir.(Charak,1983,p.71-72)

The descendents of the rulers of the Jammu region trace their origin from the house of the Lord Rama, the heroic God of the Hindu pantheon .it is presumed to have descended through the famous conquerors Ikshvaku, Mandhata, Harish Chandra,Dalip,Bhagirath and Rama till Sudershan, the twelfth in descent from Rama,the hero of the Ramayana. Among the two sons of Sudarshan, Agnivaran and Agnigir,Agnigir migrated to the Shiwalik hills and reached the banks of the Ravi river in the present Kathua district of Jammu region.

These historical evidences and excavations establish beyond doubt the heritage value of the Jammu in civilisational terms and in no manner can be sidelined as it reveals the foundations not only of the Jammu’s cultural heritage but the civilisational boundaries of the Indian nation are well authenticated beyond any doubt.

Over the centuries his descendents developed the various clans of the nearly 22 hill principalities that ruled over the Jammu region from time to time. These ruling dynasties fortified the boundaries of the Jammu kingdom from time to time and it resulted in the building of forts and palaces, besides other buildings’ that serve as living monuments depicting the heritage of this region. The main attraction has been the construction of temples devoted to the various deities of the Hindu pantheon abounding every nook and corner of the region which has given the Jammu city the title of the city of temples

The main principalities that formed the part of the Jammu and the erstwhile “Jammu Raj” include the following:

• Poonch

• Rajouri

• Bhimber(Khari Kharyali)

• Akhnoor

• Reasi

• Gulab Garh(Deng Batol)

• Bhartul

• Banihal

• Kishtwar(Kashthawat)

• Chenani(Himta)

• Ramnagar/Bandralta

• Bhillawar or Basohli group

• Jasrota

• Mankot

• Samba

• Bhau

• Krimchi Bhuti

• Babbapur

These are the major principalities that form the part of the Jammu principalities not in terms of the territory but in terms of cultural contribution as well. The major art form that has gained national and international recognition is the Basohli paintings. (Kaul, 1993)

The reflection of the royal patronage of the rulers of these principalities is evident from the architectural style and paintings on the walls of the various palaces and royal buildings and the temples within the city as well as the periphery of the Jammu region.

The evidence of the royal cultural imprints is still clearly evident from the names of the places located well in the heart of the present Jammu city. The place where the Rajas of Jammu received the rajtilak or mark of investiture was popularly known as Rajtilak road.This place is now known as Purani Mandi. Purani Mandi is the spot where the palace of Jambulochan existed .The buildings in the Purani Mandi area are said to be erected by Mal Dev during the last quarter of the 14th century. Another historic urban city area of significance is Mubarak Mandi, it is a collection of palaces depicting the various phases of the Dogra rulers.The existing palaces in the Mubarak Mandi owe their foundation to Dhruv Dev and Ranjit Dev. The latter additions in the Mubarak Mandi are attributed to Gulab Singh. The ancient references regarding the town of Jammu are found in the Malfuzat-i-Taimuri which describes the invasion of Taimur in the Siwaliks in 1399 A.D. Tarikh-i-Kashmir-i-Azami refers to the Raja of Jammu during the period of 1417 A.D. (Charak, 1983, p.158-164)

Forts of Sambha, Akhnoor, Bahu, Jasrota, Hiranagar, Bhimgarh etc are just a few examples that stand as the majestic emblems of the Jammu’s pristine glory and military traditions which has few equals in the annals of history. The cuisine is another aspect of the cultural heritage that grows hand in hand with the development of the society and makes the food habits unique and reflective of the climatic conditions in terms of appetite. Jammu has its own cuisine that can add a flavor of ethnicity to the heritage and can give the fast food joints good run for money and taste. Ambal ,Rajmash ,tooda, malpure,babru etc. are a few delicacies that can be the unique selling proportion of the Jammu’s heritage if the it is incorporated as the function of the tourism business.

From the above analysis based on the cursory look at the development of history and the impact on the local populace of the royal patronage to develop the ,refined culture and heritage it clearly brings to the fore the availability of all the elements and ingredients that are required in the heritage tourism product.

This brief historical description of the Jammu region citing various incidents and references from the historical documents reveals the antiquity of Jammu with a sound cultural basis.

Part II

November 2011

Heritage as Tourism Product Heritage is the product of the cultural assets and values attributed to a particular community, group society or nation that has immense bearing on the day to day life of the human societies. To inculcate the heritage sense among the social groups should be the prime motivation in developing heritage as a specialized tourism product that can create tourist gaze in the destination area. The sense of cultural awareness is directly associated with the incorporation of heritage in the comprehensive tourism policy and its implementation. It is amply clear from the historical evolution of the Jammu region that the cultural canvas is immensely rich and includes almost every shades of tangible and intangible heritage assets that can bring the region on the heritage tourism circuit of the state .And not only that its cultural growth is clearly liked with the evolution of the Indian nation as the fountain head of the Sanskrit civilization.

The archaeological remains and excavations as discussed above remove all doubts about the Jammu’s importance in the development interactions with the people of the other parts of the country. The forts, palaces, temples and other shrines that form the part of the Jammu’s landscape are the living tangible monuments that have stood the test of the time and add flavor of sophistication to the geography and the matchless history of the Jammu region. The intangible aspects in terms of folk lore, dance forms, art and cuisines that have come down from generations and are still prevalent and relevant in the present society of Jammu add another feature to the cultural magnificence of the region.

Cultural heritage should take the significant position in the tourist supply of the Jammu region. Marketing activities should be directed towards this objective. It will immensely contribute towards the quality of the tourist supply and will help to significantly help to upgrade the value of cultural heritage .heritage cannot be handled by the raw hands of so called tourism exerts who have ventured into the business from bureaucracy and become overnight experts in the business without having the conceptual and technical insight into the sensitivities of the tourism in general and the heritage in particular. Heritage tourism can thrive only in Jammu region if the multi disciplinary approach is adopted to devise the overall strategy for its marketing .It needs to include the tourism professionals, conservators, historians, policy makers, etc to formulate a comprehensive mechanism for the heritage tourism in the region.

The need is to develop the already present heritage in various forms a product and target the consumer by creating the gaze for the assets who have remained virgin due to the lack of the understanding of the treasure in the form of heritage. But it is not enough to have heritage at one’s disposal. Heritage needs to be managed with expertise and long term planning. Heritage tourism or heritage tourism planning can give maximum possible benefits if it is treated as a function of tourism. Before bringing the heritage in the tourism orbit the following steps need to be given due consideration:

• Identification of the heritage assets

• Documentation

• Conservation and Preservation

• Multidisciplinary task force

• Marketing plan The process of heritage tourism strategy should start with the identification of the heritage assets in Jammu region so that a complete inventory of the places is made in a proper manner. It will help to create an awareness level at the first instance in the technical level by involving the various professionals like historians and archaeologists who will be of immense help to locate the time frame of the monuments and help in their proper listing for the future course of action. Documentation process is another step that should be professionally implemented to create proper archives after the identification has been successfully carried out. The diversified heritage and culture spread all over the Jammu region encompassing all the principalities’ of the erstwhile Jammu Raj needs the comprehensive documentation that takes into account both the tangible and intangible aspects of the heritage of the region. It includes the palaces, forts, temples, and buildings of significance besides the fairs, festivals, folk lore’s and ethnic food that lends the sense of distinctiveness’ to the entire heritage of the Jammu region. The neglect, discriminative attitude of the administrators’, lack of awareness, low degree of emotional attachment and motivation of the local population who are the main stakeholders and supposed beneficiaries of the heritage assets are the main reasons of the pitiful condition of the heritage structures in the region. Mubarak Mandi, the group of palaces is the worst example of the dilapidated condition of the tangible heritage in the Jammu region.

Now after advocacy and sensitization of the local population about the secular reuse and the economic value in terms of tourism business and the cultural identification has prompted the state government to start the restoration work of the complex but the project is still in the preliminary stage and infancy. Moti Mahal is Poonch is another example of lack of awareness and absence of disaster management techniques in the region, which witnessed a severe damage during the earthquake of 2005. Samba Fort, Poonch House are a just a peep into the devastation meted out to the heritage which can otherwise be a heritage tourism product of great value not only at the national level but at the international level. To restore these heritage monuments to at least certain time frame is a great challenge so that these structures can be utilized for the tourism business and incorporated into the tourism policy by taking heritage as a function of the greater tourism business. This cannot be realized in isolation but by involving the conservators and professionals like conservation architects.

Conservation and preservation is the important aspect as will help to restore the tangible and intangible heritage to the presentable form. It will help to make its re use possible in the most secular way by involving various stakeholders at different levels. (Vierda, 1995

After documentation and going through the process of preservation and conservation there is a need to create the multidisciplinary task force comprising not only of the historians, tourism professionals, conservators, conservation architects but it should also include the people from the administration who can act the enforcers of the devised formulation for the heritage tourism as the function of the tourism business. The inclusion of the social scientists, anthropologists and other specialists from media and other inter related areas is of equal significance as to create the tourist gaze inputs and expertise of all the direct and indirectly allied profession will lay down the foundations for the sustainable heritage tourism development and broaden the prospects of the heritage tourism in the Jammu region. The ultimate outcome of this process should lead to the creation of multi disciplinary task force based on involving all the professionals from all the concerned fields discussed above. It will help to implement the heritage tourism policy devised by the professionals and all those who have state in the tourism business. To create the niche market for the heritage tourism in the Jammu region there will be un urgent need to devise marketing strategies once the product has been created and available for the consumption of the tourist .So far there has been no exclusive marketing plan for the heritage tourism in the region that can show case it. The so called marketing strategies and campaigns have been devised by keeping in view the general tourism marketing or the marketing that is supposed to project the whole tourism assets of the state and is not comprehensive as it leaves out the niche market of the heritage in Jammu. For the successful marketing of the Jammu’s heritage there needs to be the complete integration of all the heritage assets with the help of the interpretation centre’s which can be easily established within the heritage complexes like museums , palaces and fortes.

The marketing aspects should treat heritage tourism as the function of the tourism business and not in isolation from it. By treating heritage and hence heritage tourism as the important component of the tourism will not only allow it to grow as the specialized form of the tourism but it will enable in the long run to give the dimension of sustainability to the tourism in the comprehensive manner. The marketing aspect should first involve the sensitization of the local people of Jammu who will be the foremost stakeholders and the immediate beneficiaries of the whole process of the development of the heritage tourism.  A sense of preservation of the heritage in terms of the asset value and secular reuse should be the main focus of the whole process of exploring the prospects of the heritage tourism and its marketing in the Jammu region. All the above mentioned steps if considered and implemented in systematic and time bound manner will yield to the development of the heritage tourism model that will bring the heritage of the Jammu region on the national and international map.

Conclusion Jammu region of the Jammu and Kashmir state is blessed with both tangible and the intangible heritage which has been neglected and not incorporated into the wider tourism circuit. The reason being the political discrimination and lack of sensitization of the local populace about the significance and economic viability of the heritage tourism. Which has resulted in the neglect of the heritage, especially the tangible heritage to such an extent that the structures like forts and palaces are in a dilapidated condition? The need is to treat heritage tourism in this region as the function of the tourism only then it can thrive in the true tourism sense. The need is to identify the heritage tourism assets of the region and then devise the proper documentation mechanism so that a proper inventory is developed which can be integrated into a well defined tourism product by employing the proper marketing strategy with the help of the multidisciplinary approach of the varied professionals, who can constitute task force for the application of the mechanism developed from this integrated process. Once this procedure is brought into action it will lead to the heritage tourism development model that will lead to the bright prospects of the overall tourism business in the region.

*(Writer is a PhD scholar at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (SHTM),Faculty of Business Studies,University of Jammu,Jammu,President Sangarsh and Chairman Heritage Initiative Foundation)