Mesmerized by the beauty of Kashmir, Mughal Emperor Shahjahan once said, “Agar Firdous Bar Roo-E-Zameen Ast- Hameen Ast-O Hameen Ast-O, Hameen Ast.” It means that if there is paradise on earth; it is this, it is this, it is this! But in the present state of Jammu and Kashmir, it is not only Kashmir that is lauded for its overwhelming beauty, the 2 other provinces of Jammu and Ladakh are equally attractive and have a vibrant cultural heritage. Being a resident of Jammu, I have always been interested in gaining knowledge about the heritage and history of my hometown, so under the GoUnesco Campus Ambassador Program, I took this initiative to go out and explore what is it that I have not known about Jammu, a city known for communal harmony and tolerance.
On 9 June 2014, I visited the ‘Amar Mahal Palace Museum’ in Jammu. First I took a ‘matador’ (local bus) from my home till Panjtirthi. Then from there, I boarded an auto and it took me to this place of immense historical significance. To be more precise, the place was just 30 minutes and 50 rupees away! Because it was technically a ‘palace’, I assumed it to be grand. But when I reached the ‘Amar Mahal Palace Museum, I had a different reality in front of me. The tall standing red sandstone building that I was facing seemed less of a typical ‘Indian Palace’ and more of a British or a European Bungalow. Then when the tourist guide took me around the Palace, I was told that till the end of the nineteenth century the Dogra rulers lived and administered their territory from the palace of ‘mubarak mandi’. But later it was decided to separate the residential and official buildings and ‘Amar Mahal’ was built as an exclusive place of residence for the royalty. The Palace is named after Raja Amar Singh, father of the last scion of the Dogra dynasty, Maharaja Hari Singh.
My assumption of Amar Mahal being a European style building was proven right when the guide told me that the building was designed by a French architect and has been built in the ‘European Castle Style’. This Continental Castle Architecture is visible in the tall towers and sloping roofs of the palace. After the death of his parents, Hari Singh’s son, Dr. Karan Singh and his wife converted the palace into a museum to house the rare books and works of art. The museum has many exhibits including a golden throne, signifying royalty and power. Today the building stands tall and proud as the last official residence of the Dogra dynasty and preserves in it’s various galleries, the legendary history of the city of Jammu in the form of paintings, newspaper clippings and old photographs. My visit to the ‘Amar Mahal Palace Museum’ gave me a feeling of pride, delight and belongingness towards my native place. I had a memorable experience here as this place is not just a museum; it is a rare specimen of Jammu’s heritage and culture which all Jammuites need to be proud of.