Poonch, also spelled as Punch, is located in the western part of Jammu & Kashmir. It is the administrative headquarters of a district of the same name and is visited by a large number of tourists every year. There are many places of tourist interest in and around the city. Let us start with a visit to the ancient fort.
The Poonch FortThe Poonch Fort, located on top of a small hillock in the heart of the city, is the symbol of its glorious history. The fort has been a direct witness of many historical events that have unfolded in and around this town.
A Short History
The foundation stone of Poonch Fort was laid in 1701 AD by Raja Abdul Razak Khan of Rathore Clan. However, the fort was actually completed by his son Raja Rustam Khan in 1779 AD. Because of this, Poonch is also known as Rustamnagar.
Initially, the fort was built with the duel intention of fortifying the town and housing the royal palace. Although it was constructed under the Rathore kings, they mainly followed the Mughal architectural style. However, the fort underwent a major change when it was captured by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1819. The central block of this fort was added during the Sikh rule. This part of the fort bears a distinct stamp of Sikh architectural style.
The fort remained under the Lahore Khalsa Darbar until 1850, after which it was handed over to the Dogra Kings. The front block of the fort underwent further changes during the reign of Raja Moti Singh. He engaged European architects to provide a more modern façade to the fort. After the change over, the fort looked more like a palace.
During the reign of King Baldev Singh, the fort was turned into the Secretariat and Moti Mahal became the royal residence. After India became independent, the fort was turned into quarter for state government employees.
An Interesting AnecdoteIt may not be out of place to add that the construction of the fort is associated with an interesting but sad anecdote. It is said that Raja Rustam Khan faced immense problems while the constructing the fort. He was told that if he wanted to complete the structure he should sacrifice the only surviving son of a Brahmin widow. He did exactly that and soon the fort was completed. The locals say that even until this day the soul of the child wanders around in the fort. It is also said that sometimes he slaps the guards stationed there at night.
The Fort Today
Poonch fort, with thick walls and beautiful Mughal architecture, is spread over an area of 7535 Sq m. It has four irregular courtyards with rooms constructed around them. There is a temple, a mosque and a Gurudwara located inside it. Today, it also houses many government offices.
Earlier, the fort housed a magnificent library; with many ancients manuscripts preserved in it. Unfortunately, the earthquake that shook most of Kashmir in 2005 destroyed this library along with considerable part of the structure. However, what remains is still very mesmerizing.
Places of Tourist Interest near Poonch
Other than the fort, there are many other places of tourist interest around this city. let us look into some of them.
Visiting Noori Chamb near PoonchNoori Chamb, located at a distance of 45 kilometers from Poonch town, is one of the must-visit places from Poonch. Apart from scenic beauty, the place has a deep water fall, which is closely associated with Mughal Emperor Jahangir and his consort Queen Noor Jahan. In fact, it was Emperor Jahangir, who named it Noori Chamb. The road on which the water fall is situated is known as Mughal Road.
The depth of the water at this fall was more than 100’ during the Mughal era. However, due to continuous erosion of rocks, the depth has been reduced to around 75’. It is said that Queen Noor Jahan would always make a stop at this spot whenever she came to this region and have a bath in the crystal clear water of the fall. She also had a mirror erected on the mountain side so as to help her to dress up after the bath. The remains of that royal mirror are still there.
Visiting Girgan Dhok near Poonch
Girgan Dhok, located at a distance of 70 kilometers from Poonch town, is referred as the Valley of Seven Lakes. It is a little further north from Noori Chamb. Consequently, both these locations can be covered from Poonch on the same day. The sight of seven beautiful lakes, located at an elevation of 12,000 feet above the sea level, is truly eye catching. The general ambiance of this place is also very beautiful.
What the legends say about these lakes...There is a general belief that long ago, a king by the name of Girgan Dev ruled over the place. According to the legend, he had seven sons and a daughter. When the king became old, he asked his children to search for a place in the Pir Panjal Range, where he could meditate. After locating the place all his children except one came back. He was seated in a place, which he refused to vacate. The king became furious and buried him in the earth. He then visited the other places selected by his other children. He was pleased by their selection and blessed them that after their death, these areas will transfer into lakes, which will be there forever. This is how the place came into existence.
These seven lakes named after the King’s seven children are Sukh sar, Chandan sar, Bagh sar, Neel sar, Kali Dachoni, Katora sar, and Nandan sar. Amongst them Kali was the daughter of the king while the rest were his sons. Amongst the seven lakes, the Nandan sar is the largest. It is two and a half mile long and about a mile in width. The Katora sar, which is the smallest, is however the most beautiful.
Visiting Behramgala near PoonchBehramgala is located at a distance of 40 km from Poonch town. It is also situated on Mughal Road at the foothill of Rattan Peak (8000 feet). The area is a small plateau surrounded by forests and mountains. The conference of Parnai and Thata Pani Streams, located close by, adds to the natural charm of the area.
Visiting Mandi near PoonchTourists, who are in the city for a short trip and yet want to have a feel of rural Poonch, can visit Mandi. It is a small village, located at the confluence of two streams by the name Gagri and Pulsta at a distance of 20 km from Poonch town. The place is of no great elevation. However, the narrow valley surrounded by steep grassy hills is a treat to the eye. .
Visit to Loran and Nandishool from Poonch
Loran, located at a distance of 35 km from Poonch town, is another important tourist spot in this area. It is situated at the foothills of the Pir Panjal Mountain Ranges and is extremely beautiful. The Loran Nallah flowing through the village makes the place even more enchanting. The ruins of an ancient fort add to the charm of this place. It is to be noted that until 1542 AD, Loran was capital of Kashmir. It was then known as Loran-Kote and was also referred as the Gateway of Kashmir.
Nandishool is located at a distance of 12 kms from Loran. It is famous for its 150 feet high waterfall. Water flows from Pir Panchal range to form this waterfall. The Rural Development Department of the Jammu & Kashmir has constructed a hut at this place. Those wishing to spend a night should make prior arrangements.
Surankote near PoonchSurankote, a small village on the banks of River Suran, is a must-see destination for any Poonch tourist. The place is referred as the Pahalgam of Poonch. The lofty peaks surrounding the area are a visual treat for any visitor.
Places of Religious Interest in Poonch
There are many important places of religious interest in and around Poonch. Let us look into them now:.
Gurdwara Nangali Sahib near PoonchGurdwara Nangali Sahib, located hardly 7 kms away from Poonch, is a sacred religious centre for Sikhs. It was constructed by Thakur Bhai Mela Singh in the year 1803. In 1947, the building was destroyed by a fire. However, it was quickly renovated largely due to the efforts of Mahant Bachitar Singh. Thousands of devotees visit this place every year and the Sikh Baishaki festival is celebrated amidst much funfair.
Amarnath ji Mandir near PoonchThe Swami Buddha Amarnath ji Mandir is a popular Hindu religious centre within close vicinity of Poonch. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple stands within the Pir Panjal mountain ranges and is located at a distance of 25 km from Poonch. The temple has a door on its four sides. It symbolizes that the temple premises is open to all four castes.
Muslim Shrines near PoonchZiarat Sain Miran Sahib is an import Muslim pilgrim place near Poonch city. There is a belief that wishes made here never go unfulfilled. That is why it attracts people from all faith. The Ziarat Choote Shah Sahib is another Muslim shrine in the district. It is dedicated to Saint Saki Peer Chhota Shah. It is also visited by many devotees throughout the years. .
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