Evolution of Duggar States


Dr. R. K. Gupta

In my previous article, History of the Dogras and The Duggar Land, I mentioned about Rigveda, wherein Jammu region was mentioned as part of Madra Kingdom extending from the Sutlej River to the Indus River. This region, commonly named as Dev Bhumi was believed to be the abode of Gods. Probably, our origin was non-Aryan tribes who inhabited this region before the arrival of Aryans. However,our identity as Dogracould be traced to the oldest kingdoms of Champaka (Chamba) with a reference to Durgara region on copper plate inscription. This Durgara region was origin of word Dogra Land spreading from Ravi to Chenab river. There are also references about older kingdoms Trigarta (Julandhar-Kangra region) and Vallapur (Billawar) as well. All these three older kingdom gave rise to many princely Duggarstates. As we know that, among 22 Dogra principalities states nearly half were Trigarta (Kangra Jalandhar circle) and half in the Duggar circle (Durgara). It is imperative to understand about older kingdoms of Durgara and Trigarta, Duggar states like Chamba, Billawar, Bhaddu, Mankote, Bhabore, Baderwah, Bhoti, Ramnagaretc evolved from Durgara region whilethe rest one belonged to Trigarta. There is no denying the fact that Kangra, Nurpur and its adjoining states never remained under Dogra empire, but many former kingdoms were framed by ancestral kingdom of Kangra and Kullu etc. The similar kind of language, culture and heritage reflect their identity as Dogra. The flourishing of these hilly kingdoms was to escape from foreign invasion. Nevertheless, the native Dogra inhabitant who fell to their army adopted Islam. That is why we state that Dogras are not only Hindu but Muslims and Sikh as well. For instance, many Muslim Dogras opted to migrate to Sialkot, Pakistan and still enjoy Dogra culture while in the areas around Rajouri and Poonch we still find many Rajput muslims, though they speak Pahari language. In this way foundation for Duggar rule started much earlier than anticipated in general. For instance there are enough reference to the oldest Durgara region comprising the oldest Champaka kingdom now known as Chamba (2nd century BC to 1948).Regarding the early history of this region it is believed that this area was at time inhabited by certain Kolian tribes,which were later, subjugated by the Khasas. The Khasas too after a time came under the sway of Audumbaras (2nd centaury B.C.). The Audmabaras had republican form of Government and worshiped Shiva as their principal deity. From the Gupta period (4th Centaury A.D.) the Chamba region was under the control of Thakurs and Ranas who considered themselves superior to the low tribes of Kolis and Khasas. According to tradition, the predecessor state was founded around 550 AD. It was later on also called Barahumpura (Bharmour). Meru was perhaps the first settler of ruling family of Ayodhya and the father of the first recorded prince Jaistambh in the ChambaVanshavali around the middle of the 6th century A.D. He defeated the petty Ranas holding the territory there and founded the town Brahmpura and made it the capital of a new state. After him, several Rajas ruled in succession until Sahil Varman. It was Sahil Varman who conquered the lower Ravi valley and transferred the seat of Government from Brahampura to the new capital he founded at Chamba and set Bharmouras capital for nearly four hundred years. The state was expanded as Vallapura(Billawar) which find mention from 363 BCE to 1816. This town is mentioned in Mahabharata as Pandavas visited Billawar in the last year of their exile and were attracted by Bael or Bilwa trees abundant in the region and renamed it Bilaur. The Temple Mahabilwakeshwar was built by them. As per legend, the oldest Harihara temple was believed to be built by King Babhruvahana, son of Arjuna. The town was mentioned in Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, the chronology of kings. During the reign of Raja Anant of Kashmir, King Kalsha ruled Villapur. Sussala, the ruler of Kashmir was married to the daughter of Villlapur’s ruler. It was evident that there was close political and cultural relations between Kashmir & Billawar in ancient times. The descendants of the Royal family are known as ‘Billawaria, Baloria, Balouria or Billauria’ and Chandel all being the modern day spelling variants Originally this is a clan of Chandravanshi Rajputs, who ruled the modern areas of Billawar, Basohli, and Bhaderwah from around 750 AD till the 19th-century annexation. Raja Bhog Pal, a son of the king of Kullu Valley, founded Basohli and established Billawar as the capital in 765 A.D. after subduing Rana Billo, a feudal chief who once ruled the area.
No doubt powerful Mughals were kept at bay for a long by these hill states, yet the region finally fell to them. On account of difficulties involved in communications and distances, it was not easy for Mughals to hold these areas, for example, Akbar tried to extend a loose control over the hill states including Chamba and attached fertile tracts of these states to the imperial territory south of Dhauladhar. Moreover, Aurangzeb once issued orders to the Raja of Chamba Chatter Singh (1664-1694AD) to pull down the beautiful temples of Chamba. But instead the raja in clear defiance to the Mughal ruler placed glided pinnacles on the temples. He was ordered to come down to Delhi to face the imperial wrath. But Aurangzeb himself had to leave for the Deccan from where he could not disentangle till the end of his life. On the whole, the northern India experienced comparatively peaceful condition during the Mughal regime Raja Prithvi Singh (1641-1664 AD), a handsome and a gallant knight was favourite of Shahjahan and visited the imperial court many times. He introduced the Mughal style of court life including Mughal-Rajput art and architecture in Chamba. When Sikhs were defeated it was decided to merge Chamba in Jammu & Kashmir but on account of the timely intervention of Wazir Bagha (of Chamba) it was taken under the British control and subjected to the annual tribute of Rs 12,000. The Rajas who saw something of British hegemony were Sri Singh, Gopal Singh, Sham Singh, Bhuri Singh, Ram Singh and Laxman Singh. Their relations with the British political officers seem to be cordial and Chamba witnessed many reforms. In 1809 A.D. the Wazir had made himself useful to the Maharaja by negotiating his agreement with Raja Sansar Chand Katoch, of Kangra. After Ranjit Singh’s death Chamba became un-protected and was drawn into the vortex of the disintegration of the Sikh Kingdom. The Sikh army invaded the British territory in A.D. 1845 and the troops of Sikh army, which were stationed in Chamba, were with drawn. However, between 1809 and 1846 Chamba became tributary to Jammu. On 15th April 1948 merging three principal states formed old Himachal. Chamba, Mandi-Suket, Sirmour and all the other state falling in Shimla hills.
The epic Mahabharata further mention about another oldest kingdom which mention of King Susharama Chandra, who sided with the Kaurvas. He is said to be the founder of this dynasty. The reference to prosperous Kingdom of Trigarta (Kangra) is also found in the Panani literature that was written sometimes between the seventh and fourth centuries B.C. Trigarta (Nagarkot or Kangra) (5th century BC to 1946) at that time was probably named as BhimKot (Kangra).The mention of Kangra (Nagarkot) was found in the works of Ferishta. Heun Tsang, a Chinese traveller, visited India from AD 629 to 644 during Harshvardhana’s rule. In his accounts, he has mentioned about many kings ruling in this region.
It is also gathered that king Harshvardhana annexed the state of Kangra. Huien Tsang on his return from the court of Raja Harshvardhan of Kannauj is said to have revisited the Raja of Jalandhar (A.D. 643) who is identified as Rajanaka Adima Chandra from the Vanshvali.In A.D. 883-903, Raja Shankara Verman advanced towards Gujarat with an army of 9 lakh foot soldiers, 300 elephants, and one lakh horsemen. Rajanaka Prithvi Chandra of Kangra a contemporary of ShankaraVerman, was against the idea of the conquest of Gujarat – how this situations was resolved is not mentioned in the Raj Taringani. In the 9th century, the Katoch King Jai Chandra built two main temples, one at Baijnath (the first Jotir-linga, Shiv temple in India), the second at Masroor (rock cut temples copied from the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, coins minted by Raja Jai Chandra can be seen in the museum at Chamba).However, in year 1009 A.D. Mehmood of Ghazni invaded Punjab and laid siege on Nagarkot (town of Kangra). He was probably attracted by the prestige of the fort which was famous all over India and still more by the fabulous wealth which was believed to be stored within its walls.. The Katoch princes were driven into the hills, where Kangra already existed as one of their chief fortress. In spite of constant invasions, the little Hindu kingdoms, secure within their Himalayan glens, long held out against the aggressive Kangra does not reappear in general history till 1360, when the emperor Firoz Tughlak again led a force against it. The Raja gave in his submission, and was permitted to retain his dominions; but the Muhammadans once more plundered the temple. In 1556, Akbar launched an expedition into the hills, and occupied the fort of Kangra. In 1752, the Katoch principalities nominally formed part of the territories ceded to Ahmad Shah Durrani by the declining Delhi court. But the native chieftains, emboldened by the prevailing anarchy, resumed their practical independence, and left little to the Durrani monarch or the deputy who still held the isolated fort of Kangra for the Mughal empire. Emperor Jahangir captured the Kangra fort in 1610, annexing the surrounding area and reducing the Katoch rajas to the status of vassals. After the decline of the Mughal power, Raja Ghamand Chand (r. 1751-1774) recovered most of the territory earlier ceded to the Mughals. Raja Sansar Chand (r. 1775-1823) established the supremacy of Kangra over all the surrounding hill states. During his reign, Kangra became a major centre for the arts and several palaces were built. In year 1805, the neighbouring hill states rebelled, with the aid of the Gurkha army. Raja Sansar Chand was forced to seek the help of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore. The Gurkha army was expelled but Ranjit Singh also annexed the most fertile part of the Kangra valley, reducing the Katochs of Kangra as well as the neighbouring rajas to the status of vassals. After the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1846, the whole area was ceded to the British East India Company, eventually integrated into the Punjab province. The Katochs and the surrounding hill rajas were assigned small Jagirs over which they had the rights of revenue and magisterial authority Kangra passed to the British at the end of the first Sikh War in 1846 and there were several revolts against the British. Ram Singh, a Pathania Rajput, invaded the British garrison at Shahpur. The British immediately rushed their forces, which surrounded Shahpur fort. Ram Singh finding himself at a disadvantageous position sneaked into the nearby forest to rearm himself. After the outbreak of Mutiny in 1857, some disturbances took place in the Kulu subdivision; but the vigorous measures of precaution adopted by the local authorities, and the summary execution of the six ring leaders and imprisonment of others on the occasion of the first over act of rebellion, effectually subdued any tendency to lawlessness. The disarming of the native troops in the forts of Kangra and Nurpur was effected quietly and without opposition.


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