History of Poonch District
Poonch District is a district of Kashmir that is divided between India and Pakistan. The Pakistani part of Poonch District is part of its Azad Kashmir territory, whilst Indian Poonch is part of Jammu and Kashmir state. The capital of the Pakistan controlled side is Rawalakot; while the capital of the Indian side is Poonch.
When Alexander invaded the lower Jhelum belt to fight Porus, this region was known as Dravabhisar. Based on the Mahabharata evidence, and evidence from 7th century Chinese traveler Xuanzang, the districts of Rajaori, Poonch and Abhisara had been under the sway of the Republican Kambojas during epic times.
Around 850CE, Poonch became a sovereign state ruled by Raja Nar, who was basically a horse trader. Its name also appears in Rajatarangini, a chronicle of Kashmir written by Kalhan. It was called Prontsa then. According to Rajtrangani Raja Trilochan Pal of Poonch gave a tough fight to Mahmood Ghazanavi who invaded this area in 1020. Ghazanavi failed to enter Kashmir, as he could not capture the fort of Lohara (modern day Loran, in district Poonch).
In 1596, Mughal King Jahangir made Siraj-Ud-Din ruler of Poonch. Siraj-Ud-Din and his descendant Raja Shahbaz Khan, Raja Abdul Razak, Raja Rustam Khan and Raja Khan Bahadur Khan ruled this area up to 1792.
In 1850, Raja Moti Singh who was son of Raja Dhayan Singh, the Prime Minister of Khalsa Darbar set up its separate principality known as Poonch state. Until 1935/36 Poonch remained a separate state, under the Khalsa Durbar. Then it was reduced to a Jagir by Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu. The period from 1850 to 1947 is considered as the Golden era of the history of Poonch. The Principality of Poonch obtained the status of a state from the British Raj in 1901 during the reign of Raja Baldev Singh. The rule of Raja Moti Singh, Baldev Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Jagatdev Singh and Raja Shiv Rattan Dev Singh witnessed all round development of Poonch state. The historic Poonch fort was renovated and redesigned. Many other buildings were also constructed. Arthur Goring painted a rather different picture ("Exit, pursued by a bear," Blackwood's Magazine, January 1951, pp.27-40). State of Poonch was a state of apartheid, a minority oppressive rule was imposed by Ranjeet Singh of Gujranwala and stayed til 1947. Every Poonchi paid an unbearable tax including sheep and Goats cattle, land and properties. People were called slaves and treated inhumane.
Division of Poonch
October 1947 changed it all. The Muslims of Poonch always resented the oppressive policies of the Dogra Maharaja of Jammu, after he took charge of Poonch in 1936. At the time of partition, there were rumours that Muslims were being massacred in Jammu. It enraged the Poonchies and they intensified the struggle for independence from Jammu. A major part of the district went to Azad Kashmir. During the 1947-48 war between India and Pakistan, Poonch city was under attack of the rebel Poonchies, Pakistani tribals and Pakistan army for about one year. It was in the month of November 1948 that Poonch city was re-united with Indian-administered Kashmir.
- MBH 7.4.5; 7/91/39-40.
- Watters, Yuan Chawang, Vol I, p 284.
- Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 133, 219/220, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Dr B. N. Mukerjee; A History of India, p 269-71, N. R. Ray, N. K. Sinha; Journal of Indian History, p 304, University of Allahabad. Department of Modern Indian History, University of Kerala - 1921.