Paddar is a scenic valley in the Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir,the northernmost state of India. The valley is famous for it sapphire mines. The slopes near the place are packed with abundant of wild-life. It has many hot springs, great hiking, and a river, ideal for cannoning.
No concrete material is available about the early history of Paddar. However, it is said that there was no one in Paddar till 8th century. It was just a meadow. The people from nearby areas such as Bhaderwah, Lahaul and Ladakh were attracted to see the grazing lands. They used to come here to graze their cattle. With the passage of time, they settled there permanently.
Paddar was under Guge rule, during 10th century. It remained under their rule till 14th century. After 14th century, Paddar got separated from Googay rule and divided into smaller parts. These parts were ruled, by smaller Petty Ranas (Rana is an Old Hindu word for a ruler who is less in Power than a Raja). The Ranas of Paddar were Rajputs, Every village or every two or three villages used to have a Rana who often fought against the next village Rana. The area was inhabited mostly by Thakur community. People were serpent worshipers but they observed other Hindu rites and rituals as well. One can see temples of different Nagdevtas or Serpent Gods which are adorned with wood carvings of snakes of many forms. Besides Hindus there are also Muslims and Buddhists. The first Muslim came to Paddar during the period of Shantar Kantar Rana from Chamba who used to make the pots of soil. The descendants of those Muslims are still living at Atholi and kijai.
In the middle of 17th century A.D Chattar Singh, the king of Chamba also attacked Paddar. He first conquered Pangi from where he advanced with about 200 men to Paddar and annexed it. He constructed a fort after his name as well. The local Ranas could not face the onslaught of Raja Chattar Singh. They accepted his suzerainty and became his tributaries and began to work as his Kardars. The impact of Chatter Singh’s conquest lasted long and Paddar area continued to be the part of Chamba up to 1836. From Chattar Singhs period onward Paddar remained comfortably under the kings of Chamba for five to six generations.
Under the leadership of Ratnu Thakur the people of Paddar attacked Zanskar in 1820 or 1825 (Zanskar was with a Bhot Raja under Ladakh). He made it his tributary. The Bhot Raja agreed to pay Rs. 1000, besides musk bags and other things annually as Nazar (present) to the Chamba Raja.
As soon as General Zorawar Singh reached Kishtwar he heard of an uprising in Ladakh and hence left for Ladakh via Zanskar. From this route Leh is 275 miles from Kishtwar, which is the shortest route between these two places. Zanskar area falls en route Bhot Nullah. The army of Gen. Zorawar Singh entered Zanskar (Ladakh) through Paddar. This time wazir Lakhpat Rai Padyar, who was a trusted officer of Gulab Singh, also joined Zorawar Singh in the second attack on Ladakh. After conquering Ladakh a part of the Army was sent to Kargil and Zanskar under the command of Wazir Lakhpat Rai and Col. Mehta Basti Ram as Zanskar was not under them till then. After conquering Zanskar, the army returned to Jammu through Paddar. 30 soldiers of Dogra army were kept in Chattar Garh fort to keep in touch with the soldiers fortified in Zanskar. During this period a rebellion broke out in Zánskar and the Dogra soldiers present there were massacred.On hearing the news Ratnu Thakur, who was the highest employee of Chamba government instigated people and caught hold of Dogra soldiers. Some of them were made prisoners and sent to Chamba. This made Gen. Zorawar Singh mad with rage. He intended to attack paddar.
In 1836 General Zorawar Singh along with 3000 soldiers, attacked Paddar from Zanskar through Bhot Nullah route. To escape from the onslaught frightened Ratnu demolished the bridge on Chenab. For this reason, the Dogra army had to wait for three months. With the help of some local peasants they made a ropeway bridge and crossed the Bhot Nullah and led a furious attack on Chattar Garh. The whole town was set on fire. It was heaps of stone all around. Many people were hanged some were disfigured. A new fort was built in place of Chattar Garh. An officer along with a few soldiers was stationed there for the watch of the fort and Paddar became a part of dogra state. Ratnu was arrested and sent to Jammu, where he remained under detentions for three to four years. Subsequently, he was released and granted an estate in Kishtwar. Those days Paddar was under the Tehsildar of Bhardarwah.
After conquering Paddar Gen, Zorawar Singh went to Zanskar via Umasi La (Dharlang) about 17,370 feet from sea-level to quell the rebellion there. He succeeded in establishing peace. In 1837 a fierce rebellion broke out in Leh and Gen. Zorawar Singh covered the journey from Kishtwar to Leh in about ten days. In May 1838 Zorawar Singh got a fort built at Chisoti (Paddar) on his way back to Kishtwar.
In 1845 during the rule of Maharaja Gulab Singh, both Paddar and Zanskar were given the status of tehsil. Later on, when Leh got district status, Ladakh was merged with Leh and Paddar was merged with Kishtwar tehsil during the period of Maharaja Ranbir Singh. In 1963, Paddar was given the status of block by the government of Jammu and Kashmir. Now, it enjoys the status of a tehsil.
Paddar consists of many villages. Some of the notable villages are :
- Gulabgarh - It is the significant village of Paddar. It is the hub of all the activities that happens in the area. All the transport services run from here, be it to the Kishtwar town or towards Pangi in Himachal Pradesh. It also plays the host to all the local cricket tournaments that are organised here, besides this there are many government offices, J&K Bank, police station and rest houses.
- Atholi - It is known for its tehsil status. Tehsildar's office, Primary Health Center, Higher Secondary School and Girl's High School are the important establishments here. There is also a waterfall here in this village, a very scenic spot called Pathaal and a water mill (locally known as Ghiraat).
- Tatta Paani - This village is known for its natural hot springs
- Sohal - This village is famous among the off-roaders.
- Gandhari - This place is famous among mountaineers, hikers and climbers and known for green pastures. Gandhari is about 40 KM from the block HQ , 25 KM road is motarable and the rest has to traveled by foot. The trek route from here meets Zanskar in Ladakh, Machail and Pangi Himachal Pradesh.
- Haloti - This is the nearest village to the famous Machail Mata shrine. Majority of the settlement here is of Buddhist community. This place is known for Yaks, which are seen only in this area after Ladakh. These animals play very important role in the lives of local population as they are used for milking and even farming purposes to plough the fields. Many Buddhist monasteries are also found here.
Some of the notable festivals celebrated in Paddar are :
- Mela Magh - This is the most famous festival in the area celebrated for three days in village Ligri in which thousands of people drawn from all villages take part. This festival is celebrated after a gap of one year. The disciples (Chelas) of gods & goddesses, attired in local woolen (Pattu) dresses with locally made grass shoes, perform specific godly devoted dances. The august mela is celebrated for three days in village Shail, Ligri & a visit to the holy lack at the upper reaches of Munhal Dhaar for third day respectively.
- Zaagra - A huge fire is lit in front of a temple of god/goddess during night and the chelas (disciples) along with other locals dance around the fire on a sound of dhol and flute.
- Naghoi - Naghoi mela is celebrated in Gandhari in the mid of August every year. People across Paddar and Pangi(HP) came here to celebrate the festival at Chandi Mata Mandir Gandhari .
- Mithyaag - This festival is celebrated to mark the onset of spring during which the Mother Land is worshiped for better crop yields. People gather at a particular place and dance collectively around the sacred weapons of the gods.
- Machel Mata ( Traditional Yatra) is a Goddess Durga shrine popularly known as Machail Mata is located in the village Machel, Kishtwar District of Jammu region in India. It may be noted that Goddess Durga is also known by the name Kaalior Chandi. Thousands of people visit the shrine every year mainly from Jammu region.The pilgrimage happens in the month of August only every year. The shrine was visited in 1981 by Thakur Kulveer Singh of Bhaderwah, Jammu region. From 1987 onwards, Thakur Kulveer SIngh started 'Chhadi Yatra'that happens every year and thousands of people visit the shrine every year during 'Chhadi Yatra'. There are lot of supernatural happenings that the pilgrims experience and report. To reach the shrine, lot of travel agents arrange buses from Jammu, Udhampur, Ramnagar, Bhaderwah. One can also hire a cab as well. It takes approximately 10 hours by road from Jammu to Gulabgarh. The Gulabgarh is the base camp. From Gulabgarh, the foot journey starts, that is 32 km. Usually people take 2 days to reach the shrine by foot. On the way there are many villages, where one can stay in the night. The chaddi takes three days to reach machel. Many people organizes roadside 'langers' (free food points) on the way to the Gulabgarh. Government of Jammu & Kashmir also arranges basic amenities for the pilgrims. Other mean of reaching the shrine is by helicopter from Jammu and Gulabgarh. The helipad is only 100 meters from the shrine. But if someone goes by helicopter, he will be missing many scenic beauties of the nature. Helicopter takes at least 7-8min to reach the Mata's darwar.
- Awaans:- A huge fire is lit in front of a temple in which all religious PUJARIS from nearby villages comes there by wearing traditional dresses and welcomed by local villagers of karthie(kadhail)paddar.It happens once in three years and people from across the paddar comes here which also includes dance, singing and enjoyment by folks. This is symbol of rich and diverse culture of paddar which embraces love and respect for people irrespective of caste, colour and belonginess,