Jammu Mahotsav – A paean to the rich culture, heritage and art of Jammu region

An invite to attend the Jammu Mahotsav 2019 popped in my inbox and I wondered what witnessing the event would be like. Well, I had never heard about this Mahotsav (festival) before nor had I seen any wide-spread social media campaign for the same.

Disclaimer: I was invited by the Jammu Tourism Directorate on a sponsored trip, to attend the Jammu Mahotsav. However, the views expressed in this article are my own.

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
The beautifully designed invite

Travellers and tourists including me, have always been aware of the famous Tulip festival of Srinagar and the Naropa festival of the Ladakh region but not of Jammu Mahotsav. Also, many of us always associate Jammu as a gateway to the revered Vaishno Devi temple that is fondly cradled by the snow-capped Trikuta hills and nothing beyond that.

A brief history of Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir is an ancient region of India whose history is old as 5000 years. Unfortunately, this sacred state of India has been in the news since a couple of decades for its conflict, owing to the accession struggle waged by the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and China.

There are legends of yore, associating the place with Sage Kashyap. References to Kashmir are found in ‘Rajatarangini’ written by Kalhana in the 12th century, who has also mentioned about the ancient land of Trigart in the same text of his. Kashmir, if literally translates to the land desiccated from water: “ka” (the water) and shimeera (to desiccate). Ancient texts say that Kashmir was originally a lake that was drained by the great saint of ancient India-Kashyap. The place was part of Mauryan Ashoka’s empire who is also credited with the foundation of the city of Srinagar around the year 250 BC.

Comparatively, Jammu city’s recorded history is very much contemporary and is just around 1000-year-old!

The legend of Jammu goes that a chieftain Jambu-lochan who had already conquered nearby kingdom went out hunting one day accompanied by his officials, and crossing the River Tawi saw in the jungle a deer and a tiger drinking at the same pond. Surprised, he enquired about this strange occurrence that seemed to defy nature’s food chain. And was told that the soil and region is a virtuous one that knows no enmity and follows camaraderie even among animals. The Raja, therefore, came to the conclusion that this was just the kind of site he was in search of and founded a new town, calling it Jambupura.

Post this, the city of Jammu was ruled by various dynasties including the brave Sikhs and the Dogras.

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Thank you @jammutourism for inviting me over to this enchanting region called #jammu .Also, a big hug and gratitude to a wonderful potpourri of bloggers and local people , who made this trip a memorable one 🙏🙂💕….. ***☺️ Attending #jammumahotsav2019 – a celebration of multi-ethnicities of this wonderful state, was indeed a revelation about #amazingjammu – which definitely is an untapped destination with hidden gems; mind boggling cuisines with a twist to known dishes ; obscured and rich cultural legacy camouflaged by unwanted neighbourhood interference and attention ; an ancient language called Dogri spoken by 2.3 million with pride ; rightly placed nationalism often termed as misunderstood sentiments and a cauldron of such bundle of contrasts.Inspite of all this,one cannot miss the spark and pride of the Jammu people that their eyes and words glint ! …. Indeed #jammuandkashmir is the crown of #incredibleindia . Can't wait to go back again to this wonderful place.Afterall , there is so much to be unravelled still. ….

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Jammu Mahotsav 2019 – A paean to the rich Dogra culture, heritage and arts

As a tribute and revival of Dogra traditions and the rich multifarious local culture of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the festival of Jammu Mahotsav was inaugurated on the 8th February 2019 with much fanfare. During the three-day event, the Directorate of Tourism, Jammu organized cultural programmes, street plays (nukkad natak ), interactive events with tourists and audiences, displayed ethnic food stalls at varied venues.

Varied venues for the fest

To reach a wider audience of tourists, local people and travellers, the events of Jammu Mahotsav were organized at various prominent point-of-attractions in and around the Jammu city.

Folk and Dogra cultural programmes were performed by local artists at Bagh-e-Bahu, Mubarak Mandi, Mansar and R.S.Pura.

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
Cultural programmes at Bagh-e-Bahu

 

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
Food stalls at Bagh-e-Bahu

Bagh-e-Bahu witnessed a heavy influx of locals and tourists who were smitten by the cultural programmes put up by the Jakson Institute of Cultural Society Jammu that was followed by Kashmiri dance number. While, stalls selling handicrafts and handloom, horticultural items, agro products and ethnic food were the main attractions at this garden adjoining the Bahu fort. The cultural performances displaying rich Dogra, cultural heritage were also performed at Mansar Lake where a large number of locals and school children enjoyed the events.

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
Dogri dance

 

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
Dr.Deepali Waatal enthralling the audience with her songs

Renowned local artists like  Shuchi Arora, Jeevan Sharma, Dr Deepali Wattal, Subash and Neelam Langeh showcased the local talent. The colourful cultural performances depicted the culture of different regions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir like Dogri, Kashmiri and Ladakhi. However, the highlight of the 3-day-fest was the live performances of Sharry Mann and Aabha Hanjura apart from the local cultural performances. The audience was thrilled by the Laser Show based on Jammu Tourism and patriotic song and danced on the songs of the celebrity singer Abha Hanjura.

The topping on the cake was the laser show showcasing the tourism potential of the Jammu region that stole the heart of all us. It was mesmerizing, captivating, as well as, triggered the patriotism in all. Just wow!

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
Ladakhi dance

 

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
Jeewan Sharma at his best

 

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
Shuchi Arora with her Bollywood numbers

Jammu and its potential as a tourism destination

As part of the bloggers’ team covering the Jammu Mahotsav 2019, we also got an opportunity to visit the unexplored destinations in and around the city of Jammu. These trips were indeed a revelation about the true potentiality of Jammu as a tourist destination that has abundant nature trails, heritage areas, old temples and crumbling yet majestic forts to attract travellers and tourists.

A trip to the Gharana wetlands brought us face-to-face with the rustic village life at the borders, the unpredictability of the enemy on the other side, where ironically, the migratory birds flew from one side of the border to the other unhindered, while, the man-made boundaries confined humans to their territories. While a day trip to Basohli made us explore the hidden gems of this beautiful place nestled among the Pir Panjals and Dhauladhars.

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
At the Gharana Wetlands

It was a pleasure soaking in the serene landscapes of Purthu Beach, walking back into history as we paved our way through the corridors of Mubarak Mandi and the private rooms of the Amar Mahal Palace and reminiscing the rich past of the Dogra clan while ebbing through the bushes at the Basohli fort and facing the majestic facade of the crumbling fort.

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
Crumbling yet majestic facade of Basohli fort

Do keep an eye on the blog for detailed posts on each of these places, coming your way, soon!

Parting Words on Jammu Mahotsav 2019

As with every new venture that goes through the initial teething problems, Jammu Mahotsav too has had its share of ups and downs in its handful years of existence, owing to the fragile nature of the political conditions in Jammu and Kashmir state. As I type this, ironically, the development in this region has been pushed back again by decades due to the recent Pulwama attacks wherein terrorists supported by the separatists and Pakistan cowardly attacked a CRPF convoy and where every day, Pakistan is targeting civilians and the Indian defence forces. In such an atmosphere of volatility, it is indeed a commendable effort on the part of the authorities and event organizers to come up with a great event that pushes for peace and boosts tourism in the Jammu region.

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Post 2 : ***** Let us explore J&K beyond Kashmir and Ladakh. **** This temple pond at the foot of the Basohli fort reminded me of the good old days of India when stepwells and ponds were the places for village rendezvous. Charming! **** Basohli is the hidden gem of Jammu region that we discovered on our recent trip to J&K. With unexplored natural beauty, vistas of snow-capped mountains, the glittering cyan waters of the Ranjit Sagar Lake, the pebbled shores of the Purthu beach, the charming yet not-so-well-maintained Basohli fort and hamlets that are home to ancient small-shrines and temples, Basohli is a traveller's dream come true. …… P.S: This is going to be a series of photo posts. I am not being insensitive or immature by sharing these. If you think so, please go ahead and unfollow the page and this profile, instead of posting insensitive replies. Thanks! *** While the Indian defence forces are doing their part- for peace in J&K and keeping the enemy at bay from India, let me contribute in my own minuscule way for a better J&K by promoting the hidden gems of this wonderful INDIAN state. *** Do visit these places, once the situation is back to normalcy ( which is going to be pretty soon), support the local people of this region and spread a word about this beautiful state called Jammu and Kashmir, which has been and shall be an integral part of India. *** Let us foil all plans of the terrorists, separatists, the stone pelters and the radicals of creating havoc, a sense of disillusionment among the local people and to bring down the tourism sector and Indian economy. India shall march forward! ** …. #Jammu #IncredibleIndia #JammuandKashmir #Jaihind @incredibleindia @jammutourism @lonelyplanetindia @natgeotravel @natgeoindia @cntravellerindia #jammudiaries #jammumahotsav2019 #jammuandkashmir #jammudiaries #passionpassport #lakeshow #nature #naturephotography #agameoftones #visualsofearth #visualscollective #travelwriting #travelphotography #photogram #instagram #lpfanphoto #water #travelgram #amazingjammu #zenfone

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While I wondered why instead of projecting the Dogri culture at large, the directorate had invited Punjabi singers for the 2nd and 3rd day of events- the sparsely spread crowd under heavy security sort of answered my doubts.

Only by inviting a Sharry Mann, could today’s youth in the region be lured to attend these events and interspersing the itinerary with local folk dances and songs would definitely serve the purpose of exposing today’s generation to a vibrant past. Else, our ethnic culture may silently disappear into oblivion.

How many of us have actually associated with travel to J&K as an exploration of the Jammu region? Not even a handful, I am sure!  Exposing the rich Dogri culture of the region to its visitors, as well as celebrating the multi-ethnic region of Jammu and Kashmir by making people explore the hidden gems of the Jammu region at large, is exactly what the Directorate of Jammu tourism wanted to achieve. And, I am glad they are taking baby steps towards this goal.

Jammu Mahotsav 2019
An aerial view of Kathua district in Jammu

As our return flight to Delhi took off and we glanced the vibrant Jammu region from above,  I realized that there is more to the beautiful Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir beyond the realms of Kashmir and Ladakh that is yet to be explored and unravelled.

Hope you liked reading my experience of attending the Jammu Mahotsav. Let me know your thoughts on attending such cultural fests and also if you have visited Jammu, do share your experience.

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25 Comments

  1. I had no idea about Jammu’s history (1,000 years sounds long to me!), so thanks for introducing me to the tales and customs of what sounds like an unmissable destination. You’re right, younger people should definitely be kept informed of their ancient customs.

  2. Jammu as a potential tourist destination sounds amazing. I love the thought finding unexplored trails and ruins that haven’t made it to the tourist circuit yet. There is so much culture and heritage around and so many places to see.

  3. Jammu definitely sounds like my kinda vacation destination with old temples and majestic forts. What a shame about the current conditions though. Thank you for sharing this regardless. I’ve never heard about Jammu Mahotsav and happy to have learnt something new!

  4. This looks like an amazing opportunity. I would love to visit the temple pond and hear the related history

  5. Rahat Arora says:

    Glad you like my home town Jammu city, Jammu city is beautiful displays dogra culture. I Hope you enjoyed your time and welcome you again.

  6. The festival looks like a great way to drive more tourism to the region. Laser shows! It’s unfortunate that the unrest in the region keeps tourists away, the environs look amazing. And the history is so interesting. Hopefully, there will be peace in the near future and people will feel safe to tour the area again. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Wow what an incredible history, I love that they are celebrating culture and art to overshadow the negative news as of late.

  8. I have never heard of Jammu as a destination although I had been to Kashmir from the Pakistani side. Indeed, it is courageous of the local authorities to sponsor tourism in an area so volatile and in the news nowadays.

  9. I had never heard of the Jammu Mahotsav festival. I am sure that the cultural shows from different regions of the state were fascinating. So great that the laser show triggered such patriotism in the crowds. So great that you got invited to visit this. Especially when the political situation remains unstable.

  10. I love festivals and special events, looks like a rich and cultural event worth experiencing especially in a historic area. I would love to visit this part of India some day.

  11. I always think it is important, if it is safe to, to overlook the political goings on and focus on the people and places that need tourism input. It is a shame there have been set backs in Jammu. It looks like a lush landscape and good on the tourism board for promoting the area with such entertainment!

  12. I’ve heard of Kashmir, but never the Jammu region. It looks interesting and definitely something for travellers who want to get off the beaten path.

  13. Why are the most beautiful places often also places of conflict ? Its really great that you show up Jammu and Kashmir in this post. That the pleasant aspect is also highlighted as well. India’s events are all so colourful and vibrant – with great music too.

  14. Anda says:

    I’ve heard about Kashmir, but never heard about the city of Jammu. What an interesting history they both have. I wonder if indeed Kashmir was initially a drained lake, or it’s just a legend. The festival looks very interesting. Lots of cultural programs. It’s nice that you have been invited to cover the Jammu Mahotsav 2019.

    1. It indeed is sad that the world knows Kashmir for varied reasons and terrorism has overshadowed the other beautiful places in the state. Hope this ancient land of India regains its peace!

  15. India hosts so many festivals. This is something I was completely unaware of. I would love to visit Jammu and be a part of this festival. It must have been so interesting for you to document all these. Loved reading every bit of it.

    1. Thank you, Shreya. Hope you get to visit the place soon.

  16. It sounds like a neat festival to attend! The area looks very beautiful. The Basohli Fort especially caught my attention. I love old forts and that one looks beautiful.

    1. The location and the vistas offered by the fort are captivating. Just hope the fort gets the much-needed restoration to go ahead soon!

  17. I have been to jammu so many times on work and once went with family to explore the place. Have visited many sites there but after reading this post I feel, I am yet to see so much. Also, tulip festival is something I really want to do.

    1. Hope you get to visit the yet to be explored places, Stuti.

  18. Soraya says:

    Jammu looks like a wonderful and interesting place to visit filled with such a looooong history. It’s such a shame about what is happening in the region. The Jammu Mahotsave event looks interesting and I am sure you get to learn so much about the culture and heritage of this part of India. Also the natural landscape and wet lands looks beautiful – fantastic you also got the chance to explore more of the area.

    1. It indeed is a shame that these beautiful hamlets are taking the brunt of terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. I hope we vanquish these terrorists soon to regain peace!

  19. Jane Dempster-Smith says:

    It looks an amazing destination. Such a shame about the current terrorist activity. The wetlands look fun to visit and I love old forts – so this would be a great destination for me to travel to. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

    1. Thanks for the read, Jane. Do visit the place when in India !

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