Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Aesthetics of Mubark Mandi Palace Complex of Jammu

Jasbir Singh Katoch

Jammu has a rich cultural and built heritage. In the form of temples, forts, palaces, serais etc. It is however, the Mubarak Mandi palace complex which has been regarded as the crown of Jammu city. It is a living example of rich cultural heritage, of which architecture is a major component as it contains message from past about our cultural and traditional aspects.
Mubarak Mandi palace complex not only form an essential aspect of the cultural heritage of Jammu but is the most significant and important building in terms of history and the location of Jammu region. Strategically it is located on a hillock overlooking the river Tawi, in the heart of the old city of Jammu. It remained the royal residence of the Dogra rajas of Jammu, prior to the shifting of Maharaja Hari Singh to Hari Palace, at Manda hills. Besides, being a heritage building and a place of residence for the royalty, the importance of Mubarak Mandi also lay in the fact that it remained a hub of political and social activity till 1947. The darbars of Dogra rajas continued to be held in the palace complex till the union of J&K State with Indian union.
It is, however, unfortunate that the palace complex is disintegration rapidly. The reasons vary from public as well as political apathy to the lack of awareness regarding the monumental value of the palace; otherwise what could explain the ignorant use of the historical building at the hands of various government departments, who have over the years put the palace complex under every imaginable torture without caring for its, monumental, cultural and heritage values. Mubark Mandi Royal Palace Complex, which is the glorious landmark in Dogra architecture developed in phases over the last two hundred years till the reign of Maharaja Partap Singh. It seems that after the establishment of Dogra rule over the state of Jammu and Kashmir State in the second quarter of nineteenth century i.e. in 1846 A.D. various Dogra rulers constructed the Mubarak Mandi palace complex in phases during different periods according to their needs and requirements.
Historical Background: Prior to the construction of Mubarak Mandi palace complex, it is said that the rajas of Jammu until the time of Raja Gaje Singh, resided in the old palace, popularly known as the Purani Mandi / Mal-Dev-Ki-Mandi / Khalki Mandi. It was Raja Gaje Singh (1692-1707 A.D.) who selected the new site of Dhounthly spur overlooking the river Tawi for the construction of a new palace complex. But Raja Gaje Singh was unable to go beyond that and it was his son Raja Dhruv Dev (1707-1733 A.D.) who finally laid the foundation of the new palaces. This is corroborated by the chronicles of the region.
According to the chronicle Rajdarshani, during the reign of Farukh Siyar in the year 1126 Hijri corresponding to Vikrami 1767 i.e. 1710, Raja Dhruv Dev started the construction of residential palaces for himself and his family on the new site on the lofty bank of river Tawi. It was he who then shifted his royal household and darbar from Purani Mandi palace to the new palace constructed at Dounthly area, which later became famous by the name Darbargarh.
After Raja Dhruv Dev, his son Maharaja Ranjeet Dev (1733 to 1781 A.D.) is said to have added few more buildings to the palace complex.
It was near about four decades after Maharaja Ranjeet Dev, Majaraja Gulab Singh (1792-1856 A.D.) was crowned as the Raja of Jammu by the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in the month of Har, Vikrami 1879 i.e. June, A.D. 1822, under the Jia pota tree at Akhnoor near the bank of Chandarbhaga river i.e. Chenab (Asikni). After becoming the raja of Jammu, Maharaja Gulab Singh is said to have added a beautiful mansion in the same premises at Dabargarh area (Jammu City). He later added more buildings on he north-east side of the palace complex, Maharaja Ranbir singh ruled Jammu and Kashmir State from 1856 to 1885 A.D. Maharaja Ranbir Singh rebuilt most of the palaces of palace complex in around 1874 A.D. and completed the palace complex as it looks today. Maharaja Partap Singh ascended the throne of Jammu and Kashmir on 15th September 1885 A.D. and he ruled Jammu and Kasmir State from 1885 to 1925 A.D. He is also said to have constructed few buildings within the palace complex. These included the palace of Maharani Charraki on the eastern side of the palace complex, facing the river Tawi. During the reign of Maharaja Partap Singh, in the year 1898 A.D. on the evening of the 28th April a fire broke out in Mandi palace complex for the second time and due this incident of fire serious damages were inflicted to the following buildings:
1. Dewani Office
2. Governor’s Office
3. Foreign Office
4. Green Darbar Hall
After the incident of Mandi fire Maharaja Partap Singh rebuilt these
buildings in the early part of twentieth century. Maharaja Partap Singh ordered for the construction of Green Hall Governors office. Foreign office and Dewani office. The construction of these buildings was completed before the celebration of marriage ceremony of Raja Hari Singh in the month of Baisakhi, Sambvat 1970 i.e. in the year1913 A.D.
In A.D. 1925 Maharaja Partap Singh was succeeded by his nephew Raja Hari Singh son on his younger brother Raja Amar Singh, Maharaja Hari Singh (1925-1947 A.D.) shifted his residence from Mubarak Mandi palace complex to the newly built Hari Palace to the north of Jammu city at Ramnagar forest area near Manda hills.
The main focus of the paper is to discuss the Aesthetics of Mubarak Mandi Palace Complex.
Aesthetic is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty, especially in art. It emerged as a distinct branch of enquiry in the eighteenth century. In the western world, it is popularly know as “a theory of beauty” and in India, aesthetics is considered to deal with dramatic art and recognized as subordinate to architecture, which is a mother of the arts of sculpture, painting and the decorative crafts.
Some of aesthetics is found in several kinds of art like sculptures, paintings, architecture, decorative crafts etc. As for as the aesthetical aspect of architecture is concerned, it means art of designing structures. An architectural monument thus is a living expression of qualities like sacrifice, truth, power, courage, valour, love and beauty.
In this regard, aesthetic aspects of architecture have been found in Mubarak Mandi palace complex that can be discussed in two categories”
a) Structural features
b) Decorative features
A) Structural features: Structural features of Mubarak Mandi palace complex included the domes, bay windows, arches, spandrel, triangular pediment, segmental and broken pediment, cornices, brackets, projected balconies, pillars, iron railing, bulbous and small octagonal kiosks etc. The main purpose of these was to beautify the palace complex.
i) Domes: The domes which have been found at Mubarak Mandi palace complex are of two types:
a) Traditional Hindu and Rajputana style of Architecture.
b) Hemispherical and saucer domes.
c) Small dome/onion or Bulbous like sturcures.
a) Domes of Traditional Hindu and Rajputana style: These domes crowded the Gole Ghar, Grey hall and Army Headquarter and buildings. Total number of six domes of this type crowned the Mubarak Mandi palace complex. The architectural style of these domes is traditional Hindu and Rajputana. The shape of these domes is that of Hindu temples. These domes are octagonal in plan and shape. No influence of Islamic architecture is discerned in these.
The larger domes were placed at the centre of the buildings above the main entrances and other four smaller domes at the extreme comers of the buildings. The larger dome of Green Hall is different in shape from other two small domes but similar in plane. They go on tapering up to the top.
The central dome above the main entrance of the green hall buildngs has an iron rod. This iron rod was used for holding the flag of the rulers of Dogra Dynasty. The length of iron rod is about 10 feet and it is about 5 cm diameter. The top most portion of central dome was composed of round burnt bricks and held together with the help of gypsum Surkhi mortar. It is about 3ft in diameter. The smaller domes of both buildings were provided over the stair halls. These domes were decorated with the provision of cornices at different heights. Cornices were supported by brackets. These brackets were made of single stone unit and thickness of these cornices was 3 inches. These cornices were placed so that the splash of rainwater could not find an access into the structure. The function of cornices was not only to prevent an access of water into the buildings but
Also to enhance the beauty of the buildings. However, the era in which buildings were constructed the function of these cornices was purely aesthetic.
b) Hemispherical and Saucer domes:- Two hemispherical and one saucer domes were provided at Gale Ghar building. The architectural style of these domes is different from the domes crowning the green hall and army headquarters buildings. The total number of these types of domes is three. The dome that was placed at the left corner of the building looks like saucer dome.
Among the other two domes, one was placed in the center and the second at the extreme right corner of the building overlooking the bed of river Tawi are hemispherical in shape. The tops of these domes were decorated with padmakosa (lotus petals), which supported the flagstaff.
c) Small dome/Onion or Bulbous like structures:- Small domes like structures were provided at the four corners of central domes of both buildings and these were provided only to improve the aesthetic of buildings. The height of these is about 5 ft. from the lower cornice of the main domes. These were made of stone and fixed with the help of gypsum mortar. Small bulbous like structures were also placed all around the main domes. These were made of stones and carved in the shape of onion bulbi. The height of these is about 4-5 feet from the upper cornices of the main dome. The architectural styles of all these domes ha enhanced the beauty of whole Mubarak Mandi Complex.
2. Arches:- Arches are typically carved structures. These are used to bridge spans in building construction and civil engineering. The arches acting a self-supporting structure composed of bricks or stone blocks and capable of bearing the weight of upper parts of buildings. There are many different types but the principal types of arch are horseshoe, cusped, semicircular and ogee in accordance with their shapes.
Several types of arches like pointed, lancet, round, flat and arches of typical Hindu and Rajputana in styles have been found in the buildings of Mubarak Mani complex. A series of pointed arches have been found in the pink hall building and also in other buildings of place complex.
Lancet or acute gothic arches (the lancet windows and gateway topped by pointed arches) were used to decorate the deodhi Mubarak. Arches were also used to decorate the main entrance of the Grey hall building. The man entrance of the grey hall was divided into three parts for the purpose of aesthetics. It has two types of arches i.e. lancet and flat arch. The height of the main entrance is about 14 ft. from the floor level and it is about 13 ft. in width. The columns were highly carved by various floral designs and whole work was carried out in stone. An arcade of arches of typical Hindu and Rajputana in style were used to decorate both the grey hall and Army headquarter and foreign department buildings. Both buildings had long reception verandas. The verandas have an arcade both on the ground floor and first floor of the buildings. The stone columns supported the arches. These stone columns were beautifully carved and have elaborately decorated capitals. These are multi centered arches and were made of two stone units one unit of stone making each half of arch. The stone units were fixed by using gypsum mortar as cementing material. There are 64 arches in the front elevation of both grey hall and army headquarter and foreign department buildings These arches give a traditional and decent look and further enhanced the aesthetic beauty of the palace complex. The colour of stones used in these arches matched with the colour of the buildings. Thus, one can say that without these arches both the building blocks would have looked incomplete.
3. Bay window / Jharokas: Bay widow are corbelled out from the face of a wall by means of projecting brick or stone masonry. In other words it is an angular or curved projection on the wall of a house or buildings filled by fenestration. Bay windows or jharokas of different size and design were provided in almost all the buildings of Mubarak Mandi palace complex. These Jharokas have been found on the walls of both residential and official buildings the openings of these jharokas were carved both outside and inside and the frames and shutters were made of deodar wood and fitted with glass panes. Most of the jharokas were carved with the petals from above and bottom. These jharokas were provided not only for the aesthetic look of the buildings, but also to protection from the sun and rain.
4. Spandrel: Spandrel is a triangular space on both sides on the top of arch, the vertical of its apex, the space between the two arches and in case of vault the space between the adjacent ribs. In Mubarak Mandhi palace complex the spandrels of different arches were decorated with various floral designs, for example deodhi Mubarak, Grey hall, Army head quarter and foreign department building, Royal entrance etc.
5. Columns / Pillars:- Columns/ Pillars are provided not only for the purpose of aesthetic look but also to act as load bearing members. In Mubarak Mabarak Mandhi palace complex pillars were provided at the main entrances and at the comers of both Green Hall/Grey hall and the army headquarter and foreign department buildings. The pillars were raised up to the cornice below the parapet railing, which provided good aesthetic look to both the buildings. These pillars were made octagonal and material used was stone and brick masonry. However, the pillars, which were provided inside were meant not only for aesthetic look but also to bear the load of the building. Inside the Green Hall building, pillars were provided at regular intervals.
Twin pillars:- Twin pillars inside the grey hall building still exist in good. These twin pillars were comprised of two half visible pillars. The outer halves of these pillars seem to have been embedded in the walls meant to carry and support the roof slab. These pillars vanish towards the top such as seen in case of warm eye view of the sky scrapper. These twin pillars were provided at a point where the passage named as corridor and now days used as waiting hall. The height of these pillars is about 43 feet and 2 feet being consumed by the corniced decoration.

(i) Single pillar; this type pillar is to be found embedded into the wall of the grey hall. The capital of the pillar was decorated by carving the petals of Petunia flower. The petals of flower were painted in silver grey colour paint and the pillar was painted alternately with green and silver grey colours. This floral design is very prominent on the top of the pillars of grey hall building. The design was skillfully carved by the artisans of the time. All these pillars are highly carved and circular in plan.
(ii) Circular columns: Circular columns are also found on the external façade of Raja Ram Singh’s palace. These columns were provided not only for the purpose of aesthetics but also to act as load bearing columns. The material used in the construction of these columns was bricks, surkhi and lime and plastered with gypsum mortar.
(6) Railing: Railings were provided at various buildings of the Mubarak Mandi complex. Railing was made up of iron of high quality. These railings were well decorated by highly skilled artisans of Dogra rulers with great care and devotion. These have been used in the balconies of raja ram singh’s palace, Nava Mahal, Maharani Charaki palace, green haqll, Army headquarter and foreign department buildings. Unfortunately the projected balconies of Raja ram Singh’s palace and nava mahal have collapsed and vanished. Only the lower portion of Raja ram Singh’s Palace balcony supported by the iron brackets still exists on the rearside. However railings of different designs still exits in the projected balcony of Maharani Charaki palace and in the verandas of ground and first floor and on the parapet of the Green Hall and Army headquarter and Foreign department buildings.
(7) Ceiling: Wooden ceiling have been filled with various floral designs in Kashmiri pattern. Some ceilings in the palace complex were highly skillfully carved in plaster of paris in various floral and geometrical designs. The light colour of these designs emligtened when the light from outside falls on the ceiling. It is a great fascinating piece of art of Dogra artisans of that period.
(8) Artificial and projected balconies: Artificial balcony type structures have been found at the first floor of Green Hall and Army headquarters buildings. These were provided only for the aesthetic look and ventilation of the buildings. Their provision on the suitable sites helped the structure to regain its rigidity. The balcony from inside looks like a semi-circular arch and from out side the spandrel of the arch was decorated with various floral designs.
Projected balconies were provided at the third floor of Raja Ram Singh’s palace building and at the second floor of Nava Mahal, unfortunately which have collapsed. But only the lower portion of balcony of Raja ram Singh’s palace remained and the balcony of Nava Mahal completely vanished from the scene. The balcony running all along the façade of Raja Ram Singh’s is a recent construction and supported by steel girders. The projected balconies found at tge first second floors of Maharani Charaki are still in good condition. The balcony which runs along the riverside is supported by decorative cost iron brackets. The balcony is well decorated with iron railing and pointed arches of iron containing various floral patterns. These pointed arches of cost iron were provided to bear the load of projection roof of balcony and the iron bracket beers the load of whole structure. These artificial and projected balconies had further added beauty to the aesthetic look of these buildings.
(9) Other structure features of Mubarak Mandi palace complex: Other structural features of Mubarak Mandi palace complex are triangular pediments, segmental and broken pediments, doors and windows, brackets, domical vaults above the deodhis etc.
(B) Decorative features: In addition to the structural features, the Dogra master building adopted several decorative feature. They used theses decorative features in order to enhance and add to the aesthetic beauty of the palace complex. The decorative elements used by the Dogra builders while constructing the buildings of palace complex, were as under:
1. Gravel stones
2. Mosaic
3. Stucco
4. Geometrical designs
5. Motifs
(1) Gravel stones: gravel stones were used to decorate various buildings of Mubarak Mandi palace complex. This type of decoration has been found immensely on the external walls of buildings like Grey hall, Army Headquarter and foreign department building maharani Charaki palace. Some features of these gravel stones decoration have also been found on the columns of arches, in the ground floor ruins of Maharaja Partap Singh’s palace. These small gravel stones were arranged in various geometrical and floral designs and also fixed in regular manner in the shape of chain, almost in a fret motif
(2) Mosaic: The word ‘Mosaic came from the Greek word ‘Mousaikon’ and it means polished. Mosaic is composed of small pieces of glass, stones, marble and other materials called tesserae12. Mosaic work was done on the walls or floors in the form of various geometrical or representational and floral designs. In Mubarak Mandi palace complex, the lavish chambers of Maharami Charaki palace were beautifully decorated with mosaic work. But due to the pathetic attitude of callous government and vagaries of nature have finished the aesthetic work of mosaic.
(3) Stucco: Stucco is a slow setting plaster. It is basically composed of gypsum, sand and slacked lime with other substances. The main purpose of stuccowork is to make the surface plain. Stuccowork is employed on the walls of soffit for making incised, low relief or painting work, to facilitate modeling and ensure durability.
In Mubarak Mandi palace complex the stucco work is found on the ceilings and walls of several buildings, for example Grey hall, Army headquarter and foreign department building etc. When light outside falls on these ceilings and walls, the designs and other decorative works on them get enlightened.
(4) Geometrical designs: The geometrical designs can be square, triangular, rectangular, circular, oval, conical, octagonal, pentagonal etc. in India the use of geometrical designs is very old. It is evident from the Dhamka Stupa at sarnath constructed during Gupta period in around fifth century A.D.17 geometrical designs have also been found on the ceilings of Ajanta and Ellora caves i.e. in cave No. 1 and cave no. 32 respectively.
In Mubarak Mandi palace complex too the use of geometrical designs on the ceilings and walls of few buildings is extensive. They are found in the following buildings of Mubarak mandi palace complex like grey hall, pink hall, Maharani Charaki palace, army head guarter and foreign department building etc.
(5) Motifs: Dogra artisans have employed different styles of motifs on the various buildings of Mubarak Mandi palace complex, for example Grey hall, deodhi Mubarak, pink hall, royal entrance, army headquarter and foreign department building, maharani Charaki palace etc. Some of them specific to Jammu region and others adopted from outside. The motifs which have been used on different structures of these buildings such as pillars, brackets, crown of the dome and cupolas, spandrel of arches, charkas etc. These motifs are lotus, Chinar leaves, petals of petunia flower, sunflower and various other floral motifs, etc.
(i) Lotus (Kamal): Lotus is one of the oldest Hindu and Buddhists symbol before it is used by other faiths. It represents the principal of growth and also seat of God brahma. The Lotus is an ancient motif and it is widely used in India from the earliest times.19
In Mubarak Mandi palace complex this motif is used to decorate tops of the domes of Gole Ghar building. The inverted petals of lotus were used to form the Padmakosa. This type of padmakosa decoration found almost in all mughal buildings, for example Taj Mahal. Humayn Tomb etc. these petals were also used to decorate the jharokas of various buildings, for example palace of raja Amar Singh, Garvi khana building, Pink hall etc.
(ii) chinar Leaf: This type of motif had been found on various buildings in Mubarak Mandi palace complex, for example grey Hall, Army Headquarter and Foreign Department and Nava Mahal buildings. The Chinar leaves motif used to decorate the main entrances of grey hall and Army Headquarter and Foreign Department buildings and the basement wall of Nava Mahal above the ground level. Chinar trees mostly found in Kashmir and hence it appears that Dogra builders adopted various motifs of different regions.
(6) Other decorative features of Mubarak Mandi palace complex: Other decorative featres of Mubarak Mandi Palace complex are motifs of false arches and doors and several other floral motifs have also been found on the walls of various buildings of the palace complex for example the palace of Raja Amar Singh, Garvi khana building, Pink hall etc.

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