Moti Mahal, Poonch
The Moti Mahal is one of the finest buildings of Poonch constructed between 1926-1936, during the period of Dogra Raja's of Poonch principality. The complex is spread over 145 Kanal of land. At that time Rs 9.01 lac were incurred on completion of the glamorous, attractive and classic Mahal (Palace) with a Scottish style of Architecture, complete with Ivy covered walls. The palace was started by Raja Sukhdev Singh under the supervision of an English Engineer Mr. Anderson and completed by Raja Jagat Dev Singh. The Mahal is situated on the North west corner of Poonch Town on the bank of Betar Nullah.
Raja Sukhdev Singh who has started the construction of the Mahal was very fond of architecture,art, culture and construction. The young Raja was a man of unique tastes. He was coronated on 17th March 1922 as Raja of Poonch at the age of 21 by Maharaja Partap Singh of Kashmir. But after sometime Raja Sukhdev Singh was found to be involved in a conspiracy against the Kashmir Darbar hatched by local officers. Thus he was summoned at Srinagar and sent to England for study of Adminstrative matters.
After his long stay in England and visits of Ladakh and Gilgit, the Raja come back to Poonch in 1925. Since he had seen and admired a number of royal palaces in England, on his return he decided to construct a modern palace in the then popular 'modern' English/Scottish country estate style.
He engaged a british company for the selection of the site and blue prints. The work was done by Er. J. R. Anderson and Er. D. M. Asarpata. The foundation stone was laid by the Raja on 15 Feb. 1926. The name of the Mahal was proposed after the name of 1st Dogra ruler Raja Moti Singh of Poonch. Raja Moti Singh was the son of Raja Dhayan Singh who was Prime Minister of Khalsa Darbar.
The kashmiri wood work like khatam band and mumbai kari of the building was completed under the supervision of a person from the village of Tarluti. Raja Jagat Dev was so impressed that he rewarded him and sent his son Ibrahim khan to England for bar at law. But after returning from England he became the main character in the revolt against Dogra rule in 1947 and ended up becoming the 1st president of Azad Kashmir Govt on 25 oct 1947.
At one time their was a small hunting preserve attached to the Mahall and there was a cantonement nearby. The Raja and his family would often sit outside and listen to the Military band playing at night, in the Cantonements Bandstand, or as they strolled the forest in the pleasant summer evenings for which Poonch is renound.
While serving as the local QC for an army unit the Moti Mahal was damaged badly in the earthquake of 2005 suffering extensive damage on the 1st and 2nd stories, with damage occuring from the partial colapse of the great masonry chimneys. On the ground floor the damage was limited to cracks in the walls.
The heritage experts and best architects were invited by the Govt for its repair and renovation. The work was started in 2006 and completed within one year without comromising the heritage of the building at a cost of Rs 58 Lacs.