Laddan Fort is built on a hillock across the Tawi river in Udhampur. The road leading to village Kaira passes through the fort leaving half a kilometer walking distance. After dropping at a distance of 9 km by road from Udhampur one has to walk over to reach the fort. The fort is built over nine kanals of land. There are fields and houses of locals to its eastern side. The other sides are covered with the forests. This is a small “L” shaped fort.
Chenani was one of the famous and oldest state among the erstwhile 22 Dogra states. According to the diary of a European visitor George Forester the income of Chenani was more than Rs One lakh in 1783. Boundaries of dogra state were reduced to the extent that only 47 villages remained with this tiny Jagir and income declined to Rs 65800 during 1944-45. King Dayal Chand of Chenani had built two contemporary forts during 1820s at Shivgarh and Laddan.
Suchet Singh was conferred upon the title of Raja in 1822 and hill jagirs of Ramnagar and Samba were awarded to him. He annexed village Marothi with Ramnagar and launched an aggressive campaign on Chenani with the support of Khalsa Army on behalf of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore. Maharaja of Lahore was consolidating the small hilly states with Jammu and ultimately with Lahore.
When army over ran Chenani; Dayal Chand shifted women and children of his family to Shivgarh fort. Disgusted with the prevailing atmosphere of dissipation and the waves of intrigue and anarchy that had engulfed Chenani Dayal Chand left for Lahore. On reaching Lahore Dayal Chand briefed all the prevailing situation of Chenani to Ranjit Singh. He prayed Maharaja to restore peace and tranquility in Chenani. Ranjit Singh acceded to his request and issued instructions to take the stock of situation immediately.
Gulab Singh pacified Suchet Singh and he was made to return to Bandralta (Ramnagar). The jagir with reduced villages was restored to Dayal Chand who ultimately died in 1853. No battle was ever fought in Laddan Fort.
Its walls are built up of chieselled stones to its outer surface. The thickness of walls is about one meter. The walls from inside are built up of normal dressed stones. It was ascertained from locals that in the western portion of the fort there was a water reservoir inside earlier which received water supply from a natural water spring held in the fort itself. Presently the reservoir has been filled with garbage, disintegrated stones of fort walls and more than that grown bushes and trees.
It is also believed that there were separate chambers for commander, officers and soldiers but now a days only walls stand as a testimony to the fort, There was a main gate flanked with turrets but presently the condition of the fort has deteriorated due to lack of maintenance.
One of the walls was constructed with Chiselled stones and the other side with the normal stone. The thickness was enhanced by filling the gap with rubles and lime mortar elements. With the passage of time and lack of maintenance the walls started disintegrating. Many trees and bushes are grown on the walls which have ultimately weakened the strength of the fort walls.
There is one temple of Jalandhara Mata out side the walls of Laddan fort to eastern side. The Temple is very old as can be judged from the style of construction it seems to have been constructed much earlier than the fort. The village kotli falling to the southern direction of the fort was the last boundary of Chenani Jagir. It is possible that fort might have been constructed with the safeguard angle of the boundary. An excellent technique has been adopted in construction of temple. The high top of the temple is capped by a huge ribbed stone slab representing sun.
The temple is built up of complete carved stone. The sculpt and carving style is very exquisite. Temple is west faced and inside the temple the stone idol of Jalandhara Mata is kept. There are two stone pillars near the main door of the temple and three idols of gods are fixed on the front face above the door.
There are expressively done fine carvings reflecting different Gods and designs on all the sides of temple. Mata Jalandhara is the Kuldevi of Chenani Kings. Temple might have been constructed by the earlier kings who came to Chenani. The necessity of constructing the fort was perhaps felt by the later kings.
There are immensely beautiful carvings and designs on all sides of the temple showing love of the kings for religion and devotion. Due to improper maintenance the temple however is not in a grand position but it surely is one place which takes us to the historical background of Chenani.
The fort has been listed among the Protected Monuments list of ASI since 2010 but not even a single stone has been got refixed by the department nor any sign board to this effect has been displayed.
Half a kilometer link road is there but it is also in bad condition. A local told us that officers visit this place once in a month but does nothing much and now they have employed one local to clear up the grass. But the bigger question Will it be restored.
*Text Copied from Daily Excelsior