Overlooking the vista of the Himalayan Ranges and the stunning Tawi River stands the formidable Bahu Fort lending one of the most striking features in this region of Jammu.
Perched on a plateau at a height of 325 meters or 1,066 feet above sea level measured from the surface of the panoramic Bahi River, and just opposite the old town of Jammu, the Bahu Fort is a spectacular sight to see and can be reached from the main city of Jammu just 5 kms away.
Bahu Fort is probably one of the most visited tourist attractions in Jammu & Kashmir. It is an iconic heritage structure which is also perhaps considered the oldest in Jammu. This Fort is known to have existed for over 3,000 years since its construction. It is an ancient and historical site in Jammu that was originally built under the instructions of King Bahulochana, who was then the Ruler of Jammu & Kashmir.
Henceforth, post construction and completion, the Bahu Fort has seen quite a number of additions done under the orders of the successive rulers of J&K including the Dogra Kings to further accentuate the grandeur of this majestic and imposing structure.
The original edifice of the Bahu Fort has been remodeled several times and even extended far from what it used to be during its original construction phase. This Fort and the establishment of Jammu as a town is somewhat linked together.
Legend has that one day, Raja Jambu Lochan, who was the brother of Bahu Lochan, went on a hunting trip and he witnessed an intriguing sight of a tiger and a goat drinking water together from the same location of the Tawi River without the goat being attacked by the Tiger. This sight represented a divine intervention and hence, the King declared that his Capital City, which is Jammu as we know today, will be built at that very site. He believed that this site represented the amiable co-existence of animals that will transfer onto his people as well.
Later, his brother Bahu Lochan erected a Fort on a rock face along the same site where the tiger and goat had once drank water amicably due to its favorable direction and named the Fort after him as Bahu Fort.
The Bahu Fort encompasses and ancient and renowned Mahakali Temple which is popularly referred to as the Bawe-Wali Mata Mandir as the presiding deity is Goddess Bawe - Wali Mata. This Temple is highly revered by the locals of Jammu and witnesses a large congregation of devotees every Tuesdays and Sundays and especially during the festival of Navratri when a large Bahu Mela fair is organised. Devotees visit to offer prayers, worship, and seek the blessings of this Goddess and partake during the festive seasons. Towards the right end of the temple are a few halls that were used as assembly halls and administration offices during the ancient times but unfortunately have not been maintained well.
Apart from this ancient Temple, Bahu Fort also features a garden which is a favourite picnic spot amongst the locals that gets packed during the summers while a man-made lake adds complete serenity of the place apart from offering boating activities to all visitors. A project for a cable car ride stretching from Bahu Fort to Mubarak Mandi Complex is underway by the government that will also serve the pilgrims visiting Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. This will add a new dimension to the means of transportation in Jammu thus luring in even more visitors.
Bahu Fort was built very strong with fortified thick walls made of sandstones that were probably churned out from brick and lime mortar. It holds 8 octagonal towers that are connected by thick walls. These towers feature small enclosures for the guards while the entrance is massive making way for elephants into the fort premises. To the left entrance of the Fort is a water reservoir that measures 20 x 20 feet in size and 15 feet in depth, where pilgrim bathe before entering the Mahakali Temple while the right side of the entrance features a pyramidal structure that are flanked by thick walls made to withstand any attack.
The First level of the Bahu Fort is extravagantly decorated with arches and depicts exquisite floral patterns as seen in palaces while lower level features an underground prison chamber that has a secret exit to enable escapes from the fort during emergencies or enemy attacks.
The royal stables were once a part of the Fort premises but due to several remodeling from time to time, they seem to have been removed or restructured as enclosures. The last renovation of Bahu Fort was done under the instructions of Maharaja Gulab Singh during the 19th Century, of which we see only the formidable aspects today.