Present-day city of Kotli and its adjoining areas are named and inscribed in historical books and documents as “Kotli Mangrallan” and “Kotli State”. Before becoming Kotli district, this area was spoken and written as Kotli Mangrallan. The name “Kotli Mangrallan” itself illustrates the historical uniqueness of this city and region, as the several named after Kotli are present in Indo-Pakistan, but the clans or castes, who inhabited and founded them, are mentioned with
these reference names. As a result, the historical background of cities named Kotli become very clear to people. For example, Kotli Sattian, Kotli Loharan, and Kotli Suhlanan etc. Therefore, this city situated on the banks of the River Punch is not only a Kotli but it is The Kotli Mangrallan, which was founded by the Mangral Rajput Dynast of the area in the early of 19th. Century.
Before the settlement of present-day Kotli, the area was a vast dense and terrible forest. Man’s passage was impossible in this area due to the fear of beasts. A few members of Gakhar family from Pharhana Dan Gali, came here and settled a town called Fatehpur near the present-day Mandi Town to the side of Aghar-Jamalpur, adjacent to the hill on the bank of the River Punch, which was surrounded by the river on three sides. Gradually this family spread to all the areas, so Jamalpur was named after Jamal Khan and Jalalpur was named after Jalal Khan. It is said that in the town of Mandi, below Fatehpur, on the bank of river, by lucky chance a saint Shah Hans Diwan, used to live and to beat the drum openly at that time. The Raja could not bear the fame of anyone else in his presence, so he forbade Shah Hans Diwan to beat the drum. Shah Hans Diwan said.” I will continue my job until the Day of Resurrection when you are a guest of a few days.” A few days later, suddenly Sikhs attacked Fatehpur along with Rai Diyar Muhammad Khan Mangral, Jamal Khan and Jalal Khan fled to Gujrat on their defeat. Later on, the Raja Diyar Muhammad Khan Mangral became the Sultan of the area.
There are two settlements, “Kartot and Dakhari” in the suburbs of Kotli Mangrallan, which were the seat of the Mangral rulers before Kotli was settled. From this region, Raja Sher Khan Mangral of Kotli Mangrallan joined in the battle in the support of his ally Gakhar of Pharhana and was martyred in Bala Bangash (present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). His grandson Raja Muhammad Yar Khan was a famous ruler of Kotli State. His other great achievements include the construction of the Kotli Jamia Mosque. A settlement of this town is named “Mohalla Diyar Khan”, after him. The ruins of his palace and other structures across the River Punch opposite the city of Kotli are witnesses of fascination of the sky. At the time of the aggression Sikh forces in Lahore under the command of Diwan Hari Chand attacked of the Sikh Court Lahore in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the kingdom of Kotli was ruled by Raja Shahsawar Khan Mangral, the son of Raja Diyar Muhammad Khan Mangral. Sikh forces in Lahore under the command of Diwan Har Chand attacked on this area. Raja Sahib fought very fiercely. Other Mangral Chiefs were happy in their respective jagirs as themselves Rajas. So, these areas were conquered by the Sikhs in 1815 and Raja Shahsawar Khan was imprisoned and brought to Lahore where he died in the captivity of Sikhs. According to another statement, he was buried in Dhanwan Kotli. Thus, the Mangral State was overthrown from the central location of Kotli.
The second notable Mangral ruling area was the Tharoch, where the strong fort of Tharoch near is located on a vertical hill above, at the distance of about one and half miles away from Gulpur. This area was the pride of the Mangral Rajput tribe about a century and a half ago. This area was also attacked by the forces of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore under the leadership of Sikh Sardar Zorawar Singh. Mangral Chieftains, among them, Sardar Samat Khan, Sardar Karmudi Khan of Barali, Sardar Shadman Khan and Sardar Sattar Muhammad Khan were included. Under the leadership of Mirza Hashim Khan of Kajlani, fought hard against the Sikh forces but could not succeed. In Bikrimi 1908, this last sign of the Mangral rule came to end. Later on, the grand grandson of Sardar Sattar Muhammad Khan of Tharoch, Col. Raja Muhammad Mahmud Khan succeeded in conquering the fort of Tharoch during the war of Independence in 1947.
If you turn the pages of historical books and documents, you will find that the present-day Kotli and adjoining areas had been under the control of Rajkumar Raja Mangar Pal and his ancestors before till 13th. century. Raja Mangar Pal was the son of the last ruler of Rajapuri (present-day Rajouri), Raja Amna Pal (A.D 1172-1217). Raja Amna Pal was the descendants of Raja Prithvi Pal, the first ruler of Rajapuri (A.D.968-1022) and he was the younger brother of Raja Jaya Pal who was the power full Rajput ruler of the Northern India (A.D. 955-1003)
Raja Jaya Pal and his descendants fought many fierce battles against Sultan Subktagin and his son Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi for the independence of the Northern India. This dynasty is called Hindu Pal Rajputs of Kashmir and Punjab.
The ruler of Rajapuri, Raja Amna Pal had given the present-day Kotli areas (The lower portion of the Tohi Valley) as a jagir to his son Raja Mangar Pal, who was the ancestor of Mangral Rajput tribe. When Raja Sehns Pal who was in the 5th. generation of Raja Mangar Pal, migrated to this area to try his luck, then this area was gone under control as a jagir to Malik Masood Thakhar, the prime minister of the King of Kashmir, Zain-Ul-Abidin (Bud Shah). Malik Masood Thakhar was the descendants of prince Zulqadar Khan Turk, who invaded Kashmir in 1320. Majority of Malik family of Kotli area belongs to Malik Mir Ali Khan, who was also the descendants of Zulqadar Khan Turk. So, Raja Sehns Pal along with some of his companions crossed the Punch River and migrated to the place of present-day, “SAINLAH” via Sialkot, or probably via Khuiratta and settled there. Later, Gradually, he became the ruler of the area. On the advice of Malik Masood Thakhar, Raja Sehns Pal accepted Islam at the age of about 70 and became Muslim. He named himself “Raja Sehns Pal Khan”. When he became Muslim, the entire population of the area also converted to Islam. People had a sincere devotion to him and the area, he ruled called as “Sehnsa” after him.
From the descendants of Raja Sehns Pal Khan, there was Raja Diyar Muhammad Khan Mangral who succeeded in establishing the Mangral State known as Kotli Mangrallan. After him, his son Raja Shahsawar Khan Mangral became the ruler of Kotli Mangrallan. Most of Malik family members were in the Mangral army. Raja Shahsawar Khan built a mosque on the bank of Punch River by cleaning the forest of present-day Kotli area. The name of this mosque was Shahi Mosque, which is still existed. Mangral ruling family built another mosque known as Gumbad Masjid. After the construction of these mosques, there was some population established here.
In 1812, there was a battle fought between Mangral and Sikh armies, but Mangral Army was defeated. On the promise of obedience, Raja Shahsawar Khan Mangral was released and was given the area of Raj Mahal as well. There were 22 villages in Raj Mahal area.
Dhanwan Village was the central village of Raj Mahal, which was named after Raj Mahal Begum (Banu Begum). She was daughter of Asif Ja who was real brother of Queen Noor Jahan of Hindustan. Raja Mahal Begum married Malik Ahsan-Ullah Khan (Zafar Khan). Zafar Khan had been the Governor of Kashmir in 1633-40 and then in 1642-46. He gave his wife a jagir which included the areas of Mehndar, Punch and dozens of villages. This jagir Raj Mahal was named after his wife Raj Mahal Begum (Banu Begum). Zafar Khan also built the fort of Karjai in 1634 and settled 60 people of Gujar tribe and in same number of Buffaloes. Later on, this area of Raj Mahal went under control of Raja Shahsawar Khan Mangral, the ruler of Kotli Mangrallan in 1812.
Raja Shahsawar Khan had a great devotion to Sayed families, so he gave hundreds of kanals of lands to Sayed families and settled them in Kotli town. He had no male children but only one daughter, named, “Rani Shehr Banu” and she was married in a Sayed Family of Pang Piran. Her husband name was Sayed Mir Ahmad Ali Shah Bukhari.
Shehr Banu was given a lot of lands of Kotli in dowry, which still exists in the area of Pang Piran. Her grave is present in the cemetery of Pang Piran where an inscription has been installed. This grave was identified by Mirza Sabir Hussain Jarral, who is as well as being a reader of history, he is also a novelist. The photo of grave was provided by Raja M. Asama Sarwar and M. Bashir Baig.
It is said that at the last time, Raja Diyar Muhammad Khan divided the areas of Kotli State into his three sons. One of his sons, 1-Raja Nasir Khan was the ruler of from Kotli to Kasgumman (Mirpur) and other, 2-Raja Faiz Talab Khan was the ruler of Sehnsa Valley. 3-While Raja Shahsawar Khan from Kotli to the areas of Raj Mahal and he was the ruler who had fought two wars against Sikh invasions for the independence of the areas of Kotli.
The Sikhs, under the leadership of Sher Singh, again attacked Kotli State in 1815, after the defeat of Raja Shahsawar Khan was imprisoned in the fort of Lahore, where he died later as a prisoner. Sher Singh occupied the throne of Dakhari but the public of the area did not accept him as a ruler, particularly, the Malik community. They harassed Sher Singh by killing his men day and night. So, he decided to established the throne in present-day Kotli city where a small population was already settled near to the mosques in the reign of Mangral Dynasty. Now all population of Dakhari migrated to here. Sher Singh installed the same porch in his palace which was installed in Shahsawar Khan’s palace. This porch was existed till 1947. The descendants of Sher Singh remained in Kotli till 1947. Bakhshi Ram Moti, Kotli Advocate, was the descendant of Sher Sigh, he was a famous and influential man of that time. Also, he was one of the big landowners.
Etymology of word Kotli:
The name of Kotli City is mentioned in history documents as Kotli Mangrallan and Kotli State. Following are some traditions as to why Kotli was named:
Present-day Kotli was inhabited and ruled by Mangral Family for about three centuries ago. The two landmarks of the Mangral family, are the two mosques one the Shahi Masjid and second the Gunbad Masjid or Domed Mosque. Kotli is home of different nations. Among them are, Rajputs (Mangral, Thakial, Narma, Gakhar, Janjua, Rathore, Butt, Bains, Wains, Minhas, Sohalan, Chibh and Doomial etc.), Sudhan, Qureshi, Gujar, Mughal, and Jat etc. Now the Mangral Rajputs in Kotli city sparsely populated, because under an agreement in 1815 with Sikhs of Lahore, the Mangrals, particularly, the ruling family members were not allowed to settle in the city. Due to being a housing scheme, many Mangral families now have settled in the city. As mentioned above about the mosques built by Mangral rulers, these mosques were closed by Dogra rulers and then they became a pile of rubbish. The Gunbad Masjid was restored by the efforts of Ali Rathore and Sheikh Fazal Elahi Rathore. For the restoration of the Shahi Masjid, there was a full movement launched in 1946, under the leadership of Ghazi Elahi Bakhsh Rathore. In which Sufi Muhammad Zaman (Late), Muhammad Din Mirpuri, Maqbool Ahmad, Muhammad Iqbal, Sheikh Latif, the father of Sheikh Fazal Allam Mirpuri, Tasdiq Butt Kotli, and Siddiq Rathore were arrested and with their collective efforts, the Shahi mosque was restored. The Muslims of the area took an active part in the movement of 1931.
When Maharaja Hari Singh came in the last time before 1947, the conqueror of Kotli Colonel Mahmud Khan Mangral of Tharoch said to him that Muslims support Pakistan, the opinion of Muslims should be respected. During the war of Independence of 1947, Colonel Mahmud Khan was succeeded to conquer Kotli by the help of his companions. Similarly, Raja Sakhi Daler Khan Mangral also succeeded in defeating Dogra army in the valley of Bennah, later he occupied Rajouri and called the conqueror of Rajouri.
There are a large number of mosques in Kotli and called Madina-Tul-Masajid as well. Pir Sadiq (Late) gave the special attention in building the mosques in Kotli. The people of Kotli have a lot of devotion to him.
Kotli is located in the north of Punch district, in the south Mehndar district, in the east Rajouri district and in the west Rawalpindi district. Kotli Mangrallan was given the status of a district in 1974, under Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan, the prime minister of Azad Kashmir. But it was made to distort the historical name of Kotli Mangrallan. District Kotli had five tehsils:
1-Tehsil Kotli, 2-Tehsil Sehnsa, 3-Tehsil Nakial, 4-Tehsil Charhoi, and 5-Tehsil Khuiratta.
The city of Kotli is situated at an altitude of 1960 feet above Sea level. The district headquarter is surrounded by lush green mountains. There is a lot of forest and rich in natural resources by vast deposits of marble and coal. These natural resources are mainly in Nakial, Qamruti, Dhanwan, Goi, Narali, Dandli, and Khuiratta. In terms of quality, according to experts, the percentage of carbon in the coal of Kotli is 70%, while in Chakwal’s coal is 34% and in Chouan Sayedan Shah’s coal is 10%. There are also vast reserves of Lime Stone in Sawar, Dandli and Dhanwan. Dolomite is used in Mirror industry, which present in Dhanwan including the reserves of marbles. Quartz is used in Mirror industry, and it is found in Kotli in quantity of 60 lakh tons. While Graphite is in vast quantity in Nakial, Qamruti, Sawar and Makiar.
District Kotli had 264 villages and its total area is 1,862 Square Kilometers. Its population is 774,194. Kotli has five political constituencies as, 1-Kotli City, 2-Nakial, 3-Sehnsa, 4-Charhoi, and 5-Khohiratta. The following are the political victories in these constituencies in Kotli in the current general election of Azad Kashmir in 2016: