Mangla Dam reservoir itself and ruins of Ramkot Fort that are inside it are both located in the Mirpur district of Azad Kashmir.
The word Mangla is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word Mangala, meaning ‘auspicious’.
Gigantic Mangla Dam and Ramkot Fort are at a 297 Kms distance from Lahore, along the GT road. The good thing is that Mangla Dam site weather is pleasant all year round, except during August, when it gets really hot and humid.
Just a little over 2 hours distance from Rawalpindi, Mangla dam site is a wonderful one-day’s trip, if you leave early. Mangla Dam memories last a lifetime, ask the people that were part of the team raising it in the 1960s.
The drive over Mangla Dam spillways is breezy and if you are lucky, you get to see the dam’s water gushing out of the gates. A fine water spray lights up a rainbow across the bow of the Mangla lake spillways. The dam’s water reservoir seems endless, when viewed from the spillways over pass. To reach the spillway drive requires permission from the WAPDA security officer or maybe a little palm greasing of the security guard there.
Mangla Dam water level filled till date is 1237 feet and normally stays at 1180 feet, max. Mangla Dam capacity is 7.39 MAF. Ramkot Fort although inside the lake, is always above this level.
Further ahead is mangla Dam’s turbine station. To go inside requires WAPDA’s permission again. There is a huge Sadqain calligraphic painting on the wall of the turbine hall that is worth see. Then there are the turbine tubes and power houses that have educational value.
Mangla Water Sports Club has water scooters, power boats, tourist boats and parasailing available there. People line up early for parasailing and hence, getting there early is very important. The power boat costs Rs 8000 for a complete trip across the water reservoir, but it’s a lot of fun. The boats are very fast and kids love it. We took the power boats to the Northern tip of the pond where the Ramkot fort is located.
Ramkot fort is a 16th century fort built by the Kashmiri rulers of their time to defend their outposts on the Jhelum river crossing. It is actually located at the confluence of Jhelum (ancient Hydaspus) and Poonch rivers. It is covered from three sides with water and is accessible from the Kashmir side (Dudyal area) by land. The Fort is itself a military strategist’s masterpiece.
Any invading army would have to climb up half an hour towards the fort in open ground in the sight of the fort’s artillery peering over the top rampart. Then if the invaders manage to get close, there are gun positions all along the track leading towards the main gate. The main gate can only be accessed through a path that winds along a steep cliff, with water on one side and the high fort walls on the other. All this time the invaders would be peppered with gun fire from above. This pathway also has gun positions at difficult bends, to make it impossible to reach the gate in mass numbers, because there is no space to assemble in front of the main door — only cliff that falls into the dam reservoir.
Ramkot fort has an unusually big water tank inside, probably designed for siege warfare protection and collect rain water. The views around the Ramkot fort are breathtaking, because of its height. While I was peering towards the Jhelum side of the fort, I couldn’t help but recall the infamous Alexander-Porus battle of Hydaspus on the banks of the river Jhelum. I wondered how far the river has crept since. I am sure the battle site must have been close, considering the strategic importance of Jhelum River crossing in front of me. We can also see the old city Mirpur or the Mangla hamlet, jutting out of the lake sometimes in drought conditions. Mangla Dam rehabilitation project was very successful and most of the people ended up in UK.
Ramkot fort was just one of two forts on opposite banks of Jehlum designed to protect the route towards Poonch city, the Kashmiri kingdom capital. The second fort is Mangla fort.
Mangla fort is dead in front and overlooking the bridge over river Jhelum. Mangla Fort was probably a guard post, just to protect the river crossing. A major portion of the fort was felled to build Mangla dam in the 60’s, but still some of it remains. There is a restaurant and refreshment corner there. We went into an interesting Dam museum inside this fort. The museum has artifacts and Mangla dam models and cutouts, explaining the electricity generation process. It is interesting to see. I would rather have seen artifacts, coins and history of Mangla town itself there.
You wouldn’t conveniently find accommodation and hotels near mangla dam itself, but Mirpur City has many good quality hotels available. Mangla view Resort hotel is not fully functional, because of security concerns, I am told. As far as owning a jet ski at mangla garrison housing project, I am afraid that is not in the cards for the time being.
While returning, we sat and had fresh fried fish from the dam at a road side hotel in Mangla cantonment. We also went to a KFC place at Mangla Cantt to eat; there was pizza hut outlet too.