SYED KALEEM GEELANI
Just as we enter the valley of Kashmir, is a sight of fabulous natural beauty and historical importance. The place in contention is called Verinag from where emerges the famous Jehlum River. Verinag is also known for its beautiful, lush green trees, blissful and picturesque gardens that surround the spring. One gets enchanted and relaxed while watching the river surrounded by lush green trees filled with refreshment and invigoration. For almost everything in this world, the origin is always the purest form. So, the purest form of Jehlum is here at its origin, at Verinag. The water is blue in colour, which tastes different and gives a feel of purity and instant refreshment.
Initially it was shapeless but now It is a octagonal shaped pond, in which water oozes from different places. Legend has it say that there is a deep opening in its centre through which the water comes out.
The Mughal Emperor Jahangir got fascinated and impressed upon sighting the natural spring. He ordered to construct the drum dome structure like sculptured stones round the spring. He changed the shape of Verinag spring from a shapeless pond to an octagonal shaped spring. In 1619 AC, around the spring, he built a garden in the traditional Mughal design. The garden is symmetrically divided into four parts and there are horizontal and vertical paths with the spring flowing alongside or downside. In 1620 AC, Jahangir built an embellished arcade surrounding it. The Mughal Emperor loved the place so much, that he gave instructions that he should be buried here after his death. But, he didn’t live long after the discovery and construction of this majestic spot and died in Kashmir in 1627 CE, but was buried against his wishes at Shahdara Bagh, Lahore on the orders of his wife Noor Jahan. Though, the wish of Mughal Emperor, Jahangir was not fulfilled but this place sends out vibes to every nook and corner of the world to visit and see the mesmerizing beauty of Verinag. It is full of spirituality; one can feel it.
However, it is very unfortunate and one feels disheartened upon visiting this place today, all due to lack of facilities and safety concern for staying at this famous tourist place. The Verinag garden comes under the authority of VDA( Verinag Development Authority) which I think is more on documents and less on the ground. While the tourism department makes high claims on the development of tourist destinations in Kashmir, but here in Verinag such developments are invisible on.
Years ago, a huge amount of money was sanctioned for the developmental purpose of the Verinag, following which a multiple number of hotels and cafeterias were built externally but then after the work was stopped. All the newly constructed buildings were left at the mercy of elements after being built partially, maybe due to political reshuffles or other reasons. It has been many years since they have been left incomplete and idle, the buildings can now be seen in destruction, windows stolen, tiles stolen, mirrors broken and so on. This is all due to non seriousness of operating and regulating authorities. There was also a Rope-Way project for Verinag which would have made it easier for tourists to reach the Verinag spring just after crossing the Jawahar Tunnel but It was merely a eye wash of documents and nothing else.
The tourists who want to stay here for the night have to pass through barricades and spent the night in between the police station and the army Camp as the tourism department owned hut is right between these. In the evening hours, the tourists are frisked and flashed with lights while they go to and fro from their hut. It is shame on the part of tourism department that they are facilitating the tourists to such dangerous places. A local can never think of booking the tourist hut; his identity card is being held for night and he is asked to not go out at night. Apart from the tourist hut owned by tourism department, there is also a hotel but the people staying there too have to pass through forces camp and hold up their identity cards with the forces till next morning. Imagine the impression on tourists and local people visiting Verinag. While the tourism department is in deep slumber for developmental works for the tourist spot, but to our shame they are also in the deep slumber for the security, comfort and peace of mind of the tourists staying here.
It is the utmost need of the hour that the Government, the Tourism Department and the VDA(Verinag Development Authority) should ensure security, privacy and comfort of tourists and find out a solution as soon as possible to enhance the tourist flow of Verinag. Furthermore, if the VDA( Verinag Development Authority) would get up from its slumber and restore the incomplete buildings for the sake of the security and concern of tourists, then tourists as well as local people will heave a sigh of relief and feel safe and comfortable during their stay at Verinag.. Safety and security are a big concern for tourists and we need to ensure it as early as possible. I hope that our conscience wakes us up before it is too late!
— The author writes on various issues and can be reached at: Kaleemgeelani11@gmail.com