Kashmir is a land of fabled beauty and romance. The Bangus Valley is a region relatively unexplored by tourists. It is situated in the northwestern periphery of Tehsil Handwara in District Kupwara, approx 130 km from Srinagar. The valley is at an altitude of about 10,000 ft above sea level. It is spread over an area of 300 Sq km and is surrounded by the Shamsbery mountain range and the Leepa Valley.
The word “Bangus” is derived from two words: “Ban” derived from Sanskrit word “Van” which means “forest”, and “Gus” which means “Grass”. So, it is a meadow with lush wild grass. The Bangus Valley has a variety of flora that is considered as ideal for cattle grazing. The area is supposed to have been discovered by an unknown nomad, while grazing his cattle. In the summer season numerous cattle and sheep are seen grazing in these meadows.
Bangus Valley is surrounded by Chowkibal mountains on the northern side, Qazinag and Shamsbery mountains on the western side. Besides, other hills also seem to provide protection to the grassland, namely, Meeldar, Nastichavan and Yaddil etc. Bangus comprises a mountain biome which includes grassland biome with flora at lower altitudes and coniferous forests at a higher altitude. An area of 300 sq km is proposed to be declared as protected biome under the name of Bangus Valley.
In the deep valley is a marshy type grassland which is traversed by a small stream popularly known as Tilwan Kohl. Bangus Valley is 140 km from Srinagar via Kupwara- Chowkibal Road. It can be reached from Reshwari Rajwar (upper rim of Wadarbala) through two paths or gullies: Rahwali and Yaddil.
Rahwali leads to a bigger ground known as Masheed Angan and Yaddil culminates into a yaddil maidan (ground). Masheed Angan and Yaddil comprise Chotta Bangus.
Chotta Bangus narrows down into a path known as Goriber, surrounded on two lateral sides by a number of mountain peaks. Goriber opens onto a large grazing meadow known as Bada Bangus. It is a vast meadow of hundreds of acres and abounding in wild and rare medicinal plants. At one side of Bada Bangus is a plain table land called as Nicherian, at the top of which it harbours alpine vegetation. At another side is a still higher flat ground known as Jatti which is approachable through Mawar area via Neelvan forest. This area is famous for medicinal plants. It takes at least three days stay at Bangus to visit major portion of the Bangus Valley.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Bangus has a diverse variety of flora and fauna. The meadows and the slopes of the side plateaus are covered with a range of flowers and medicinal plants. Fresh water fishes of moderate size and their fingerlings inhabit the streams. The valley’s forests and plains serve as the breeding, feeding and sheltering grounds for many wild animal species. The wildlife includes about 50 species of animals and about 100 species of birds. The animal species include the musk deer, antelope, snow leopard, brown bear, black bear, monkeys, and red fox. A large number of residents and migratory birds can also be found feeding and breeding in the valley. The prominent resident birds include pheasants, tragopan, monal pheasant, black partridge, bush quail, and wild fowl.
The writer is a student of Aligarh Muslim University and a native of Village Daril, District Kupwara. [email protected]