During a recent visit to Mysuru, the city of Tipu Sultan, one of my co- passengers suggested that since I had come from a far-off place, I should avail the opportunity to visit Ooty, a famous nearby hill station. When I asked what Ooty was like, he said that it was a very picturesque hill station. Another co-passenger, who overheard our conversation, advised me against going there because I had come from a place which had more beautiful hills, valleys and mountains than those in Ooty and that it had nothing more to offer.
This remark made by a co-passenger about the mountains, hills and valleys of Kashmir prompted me to recall and revisit them. Kashmir valley, in fact, consists of many beautiful sub-valleys, which are spread between mountains and are endowed with meadows, rivers, glaciers and other places of tourist attraction. As has been said by a famous poet:
“Zarra zarra hai mere Kashmir ka mehman nawaz
Raaste mein pattharon ne bhi diya paani mujhe.”
The valleys and mountains in Kashmir have a unique and beautiful topography. It’s similar to an art book whose pages offer a panoramic view each time we turn its pages one by one. The thirst of the tourist, who is the reader of this art book, is not quenched unless he reads it from beginning to end, visits every nook and corner of Kashmir and understands every aspect of Kashmiri life and culture. This is what visitors of earlier days have done and what they have written in their travelogues.
Kashmir has many more interesting places other than the generally known places like Mughal Gardens, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, etc. We have failed to bring all such lesser known places on the tourist map, develop them and exploit their full tourism potential. Srinagar and its adjoining towns are no doubt beautiful in many ways but the real beauty of Kashmir lies in its mountains, small valleys, meadows, lakes, waterfalls and glaciers.
Kashmiri art and culture, heritage, handicrafts, architecture, pollution-free atmosphere, and hospitality of its people is unmatched by any other place and offer a vast market and attraction for tourists of different tastes and temperaments. After landing in the main valley, one finds many sub-valley awaiting. Pahalgam valley, Aru valley and a host of others en route to Amarnath welcome you. Gurez and Tulail valleys are reached via Bandipora. Seemab valley and Lolab valley are situated in Kupwara district. The birthplace of Hazrat Anwar Shah Kashmiri is in Lolab valley. Sir Mohd Iqbal ,populary known as Shayer-e-Mashriq, has mentioned Lolab valley in one of his famous poems. Kalaroos valley has international significance due to the existence of seven caves with a purported Russian connection. Machil, another mini valley, is accessible via Kalaroos. Tangdhar Karnah is yet another valley of mesmerising beauty with Gabra valley on one side and Titwal on the other. The famous Bangus valley can be reached from Handwara and Uri and Salamabad from Baramulla, which have gained much prominence due to the Karwan-i-Aman bus service with POK. On one side of the Bangus valley lies Toot Maar Gali, also a valley which is a place of pilgrimage, on the LOC. The bowl-shaped Gulmarg, an internationally famous skiing resort, is also in Baramulla.
In central Kashmir, the district Budgam has well-known places like Doodh Pathri, Mujpathri, Yusmarg, Pakherpora and Charar-i-Sharif. The dargah of the famous saint Hazrat Sheikhul Alam (RA) is in Charar-i-Sharif.
Some of the famous mountain ranges, hills and the meadows of Kashmir are as under:
Pirpanjal range: It connects Kashmir with other states and welcomes anyone entering Kashmir. It is a large mountain range that acts like a shield and also as a representation of the beauty of Kashmir.
Sonamarg: It is called the meadow of gold and is the gateway to Ladakh.
Shamasbari Range: It is another famous mountain range of Kashmir. It is located at an elevation of 4,054 metres above sea level.
Kajinag mountain: It is a famous wildlife sanctuary in Kupwara district on the Line of Control. It has the Kajinag spring at its top. The elevation is 15,524 ft from sea level.
Sheshnag: It is a lake in the Himalayan range en route to Amarnath.
Amarnath: It is a famous Hindu Shrine where the annual Amarnath yatra culminates every year.
Zabarwan Hills: The pride of Kashmir, with unparalleled beauty and containing much wildlife. The range is an about 32-km-long sub-mountain range located in central Kashmir. The majestic Tulip Garden and the famous Dachigam National Park are the main attractions for visitors.
Mahadev Peak: A mountain peak in Srinagar. It is accessible via Fakir Gujree and has an elevation of 3,966 metres.
Shankaracharya Hill: It is also called Takht-e-Sulaiman and overlooks the Dal Lake in Srinagar. The famous Shankaracharya Temple is located at the top of it. It is at an elevation of 6,077 ft.
Hari Parbat: It is also known as Koh-i-Marran. On top of this hill is a famous fort overlooking Srinagar. Below the fort is the famous Dargah of Hazrat Sultan ul Arifeen, a temple, and Chhati Padshahi Grudwara, besides a host of ancient and historical monuments.
Zoji La: It is a high mountain pass in the Himalayas and connects Kashmir valley with the Ladakh region. It is at an elevation of 11,575 ft from sea level.
Habba Khatoon Peak: It is a pyramid-shaped peak located in Gurez. It is named after the famous Kashmiri poetess and queen, Habba Khatoon.
Razdani Pass: It is a high mountain pass located in Gurez valley at an elevation of 11,672 ft above sea level. The road over the pass is called Bandipora- Gurez highway.
Sadhna Pass: It is also called Nastachun Ppass. It is located in Shamsbari mountain range and connects Karnah Tehsil with Kupwara district. It is 9,843 ft above sea level.
Farkian Top: It is on the Kupwara-Keran road in Kupwara district and witnesses heavy snowfall in the winters, which causes its closure and frequent traffic accidents.
Panjtarni: It is a base camp en route to the Amarnath cave. It has a helipad also.
Mahagunas Top: It is the peak of Amarnath mountain and is at a height of about 4,200 metres with beautiful landscapes.
Affarwat: It is a summit at a height of 4,390 metres above sea level in Gulmarg. It receives heavy snowfall and remains mostly covered with snow. It has also the Gondola Cable Car project. It is also famous for its skiing slopes.
Mount Kolahai: It is the highest mountain peak at an elevation of 17,799 ft above sea level near Sonamarg in Ganderbal district. It is the source of Lidder river.
Harmukh: It is a sacred mountain of the Hindus situated in Ganderbal district at an elevation of 5,142 metres. Gangabal Lake is at its feet.
Aru: It is about 12 kilometres from Pahalgam and is noted for its scenic meadows. It service as base camp for trekking to the Kolahai glacier.
Dutt (Rashanpora): It is the best tourism place in Kupwara. One has to trek a distance of 4 kilometers to reach it. There are several deserted dhokas of shepherds and the area is totally uninhabited with no human habitation.
Fishaltong: It is in the northwest of Kupwara with a height of 8,000 ft above sea level. It also contains the Lashdutt Pass.
Ainch: It is part of the Kajinag mountain in Kupwara. It remains snow clad for most of the year.
Khazanmati: This mountain is in Kralpora and is about 16 kilometres from main Kupwara town. It is said that this mountain has a hidden treasure in it.
Z Gali: This famous pass is between Kalaroos and Machil on the Kupwara-Machil road.
Raja Ram ni Lare: This is reached via Rashanpora in Harie. This is a rock peak near Dutt mountain and stands like a big palace and is visible from a distance.
Budnambal: It is a beautiful village surrounded by dense forests and hills from all sides. A river named Budnambal Nalla flows through it. Some part of this river was once planned to be diverted for irrigating the lands of water-starved nearby Dardapora village situated on the other side of a hill called Haam, on which work was started decades back but the project was shelved due to political interference. The poor villagers of Dardapora are still looking towards this river with love and hope.
Drangyari: It is a famous hill station with much tourist potential. There is a development authority also which overlooks its development.
Dardapora: It is the last village situated about 140 kilometers north of Srinagar and lies close to the LOC. It is called the Village of Widows as husbands of many women here have been consumed by militancy. The village is devoid of any irrigation facility for its arid lands and the poor widows have been left to fend for themselves.
It is generally said that the mountains, passes, hills and meadows of Kashmir are calling us. It is our pious duty that we heed their calls. Our ancestors heeded their calls, which is why many shrines of priests and saints are in the high mountains. They attained the high seats of spirituality by meditating in the hills and mountains and by eating the fruits and vegetable which grew there. They exhorted their disciples to look after the trees in the forests. “Ann Posh Tele Yele Wann Posh”, meaning that food is subservient to forests, is a famous saying of the great saint of Kashmir, Hazrat Sheikhul Alam Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani (RA). It has also been narrated in a Hadith mubarak that two mountains facing each other enquire from one another everday if anyone had passed who was remembering and worshipping Allah.
It has rightly been said: “In the forests I go to lose my mind and find my soul.”
“Mountains have music for those who listen”. Let us all listen to the music of mountains.
The writer is a retired telecom engineer of BSNL. [email protected]