Cascading mountains, dancing rivers and oozing beauty, the Saffron Valley is indeed an euphoria for travellers. The enchanting aroma of traditional bakeries and peeping wood art, the city of Wazwan has much to offer. The intoxicating beauty of Kashmir has attracted plethora of travellers and explorers since ages. The city of sage Kashyap has unanimously won the title of “paradise on earth“.
In the past, tourism industry has experienced tremendous surge owing to information explosion through internet. How could Kashmir be an exception when its designated as ‘paradise on earth’. In the month of April this year, Srinagar airport has witnessed busiest day in the history with 15,014 people travelling on 90 flights in and out of the valley. Also, as per data given by Union Tourism Ministry, till Oct 2022 around 1.62 crore tourists visited the valley. According to statistics of J&K Tourism Department, March 2022 broke ten year’s tourist arrival record in Kashmir. It is estimated that 50 to 60 percent of the people in J&K are employed in state’s tourism business in some capacity. The contribution of tourism sector in overall GDP of the state is 15%. The city of Kashmir cradles between lofty Himalayas and Mighty Pir Panjal. The rejuvenating air of the valley with a tinge of cold, definitely call for ‘The Kahwa’ a unique tea blend which, originally came from Buddhist Kushan Empire in first and second AD.
It had been my long unaccomplished wish to visit Kashmir and embrace its beauty. Finally me and my friends planned for a trip to Kashmir. As I arrived in Srinagar, a city of Gardens, heritage and rich history, I was welcomed by beautiful Tulips as I was right in time in the month of march when Tulip garden, a treasure this city holds fully blooms. After the rustic music of busy streets, I headed for a Shikara in Dal lake. To wear the Kashmiri attire of Sharmila Tagore from the movie Kashmir ki Kali, was a dream for me since ages so how could I not clad myself in red feren? In the evening, I enjoyed the serenity of moonlight lid lake in a house boat. After the visual treat, I visited Adi Shankaracharya Temple. Kashmiri Hindus strongly believe the famous book, ‘Soundarya Lehari’ was composed here by Adi Shankaracharya . The temple is unique in itself depicting, ‘ The Advait’ ideology and the transformation. After exploring hustle bustle of the capital, I geared up to explore more.
Reaching Pahalgam, I rode to Betab valley, in a rustic Himalayan Bullet hired from Srinagar city. I parked the motorcycle and rushed to Lidder river to enjoy a unique pony ride. I walked up the hill to bathe in natural beauty. The movie. ‘Bajrangi Bhaijan’ was shot here, remember the sentimental scene when Munni suddenly started speaking? From here I treaded the road for Aru valley and Chandanwari, which is a place of mythological importance. I hired a local guide, Mehraz, a welcoming Kashmiri, and headed for treacherous trek of Tulian Lake, famous turquoise blue water lake in the shape of “8”, amidst the snow clad mountains. The trail goes through dense forests and meadows. The valley is home to Bakarwal community and they can be seen all along the way to pristine lake. Their hospitality and mud house tour is never to be missed.
Gulmarg offers a perfect blend of adventure and scenery. The hill station is an attraction for Gandola ride, which is claimed to be highest and longest cable car project in Asian subcontinent and Ski slopes from the onset of winters. The place was preffered even by the Kings as summer retreat when the valley is covered with thousands of daisies and purple flowers. I also happened to visit a place of incomparable charm, Nagin village. A village of Bakarwals which is colourful and amidst beautiful meadows. It could be a hub for photographers but the place experience less footfall owing to strict security vigilance and permission procedure.
Sonmarg lies amidst stupendous glaciers of Kolhoi and Machoi on the route to Ladakh. The sprawling gorge of green meadows and flowers is muffled in snow-capped mountains eager to touch the sky. The gushing streams of river, beautiful lakes and pleasing drizzle, a perfect food for wanderlust. Kashmir is not only about the famous destinations. There are places of raw beauty and untouched trails. A travel freak like me happened to explore the untouched meadows, mountains bathing in the a pure gold of rising and setting sun.
One such destination is Shararat valley of Tangdhar, where the horizon seems real. The beauty is too much to be captured through the lens, either of the eye or the camera. Another famous spot of Tangdhar is bridge of Teethwal, an Indo Pakistan border. It’s hard to believe that the proven enemies could be so near. While travelling to Machil valley which is embedded in the extreme North of the Kashmir, beyond the peaks of Shamshabari and dense vegetation of Lolab . I happened to see Birch tree, the history of which goes back to ages when human race first started writing. The ancient Scriptures of India including great Vedas and Upanishads were written on the bark of Birch tree. I was happy like a child to see the ancient stationary and bring it home to try some scribbling.
In 1895, the British author sir Walter Lawrence called Gurez valley one of the most beautiful scene of the Kashmir. The Famous tale of Habba Khatoon, the nightingale of Kashmir, a Kashmiri muslim poet and ascetic of 16th century is still vivid here. the sentimental legend was also depicted in Indian Kashmiri language film Habba Khatoon for Doordarshan. In the memory of great poetess, the mountain peak was named as ‘Habba Khatoon’. As per legend in the memory of her beloved, she climbed the mountain in a state of despair. She carried a pot of water which, fell on ground and a gushing stream of water emerged from the spot. The stream still serves sweet water to many. The valley of Turquoise green water is compared with Austria.
The tales of Adi Shankaracharya and stories of Habba Khatoon enhance the spiritual and literary heritage of Kashmir. The city of Wazwan and khatambandh enchants the people across the world. The hues of the famous tree of Chinar from green to orange and yellow makes the city unique. The welcoming warmth of Kashmiri people makes the experience even more pleasant.
It was a very soothing experience to have visited Kashmir and explore the ‘ Paradise on Earth’. I personally recommend everyone to visit Kashmir at least once and connect with the nature, rich culture and heritage of the place.
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