JAMMU AND KASHMIR- A HEAVEN ON EARTH. Part 2

Jammu and Kashmir as a State comprise of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh regions. In part one of the blog, a humble effort was made to describe the incredible beauty of the culture, people, and places of Kashmir region. In this blog, an effort is being made to showcase Jammu region of this beautiful state which is also known as a jewel in the crown of India. Jammu is also the winter capital of the state. It is believed to have been founded in the 14th century BC by Raja Jambu Lochan who saw a lion and a goat drinking water side by side on the bank of River Tawi. Inspired by the coexistence and tolerance between two arch rivals; lion and Goat, standing side by side, the king decided to build a city at this place on the bank’s of river Tawi also known as Surya Putri (The daughter of Sun).

Jammu region is the land of Dogras which consist of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians. A sizable population consists of nomad Gujjars and Bakerwals who keep on migrating from place to place in search of pastures in order to feed their cattle comprising of Sheep, Goat, Buffaloes, and Horses. Dogras; the people of Jammu are very hard working, simple but very brave, and a peace-loving people. All communities have been living in peace and freely practicing their faith through the centuries. Dogras like their Kashmiri brothers are highly religious. As in Kashmir, you can see a lot of temples, mosques, gurudwaras, churches and other religious places, as well, in every part of the cities as well as in towns and villages in this region. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians join each other in their inter-community celebrations, be it Eid, Diwali, Gurpurab or Christmas. This love amongst the different communities, as well as their peaceful coexistence, is a unique attribute of this Land.

Amazing Places to visit in Jammu:-

Jammu city is divided into two parts, Old Jammu and New Jammu. Jammu is also known as the city of temples. Raghunath temple, Ranbireshwar temple, Bawe Wali Mata temple, and Peer Kho Cave temple are the main attractions in addition to the many small temples spread across the city. There are Mosques, Dargahs, Gurudwaras, and Churches all over the city. Dargah Baba Budan Shah near Jammu airport and Dargah Baba Roshan Shah Vali also known as Dargah Nau gaj (Means nine yards) as he is believed to be very long in height situated in the center of the old city are revered by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and people from all faiths alike.

jammu

The old city has many heritage buildings such as Mubarak Mandi, Amar Mahal, and Dogra Art Museum, Bahu Fort, Raghunath temple, and Gandhi memorial Science college, formerly known as Prince of Wales college are worth seeing.

shiv-khori

The places of religious tourism include a pilgrimage to the Holy Cave of Mata Vaishno Ji near Katra town in the Trikuta hills, Shiv Khori temple in District Reasi of Jammu, Sudh Mahadev temple near Chenani and Kirmichi temple in Udhampur District.

budha-amarnath-ji

Budha Amarnath Ji temple in Mandi, and Gurudwara Nangali Sahab in the picturesque hill on the bank of Drungali Nallah in Poonch district and a beautiful Gurudwara on a hillock at Akhnoor on the banks of river Chenab add to the spiritual and serene atmosphere in the area.

Chichi Mata, Purmandal and Sidh Swankha in the district Samba. Sukrala Mata and Jasrota Mata temple and Jasrota fort in Kathua District.

Pilgrimage to Mani Mahesh, Machail Mata, Vasuki nag temple and Kailash Kund in the lush green meadows of Bhadarwah also known as Mini Kashmir. Dargah Baba Ghulam Shah Badsha in the beautiful hills of Thanna Mandi in Rajouri district.

Heritage buildings of tourist interest around the region include old temples, forts, and sarais (inns) built by the rulers of the state as well as by the Great Mughals all along the old Mughal road.

akhnoor-fort
Akhnoor-fort

The list of the old forts includes Akhnoor fort, Ramnagar Fort, Sheesh Mahal Ramnagar, Bhimgarh Fort, Poonch Fort, Basohli Fort, Dharnider Fort, and many others. The entire old Mogul road and the old route from Jammu to Katra Vaishno Devi Ji are dotted with sarais (resting places) which are now in ruins excepting few such as Chingus fort and Chingus Sarai near Rajouri on old Mughal road.

Chingus is a Persian word meaning intestines. Chingus Sarai was used by the Mughals as a transit camp during their annual journey to Kashmir. The great Mughal Emperor Jahangir died en- route from Kashmir, and the wise queen, in order to protect the dead body from decaying, got the intestines and other belly parts removed and buried at the Chingus fort. Jahangir has two graves, one at Chingus where his intestines were buried and the other in Lahore where his body was laid to rest.

Suchetgarh-Wagah

Border tourism includes a visit to historic Suchetgarh post which served as an octroi post in the pre-partition era. It is situated in R S Pura area on Jammu Sialkot road and rail link; though road link still exists but rail line has been abandoned after the partition of the country in 1947. Sialkot in Pakistan is only 11 Km from this post. Like Wagah post in Punjab, the road to Pakistan is blocked by the gates both by India and Pakistan.The gates are opened for visits by the teams of UNO or for the flag meetings of sector commanders of India and Pakistan. There is a huge Peepal tree on the zero line, half of which in India and half in Pakistan. A raised platform around this tree is maintained by both the countries on their respective sides. Tourists are allowed to go up to this point on Indian side with the special arrangements with the Border Security Force officers manning this post. While way back one can visit the world famous Gharana Wetlands a home for the migratory birds. This R S Pura area is known for world famous Basmati rice with a unique aroma.

The other border point of tourist intert is Chamalyal border post in Ramgarh sector. This too is very close to the international border with Pakistan. Chamalyal is a shrine of a Hindu Sufi saint Baba Daleep Singh Manhas. The earth and water of the well at this place are called shakkar and sharbat and are known for their medicinal properties to cure all types of skin diseases. Thousands of devotees visit this place throughout the year from all over the country as well as abroad and get cured of the skin diseases.

baba-chamliyal-mela

An annual fair is held on the last Thursday of June every year. People in large number from India as well as from Pakistan participate and share earth and water (Shakkar and Sharbat) from this place. During first few years when the annual fair started devotees from Pakistan were also allowed to cross the international border and participate in the annual fair, but the practice was abandoned after some time for security reasons and now the people from Pakistan celebrate the occasion within their territory and now only few Army officers with their team are allowed to come for paying obeisance on behalf of the devotees from Pakistan.They offer Chadder as a mark of respect on the grave of the Sufi saint on behalf of people of Pakistan. Earth and water of this shrine (Shakkar and Sharbat) are allowed to be carried as much as required across the border for distribution amongst the devotees. This Shrine is a unique symbol of Hindu Muslim brotherhood.

Other places of tourists interests include Patnitop which is located on the hilltop surrounded by the thick green cover of Cedar trees. This place is a fine health resort with the pollution free pleasant atmosphere and is visited by a good number of local as well as foreign tourists especially the pilgrims of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji.

vaishno-devi

It is just 112 Km from Jammu and 85 Km from Katra, the base camp for Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. Kud and Batote, two beautiful towns are 5 Km each on the western and northern side of this beautiful spot on Jammu Srinagar national highway. Both these small towns too are health resorts. During winters Patnitop receives good snowfall and is visited by more tourists than summers.

patnitop.jpg

From Patnitop one can go to enjoy the beauty of the picturesque Sanasar just 7 Km down the hill and on the way can have a view of Natha Top. Chenani and Mantalai are other beautiful places worth visiting nearby Patnitop. As already said there is hardly any place in Jammu and Kashmir which is not worth seeing. The scenic beauty, green meadows, and natural landscapes in Bhadarwah and Kishtwarh area will never fade from your memory once you personally see these places. Bhadarwah is connected to Chamba in Himachal Pradesh by a 59 Km road, This tourist circuit gives an experience of life, thrill, and adventure.

basohli-painting

Basohli paintings of the 17th and 18th century are a unique style of painting fusing Hindu mythology, Mughal miniature techniques, and folk art of local hills. Basohli is a small hill town in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also known for the weaving of pashmina shawls. Beautiful and greatly revered Chamunda Mata, Sheetla Mata, and Basohli temples are places worth visiting. A cold and cozy place nearby worth seeing is Banni.

Mansar Lake and Surinsar lake in District samba, Katoriasar lake in the Pirpanchal range, and Siar Baba waterfalls in Reasi district are worth visiting.

The greenery of the vast meadows along Mughal road to Kashmir with herds of sheep grazing and moving majestically at the whistles of the shepherds is an example of beautiful bondage between the humans and animals. Noori Chhamb near Chandimarh village on Mughal road is a symbol of love between Great Mughal King Jahangir and Queen Noor Jahan. Chhamb in local language means a big waterfall. During their sojourn to and from Kashmir, Noor Jahan used to enjoy a bath under this waterfall and the king used to see her image in a mirror fixed on a rock at some distance away without disturbing the queen.

It is very difficult to describe the details and beauty of all the places in this heaven on earth in a short blog. Come and see with your own eyes, as the beauty is indescribable…………..( to be continued as part 3 )

JAMMU & KASHMIR-A HEAVEN ON EARTH. Part-1

Jammu and Kashmir is a place where the father of our nation Mahatma Gandhi saw a ray of hope for peace during the partition of India in the year 1947 when the entire country was on fire. A place where the founder of Jammu, Raja Jambu Lochan saw a lion and a Goat drinking water at one place on the bank of river Tawi JAMMU AND KASHMIR- A HEAVEN ON EARTH. Part 2. A real heaven on earth is also a land of Peace, Tranquility, and Spirituality. A land of Rishies, Saints, Sufis, Peers, Faqeers, and Lamas, preaching the same eternal truth about love, Peacefull co-existence, and spirituality. A temple, a mosque, a gurudwara a church or a Gompa in every lane, mohalla or in every village is a testimony to the spiritual nature of the people of all shades as well as a testimony of the intense love and tolerance amongst various religious communities living and practicing their faith with full freedom. The ringing of the temple and church bells goes along with the Azan in the mosques and Shabad kirtan in the Gurudwaras or Buddhist prayers in the gompasJAMMU AND KASHMIR. A HEAVEN ON EARTH. PART 3 all along the day. No restrictions, there is full freedom for the people of every religion and which have co-existed for the centuries without any conflict.

This state is the best destination for tourism of all types, be it a pleasure tourism, religious tourism, adventure and sports tourism, cultural and heritage tourism and border tourism. One can come to enjoy and find satisfaction at any time or the season throughout the year.

In part-1 of the blog, we will cover mainly Kashmir which at present is full of greenery, flowers, and pleasant weather. There is a long list of places to be seen in Kashmir and the same can be had from various sites on Google, and much has been written about their beauty by various people at various times. IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO EXPRESS BY WORDS THE ACTUAL BEAUTY OF KASHMIR. WORDS, HOWSOEVER FINE THEY MAY BE, ALWAYS FAIL TO FULLY APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY OF THE NATURE IN KASHMIR IN THE TRUE SENSE. NO CAMERA OR A MOVIE CAN CATCH THE BEAUTY OF THE COLORS OF THE NATURAL BEAUTY AS WELL AS THE FEEL OF THE PLEASANT WEATHER IN WHICH THIS BEAUTY FLOURISHES. SEEING IS BELIEVING AND NOTHING LESS THAN THAT; NO SUBSTITUTES TO PERSONALLY SEEING THE BEAUTY OF KASHMIR AND IT’S COMPOSITE CULTURE. There is hardly an inch of the place which is not worth seeing. Go anywhere in any season, you will find a difference from the rest of the world.

A visit to the world-famous Mughal gardens between mighty Himalayan cliffs on one side and glittering Dal lake on the other will never fade from your memory. You really experience a royal Mughal feeling when you are in these gardens. The singing sound of royal fountains and cascading water provides a soothing solace to your soul. A shikara ride in Dal lake through the floating market and to beauty spots like Char Chinar and Nehru park give you a feeling of heavens in the true sense. Staying in luxurious Houseboat with facilities matching a five-star culture is beyond imagination. The magnificent wood carvings on the walls and beautiful designs of Khatamband on the roofs of houseboats are a treat to eyes as this art and craft exist only in Kashmir. A long line of houseboats in Dal lake on the majestic royal boulevard road is a scene to watch both during the day as well as night.

A scenic view of the whole of Srinagar city from the hill of Shankaracharya temple as well as that of river Jehlam is worth seeing. The lush green Royal Spring Golf course having 18 holes created between the evergreen thick cover of Cedar trees is an example of creating a sports facility without disturbing the ecology and the environment. Tulip Garden, Dachigam, Chashma Shahi, Parimahal, Herbal Garden, Badaam veir, Hari Parbat and many beautifully maintained parks will add value to your life experience. If you are religious minded, you have a lot in Srinagar city itself. Jeshta Devi temple near Parimahal, Hanuman temple on the banks of Jehlam near Harisingh high street, Kheer Bhawani temple, A revered Shrine of Peer-e- Dastgeer at Khanyar Srinagar, Maqdoom Sahib, Baba Reshi, Dargah Charar-e-Sharif, Dargah Hazratbal which contains a holy relic, the Moi-Muqqadus, believed by Muslims to be a hair of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH);The list is numberless. Gurudwara Chatti Patshahi Sahib in Rainawari area in the heart of Srinagar and many churches, temples, and Sufi shrines are a symbol of mutual trust, respect, tolerance and universal brotherhood amongst the various religions, which have lived and developed peacefully in Kashmir.

gulmarg-gondola

Out of the city, you have a choice to visit different world famous places like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonmarg, Aharbal, Doodpathri, Shikargah, Martand sun temple, Aru valley, and Betab valley near Pahalgam, Kokarnag, Achhabal, Varinag, Yousmarg etc. etc. It all depends on the time you have at your disposal, otherwise, there is no dearth of places of your interest in Kashmir. There are still virgin lands and places still unexplored, which can keep you engaged for life. KASHMIR IS A REAL HEAVEN ON EARTH WHICH YOU CAN FEEL ONLY IF YOU SEE IT WITH YOUR OWN EYES. IT WILL KEEP YOU ENGAGED THROUGHOUT THE YEAR. In summer the mighty chinar trees welcome you with their green sight and pleasing shade, and in winter the color of leaves turns to magnificent yellow and red like fire. Winter sports like Skiing and Skating in Gulmarg during winters and Gandola (Ropeway or Cable car) ride throughout the year is an experience to personally feel and enjoy. A rail ride from Qazigund to Baramulla, especially during the winters when the entire valley gets covered with a thick white blanket of snow has no match in the world.

Ethnic_Kashmiri_girls_in_traditional_pheran

PEOPLE:- Kashmir part of the state is dominated mainly by the Muslim population with Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, as well as Buddist living side by side in a minority since ages. Kashmiris are simple, innocent, but very intelligent people. Compassion and hospitality are in their blood. The long turmoil of about three decades has failed to make any dent in their long tradition of compassion and hospitality. They are very sentimental and would gather to help you in case of any trouble without any consideration, or any fear. The incidences of their helping even the army in case of severe accidents and giving blood to the injured soldiers, as well as arranging funerals of persons of the other religions have actually happened but are very less reported in the Media. Many negative things are reported more aggressively and good things are ignored.

If you get a chance to be a guest in someone’s house for a lunch or dinner, more particularly during the wedding season where special traditional vegetarian, as well as non-vegetarian cuisines of dozens of varieties locally called as Wazwan are served with great love and personal care. You can’t imagine the intensity of love and hospitality with which you are served food. The old lady of the house who has cooked the food or under whose supervision the food has been cooked will personally come to serve you the dish, complaining that you did not eat properly and they could not serve you the choicest cuisines. All she speaks is in Kashmiri which you don’t understand at all but from the tone, love, concern, and sincerity with which she speaks, even a kid would understand. Love requires no words to express it. This is what is available only in Kashmir and nowhere else in the rest of the world. IF YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE TRUE HOSPITALITY, COME TO KASHMIR AS THIS NATURAL TRAIT EXISTS ONLY IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD.

The pilgrimage to the abode of Lord Shiva in the snowy Himalayas by more than half a million Hindu devotees every year during a brief period known as Shri Amarnath ji yatra, and which is mainly managed and supported by the Muslims is a true example of universal brotherhood. Similarly, Mela Kheer Bhawani held every year with the active support of local Muslims speaks volumes about the true and composite culture of Kashmir, more precisely known as Kashmiriyat.

There are some disturbances sometimes which are blown out of proportion but, are the disturbances not happening almost everywhere on the globe? NO ONE CAN DENY THE FACT THAT HALF OF THE HEART OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR BEATS ACROSS THE SO-CALLED LINE OF CONTROL, CREATED AFTER THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE COUNTRY WHEN THE INVADERS CAPTURED A MAJOR PART OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR AND IS STILL UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE OTHER COUNTRY. Some disturbances, as are happening elsewhere, do sometimes happen here as well but these are worth ignoring by the visitors and tourists in the interest of the beauty and the rich culture of Kashmir. We all need to project all good things about Jammu and Kashmir in order to negate the stigma which is being attached to this Heaven on Earth by some vested interests. The government has to make efforts to showcase the rich culture of this land of angels and not allow the same to be mixed with other cultures. Local and traditional music with the enthralling and sweet tones of Rabaab, Tumbak, Doul, and Santoor should be promoted by holding shows at hotels or at some central place where the tourists can enjoy their richness in the evening. More hotels with local touch should be opened where a visitor can feel the touch of Kashmir culture. New places of tourist’s interest need to be explored and thrown open for them. More infrastructure has to be provided in order to attract more and more tourists……………..to be continued as part 2.