Visiting Heaven On Earth -Kashmir Valley – Pahalgam – VI and Final part

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A very happy and meaningful new year to all my reader friends.  May all your dreams come true without creating any nightmares for others 🙂

This is my last post on this series  and I would like to end with  Pahalgam, which is called the Valley of the Shepherds quite aptly.  Everywhere we went, shepherds with their herds were seen as if Pahalgam and shepherds were integrated. We were told that in winter they go down to Jammu and in summer they come back to Pahalgam, but always live in the open, with their herds.

All cars going up or down have to respect and give first right of passage to them at all times.  We liked this courtesy to the children of the soil  🙂

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Pahalgam is situated at about 7200 feet up from sea level and very picturesque.  At one time between 1960 to 1980, this was one of the favourite shooting spots for Hindi film industry as it is perhaps the most beautiful place in the entire valley and has the confluence of streams flowing from both Sheshnag and the Lidder rivers. It has all the filmi formulae for it’s beauty, greens, flat lands and valleys, ice caped mountains, flowers, gardens and dancing crystal clear streams …. I can go on and on …

In fact in the Kashmir valley, everywhere we went, we were shown erstwhile shooting spots, including the one that was used in Bajrangi Bhaijan near Sonamarg featuring Salman Khan.

However, Pahalgam has the highest number of such shooting spots that have been used, perhaps only second to the Dal Lake in Srinagar.

Nowadays, they said, nodding their head with sadness that hardly any shooting takes place.  “Sab log dartein hain, media jo itna badnaam karke rakkha hai yeh flood or terrorist ke bare mein” (every one is scared to come here since the media has exaggerated the terrorist and the flood aspect for us).

We felt their anguish; a place that is almost completely tourism dependent would be badly hit with negative publicity. We experienced it also as we went in October, almost at the end of the season.  While there were some tourists it was no where  near the kind of numbers that one would see at the golden triangle, i.e. Delhi -Agra -Jaipur circuit or Kerala, etc.  I felt sad as in all this political turmoil, perhaps no one is interested to know what Kashmiris want and what would generate their well being and how this magnificent place and its beautiful people are not reaping the benefit of the immense potential it has for tourism and its own development.

Anyway, to come back to Pahalgam – this place has three or four famous touristy places:

(a) Betaab Valley – actually this name has been associated with the shooting of an Hindi film by the same name in the 80s.  Its about 15 km from the Pahalgam town and lies between two Himalayan ranges, Pir Panjal and Zanskar and is a very popular tourist destination.  It is also used by trekkers as a base camp for trekking up the hill.  When we went there in the morning, we had to call the gatekeeper to open the gate for us as there was no tourist.  While it is called a valley, it is actually an area which has been beautified for tourism purposes and has a synthetic feel to it (to me).  It has the Lidder river flow through and  is very pretty as you can see for yourself from the slide-show below:

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I thought this tree had a story of its own
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the shepherds who rested by the side of the Lidder river flowing by – packing up for the day to go to another place with their herd
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the water was crystal clear
 

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all the trees are planted and not a natural formation – looks very pretty nonetheless

Chandanwari: located about two kilometers above the Betaab Valley (and you get a magnificent view of the valley on your way to Chandanwari) is the gateway to the famous Amarnath Yatra or the journey to the Amarnath cave temple.  This journey takes place during July and August each year and this place becomes very very busy.  It has Lidder river flowing down below and with snow capped mountain on the other side.  Here are some photos on our way to Chandanwari

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We got only glimpses of the snow caped mountains as the snow had melted already by October.

As we entered Chandanwari, we were greeted by (lets say almost pounced upon) by local guides to take us to the first step, i.e. the first step that pilgrims take as the starting point of the journey to the cave temple, which is situated about 32 kilometers up from this place and is quite an arduous journey.

We had no intention of getting on to another pony ride so we decided to walk to the first step, which was rather easy as we walked slowly with our driver as the guide.  The Sheshnag river danced alongside and the mountains stood as majestically as they ought to be.  Time and again I felt what it meant to be in the presence of something much greater than oneself or what one can even think of. This whole journey of the Kashmir valley has been, in a sense, a quite intense spiritual journey for me.  I don’t mean religious spiritual but something different. but more about that later.

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This is where the journey starts and everywhere you would see these kinds of writing on the rocks
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Behind us is the “first step” and like typical tourists, we are posing as our driver Fazalbhai was insistent that we had to take our photo here!
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and many more steps thereafter ….
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The road from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is on fairly flat terrain and can be undertaken by car. From Chandanwari onwards the track becomes much steeper, and is accessible on foot or by pony. About 11 km from Chandanwari is the mountain lake of Sheshnag (3,574 m), after which, 13 km away is the last stop, Panchtarni. The Amarnath cave is 6 km from there. (information courtesy: wikipedia)

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I loved the colour and it stopped to pose for me
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you can see the Patni or Panchtarni top or peak from here at the back. That is where the pilgrims take the first break

 

On the way back, I tried to take picture of Betaab valley below:

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Looks quite filmy, eh!
The third attraction is called Aru Valley: 

(information courtesy Department of Tourism Jammu & Kashmir)

Overlooking the majestic snow-capped peaks of Himalayan Range, Aru Valley is a village of shepherds situated in the region of Trans-Himalaya.

It is also a starting point of trekking expeditions to Kolahoi Glacier and Sonmarg. Apart from the trekkers, the village also caters to the skiing desires of tourists who love to visit the place during winters. Aru Valley is located at a distance of about 12 km from Pahalgam.

Unfortunately we did not do any trekking as everything had to be done on ponies and after our experience of Gulmarg, we steered clear of any such (mis) adventure. It is actually a much better idea to trek if one is physically fit as the beauty is unparallel.  Here are some pictures that I took from below:

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This is the  hotel called Grand Mumtaz Resort and Spa – however in the 80’s this building was used in the Hindi movie “Karma” featuring Dilip Kumar and many others – its a lovely picturesque building situated right at the heart of the valley
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the road to Aru Valley – one has to take a pony from here
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To rest after a long day!
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the shepherd boys were disappointed that we did not go with them, and I felt sad too; but my body protested vehemently!
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I would like to end this post with a bit about the hotel (Pahalgam Hotel) we stayed. Since it is a heritage hotel, they sell it as such and that makes it to be an expensive hotel to say the least, but what we loved about the place were plenty: first the people, each and every one of the servers, bearer, managers were not only helpful but were dignified.  They did not behave as though they were only serving us – they presented us with their opinion about politics, their life views, their recommendation of food and most of displayed Kashmiriyat (a kashmiri way of social consciousness and cultural values – and it gets displayed in their behaviour all over the valley be it in their hospitality or in their warmth or in their quiet dignity and self respect as Kashmiris).  {an aside here; a small information provided by the wiki says that it was under Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din Zain-ul-Abidin  that Kashmiriyat was developed.  Abidin was famous for promoting peace and harmony in Kashmir’s pluralistic society. He even gave a directive to restore and restructure Kashmir during his reign – quite contrary to conventional foreign invading rulers.}

We enjoyed the food (contrary to popular belief, there are many vegetarian especially palak (greens) cooked really well here) served to us in a typical Kashmiri style in the hotel and the service all around.

picture of the special Kashmiri food that was served to us called wazwan which is usually served on special occasions like  wedding etc and usually the number of dishes are much more. This was just a sample.

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the flowers of the hotel garden and the table/chairs where high tea is served
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morning view of the Pir Panjal ranjge from my room
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The road in front of the hotel
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A view of the hotel from the adjacent Lidder View Park

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And the CRPF camp right on the other side of the hotel
This was the end of our Kashmir valley trip.  I hope you enjoy these posts as much as we enjoyed being in the valley and meeting the wonderful people there.

Do let me know what you liked the most and what you had a question about.

Will be posting soon, with something else this time!  Till then, keep blogging, reading and living your life! Cheers! 🙂

 

woman, mother, thinker, citizen of the world, curious and hopeful about the world, generous, opinionated, argumentative, insightful, intuitive, psychotherapist, executive coach and organisation consultant

14 thoughts on “Visiting Heaven On Earth -Kashmir Valley – Pahalgam – VI and Final part

  1. Your blog brought back many memories of having visited Kashmir in the 1970s and 1980s. I think Betaab was launched after my last visit and thus i was left with some surprise over the name of the valley. Pahalgam, I would still maintain, with whatever fraction of Kashmiri blood in me, as still a jewel relatively untouched by fear of terrorism.

    I loved the photos and felt as if I was accompanying you to the valley – well written

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This came again today!
    SARBARI I read it again and really liked and appreciated once again!
    No new comments from me. Of course, film shooting stopped in Kashmir due to law and order problems. The producers switched to Switzerland in mass scale. During my stay in Zurich sometime ago, several places were shown and few I could recognize where shooting of Hindi films took place.

    At the cost of repetition and annoying you, may I request you to seriously start writing a book.

    Best wishes and God bless!

    Like

  3. Hi . We are planning to visit Kashmir soon . Early November , I guess . And this helps to understand it better:) Valuable info . Great post ! Thanks for making it easier for us . Thanks for sharing it!

    Liked by 1 person

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