Thursday, September 2, 2010

Destination Patnitop where you are surrounded with beauty and bliss

Destination Patnitop
where you are surrounded with beauty and bliss

AMBIENCE BY: SALMAN NIZAMI
Smaller Default Larger

The feeble chirps and the soothing morning fragrance stimulate me from within, and I spring out of my bed. Peeping outside the window - young sunbeams desperate to break through the branches of conifers and touch the earth below, the breeze in turn swinging the trees to chase them away.
It’s another morning at Patnitop. You would probably not stop at this milestone on the Srinagar - Jammu National Highway. But this is paradise on earth, holding surprises where you least expect them to pop up. The conifers look like brides and after each spring shower, water droplets fall from the trees, for hours, much like the newly-wed damsel after her wedding night. The forester’s are not happy with the traditional but love birds make it a point to embrace the trunk of mighty conifers and engrave their hearts on it.
Patnitop is an all weather wide-way. When the sun’s scorching the plains, people come here to breathe in comfort, on velvet meadows and under shade trees, those are the peak-days. But winter is no less attractive. Come the first snowfall in early December and skiers begin camping to test the marvelous slopes for delight and adventure.
As the sun goes up higher, I begin my long day out at the upcoming tourist resort, ensconced between two beautiful districts of Udhampur and Doda. The serpentine road, with a sharp curve after every hundred yards, circles the entire circuit and stands testimony to the improvement envisaged by the decade old Patnitop development Authority.
On way to Padora, two kilometers from the National Highway and the main attraction of the hill resort, I stop at the club building owned by the Tourism Corporation. It may not look swank from the outside but inside it offers the best of couch comforts; there is a warm woody bar and restaurant, table tennis and snooker rooms, and a collection of interesting books on travel, history, wildlife, culture and fiction. Quite the recipe for a lazy after noon.
But I like outings. Coming out of the club, I take a pathway, curving on the plateau, to reach padora. Queues of beautifully crafted wooden huts, painted in green, stand at the feet of an endless slope. These are the abodes the tourism manager’s offer visitors. The well-furnished cottages come with the Kashmiri Wazwan - rista, gushtaba and kebabs. If you’re on a family trip, check into huts with attached kitchens for preparing your choicest dishes.
Padora is a bowl made of high and steep slopes covered with green turf. Just right for the adventure seeker, be it trekking, paragliding or horse riding. A contingent of 90 horses is entertaining visitor’s, carrying them from one slope to the other.
Patnitop is never empty, surrounded as it is by many shrines. The Mata Vaishno Devi Temple at Katra is just two hours away. A six-hour trek leads to Sudh Mahadev, the most sacred shrine of Lord Shiva in the region. Situated on the banks of Devak, a rivulet considered to be as sacred as the Ganges, the temple houses an exquisite image of Shiva and Parvati, and what is believed to be original (trident) Trishul of Lord Shiva. Pilgrims visit the shrine on the full moon night of Sawan (July-August).
Sudh Mahadev is named after a demon - turned - devotee of Shiva who on being beheaded by the Lord with a trishul, expressed his gratefulness to him for having released him from a demonic incarnation. A pleased Shiva, the legend has it, then ordained that the place would be known as Sudh Mahadev, the devotee - demon preceding the God in the nomenclature. The broken pieces of the huge trident that killed the demon stand fixed in front of the lingam. Even to this day.
Near the Sudh Mahadev is the legendary Gourikund spring. Where goddess Parvati used to bathe before commencing her daily prayers at the revered temple. Further away from Sudh Mahadev is Mantalai. Where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati tied the nuptial knot. Legends such as these are greatly effective in humanising the deities and bringing them a little closer to our perception. To the satisfaction of devotees, the authorities have decided to bring them even closer, having taken up a project to lay down at 40 km stretch linking the shrine.
By afternoon, I am trekking towards the 800 year old Nag temple of Baba Gawaji, the place no body misses. Not because of religion but because magnificent hotels and restaurants have come up on the way on all view points, enhancing the “carrying capacity” of the place with mouth watering cuisine and unmatched hospitality, the holiday makers find their home here. A long line of shops has cropped up outside the shrine where every thing from Puja Samagri to Kashmiri Shawls and Walnut wood carvings are on display.
But I refuse to be lulled by comforts and head for the shrine, nestled in a jungle of fir trees on a foot while. Manhant Ved Prakash Sharma warns chating pilgrims, against taking picture of the Pindli of Nag Devta. “He doesn’t like his pictures adorning homes. Do not violate the norm, or the devta might just frighten you by making sudden appearances”, he declares. Good way to keep the devout coming. Sharma, gives a second reason for this blessed land” each devotee who ties a wish fulfillment knot here has to return to the Mandir for unfastening it after he achieved his goal”, adds he on the way out. I bump into a group of devotees offering a lamb to the gods. A sadhu tells we that the meat will be distributed as prasad among all seekers gathering there. I decide to embark on the journey before sundown, it’s a one hour drive on a treacherous single road. But the pain hides itself in the vast meadows and wooded mountain slopes, burying itself deep in the mud huts abandoned by nomadic Gujjar shepherds, who occupy them during the grazing period....!
(The author is a Journalist working with a News channel in Gurgaon and can be mailed at salmannizami@gmail.com)

Destination Patnitop where you are surrounded with beauty and bliss

Destination Patnitop
where you are surrounded with beauty and bliss

AMBIENCE BY: SALMAN NIZAMI
Smaller Default Larger

The feeble chirps and the soothing morning fragrance stimulate me from within, and I spring out of my bed. Peeping outside the window - young sunbeams desperate to break through the branches of conifers and touch the earth below, the breeze in turn swinging the trees to chase them away.
It’s another morning at Patnitop. You would probably not stop at this milestone on the Srinagar - Jammu National Highway. But this is paradise on earth, holding surprises where you least expect them to pop up. The conifers look like brides and after each spring shower, water droplets fall from the trees, for hours, much like the newly-wed damsel after her wedding night. The forester’s are not happy with the traditional but love birds make it a point to embrace the trunk of mighty conifers and engrave their hearts on it.
Patnitop is an all weather wide-way. When the sun’s scorching the plains, people come here to breathe in comfort, on velvet meadows and under shade trees, those are the peak-days. But winter is no less attractive. Come the first snowfall in early December and skiers begin camping to test the marvelous slopes for delight and adventure.
As the sun goes up higher, I begin my long day out at the upcoming tourist resort, ensconced between two beautiful districts of Udhampur and Doda. The serpentine road, with a sharp curve after every hundred yards, circles the entire circuit and stands testimony to the improvement envisaged by the decade old Patnitop development Authority.
On way to Padora, two kilometers from the National Highway and the main attraction of the hill resort, I stop at the club building owned by the Tourism Corporation. It may not look swank from the outside but inside it offers the best of couch comforts; there is a warm woody bar and restaurant, table tennis and snooker rooms, and a collection of interesting books on travel, history, wildlife, culture and fiction. Quite the recipe for a lazy after noon.
But I like outings. Coming out of the club, I take a pathway, curving on the plateau, to reach padora. Queues of beautifully crafted wooden huts, painted in green, stand at the feet of an endless slope. These are the abodes the tourism manager’s offer visitors. The well-furnished cottages come with the Kashmiri Wazwan - rista, gushtaba and kebabs. If you’re on a family trip, check into huts with attached kitchens for preparing your choicest dishes.
Padora is a bowl made of high and steep slopes covered with green turf. Just right for the adventure seeker, be it trekking, paragliding or horse riding. A contingent of 90 horses is entertaining visitor’s, carrying them from one slope to the other.
Patnitop is never empty, surrounded as it is by many shrines. The Mata Vaishno Devi Temple at Katra is just two hours away. A six-hour trek leads to Sudh Mahadev, the most sacred shrine of Lord Shiva in the region. Situated on the banks of Devak, a rivulet considered to be as sacred as the Ganges, the temple houses an exquisite image of Shiva and Parvati, and what is believed to be original (trident) Trishul of Lord Shiva. Pilgrims visit the shrine on the full moon night of Sawan (July-August).
Sudh Mahadev is named after a demon - turned - devotee of Shiva who on being beheaded by the Lord with a trishul, expressed his gratefulness to him for having released him from a demonic incarnation. A pleased Shiva, the legend has it, then ordained that the place would be known as Sudh Mahadev, the devotee - demon preceding the God in the nomenclature. The broken pieces of the huge trident that killed the demon stand fixed in front of the lingam. Even to this day.
Near the Sudh Mahadev is the legendary Gourikund spring. Where goddess Parvati used to bathe before commencing her daily prayers at the revered temple. Further away from Sudh Mahadev is Mantalai. Where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati tied the nuptial knot. Legends such as these are greatly effective in humanising the deities and bringing them a little closer to our perception. To the satisfaction of devotees, the authorities have decided to bring them even closer, having taken up a project to lay down at 40 km stretch linking the shrine.
By afternoon, I am trekking towards the 800 year old Nag temple of Baba Gawaji, the place no body misses. Not because of religion but because magnificent hotels and restaurants have come up on the way on all view points, enhancing the “carrying capacity” of the place with mouth watering cuisine and unmatched hospitality, the holiday makers find their home here. A long line of shops has cropped up outside the shrine where every thing from Puja Samagri to Kashmiri Shawls and Walnut wood carvings are on display.
But I refuse to be lulled by comforts and head for the shrine, nestled in a jungle of fir trees on a foot while. Manhant Ved Prakash Sharma warns chating pilgrims, against taking picture of the Pindli of Nag Devta. “He doesn’t like his pictures adorning homes. Do not violate the norm, or the devta might just frighten you by making sudden appearances”, he declares. Good way to keep the devout coming. Sharma, gives a second reason for this blessed land” each devotee who ties a wish fulfillment knot here has to return to the Mandir for unfastening it after he achieved his goal”, adds he on the way out. I bump into a group of devotees offering a lamb to the gods. A sadhu tells we that the meat will be distributed as prasad among all seekers gathering there. I decide to embark on the journey before sundown, it’s a one hour drive on a treacherous single road. But the pain hides itself in the vast meadows and wooded mountain slopes, burying itself deep in the mud huts abandoned by nomadic Gujjar shepherds, who occupy them during the grazing period....!
(The author is a Journalist working with a News channel in Gurgaon and can be mailed at salmannizami@gmail.com)

Banihal : Gate way to Kashmir

Banihal : Gate way to Kashmir



By : Salman Nizami

Banihal had remained gate way to the valley of Kashmir. Located at the foot of Pir Pantsal ranges, it finds mention in many ancient and medieval writings.
Rajtrangini mentions this place, a very harrow mountain valley, as Visalta. This region in King Uccalas time was an escape route from Kashmir for unwanted or disgruntled elements of the Valley. In Jaysimha or Kashmir’s time (1128-49) a small fort is stated to have existed just below the old Banihal Pass, called by the name of Bansalla literally meaning, a jungle or grove of trees. This castle belonged to Khasa Lord Bhagika, ruler of the old principality of Vishalta, the present Banihal region. He was the son-in-law of Tikka, the Lord of Buddhal. Abu Fazal has derived the appellation of Banihal from Bansala. He also makes a mention of a temple at Banihal, dedicated to the Goddess Durga, where in enquiries, pertaining to coming strife, if any, are made in a curious fashion (probably in an oracle way of ancient Greeks or as practised in Naga shrines of Jammu in the recent past). This is also indicative that Abu-Fazal, King Akbars’ official historian may have passed through this route on his way to or back from Valley of Kashmir.

Pandit Sahib Ram, who in his book ‘‘Tirthas’’ copies Abu-Fazal’s notes, metamorphosis the Sanskrit name of village Banihal from Bhanusita or Bhanusata i.e rocks of the Sun or land of the Sun.
Stein on his commentary on Kalhans’ Rajtrangini describes the place differently. According to him, Visalata or Banihal must be identified with the valley drained by rivulet Bichlari, flowing through the area, a tributary of river Chenab. This hill district situated immediately to the South of Divsar and Shahabad Parganas of Kashmir (District Anantnag) is generally called Banihal after the mountain pass of that name, to which it forms the approach the name Vishalata is probably preserved in that of the river Bichalari. But to me it appears that the word Banihal is derived from Bansala, because of the phonetic change of /s/ to /h/ phone, so common a linguistic phenomenon in local languages and dialects. Banihal lies only few hundred meters north of Adlkut and the Rajtranginis castle of Bansala must have been visible from the top of Banihal Pass clearly.
Because of its geographical position, difficult accessibility of the region, and harder mountainous life style, Banihal like Kishtwar always proved to be a safe escape route, and safe refuge to the revolting Princes, disgruntled chieftains, and conspirator from Kashmir, against the Kings of Kashmir. Rajtrangini has made a mention of many such nobles, Khasas and Damaras. It was not only the Banihal region, but the entire mountainous region on the right bank of river Chenab in Jammu, right from Kishtwar to Reasi districts that proved to be a very safe refuge for those who deserted for one or the other reason. Banihal Pass also having the lowest height (9200’) above see level formed the easier outlet from the valley for the pedestrians in the Pantsal range. Rebel Chieftain from Kashmir, like Dhanchakka, Bhiksachara and Sujji and many others also stayed at Banihal and planned an invasion of the valley.
Today Banihal is the only access to the Kashmir through which national highway No.1, runs, though other connecting roads are in the making.
The mountain regions, highland pockets and mini valleys that are part of Banihal consist of the following areas :-
(a) Pugal : is the mountainous region drained by Pugal stream, a tributary of Bichlari that comes from the eastern mountains of Banihal. The area is rugged and mountainous. The people are hardy. Pugali is the dialect spoken by some 12000 inhabitants. Cattle rearing is main occupation of the people and Maize cultivated on sloppy land is the main stable crop.
(b) Peeristan or Paristan : The area beyond Pogal is called Paristan or Peeristan, which literally means the abode of Fairies or Saintly person of high miraculous powers. The area is rugged and mountainous and very scarcely population. It also includes Neel mountainous region.
(c) Mahu - Mangat : In Banihal there is another mountainous region towards west side, drained by the rivulet of the same name, another tributary of Bichlariz. The area is rugged but full of long grassy slopes that attracted people rearing goat, sheep and cattle in the region, who inhabit it. Maize is the stable food cultivated on sloppy lands. Milk and Ghee is the main produce.
(d) Ramban : The old name of the place was Kamban meaning the place of Kam trees, but when Maharaja Gulab Singh passed through the place around 1819-20, he named it as Ramban. (1) Located at 75.420, Longitude and 33.170 Latitude the place was not of much historical importance, except that it was situated on the traditional mountain route between Jammu and the valley, with most suitable point of crossing of the mighty Chenab river, and with a lowest height of pass on the Pantsal range. Today it is the head quarter of a newly constituted District of the same name, and the site of a 630 Megawatt hydroelectric Project of Baglihar, and an important station on the national highway No.1.
(e) Batote : Some 120 kilometres from Jammu, Batote, a fine hill state, with pine and Deodar forest lies on the above mentioned National highway just below the famous tourist station of Patnitop.

Author is a Journalist working with a News channel in Noida an be can be reached at salmannizami@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it