A personal travel tale by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee.
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After having a homely breakfast, the two of us geared up for a road trip to Hagoon and Chandanwadi. Booked a Maruti EECO tourist car through our hotel reception who agreed us to offer sightseeing to both the angelic valleys located between the Inner and Trans Himalayan Ranges – Pir Panjal and Zanskar. We were surprised when the taxi agreed to charge the standard Government rate whereas from previous experiences ours ears got used to their obvious tantrums. First time found such a peaceful public transport management anywhere in Kashmir. Definitely, the day started unexpectedly in a good note.
On way to Hagoon
Archaeological excavations have confirmed human inhabitation in this belt since Neolithic age. The region had been reigned by Turks and Mughals since 15th Century AD. Indo-Turkish Army General Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat loved the ambiance of these vast meadows and named it Hagoon. Later during British Raj, it was further renamed to Hagan Valley.
Picturesque drive to Hagoon
Another notable ruler of this region was Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din Zain-ul-Abidin – one of the greatest Kashmiri rulers of all times who governed the valley for more than four decades. His efforts towards promoting peace and harmony amongst Kashmir’s multicultural society was noteworthy.
Driving with a herd of sheep
View of Hagoon from top
Our driver introduced himself as Altaf, an ardent admirer of Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din. From him we came to know that it was under Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din a social and cultural consciousness of Kashmiri inhabitants called ‘Kashmiriyat’ was established and righteously followed.
Finding us interested in the topic, Altaf took a proactive initiative of planning the day trip. He urged us to touch Hagoon first which in a way also falls enroute to Chandanwadi. The height of Hagoon is approximately 7900 feet. His logic was that Hagoon will acclimatize us before we take the high-altitude drive. It sounded logical, so we did not confront his proposal.
Glimpse of Hagoon
Hagoon alias Hagan Valley is a lush green grassland full of dense vegetation (now fenced like a hill park) at a kissing distance from the gurgling waters of Lidder, around 15 kilometres uphill from Pahalgam towards northeast. The road conditions were moderately good, and it took us around an hour to reach the entrance of Hagoon. Giving us 30 minutes visiting time at the spot, Altaf dropped us at the gate and went to park the car.
Hagoon entrance and adjoining car parking area
A walk inside the valley
As soon as we alighted from the taxi, a group of so-called guides swarmed around us. Thanks to our driver who alarmed us about it much before. We smartly walked inside the park following his direction. Above the main gate there was a huge hoarding where ‘Betaab Valley’ was written in bold as the name of the park. Now why the name ‘Betaab’? Well, the film shoots of Sunny Deol-Amrita Singh starrer 1983 blockbuster ‘Betaab’ was done here and hence the name. It was so disappointing to accept the Bollywood style naming of such a historic place as nowhere we could find the original name Hagoon or Hagan Valley written anymore. Innumerable other superhit movies were also shot here earlier like Aarzoo, Kashmir Ki Kali, Kabhie Kabhie, Silsila, Satte Pe Satta etc, still why Betaab was the decider is difficult to deduce.
Hagoon alias Betaab Valley
Whatever it is, the green splash of land is wonderfully maintained with superb scenic beauty all around. The waters of the river here is believed to have divine power and thus many of the natives still drink it without filtering. The adjacent forests comprise mostly of walnut, almond, saffron, willow, deodar, birch and pine trees.
The view of snow-capped mountains, Pir Panjal and Zanskar glaciers, colourful birds, vibrant flower beds, superfluous Lidder, ice cold streams bubbling beneath the frozen glaciers, an antique wooden footbridge, old-fashioned Kashmiri wooden benches – such a paradisiacal ambiance in totality. The panoramic vista makes it a must go place in Pahalgam circuit.
Wooden foot bridge
View of Zanskar and Pir Panjal peaks
Our thirty minutes were about to be over in a while. Though unwillingly, we had to hurry back as our high hill drive to Chandanwadi was awaiting next.