Hagoon and Chandanwadi.
Many of us have been to Kashmir for tourism, nature photography, film shoots, pilgrimage, romantic getaways, mountaineering, bio tours, adventure sports and river rafting. In the article here find the best offbeat Kashmir travelogue for Jammu and Kashmir tours.But definitely Aru Valley does not fall in the most commonly visited hotspot list. Some important treks do originate from here, but believe me, it is much more than that. Serenity, tranquility, heavenliness – would sound synonymous to Aru once you land up at this pristine meadow.Aru is a picturesque valley in the lap of Mt. Kolahoi (the highest peak in this part), with a visibility of more than a kilometer during summer and spring time. The elevation ranges approximately from 8000 to 12,000 feet above sea level and houses innumerable endangered biodiversity, flora and fauna. Though during winter months it remains covered in snow, it is relatively soothing round the year with an average temperature of around 11 to 15 degree Celsius. Surrounded by deodar, birch, pine and other alpines, Aru offers a mystic green beauty amidst snow.
Hagoon and Chandanwadi :-Hagoon and Chandanwari together forms as a major hill stations for this topic in kashmir travelogue and people must concentrate in visiting this places for Jammu and Kashmir tours. 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.
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.The height of Hagoon is approximately 7900 feet.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.
Chandanwari a spectacular high-altitude countryside in Kashmir which serves as the gateway to Greater Himalayan Range. Situated at an altitude of around 10,000 feet above sea level, Chandanwari presents snow laden peaks against a caerulean canvas. It’s the same road that Amarnath Yatra visitors traverse and after a day long trek, they camp overnight at Chandanwadi. According to Hindu mythology also, Chandanwari is a very significant juncture. It is said that before entering naked inside the Amarnath Cave with His consort Parvati, Lord Shiva had shredded all his possessions one by one on his way to the holy cavern. And as the religious beliefs go, Lord Shiva had removed the Moon from His hair bun (Jata) right here. Another school of theologists preach that little higher from Chandanwari, near Pissu Top, a fierce clash had happened between demi gods and ferocious daemons where divinity was falling short to evil. With the help of Lord Shiva’s super power, the demi gods could slaughter the highly outnumbered daemons and the heap of their corpses gave rise to the high mountains of this area which also closely resemble a seven headed mythical snake (often referred as ‘Seshnag’). Even today the standstill snow peaks, pine forests, chilly breezes and the gaudy Lidder waves stand as testimony to these mythological legends of erotic desire and blood battle, making Chandanwari a complete tourist destination.
Mamaleshwar temple at Pahalgam:- Pahalgam is a major hill station for this topic in Kashmir travelogue and people must concentrate in visiting this places for Jammu and Kashmir tours.
A big green board welcomed us to Pahalgam, the valley of shepherds. ‘Pahalgam’ literally means ‘The First Village’. It was perhaps named, as per a common mythical belief that during Lord Shiva’s way to Amarnath Cave, this small village served as His first resting point. It was here, a primeval Shiva temple is also found nearby (popularly known as Mamaleshwar Temple), He had performed a rigorous meditation for many days before heading onto His heavenly abode.History of Pahalgam depicts an interesting trend with the change in kingdoms. Until 1346 AD, Pahalgam used to be a rich Hindu kingdom; later it was captured by the Muslims led by Shams-ud-Din. Centuries later during 1586, when Kashmir was conquered by Akbar, Pahalgam was seized under the Mughal Empire. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, it was further attacked by the Afghans and was temporarily annexed to Afghanistan until Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh captured it from Ahmed Shah Durrani. In 1846, the British took it back from the Sikhs and sold to Jammu’s Hindu Maharaja Gulab Singh against a hefty sum.The average elevation of Pahalgam is 9000 feet, located centrally in the Lidder Valley.
Arguably, it is perhaps the smallest and oldest temple of Kashmir Valley. It was hardly a mile away from our hotel. The interesting name of the holy shrine was my principal interest of visit. Mythological legends say that Ganesha was appointed as the doorkeeper of this ancient temple to prevent admitting anyone inside, so that his father Lord Shiva can perform meditation without any earthly interruptions. Ganesha performed his duty so much of dedication that he did not even allow his mother Devi Parvati to enter the temple. That is why even today, during prayer time no ladies are allowed to enter the temple beyond a certain limit. Basically, ‘Mamal’ in Kashmiri means ‘do not enter’. An interesting notice board did catch our attention the moment we stepped in.
We traversed like 60 kilometres on road from Pahalgam which took us almost three hours to reach Anantanag town, the oldest district of Kashmir. The road trip included intermediate halts at Mattan and Martand Temple.The place derives its name from a Sanskrit phrase – ‘Ananta’ meaning ‘Infinite’ and ‘Nag’ in Kashmiri language means ‘Water Stream’. Surprisingly, there are innumerable springs even today in and around the epicentre of Anantanag, the most significant being there at Mattan.
A relic of antiquity, the district of Anantanag owes its etymology to the very spring that gushes out from a thin limestone rock fissure towards the northern side of this temple. Lots of fishes are reared in the accumulating water.Another historically as well as religiously important village is Bawan where one can visit the Indernag Temple. It is often referred as Shri Raghunath Temple by local devotees and is presently maintained by the Nagbal Prabandhak Committee. The form of Lord Shiva worshipped here is five-faced Indernag to which the temple owes its name. Apart from the main shrine, idols of Vaishno Devi, Lakshmi Narayan, Lord Vishnu, Nav Durga forms of Devi Shakti and Bharat Mata holding Indian tricolour can also be found here.
Awantipora:- Awantipora ia a major hill station for this topic in Kashmir travelogue and people must concentrate in visiting this places for Jammu and Kashmir tours.It is a small Nagar Panchayat (urban council equivalent to Municipality) on the NH44 highway, geographically located in the Pulwama District of Jammu & Kashmir. The small town is well known for its ancient Hindu temples constructed during the reign of King Avanti Varman, a Hindu ruler belonging to the Utpala Dynasty. He was known for his strong patronage towards art, literature and architecture. The two most famous temples of Utpala Dynasty – Avantishwar and Avantiswami – were built by Avanti Varman, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu respectively. With time, the place gradually got its name Avantipura (named after the ruler), presently spelled as Awantipora.
We took our first stop at Awantipora’s 800 A.D. ancient Vaishnava centre titled Avantiswami Temple. The entrance was beautifully decorated with bright red roses, sad to find the temple in complete ruins though. The ceilings had collapsed, only remnants of ornamented stone pillars stand today with stooping facades. The main shrine was Vaikuntha Vishnu placed on a two-tiered granite courtyard surrounded by porched walls. One striking aspect about the temple was that the pillars were decorated on all sides resembling Greek styles. Also the main shrine was fortified by subsidiary shrines of other Hindu deities on all four corners of the courtyard.Spending almost an hour amidst the sculptured reliefs and intricate stone carvings, we drove to the Avantishwar Temple, located at Jawbrari hardly within a few hundred metres from the Avantiswami Temple.
Both the temples appeared almost like twins to my inexperienced eyes except that the main deity of Avantishwar Temple was Lord Shiva. Otherwise, the two edifices bore stunning similarities both structurally as well as ornamentally. Here too, the idol used to be at the centre of a paved quadrangular platform bounded by colonnaded porticoes. People say, Lord Shiva was depicted as a stone image in this temple.
Paani temple of Pandrethan:- Pandrethan form a major tourist spot for this topic in Kashmir travelogue and people must concentrate in visiting this places for Jammu and Kashmir tours.
We decided to utilize the day by visiting another excellence of ancient Hindu architecture in the Kashmir valley – the Meruvardhanaswami Temple of Pandrethan, commonly referred as Paani Temple. ‘Paani’ is Hindi or Kashmiri language means ‘water’. Though originally it was all dry, but centuries of weathering have created a pool around it, submerging more than half of the construction inside water which sources its exciting forename. It is one of the legacy temples of India known for its subtle symmetrical architecture.The site is located pretty close to Srinagar, hardly five kilometres by road towards Sonawar. Kashmiris say that the temple was originally founded by a royal minister named Meru Vardhan of the then Hindu King Pravarsena I during early 6th century A.D. from where it derives its original name – Meruvardhanaswami Temple. He also beautified the place raising various palatial buildings (often called as Viharas in local language). Pandrethan flourished as the royal capital until mid-10th century A.D., until shifted to Srinagar later. It also finds significant references in Kalhana’s epic account of Kashmir – Rajtarangini, where he mentioned about this place as Puranadishthana or ‘old city’. However, as per British accounts this temple was built by King Partha in somewhere between A.D. 913 to 921 A.D.
Yousmarg:- The phrase ‘Meadow of Jesus’ so rightly conveys the divinity of this virgin hill station – Yousmarg. Rested at an altitude of 7900 feet above sea level, Yousmarg bears the true spirit of tranquility in its every drop. It falls under the jurisdiction of Badgaum district of the newly formed Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Around 50 kilometers west of Srinagar, Yousmarg offers scintillating views of the snowcaps, alpine meadows, untainted grasslands, sparkling waters of Doodh Ganga tributary and herding cattle, all under a vast blue canvas.
Yousmarg was one of those offbeat tourist destinations of Kashmir which has a bad approach road but assures a breathtaking view of nature to all its visitors. Then again only if you can hold your patience till the end. It is an old belief that during Jesus Christ’s visit to Kashmir, He had chosen Yousmarg as His holy abode.Altitude of the village would be around 6500 feet above sea level, but it was quite an eventful bazaar area with innumerable shops, vendors and local folks busy in negotiations. Parking our car near one of the shops, we visited the famous Ziarat of Alamdar-e-Kashmir. It is said that inside there is a rock named ‘Shah Kean’ (in Kashmiri language it means the King’s Stone) which bears the footprints of the great Sufi saint Sheikh Noor-ud-din-Wali. Mythology says, it is due to his footfall, the place became sacred and devotees started flocking the village. Over the years, it attained the status of a Ziarat.