Bandipor A potential tourist place

Jawahar Kaul Ganhar
Kashmir is not just Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Srinagar or Dal Lake and the gardens around the lake. There are a  dozen of equally beautiful tourist spot.  Among them is Bandipor a newly created district out of earst­while district of Baramulla in the year 2007.
Bandipor is situated on the eastern bank of “Wuller Lake”, a largest natural fresh water lake in Asia, situated in the foot hills of “Haramukh” mountains at a distance of nearly 60 KM away from Srinagar the summer capital of J&K State. Before partition of the country in 1947, ‘Bandipor used to be the important trade centre as the traders used to visit Gilgit and other Central Asian countries from this place. By virtue of lofty mountain surroundings Bandipor is a nature’s museum with scenic beauty of all shades  found in abundance. This newly created district  has three tehsils, Sonawari, Gurez and Bandipor which  have a number of places of tourist interest including places of religious importance which can also playa great part in attracting tourist to this place. Bandipor is also famous for its wollen blankets (Chadder) and Kangri (Fire pot) which Kashmiris use during the winter to keep them selves warm.
The town of Bandipor is very beautiful, two fresh water streams, ‘Madumathi’ and ‘Erin’, coming down from lofty mountains add to its charm. A beautiful park on the pattern of Mughal Garden of Nishat of Sri nagar has been laid and is locally know as Nishat Garden of Bandipor. Town has  a number of hotels, restaurants, banks, hospital and other Civil facilities The road from Srinagar is mettalled, besides, town can be reached from Sopore also which is at a  distance of 25 Kms.
Daneshwar Cave, is a famous place of Hindu Pilgrimage, popularly know as ‘Chotta Amarnath’ is revered by both Hindu and Muslims. It is located in the dense forest of ‘Erin Valley’ and is nearly 16 Kms away from Bandipor town. Pilgrimage (Yatra) to this cave, shrine is performed in a single day. Inside the cave there is naturally formed ‘Shiv-Lingam’ and on it water oozes from top of the cave on the Lingam. Inside of the cave is very narrow and can accommodated 7 or 8 persons at a time who can offer prayers etc. A big Mela used to be held on ‘Shavan-Poornamashi (Raksha Bandhan) near the cave.
Besides this there is one more important shrine in the town at Village Kalusa know as ‘Sharda Mata Temple’. This is the only abode of ‘Maa Sharda’, outside the original seat at ‘Shardi’ Muzzafarabad now in Pakistan administrated Kashmir on the banks of river Krishan Ganga. A mela used to held every year at this place and devotees used to visit this place in large members. In the town, there is a Gurdwara also. A big ‘Dewan’ takes place here on every Sunday.
The district is also famous for its Muslim shrines. Throughout the year, a big religious congregation takes place at these shrines. Among the famous is Ziarat Shareef of ‘Mehboob-Bul-Alam, Aham Shareef. For full year this place is visited by the devotees in large numbers. At the time of Eid-Milad-UI-Nab and on Meharaj-UI-Alam a big fair is held. The other important Muslim shrines are Ziarat of Sultan Aarfeen at Rampor, Ziarat Hazrat Destgeer Sahib and Baba Shakurdeen Sahib at Watlab etc.
Wuller Lake, is the largest fresh water lake not in India, but in Asia also. On its shore are situated two important towns of Kashmir valley, one is Sopore, fruit bowl of Kashmir and Bandipor. Madhumati, Erin and Freozpur streams pour into it from North, while the river Vitastha or Jehlum (Veth in Kashmiri) from the south. The word Wuller comes from a Sanskrit word ‘Ullala’ which means stormy. As per Pandit Kalhan’s, Raj Tarangri, the lake was known as MAHAPADAMSAR’, and once there use to be a great and big city here. On its bank is famous religious shrine of a Muslim saint, Baba Shakur Din. From this place, one can have a full and charming view of the lake. The lake is coverings an area of about 300 sq Kms. 25 Kms in Length and 10 Kms in width. At the time of flood it extends it shore area. The depth of the lake is 5 to 7 mts., but depth at Baba Shakur Din Shrine is more than 8 Mts. In the middle of the lake there is an island, which at the time of stormy weather boat man use  it as a refuge. It is said, in ancient times there used to be a temple. The island was re-built by King of Kashmir, Zain-UI-Nodin, Budshah (1420-70 AD). Before 98 -90 going round the lake, was a favourite and a pleasant past-time for the tourist. During summer, daily chartered buses, taxies and cars used to ply around the lake with visitors, local and students. But due to eruption of militancy in 1989-90 this practice came to an end.
Manasbal Lake, is half way between Srinagar and Bandipor road at a distance of 33 Kms from Srinagar. It is a very beautiful clean water lake about 5 Kms long and 3 kms broad. The lake from Srinagar is connected by two metalled roads, one via sumbal and other via Ganderbal. An old temple and  an ancient monumented are found here. A number of tourist huts have been developed by the tourism department. The sun-set scene is charming and remarkable at the spot. The place  have become very favourite with both local and tourist. It is said numerous springs exist in its bottom. The lake is always found  full of lotus flowers . It is a bird watchers paradise. There are two important parks – one is Manasbal and other is Jharokha Bagh.
Chitternar, is surrounded from all sides by coniferous trees and is nearly 3 Kms from Bandipor town. A forest training school is located here. Every year a good number of students receive forest training here. The place provides a fascinating look in all seasons but its beauty during spring and autumn is unique. It is an idle tourist spot.
Gurez, a border tehsil is nearly 86 Kms away from Bandipor situated at an height of about  800 ft above sea level. This beautiful valley is covered from all sides by lofty mountains of various heights. The river Kishan Ganga passes through this valley. The river is full of trout fish. From June to October weather of this place is pleasant; rest of the months remains very cold. Road from Bandipor to Gurez is matalled and it  passes through Rajdhani pass about 12,000 ft above sea level. A Muslim shrine is here, which is looked after by BSF Jawans.
Watlab, is situated on the bank of Wuller Lake, is situated on Bandipor and Sopore road. There is a tomb of famous saint ‘Baba Shakur-ud­Din’, people of Bandipor and Sopore places visits this place regularly. Government has constructed rest houses also.
Bandipor has a tremendous tourist potentional and the attractive incentives are needed to bring it on the tourist map of the state and should be developed in a  big way which will open doors for employment of a good number of un-employed youth of the district.