Boosting Tourism in Manwal-Ramkot Region

Ashok Sharma
Our UT is blessed with many places which have great religious, archaelogical and aesthetic importance. But these tourist spots have not received as much attention as they ought to have got Devi Bani Temple and Babore complex of temples at Manwal are structures having great religious and archaelogical importance.
These protected monuments which attract a large number of tourists, heritage lovers and historians are a treat to the eyes and the soul.These structures tell a lot about the workmanship and masonary in the times gone by and foster curiosity in the minds of young students to go in for further research to unravel the unkown facts about them .These monuments also develop in the young scholars a love and need for conserving them.So a visit to these monuments is really informative and useful.Then there is the widely respected shrine of Narsing Temple in Jansal, which is widely reverred and visited by the local people and those coming from outside.This ancient temple built centuries ago has now been connected by road and is always agog with activity of devotees who throng it in large number. Swami Jagan Nath Ji temple at Thial constructed way back in 1933 is widely reverred and visited by people from far and wide.Many Bhandaras are organised at both Swami Jagan Nath ji temple at Thial and Narsing Temple at Jansal.Then there is the shrine of Chountra Mata located atop a hill covered with coniferous trees and presenting a panaromic view of Ramnagar and adjoining villages on the one side and Thial, Ramkot, Khoon, Nagrota Gujroo on the other side. This holy shrine is located at a distance of about 22 Kms from Ramnagar and 60 Kms from Udhampur.Many legends are associated with this shrine and it witnesses a heavy footfall of devotees especially during Navratras.Religious processions are also taken to Chountra Mata during Navratras from various places such as Durga Mandir Gujroo Nagrota, Narsing Mandir,Ramnagar and Udhampur.These processions are taken with huge religious fervour and amidst the recitation of Bhajans and beating of the drums.After the religious rituals and havan, a grand community feast (Bhandara) is organised .Free Langers and fruit/Chat stalls are organised by various people and NGOs enroute the shrine during the Navratras.
The world famous twin lakes of Mansar and Surinsar are known for their religious importance and aesthetic beauty.These two lakes have been given a boost under the Surinsar Mansar Development Authority.Mansar lake has an area of 0.522 Sq.Km and a circumference of 3020 mtr.There are well developed parks, a wildlife sanctuary, view points at Mansar.It is considered auspicious to circumambulate the lake and for this purpose a tiled path has been laid around the lake.There is also a Sheshnag Temple on the northeastern bank of the lake. This ancient temple, dedicated to the Hindu Serpent God attracts a large number of devotees and Mundan ceremonies are performed here.
The concerned Authority has made elaborate arrangements for the recreation, amusement and enjoyment of the mesmerising view of the lakes. It has provoded benches for rest and viewpoints for watching the lake.Tourists can also feed the fish and tortoises and enjoy motor boat ride in the lakes.There are dhabas and shops to cater to the needs of the tourists.Similarly Surinsar Lake has 0.29 Sq.Km area while it has a circumference of 2420 mtr. Both these lakes areamong the deepest fresh water water lakes in India and it is our duty to preserve their beauty and purity and maintain their ecology.
Old Fort & Baba Yogdhyan Mandir at Ramkot, Shiv Temple at Khoon, Ambica Mata Temple at Balpur, Ghoggar Marh Narsingh Temple and Pingla Mata Shrine are some other shrines which attract a large number of tourists and devotees and if proper attention is given to these shrines, their tourist potential can be fully harnessed.Garh Samnananj which commands a panaromic view of a vast landscape has huge tourist potential and if road connectivity is improved, view points and tourist huts constructed, it can attract a huge footfall of tourists.These places have not received as much attention as ought to have been given to them keeping in view their aesthetic, religious and tourist significance.The Bobour temple complex at Manwal,a protected monument having great archaeological importance is a treat to the eyes and the soul of the viewers and tells a lot about the times and craftsmanship of the days gone by.A visit to this site is both enjoyable and useful,especially for the students and those interested in history and archaeology.
Thus, there are a number of beautiful spots, which,if developed properly, can attract a large number of tourists and thus,boost the local economy.For this purpose,there is need to constitute a Tourism Authority for Chountra Mata and Pingla Mata to boost religious torism and ecotourism in the region.As the number of tourists and devotees to these shrines is increasing day by day, various basic infrastructural facilities such as toilets/bathrooms, community halls, Guest Houses, rain shelters, rest points/view points need to be provided enroute and at these spots to make the journey /stay of the devotees to these famous shrines pleasant and memorable.Recently,Tawi Adventures,an Adventure Tour Group (ATO) registered with the Directorate of Tourism, Jammu conducted a successful paragliding trial from the hills of Pingla Mata. Arshdeep Singh,a qualified pilot undertook the trial and the flight lasted for seven minutes and two seconds and landed successfully. Such trials can also be conducted from other such sites and Adventure Tourism boosted in the region.
Tourism to this hitherto neglected region can also be boosted by forming a tourist circuit connecting Manwal, Jansal, Thial, Khoon,Ramkot, Samnabanj, Gurseri Talab, Chountra Mata, Ghoggar marh and Pingla Mata, Narsingh Temple, Ramnagar Fort and Sheesh Mahal at Ramnagar.Another circuit connecting famous Mansar lake, Surinsar lake with Manwal, Jansal, Chountra Mata, Khoon, Ramkot etc can also be brought into operation.The tourists and pilgrims can also be taken to the world famous Sukrala Mata Shrine located in the midst of hills covered with coniferous trees having unparalleled natural beauty .The blacktopping of the widened Thial Drabdan road and connecting Drabdan with Chountra Mata and Chountra Mata with Rang and Ramnagar too can help a lot to boost tourism in this region as distance from Thial to Ramnagar is much less than that from the other route via Udhampur.
(The writer is serving as Lecturer in English, Govt Hr. Sec. School Thial (Udhampur)