Kishtwar Ignored Beauty

J. R. Aryan
District Kishtwar one of the 8 newly created districts has the unique distinction of being one of the biggest districts of J&K State (now Union Territory) in respect of area just next to Leh and Kargil Districts. Its area is almost one half of the total area of 10 districts of the valley and one third of total area of Jammu region which too has 10 districts.
History, geography, topography, demography area and population define the status of a place or region and Kishtwar, in the light of above factors, deserves a lot. It is often said that first deserve and then desire; yes, it is true and very true when it comes to argue in respect of Kishtwar, be it for its District Status which it has had though too late or for its Tourism Development in view of its enormous tourism potential which has not been taken care of by the Govt and has been brutally neglected by the Tourism Department till date.
With an area of about 8000 kms amidst almost mountainous and hilly topography like that of Kashmir, Himachal or Ladakh region, district Kishtwar has its boundaries touching the valley on its north-west side and Ladakh region on its north-east with Lahul Spiti valleys of Himachal in the south-east and Doda district on south-west. The entire district is full of hills and mountains, forests and vegetation. The population or demography is mixed. Hindus, Muslims SCs, STs, Sikhs and Bodhs reside here with amity and brotherhood. The population is found settled upto in the hilly and upper regions. The district has tehsils namely Marwah, Warwan, Dachhan, Chatroo, Mugalmaidan, Padder, Machail Nagseni, Drabshalla, Bunjwah and Tehsil Kishtwar. Almost entire district receives snowfall during a good winter. The climate is similar to that of valley of Himachal.
With a high potential for tourism the district is full of hidden charm, wonderful sites and alluring, spots, health resorts, attractive tourism locations, famous historical and religious places, sacred shrines and monuments. The forests are full of mineral wealth, variety of timber and trees of highest quality, drugs and herbs and other medicinal shrubs and plants like mushroom, chilgoza, black zeera, saffron besides the other forest resources of tremendous utility. Mineral wealth if properly explored and extracted can become a boon to generate revenue particularly the huge sapphire reserves mines of Machail Padder.
Tehsil Kishtwar with HQ at Kishtwar extends upto Galhar in the east, Palmar in the north, Thakrai etc. in the west and Sarthal Saroor, Bunjwa in the south-east. At Sarthal the prominent holy famous temple of Mata Asht-Dash-Bhuja” i.e. Goddess with 18 arms i.e. Mata Sarthal Dev ji is located where people and devotees come round the year to pay their obeisance and get blessings. At Rakna Palmar there is famous holy Ziarat as also at Bhanderkote where sacred temples of Lord Shiva and Durga Mata are also located. At Saroor, Bimal-Nag and in Bunjwa a charming spot Devigole are the Centre of Tourism attraction for their enormous beauty and grandeur worth seeing. At proper Kishtwar, we have a Gurudwara where many Sharadhaloos come to have blessings.
Tehsil Paddar with H.Q at Atholi is 62 kms away from district H.Q. Kishtwar and has much of its own to offer. From Atholi one km away on the other bank of river Chenab is located the other famous spot Gulabgarh where many Govt. offices are located. The confluence point of river Chenab and tributary Bhote-Nallah is really very fascinating which none can afford to miss. The most religious and sacred Shrine of Mata Chandi is located at an altitude of 9500 ft. at Machail where lacs of yatries and devotees come to pay their obeisance every year during famous Machail Yatra during August.
One can’t and must not afford to miss the chance of visiting Gumpas of Bodh religion which happen to be three kms away from Machail and has much of its own to offer. All the foot journey from, Padder Gulabgarh to Machail of 40 kms length is a treasure of a nature’s glimpses, attractions, expeditions, enroute temples, caves, bubbling streams, springs, snow clad peaks and even naked mountain peaks.
The nature’s smiling creativity in the two magnanimous waterfalls of the entire volume of Bhote river provides a very thrilling experience and a feast of excitement to every passer-by which no camera eye can afford to miss. The Govt must use its all energy to complete the construction of road from Gulabgarh to Machail on war-footing basis to boost tourism and provide easy access to the sacred shrine of Chandi Mata the holy glimpses of the sapphire mines. A famous hot-water spring at Tata Pani (Kundal) has its own importance where streams of people rush to have a bath to get rid of joint pains and skin disorders.
Similarly Chhatroo tehsil with its H.Q. at Chhatroo has a charm of its own amidst its topography, geography, landscape, bubbling streams, meadows, valleys green fields and forest ranges. Chingam is really fascinating and thrilling location, where natural beauty and providential touch has its own say. The work on Kishtwar – Sinthan road is nearing completion and in due course of time this shall throw open a historic journey for the tourists to enter the valley or leave the valley with a new thrilling experience through a new landscape, routes and people to have sweet memories of the trip.
Marwah-Wadwan and Dachhan area of tehsil Marwah has a unique charm of its own to attract tourists. The green lush meadows of the region amidst thick and natural forest ranges makes one forget the earlier landscapes one would have come across and makes one feel that the nature does smile in the interior cut-off isolated places for serenity and that the providence has descended itself here to settle in this charming and fascinating land surrounded by forest wealth. The green meadows bubbling streams and lushing water falls together with hot water spring at Rinie Nallah and the wild life sanctuary in the area provide a feast of attraction to the visiting eyes. The area is still un-connected from the district H.Q. Kishtwar and the work of connectivity is very slow and calls for immediate attention of the Govt. to open out this beautiful landscape to tourist community at the earliest.
Commanding an altitude of 5600 ft. above sea level the district H.Q. Kishtwar 231 kms NE of the winter capital Jammu connected by NHIA – NHIB and about 180 kms S.E. of summer capital Srinagar also connected by a highway is situated majestically on a plateau formation stretching over a length of 6 kms and a width of about 2 kms amidst wonderful picturesque mountain ranges with the mightly river Chenab following at its foot forming a semiloop to provide a dimension of additional attraction to its location.
The population of the district H.Q which is also the tehsil H.Q comprising town, mandal and other localities including NHPC colony and its complex is about 65 thousand. The Dul-Hasti Power Project of 390 MW Power generation with its HQ campus at Kishtwar and colonies at headsite Dool and damsite at Shalimar has been a boon to develop the area and its activities.
With mountain ranges all around and lush green fields lulling the area, the District HQ if caught in the camera eyes from a height or through an aerial view appears a paragon of beauty. Amidst all this Kishtwar district H.Q. has a great privilege of having a flat, smooth stretch of ground (Plateau) locally known as Chowgaan which has a natural grass turf that transforms it into a soft green carpet as if a God given gift and a blessing in disguise reminding one and all to preserve its originality, its configuration, its dignity and charm for all times to come. It is, in fact, the face of Kishtwar the grace of Kishtwar and the praise of one and all. Right from Moughal period kings, princess, historian, people of all shades by the tourists, trekkers, sportsmen or outsiders all have eulogized its grace and importance. It is of historic, religious, social, cultural and educational significance. At its one end is located the famous holy Ziyarat of Shah Asar-ud-Din Sahib while at the other end is the famous red Gori-Shanker temple.
Many religious social and cultural, ceremonial, educational and even sports functions are held here in this ground throughout the year besides political and administrative functions. On the northern end of this Chowgan there is an aerodrome of about 1 km length where Aeroplanes like Dacotta 7 other types have been landing since early 50s at the time of need and helicopters very often. There is full scope for regular air service provided the Govt. gives attention to this vital aspect. At district HQ Kishtwar and in its close neighbourhood there are a dozen of attractive spots like Tund, Aarsi, Tailmuchi, Bharnoyan, Drab, Cheer-Har, Indra Nagar and Bhanderkote the confluence of river Chenab and Marsudhar river; Sarkoot lake, Chhar-Chinar etc. which if properly taken care of and developed by the Tourism Deptt. or by the Kishtwar Development Authority in the real earnest, can serve as the best feast for the tourist culture.
Kishtwar, beyond an iota of doubt, is a treasure of tourist pleasure having been ignored altogether by the various Govts till date to bring it on tourist map which is really nothing short of the role of a stepmother. The writer makes an earnest humble appeal to the Lt. Governor to deliver justice for this noble cause.
The author is Engineer(retd.)