KASHMIR HOLIDAYS

Kashmir the Paradise on Earth

Set like a jeweled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is a multi-faceted diamond, changing its hues with the seasons - always extravagantly beautiful. Two major Himalayan ranges, the Great Himalayan Range and the Pir Panjal, surround the landscape from the north and south respectively. They are the source of great rivers, which flow down into the valleys, forested with orchards and decorated by lily-laden lakes.

The Mughals aptly called Kashmir 'Paradise on Earth' where they journeyed across the hot plains of India , to the valley's cool environs in summer. Here they laid, with great love and care, Srinagar 's many formal, waterfront gardens, now collectively known as the Mughal Gardens . Anecdotes of four and five centuries ago describe their love for these gardens, and the rivalries that centered on their ownership. They also patronized the development of art & craft among the people of Kashmir , leaving behind a heritage of exquisite artisanship among these people and making the handicrafts of the land prized gifts all over the world.

Kashmir is a land where myriad holiday ideas are realized. In winter, when snow carpets the mountains, there is skiing, tobogganing, sledge-riding, etc. along the gentle slopes. In spring and summer, the honey-dewed orchards, rippling lakes and blue skies beckon every soul to sample the many delights the mountains and valleys have to offer. Golfing at 2,700m above the sea, water-skiing in the lakes and angling for prized rainbow trout, or simply drifting down the willow fringed alleys of lakes in shikaras and living in gorgeous houseboats are some of the most favored ones.

Seasons of Kashmir

Kashmir has four distinct seasons, each with its own peculiar character and distinctive charm. These are spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Spring: which extends roughly from March to early May, is when a million blossoms carpet the ground. The weather during this time can be gloriously pleasant at 23 ° C or chilly and windy at 6 ° C. This is the season when Srinagar experiences rains, but the showers are brief.

Summer: extends from May until the end of August. Light woolens may be required to wear out of Srinagar . In higher altitudes night temperatures drop slightly. Srinagar at this time experiences day temperatures of between 25 ° C and 35 ° C. At this time, the whole valley is a mosaic of varying shades of green - rice fields, meadows, trees, etc. and Srinagar with its lakes and waterways is a heaven after the scorching heat of the Indian plains.

Autumn: the onset of autumn, perhaps Kashmir 's loveliest season, is towards September, when green turns to gold and then to russet and red. The highest day temperatures in September are around 23 ° C and night temperatures dip to 10 ° C by October and further drop by November, when heavy woolens are essential.

Winter: from December to the beginning of March is winter time, which presents Srinagar in yet another mood. Bare, snow-covered landscapes being watched from beside the warmth of a fire is a joy that cannot be described to anyone who has not experienced it. Some houseboats and hotels remain open in winter-these are either centrally heated or heated with 'bukharis', a typically Kashmiri stove kept alight with embers of wood, quite effective in the winter.

How to reach Kashmir

Srinagar : the summer capital of State is connected by direct flights operated by Indian Airlines / Jet Airways / Sahara Airways/ Kingfisher/ GoAir/ SpiceJet/ AirDeccan, etc. There are daily direct flights from Delhi / Jammu to Srinagar. Daily Super Deluxe / Sleeper buses also run from Delhi to Srinagar.

Jammu - Tawi is the nearest rail head for the Travelers to Srinagar . There are overnight trains operating from Delhi to Jammu : Shalimar Express / Jammu Mail / Jhelum Express / Pooja Express / Uttar Sampark Kranti Express, besides day trains Viz. Malva Express / Super fast Express. Jammu is also connected by train with Bombay , Calcutta , Madras and other cities in the Country.

Srinagar - The Lake City

A travel and tourism experience to this joyous state is an unmatchable experience that will leave you feeling cleansed and pure.

Srinagar is located in the heart of the Kashmir valley at an altitude of 1,730 m above sea level, and is rightly called 'Paradise on Earth'. It is spread on both sides of the river Jhelum. The Dal and Nagin lakes Enhance its picturesque setting, while the changing play of the seasons and the salubrious climate ensures that the city is equally attractive to visitors around the year.

Srinagar is a romantic Kashmiri city situated around glistening lakes and snowy tree forested mountain slopes with one of the most pleasant climates in all of India. It is a lively, vibrant, and an organic canal city. Its waterways with their own quaint style, the unique Houseboat, the blossoming gardens, water sports activities, shopping for lovingly hand-crafted souvenirs and the nearby resorts make it a cherished spot among those looking for a memorable holiday.

Today Srinagar is a resort for the tourist who can experience, at first hand, the peculiar beauty of the valley that has attracted the Chinese , the Mughals and the British to it.

History

Srinagri was founded by Emperor Ashoka in the 3 rd Century BC. Akbar captured Kashmir valley for the Mughals, who endowed Srinagar with beautiful mosques and gardens. The Sikhs overthrew the last Muslim ruler in the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1819. In 1846 the Dogras secured the sovereignty of Kashmir from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar, and in 1947 the state of Jammu and Kashmir with Srinagar as its capital, became part of the Indian Union.

City Information

Area: 105 sq kms
Altitude: 1,730 m.
Temperature: Max Min
Summer: 29.5 C 10.6 C
Winter: 7.3 C -1.9 C
Rainfall: 52.9 cms
Population: 930136 (2001 Censu)
Best Season: Throughout the year, though the winter months can be quite cold.
Clothing Spring & autumn: Light woolens
Summer: Cotton/tropical
Winter: Heavy woolens
Languages: Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English

Lakes

Srinagar 's distinctive feature is the great body of water, the Dal Lake, which forms its focal point. The Dal has, within its area, two enormous sheet-like expanses of water- Lokut-dal and Bod-dal, the rest of its surface being broken up alternatively by man-made strips of land inhabited by whole colonies of people and vegetation. Thus the lake is not a flat, unbroken mass of water, but a labyrinth of waterways, awash with a lifestyle not found elsewhere in the world.

Leading from the Dal is the smaller Nagin Lake. Here too, the waters are edged by trees of willow and poplar whose reflection is mirrored in the lake. 'Bathing boats' here, as well as on the Dal, hire out water-skis and motor launches. The waters of the lakes are pleasantly cool from mid-May to mid-September. Shikaras can be hired from any of the steps called 'ghats' (jetties) leading to the lake. Some rides are fixed and their rates are posted at each ghat as well as opposite the Tourist Reception Centre. Shikaras are a refreshingly novel way of seeing Srinagar by day and at twilight, the gentle soothing motion of the boat, as it glides along the water, is unbelievably romantic.

Nagin Lake lies to the east of the city at the foot of the Zabarwan Mountain . The Shankaracharya hill (Takht-i-Sulaiman) is to the south and Hari Parbat on its west. The lake is 6x3 km and is divided by causeways into four parts, Gagribal, Lakut-dal, Bod-dal and Nagin. Lokut-dal and Bod-dal each have an island in the centre, called Rup Lank or Char Chinari and Sona Lank, respectively.

The Mughal Gardens

Kashmir, befittingly famed as the paradise on land is famous for its praiseworthy Mughal Gardens - with vast picturesque hillsides, excellent waterbodies and packed flowering shrubs and trees, laid in decorous quadrangles by the Mughal emperors, whose love fro the land was illustrious.

Formally laid out lawns, vibrant flower beds, earthward fountains, surrounded by the vista of Dal lake in front of them, the gardens in Kashmir are captivating and delightful. The harmonious amalgam of designs, creative use of the landscapes & plantings and the miscellaneous mixture of colours, textures and plants presents a sense of bliss to the beholders. The Mughal gardens of Shalimar, Nishat, Chashmeshahi and others like Pari Mahal and Harwan are like exquistely carved lawns with stepped terraces and rich waterbodies.

Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bagh, Chashma Shahi, Pari Mahal, Harwan

Shalimar Bagh

Located in Srinagar , Shalimar Gardens or Shalimar Bagh was laid out by Emperor Jehangir for his wife Nur Jahan in 1616. Shalimar Gardens are the magnum opus of Srinagar 's many gardens and parks.

This beautiful garden was originally named the Farah Bakhsh or 'delightful garden', but today it is known as the 'garden of love'. The garden features a canal, lined with polished stones and is supplied with water from Harwan runs through the middle of the garden. The fourth terrace was once reserved for royal ladies. It represents a pavilion built of black stone in the centre of the tank, which was used as a banquet hall. Shalimar Bagh has an air of solitude and quietude, and its rows of amazing fountains and shaded lined trees seem to retire towards the snow dressed mountains. A sound and light show is held here every evening between May to October in the tourist season.

Nishat Bagh

Situated on the banks of the Dal Lake, with the Zabarwan Mountains as its backdrop, (11 km. from TRC), this 'garden of bliss' commands a magnificent view of the lake and the snow capped Pir Panjal mountain range which stands far away to the west of the valley. Nishat Bagh is smaller than Shalimar Garden , but is more movingly beautiful. Nishat Bagh was built by Asaf Khan, Empress Nur Jahan's brother. Nishat is celebrated for its stately chinar (plane) trees, imported to Kashmir from Persia by the Mughals. Among these, many of the giant chinar trees have been planted by the Mughal Emperors.

Nishat has 12 terraces representing the 12 signs of the zodiac, which seems to gradually descend and merge in the Dal Lake 's periphery. The terraces viewed along with the bed of flower, a mosaic of bright and beautiful colours, creates an unforgettable sight. Also found within its surroundings are some remnants of Mughal era buildings including a double storey pavilion enclosed on two sides latticed windows.

Chashma Shahi

Laid out by Shah Jehan, the gardens of Chashma Shahi, so named because of a mountain spring that waters it. The gardens include three terraces, an aqueduct, waterfalls and fountains. At Chashmashai, is a tastefully laid garden in terraces, which commands a magnificent view of the Dal Lake below and surrounding mountain ranges.

Cheshmashahi is the Ist Mughal Garden you will come across after Nehru Park . Smallest of the Srinagar Mughal gardens, the Chasma Shahi, or 'Royal Spring', is well set up the hillside, above the Nehru Memorial Park . The fresh water spring in these pleasant, calm gardens is renowned to have medicinal values. There is also a small shrine, the Chasma Sahibi, close to the gardens, which also has a fresh water spring.

TRC Srinagar free of cost to visit the permits can be had from the infromation Counter Chashma Shahi Garden. Permits can be had from the infromation counter.

Pari Mahal

Situated on the spur of a mountain overlooking the Dal, the ancient monument, with a well-laid spacious garden in front, is connected to Cheshmashahi by road. Pari Mahal was initially a garden founded by Dara Shiko, Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan's eldest son for his Sufi teacher, Mulla Shah. Once dotted with numerous springs, which have dried up now, the Pari Mahal gardens are now the treasure possession of the state. Pari Mahal is bedazzling with radiant lights at night, and though located on the spur of a hill, can he seen from most places in Srinagar.

Pari Mahal, once a Buddhist monastery, was converted into a school of astrology by Dara Shikoh. Pari Mahal gardens are now fully maintained by the state government.

Harwan

On the hillside, south of the village of Harwan (19 kms from the TRC)), remarkable remains of ancient ornamented tile pavements of the Buddhist period have come to light. The tiles depict the dresses of the people, such as loose trousers, Turkoman caps or close fitting turbans and large ear-rings which reveal Central Asian influence.

Tulip Garden

Siraj bagh ' tulip Garden ' is one of the oldest garden used for floriculture and botanical purposes in the valley. It is situated in the foothills of zabarwan range near royal spring golf course jus 8 km from TRC. Imported tulip bulbs from Holland are cultivated over the acres of siraj Bagh in the month of October & November. These acres of land turn green in the month of March when the leafy stems produce a single bud. Early april sees the other colors of the rainbow being added to the field. If a bunch of flowers can show your emotions to the ones you care about just imagine what millions of tulips spread over 200 acres of land do. It was in april 2007 when the government of J&K let open the tulip garden for the visitors.

Zabarwan Park

Situated a little ahead of the Nehru park on the sides of the bolulevard, zabarwan park is a marvelous picnic spot for nature lovers throughout the year. What zabarwan parks offers you is to relish the kashmiri cusine at the picturesque surroundings of the dal lake. Traditional Kashmiri music and talented folk dancers entertain you till late in the evenings during the weekends. Get pampered in a beautiful place in a beautiful way.

Museums in Srinagar

Sri Pratap Singh Museum is the oldest museum in Kashmir. It is a real treasure trove where stone sculptures and various artifacts depict the religion, culture and history of Jammu & Kashmir. One can appreciate stone sculptures as early as 6 th century AD, terracotta tiles dating back the 2 nd century AD, miniature painting of early times from different regions, dominating portraits of the Dogra Maharajas, Papier-mâché articles, Jewelry, Copper brass utensils and straw wear of 18th & 19th century oldest weaponries, canons and armors used by the royal militia magnificent Shah Pasand Kani Shawls of 17th century are aptly placed in various halls.

Silk brocades, silk cocoon samples, Amli shawl embroidered in the form of the map of Srinagar are 17th to 18th century old. Shanama and holy Quran, Sikandar nama of 17th century, the coins as old as 20 BC and Sharda manuscript of 8th century AD can be noticed in the other halls. One of the halls has a variety of stuffed carcasses of birds, wild animal's snakes of different sizes and aquatic birds hunted from time to time in the region.

Places of interest in Kashmir

Pampore

11 km from Srinagar are the spectacular saffron fields of pampore which attract visitors during late October to early November. Saffron fields are the fields where the Mughals celebrated diwali. Watching the saffron fields in the moonlight has been the local tradition. The famous poetess Habba Khatoon used to wander in the saffron fields and sing the melodious poems. J&K Tourism has scheduled the annual Saffron Festival at pampore in the first week of November. At this time the cultural activities and the harvest season add more charm to the colorful saffron fields.

Budshas Tomb

Budshas tomb is an octagonal dome over the grave of Sultan zainulabidins mother. The dome has a graveyard on one side which contains the burials of kashmiri emperors like sultan sikander, Sultan ZaiulAbidin (budshah), Mirza Haider Daughlat and the graves of governors and nobles of the past. He was followed by his son Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (AD 1421 - 1474), an exceptionally peaceful ruler. He was reputed for being enlightened and restructuring Kashmir and was deservedly surnamed as Budshah 'The Great King'.

Budshas tomb is situated on the banks of river Jhelum near Zaina Kadal.

Burzahama (24 km), archeological excavations of pots, animal skeletons, tools from Neolithic age provides evidence of people living in the valley during 2500 BC.

Parihaspora

At a distance of about 23km from Srinagar on the way to Baramulla used to be the capital of the empire of the great king of kashmir Lalityaditya muktapid on the Karewas of Parihaspora. A visit to Parihaspora and further to the temple ruins at Pattan opens a plethora of history and culture of this land. The ruins of Buddhist stupa, a monastery, few Vishnu temples, Raj Bhawan and a chaitya were first put to excavation in the year 1914 by the archeologists. The site presents the systematic constructions made out of large stones in early times by the people.

SONAMARG - Meadow of Gold

The drive to Sonamarg is through the Sindh Valley which presents yet another spectacular facet of countryside in Kashmir . Perched at an altitude of 2730 m, Sonamarg ( 'the meadow of gold' ) has, as its backdrop, snowy mountains against a cerulean sky. The Sindh River that meanders through the valley abounds with trout and mahaseer. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier, which is a major local attraction during the summer months.

Sonamarg is not only about scenic beauty but the place also offers some wonderful treks and hiking opportunity. It is the base of a major trek that passes along several mountain lakes - Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar and Gangabal. Trekkers can also reach the starkly splendid roof-top of the world - Leh, by crossing over the Zoji La pass, a major pass in the Great Himalayan Range, through which the Srinagar-Leh Road passes.

Sonamarg is also a base for undertaking the yatra to the holy Amarnath cave, during Sawan Purnima. For details about the yatra, refer to the Amaranathji Yatra Link.

Yousmarg (a meadow)

A 2 Hours drive from Srinagar (47 km) will take you to acres upon acres of grassy meadow ringed by forests of pine, and towering beyond them, awesome and majestic snow clad mountains mesmerizes tourists with its scenic beauty and mountains comparable to European Alps.

This is Yusmarg- close enough to Srinagar for a picnic, idyllic enough to make you want to stay for a few days. Here are walks of every sort - a leisurely amble along flower-strewn meadows or away to where a mighty river froths and crashes its way over rocks, its mild white foam earning it the name of Dudh Ganga. Further away, a captivating lake, Nilnag, is cradled by hills. Nearby are several peaks-Tatta Kutti and Sang Safed to name a couple of them. About 13 kms from Yusmarg, a short detour away from the Srinagar road, is Charari- Sharief, the Shrine of Kashmir's patron saint Sheikh Noor-ud-din or Nund Reshi, now rebuilt after the devastating fire of 1994 which engulfed the entire building.

Gurez

143km Alt: 2700m

Ultimate adventure destination to the north of Kashmir, Gurez, is a gateway to the famous silk route across central Asia . The pyramid shaped peak named after the famous Kashmiri poetess Habba Khatton is the most fascinating peak of Kashmir . The emperor Yousuf Shah Chak who is said to be a Dard from Gilgit entered into Kashmir through Gurez. It is said that when the emperor was imprisoned by King Akbar, his beloved Habba Khatton used to wander near the pear to look for her lover.

The treakking routes from Gurez and Tilel lead up to Gangabal and Sonamarg to its east and Drass, Dahanu and Zanskar to its north.

The kishen-ganga river in gurez offers an easy level of stream for rafting and a challenging one from Tilel. Some of the mountains provide challenging scope for Rock Climbing. Anglers can be delighted to catch a brown trout in the kishen-ganga river or the streams coming down from the mountains. The roar of mighty Kishan-ganga River flowing across the valley resonates with surrounding mountains that lulls a visitor to sound sleep. The traditional log wood houses make Gurez no less than a European countryside. Gurez also has lovely campsites where the tents can be pitched near the river.

20km from Gurez, the awesome villages of Tilel have wood houses which perfectly add to the magnificent view of mountains full of pine and fir trees. The road from Gurez to Tilel is just 7 years old which has been extended up to Drass in Kargil region. The rugged and tough life of the people of Tilel can make a visitor to contribute for prom

Doodh-e-Pather

42 km from Srinagar towards Budgam, Doodh e Pather is yet another bowl shaped valley. Here the vast green carpeted meadows make one feel like rolling over. A flowing river resounds with soft wind passing through the pine trees at the enclosures of the valley. It is a recent discovery in the valley, identified as a new tourist destination by the authorities. The metallic road up to Yarikhak (30Km) passes through the numerous villages of Bugdam, where after a rough stretch of almost 12Km offers a spectacular view of Doode e Pather valley.

It is said that the cattle grazing in the valley of Doode e Pather, produces rich milk in large quantity, for this reason it is called the 'valley of milk' Doode e Pather. This area is also connected to the Gurez valley in the north.

A cup of tea with snack at stalls run by local people during the season at the main meadows could become your most pleasurable drink. A full day tour to Doode e Pather with some packed lunch will definitely be a bonus of your visit to Kashmir.

Places of interest

Muje e Pather is a picturesque sparsely populated village, which also serves as a base camp to the main destination 'Doode e Pather'. The farms and streams make this spot worth stopping at, for a while.

Khan Saheb The shrine of Hazrat Syed Saleh Khan RA who was born in 11 th century, migrated his family from a place presently in Pakistan over to Kashmir valley and became the disciple of Baba Naseer-ud-Din a prominent seer at the times. Khan Saheb meditated in the cave where the shrine has been built today. Few kilometres from Budgam towm, the shrine falls on the way to Doode e Pather.

Shrine of Shamas Faqir RA A noted saint and poet of Kashmir, born in 1892 in Chinkra Mahal, Srinagar. Shamas Faqirs has given valuable collection of poems that depicts purity of soul and closeness to almighty. Though he was an illiterate but his poems have become a part of rich Kashmiri literature. One of his famous couplets is:

"Makka madinas bar chi wathiya, nee e latea rouf karan"

"The doors of meccas and madina are wide open, oh my, friend come out and sing."

Shamas Faqir gave up domestic life and used to live and meditate in mountains and far off villages, he died in 1901 near a village in Budgam.

Gulmarg - The Meadow of Flowers

Gulmarg's legendary beauty, prime location and proximity to Srinagar naturally make it one of the premier charming luxury hill resorts in the country. Originally called ' Gaurimarg' by shepherds, its present name was given in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. Gulmarg was a favorite haunt of Emperor Jahangir who once collected 21 different varieties of flowers from here.

Gulmarg is in the Pir Panjals, one of the six ranges which make up the Himalayas. It is a mountain shelf which nestles under the protective 4124metre height and 5kilometre shoulders of Mt Apharwat. From here it overlooks the Vale of Kashmir to 8126metre Nanga Parbat and other distant peaks.

Depending on the season, nature's colors could be the translucent green of spring, summer's rich emerald, or autumn's golden hues, when scarlet chillies festoon windows of village homes. After Tangmarg, the climb to Gulmarg begins through fir-covered hillsides. At a point, known as "View Point", travelers generally stop their vehicles for a few minutes and look out a spectacle of snow-covered mountains.

Today Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of exceptional beauty, but it also has the highest green golf course in the world, at an altitude of 2,650m and is the country's premier ski resort in the winter.

Gulmarg's newly completed gondola, designed by France's Poma Group, ascends from the resort at 2650metres, via a mid station and restaurant at 3050metres, to an elevation of 3980metres, providing lift served access to 1330metres vertical of vast snow riding terrain.

Other modern infrastructure at Gulmarg includes Kassbohrer snow grooming machines, Poma surface lifts, recently purchased hire equipment for a range of winter sports, and even a new ice skating rink. Gulmarg biosphere reserve offers one of the most attractive wildlife tour packages and the Alpather Lake is a beautiful lake at the base of the Apharwat Mountain.

White Christmas celebration and snow festivals including ski competitions are held every year in Gulmarg with much fanfare.

Weather

Gulmarg gets snowfall periodically from November to April, sometimes above 15 feet, and mostly gets the first and the last snowfall of the valley. Gulmarg is in full bloom during the summer with flowers like bluebells and daisies. Horse riding and buggy riding in Gulmarg at this time is a delightful experience.

Best Time: In summer - May To September
In winter - November to February

Pahalgam - The Valley of Shepherds

Situated at the confluence of the streams flowing from Sheshnag Lake and the Lidder River , Pahalgam (2,130 m) was once a humble shepherd's village with breathtaking views. Now it is Kashmir 's premier resort, cool even during the height of summer when the maximum temperature does not exceed 250C.

Pahalgam has within it no fewer than eight tiny villages . There is a Shiva temple in Mamal (a tiny in Pahalgam), which is considered to be Kashmir 's oldest existing temple, dating to the 5 th century. Around Pahalgam there are many places of interest, and because the resort is set between fairly steep hills, it is worth hiring a pony rather than walking. The most beautiful of these is the huge, undulating meadow of Baisaran, surrounded by thickly wooded forests of pine. Hajan, on the way to Chandanwari, is an idyllic spot for a picnic. Filmgoers will recognize it instantly as it has been the location of several movie scenes.

Pahalgam is also associated with the annual Amarnath Yatra. Chandanwari (2,895 m), 16 kms from Pahalgam, is the starting point of the yatrathat that takes place every year in the month of Sawan (July to August). The road from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is on a fairly flat terrain and can be undertaken by car. From Chandanwari onwards the track becomes much steeper, and is accessible on foot or by pony. About 11 kms from Chandanwariis the mountain lake of Sheshnag (3,574 m), after which, 13 kms away is the last stop, Panchtarni. The Amarnath cave is 6 kms away from there. During the month of Sawan, an ice stalagmite forms a natural shivling in the Amarnath cave, which waxes and wanes with the moon.

Activities:

Horse Riding : Ponies can be hired directly or through the Tourist Office. Tariff boards are displayed at all important locations. Pony fares are posted at prominent locations. Golf : Wall to Wall with Grand Mumtaz Resort is Pahalgam Club's 9-hole golf course, which can be used by tourists. Golf sets can be hired from the Tourist Office. Fishing: The Lidder River has excellent fishing beats for brown trout. The fishing season stretches from April to September. Permits are issued, for a maximum of three days at a time, on a first-come - first-served basis and are charged on a per day per rod basis. Fishing equipment can be hired in Srinagar . Live baits and spinning are not allowed. For permits contact the Directorate of Fisheries, Tourist Reception Centre, and Srinagar. Trekking : The environs of Pahalgam offer exciting trekking opportunities, the best known being: Pahalgam - Chandanwari- Sheshnag- Panchtarni- Amarnath Cave Temple- Sonamarg.

Other Facilities:

Clubs: Pahalgam Club, managed by J&K TDC has a restaurant, conference room, billiards and library. Temporary membership is available with the management. Shopping: Pahalgam, originally a shepherds' village, is naturally known for products made of wool. Gabbas and Namdas can be purchased from local shops.

Amarnath Yatra

Amaranth cave is 45 km from Pahalgam and 141 km from Srinagar . The cave is sited in a narrow gorge on the farther end of Lidder Valley at 3,888 m above the sea level. Despite being an extremely difficult trek, millions of devotees come to pay homage to shiva in the month of savan (July - august).

The yatra, in its present religious form, commences with the ceremony of "Chari Mubarak," at the Dashnami temple, Akhara, Srinagar . After the prayers, the yatri acquires a sort of walking stick. It has both physical and religious significance: physically, it helps the yatri in steadying himself on a snow covered slippery path; spiritually it reminds him of his resolve at the temple at times when his faith begins to waver in the face of a long and arduous journey. Nowadays people travel to Pahalgam first and then undertake the onward journey of 45 km on foot, in batches. Overnight halts are in encampments that are set up at fixed distances and give the appearance of a military site. The return trek has to be covered in five days with night halts at Chandanwari, Wawjan and Panchtarni. The distance of 12.8 km from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is completed in five to six hours with the first night halt at Chandanwari. The trail is along thick and green woodlands of breathtaking beauty. The playful stream of Lidder meanders and dances alongside, showing its sparkling white foam with the pride and purity of a maiden descends directly from the lap of the perennial Himalayas . One main attraction of this trail is the bridge on the river Lidder, which is covered with snow even when the surroundings are bereft of snow.

From Chandanwari, there begins a steep ascent to Pishu Ghati (3,171 meters), reminding the yatris that the path to salvation involves superhuman struggle and stamina. A feeling of having reached an ethereal destination overwhelms yatris when they reach Seshnag (3,570 meters) so striking is the beauty, the ambience and the very colour of this great lake. Seshnag symbolizes the cosmic ocean in which Lord Vishnu, the preserver of this universe, moves, reclining on a seven-headed mythical snake. The second night halt is at Wawjan overlooking the deep waters of Sheshnag Lake and the glaciers beyond it.

The third and the last camp en route to the cave are at Panchtarni. This 13 km trek gains height at 4,600 m and then descends to the green meadows of Panchtarni. The cave is 6 km from here. There are long queues waiting to enter the cave for a darshan before returning to Panchtarni. The return journey takes two more days.

There are few precautions which have to be taken on this yatra. Children below 12 years and infants are not allowed. It is imperative that one is adequately equipped against the cold in the high altitude. It is important to be aware of high altitude sickness and take basic precautions to prevent it. There are ponies available to carry provisions and personal belongings.

Managing this yatra is a mammoth task and requires planning and coordination. The committee managing the shrine keeps maintains the route, ensuring that it is free of boulders and snow, in co-operation with military and civil authorities. More recently, there have been incidents of terrorists having tried to disrupt the yatra, and there is heavy armed protection provided to the yatris. A yatra-officer is appointed to conduct the pilgrimage.

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Photo of Amaranth Cave

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