Kashmir is world over famous for its pristine beauty that lies in the form of lush green meadows, loftier than the loftiest mountains and above all tranquil waters. The blue skies, from which the virgin rays of sun enter the environs making the valley subsequently exquisite, that whilst bidding adieu, tourists boast of this place. The reinvigorating climate is the sole reason that brings people from every nook and cranny of India here, to enjoy its serenity.
The placid Dal stands as top priority for the tourist’s world over to visit. Then the places adjoining like the Mughal Gardens, Harwan and Pari Mahal which was built by Dara Shukoah located on Zaberwan range is another attraction site for tourists. Pari Mahal is a bundle of terraces from which we can get the whole view of Srinagar city.
Gulmarg is another jewel in the crown of Kashmiri vacationers spot, famous for its wintry delights in the form of skiing. One could never forget Pahalgam in all this. It is a totality of heaven’s enclosed by forests and gushing waters (River Lidder) that flow through its heart.
But these places do not mark the end of Kashmir’s ageless beauty and placidity. There are places which have been neglected from the tourist hot spot map of Kashmir. Places like ‘Lolab valley’, ‘Bungus valley’ – both in Kupwara district of Kashmir cry for attention. About ‘Bungus’ it is said and believed that this meadow is just the replica of Gulmarg. It is an interminable meadow with grasses, soft like cotton and waters that could be a greater retreat to sea of tranquility. The impenetrable forests add up to the beauty of this place. This place is all but a dying spot of beauty crying for its identity. One could see the forlorn gazes of its surroundings and gloominess in its gusts of air that welcome you when one set foot on its greenish grasses. A separate development authority for Bungus has been already established to explore and develop this heavenly part. But nothing has been done so far in practicality. And if there is some work going on that is at snail’s pace and will take years to complete. This place is some 40 km’s from the main centerfield of Kupwara and 25 km’s from the remote town of Handwara but that route is too dangerous, so one would prefer the former as it is somehow good to travel through. The place has other barricades too in the form of security issues. People with special permissions are allowed and that too in the months of June and July. So for the rest of the year 'Bungus' remains alienated from the rest of the tourist hubs. This shows how alienated and blanked out the place is from the map of tourist spots.
Lolab, on the other hand, is another spot, 30 km from Kupwara. Lolab valley is a definite example of nature's undisturbed environs with utmost beauty in the form of small meadows alongside which, brimming brooks flow. The flowers en-route the meadows of Lolab bring about a new ambience in the surroundings tinged with an aroma of love. The hospitality or the cordial reception of people has no match. But surely place is less trodden by the visitors as it has not been declared a full scale tourist hub by department of tourism. The place needs just a slight makeover. The roads should be maintained properly and some guest houses should be made. Proper advertisements and promotions would surely give big financial boost to people and indirectly to tourism department.
Another place that is waiting for its approval to be able to serve the people is not just too far away from the district Kupwara. Machil is about 50 km from Kupwara. The dense forests that fence in from all sides provide all together a new look to the land. The wildly down flow of its rivers shall leave every sleepy-headed hypnotized. After getting a glimpse of this place I’m reminded of a stanza from Lal Ded’s poem which state:-
‘You are the heaven and You are the earth,
You are the day and You are the night,
You are all pervading air,
You are the sacred offering of rice and flowers and of water;
You are Yourself all in all,
What can I offer You?’
Another place to look forward to is ‘Drang’. It is Just 3.5 km from Tangmarg. It is a compound of perfect beauty, crystal clear and burbling river. The place has meadows that are immaculate enough to be referred to as part of heaven. The caves of Drang, the topography of Drang have concealed magnets of attraction that shall never allow a person to see it off when visited. One could easily stroll in its meadow full of undistinguishable flora and fauna. Trekking through its jungles is always an awe-inspiring go-through. But one thing that really pinches deep is that this place not being too far from Gulmarg is being ignored and neglected. Drang is, I would say best for trekking, best for botanical research with its human friendly terrain. It can also be helpful to some social scientists with its caves at their disposal. But it is really shocking, that there is not even a single modern guest house, just a few huts that are good for nothing. The road is in shambles with no local transport facility. One has to either walk down up to there or has to pay local carriage from Tangmarg double the normal rate.
It troubles me immensely when such scenic spots are thrown to dogs. The development of these places will be able to generate a lot of revenue and can really help people dwelling there. We have huge employment ratio in the state and tourism can become a huge incentive for them. High percentage of our state budget comes from tourism sector alone. And if these places are developed and put on the Kashmir tourism map then there will be a huge rise in our budget which in-turn means greater development of Kashmir. When there are new spots to explore and trod through, then there is a gradual increase in the number of tourists, which means better welfare of people and subsequently the government.
By visiting such places more often and promoting them too will successively help in adding to the luster of multi faceted Kashmir thereby changing its hues with changing environs. If Maharashtra can do it and if Rajasthan can do it with meager resources, why can’t we? Every other state will find it hard to compete with us if we develop our tourism sector in a planned way.