SRINAGAR: To celebrate the recently awarded best off-beat tourist destination of India and to enhance and promote tourism to this virgin valley, a Grand Gurez festival was organized here by the Department of Tourism in collaboration with District Administration Bandipora and J&K Academy of Art Culture & Languages today.
The major attraction of the day-long festival was a Horse Polo match which was played between two teams of local youth. Elders in the area said that it was after around six decades that they have seen a Polo match being played in Gurez again. They appreciated the initiative of the Tourism Department and District Administration for organising and reviving the age-old tradition of Horse Polo in Gurez.
Another special feature of the festival was holding many adventure and water sports activities like Rafting, kayaking, cycling, mountain Biking, trekking besides a spectacular show of All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) for the first time in Gurez.
Performances by artists from JK Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in many dying and shrinking dialects like Sheena, Dardi, Pahari besides other local languages was an eye-catcher for the locals and tourists equally.
Speaking on the occasion, Director Tourism, Dr. G N Itoo said that the Tourism Department has been promoting Gurez through a sustained and coordinated mechanism for the last two years which yielded results recently in the destination being awarded as the best offbeat tourist spot in the country by a national publication. He hailed the support and coordination by the District administration and local population in making this happen. He urged the youth to participate with full potential in promotion of tourism and local culture of Gurez.
Dr Itoo said possibilities would be explored to make Gurez an all weather Tourist destination. He stressed on maintaining the age-old tradition of cleanliness and sanitation of Gurez along with development of tourism related activities.
Addressing the gathering, Deputy Commissioner, Bandipora, Dr. Owais Ahmad congratulated the people of Gurez for being awarded the best off-beat tourist destination award recently at a Tourism conclave at the national capital. He said youth are main stakeholders in tourism promotion in Gurez Valley as tourism not only provides enjoyment but also employment to youth.
Dr Owais urged youth to come forward for tourism promotion and developmental works in the area. Gurez youth have performed exemplary work in promoting Hospitality in the ecologically sensitive area of Gurez, he added. He said the aim of the festival was to emphasise on adventure, river, eco tourism in addition to the culture and art of Gurez.
Dr Owais said that the 2.5 MW power project by NHPC will soon be made functional to provide uninterrupted power supply to Gurez.
Earlier, under the initiative of Adventure tourism, the Deputy Commissioner along with Director Tourism flagged-off groups of students for various adventure activities like kayaking, rafting, and trekking.
The District administration on the occasion had put up a number of stalls from Departments like Animal and Sheep Husbandry, Handloom, Sericulture, Handicrafts, Tourism, ICDS, NRLM, KVK Gurez besides locals showcasing traditional and heritage items used in Gurez.
The stakeholders were felicitated by the organizers at the end of the festival.
The festival was attended by DDC members Gurez and Tulail, BDC members, Commander 109 Brigade Dawar, Pranav Kumar; SSP Mohammad Zahid; ADC Bandipora, Waseem Raja; senior officers of District administration and Tourism Department and other concerned officers.
Local people in thousands and tourists visited the stalls and evinced keen interest in the products on display.