For centuries, Pahalgam has been attracting hoards of tourists, pilgrims and explorers. Famous for various Bollywood flicks, the Ashmuqam shrine, Amarnath cave and innumerable fascinating spots, Babra Wani deconstructs the idea of the ‘village of shepherds’
Pahalgam has remained one of Kashmir’s most favoured tourist destinations for many centuries. Its lush green mountains, waters and scenic beauty make it truly a place to visit. The name Pahalgam is comprised of two Kashmiri words, Pahal or Pohal, which is the local word used for shepherd and Gaam, a village. Thus, the name Pahalgam literally means ‘Shephard’s village’. The name may be derived because of the number of meadows and pastures in the place.
Located at a distance of around 97 kilometres south of Srinagar, Pahalgam falls literally on the banks of river Lidder, which itself is a treat to the eyes.
As one embarks on the journey towards Pahalgam, from Anantnag one passes through many beautiful villages like Mattan, Akad, Aishmuqam, Batakoot and many others. These villages in themselves are a mark of beauty and picturesque landscapes. All these villages have their own significance.
While Mattan is known for its Martand temple, Aishmuqam is famous for the shrine of its shrine of Sufi saint Baba Zainuddin Wali, locally popular as Zain Shah Sahib. A disciple of Sheikh Nooruddin Noorani, he has contributed to Kashmir’s transition to Islam. The shrine is located on a hillock. There is a famous cave in the Sarbal area, which falls just a few kilometres from Pahalgam. The cave is attributed to the Sufi saint.
Recently the famous song Bharr Do Jholi from the Bollywood flick Bajrangi Bhaijan was shot around that place.
Batakoot is famous for its Amarnath Yatra connection as the elders of this village have discovered the cave shrine. The descendants of Buta Malik have been receiving part of the income from the shrine till recently. There is a nursery turned into a picnic spot. Nearby Akad is known through its famous park.
There is another route to Pahalgam from Srinagar. It takes off from Bejbehara and snakes through Dachinpora forests and apple orchards. The road offers breathtaking sights in narrow gullies and ravines with countless selfie spots which makes the travel memorable. One has to pass through almost a dozen villages before reaching Pahalgam. Almost every village has a story of its own.
Sallar is known for its education. Laddi is famous for Moam Cheache, a bone setter, who is visited by people from across Kashmir.
The small hamlet of Overa is famous for its Wildlife sanctuary, which is a tourist attraction in itself.
The Dahwatoo and Naigpor villages lie side by side and are known for their beauty. Besides, there are Wularhama, Sirgufwara, Badroo, Kathsoo, Kanelwan, Thaejwaar, Hugam, and Levar.
The Badaran, and Khelan villages which are nearby are famous for their Gujjar population. Virsaran, which is clearly visible from the Khowripora side of the river Lidder, the village stands atop the river and literally looks carved out of a mountain when seen from the other side.
The villages on this side of the river are famous for the apple and walnut produce, and during the harvesting season, heaps of walnuts can be seen on the sides of the road. There is one beautiful village Sakhdas, famous for its bridge which is a connector between the Dachin and Khovurpoor. The last village of Langanbal connects the Dachnipora to Pahalgam.
It is interesting that the Lidder River passes through the gorge and the villages located on the right bank are part of the Dachinpora belt and the hamlets on the left side are the Khovurpoora belt. In Kashmir, Dachin is right and Khovur is left.
A Cluster of Villages
The area of Pahalgam consists of nine villages Lidroo, Ganeshbal, Maamal, Aethnadan, Laripora, Mandlen, Aru, Frislun and Pahalgam itself. All of these villages add to the beauty of the area as a whole.
Aru, which is a small village acts as the stepping stone for trekking to Lidderwat and Kolahoi glacier, areas known for trekking and hiking. It has remained a home for foreigners who are interested in trekking and high altitudes. Various shops and eateries in the village have Hebrew names. Kolahoi Glacier is located in the north of Aru village. The glacier is the main source of the river Lidder.
The Lidroo village is known for its archaeological sites. In 1979, Jammu and Kashmir’s archaeological department discovered a terracotta settlement of the Kushan era in this village’s adjacent Hionar forests, which added to the archaeological importance of the belt. Lidder Valley is a rich archaeological belt of Kashmir.
From the main Pahalgam town, some of the most exotic locales may be reached on foot or by hiring a pony, including the expansive meadow of Baisaran, which is encircled by dense pine forests, and picturesque picnic areas like Chandanwari. The pilgrimage to the Amarnath Shrine, which begins every year in the months of July and August, also has its starting point in Chandanwari.
The Betaab Valley
One may have heard of the movie Betaab, many may have even watched the movie, it was shot in a beautiful locale in Pahalgam, which then went on to derive its name from the movie, Betaab Valley. It is a famous tourist destination in Pahalgam which attracts people both local and non-local to explore its beauty.
This lush green valley is located a few kilometres away from the main Pahalgam and is thronged by people in huge numbers every year. It is said that if one visits Pahalgam, visiting Betaab Valley is a must. This valley is picture-perfect because of its expanse of lush pastures, snow-capped mountains, majestic Deodar trees, and pine forests. You get a comprehensive package to nourish your body, mind, and spirit when you combine this scenic setting with the river Lidder flowing through it.
It is a lush, green meadow, locally nick-named Mini Switzerland, and is literally a visual feast. It is so named because of the meadows here, which resemble those in Switzerland. This lovely location is a great choice for a leisurely stroll or a family picnic. It is one of the few spots where there is a lot of, what locals say, ‘unspoiled beauty’. The area has a unique carpet-like appearance due to the green grass and dense pine trees around it, which contrasts with the snow-capped slopes that can be seen on one side.
Within the Pahalgam Valley, there are also some fun activities where visitors enjoy fishing, rafting and playing golf. Many may not know but there is a full-fledged 9-hole Pahalgam golf at 2400 meters above sea level. It has played host to many golf tournaments and is a sight to behold. Many people even if not interested in golfing visit this place just to enjoy the beauty.
The famous Sheshnag mountain lake is located some 11 kilometres from Chandanwari. This glacial lake, surrounded by lush meadows and snow-capped peaks, has got religious importance as it is on the trek to the cave shrine. Hindu mythology states that this lake was the abode of the legendary Sheshnag (the 100-headed serpent). As a result, it is where the lake gets its name.
Pahalgam has many other tourist attractions as well such as Tulian Lake, which can be reached through a pony trek and is covered with ice and snow almost throughout the year. This lake is famous for its rich scenic visuals as it is surrounded by mountain peaks and pine trees. The route to this lake, which is 8 kilometres from Pahalgam, passes through Baisaran. Tulian Lake is a must-see location and is situated between the PirPanjal and the Zanskar mountain range.
Tarsar Lake is also one of the must-visit places. The scenic beauty and the serene setting around the lake are worth the whole trip. One gets to see a lovely pristine lake, as well as picturesque hills and valleys. It ranks among the top tourist destinations in Pahalgam due to the lakes’ undeniable beauty. The lake is said to change colour and has a twin sister lake in the form of Marsar Lake, too. Both the sister lakes are a must-visit and a must-see.
Since Pahalgam finds a companion in the form of the River Lidder, one cannot forget about it at all. The fast-flowing roaring river has its own charm. Its crystal clear and gushing waters are a treat to watch. The river is not just a sight for the eyes but for the ears too.
This beautiful river is home to a variety of fishes, especially the Kashmiri Trout Fish. The river also acts as the lifeline to the villagers, as they are dependent on its waters for their day-to-day life.
There is a famous temple in Pahalgam too, the Mamaleshwar temple which is located on the banks of the river. This temple is made of stone and was constructed in and around the 12th century. It is a protected archaeological site. Besides that, there is a Jamia Masjid in the main market, which remains busy daily but the crowds on Fridays are huge
Other Spots of Interest
In Pahalgam, there is a wildlife park too. The wildlife park, locally also known as Deer Park is thronged by people in huge numbers, and various animals are kept inside enclosures for the visitors to see.
The markets of Pahalgam are mainly famous for Kashmir arts, honey and walnuts etc. There are a lot of hotels in the main market. The market gives vintage vibes.
Pahalgam is also famous for its Club and Conventional Centre, which hosts a lot of conferences and provides lodging facilities to the people. The club has high-class facilities like swimming pools, gaming zones, restaurants etc.
People who visit Pahalgam often go for trekking, hiking, camping, horse-riding etc.
Not just the scenery, Pahalgam is famous for its hospitality too. The people are welcoming and friendly. It is said that in Pahalgam, locals welcome people in not just their area but their hearts too. Most of the locals are dependent on tourism both directly and indirectly.
“People here in Pahalgam are just like flowing Lidder, pure and beautiful,” said Sophie, an Australian tourist, who is enjoying the beautiful Pahalgam with her fiancé.