The unexplored wealth of Doodhpathri

Doodhpathri should be developed and promoted as a top tourist destination in Kashmir

Abrar ul Mustafa
Publish Date: Sep 13 2013 12:00PM

Situated at an altitude of 2730m above sea level in the south-west of Kashmir valley lies nature's masterpiece – Doodhpathri. Lofty mountains, velvet-like green meadows, sky touching trees, crystal-clear water and life-giving air all make Doodhpathri an unmatched and unparalleled Tourist Destination.
The origin of the name Doodhpathri is not completely known. Some say that the milky water that flows in its rivers gives this place its name. "The water flows very fast. When it strikes against the stones, it forms a milky-white appearance; hence the name,” explains Bashir Mazhami, a teacher and a writer. Some say that high milk production gives it the name. "A flowing river resounds with soft wind passing through the pine trees of the enclosures of the valley. It is also called as a "valley of milk" because it produces rich milk in large quantity." (monsonkashmirtourism.com)
Doodhpathri has been recognized as an upcoming Tourist Destination by the State Tourism Department but what it lacks is promotion and development. The question arises: despite being so beautiful and unique, why hasn’t Doodhpathri come up as a top tourist destination?
What makes Doodhpathri a tourist destination of great potential?
Doodhpathri is a combination of twin pastures namely Parhacemaidan and Doodhpathri. These two bowl-like pastures present a sight of an earthly paradise. Two rivers, Shaliganga and Sokhnag, flow on either sides of the pastures. These rivers flow in an irresistible fashion. They flow into the areas of Budgam and Beerwah respectively. There’re many incredible stories associated with Doodhpathri. It's said that an age-old strife between two brothers led to the separation of a single water body into two rivers. "One brother broke a treaty and the water got separated into two branches; one being sweet and the other being salty", says Abdul Gaffar, a local horse-rider. But, the truthfulness of these stories cannot be verified. "All these stories are a pack of lies", says Nazir Ahmad Dar, a writer and teacher from a nearby hamlet.
Doodhpathri stands out amongst other tourist destinations for its huge area. The fields and pastures are limitless. "Doodhpathri is unique in that it has an unbelievably large area on which expansions and development can be made," says Altaf Hussain, Executive Engineer, DDA (Doodhpathri Development Authority). "Such huge and versatile natural marvels are not present anywhere else in valley."
Doodhpathri and Parhacemaidan are sloping grassy landscapes with a diversity of multicolored flowers up to Changg. The famous Tosamaidan lies in the west. Beyond Shaliganga river is a snow-covered mountain range called Diskhil which presents an eye-catching sight. A massive green field called Dhandoran and a naturally built Stadium is a sight to see. The landscape is absolutely miraculous.
Natural beauty is not the only attraction in Doodhpathri; it's unique in its geographical, geological and botanical significance too. The geological and monumental wealth of this place opens new doors for geologists and experts. "One more interesting feature of the region is that there are five underground brick kilns on the left side of Parhacemaidan. Centuries old, these ovens, over which big pine trees have now grown up makes one to sit up and ponder about their existence at this far flung and remote place where no human habitation is being witnessed since centuries,” writes Bashir Mazhami in his journal "An Adieu" (2006). He further writes: "This opens the new areas to geologists and research scholars to deeply investigate into the samples of rocks, stones and earth after proper excavation and boost knowledge for generations to come."
Cobra Plant, scientifically known as Arisaema Jacquemorti, is a plant of extreme wonder and importance. The plant looks like a Cobra snake when it is fully grown. It comes out of the shrubs and looks like a Cobra, hence the name. Cobra plant is botanically and medically very useful. It has been the centre of research for many botanists and scientists. "Cobra plant is medically very useful. Its rhizome has tremendous medicinal value," says Dr Akhtar Hussain, a scientist at the Centre for Taxonomy, University of Kashmir. "I've made some research on Cobra plant. It thrives best in this part of The Himalayas at an altitude of 2600-3400 m. It is highly useful as an agent against ringworm. The tuber of the plant is dried and the extract is consumed for the purpose,” adds Dr Akhtar. Cobra Lily is used by the locals just like potatoes after treating the tuber with hot water. The plant is of great ornamental value too. "People from the West have stolen the plant from The Himalayas and used them in gardens back home. They've understood its value and pirated the plant but we do not know its worth,” Dr Akhtar points out.
Doodhpathri is important from a religious point of view as well. An antique shrine mosque of Hazrat Shiekh Noor-ud-Din wali (may Allah's blessings be upon him) is located here.  There is a group of seven springs beside this mosque. The famous mystic saint has stayed in Doodhpathri for nearly 12 years and worshipped Allah. "Sheikh was a mobile ocean of knowledge. He used to teach Islam and wisdom to the ignorant locals," says Bashir Mazhami. It is said that Shiekh miraculously oozed out milk and water out of the ground. But the story can't be verified from anywhere. There is no documentary evidence. "There is no such evidence. This is not true,” Mazhami points out.
Doodhpathri has not yet appeared in the world tourist map. This exotic and pristine paradise is yet to be promoted. A small number of tourists visit Doodhpathri, most of them are the locals. “Around 150 vehicles enter Doodhpathri everyday and this number goes up to 250 on Sundays,” informs the man at the Toll Post. This number is pretty small. The reason is that Doodhpathri has not yet been promoted by The Tourism Department. It should be promoted as a brand. "Doodhpathri is amazing. This place should be promoted as a brand. We have seen advertisements of Gulmarg, Pahalgam etc, promoted as brands but why not Doodhpathri?" asks Irfan Ali, a visitor from Srinagar. Another reason behind the small number of visitors to this place is the absence of a market, hotels, restaurants and other facilities. Nothing has been constructed yet. Huts should be built. Market should be developed. However, it should be kept in mind that concrete buildings must not be constructed. That will deteriorate the natural environment of the place. "DDA should construct wooden huts, etc and no concrete structures should be allowed because that will deteriorate the natural bio-diversity of this pristine meadow,” points out Dr Akhtar. "If such concrete structures are built and the virginity of the tranquil place is lost, we will not be doing eco-tourism but eco-terrorism", points out Dr Akhtar.
Some ongoing developmental works:
As a welcome step, a wide metallic road is being constructed. The construction of the road has been outsourced to R&B (Roads and Buildings) Department. "A good and wide road is under construction these days. The project has been outsourced to R&B). Most of our works are outsourced,” informs Altaf Hussain, Ex. Engineer, DDA. The construction of a Cable Car has been proposed from Doodhpathri meadows to Diskhil. A number of Igloo-shaped huts have been constructed but the developmental work is going on at snail's pace. "The weather conditions remain favourable for the work only for six months. For the rest of the year, Doodhpathri remains covered with heavy snow. This hampers the work,” says Mr Hussain.
(Abrar ul Mustafa is Izhar Wani intern in GK)


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