Tral, the name hardly any Kashmiri would be unacquainted with; the town has been always in the limelight for different reasons, mostly related to the changing situations on ground, and different aspects of Kashmir history. But there is another side, which is not much highlighted or discussed. Many readers would have got it exactly; and yes, I am referring to its potential of becoming a tourism hub as it is gifted with untamed and unexplored beauty.
Tral is a sub-district (tehsil) of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district which is surrounded by lofty mountain ranges, densely forested with evergreen (large and tall) trees and are rich in flora and fauna, having tops blanketed with snow all year round. Tral is a fascinating place to visit. To say that the striking and mesmerizing beauty of this place has no parallels would not be an exaggeration. The town is rich in famous and century-old chinars and freshwater bodies (springs) that remain warm in winter and cold in summer.
The rich land is blessed with green meadows, unending pastures, pristine and pure water bodies, dense forests, waterfalls, fragrant flowers, delicious fruits, wildlife sanctuary and alpine lakes. The sad state of affairs is that these unexplored places of Tral have not been promoted, presented or publicized as they deserve. The historical town is bound by a continuous mountain range, touching the boundaries of Pampore and Srinagar from the north side, Pahalgam from the east side and Anantnag district from the south side.
Historical aspect of Tral: As far as historical context, Tral has got a lot to write about. Some places even date back to 2000-3000 BC. For example, Gufkraal (a combination of two Kashmiri words: ‘Guf’ meaning ‘cave’ and ‘kraal’ meaning ‘potter), one of the oldest and historical Archeological sites of the Valley, is an ancient landmark that portrays the art of traditional pottery and bears witness to some oldest caves of ancient potters. Located on the kerawas of Hurdmir, three kilometers ahead of Tral town, Gufkral, a Neolithic site, is vital to the history of Kashmir. Ironically, the site is being decimated and nothing substantial is being done to preserve it.
Shikargah:—The famous resting and hunting place of Maharaj Hari Singh is another historical place in Tral. This place/guest house was used by the Maharaja to spend his leisure time and served as a picnic spot back in those days. This place is blessed with dense forests and is now a breeding and conservation centre for the famous Hangul (Kashmiri Stag). Recently, a report was published in a local newspaper along with a photograph of a herd of Hangul.
Another historical place, known as Narastan, is located in the upper reaches of Tral and marking one of the boundaries of this beautiful town. Apart from breathtaking beauty, It is also a witness to the famous Neolithic site. The archaeological site of Narastan has an 11th century stone cut temple which provides an idea of their existence and influence in that area and surely glorifies the rich history.
It is pertinent to mention here that there are numerous shrines, some of them belonging to various disciples of the famous Sufi Saint Mir Syed Ali Hamadan (commonly known as Ameer Kabir) and some belonging to Sufi saints of other Sufi silsilas/ orders. The most historical among these shrines is the Khanqah of Tral which was a testimony to the beautiful art and architecture, but sadly that historical place got destroyed in a fire incident, many years ago. The marvellous design and traditional architecture of that shrine was a treasure.
A shrine in Sufigund, in the backdrop of dense forests, belongs to Sheikh Bakir; and to reach this shrine, one has to climb more than 200 steps as it is located on top of a mountain. Moreover, in Parigam village, near the shrine of the prominent Sufi saint Sheikh Nur ud Din Noorani (commonly known as Sheikh-ul-Alam), Kashmir’s oldest and the largest mulberry tree exists, which dates back to the 14th century and is said to have grown from the base of a wooden log, leftover by the saint after it failed to catch fire.
Majestic Beauty of Tral: The beauty of this hamlet is second to none. The popularity on the lines of conflict and the political situation has hindered its fame in breathtaking beauty and mesmerizing surroundings. The geographical landscape of Tral is such that whichever direction one looks, green and dense mountain tops enrich one’s soul and soothe one’s eyes. The unexplored natural beauty has a magnetic attraction and long-lasting effect.
Nagbearan, a meadow located in the deep mountain ranges of the upper reaches (East) of Tral, is one of the best camping places. An unending meadow, occupied by paper trees and guarded by pine and coniferous trees, laden with green carpet with blooming and admirable wildflowers. The snow-capped Himalayan mountain range, surrounding this meadow, presents a delightful view. The famous (twin lakes of) Tarsar and Marsar are accessed via this meadow and serve as the base for it. Nagbearan is also connected to Dachigam national park in the south-east and many trails lead into the national park of fame and fall under its jurisdiction, while other trails lead to Pahalgam.
Bugmad mountain range has emerged as a new camping site/ place for the locals. A 2-3 hours trek to this mountain welcomes you with another marvellous piece of unexplored beauty, where people find solace and tranquillity. The Bugmad mountain is historical in its fact that it is believed that Ameer Kabir has visited Kashmir once through this mountain range; this is corroborated by these poetic lines: peer aawum bugmad bae'l (Peer [Amer Kabir] has arrived from Bugmad mountain). This historical mountain top leads to unending mountain ranges and green pastures which connects Tral with Aru valley of Pahalgam.
Apart from these famous places, another notable place in Tral is Aripal Spring. Its distinguishing feature is its shape and source, though unknown. Gushing out underneath the vertical rocky mountain, the icy cold and bluish water body serves as a picnic spot and the mountains in its backdrop add splendour to its spectacular beauty.
Wustoorwan mountain range is another camping site, which is a boundary line between Tral and Pampore and can be accessed from both sides. Apart from these places, the Alpine lakes in the upper reaches are a treat to eyes, notables being Tarsar and Marsar, Munwarsar, Chumnai Sar and Chunsar, etc. Places like Hajin, Panner (Water Dam), Doodh-Marg, Zooastan having gushing water streams, dense forest cover are always thronged by local people.
Tail Piece: Though incidents related to the conflict resulted in portraying Tral differently, but the fact is that Tral is home to various historical/ archaeological sites and Sufi shrines, and has been bestowed by Nature with abundant beauty, in the form of mountain ranges, lush green forests, meadows, and gushing water streams.
Author is pursuing Master's in Mechanical Engineering