From Kupwara town it took us only three hours to reach Tangdhar which is a revenue sub division with a wonderful business market where almost everything remains available.
The road from Kupwara to Karnah is breathtaking, particularly at Sadhna pass which was called as Nastachun earlier. Sadhana Top is a high mountain pass located at an elevation 10,269 ft above the sea level.
On the way to Karnah at Sadhana the 360-degree view of surroundings is mesmerising.
During winters this pass receives more than 15 feet of snow due to which it remains closed for couple of months and the whole population of the area remains cut off from rest of the valley.
Considering long pending demand of the people, government is planning to construct a tunnel for which a detailed project report (DPR) has been already formulated. The area situated between Shamasbari mountain and Karanu mountains is full of unparalleled beauty situated close to Line of Control.
As per the historical records Karnah was the Tehsil of Muzaffarabad Wazarat before division. In 1947 Line of Control was drawn and Karnah Wazarat got divided so were the humans living here. Karnah of our side is part of Kupwara district and rest of its area is now located in District Neelum and district Hattain Bala of other side of Kashmir.
The pain people experienced due to the partition is still evident. While talking to several inhabitants we came to know about the importance of the area during ancient times. Having population of more than 65000 Karnah has a Pahari majority population. However, people also understand and even speak Kashmiri language.
Gujjar Tribes and Kashmiri speaking ethnic groups also exist in the area. They have their own culture, customs and traditions in place but a visible impact of Kashmiri society can be seen on their lives. We stayed in our friend’s house in Teetwal village which is located on the banks of River Kishanganga (Neelum) forming line of control between India and Pakistan. In the background of the house of Khawaja Mohammad Iqbal, a former Tehsildar, is a village Chalhana of Neelm valley of Pakistan Held Kashmir.
Khawaja Mohammad Iqbal being former revenue officer has a vast knowledge about the whole of Karnah. He informed that Titwal was a trade centre connecting valley with other parts of Pakistan and its administered Kashmir.
Many other references suggest that it was Titwal from where rajmash, apricot, honey, skins of sheep and goats, woolen blankets and ghee was supplied to Rawalpindi. From Pakistan salt tea, gurd, naswar and cloth were supplied to this side. Hindu Khatri were associated with the business until 1947 and pilgrims/travellers used to travel through this route to reach Sharda temple and university situated in Neelum valley of Pakistan Held Kashmir.
Ruins of Sharda university are still located in Neelum area Pakistan Held Kashmir. It is believed to have been established in early 1st century during the Kushan Empire. In 141 BC fourth Buddhist conference was organised in this university for the spread of Buddhism.
This conference was attended by Emperor Kanishka of India. Ruins of Sharda University and its associated temple stand still witness to the facts that Kashmir, particularly the area of Karnah is not just an area where people live but this is name of civilization.
It is believed that Sharda Script was also introduced in this university. At LoC Tetwal (district Kupwara) on the banks of Kishenganga river (Neelum) the construction of Sharda Yatra base camp temple and centre is in full swing.
Pilgrims used to go to the Sharda Peeth temple situated in Neelum valley, (Pakistan Administered Kashmir) through Titwal route. A demand is in existence that the Sharada temple be opened for Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus from the rest of India for pilgrimage.
On next day in the morning Khawaja Mohammad Iqbal took us along with him and shared his knowledge about different areas of the Karnah valley.
High mountain peaks, forests and habitations on the slopes of mountainous ranges, Nallah Qazi Naag, Kishanganga river and the villages situated close to line of control are the spots which are unique with Karnah.
It is worth to mention that due to existence of the line of control which not only divided the geographical area of the Karnah but it separated thousands of human beings from each other. The people of both sides can see their relatives but cannot meet.
On February 25, 2021, India and Pakistan agreed to strictly observe all ceasefire agreements along the LoC and other sectors. People living in villages near the Line of Control are now happily living a normal life and have hugely benefited from the ceasefire agreement.
Due to peace on the borders the government of India has been able to promote the concept of border tourism, which has changed things altogether.
Nowadays, a lot of nature lovers visit boarder areas like Karnah . Peace on borders has given a sense of security to those who intend to visit these tourist destinations located close to LoC. The Government of India seems highly interested in developing these areas as tourist destinations.
The landmark decision of Government of India to bring border area’s like Keran, Gurez, Karnah , Machil, and Bangus on the tourism map has brought happiness on the faces of People of Jammu and Kashmir. These new tourist destinations will facilitate peace and development to these border areas.
Any non-resident traveller, wishing to visit the border areas of Keran, Karnah and Machil have to obtain permission from District Magistrate Kupwara which is very easy as the interested person need not to visit personally any office but to have to get it through online mode. A non-resident travel can access the portal at http://epass.kupwara.co.in. and register himself/herself.
Experts believe that if Karnah valley is promoted in a proper way it can attract tourists across the globe and can generate employment for thousands of unemployed youth of Kashmir. There is unparalleled potential of adventure tourism, sports tourism, trekking, water rafting, skiing, skating, rock climbing, snowboarding, paragliding and Heli-Skiing.
The valley can prove to be the best destination in the world for carrying diverse potential to provide comfort for the mankind as the valley is not merely a tourist destination but have enough resources and potential to attract people belonging to all walks of life.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.