Kulgam Valley, to be more precise Vishu valley, of South Kashmir, with its headquarters at Kulgam stands almost unexplored in terms of its heritage tourism potential.
The land carrying rich natural, spiritual and architectural heritage legacy has much to offer to its tourists provided it is explored and brought on the heritage tourist map of Kashmir.
The valley is located in the lap of Pir panchal towards the south-west of Kashmir and to the left of Jammu and Kashmir national high way NH IA about 70 km distant from the summer capital of Srinagar.
The valley is approached by well macadamized roads from east, west and northern sides while its northern side is guarded by the peaks of Pir Panchal. This Valley extends from the spiritual town of Qaimoh in the east and is spread over a distance of about 150 Km on the either sides of Nallah Vishu up to Kousarnag in the west.
The antiquity of this valley goes thousands of years back as stray finds of Paleolithic and Neolithic tools had also been encountered from this valley, but most of these finds have gone unnoticed and unrecorded.
Interestingly in the recent times its antiquity was re-established when a group of teachers of school education department claimed to have encountered the evidences of fossil deposits from its upper reaches.
In deed there is no report of any systematic and scientific geological and archaeological survey of this valley recorded in any archaeological and geological literature, but there are few stray evidences of major archaeological finds of this valley recorded in the archaeological survey reports.
One such major archaeological discovery is recorded from one of its historical town of Devesar, which is situated on the right bank of Nallah Vishu.
Devesar, or the ancient Devesarasa as recorded in ancient records has been the ancient seat of learning and a centre of Kashmir bronze art, influenced by the world famous ancient Ghandahara art.
The site is recorded to have revealed few magnificent antiquities of bronze art which included the exquisite sculpture of Lord Buddha of Kushan era and Shankervarmen’s bronze frame of 10th century AD.
The sculpture is well draped and looks as if it wears an olden Kashmeri Chhader. The bronze frame locally known as barputh (door) depicts thirty three incarnations of Vishnu Avatar which is sacred to our Hindu brothers.
These artifacts are the masterpieces of ancient Bronze art of Kashmir and stand these days showcased in the Archaeology gallery of the SPS Museum at a Lalmandi in Srinagar.
These have become the zenith of this historical museum and have been attracting tourists from far-off lands. These are not only mentioned in the local archaeology and museum records but these two artifacts have been mentioned in the international archaeology and art literatures.
(These two artifacts are also recorded to have represented Kashmir art in several international art festivals held from time to time in Russia, USA and France).
There are other several archaeological mounds located in this valley at Kotebal and Kousarbal on the right bank of the Nallah Vishu, but these mounds are yet to face any archaeological exploration.
Above all these things, this valley is the abode of ancient mysticism and still showcases wonderful treasures of spiritual and architectural heritage, in fact the Reshi order , one of most popular form of Kashmir mysticism was also founded in this valley with the birth of Nundreshi better known as Shiekh ul Alam, the patron saint of Kashmir in the 14th century AD.
Whether Nundreshi was born at Khee Jogipura or at Qaimoh, in both cases he belongs to this valley because both these places are located in this valley. He is known to have spent his childhood at Qaimoh in paragana Ardwani.
There are very interesting and mysterious events of the saint’s early life and teachings preserved in the local oral traditions and folklore of this valley particularly at Khee and Qaimoh localities.
Besides there are scores of spiritual sites associated with this saint found in this valley, which included the mysterious spring at Khee Jogi pora, underground cave at Gufabal, tombs of his family at Qaimoh and his most famous meditation site at Tismer, located in the feet of Hounhang hill rock.
It was at the cave of Gufabal the saint is leant to have got enlightenment of God and thereby he proceeded towards Tismer where he made more mediation in the blue green forests ( when I once visited the site there I could see the grinding stone used by the saint for his vegetations ). These days a well preserved Reshi shrine in the name of saint is most attractive site of this town.
There in this valley is hardly any such village where there exists no mystic shrine or any relic associated with its mystic culture. There are hundreds of Sufi and Syed shrines found in this valley which symbolize the Reshi order of Spiritual architecture, but the main and grand ornamented spiritual shrine is located on the left bank of Vishu in the main town of Kulgam.
This shrine belongs to Mir Syed Hussain Semanani, the most famous Syed saint and missionary, who is learnt to have entered Kashmir with his family and hundreds of other nobles during the period of Sultan Shahab Ud Din and settled at Ammanoo- Kulgam.
Although the lower Vishu valley showcases the wonderful spiritual heritage, the upper valley will offer you the adventure tourism to its beautiful vast meadows, hilly springs and to its mountain peaks, the mountain peaks locally called as “Kounsar kouthra” rooms of Kounsar.
These mountain peaks remain under snow throughout the year and under their feet rise few magnificent springs of fresh cold water. These springs are known as Sarkanch, Brahim Sar, Chher-Sar, Dunth-Sar and Kounsarnag which also serve as the main source to Vishu.
These springs flow down from the grand slopes and pass through the beautiful meadows and few feet above the grand meadow of Kungwatton join together at a crossing called Sangam.
From there these streams form a major Nallah since centuries together is known as Vishu. Below the glorious meadow of Kungwatton it passes through a deep narrow channel and reaches Ahrabal, where it falls below like a sheet of water from a height of 300 to 400 cubits and due to action of the wind and height from which it falls, the water sprinkles down like dust and forms a wonderful spectacle of the divine power.
Although with the passage of time and floods, this water fall has lost its ancient pristine natural, height, volume and glory, but still it is a wonderful picnic spot.
Apart from these hill springs, there are other more glorious sites found in the upper reaches of this valley. In this context mention may be made of Dandward, D.K. Marg, Zaig Marg, Haka wass, Chheranbal, Gogal Marg, Chitinand Astan Marg, Kongwatton and Gurwaton.
Although Ahrabal and Kungwattan have become the interesting picnic spots and have been attracting local tourists during the hot summers, but other sites have almost remained unexplored even to the local tourists, steps are required to be taken to explore this forgotten valley not only for domestic tourists but for the tourists of the intellectual nature as well.
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