By: Jahangir Sofi
One of the greatest poets, Allam Iqbal describes the beauty of the Lolab Valley, in one of his dedicated poems to the valley. He wrote: Pani Tere Chashmon Ka Tarapta Huwa Simaab, Murghan-E-Sahar Teri Fazaon Mein Hain Betaab, Ae Wadi-e-Lolab!
Your springs and lakes with water pulsating and quivering like quicksilver, the morning birds fluttering about the sky, agitated and in turmoil, O Valley of Lolab!
The government may have identified the ‘Lolab’ among the 75 lesser-known destinations for bringing it to the tourism map but, the locals say the place is not new to tourism as the place used to witness tourists before the insurgency hit the valley.
Probably not known to all, the Lolab Valley has hosted a Bollywood movie shoot in the early 80s, considered to be among the heritage movies ‘Parbat kai us Paar’, which also featured the locals and culture of the area.
As the valley possess a huge potential for tourism which can help in generating job avenues and business for the valley youth, Jammu and Kashmir government identified 75 lesser-known destinations in a bid to promote the tourism sector in the UT.
Exhibiting the potential of tourism at these newly identified locations, the Tourism department Kashmir is scheduled to host a series of festivals and events at these destinations.
On 13 Nov, the Tourism department Kashmir in collaboration with the district administration Kupwara held a day-long festival in Lolab. The event as per the locals was the first of its kind which gave them immense happiness. During the event, they witnessed the day-long function exhibiting the musical cum cultural program, trekking and nature walk, ethnic local cuisine, and sports events.
Javid Ahmad Shah a local resident of the area while speaking with the Kashmir Post said, “the event was first of its kind, however, due to the uncertainty in the region over the past few decades this beautiful place has gone into isolation.”
He said the place used to be an idle place for visitors in the early 1980s, and the area has witnessed a Bollywood movie that was shot in these beautiful valleys of mountains.
However, Shah believes that the role of media is very important to bring back tourism in the area, more and more information should be disseminated so that the world comes to know about its beauty.
He further said that the government should focus more on this area if they want to promote tourism in the area.
“These festivities show that the valley is proceeding towards peace and people in the valley need it. People are in trauma here and to get a sigh of relief one would like to enjoy these events and programs. Picking up this place on the tourism map will be a moment of happiness for the locals of the area”, he said.
Known as the fruit bowl of Jammu and Kashmir, Lolab Valley is situated within the jurisdiction of Sogam Lolab, a block of Kupwara. It is bordered by the Kashmir Valley to the south and the Kishenganga Valley to the north and is separated by Nagmarg meadows from Bandipore to the east. It is formed by the flow of the Lahwal River, which flows from east to west.
The Lolab Valley is home to many ancient springs and is covered with dense forests of pine and fir. Fruit trees such as apple, cherry, peach, apricot, and walnut are common in the valley. The valley has several natural landmarks and tourist spots, such as the caves of Kalaroos. The main villages in the Lolab Valley are Saiwan, Putushai, Khumriyal, Sogam, Lalpora, Cherkoot, Kalaroos, Wavoora, Warnow, Michal, Takipora, Cheepora, Goose, etc.
Lolab Valley is well connected by road to Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, and Srinagar Airport. A bus takes three hours to cover a distance of 114 km and leads through the towns of Sopore and Kupwara. An under-construction road from Bandipora to Lolab via Nagmarg meadows will cut short the Srinagar-to-Lolab distance by 30 kilometers. In Lolab Valley, there are a few tourist huts and many camping sites. It has the potential to become one of the best tourist destinations in Kashmir.
The village of Varnow in Lolab valley has historical importance because of the birth of the great religious scholar Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri (RA), a Kashmiri Muslim scholar and jurist who served as the first principal of Madrasa Aminia and the fourth principal of the Darul Uloom Deoband.
Mohammad Afzal Lone a folk theatre artist and also the president of Sharda Folk theatre said this is the first event conducted by the tourism department in Lolab Valley, though we conducted a folk program around 11 years ago in the area.
Lone says he also acted in a Bollywood movie which was shot in the region in the early 1980s by the name of ‘Parbat Ke Us Paaar’ during the harvesting time and a Kashmiri folk and cultural performance is also shot in the movie.
“If Lolab Valley can be promoted the place can again be a good tourist destination in the valley. The people of the area are so loving and are waiting to host the tourists in the area so that they also can witness the scenic beauty of the area”, he said.
Locals in the area say the place needs an infrastructural upgradation so that the basic facilities will be available for both the locals and the visitors.
“There should be children parks, family parks, availability of electricity which can attract both locals and tourists across India.”
Some of the renowned places in the Lolab valley having tremendous tourism potential are Chandigam, Dooruswani, Khurhama, Krusan, Khomrial, Nagsari and Cherkoot.
Director Tourism Kashmir, Dr. G N Itoo says the place possesses tremendous potential for tourism, and under its program of bringing the offbeat lesser-known destinations on the tourism map, the tourism department in collaboration with the respective district administrations is working on different models to uplift the areas identified by the government.
“With the promotion of these lesser-known destinations in a bid to attract the tourists across the country, places like Lolab can attract good tourism and can help in opening more revenue generation options for locals of the area”, said Dr. Itoo.
According to the locals, Chandigham in Lolab valley is one of the best tourist destinations, having macadamized roads and cellular connectivity. The lush green jungles that surround the Chandigham area provide a great deal of opportunity for adventure seekers.