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18th September '2009
Jammu Nostalgia-XIV

I have spent almost half of my life in Jammu right from the very birth, the reason being the durbar move. My late father who served in various capacities in the state government had to move in winter to Jammu. The recollection of the most of the events of those early days has gone blank with my fading memory but there are certain memories of my early days and recent times which I vividly recall and cherish. I am sharing these with my friends in Jammu!

Memorable Journeys in Jammu-V

During my further travels in Rajouri I visited two interesting locations. One was Budhal, a Kashmiri speaking area and the other were the hot springs of Tata Pani. Road to Budhal goes past Palma Forest Park about 12 kilometres from Rajouri town. The road climbs to the top of the hill near Danna village and then crosses over to the other side into a long valley. It traverses on the right till Kandi Bakori village where after crossing the bridge it goes all along on the left side till Budhal. Those days the road was very rough. It has been considerably improved now. Most of the people in the area are Kashmiri speaking. They seem to have migrated from the valley in earlier times. Even now they are very strongly connected to the valley through their relations in Shopian area. People appeared very poor here. They were thrilled to see us and beseeched us to develop the area for tourism. However, there did not seem to be much scope to develop this totally land locked area for tourism. In the evening we returned to Rajouri. Next day we went to see the other pass between Rajouri and Poonch, the famous Bhimber Gali. This is the route which was taken by the Mughal Caravans in ancient times. We had planned to set up a viewing deck and restaurant at the junction of the road going to Mendhar and Poonch. This place has a panoramic view of the Pakistan Administered Kashmir. To select the site we took the assistance of Colonel Dhillon who was commanding the local army unit. Subsequently the then Advisor to Governor General Saklani who was looking after tourism also visited the area. In fact we had an extensive tour of the area with him. He also paid obeisance at the Shrine of Baba Ghulam Shah and inaugurated the Sarai which the tourism department had built for the pilgrims. In Rajouri itself we started a big project for the construction of a tourist complex with the assistance of the Central Government. The complex was constructed by the J & K Projects Construction Corporation and included a tourist reception centre, accommodation for tourists, office, and residential quarters for the officers and the staff. It was located on the hill side overlooking Rajouri town. However, the complex was subsequently taken over by the management of Baba Ghulam Shah University and became its starting point. Rajouri did not get hordes of tourists but got a unique institution. The untiring efforts of Masud Chowdhary, the Vice-Chancellor of the University have turned it into a valuable asset of which the local people can be very proud. It gives me immense satisfaction that the complex I had started for tourists became the starting point of a high class educational institution and a fitting tribute to the memory of revered Baba Ghulam Shah.

On our return journey to Jammu we travelled on the Rajouri-Reasi road to have an opportunity of visiting the famous sulphur springs of Tata Pani. The road to Tata Pani takes off from the main road about 8 kilometres short of Kalakote on the left side. It goes through dense vegetation and after a number of turns reaches the spot of the hot springs. There are a number of springs with strong odour of sulphur emanating from these. The water is boiling hot and is supposed to have medicinal properties. It is supposed to be a cure not only for skin diseases but also for rheumatism and other body aches. A large number of people from all parts of the state visit the place. These include a sizeable number from the Kashmir valley also. The springs were in bad shape, full of muck and garbage thrown by the visitors. The whole area had a dirty and a shabby look. The tourism department had built a pilgrim sarai next to the hot springs but almost entire mountainside had come down during a cloud burst and gone into the sarai. Almost all rooms were full of huge boulders. Subsequently, the sarai was completely renovated and during the visit of General Saklani later on I could not believe it was the same building. The tourism engineers had done a commendable job. During the earthquake in 2005, the springs completely disappeared due to some subterranean rock movements. However, as reported these have reappeared and are attracting people once again for various treatments.

An interesting part of journey in Rajouri was a visit to a Godly person. In both these districts apart from the shrines of religious and spiritual people of yore, there are some living spiritual personalities very much revered by the local people. One of these is Mai Faquirni living on top of a hill in Gambhir Brahmna area few kilometres from Rajouri town. One has to undertake a steep climb to reach her place on top. Mostly she stays on top but sometimes comes down to a lower residence near the road. She is supposed to be a disciple of Sai Miran Sahib, a saint whose shrine is almost on the Line of Control in Poonch district. She has a staff with which she touches and blesses many visitors coming to her for seeking solace to their problems. She also looks and reads the fate of persons on her chaddar which she wears over her head. She is a very religious person and is most of the time praying. It was a unique experience to visit her and seek her blessings. We visited her later on during most of our subsequent visits to Rajouri. The only place I missed in Rajouri during my travels was Darhal. It is supposed to be a very green and beautiful valley. I always recall with joy all these travels in Rajouri. In the next two episodes I will relate my experiences in Poonch.

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