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10th October '2009
Jammu Nostalgia-XV

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-VI

Poonch, called in Kashmiri Prunts or the ancient Parontsa of Raj Tarangni had always fascinated me but I did not have the opportunity to travel there till early nineties. Apart from the ancient history, Poonch has also played an important role in the recent history of the state. Poonchis have been famous soldiers in the army of the erstwhile Maharaja. They had taken part in the two World Wars. In fact, the unusual events of 1947 are supposed to have originated with the mutiny of Maharaja’s soldiers in Poonch. Thus, visiting Poonch first time after having known its history from the ancient times was both exciting and fascinating for me. In fact, while travelling to Poonch the various events described in history books would come up like movie scenes in my imagination. It is really fascinating to see a place after reading in detail the background of events that have taken place there in the past. We went first time across Dera ki Gali or DKG. On the other side the first place we reached was Bufliaz. Here the road bifurcates. One branch goes to Noori Chamb on the famous Mughal route and the other goes to Poonch via Swarankot. In Bufliaz also the tourism department had constructed a small hut but bang on the road side. They could have chosen a better place away from the road. The hut too was not very well constructed. It was with the chowkidar who had not been paid his salary. He had become virtual owner of the hut. He had also tied some of his buffalos here. In a small lawn adjacent to the hut he had sown some maize. So a tourist hut instead of having a manicured lawn was having a small maize field attached to it!

We first took the trip to Noori Chamb. The road was very rough. At a number of places there were slides. It was very fine brown coloured scree. Noori Chamb is a high waterfall across the river. There is a platform which the tourism department had enclosed with some iron railing. There were also steps to reach the platform. It is said that during their travel the Mughal Caravans accompanying the Emperor used to halt here. The Empress Noor Jehan often took a bath under the waterfall and Emperor Jehangir used to watch her through a mirror in the wall. The place has real history in it. It could be an interesting spot for tourists. The road from here proceeds to Behram Gala, Chandi Marh, Dogran, Poshiana, and Chhita Pani at the foot of the famous Pirpanjal Pass locally called the Pir ki Gali. After crossing the pass one descends into the Kashmir valley.

The first spot on the other side is the Doongi Nar, a huge meadow. From here one proceeds to Aliabad Sarai. This was a famous stop over for the Mughal caravans. The sarai is still in a very good condition. Next comes a spot called the Lal Ghulam. There is a local legend about the spot. It is said that this was the most trouble worthy spot on the Mughal Caravan Route. There used to be many casualties here. One night the Pir of the area came in a dream to Emperor Jehangir and asked him to sacrifice his servant known as Lal Ghulam. The needful was done and the said person is supposed to be buried in the area. It is said that after that the Caravans had a smooth passage. The route then proceeds to Jajji Nar and Sukh Sarai. Then come the spots of Dubjan, the village of Hirpur, and the town of Shopian. This traditional Mughal route is now being converted into a motorable Mughal Road. The road is physically through now and vehicles have been passing over it but it would be available for normal traffic as a tarmac highway only in March, 2011. It has been in the pipeline for at least three decades. Even though this track had been used earlier by Kashmiri travellers including some ancient Kings along with their armies going on various conquering expeditions, yet it became famous only after Mughals made it their main route for travel to and from Kashmir. Kalhana mentions in Raj Tarangni about a place called Hast-vanj. It is written by him that a Hun ruler of Kashmir, Mihira Kaul had indulged in gross cruelty to animals at this spot. Mihira Kaul was a very cruel and barbaric ruler. He had made many conquests outside Kashmir. On returning from one of his conquering expeditions, one of the elephants in his army slipped and went hurtling down into a deep ravine. While slipping down the poor animal made heart rending shrieks. The heartless emperor so much liked these shrieks that he ordered his army to hurtle down one hundred elephants. It is because of this that the spot is known as Hast-vanj! There are details of many other interesting incidents related to this route in Raj Tarangni. The shortest route to the valley from Poonch side is through Loran but the Mughal route has been the most frequented from the earliest times.

After returning from Noori Chamb we drove towards Poonch through Swarankot. The drive is along the Swaran River and the view of the mountains on the other side is very impressive. It is so green that it looks like velvet. I had never before seen so much green mountainside. Swarankot is a busy small town with a bustling market. We did not stop here but drove straight to Poonch. Along the river are a large number of fields and some villages. One of the most well known villages is Lassana. Here we saw Chowdhary Aslam, the present member of legislative assembly supervising work in his fields. We stopped to say hello to him. His father Chowdhary Ghulam Hussain Lassanvi has been a great Gurjar leader. He was also called Gurjar Gandhi and was very close to Pandit Nehru and Maulana Azad. He is supposed to have been a great social reformer who introduced education in the community and was responsible for removing many social evils among them. It is said that whenever he visited any village, he would stay with the poorest family of the village! We reached Poonch in the late afternoon and drove straight to the Dak Bungalow.

(To be continued…)

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