As the rooster crowed “cock-a-doodle-doo” in the misty dawn we boarded on a taxi to pahalgam, meaning “shepherd’s village”- Leaving srinagar early morning was a bit of relief as the roads get clogged latter on with all sort of traffic of school buses and heavy loaded vehicles which ply on jammu-kashmir highway. While we accelerated our vehicle through the temple of pandrethan, I had a brief glimpses of stack of boulders rising from the ground and colored black with age & time. This ancient Hindu temple was made by the pandava’s and it reminded me of other similar temples which i have see in kashmir, like the one at naranag. Images of Hindu deities are vaguely carved on these square boulders. crossing a multitude of bridges with river jehlum running on our right side smoothly. large boats floating on it like calm elephants and some people stood ankle deep in it’s waters digging out sand. There a bower of green willows covering the road which lasted for a kilometer. soon we found a long lane of shops at Ananthnag, this market is always busy as villagers purchase household items from here. We took a turn and went through the village, houses with roofs full of hay, villagers store hay in the attic to keep it dry and safe.
A rustling sound came through the willows, farmers had cut the brook through the street to irrigate their paddy-fields, the brook water has removed asphalt and loosened gravel leaving the road coarse and rutted. soon the roaring sound of flowing milky waters of lidder river mixed with the popping of the gravel and loamy earth beneath the car tire’s. we continues driving on this bumpy track with the green paddy fields on both of our sides the paddy was small and looked like thick shoots of green grass, sky reflected in the pools of water in these terraced paddy fields. we maneuvered along the twisting small roads that we had to cross before reaching on the main road which leads to pahalgam.
The views of mountains were inviting. The coniferous forest seem endless and vast, they cover the mountains like a green carpet. We reached at pahalgam bazaar, it was bustling & lively with men tugging at the reigns of their ponies. here a group of school children rushing out of their bus straight to the direction of the river, hordes of tourists busy in the cafes planning their itineraries. There a Punjabi tourist tries to help his plump wife to board the pony, A family on picnic, neatly arranging their things in the park and gazing out at the river while talking about the weather & cooked lunch that they had brought from their homes, The children whip and splash the water to each other, a wave of breeze flows past by firs and the wild flowers which grow in clumps puff the scents across the fields, a lone man walks to catch hold of his pony who refuses to walk with him.
There a young tourist clicks pictures with his newly young bride clad in the ethnic costume and wicker basket full of flower on her head and her long ear rings swinging and shining under her hair. lidder river groans wildly as it strikes the huge boulders with turbulent waters cutting their moss.
On a small bridge on lidder made of logs & bare branches, i stand and watch the river flowing, the roaring waters becomes more loud & frightening as the mouth of river widens below the bridge, it shook and trembled with the currant of river. In freight I ran believing the roaring water will swallow me along with the bridge. Few horses neigh and run after each-other then disappear under the thick grove of tall firs. Just a thirty minutes ride from pahalgam market lies Aru Biosphere Reserve,
The rare and endangered hangul deer is one of the prime animals of this reserve though their numbers have dwindled enormously. villagers live here in small single story houses. most of the people are from gujjar tribe which rear cattle and the pastures nearby are of a big advantage for them. from aru village a trek of 20kms takes to Lidderwhat, it’s a big meadows with serene and uninhabited mountains except from the small mud & stone houses of gujjars/ gypsies who stay here in summers to graze their cattle and buffalo.
During summer months in India you can come here and share the beauty and joy of this place along with the gypsies, best time to explore this beautiful region of kashmir is from may to October. At evening gypsies collect their herds of heavy buffaloes which had fed all day on the juicy grass their bellies bulging and when the men come home, their women had lighted fire to cook rice. sounds of boys laughter comes from the background and the gujjars sip the salt tea and look to the fire and mountains.