Friday, 13 July 2012

Pahalgam In The Lidder Valley

On 29th May 2012, around noon, leaving the scenic Gulmarg behind, we were in for a long haul of 150 km to reach our next destination Pahalgam.  At Rizk restaurant, Tangmarg, we had our lunch in peaceful ambience.  We retraced our trail towards Srinagar and did not know when we passed it. There must be some bypass route which goes without touching Srinagar. We passed through Awantipur but did not halt there to watch the historical ‘Awantipur ruins’ for want of time. 

Further down the Pahalgam road, the willow trees on both sides of the road made a massive continuous green tunnel, as we passed through miles and miles of asphalted road in sparse traffic with wood working factories on both sides of road. Cricket bats in semi-finished conditions made out of willow wood are piled up feeding the factories, where men and machines churned out world’s best cricket bats. 
Shopping for Saffron
We arrived at Pampore with  both sides of the road full of Saffron ( also called Kesar or Zafran ) fields.  They were barren now. October / November is the season when these fields can be seen in full bloom. Our interest was to purchase bit of genuine saffron and some dry fruits. The shop where we entered 1 gm Saffron pack was sold for Rs. 200/-, which we found cheaper compared to what we purchased at Srinagar at Rs.300/- . We were guaranteed of this high quality product by the sales staff. We went through the posters which told us how to distinguish between genuine and spurious Saffron. 
Info On Saffron
Another poster displaying essential benefits of Saffron to human body.
Poster On Saffron

Around 5 pm we entered the fringes of Pahalgam town. We were happy to have made it well before the dusk, so as to make best use of whatever time we get in late evening. On the main road, we came across JK Tourism office and were happy to see one person still working. He directed us to Yatri Niwas where we had booked the cheapest available dormitory bed online for three of us at Rs. 250/- each.  The Yatri Niwas edifice is in interior road leading from main road. The area seemed to be secluded, with growth of forest like huge trees on the opposite. The location pleased us no end. How about our dorm?  Not disappointing at all. It consisted of three bedded room with clean beds. What a value for money accommodation after a disappointing stay at our Gulmarg hotel. The washroom though common - there were two of them, clean and tidy, with hot water geysers functioning. Although food was not available in Yatri Niwas, that was not a big issue with market place nearby.
Yatri Niwas, Pahalgam
Dumping our luggage, we hit the streets to make use of the rest of the evening. We came to the road leading to main road and decided to try Nathu Rasoi – a restaurant which we have read a lot about from net. The fa├žade and ambience was good. The readymade sweetened tea at Rs. 25/- was lousy and the menu-card with Masala Dosa priced at Rs. 80/- appeared too pricey. We had enough of that restaurant and came to main road.  Sachin bought his quota of fruits which he consumed in tons in the evening after missing most of his morning and afternoon meals.  I bought a few Kashmiri silk Saris from one of the shops suggested by another shop, which my better half did not find bad at all!
Pahalgam Town
There is some kind of nostalgia attached to Pahalgam. When we came here 30 years back, there was one main road with all shops and hotels and on the opposite side, all of Lidder valley with Lidder river flowing from end to end. In between the flowing streams, there were mini-islands - all virgin and a few wooden bridges interconnecting them. One could roam there whole day and have fun seating on the bank of river dipping one’s feet in the gurgling ice cold water.

Today, the scenario has changed radically. Many of those islands have been developed. There is one garden for recreation, which even charges Rs. 5/- as entry fee. There are too many structures on the hill opposite. The township full of houses on the main road and the pine trees behind and at the top a few snow peaks peeping out, with the roaring river Lidder all over the valley, made a pleasing place to be in. 
Lidder river and the valley
With dusk approaching, we had our food in Punjabi Rasoi, a small no frills restaurant on main road. The food was ok, so was the price.  Returning via a short cut road to Yatri Niwas, we had to use a torch light – this is one commodity which proved extremely helpful in all the destinations in hills. With nothing else to do, we hit the hay.

Next morning was a glorious sunlit day. We had our hot water bath and some breakfast and came to road for a cup of tea. On the roadside one small tea stall was doing business. The stall located just outside a plush looking restaurant was surprising. The shop keeper started a conversation and was proud to inform us that he owned the half of the plush hotel. Was it a story or for real we will never know.
Poster on Pahalgam sight seeing places
We came to the main road and saw the tourist map of Pahalgam,  showing all sight-seeing destinations their direction and distances. There are too many places to visit and tourists need a couple of day’s stay here to do full justice. Our hectic itinerary did not permit us that luxury. We decided to visit Mamaleshwar temple on the hill, a short distance of 1 km walk on a gentle slope. We passed by the river bridge and found some interesting activity on the not so deep portion of a stream, where the jeep and bus drivers were washing their vehicles.
Washing vehicles
We walked on the asphalt road up the hill leading to the Mamaleshwar temple and came across the poster which told in brief, history of the temple.
Info Mamaleshwar temple
We entered the arched entrance of Mamleshwar temple. The compound consists of a garden, a small enclosure with stored water in front of the steps to the temple. The devotees pick up bucket full of water from there for their rituals. The temple is made of stone slabs. We had the darshan of Shiva Linga – Lord Shiva being the presiding deity of the temple. 
Mamaleshwar Temple
After coming some way down the hill, we came to the view point. The Lidder valley looked good in morning sunlight, the distant township neat and scenic. Lidder river and a canal running near the hill could be seen. After some photo shoot we thought of having a stroll on the same hill after taking a left turn. We came across a number of good looking premium hotels and rest houses, each of them having a neat garden around. Tourists who are looking for some exclusive and quiet retreat at Pahalgam will surely stay in one of those places. 
Shiva Temple
We had a walk down the hill and came to main road and headed north words and came across a Shiva temple.  In our Kashmir visit we found ‘what ever be the name of the temple, it turned out to be Shiva Temple with Shiva Linga symbolizing the presiding deity Lord Shiva. Not surprising as the entire Himalaya is considered the abode of Lord Shiva. After darshan we headed towards the river side and came on top of a steel bridge from where we could get the view of valley on both sides.
Lidder Valley
Pahalgam holds a special significance for the Amarnath pilgrims as it is considered to be the starting point of Yatra. The season to Amarnath Yatra begins from around 20th June and lasts till August end. In that period all the accommodations in Pahalgam are filled and hence should be avoided by tourists. In Yatra off season, one can go to about 10 km along that route upto a place called Chandanwadi. 

By 10 am we had to hurry back to Yatri Niwas, to do the packing and by 10.30 am we were on trails to Sonamarg to cover a distance of 140 km. The next blog will be on Sonamarg.  

* Pahalgam can be best seen from the video footages shot by author and uploaded in a video site as per the following captioned link:
1)Pahlgam at a Glance 
2)White Water Rafting Over River Lidder 
3) Mammaleshwar Temple   


  1. The blog has covered all the major aspects of Pahalgam town.

  2. Pahalgam is blessed with incredible natural beauty . You can do here lots of adventurous things also . Thanks for sharing .
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  3. Nice pictures. A popular tourist destination and a favourite location for Bollywood shootings, Pahalgam is a real treat with its unexplored and unspoiled natural beauty. Explore best Pahalgam sightseeings in Jammu & Kashmir also.