“If there is heaven on earth, it’s here in Kashmir” it is famous saying once said by the Mugal Emperor Jahangir. The beautiful and picturesque land of Kashmir is located at the peak of India, 566 Km from the New Delhi. The overwhelming beauty is an eye delight for the visitors ringed by Himalayan and Pir Panjal range. It is the most loved location among the directors and filmmakers of Bollywood for shooting, due to its mesmerizing eye luring view. This is the place, where you can witness the flawless art of nature,heavenly beauty spread everywhere. The beautiful lakes, snow covered hills, springs, and rivers are the real charm of the Kashmir. This alluring heavenly land is considered as the jeweled crown on the map of India. If you want to experience the alluring feeling of Paradise? Plan your vacation for Kashmir!!! Through this article, I will take you on the journey of paradise, come along with me and know more about this eye-arresting beautiful region.
A land like no other with superabundance of attractions to visit and phantasmagoric and fabulous landscapes, amazing people and culture, Ladakh is truly a heaven on Earth.
Bounded by two of the world’s mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two other, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range. Ladakh is mystical in all the spheres it covers, from nature, geography, sceneries to the modest cultures that it fosters. Right from gompas to the sensational momos, the superabundance of attractions to visit makes this city make it heaven on earth. It is said that only in Ladakh can a man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke and frostbite at the same time.
For those of us living in the constant confusion about the difference between these twin locations, Leh-Ladakh, here is something that might help you. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is divided into three parts: Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh. Ladakh, further is divided into two districts: district Leh, and district Kargil. The former district has a popular town “Leh”and is a great tourist attraction because of its beautiful monasteries, picturesque locations, and interesting markets defining the culture of the place.
Raghunath Temple is a well-known holy shrine of the Hindus. Located in Jammu, Raghunath Mandir is one of the largest temple complexes of the Northern part of India. The temple is dedicated to Lord Rama, who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. In 1835, the construction of this temple was started by the founder of Jammu & Kashmir, Maharaja Gulab Singh. After the death of Gulab Singh, it was completed by his son, Maharaja Rambir Singh in 1860. One can easily reach this temple from Srinagar/ Jammu Airport by hiring taxis or by taking regular buses from the cities.
Raghunath Temple is an ancient temple located in the heart of Jammu city. It is visited by tourists from all around the country. The top portion of the temple is plated with gold, which makes it a unique temple. Raghunath Temple along with other temples around it, has played a major role in earning Jammu the nickname “The City of Temples”
The huge temple has seven shikhars (spires), where every shrine has its own shikhar. On the very entrance of the Temple, a portrait of Maharana Ranbir Singh and an image of Lord Hanuman embellish the site. The central shrine is dedicated to Lord Raghunath/ Rama, who is the presiding deity. Apart from the main shrine, the other shrines encompass various incarnations of Lord Vishnu. There is a shrine of Lord Surya (Sun God), which is another striking shrine. There are many idols of different forms of the God.
Inside the temple, there are other shrines that house huge statues of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. It is noteworthy to mention that gold sheets cloak the interior walls on three sides of this temple. It also has a gallery, where various ‘Lingams’ (phallic form of Lord Shiva) and ‘Saligrams’ are placed. Raghunath Temple comprises almost all the images of the Hindu Pantheon, which is quite uncommon. The sermons and rituals of the temple include both morning and evening Aarti.
A glimpse of Mughal artistry can be seen in the architecture of Raghunath Temple. The carvings and arches are really beautiful and grasp the major attention. There is a library in the temple complex, where rare Sanskrit manuscripts are kept. People visit this temple in large numbers to pay their homage to the deity and get the blessings from the God.
Dedicated to the Drugpa order of Tibetan Buddhism, Chemrey Monastery is situated 40 km from Leh in Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir. An important centre of Buddhist learning, the monastery attracts large number of tourists because of its picturesque location. The monastery was founded in 1664 AD by Lama Tagsang Raschen who also founded Hemis monastery. The monastery is also dedicated to King Sengge Namgyal who was instrumental in the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh. About 20 monks reside in the monastery. The monastery complex comprises number of shrines, Dukhang (assembly hall) and the Lhakhang (Lama temple).
There are two Dukhangs constructed during different times. The old Dukhang has paintings of the founder of the monastery and the new Dukhang has images of Padmasambhava. All the walls have paintings about Buddhism drawn during 17th century. The major attraction of the monastery is the one-storey high idol of Padmasambhava, who was instrumental in the spread of Buddhism in Tibet and translated many Indian scriptures written in Pali and Sanskrit into Tibetan. There are also rare collections of Buddhist scriptures, murals of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha), Kalchakra, Akshobhya (Buddha of East) and thousand Buddha. Another popular attractions is the 29 volume scripture written in silver and gold letters.
The Chemrey Angchok festival of the monastery has been attracting large number of tourists. There are no hotels, lodges or homesstays at or around the monastery. Budget hotels are available around 18 km from the monastery towards Leh. One can also stay at Leh where there are plenty of options available. You would find small shops selling tea and snacks outside the monastery. The stalls run by locals, however, do not offer full meals. The best season to visit Chemrey monastery is between June and October. During rest of the month roads remain closed because of snow.
PANGONG TSO LAKE
Just about 160 km from Leh is a beautiful lake named the Pangong Lake in Ladakh City. A drive to this lake will result in one of the most wonderful experiences. The journey begins at Thiksey village, which is famous for its huge monasteries covering an entire mountain range. And beyond this remote village, there is nothing but the vast expanse of extreme mountain ranges for the company. An interesting observation of the topography throughout this journey is that they throw off all calculations of distance somewhat like a mirage-effect, what looked to be a ten-minute crossing easily requires an hour or more!
Formerly, Pangong Tso had an outlet to the Shyok River, a tributary of Indus River, but it was closed off for the natural damming purpose. Two streams feed the lake from the Indian side, forming marshes and wetlands at the edges. Lines above the current lake level reveal a 16 ft thick layer of mud and laminated sand, suggesting the theory that the lake has shrunken recently in geological scale.
At Darbuk village near Tangste Valley stands a chain of war memorials in commemoration of the soldiers who lost their lives during the Indo-Chinese war of 1962. Some of the historic army bunkers and trenches present here are still in use. Villagers along with their large herds of Pashima sheep and long tails yaks can be seen in these villages.
Leh Ladakh is one of the most beautiful places in India but the serene tranquil Pangong Lake is not just a tourist’s paradise. It is also a geologist’s domain. And also, from the political perspective, this place is a melting pot of confusion and for sure it is no fun for the army in the biting cold to take care of the strategic landscape.
Vegetation and wildlife near the lake:-
Due to the saltiness in the water of the lake, there is very less micro-vegetation. There are no fish or other aquatic life in the lake, except for some small crustaceans. However, numerous ducks and gulls over and on the lake surface can be spotted in plenty. There are some species of scrub and perennial herbs that grow in the marshes around the lake.
The lake serves as an important breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. During summer, the Bar-headed goose and Brahmini ducks are commonly spotted around this region. A number of species of wildlife including the king and the Marmot can also be seen here.
Pangong Tso can be reached in a five-hour drive from Leh. Most of the journey is through a rough and dramatically scenic mountain road. The road crosses the villages of Shey and Gya and traverses the Changla pass. Road down from Changla Pass leads through Tangste and other smaller villages, crossing river called Pagal Naala also known as “The Crazy Stream”. Another lake to visit in Ladakh is the beautiful Tsomoriri Lake.
When to visit:-
This spectacular lakeside is open during the tourist season, which lasts from May to September.
The beautiful Pangong Tso Lake was featured in the last scene of the blockbuster movie ‘3 Idiots’ in the year 2010. After the success of the movie, this beautiful natural location has been a major attraction for tourists from all over the globe.
Khanqah – E – Maula
Khanqah-e-Moula is situated in Srinagar, on the banks of the river Jhelum. One of the oldest Muslim shrines in Kashmir, the khanqah was built by Sultan Sikander built in 1395. The Khanqah is a wooden structure whose chief aesthetic feature is its beautifully carved eaves and hanging bells. The interiors are richly carved and painted, and the antique chandeliers give it an air of opulence. The Khanqah-i-Mualla is dedicated to Muslim preacher Mir Syed Ali Hamdani.
Also known as Shah Hamadan, the preacher came to Kashmir from the city of Hamadan in Persia in the 13th century. He is believed to be responsible for the spread of Islam in Kashmir. The Shah stayed in Kashmir for many years and then left for Central Asia via Ladakh. He also built a mosque at Shey (near Leh). The shrine gains a special significance on 6th of Zilhaj (last month of Muslim calendar), the death anniversary of Mir Syed Ali Hamadni. On this day, devotees visit the shrine in large numbers to pay a tribute to Shah Hamadan.
The Khanqah of Shah Hamadan was the first mosque to be built in Srinagar. The Shah used to meditate and offer his prayers daily on the banks of river Jhelum, at the same spot where the shrine now stands. The Khanqah of Shah Hamadan in Kashmir has undergone ruination a couple of times. The year 1480 saw the shrine being ruined in a devastating fire. Later, the shrine was reconstructed and restored by the then ruler Sultan Hassan Shah. Again, in 1493 AD, Khanqah-e-Moula was demolished and reconstructed in two-stories. A fire again struck the shrine in 1731 AD leading to first its destruction and then renovation by Abul Barkat Khan.
Pathar Masjid, built by Nur Jahan in 1623, is considered as the biggest surviving Mughal structure in Kashmir. Situated across the River Jhelum, it faces the mosque of Shah Hamdan. It is believed that the construction of this mosque took place under the supervision of the renowned Mughal historian and architect, Malik Hyder Chaudhary. The mosque has nine arches which are built horizontally with a big arched entrance in the middle. In the recent past, all the arches have been closed with the help of a rubble stone masonry. At present this mosque is almost in ruins and attracts several archaeologists and historians with an interest in the Mughal architectural style.
AMAR MAHAL PALACE
This museum is housed in the Amar Mahal Palace, built in 1862 in a unique, French-chateau style of architecture. Located atop a hill overlooking the Tawi river, 4 rooms of the palace have been converted into art galleries and historic museums, depicting the royal history of Jammu.
The star of this museum is the golden throne of Jammu, weighing a whopping 120 kgs, all pure gold. The art collection here is also quite impressive, with paintings of M F Hussain and Laxman Pai on display, among other famous Indian contemporary painters. Another interesting aspect is the Pahari Paintings displayed here, depicting tales from the Mahabharata and other folklore, especially those of Nal Damyanti. The museum also organises heritage walks around the complex to give detailed insights into the history of Jammu and surrounding cities.