The town of Ganderbal along with its neighboring area is one of the most popular places of tourist interest in Kashmir Valley. Along with unbelievable natural beauty the area offers ample scope for adventure tourism. Besides, the area has a number of ancient temples, which also attracts many tourists to this area. Its proximity to state capital Srinagar is another great incentive for visiting this region. Therefore, if you are on a trip to the Kashmir Valley, do not forget to include Ganderbal in your itinerary.
Religious Spots in GanderbalLet us start with a visit to the places of religious interest located in and around the town. Qamar Sahib Shrine in Ganderbal is one of the most popular places of worship in the town. Although nothing much is known about this great saint, his shrine is much revered by the people of this region. Every year, the devotees hold a fair in his name. Besides, there is the Kheer Bhawani Temple located close to the city.
Kheer Bhawani Temple in Ganderbal
The temple of Kheer Bhawani is situated in the village of Tula Mula, located at a distance of five kilometers from Ganderbal town. It is an ancient temple dedicated to Mata Maharagini, an incarnation of Goddess Durga. She is also referred as Maharagya Devi, Rangya Devi or Ragnya Bhawani. The name Kheer Bhawani has been derived from the fact that the Goddess is offered rice pudding, locally known as Kheer by the devotees.
The temple of Kheer Bhawani is surrounded by a number of springs. The temple, which houses the deity, is a small marble pillared canopy built over a hexagonal spring. It has been built during the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh and further renovated in 1912 by Maharaja Hari Singh. It now shines like a pearl in the blue water of the spring.
There is also another heptagonal spring inside the complex. It is known as Mata Ragini Kund; the kheer or rice pudding is actually offered here. It is believed that the actual temple of Kheer Bhawani lie submerged in this spring. In fact, the ruins of an ancient temple with engraved slabs have been found under its water.
Occasionally the water of this spring turns blackish. Devotees believe that whenever that happens something inauspicious is sure to follow. It happened in 1989, just before insurgency started in the valley and also before the assassination of Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own body guards.
The temple courtyard is inlayed with beautiful stones. Inside the temple complex, there are ancient chinar trees, under which pilgrims are seen to be taking rest. An annual festival is held here on every Jesht Ashtami; it generally falls in the month of May-June. Besides, the devotees also visit the temple on the Ashtami day of every Shukla Paksh round the year.
Things to Do in or Around GanderbalHere are a few things to do in and around Ganderbal for you:
Trip to the Willow VillageWhile in Ganderbal town, do take time to visit Shalabugh, more popularly known as Willow Village. It is located within one kilo meter of Ganderbal town. The interesting point about this village is that villagers here have been earning their living by making willow baskets for over half a century. A visit to this village may open up a new horizon for you.
A Day’s Trip to Naranag
Other than Kheer Bhawani, the district has few other ancient temples. Naranag Temple, built around Naranag spring, is one among them. However, before you embark on the journey you must remember that Naranag today is more of a tourist spot than a religious one. Today, the temple complex lies in ruins. Yet, a visit to the place is sure to open a new horizon for you.
Naranag temple complex is located at a distance of 8 km from Kangan, a tehsil headquarters under Ganderbal district. It is believed that the complex was built by King Lalitaditya Muktapida in 8th century AD. However, many other historians are of the opinion that these temples were built over a time by different kings.
The temple complex has been mentioned by poet Kalhana (12th century AD) in his famous creation ‘Rajatarangini’. The complex basically consisted of two rows of temples facing each other. Although it lies mostly in runs, its archeological excellence can still be perceived. After you have visited the temples, you may go on a trekking tour. Incidentally, Naranag is treated as the base camp for Harmukh expedition.
Climbing the Harmukh Mountain
Harmukh Mountains is the highest mountain in Ganderbal district. It rises just above the Gangabal Lake and is 5142 meters high. It was first climbed in 1856; since then, many other mountaineers have attempted this peak. However, most successful climbs have been made from Arin Bandipore via its northwester side.
You may also try climbing this peak from the Gangabal lake side. In such a case you must first reach Nara Nag and then set up camp at Gangabal Lake and try climbing the mountain from there. However the climb can be steep at a few places.
Harmukh Mountain is also of religious importance to the Kashmiri Hindu population. The Hindu mythology states that the mountain is the abode of Lord Shiva and hence is revered by many.
A Trek to the Gangabal Lake
Gangabal Lake, located at the foothill of Harmukh Mountain, is one of prime tourist attractions for a number of reasons. The lake is two and a half kilometer long and one kilometer wide. It has been formed by precipitations, glaciers and springs located in higher elevation. Nundkol Lake has been formed by the outflow of its water.
Gangabal Lake is famous for its natural beauty. Moreover, like most other lakes in Gandebal district, it is an oligotrophic alpine lake. Consequently, it has clear water capable of sustaining many different species of trout. This lake is especially famous for its brown trout. Many anglers come here just for that.
The lake is also of immense importance to the Kashmir Hindu population. It is also referred as Harmukut Ganga and is treated at par with Haridwar by them. In order to preserve their culture and religious heritage, they undertake a three day yatra to this lake every September.
As we have already pointed out, to reach Gangabal one must first come to Naranag. From there one has to trek for 15 km to reach the lake. It is a bit upslope and if you wish you can complete the journey on horseback. On the way, one should take time to watch the shepherds (Gujjars) with their flock of sheep and goats. The do make a pretty picture.
Angling at Nundkol Lake
Nundkol Lake is another water body, situated close to the Gangabal Lake. In fact, as mentioned earlier a major source of water for this lake is the Gangabal Lake. It is much smaller in size and is located in lower elevation. It is also referred as the Kaldaka Lake.
Although it is much smaller, it has its own charm. Tourists visiting this place in winter will find it completely covered with ice. However, visit to the lake in warmer weather is also very delightful. During that period, one finds sheet of alpine flowers surrounding the basin of the lake. This is indeed a treat to the eye. This lake also has a good population of brown tout. However, not all are allowed to fish in these waters. One must get license for such activities.
Water Skiing at Manasbal Lake
Mansbal Lake is located at a distance of 12 Km in the northwest of Ganderbal town. It is 5 Km in length and 1 Km in width. The lake is by far the largest in the district.
The lake is said to be a bird watcher’s paradise. One can see a variety of aquatic birds here. If you go there in July-August you will also find lotus in bloom around the periphery of the lake. To augment tourism, the government has also made arrangement for water skiing in this lake.
Mughal Garden with a Garoka built by Empress Noor Jahan is also another place of tourist attraction here. Lately, an ancient Hindu temple (800 Ad to 900Ad) has been unearthed in the eastern shore of this lake. There are also some ruined Buddhist shrines scattered along the bank of this lake. In other words, the place offers plenty to do and see.
Angling in Sind Nallah
Sind Nallah flowing through Ganderbal district is another water body suitable for angling. The river is famous for its trout. Brown trout, rainbow trout, snow trout are some of the species found here. However, anglers are required to get license if they want to fish in this river. Sonamarg, the famous hill station, is located on the bank of this river.
A Weekend Trip to Sonamarg
Sonamarg is located at a road distance of 62.8 Km from Ganderbal. It is one of the most beautiful places in the district and therefore, if you are in Ganderbal, you must visit it.
There are plenty to do in Sonamarg. River Sind meandering by is full of fishes like trout and mahseer. Therefore, you can try your hand at that and try to catch a big snow trout. Moreover, the river offers great scope for river rafting. The tourism department of Jammu and Kashmir organizes annual river rafting competitions here in Sonamarg.
In addition, one can go trekking in the hills. Trekking expeditions from Sonamarg to different alpine lakes such as Satsar Lake, Vishansar Lake, Krishansar Lake, Gadsar Lake and Gangabal Lake are truly fulfilling.
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