Exploring the unexplored natural heritage of Kulgam
When one travels towards the west from the historic town of Kulgam, the sights of the lofty peaks greet one’s eyes. But you will find these quite distant from your other travel destination in Kashmir or outside of Kashmir. These mountain peaks are locally called as ‘Kounsar Kouthra’ (rooms of Kounsar) and remain snow-capped throughout the year which is why these are the main sources of four major hill springs namely, Sarkanch, Brahim, Sir-Chher-Sar and Dunth-Sar.
These springs rise from the feats of these mountains, the water flow of these springs is of high volume and crystal clean, blue in colour. These springs feed the largest Nallah of south Kashmir called Nallah Vishu. Perhaps hardly any one is unaware of this large nallah which during the devastating floods of September 2014 created havoc in several dozen villages. In fact nallah Vishu always flows down in high volume because of its source. In Kashmiri folk lore there is a proverb-Kuli Grazen Kycz Chhak, Dupnis Aagur Wuchhit, which literary means that a stream flows in accordance with its source.
A major hill spring situated on the mountain Kounser and is called as ‘Kounsar Nag’ which is the main source of nallah Vashu.
This large spring is surrounded by mountain peaks from all sidesand its circumference is about three miles as measured with its waters blue in color and ice blocks are seen floating in it throughout the year.
The spring is also mentioned in the local traditions and has been a place of attractions for the royal families of kings and queens historically. The famous king of Kashmir Zain-ul-Abidin ‘Budsha’ is said to have visited this spring many times during the summers. His visits to this area are recorded to have been of amusing nature as the king, instead of hunting, would come here for research purposes. Historical records sugest that he had, at some point in time, sent one of his friends to the spring of Kounsar to explore its depth.
A small meditation place enclosed with the local stone slabs near the plateau of Astan Marg is also believed to have been set up by this king. This is a mysterious hill spring and many curious legends are associated with this spring.
Traditions record that once the famous and patron saint of Kahmir- Sheikh Humza Makhdoom (RH) had sent one of his disciples to this area who was mysterious attacked by some unknown beast. The Sheikh is said to have been deep in meditation in Srinagar. It is said that Sheikh heard the cries of his disciple and instantly threw his ‘Assa Sharief’ (Stick) towards the wall with great force and the wall bled. When the saint was enquired about the incident by those who saw it, he said that one of his friends was attacked by some beast at Kounsar nag and that he heard his cries and killed the beast by hurling his walking stick on the wall.
A historic legend accounted by Hassan in his Tarik also reports a similar event. He says that he visited this spring along with a saint and some friends as one of them, having little knowledge of swimming, jumped into the spring. But soon his feet were swallowed by some dangerous animal. While providing the description of this beast, Hassan says that “the animal resembled a shield as its length was two cubits and its width at the lower side was one cubit and towards the head eight givals, its skin was hard”.
One more legend regarding this spring is that it’s one forth water follows towards the valley. The remaining flows towards south and joins the Chanderbagh River.
The hill springs mentioned above are located on the foot hills of Pir Panchal range towards the upper lands of Kulgam. These spring are still unaffected and have hence remained pristine. One can also enjoy the glorious beauty of Zaig marg, Haka wass, Gogal Marg, Chitinand Astan Marg and Kongwatton slopes around this area. These meadows are also worth seeing. The small streams flowing here later merge in Jehlum at Sangan, a few kilometers below the beautiful meadow of Kongwatton.
The clear waters of all these springs which take the form of river Vishu, after crossing the Sangam pass through a narrow channel from a height of 300 to 400 cubits. Due to action of the wind and great height from which it falls, the water sprinkles down like dust and forms a wonderful spectacle of the divine power. This great place is called Arahabal waterfalls. Perhaps this is the only grand water fall found, so far, in whole of the valley. This place was of great interest to Mughals, Hassan says that ‘all the Mughal officials were proud of this water fall’. Zafar Khan Ashan has expressed the beauty of this water fall in his lyrics.
ze Janat Chand gooi Aay Sokhanwar
Nadaarad Aab- Sharee Ahrabal”
No doubt that the waterfall is being visited by thousands of KashmIri visitors every year, But the fine beauty of Kounsarnag and other hill springs as mentioned above has remained nearly unexplored,