Tourism Along The River Vishew
BY: Syed Aamir Sharief Qadri
Originates in Pir Panjal this mighty river is the most important tributary of Jhelum. While most of us believe the source of river Vishew is Kounsarnag but this information is inappropriate. Though we can’t ignore the contribution of Kounsarnag in the formation of river Vishew, other than Kounsarnag the credit of being the origin of river Vishew goes to certain more lakes also. We can say Kounsarnag like many other lakes near to it and glaciers are the source of river Vishew.
In the surroundings of Kounsarnag lake, there are few more lakes in the same row. These lakes are small in size than Kounsarnag but have an equal contribution in forming the river Vishew. The journey of Vishew starts like this. On one side it starts from Kounsarnag and is joined by many waterfalls till it reaches the place called Sangam. At this particular point, another river joins it called Chiranbal river which has its origin in many glaciers and lakes viz Bramsar lake, Chirsar lake, Donthsar lake and Indersar lake.
It is worth to mention here the glory of these four lakes so that it can help readers to understand things in a better way. Also, this will be helpful to promote JK tourism by mentioning these lakes for the first time. The sequence of these lakes is like this. If you start your trek from Nand Marg (Kulgam) you will reach to the beautiful meadow of Zajimarg. This trek is moderate in nature in comparison to other routes such as Khur, Halan and Yadikhah routes; and perhaps the shortest route to visit all four lakes, which fall next to each other.
Hidden in between snow-clad peaks with tough terrain these lakes test the patience of a trekker who can claim to have visited Kounsarnag at very ease. You must remember it is very easy to visit Kounsarnag via Kongwatan than to reach these lakes through the above-mentioned routes. And unlike Kounsarnag lake, it can’t be reached in a short span of two days. The minimum days required for this trek are five. You can also complete sightseeing in three to four days but that depends on your fitness. For a moderate trekker, five days are enough.
While you start from Bramsar lake, end this journey at Kounsarnag lake. And then while coming back from Kounsarnag lake join the most popular route (via Mahinag) to reach Ahrabal. This is the end point of your journey. But remember one thing while taking this route when you reach Indersar, the fourth lake in the sequence you will be at maximum height. To continue this journey and to see the most popular lake of this range i.e. Kounsarnag, you have to descend from the hill through Rewaj Nad to reach Mahinag, base camp for Kounsarnag. Here at Rewaj Nad, the hilly people will miss guide you by showing the shortest trek to Kounsarnag on the backside of hills. But my advice is not to follow their instructions instead insist them to show the road that leads to Mahinag. No doubt this trek is shortest but it is a most difficult trek and too risky. At utmost altitude crossing lofty mountains with massive glaciers is a dangerous task. Every single mistake can cost your life. One slip can throw you back into a deep gorge where it is difficult to find even mortal remains. We are not tough people like these hilly nomads so don’t take this route. Even most of Gujjar and Bakarwals don’t take this route.
Let me tell you the common things about these lakes. Though in a single row but hidden in the range of small mountains which make them difficult to access by taking one single route. After visiting a particular lake one needs to come back and then follow another route to visit next. For example, on one side of the mountain lies Bramsar and on other Chirsar, it is much difficult to cross the mountain to reach the other side. Same is the case with other lakes. All the lakes are smaller in size than Kounsarnag. Almost circular in shape and bounded on all sides by steep mountains with a thick layer of snow throughout the year. The white colour background gives a most astonishing look to all these lakes.
In comparison to other lakes, the water of Indersar is not too cold. At shores, one can easily bath here. This oval shaped lake is not too deep. Indarsar lake overlooks the most beautiful marg of this area known as Astanmarg. About this meadow it is said that few centuries ago a battle took place here in which most of the troops on both sides lost their lives. According to locals some of the graves are still visible but to me I don’t find any such grave there. This belief continued for centuries and the place got its name from the same incident. About Chirsar it is said that the milky water of this lake resembles that of Chir (sheep). Besides Chirsar lake looks after Chirsar meadow which is the hotbed of shepherds. On its door, the milky water from the lake forms a beautiful waterfall. Though small in size than Ahrabal fall, this fall adds beauty to this lake. Also, the names of Bramsar, Indarsar and Kounsarnag correspond to three Hindu gods- Brahma, Indra, and Vishnu, most important Gods of Hinduism. Kounsarnag known as Vishnu pad is much famous among the Hindu population of the country.
From the above-mentioned lakes, one stream from each comes out and joins Chiranbal river. For example Zajnar nallah from Bramsar, Chitinadi nallah from Chirsar, Hapatnad nallah from Donthsar, Astanmarg- Lahan Pather nallah from Indersar, etc. which continue the journey to meet a stream coming from Kounsarnag at Sangam. Besides many streams also join to form a big river. Further down near Gurwatan one more stream joins Vishew which has its origin in the forests of Sedow (district Shopian). From this point onwards it is called Vishew. Then it forms the world-famous waterfall known as Ahrabal fall. From Ahrabal to Sangam (where it meets Jhelum) this river is joined by numerous rivers and streams. This increases its volume and looks more dangerous while it flows through plains. Every year this river claims many lives. During 2014 floods this river created a havoc in the surroundings of district Kulgam and destroyed property worth millions. So many villages faced the wrath of this river.
- The writer has completed post-graduation in History from the University of Kashmir and obtained an M.Phil. at Punjabi University, Patiala.