La, gali or pass are terms that hold a lot of significance if you are an adventurer in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh! They also have something very mysterious about them!
-‘Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, do try the mountain passes. They save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action. It has happened in the past and be rest assured that they would continue doing so in future too far into the infinite’!
-‘A mountain pass is a navigable route through a mountain range or over a ridge. Since many of the world’s mountain ranges have presented formidable barriers to travel, passes have played a key role in trade, war, and both human and animal migration throughout history. At lower elevations it may be called a hill pass. A mountain pass may be formed between two volcanic peaks, or created by erosion from water or wind. Similarly has this beautiful, full of mystical aura, Pir Ki Gali or the Pir pass done for centuries together since the times places such as Bagh, Haveli, Poonch and Kashmir were founded and humans began long foot marches across the mighty and lofty Pir Panjals’!
-‘The Pir Panjals are scattered with some great passes and all are important in the own respects and the most notable ones in Jammu and Kashmir are, the Banihal Pass which lies at the head of the Vitasta river at the southern end of the Kashmir valley. Banihal and Qazigund lie on either side of the pass, The Sinthan Pass connects Jammu and Kashmir with Kishtwar, Pir ki Gali connects Kashmir valley with Rajouri and Poonch via Mughal road. Pir ki Gali is the highest point of Mughal road and lies to the south west of the Kashmir valley. Nearest town to Pir Ki Gali is Shopian, the apple town of Kashmir valley and Haji Pir Pass on the western Pir Panjal range on the road between Poonch and Uri is in the area of Kashmir. As the range moves into Himachal Pradesh so do the passes that include, Hampta Pass the easternmost range of Pir Panjal, located in Manali, Rohtang La, the Rohtang Tunnel is being built under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway. Kugti Pass in Bharmour area of Chamba district, Himachal Pradesh, Kalicho Pass is a pass in Pir Panjal range of Himachal Pradesh which connects Bharmour, Chamba to Lahaul valley of Lahaul and Spiti district. Chobia Pass is the high altitude pass in the Pir Panjal range in Himachal Pradesh which connects Bharmour, Chamba to Triloknath Temple in Udaipur village of Lahaul Valley of Lahaul Spiti district. Drati Pass connects the Churah Valley of Chamba district to the Tindi Valley of Lahaul and Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh. Tentu Pass is located in Solang Valley in Manali, Kullu. In order to scale Mt. Hanuman Tibba this pass needs to be crossed.’
-‘Over the ages militarily also these passes have been very important and the reasons are that conquerors used them so that their armies could cross the mountain barriers to invade the lands and establish their supremacy over territories on either side of the mountainous walls. Now they have become the beat of those seeking adventures and love trekking to further explore things which never have been’
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity. It is the freshness, the winds, the expansive scenery, the magical flamboyance of nature tends to dissolve everyone and anyone as you sit and admire the delightful creation of Nature. You cross the barriers and feel a unique freedom, a kind of one that you have never witnessed before. So climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn. Be there at any time of the year, the feeling would be the same but in winters they can be outright dangerous as they sleep under a white blanket with the warmth being provided by the flakes of snow that continuously fall. Pir Ki gali is no different at all! The name of the place is indicative that it is a holy place and is situated between two villages, Poshana and Heer Pur, along Mughal road. Peer ki Gali is an amazing place on the Mughal Road and is more of a heart of the Mughal road.
I. Historical significance:
I said in the very beginning that every mountain pass has a history. Similarly this one too has. If you ever get a fleeting thought that I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out and get somewhere to blow out the frustrations of life then this is the place and here are the reasons:
The Mughal road originated at the Mughal capital, Agra (in UP). It wound its way through Lahore (now in Pakistan) to Poonch, Rajouri and thence, to Srinagar in the valley. The Poonch segment of a road used to be called the Namak road (Presumably, the ‘salt road’) till Jehangir (early 17th century) travelled on it and renamed it the Mughal road.
Mughal Road is an alternate route to Kashmir valley and it has reduced the distance for the people of both distt. i.e rajouri and poonch Mughal road is 84km from Bafiaz to Shopian.It passes through scenic places like Buffliaz, Behramgala, Chandimarh, Dugran, Pushana, chatta pani, Mansar, Peer Ki Gali. Also linked with it are Sarimastan and Girjan the famous meadows in this region can be witnessed from this road.
As per the reference material available, the history of this place dates back to the time of a holy and religiously elevated person named as Alam Daar-e- Kashmir Sheikh Noor-u- Din Noorani.
Nund Rishi also known as Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani and by the honorary title Alamdar-e-Kashmir, was a Kashmiri Sufi saint, mystic, poet and Islamic preacher. Nund Reshi was among the founders of the Rishi order, a Sufi tradition of the region. He influenced many spiritual teachers and saints, including Hamza Makhdoom, Resh Mir Saeb, and Shamas Faqir.
As per written records, this place got its name because of a converted Hindu saint Sheikh Ahmed Karim. His association with Nund Rishi has a great deal of mythology in it and looks very convincing.
There is a legend that once the saint who later on was to be known as the living saint was meditating here at the gali in the mountains when a horror filled lady came to him. She had lost her son and was desperately searching for him. The saint opened up his eyes and calmly told her, just keep moving and for sure she would find her missing son as he would be walking towards her. The first time it did not happen and the lady returned frustrated and desolate. But as a last hope she asked the saint again. He smiled, be patient and search again and lo! The son was walking towards his mother. As the story goes Nund Rishi was watching all this and it was here that the two legends met, two great men one a Hindu who later took up Islam and became a living saint, the other a man who was to be remembered as Alamdar-e Kashmir. The association of both was celestial and there are several stories regarding the two and thus are legends who believed in humanity and thus till date are remembered.
Barnier Francois a most famous French physician and traveller who happened to visit this place along with a caravan of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb while going to Kashmir from Lahore in 1665 wrote that the saint was living here from the times of Mughal King Jehangir. This saint could perform miracles by producing mysterious voices. He could bring storms along with hail and snow. He was an old white bearded man who ordered the people not to create noise in this calm place of God and move silently.
Bernier Francois further wrote that he happened to meet him inside his place of meditation and told by him that Mughal king Aurangzeb and Shahjahan were wise enough as they crossed this calm place of God very calmly unlike Jehangir who went along with all the pomp and noise along with his massive army in form of a foot caravan and subsequently faced dire consequences.
The shrine of Peer Gali is not Pir’s grave (Mazar) but Pir’s meditating place Shrine has only imprints of his hands on a big stone inside it. His grave (Mazar) is situated near the grave of Makhdoom sahib and in the North of the grave of Bahu din Ganj Bakhsh in Kashmir.
Many incidents full of miracles performed by the saint have become a part of the folklore on either side of the Pir Panjals
It was in the year 1931 or perhaps 1932 when Sheikh Abdullah along with his foot cavalcade was crossing the gali. There was a lady writer and a chronicler who was covering the incident and this is what she jotted down, ‘the peer appeared on a robust white stallion and said the pathway ahead is safe as there was no road then’. There are several incidents where the people have dreamt about the saint moving about.
II. As per mythology and scriptures:
In the mountains each place is a mystery in itself but this place has its roots in the great Hindu Epics if one goes through the voluminous Rajatrangini. But definitely once you are here you would be forced to think that those who travel to mountain-tops are half in love with themselves, and half in love with oblivion.
The Pir Panjal Pass appears in Srivara’s Rajatarangini as Panchaladeva meaning the deity of Panchala. Panchala is a country mentioned in the Mahabharata in the northwest Uttar Pradesh. However, there are also traditions that place the Mahabharata regions in western Punjab and southern Kashmir. Scholar Dineshchandra Sircar has analysed the geography described in the Shakti‐sangama Tantra, where this is indeed the case. Scholar and one of the old writers on Kashmir M. A. Stein states that the high mountain passes were always regarded as deities or were associated with deities. These customs continued after the region was Islamized by substituting the concept of Pir, Muslim saint, for deity.
III. Major routes of historical invasions into Kashmir:
I told you above in the pieces that passes are always the strategic natural gateways for invasions. Pir Ki Gali too was as several incasions took place through this gali. Pir Panjal Pass was one of the main passes into the Kashmir Valley and exercised a great influence on its history. A route linking Hirapur (modern Hirpora) in the Kashmir Valley with Rajauri via the pass is known to have been used from ancient times. During the period of the sultans it seems to have been extended up to Bhimber. After conquering the Kashmir Valley, the emperor Akbar strengthened the route into an Imperial Road stretching from Lahore to Kashmir. In modern times, the route has been referred to as the Mughal Road. The Sikh emperor, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, launched an invasion of the Durrani-controlled Kashmir Valley in 1814, partly via the Pir Panjal Pass. He divided the forces into two parts, one attacking via the Pir Panjal Pass under the command of Dewan Ram Dayal and the other led by himself via the Tosa Maidan. Ram Dayal forced through the Pir Panjal pass, reached Baramulla and fortified himself. However, Ranjit Singh could not break through the Durrani defences at Tosa Maidan, and was forced to retreat. In a second invasion in 1819, all the forces were sent via the Tosa Maidan, and conquered the Durrani forces.
IV. The geography:
Once you are here and taking a view all around one thing is bound to strike you and that is if these mountains had eyes, they would wake to find two strangers in their fences, standing in admiration of the immaculate and flawless beauty. These mountains, which have seen untold sunrises, people, soldiers, animals, long to thunder praise but stand reverent, silent so that man’s weak praise should be given God’s attention.
The Pir Panjal Pass can be taken to run between its western entrance, which goes by the name Peer Ki Gali, and a historical way station called Aliabad Sarai at its eastern end. A stream referred to as Pir Panjal stream runs through the valley, flowing east, which becomes the Rambi Ara River in the Shopian district. Scholar Mohibbul Hassan states that the old route through the pass kept to the southern side of the stream, but the Moghuls switched it to the northern side because a steep cliff called Hastivanj to the south was difficult to cross. The modern Mughal Road constructed between 2005–2009, keeps close to the route used by the Mughals, though it is not identical to it. To the west of Peer Ki Gali, cliffs descend steeply into a valley, which carries another mountain stream that joins the Poonch River flowing from the north. A hill village called Bahramgala (original name: Bhairavgala) marks the end of the valley. The Sikh sources name the pass itself as Bahramgala pass, in effect marking Bahramgala as is western end.
V. The Shrine:
Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. How glorious is this shrine as it adds on to the beauty of this serene place? For an answer you would have to come to the place because pictures do not give the exact details which a live show by nature can give.
This is not only a beautiful and picturesque tourist spot, Peer Ki Gali, is also known for a famous shrine located in the area in the name of great Sufi saint Sheikh Ahmed Karim (RA) who had stayed for some time at this place while crossing towards Kashmir valley through Mughal road. Due to the location of the shrine at this place, thousands of religious tourists also visit this place, said a caretaker of the shrine. As the area has been declared a rich wildlife habitation, the government agencies and other tourist related private agencies are prevented from creating any infrastructure there.
I like geography best because it takes you to a different world altogether. A world of fantasy and adventures, the stories of breathless chases of angels and the demons. But there is yet another dimension to the subject and that is it gives us something to think about for example the exquisite beauty of the place which only the mountains, meadows and rivers know. And that is because they know the secret and that is pay no attention to the boundaries, just come, watch and love humanity. This place Pir Ki Gali teaches us that and it is by all means a geographical marvel far away from the human created ones!