Gulmarg: via Ruins of Avantiswamin temple
In my recent blogs on Kashmir, I’ve expressed my deep sense of gratitude for the exaggerating beauty of Kashmir. In fact, many of the great personalities – poets, writers, ancient emperors and spiritual gurus (Sufi saints, yogis and monks) are so much pleased with the mystic presence of Kashmir that it made them to quote undying lines:
Sanskrit poet Kalidas has quoted:
“The place is more beautiful than the heaven and this is benefactor of supreme bliss and happiness, it seems to me that I am taking a bath in the lake of nectar here.”
The great Persian poet – Amir Khusrau and Mughal emperor Jhangir has said:
“Agar Firdaus bar roy-e zamin ast, hamin ast-o hamin ast-o hamin ast.” Meaning “If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”
Even Kashmir has made me to quote something (as mentioned in my blog Pahalgam: delightful valleys and glaciers):
“We travel some places, we explore some places, we pilgrim some places. But Kashmir is felt, Kashmir is endured.”
It is also noteworthy that the majestic peak of Baltal valley (Sonmarg) and the exceptional view of Aru valley (Pahalgam) has captivated all my imaginations. Yet, it is true that neither the great personalities nor I could actually describe the comprehensive grandeur of Kashmir. But one thing is for sure, the more you describe Kashmir, the more you get into it and the more you are into it; you’ll be trapped forever, from where you cannot retrospect.
Well, since the glaciers of Sonmarg and the landscape of Pahalgam have captured my soul, one more spot was waiting for me; to welcome me. And that is Gulmarg.
Avantiswamin Temple: The ruins of Avantipur
Now that I am on the road, feeling every bit of breath-taking scenery, my driver Ahmed had something to tell. Something that was quite ancient and related with Lord Vishnu and Shiva.
While traveling to Gulmarg from Pahalgam, Ahmed took us to a road less traveled. He took us to Avantipur – a rare noticeable town present near Anantnag, Kashmir. Avantipur is a town built by Hindu King Avanti Varman. In his ruling, he built two major temples: Avantiswamin temple (Lord Vishnu) and Avantishwar (Lord Shiva).
These temples were ruined and only few stones were seen there, hinting of a historic site. For this reason, in 1910-14, Dr. R Sahni had excavated the ruins of the Avantiswamin and Avantishwar temple. As a result, this is what we can see today.
Now the temples are protected and maintained by archaeological survey of India. In addition to that, now you’ll see a beautiful pathway with gardens on the side, leading to the main ruins of temple. Entry fees is Rs. 15/- for Indians and Rs. 200/- for foreigners.
But yet it is quite difficult to recognize the sculptures, that’s why either hire a guide (available) or buy a thin book based on Awantipur (available near temple).
What our guide said:
Since the temples are made of sandstone, over the period, the temples were eroded. Moreover, guide told me, Afghan leader, Sultan Sikandar Butshikan invaded Avantipur and destroyed most of its part. Furthermore when the excavation was done, lots of copper coins and other coins were collected, depicting various historic dynasties.
Finally, I left Avantipur but it’s memories are etched on my head like a tattoo.
Have a look at the photographs and lose yourself into it:
What a day I’m having…
While I was leaving time-worn Avantipur, I was recollecting almost everything that had just happened with me. How I landed on an ancient spiritual place? How without any second thought I said nothing to driver and went straight to explore this historical site? And now again I’m heading towards the destination known for world’s second highest golf destination. Can you guess the destination?
Also Read: Sonmarg: The Meadow of Gold
Yes it is Gulmarg, which is also known as “The Meadow of Flower”. In-fact, the people of Kashmir says it as: “The crown of Jammu and Kashmir”. And why not, afterall this 2 hours journey to Gulmarg from Awantipur was full of divine landscape, hypnotic waterfalls and captivating snowy cliff. For me, to describe the beauty of Gulmarg in few words is an indomitable task.
Let’s see what Gulmarg has in it:
It’s high golf course with the snow capped mountains as a backdrop, makes Gulmarg a world second highest and oldest preferred golf destination. This destination is also very famous for organizing international winter sports like skiing. In addition to that, gondola ride and trekking are some of the activities which made you fall in love with Gulmarg.
The main peak of Gulmarg where skiing, trekking and golfing can be done is Apharwat Peak. I reached there at about 1:00 PM and walked upto 1.5 km to reach the ticket counter for gondola ride. Actually the peak is in two level: Level 1 and Level 2. Basically level 2 is for skiing lovers but also opened for tourists.
The most irritating part I experienced there…
The region was so crowded, so noisy….“bang bang”…. I felt like 1000s of tourist has to trek Apharwat peak on that particular day only. Really a bad experience…. we were waiting and waiting and waiting. Finally, after 2.5 hours we reach to the boarding counter of gondola to reach at the level 1. We couldn’t make out for level 2, the ticket counter for level 2 was closed; misfortune!!! Another thing is that the people out there were selling gondola ticket in black (at triple rate then the actual rate available at the counter).
One Useful tip that I learned:
Please do online booking for gondola ride atleast 2 weeks prior or I would say a month prior. Since we were on an unplanned trip, so we didn’t know about online booking. Else get ready to wait in a long annoying line.
Above all, have a look at how Apharwat Peak had welcomed me. In fact, Apharwat peak will provide you an excellent stage to master your trekking skills and photography skills. Also, skiing is most suitable during winter as you’ll find these peaks are covered in the blanket of snow.
One thing is very clear, the moment you are here at the peak, you cannot afford to miss any little thing whatsoever. Also, Gulmarg has shown every aspect; from high ended sky-stabbing peaks to huge number of tourists visiting this paradise.
Above all, writing about these destinations, one need to learn how to rise beyond the language barriers, as I’m trying to do.
Don’t miss more travel memoirs of Kashmir..
Have a look at Pahalgam: Delightful valleys and glacier