Gulmarg

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.

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The excavated ruins of Avantiswamin Temple

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.

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Interesting to read about Avantiswamin Temple

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:

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The remains of temple
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It is quite difficult to understand this sculpture
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You will feel spirituality at Avantiswamin temple
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I was lost in exploring the ruins of great temple
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?

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World’s second highest golf course at Gulmarg

Also Read: Sonmarg: The Meadow of Gold

Gulmarg

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).

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I was irritated with too many people
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.

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Paradisaical view of Apharwat peak
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Majestic view of snowy peaks of Gulmarg
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Backpack yourself to reach at the highest point of Apharwat peak
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The great landscape of Gulmarg’s Apharwat peak level 1
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Layer by layer, these snowy peaks making Gulmarg the best
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One of the most beautiful but very crowded Apharwat peak on that day

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

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44 comments

  1. Emily

    Yes, official aides have heaps of learning with them! Incidentally, Sikandar Butshikan was sultan of Shah Miri Dynasty, so thought he was Afgan. Be that as it may, now I get it.. I think the administration has linkage with Turkey or Persian! It would be ideal if you revise me in that…

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      The same thing I’ve said earlier in one of the comments. So, this one thing about Sikandar remains a question. I think we have to visit it again and look into deeper to know the truth. Haha.. May be next time.

      Reply

  2. Lindsey

    Kashmir, looks truly magical a place that you can get lost in all it’s beauty and histroy that it holds.

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Yes it is! Truly said Lindsey!! I’m glad you like it.

      Reply

  3. Britta

    Wow what a stunning place. Beautiful photographs!

    Reply

  4. Dana Vento

    A perfect place to be alone and tell all you problem with yourself. Lol! This is amazing and great place.

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Haan! You are right Avantiswamin temple has such a vibes, you can sit and think of your problems ans solution! Thanks for your comment Dana Vento!!

      Reply

  5. eloise25

    this gives me the travel itch! I wish i could go there and experience all of it in person… the photos are breath-taking! You are so lucky to have had such an amazing adventure!

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Ohh thanks you Eloise!! I feel too the same, I’m lucky to experience such an adventure!!

      Reply

  6. Rahul Khurana

    The pics really tell that how beautiful Gulmarg is. I have always heard of its beauty. Wish to plan a trip to Gulmarg someday. 🙂

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Gulmarg is really the best…Hope you visit Kashmir soon!! (but after the Kashmir tension is over haha).

      Reply

  7. kikicarlson

    Wow what a beautiful place. I love learning more about places with such history. I never see myself traveling outside of the United States so I love blogs like this. Like I am traveling along with!

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Haha.. Same as here, I’ve also traveled outside India, that’s why I love to see others blog. Thanks for liking this place and photographs.

      Reply

  8. Violinkit

    I would love to visit Kashmir it seems so magical and mysterious. The photos you have taken especially of the ancient temple ruins speak volumes and you can almost feel the spirituality they are oozing.

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Thanks a lot Violinkit!! I’m glad you like the ancient temple.

      Reply

  9. lex

    this brings back to life the hunger for past stories and riches in historical places, kashmir is one good place and such a wonderful destination, glad i found about this here, nice captured images to go with aswell. so cool.

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      I think only when you have hunger for travel or search historic places, life becomes more meaningful!! Thanks a lot Lex! Your comment had made my day! Glad you like it.

      Reply

  10. Elizabeth O.

    I did enjoy reading your post about Kashmir and what a wonder it is to be able to see it in person. I think this is awesome, it’s really nice that your driver took you to this beautiful temple. I appreciate drivers like that, they make the tour even more worth it.

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Thanks a lot Elizabeth!! Yes seriously, if drivers are friendly and kind, your trip will me more memorable! Your trip guide or driver plays a crucial role in your travel! Thanks I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply

  11. elenasts

    Every time I see beautiful photos like this one I want to leave everything and travel the world.

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Haha..same as with me! That’s why share such photographs and loves to travel. Thanks for such a wonderful comment!

      Reply

  12. Ravi

    the photographs look amazing. The stone architecture should have been great although complete architecture looks plundered or something..

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Yes you are right!! Architecture is something which had made this temple more beautiful but the battle had destroyed it completely. Thanks for liking my photographs.

      Reply

  13. Glory

    Kashmir is on my bucket list, hope to visit soon.These are some great photos and thanks for the tip on the gondola ride!

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Thanks a lot Glory!! Wherever you visit Kashmir, please book your gondola ticket online first! It will help you seriously!

      Reply

  14. Diane Hoffmaster

    What beautiful photos. Whenever my husband and I travel we always try to find unique places like this to visit. The history of the area sounds fascinating.

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      It is always good to search and visit unique places! Thanks for liking my photographs.

      Reply

  15. ljdove23

    Wow what an amazing place!! I love the photos and the temple looks so beautiful I love this kind of thing, it would be my idea of a perfect trip!

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Thanks for your valuable comment ljdove23!! You are right it was a perfect trip and temple is an addition to it.

      Reply

  16. Ana De-Jesus

    I can feel the spirituality even by looking at the temple ruins but I can imagine that it must be even more amazing in person! Kashmir is beautiful and you are not the only one to say it xx

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Ohh thanks a lot Ana for liking Kashmir!! You are true, the temple is lot more spiritual than it looks in the pictures.

      Reply

  17. soulsensecoaching

    You have taken some beautiful photos and the Avantiswamin Temple is stunning. Gulmarg also looks wonderful but the overcrowding would take some of the pleasure away for me as well.

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Thanks a lot for your comment!! Seriously crowd irritates me a lot!! Lots of chaos also bring untidiness with them.
      And yes Avantiswamin Temple is amazing.

      Reply

  18. Sapna

    Lovely captures. It’s nice that you been to a offbeat place Avantipur and shared the details with us.

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Thanks for your comment Sapna!! I always look for such places like Avantipur and love to share them!!

      Reply

  19. Steps Together

    Wow.. Kashmir is truly a paradise on earth.. Glad to know about Avantipur.. Wonderful post..

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Thanks for your delightful comment! Seriously, Avantipur is a must visit place, if you are traveling to Gulmarg. Hidden paradise!!

      Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Thanks Gopesh Sharma….

      Reply

  20. 2travellingsisters

    Beautiful account of Kashmir Prateek!

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Thanks a lot 2travellingsisters..!! Glad to hear that!

      Reply

  21. searchKashmir

    The official guide at Avantipur are actually quite good. Sikandar Butshikan, however was not an Afghan.

    Reply

    1. prateekgoel

      Yes, official guides have loads of knowledge with them! By the way, Sikandar Butshikan was sultan of Shah Miri Dynasty, so thought he was Afgan. But now I get it.. I think the dynasty has linkage with Turkey or Persian! Please correct me in that…

      Reply

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