And then there is Bhaderwah !
I have been to many places in the Mountains, personally and through Books and other Media. Read extensively. And I consider myself pretty well versed with the Western Himalayas, at least as its my home turf.
The problem is that when you are born and brought up in Kashmir, which was an act of providence, and I am sure I didnt do anything in my past, you get a certain Complex. Of course I am talking about the time when it was a calm and peaceful place back in the 80s. I call it the "Jannat E Kashmir" Complex and it develops when you constantly hear outsiders say how lucky you are to be born and to be living in Kashmir. Of course hearing it repeatedly it gets to your head. And of course this gets re-enforced when you read the works of various Westerners who happened to be so enamored with Kashmir mostly because it was off limits to most outsiders.
Anyways what this complex does is that you start to think of other places in the Mountains as being somehow lesser than "Glorious Kashmir". I still suffer from this Complex though in the years it has become less acute as I see more of the Mountains. A part of this Complex is that you consider Srinagar the most beautiful City in the Universe. And I never really found a place quite like it. Till I came to Bhaderwah. The only connection I have had with Bhaderwah was that Jagga, my Bakarwali had been brought to me by my friend from his ancestral home in Bhaderwah.
Interestingly the Gazzetter of Kashmir and Ladakh of 1890 talks of this beautiful area as well. It specifically mentions that the fruits grown in Bhaderwah can rival the best grown in the Kashmir Valley. Tobacco grown in Bhaderwah at that time was said to be of a very superior quality. And Bhaderwah Homey was also said to be very good. In today’s age we know that the Bhaderwahi Rajmah is supposed to be one of the best Rajmah carrying on the old Bhaderwah tradition of being one of the finest agricultural areas in the State.
The coincidence is both Srinagar and Bhaderwah are at almost the same altitude of around 1600 m which is puny by Himalayan standards. But i guess its a good altitude at the latitudes they are located at of course with Srinagar being North of Bhaderwah. But Bhadewah gives Srinagar a run for its money when it comes to beauty. The Houses are quite similar though the Bhaderwah Valley is much narrower than the expansive Kashmir Valley. The population also has a large Kashmiri component and the population consists of a Muslim majority with a large Hindu minority.
And the Bhaderwah area which is connected to Jammu via the Chenab Valley and connected to Chamba via the Padri Pass was always quite a bone of contention between the two powerful Dogra Rajput Kingdoms. The Chambyalis usually dominated and held Bhaderwah many times until the power of Jammu grew under Raja Gulab Singh. There is said to be a great engagement fought between the Bhaderwahis lead by General Shagtu Kotwal gave a strong fight to the Chambyalis led by General Nathu Ram were defeated. These Chambayali raids on Bhaderwah was a regular feature and after repulsing the Chambyalis the General went to Raja Gulab Singh who was very pleased with him and gave him a Jagir in Bhaderwah. A sort of truce was arranged between Jammu and Chamba and the deal was that the revenue for the Rabi crop went to Jammu while the revenue from the Kharif crop went to Chamba.
But after some kind of settlement between Jammu and Chamba, Bhaderwah as well as Doda and Kishtwar both areas also claimed by Chamba as its own, were settled and I guess the British had a role to play in that. The British I reckon got Dalhosuie of out this whole deal is the assumption I like to believe. Interestingly it is said that Gurkha soldiers posted in Bakloh used to come over to Bhaderwah to enjoy the salubrious air and the sublime Climate of this area as Bakloh also tends to get very hot in Summers with the temperature soaring to high 30s.
Anyways if you ever get a chance do visit this very pretty area. Words are not enough to do justice to the beauty of Bhaderwah. Its just magical. The Bhaderwah Fort is also a beautiful building and Houses a Temple in the inner courtyard and a small Mosque as well in the outer courtyard. Leaving you with a pic of this dreamy little town. I wish I could Post more pics of this Town but I implore you to discover this little gem for yourself.
Bhaderwah Town as seen from a distance. June, 2019