What not to be missed in Kargil

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What not to be missed in Kargil , most of the tourist travelling by road Srinagar / Leh use Kargil as a overnight   halt because of not much information available with the travel agents , situated on the midway on Srinagar – Leh highway, ancient town which had trading links with Tibet, China , Central Asia and India has a long history. Before Shia Islam established in 16th century, Buddhism was followed and still the natives have common rituals in marriages and other celebrations .

Kargil city on the banks of Suru river

Kargil city on the banks of Suru river

Present Kargil district is group of small kingdoms have majestic landscape , many little known rarely explored yet beautiful interesting stories attached to history, religious monuments, tribes, ethnic groups, battle fields, grass meadows, high mountains, glaciers, apricot orchards, barley and wheat fields .

Kargil Heritage walk takes you around the old bazar of small shops constructed of mud and wood, old gurudwara and mosque with common wall, Balti Bazar the old trading houses, Munshi Aziz Bhatt Sarai where traders from Tibet, China, Central Asia use to stay , old bridge over Suru river and Munshi Aziz Bhat heritage museum .

Drass is the second highest cold inhabited place in the world, Kargil war memorial in the memory of soldiers who sacrificed their life for the nation is at the base of Tololing , here the names with their Regiments are engraved on stone slabs .

Dropti Kund is supposed to be associated with Hindu epic Mahabharata queen Dropti, a water lake which changes its color with the change in the season. The locals trust that if a childless couple consumes  water from here get blessed with a child .

Dropti Kund Drass , Kargil

Dropti Kund Drass , Kargil

Bhim Bhat is seven feet long black cylindrical rock, supposed to be a body part Bhim from the epic Mahabharata, locals trust that a childless lady can conceive if she consumes the dust from the rock. Even when a goat or a cow stops giving milk, the locals feed them with the grass from its proximity to get it to start lactating again.

Bheembhat Drass village Kargil

Bheembhat Drass village Kargil

Manman Pass is the point from where one can have beautiful views of Dras valley, Tololing, Rhino Knob, Tiger hill and snow laden peaks across the Line of Control between India and Pakistan.

Kaksar village on the banks of Shingo river, is the ancient village still having the old houses. This village is on the Line of Control and one can see the territory across the line of control. The villagers have lots of stories and memories of Kargil war and every year organise  Shaheed Capt. Saurabh Kalia Memorial Cricket Tournament in the memory of the Kargil war Heros . Shingo river originates from the Pakistan occupied Kashmir and enters India near this village, meets the Drass river then merges with Suru river and re-enters Pakistan occupied Kashmir again near Hundarman.

LOC Village Kaksar , Kargil

LOC Village Kaksar , Kargil

Hundarman village is recorded to be a about six hundred years old , from far it appears to be a cluster of separate  houses but in fact it is one interconnected house for a family, this village is on LOC and one can see a POK village known as Brolmo where every Friday one can see a large gathering at Shekh Ali’s mazar .

Apati village is an ancient village have a Ghandhara style Maitryea Buddha rock cut statue supposed to be of 8th century one of the three statutes in Kargil area left in the world .

Lord Buddha's statue at Apati village Kargil

Lord Buddha’s statue at Apati village Kargil

Aryan’s villages There are few villages (Dha Hanu, Garkone, Darchik) along the Sindhu ( Indus ) river near Batalik , people living here are Dards call themselves pure Aryans Brokpa, are tall and fair different in looks, traditions,cloths different language and their marriages are among their four villages only.

Lady in traditional gear Aryan’s village

Karche khar  a small ancient village have a 7 meter tall lord Buddha’s rock cut statue of 7th century it has fine details, it is one of the three rock cut statue in Kargil area left in the world .

Lord Buddha's rock cut statue at Karchekhar village Kargil

Lord Buddha’s rock cut statue at Karchekhar village Kargil

Suru Valley  is  also called the Gulmarg of Ladakh with dense plantation of Popular and Willow trees , it is full of Myricarea and wild roses , two side snow caped mountains and large number of Suru river tributaries , it is a famous picnic spot and pilgrims come here to pay their respect at the tomb of Syed Mir Hashim a Muslim scholar saint who imparted the Islamic teachings in this area .

Syed Mir Hashim Tomb Kargil

Syed Mir Hashim Tomb Kargil

Trespone is a picturesque village with a beautiful mix of Tibetan Islamic architecture famous Imambara over a hilltop  it is also a place where people still make a traditional Scythian Bow by using mulberry frame and Ibex horn which is highly tensile and strong known as Scythian Bow it is used for the annual archery competitions held in almost all the villages in Kargil region .

Parkachic Village is at the end of Suru valley famous for its glacier and beautiful views of twin peaks of Karakoram range Nun (7135 mtr) Kun (7077 mtr) .

Mulbek is on National highway to Leh here is the 9 meter tall Chamba statue of lord Budhha of 7-8th century one of the three rock cut statues left in Kargil of lord Buddha in the world .

Lord Buddha's statue at Mulbek village Kargil

Lord Buddha’s statue at Mulbek village Kargil

One can reach Kargil throughout the year by air from Leh , by road from Srinagar Zoji-la pass is closed from around December first week till April end and from Manali roads closes around October till end of May every year .

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Drass Valley , Ladakh

Drass is a small town on Srinagar – Leh National Highway 1D , 147 km from Srinagar and 60 km from Kargil at a height of 3230 meters from sea level  , it is also called the Himalayan gateway to Ladakh , it starts from Zoji-la and extends till Kargil , it is the second highest coldest inhabited place after Siberia on earth , the temperature goes down till minus 60 degree centigrade in winters , in the local Baltic language Dras means ” the Hell” There are heavy snow fall and storms from November to April May . During spring and summer, the valley transforms into lush green Meadows splashed with a variety of fragrant wild flowers

Drass River originates from the Machoi glacier near the  Zozila Pass. The river is joined  by many other rivers and streams flowing in from snowfields from the nearby mountains. The river Shigar flows in from the north drains and joins it in the Drass valley.

The Puga Valley is famous for its hot water springs ,visitors come to this valley for a bath in these springs as this is known to help people suffering from rheumatism and skin diseases , Drass is a convenient base for a 3-day long trek to Suru valley This trek passes through beautiful upland villages and wild flower  meadows on both sides of the  Umba  – La pass ( 4,500 meters )

 

Dras War Memorial at the base of Tololing Ridge

The town got famous after the 1999 Kargil War when it was being shelled by infiltrators till the Indian Army recaptured the three heights, namely Tololing, Tiger Hill and The Three Pimples overlooking National Highway 1D that passes through Drass.

 

View of Tiger Hill from Srinagar – Leh Highway 1D

 

Tiger Hill view from Srinagar-Leh Highway 1D

Its inhabitants are mainly of the Dard origin , an Aryan race that migrated from Central Asian steppes. They speak Shina ,belongs to the Indo-European linguistic family. Their ancestral sport, horse-polo that the Dard plays with particular zeal, resembles our modern polo . The  people inhabiting these regions faces  the harshness of the valley’s winter; negotiate the formidable pass to transport a trader’s merchandise. The citizens of Drass can be described as the guardians of Ladakh’s gateway.

Tourism is being promoted in this region by organizing the Polo matches among the villages and teams from outside the valley. Polo stadium is named  after an army officer Lt. Conolel Vishwanathan who sacrificed his life to push the Pakistani intruders out of this valley in 1999 .

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Tiger Hill, Tololing, Drass Valley,Kargil, Ladakh

Tiger Hill is over looking the  Drass Valley on Srinagar-Leh Highway 1D , it is also known as Point 5353 is the highest peak in this area (16500 feet) . It is the most dominating feature in Drass Valley , is on a confluence of number of spurs and over looks the long stretch of Srinagar-Leh highway.  In the local dialect “Baltic” Dras means “Hell”. It is at a height of 3230 meter or 10990 ft. The surrounding mountain ridges however range from 16000 feet to 21000 feet. It has become famous as the second coldest inhabited place in the world . Winter temperature is sometimes comes down to less than minus 60 degrees.  It is often called ‘The Gateway to Ladakh’ . It also became famous during mid 1999 due to invasion and capturing of surrounding tops by the Mujaheddin with the help of Pakistani army which led to a war from Indian army to recapture the territories back from the intruders.

 

My Salute to Brave Indian Soldiers , Plate at Drass Valley War Memorial

It was mid June of 2010  early morning  when we left Kargil , our driver wanted to cross the Zoji-La pass as early as possible to escape from melting snow and heavy traffic on Leh-Srinagar Highway 1D. We entered the Drass  Valley around 0530 hr. it was very cold and when I checked at the War Memorial which was closed at that time the temperature was -5 degree Centigrade , while waiting to open the gate my heart became so heavy I could not control my self and tears started rolling out of my eyes , imagining the Kargil War and my country brave soldiers who fought not only the enemy but the cold adverse weather , they preferred bullets to be carried with them instead of food. The soldier with his INSAS Rifle on duty at Memorial Gate was having a cylinder with a burner on top with a flame to keep himself warm told me that in this cold the fingers become num .

My first glimpses of Tiger Hill from Leh-Srinagar Highway

While travelling from Leh , we stayed a night at Kargil , early morning when we entered the Drass valley ,  moon was still shining over our left side of the mountains , our Ladakhi driver who was very quite since we started from Kargil broke the silence ” woh dekho Tiger Hill “ and my reaction was ” Wah” I was stunned with the beauty of it .

Beauty of Tiger Hill from Leh-Srinagar highway

Most of the Cab drivers want to cross the Zoji-La early morning because after the sun rise the warmth of sun rays causes the melting of Glaciers , and  water flows on the roads and it is difficult to drive in this patch, the War Memorial opens at 0800 hr. in the morning the war museum is worth visiting and paying respect to the Kargil War Heros.

 

Drass War Memorial , Snow cap Tololing Ridge in backdrop

If one is entering the Drass valley from Kargil , it is about 2 hr. drive,  make sure you leave from Kargil in time when you reach Drass the War Memorial is open . Take care of your woolens as Drass valley is the second highest coldest inhabited place on earth

Drass War Memorial at foot hill of Tololing Ridge, Kargil, Ladakh

“Sir, I’m on Tololing Top.” a simple message from Col. M.B. Ravindranath of  2nd Rajputana Riffles minutes after recapturing the Top ,  “Tololing being bang on the road, it choked our throats,” says a field commander. “That pressure is now off.” The victory earned by Ravindranath and his men a rare, direct “well-done” from then army chief Gen. V.P. Malik .

I could feel that chill in my body while standing at the War memorial which is just below the Tololing top.  It took just six days for Indian troops to give final touches to the  successes by evicting well-entrenched intruders on four nearby outposts with names echoed all over the World — Point 4590Rocky Knob, Hump and Point 5140. It could lead to the recapture of a similarly strategic height of Tiger Hill.

Tiger Hill Battle Plate at War Hero’s Memorial Drass, Ladakh

Tiger Hill has sharp conical features, which stands among the mountain tops a few kilometres north of Drass. During the Kargil war, the picture of Indian troops after having captured the Tiger Hill became the symbol of the Indian victory in the war. Indian Armed  forces involved  to recapture the Tiger Hill were from the 18 Grenadiers ,  2 Naga and the 8 Sikh Regiment  it was one of the costliest operations for the Indian forces in the entire conflict, with casualties of nearly forty personnel killed and nearly a hundred wounded in the entire operation.  In the 36 hour operation, the first meal our soldiers had were the dates left behind by the retreating Pakistanis.

Batra Top battle Plate, Drass Valley, Kargil, Ladakh

Captain Batra, the soldiers of 13 JAK Rifles charged the enemy position and captured Point 5140 set in motion a string of successes, such as Point 5100, Point 4700, Junction Peak and Three Pimples with fellow Captain Anuj Nayyer who was awarded Maha Vir Chakra  , Capt. Batra led his men to victory with the recapture of Point 4750 and Point 4875. He was killed when he tried to rescue an injured officer during an enemy counter attack  against Point 4875.   Captain Vikram Batra was awarded the Param Vir Chakra .

 

Tiger Hill, with Rhino Horn feature and a pimple called Batra Top

I saw very few local people in the morning , houses with door closed it was very cold , even  stray dogs or animals not visible anywhere in the valley. People I saw on the highway here either they were soldiers or truck drivers from Kashmir and Punjab.

Honor to a soldier in religious texts who lays his life in Battle field

 

Tololing Ridge and War Hero’s Memorial at Drass Valley

 

Plate , Battle of Tololing , Drass Valley, War Memorial, Kargil , Ladakh

Leading the brave men right from the front were the officers. It was the Captains and Majors considered to be the cutting edge of the Indian army who once again proved their worth . Sacrifice has the words ‘For our tomorrow, they gave their today’  this been true in the case of our gallant soldiers. And yet, the nation generally tends to forget the ordinary soldier in times of peace.

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What price we paid to in terms of  men, who laid their life just for IZZAT , Fellow comrade ,Call of Duty  keeping aside their own personal safety , it will always be in my mind that because of these above the extra ordinary men, I was able to travel to this place without any fear and took the pictures of this most beautiful place of our motherland .

On the base of Tiger Hill, Drass Valley, Ladakh

 

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