The joyous chirping of birds, heavily laden fruit orchards, alpine meadows, grazing herds, shepherds with their lilting music, a vivid mosaic of colors, sights and sounds – right before you, presenting picture of unforgettable tapestry, this is what makes Leepa one of the most charming places in Kashmir.
LEEPA, A MYRIAD OF CHANGING COLOURS
by Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi
As autumn sets in the vale of Leepa, leaves fall off the trees, snowfall begins, the time is ripe to visit the vale for in winters the vale offers one of the most fascinating scenery in Azad Kashmir. Leepa, a picturesque valley in Azad Kashmir lies at a distance of 95 KM east of the capital Muzaffarabad.
A narrow metalled road along the right bank of River Jhelum leads us to Reshian as we pass along the way, through Garhi Dupatta, Dhanni Baqalan, Hattian Bala, Neili and Saien Bagh. The changing hues of a serpentine and rushing Jhelum, with suspension bridges built over, present an enchanting panorama all along the route. Lofty mountains looking over a swaying gold colored rice crop are worth to make one stop and gaze at the wonderful scene.
Starting from Channian and Lubgran, Leepa consists of 25 villages dotted on steep slopes of lush green hills. Among its important and mentionable villages are Yadoor, Munda Kali, Kali Mandal, Margala, Noor-Kot, Gai-kot, Khairwarha, Kaiser-kot, Hanjna, Leepa, Saidpura, Talwari, Khairati Bagh, Kappa Gali, Kuntarian, Ghat Kari, Chakmuqam, Bajil Dhar and Batlian etc.
Ghaipura with a population of 2000 is the largest. Situated just in the range of Indian military posts of Vanjal and Siri, it’s the most vulnerable and gets worst hit in case the Indians open fire, which they mostly do and that too on civilian population.
“We cultivate our land at night in complete darkness, whenever there is fire from the Indian side as they mostly aim to kill us”, A Kashmiri youth tells. Another, Raja Arshad quips, “Not a single day passes when one does not hear the terrible sound of fire, sometime the Indians fire without any provocation. The unarmed civilian innocents are practically the cannon fodder of Indian guns, in the hands of an unreliable, unscrupulous enemy who does need no provocation to fire upon us”.
But life goes on… continues Raja Arshad. The people in Leepa are used to this way of life. They celebrate the Urs of Saien Mutha Baji, which is the premium social activity in the area. The Urs is held every year from 11th to 16th of November.
The people in Leepa are highly religious and speak Kashmiri as well as Hindkoh. Urdu is nevertheless widely spoken and understood. The valley has a population of 35000 inhabitants. Unemployment and poverty are rampant. Power shortages are a daily routine (there is only one power generation unit at Channian) and malnutrition is common as in rest of the country.
Leepa Valley offers an unending variety of scenic spectacular beauty, an everlasting memory of sights and sounds & the unforgettable hospitality of its people.
Visitors can find two pleasantly situated and comfortable rest houses, one at Dao Khan and the other at Channian and a reasonable well maintained Awami Chinar Hotel. Accommodation, however, is insufficient to cater the needs of a growing number of tourists,
Water in the valley is crystal clear and swiftly flowing streams like Nullah Qazi Nag are a major source. The scene around the Nullah is stunningly beautiful. The Nullah emerges from Indian occupied Kashmir and runs trough the whole of Leepa Valey. On other side of the LoC, lies Kupwara district of Occupied Kashmir. Singing waterfalls, lush green pastures, thick woods, the snow clad majestic Shamsa Bari, the highest mountain of the valley are an inexhaustible source of delight for any visitor who comes to this paradise like valley.
Rice and maize fields at the time of harvest add further color and beauty to the vale of Leepa. Multistoried typical Kashmiri timber houses with thick roofs made of shining metal sheets, in a surrounding of apple, walnut, fig, pears ands plum trees are jewels in the crown of this splendid vale. And Leepa is famous for its delicious white honey as well. Rain in Leepa brings an immense wealth of vegetation, thick forests — so thick that hardly a beam of light can pass through it.
Bottom line: Leepa Valley offers an unending variety of scenic spectacular beauty and one gains an everlasting memory of sights and sounds as well as the unforgettable hospitality of its people.
Syed Zafar Abbas Naqvi is a freelance writer. He frequently writes on travel & tourism in the Pakistani media.
Title image, image on botton by Behzad
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