Martand and Achabal

Its funny how you want your kids to experience memories from your own childhood.

As kids we would often stop at the Mattan temple to feed the catfish en route to Pahalgam. Nowadays Mattan is off the beaten track for revellers rushing to and from Pahalgam.

During a recent trip, we managed to avoid the mother of all traffic jams by travelling to Pahalgam early in the day. On the return trip however everyone seemed to have caught on to the early travel idea so we turned off towards Mattan to avoid the rush. After feeding the fish I decided to take my kids to see Martand – the most famous archaeological site in Kashmir. Martand is just a few kilometres up the plateau from Mattan.

Here is what Sir Walter Lawrence has to say about Martand:

Occupying, undoubtedly, the finest position in Kashmir, this noble ruin is the most striking in size and situation of all the existing remains of Kashmir grandeur….

…..It overlooks the finest view in Kashmir, and perhaps in the known world. Beneath it lies the paradise of the east, with its sacred streams and glens, its orchards and green fields, surrounded on all sides by vast snowy mountains, whose lofty peaks seem to smile upon the beautiful valley below.

The vast extent of the scene makes it sublime ; for this magnificent view of Kashmir is no petty peer in a half-mile glen, but the full display of a valley 60 miles in breadth and upwards of 100 miles in length, the whole of which lies beneath the "ken of the wonderful Martand".

The Valley Of Kashmir – Walter Lawrence

Martand in the 19th century.

Here is an artist's impression of what Martand must have looked like in its heyday.

At the entrance of the perfectly manicured gardens surrounding the ruins was a sign that said 'Achabal 9 kms' so I thought 'why not ?' I am glad that we decided to take the detour to Achabal because the drive is simply superb.

The road passes up and down karewas (plateaus), through emerald fields and fruit-laden orchards to the foothills of the Pir Panjal. There is no sign of the soulless constructions that scar either side of the more touristy highways to Pahalgam or Gulmarg. Just uninterrupted vistas of south Kashmir as far as the eye can see.

Over to our commenter, Sir Walter Lawrence :
Perhaps the most beautiful of all the springs is Achabal, which gushes out of the Sosanwar hill, and was at once enlisted by the emperor Jehangir in the service of beauty and pleasure.

It is said that the Brang river which disappears at Dewalgam in the fissures of the limestone is the real source of the Achibal spring*.

Certainly Achabal has the most impressive fountains of all the Mughal gardens of Kashmir and the water itself is sweet and wholesome, though Kokernag is reputed to have the best tasting water in the valley. Sadly a trip to Kokernag could not materialise due to time constraints.

"Here is another spring called Kokarnag, whose water satisfies both hunger and thirst, and it is also a remedy for indigestion"
Ain Akbari – Abul Fazl

Inshallah our next trip will include Kokernag , Verinag and Daksum , all of which evoke pleasant childhood memories.

Watch this space.

*Scientific studies (Tracer testing) conducted in 2013 confirmed the source of Achabal to be underground currents from the Bringi stream at Dewalgam and Adigam.