The Charming Place With Breathtaking Waterfall
Kashmir, a global tourist destination has the potential to endow the JK economy with a great percentage. Unfortunately, its contribution to UT’s GDP is less than 10% every financial year. Doesn’t this question arise in your mind that Kashmir bestowed by nature with uncountable glossy picnic spots generates such little revenue?

You don’t need to be surprised at this! Despite the least spending in this sector every year government earns profit in crores from every tourist place in J&K. Though the administration is reluctant to spend on newly identified tourist places it has small packages for the prominent sites. Today I will tell you about a well-liked place that has been ignored and slashed the budgetary support for infrastructure works by successive governments for a long time.

Ahrabal (Harbal- place of Vishnu) a marvel of grace, known for its dreamy waterfall, is a popular tourist spot situated on the right bank of river Vishew. The wondrous sight of the deep gorge formed by the majestic waterway is nature’s bliss. Located in the Noorabad area, it is about 28 km west of Kulgam. Although it falls in Kulgam district, this place is very close to Shopian at most 14 km. The winding road passes through the pretty woodland of Sedov and meets the road that comes from Kulgam near Gurwatan. This narrow but scenic road gives much more comfort to tourists than the safe and wide Ahrabal-Kulgam route.

Kashmir is at par with Switzerland in ethereal charm, still, we praise later’ s loveliness overlooking the surreal beauty of our gorgeous paradise. The reason being natural beauty there has been given artificial touch to present an astonishing view to visitors. It looks more attractive than Kashmir otherwise artistic view and exquisiteness of the Kashmir mountains are invincible. The grand green terrain here is left untouched which benefits the loggers. The same thing happened to Ahrabal. You can see a thin forest cover in its surrounding. The administrative negligence in past encouraged the cruel woodsmen to axe the green gold to make it look gloomy.

If we bring to mind fifteen years, there was nothing here to entice tourists. The way down to the waterfall was a craggy slope difficult to proceed along. If one wanted to go down and see the waterfall there was a risk of falling into the river below. That’s why most people used to see it from above. By this, you will get an idea of how Ahrabal looked in beginning. But today, for the first time, I am happy to see construction and development works going on in full swing. This should not stop here, more work needs to be done. Ahrabal craves special attention from authority.

Aharbal Waterfals
Recently a festival was organised by the district administration Kulgam at Ahrabal in collaboration with other departments including the JK tourism. It is the second time in a year that such a lavish event took place, an earlier winter carnival was held in February to showcase its beauty and harness its adventure potential. With small gatherings, despite huge publicity, it does not attract tourists like it did in other places like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, etc. There are many reasons for that-

  • 1. Instead of spending great riches on organising festivities the government needs to invest money in providing basic facilities and services at such places to cater for tourist demand. The sightseers would like to go to a place that has all the necessary installations and not to a deserted place like Ahrabal.
  • 2. For a night stay Ahrabal can’t lodge more than a hundred visitors at a time. Currently, there are only a few buildings which include hotels, restaurants and huts. Of which two hotels are functional, one under construction and a VIP hut reserved for official guests.
  • 3. The area near the waterfall is prone to accidents and needs to be monitored properly by installing CCTV cameras. The youngsters deliberately cross the iron fence to click good shots near a waterfall. Those who want to end life do not find a better place than the waterfall to commit suicide. It should have been named the suicide fall of Kashmir instead of Niagra falls. Most parents don’t allow their children to visit Ahrabal. The sad thing is many suicide incidents are reported from this place every year.

Was Ahrabal a secluded place?

The clues we have received so far show that Ahrabal was already inhabited by early man. We just need to work more on it to make sure it is true. Let’s see what archaeology and history have to say about this...

Last year this place was in the news when a fossil site was discovered on way to Kongwatan meadow. It caught the attention of archaeologists and they found traces on stones in a large area. They believe its history will take us back to some geological era of earth.

I heard from my mentor, the famed Naji Munawar popularly known as The poet of Children, that there was a place at Ahrabal popularly known as Khazanbal, where there were ancient ruins in large numbers. In his museum there is a flat carved stone, maybe a temple remnant bought from the same place. Unfortunately, we don’t find any such traces there at present but we have the historic ’Pandav Dul’- the cooking pot of Pandavas. It is a unique memorable stone, already positioned upside down by natural forces, found near the Gurwatan bridge. Though Kashmir was never part of the ancient Pandva kingdom, everything is related to Pandavas here.

Did anyone come to see Ahrabal in past?

Yes, it is true that from the ruling class to common people everybody used to come here to make merry. We have many references to kings and European travellers who visited the famous Kounsarnag lake. King Zain-ul-Aabdeen, historian Pir Hasan Shah, and many Sufi saints visited this place from time to time.

Zafar Khan Ahsan, the Mughal governor of Kashmir during the Shahjahan’s time acclaimed the beauty of Kashmir in his poetry. About Ahrabal waterfall he said...

Ze Jannat Chand Gooi Aye Sukhanwar

Nadarad Aabshar-e- Ahrabal
G. T. Vigne, a European traveller visited Kounsarnag in early December in the year 1835. In his book ’Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh, Iskardo’ he mentioned some striking grasslands in the surroundings of Kounsarnag like Astanmarg, Chiranbal, Zajimarg, etc.

The Britishers in Kashmir founded the Cashmir Climbing Club now called Jammu & Kashmir Mountaineering & Adventure Club, headed by C. E. Tyndale Biscoe, in the year 1934. In his book ’Kashmir In Sunlight & Shade’, Tyndale Biscoe has kept a record of expeditions in Kashmir. In one such expedition, he led the way a group of fourteen which include the notable Mr. Jacob and R. D. Thompson to visit Kounsarnag lake. The adventurers also climbed nearby Bramshakri peak (4500 m), the highest in this area. They had bought a rubber canoe from Srinagar to go boating on the lake.

S. C. Koul who was a part of this trip cited in his book ‘The beautiful valleys of Kashmir’ that once an American professor tried to measure the depth of a lake and while fixing the machine in the centre the screws somehow became loose and a part of his machine sank thus experiment was not successful.

Treks and Trails

My club Glacial Trails carried out about fifty expeditions in a decade-long exploration of the Noorabad area of Kulgam District.

The club almost toured three dozen alpine meadows. Along with Bramsar, Chirsar and Indersar lakes, the club visited Kounsarnag lake two times, from two different routes, first in 2008 and then again in the year 2020.

The famous Kongwatan meadow and Mahinag serve as the two important campsites on way to Kounsarnag Lake. Up to Mahinag, one can enjoy striding on a rough stony path with an easy trail. It becomes a little bit difficult when a gradual ascend of 300 metres from Mahinag led the track to the banks of famous Kounsarnag Lake (3500 m). In antique books, the name of this lake is Kramasara/ Vishnu Pad.

Kongwatan Meadows
In the same row, there are up to ten lakes that can be accessed from Kounsarnag Lake. However, casual trekkers should not go through this path. The difficult terrain is filled in with snow for most of the year. Only alpinists can take this route to accomplish tasks in a couple of days.

While moving towards the left at Kongwatan along the bank of Zajinad or Chiranbal river three prized meadows serve as a base camp for these lakes. From Chiranbal, Hakwas and Zajimarg all these lakes surrounded by delightful meadows can be visited at very ease. Before planning to go trekking you should have a look at a detailed trekking map below.

A narrow trail starts from Gurwatan and passes through the mountain slope covered by pine forests, along the right bank of the river Vishew it takes the trekkers to the wide charming meadow of Sangam. After crossing the river at the meadow end there are two ways- the right turn leads to the unexplored Sangam Lake Trek where one can see at least two alpine lakes, and taking the left turn brings us to the beautiful meadows of Kongwatan and Sekijan. These two lovely meadows are situated on the opposite banks of the Kounsarnag stream (nallah), parallel to one another.

Kousernag Lake


Chirsar Lake
Bramsar Lake
In the same row, there are up to ten lakes that can be accessed from Kounsarnag Lake. However, casual trekkers should not go through this path. The difficult terrain is filled in with snow for most of the year. Only alpinists can take this route to accomplish tasks in a couple of days.

While moving towards the left at Kongwatan along the bank of Zajinad or Chiranbal river three prized meadows serve as a base camp for these lakes. From Chiranbal, Hakwas and Zajimarg all these lakes surrounded by delightful meadows can be visited at very ease. Before planning to go trekking you should have a look at a detailed trekking map below.
Trek Route Map

*Sangam Lake Trek: Ahrabal> Gurwatan> Sangam> Lakes

*Kounsarnag Lake Trek: Ahrabal> Gurwatan> Sangam> Kongwatan/ Sekijan> Mahinag> Kounsarnag

*Indersar- Donthsar Lake Trek: Ahrabal> Gurwatan> Sangam> Kongwatan> Chiranbal> Sondirbug> Manzpal> Lahanpather> Astanmarg> Indersar> Donthsar (3 small lakes).

*Bramsar- Chirsar Lake Trek: Ahrabal> Gurwatan> Sangam> Kongwatan> Chiranbal> Kadlibal> Hakwas> Bramsar> Chirsar
(There are two unexplored lakes one each above Bramsar and Chirsar. Therefore in total, there are four lakes on this trek)

*Sarkant- Parinag Lake Trek: Abrabal> Gurwatan> Sangam> Kongwatan> Chiranbal> Kadlibal> Hakwas> Zajimarg> Thanda Katha> Sarkant Lake> Parinag Lake.

There are so many alternate trek routes in Noorabad to reach these lakes. You can approach them too by five accessible passages like Manzgam, Avil, Khur, Yadikhah, and Nandimarg routes.

The Future Plan

For the beautification of Ahrabal government needs to think about these points...
  • 1. There is only one garden i.e Zeal Shah Park near the waterfall and a rough patch in front of hotels near Gurwatan where tourists can hang out. However, many places between Ahrabal and Gurwatan can be used to build more gardens as well as amusement parks for children.
  • 2. Along the left bank of the river Vishew on the Shopian side there is a scope of building viewpoints. The small patch of land above the waterfall can be used to accommodate small gatherings connected by a pedestrian bridge.
  • 3. The bewitching landscape of Kashmir almost looks the same everywhere. But the unique thing about Ahrabal is its glorious waterfall. People come to Ahrabal just to see the waterfall. Year after year the height of the waterfall is constantly decreasing. Hence its height needs to be increased.
  • 4. A portion near the waterfall should be left untouched to preserve its sublimity. However, it becomes necessary to decorate the corridor that leads to the waterfall. The rock art should be applied to two big unique rocks near stairs. It would be a much loving activity to catch glimpses of the waterfall from below. Therefore there should be a way down near springs to reach the bank of the river.
  • 5. The meandering Vishew below the waterfall should be developed as a river rafting point.
  • 6. The open space near the hutment area should be developed as a popular campsite provided with necessary camping facilities.
Here is a list of treks and trails that start from Ahrabal and pass through the dense forests and beautiful meadows to end at the least known alpine lakes of Kulgam...
  • 1. Sangam Lake Trek
  • 2. Kounsarnag Lake Trek
  • 3. Indersar- Donthsar Lake Trek
  • 4. Bramsar- Chirsar Lake Trek
  • 5. Sarkant- Parinag Lake Trek
Syed Aamir Sharief Qadri
PG History, M. Phil, SET, Freelance writer
Anthology: The Fear in Me, Thought for Food, Dear Diary, Image Perception, Maa Se Main, Fake Love, Diversity, etc.