Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Myriad of Changing Colours, Leepa Valley [Azad Kashmir]


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.

From Reshian, the gateway to enter the valley, there are three different routes which take us to Leepa. The zigzagging Defence Road meets the valley at Hanjna, via Barthwar Gali and Bali Camp. Locals mention 72 u-turns on the way, putting nerves of the toughest one to test. Forest and military vehicles are a common sight in the area.

To visit the valley proper one has to cover a distance of 15 KM over a stony path (more aptly a footpath) via Panjal Gali which is approximately 10,000 ft high. This route is a shortcut to Leepa’s most important commercial centre the Kappa Gali. The third route passes through Dao Khan, Sher Gali and enters the vale at Muji, where Indian military personnel stand eyeball to eyeball. All three passages are blocked in winter due to heavy snow and inhabitants must store eatables and other items of daily usage in large quantities to consume throughout winter. The harsh winter even tells upon the daily chores, the chores which span around life and even death. It was news for me, a harsh fact of the life in these beautiful mountains to learn from a village elder who said “We are unable to bury the dead. If anyone in the family dies in winter, we must wait for about four months to bury our dead, because it’s possible only when all the snow has melted”.

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.

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.


  1. Thanks for bring a good report on this beautiful valley in AK. Wish more similarreports should comeo on your blog.

  2. Thankz anonymous for appreciating our efforts. Definitely some more posts will be coming up. Plz do visit this blog and you will see more interesting travelogues.



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