Saturday, June 9, 2001, Chandigarh, India


J A M M U   &   K A S H M I R

J & K to focus on pilgrim tourism
Tribune News Service

Bejbehara, June 8
The Jammu and Kashmir government has embarked on to boost pilgrim tourism in the state, which suffered much in the past 12 years of militancy in Kashmir. It was the torchlight procession of villagers at the shrine of Zainuddin Wali at Aishmuqam in south Kashmir in early April this year, another two-day annual festival marked by traditional Dhambaali, Kashmiri dance and music, began at the shrine of the Kashmiri saint, Baba Naseebuddin Ghazi at Bejbehara in south Kashmir yesterday.

“We want to see the response of the public and.... to see how to develop other spots”, said Ms Sakin Ittoo, Minister of State for Tourism while talking to a group of reporters here yesterday. She said that there was good response to the awareness campaign over the torchlight procession at the shrine of Zainuddin Wali at Aishmuqam held on April 9 this year. A number of enquiries reflecting the interest of the people outside Kashmir had been made, said the Director of Tourism Department, Sheikh Nissar Ahmad. There is a heavy rush of locals on these occasions, and there is every possibility of pilgrims attending these festivals from other parts of the state and outside, he added.

The two-day festival began at the mausoleum of Hazrat Baba Naseebuddin Ghazi, in this highway township, 47 km south of Srinagar in Anantnag district at the banks of river Jehlum yesterday. The annual festival coinciding with the death anniversary of the 16th century saint, is marked by the Kashmiri dance and music, “Dhambaali”. The performers come from different parts of the valley to participate in the age-old folk show that enthralls the viewers. Clad in traditional attire, they do rhythmic acrobatics at the beats of drum to the applause of the onlookers.

On the second day of the festival today parties of Dhambaals from areas like Chrar-e-Sharief, Kokernag, Magam and Tangmarg descended on the shrine to perform the Dhambaali. A group of Dhambaals from Zolo, Chadoora in Budgam district of central Kashmir were the first to enter the shrine premises yesterday. Ghulam Qadir Shah, leader of the group from Zoloo, said that on the first day only the group from Zoloo is allowed to perform the Dhambaali. A large number of people including men, women and children witnessed the performance from the roof-tops and windows of multi-storeyed buildings around the shrine.

Kashmiris offering prayers at sacred shrine of Hazratbal on Friday following Eid-e-milad for the success of proposed  Indo-Pak summit meeting so as the voilence is ended and Kashmir issue is resolved peasefully.
Kashmiris offering prayers at the sacred shrine of Hazratbal on Friday following Id-ul-milad for the success of the proposed  Indo-Pak summit. 
— PTI photo



The Dhambaali is Kashmiri folk dance origin of which in the valley is difficult to trace. Some believe it is an indigenous shade of the famous darvesh dance of Rumi cult in Central Asia performed by ascetics as a prelude to communion with God. The tradition of Dhambaali in Kashmir is, however, linked to the times of Baba Naseebuddin who, it is believed, organised such shows to collect people for carrying out social services like building of mosques and public facilities, in which he spent his life-time. Shah whose ancestors were also associated with Dhambaali dance, says that Baba Nasseebuddin Ghazi also used Dhambaali for collection of people for mass prayers at times of natural calamities. The Dhambaali would be followed by prayers to Almighty who would deliver the people from the calamity, he added.

Baba Naseebuddin Ghazi was born in Sialkote (now in Pakistan) in 1569 AD. He came to Kashmir along with his parents in search of spiritual enlightenment and became a disciple of Baba Dawood Khaki who himself was a great scholar and a follower of the exalted spiritual personality of Kashmir, Hazrat Sheikh Hamza, popularly known as Makhdoom Sahib. Naseebuddin would spend his time in devotion to Allah and in service to the mankind, especially the deprived. He visited places across Kashmir to preach Islam and built mosques, in villages and towns. He is credited with building 1200 mosques at different places in the valley.

Meanwhile, 19000 tourists visited Kashmir valley during the first five months of this year as compared to over 30,000 tourists who visited the valley during the same period last year.

Attributing the decline, to the January 26 earthquake in Gujarat, wherefrom majority of the tourists visit Kashmir in April-June month, the Jammu and Kashmir Minister of State for Tourism, Ms Sakina Itto said that measures were being taken to woo more tourists to the valley. Talking to reporters at Bejbehara yesterday on the occasion of the annual festival of Baba Naseebuddin, she said that efforts were being taken to attract pilgrims visiting Vaishnodevi shrine near Jammu to visit picnic spots of Kashmir. These spots were being thronged by the domestic and foreign tourists prior to the militancy with the highest number of over seven lakh of them during 1988. Tourism regarded as one of the major industry in Kashmir, earned Rs 500 crore annually, prior to militancy.

The recent invitation of Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee to the Pakistan military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, has also attracted some tourists to visit the valley, reports here said. Many of such tourists have visited the Dal Lake in Srinagar and picnic spots of Pahalgam and Gulmarg. Contrary to this the untoward incidents like that of the intrusion in Kargil sector of Ladakh region in 1999, have led to a blow to the smooth flow of tourists to the valley.

Giving details of the measures taken by the Tourism Department to attract more tourists to the valley, the Minister, Ms Sakina Ittoo said that a meeting of the travel agents was held here recently. The meeting impressed upon the travel agents to encourage the pilgrims touring Vaishnodevi shrine to visit Kashmir, which the tourists have been avoiding over the years. There was a need to inculcate the sense of “safety and security” among the tourists to visit Kashmir, she said. She cited several instances of the tourists in famous tourist spots, who had turned to Kashmir after having visited the Vaishnodevi shrine near Katra in Jammu region.

Giving details of the number of tourists, Sheikh Nissar Ahmad, Director, Tourism Department, Jammu and Kashmir Government said that majority of the 19,000 visited the valley during April and May. The last month registered a record number of 11,842 tourists including 11,291 domestic and 551 foreigners followed by a total of 3129 during April, which included 2417 domestic and 712 foreigners. As compared to this a total of 30,808 tourists visited the valley during the first five months of last year. These included 27,940 domestic and 2868 foreigners.

According to the official figures the number of foreign tourists has not been affected much during the militancy years. These tourists mainly visited the frontier cold desert region of Ladakh. The flow of foreign tourists to distant spots of the Kashmir valley faced a severe blow with the abduction of the five foreign tourists in July 1995 from Pahalgam, whose fate is still not known.

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