Sometimes things happen by chance, and they turn out to be absolutely wonderful – like our day trip to Naranag. We had originally set out for Sonamarg, but encountered a major jam on the way. So our driver suggested we turn back and go to Naranag instead. We had passed the turn-off a while back and had been wondering whether we would have enough time to visit it on this trip. Turns out, we did!
The road to Naranag is steep, winding and narrow. Lined by small villages on one side and gorgeous valley views on the other, the drive itself is beautiful.
The first thing that we saw when we arrived at Naranag was local Kashmiris loading up camping supplies on ponies. Which is not surprising, as it serves as the base camp for trekkers going up to Mount Haramukh, Gangabal Lake or Satsar (the seven lakes). It is also the starting point for much longer treks to Gadsar Lake, Vishansar Lake and Krishansar Lake.
The next thing you see, as soon as you enter into the main village, is an old ruin. According to our driver, the locals believe that the Pandavs passed through and shelted here after they gave up their kingdom following the battle of Kurkshetra. A dilapidated board outside the area (which I saw on our return), said it’s an ancient temple complex. According to the Jammu and Kashmir tourism website:
“The Naranag temple is the main attraction for the tourists. It is one of the important archaeological sites of the country. The site consists of a cluster of temples facing each other at a distance of about 200 meters. Historians say that the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva by the 8th century ruler Lalithdatiya muktadiya. It is believed that the king Awantivarman paid a visit and donated a pedestal for bathing at Bhutsher. Its architecture reveals the art of the 8th century. The government has only constructed walls to protect it from encroachments and nothing else has been done. It is now left in ruins of which only faint traces have survived. This temple has the typical Aryan structure as was present in Aryan Kashmir.” – J&K Tourism
Whatever the real story may be, these ruins are…otherworldly. Out under clear blue skies, surrounded by lush green hills, almost in the middle of nowhere, you walk onto a tableau of old stones and fallen pillars. Built in a depression, old, crumbling stone steps lead down into a complex where only about 3 buildings still stand. The roof has fallen away in one, the other has just the pillars marking its boundary. Only one is still almost complete. It’s surreal, and such a meditation on time and mortality – but that’s probably a different post for another time!
After exploring the ruins, we decided to go for a walk along the main trekking route. It passes through gently sloping green hills, into the sides of which the gujjars have built thatched roof huts that appear to almost be burried into the hillside. They live here during the summers, grazing their cattle. The winters in this area are very harsh, so they move on to warmer areas. As we walked along, we came across a beautiful bungalow out there in the middle of nowhere. No, it wasn’t an eccentric millionarie who had decided to live out there in the middle of nowhere – it was the forest officer’s bungalow. What a location, what a life – simple, in the lap of nature, sourrounded by such majestic beauty!
A short distance from the bungalow, we found a path going down to the river bed. And since I never tire of fast flowing rivers with rocky outcrops, of course we had to pick our way down to take a closer look!
I lost track of how long we spent at the riverside, but it felt like it was our private property. There was no one around for miles, and even if someone decided to come down the path to the river, we would see them well before they made it down. It was just us, the clear blue skies above, surrounded by hills and mountains, with the roaring of the river matching my heartbeat.
I miss this connection with nature so much in this huge bustling city that I call home. Sometimes I really wish I could leave it all and go live in the lap of nature somewhere, anywhere! My main requirements would be good internet connection and regular postal service so I can order art supplies!
More in this series: The journey begins | Romancing the Dal | Srinagar in a day | Pahalgam: Of fairy tale gardens and the majestic Lidder | Nara Nag: Where nature and history meet | Doodhpathri: Where the river turns into milk | Sonamarg: Heartbreak and healing