Banihal -The abode of mystical giants -
Banihal -The abode of mystical giants
Posted 22 Feb 2017 05:51 PM

Banihal - "Banihal" means blizzard in Kashmiri language In some older texts it has also been referred to as 'Devgol' (The abode of mystical giants). It has an average elevation of 1,666 m (5,466 ft).It is a rural and a hilly area with Kamirwah being one of the most spectacular hills. It is located about 35 km (22 mi) away from Qazigund of Anantnag district on NH 1A highway. However, the distance between Banihal and Qazigund is only 18 km by train on the new railway line which is much shorter than the road.Population of Banihal is mostly Muslim (over 95%).The most common language spoken in the region is Kashmiri, Urdu and English being other familiar languages.

- Banihal Pass -
Banihal Pass At 2,832 m (9,291 ft) elevation,the Pir Panjal mountains connect Banihal with Qazigund on the other side of the mountains. The Pir Panjal mountain range separates the Kashmir valley in the Indian state Jammu and Kashmir from the outer Himalaya and plains to the south. After closure of the Murree-Muzaffarabad-Srinagar road on partition of India in 1947, Banihal pass was the only passage from Jammu to Srinagar after independence until 1956 when Jawahar Tunnel was bored through the Pir Panjal range. The pass is accessible only in summer and remains closed rest of the year due to heavy snow.

Regions and Valleys -

The Mountain regions, highland pockets and mini valleys that are part of the entire Banihal region consist of the following areas:

- Pugal:It is the mountainous region drained by Pugal stream a tributary of Bischlari that comes from the eastern mountains of Banihal.The area is rugged and quite mountainous.The people are hardy.Pugali is the dialect spoken by some 12000 inhabitants.Cattle rearing is main occupation of the people,Maize cultivated on sloppy land is the main staple crop.

- Peeristan or Paristan:The area beyond Pogal is called Paristan or Peeristan,which literally means the abode of Fairies or Saintly person of high miraculous powers.The area is rugged and mountainous and very scarcely populated.It also includes the Neel mountainous region.

- Mahu-Mangat: In Banihal there is another mountainous region towards west side, drained by the rivulet of the same name, another tributary of Bishlari. The area is rugged but full of long grassy slopes that attracted people rearing goat,sheep and cattle in the region, who inhabit it. Maize is the stable food cultivated on sloppy lands. Milk and Ghee is the main produce.

- Ramban: The old name of the place was Kamban meaning the place of Kam trees, but when Maharaja Gulab Singh passed through the place around 1819-20, he named it as Ramban,the place was not of much historical importance,except that it was situated on the traditional mountain route between Jammu and the valley, with most suitable point of crossing of the mighty Chenab River, and with a lowest height of pass on the Pantsal range. Today it is the headquarters of a newly constituted District of the same name, and the site of a 900 Megawatt hydroelectric Project of Baglihar Dam, and an important station on the NH 1A.

Historical References

According to the Rajatarangini (C-1000-1011 AD) – a chronicle that recorded the history of Kashmir and its Kingdoms and Kings, Banihal was known as ‘Vishalta’ in the 11th Century and was a very narrow mountain valley which was used as an escape route by revolting Princes, rebel Chieftains, and even conspirators from Kashmir. In the 11th Century, a small fort called ‘Bansalla’ also existed below the old Banihal Pass. The Bansalla Fort belonged to the 11th Century ruler of Vishalta the Khasa Lord Bhagika who was the son- in-law of the Lord of Buddha Tikka. Pandit Sahib Ram, who in his book “Tirthas” copies Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak's notes, metamorphosizes the Sanskrit name of village Banihal from Bhanusita or Bhanusata i.e rocks of the Sun or land of the Sun. Aurel Stein on his commentary on Kalhana's Rajatarangini describes the place differently. According to him, Visalata or Banihal must be identified with the valley drained by rivulet Bischlari.

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