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Jammu's Basohli was once the home to Sanskrit scholars, Pashmina silk weavers and Ayurveda practitioners

Snapshots from Basohli

Snapshots from Basohli  

Cocooned amidst the Shivalik ranges, this town with its past glory and modern engineering marvel waits to be discovered

We drive towards the arterial Jammu-Pathankot highway and begin our ascent through the winding mountain trails of the Shivalik ranges, flanked by trees and rugged cliffs. The tiny hamlets and pastoral terrace farms serve as a perfect foil to the hustle and bustle of Jammu city.

After nearly a three-hour-long outing, we are close to our destination that once was home to Sanskrit scholars, Pashmina silk weavers, Ayurveda practitioners, and artists.

Basohli is one of the primaeval towns of the Jammu region, an erstwhile prosperous kingdom founded by Raja Bhupat Pal in 1635 that lies on the banks of the Ravi in Kathua district.

At the fag end of this ancient valley is the Purthu beach, nicknamed Mini Goa, because the landscape here closely resembles that of a Goan beach. Upon entering the town, we drive through a surprisingly well-laid-out road towards this beach, flanked by tall trees burdened with huge nests with chirping birds, and chunks of intricately-latticed honeycombs hanging effortlessly.

Soon, we hit a dead-end, beyond which lay the placid waters of the Ravi, cuddled by the Shivaliks on one side, the snow-capped Dhauladhars on the other and the bountiful Pir Panjal range on the far side.

Alighting from the car in silence, dumbfounded by the landscape, we saunter in varied directions, clicking photographs.

The snow-clad silhouette of Dalhousie presents a majestic view, reminiscent of its colonial past from afar, while the newly-constructed Atal Setu, North India’s first cable-stayed bridge connecting either side of the river banks, looks like an Olympian shouldering the burden of the passing traffic. None of us realises how the next 60-odd minutes pass until the driver signals us to move on to visit the fort.

The Atal Setu

The Atal Setu  

Impregnable fort

Basohli fort that once reigned over Chamba and Nurpur is dilapidated now, yet stands loftily in some sections, with a water tank in front acting as a moat, and a temple that has kept vigil for aeons.

Catch a glimpse of this ancient town, from an open crumbling watchtower of the fort and one can feel the transition of time. Vibrantly painted houses dotted with dish antennas, jostle for space with as many temples amidst crumbling heritage, while the architectural marvel of Atal Setu looms large.

The construction of Ranjit Sagar Dam across the Ravi has led to a mammoth lake formation, holding an island amidst its emerald green waters and home to the Chamunda Devi temple. A ferry ride to pay obeisance at this temple is worth every penny. From Basohli fort, we soon drive to the fort shrine of Chanchlo Devi, a small-yet-well-maintained temple with a strange cylindrical structure.

Getting there
  • Basohli is 148km by road from Jammu, 60km from Pathankot and 180km from Amritsar. State buses ply from Pathankot and Jammu.
  • The nearest railway station is at Kathua. Direct trains run from Delhi and various Indian cities to Kathua.
  • There are frequent flights connecting New Delhi with Jammu and Amritsar.

It serves as an ideal vantage point to take pictures of Basohli and its breathtaking surroundings. And, I realise that Basohli is unlike any other Himalayan hamlet. Abundantly blessed with Nature’s bounty, unparalleled vistas, and lush flora and fauna, alongside ancient ruins, Basohli also sports the antiquity of artistic and feisty bygones with panache.

Snapshots from Basohli

Snapshots from Basohli  

After all, it was the epicentre of Pahari miniature paintings in the 17th Century, whose fame spread far and wide upto Kangra and Kullu, giving rise to their own schools of miniature painting.

Show of colours

Immortalised by its artists, a bold-and-stark colour palette and aesthetic patterns, Basohli painting is an important part of Indian Classical art. The fame of these paintings is such that some of them find place of pride in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and National Museum, New Delhi.

As I descend the fort and stroll in the town park, I could envision the palpable excitement in this town square during festive times. It serves as a venue for the century-old famous Basohli Ram Leela, when lakhs trickle in from neighbouring towns and villages during the Dussehra festival.

Snapshots from Basohli

Snapshots from Basohli  

On one hand, this 5,000-year-old ancient region of Jammu and Kashmir creates a fantastical wonderland image, while on the other, its serenity sounds too far-fetched.

However, Basohli, with its captivating views of snow-capped mountains, the crumbling ruins of its fort, pebbled shores of Purthu beach and the cyan waters of the river Ravi, is Nature’s magnum opus waiting to be explored.

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 7:09:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/the-car-stops-at-basohli/article28864108.ece

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