Himalayas

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The upland valley in the north east corner of Jammu and Kashmir state, is situated among the picturesque folds of the Pir Panjal and the Great Himalayan range. The area is drained by the river Chenab which enters the area through Paddar, home of the famous Paddar valley Sapphire mine. This area is collectively called the Kishtwar Himalayas. It is comprised of several high altitude peaks, passes and glaciers. Across the Kishtwar Himalayas is the region of Zanaskar (In district Kargil ofLadakh). The people of Paddar and Zanskar have a long history of trade and culural exchange and have been using the 2 or 3 high altitude passes to cross over the Great Himalayan range since ancient times. Salt was the most important export from the valley, at least until the discovery of the famous sapphires.

Of these passes the historic 5330 meter high Omasi-La pass is the most exotic.

This remote exotic valley became part of the Sikh Kingdom in the 19h century, in a series of hard fought battles by the Dogra Zorawar Singh, a General in the army of Raja Gulab Singh Dogra who as a trusted warrior of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Khalsa army was, in reward of his services, appointed Raja of Jammu by Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Jia Pota Temple in Akhnoor. This area remained under the control of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his heirs (Maharajas Kartar Singh, Sher Singh and the last 'seated' Maharaja of the Punjab, Duleep Singh until after the battle of Gujrat when the British seized the lands of Maharaja Duleep Singh and sold Jammu and Kashmir to Raja Gulab Singh (who behind the scenes had aided the British interests) who then took the title Maharaja.

Today the valley has become a world famous mountain trekker destination from the Leh Ladakh side. Though winter snows close the high mountain passes the river that flows through Zanskar (zanskar means copper star, a reference to the greenish copper mineral laden river) freezes over and becomes the only means of travel in and out of the valley towards Leh. This river merges into the Indus near Magnetic Hill India in Leh . This frozen ice highway, known as the Chador road since olden times has also become a winter trekker route in Ladakh valley.

Today the 'Dogra' fort built by Zorawar Singh, any connection with the Sikh Empire is rarely if ever mentioned, has become a popular tourist attraction.

The son of Guru Nanak , Baba Sri Chand who is respectedly called by the Buddhists of the valley ChandBaba, who split from his fathers teachings and started his own accetic sect, traveled through the local area of Kashmir valley. In addition to Selim Chisthi, Sri Chand is (in some literature and oral traditions) given credit for the birth of Akbar, it seems his father Humayun, desparate for a male heir, was a fervent believer in mysticism and had visited more than one mystical Baba seeking a son. Here people still speak of the many miracles he performed. He is even said to be seen in visions. In the next valley stories are told of his magically crossing a river, when chided by a ferryman who doubted his powers of jadu. The same stories are related with Sidartha Gotama being the majic man who could fly or walk on water. Belief in mysticism dies hard in the land of magic.