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Dr.Bharat Bhushan,Picturesque Bani Valley "Daily Excelsior" 26/6/2016
Come Summer & the beautiful Bani valley of District Kathua in J&K experiences flow of tourists,adventure lovers & others who like to beat the heat & enjoy the natural environs of Bani-Sarthal area. Situated at a distance of 165kms from Lakhanpur, Bani is a four & a half hours journey via Mahanpur,Basohli & Sheetal Nagar.The glaciated valley of Bani can be accessed from Himachal Pradesh also via Banikhet-Kheri Dam, (Hut Maska). It is one & a half hours journey from Dalhousie,Himachal Pradesh.
Once at Bani, the tourists are moved by the beauty of the spot. The lush green meadows of Dhagger, Roulka, Doulka, Sarthal, Chattergala, Banjal & Duggan, not far-off from Bani, are captivating & invigorating also. The voracious visitors visit these places & find themselves in the midst of Mother Nature, in pollution free surroundings.
The people are simple, hospitable, Bani has history of communal harmony which is its strength. People of varying faiths live here peacefully.
The murmuring streams & gushing ice-cold waters of Kharkal Nallah, Sarthal, Lowang Nallah at Lowang-Kharwah & river Sewa in Bani add to the beauty & Charm of the area. The soothing sounds which emanate from Seven Falls at Kharkal near Lowang (enroute Sarthal) & the panoramic view of the valley below catches fancy of the visitors who love to stop for a while, appreciate beauty of Kharwah, Lowang, Nakhnoli Mata Shrine, Sarthal & Chattergala. Chattergala is the link point between Sarthal & Bhaderwah.The famous Kailash Kund Yatra from Bani & Duggan passes from Chatter-gala.
Bani has rich culture & heritage.The people celebrate festivals collectively. Every year a three day extravanza is organized in Bani from 24th June to 26th June . Called as Bani Mela, It attracts large number of visitors. Wrestling Competition (Shinj) is the main attraction of 3-day Bani festival in which wrestlers from Punjab, Haryana, J&K & Delhi participate with enthusiasm. One may be young, the other may be old -all make beeline to Bani Mela Ground to see Shinj Mela & enjoy the joy rides there. The Children love to shop & eat at make- shift shops in the Mela. Several other festivals and fairs are also celebrated in Bani- Sarthal area-“The Land of Folk Lore and Festivals.”
Getting There- Regular Buses ply from Jammu & Kathua to Bani & Back. Early morning journeys are preferred.One can hire taxi also.The commissioning of Atal Setu Cable Bridge at Basohli as further reduced the distance to Bani from Kathua, Jammu and Dulhousie.
Where to Eat – Enroute Lakhanpur-Sarthal Development Authority has Way-side Amenity at Thein village. It has a Tourist Reception Centre “Holiday Home” at Satwain, equipped with ten Air conditioned rooms. The tourists can stay here for night & enjoy the view of majestic Ranjit Sagar Lake.There are also private eat- points enroute from Lakhanpur to Bani. People make it a point to stop at Mahnu Village and relish Burfi & Khoya.
Where to Stay- PWD Rest House Bani, Forest Rest House Bani, National Hydro-electric Power Corporation Rest House at Sarthali near Bani are available.Private Hotels are also available. A Yatrika Niwas of Lakhanpur Sarthal Development Authority in Shakti Mata Shrine,Bani has two halls where tourists,/pilgrims can stay.
Shrines in & around Bani- Shakti Mata Shrine in Bani,Jodian Wali Mata near Banjal,Dolay Wali Mata near Dhagger ,Dhajji Mata Shrine on Bani-Sarthal road near Chandel are held in high esteem & pilgrims throng these shrines throughout the year. However massive rush is seen during Navratras in these Shrines.
Other Places of touristic interest – Khajjar, Duggan, Challa, Siarra, Gatti & Bhandar are other places near Bani which are worth experiencing.
(The writer, a KAS Officer is presently Chief Executive Officer,Lakhanpur Sarthal Development Authority)