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K.D. Maini,Picturesque Pir Gali "Daily Excelsior" 4/10/2015
Pir Gali (Pass) is an attractive natural place located at 11400 feet above the see level exactly on the boundary of Poonch and Shopian. Pir Merg (meadow) surrounded with slow clad peaks, cool breeze and tribal life style starts from Pir Gali which is known as the crown of 240 km log Pir Panchal range and pride of this mountain series. The Merg (Meadow) starts from Pir Gali and goes up to Alia Aabad Sarai which is properly known as Badashi Sarai, constructed during Mughal period. The 84 km long Mughal road passes through the heart of Pir Panchal via Pir Gali which is 43 km away from Buffliaz Poonch and 41km from Shopian. With the opening of Mughal Road great hustle bustle starts at Pir Gali and simultaneously the surrounding natural resorts and beautiful Dhoks like valley of seven lakes, Panj Tarni meadow, Girjan Dhoke, Tata Kutti peak, Chatta Pani Glacier come into lime light which are ideal for scenic and adventure tourism.
Presently, light vehicles thousand in numbers cross Pir Gali every day from Poonch as well as Kashmir side. Visitors and tourists desire to stay in this paradise. However there is no accommodation facility available at Pir Pass. Therefore, the visitors enjoy the beauty of Pir Marg andview Pir Gali only by crossing the meadow and Pir Pass. The vehicles stop for some time at Pir Gali and the visitors come out from the vehicles for some time, move towards lush green turf of meadow, enjoy the beauty of snow clad peaks of mighty Pir Panchal. Then they move towards the western edge of Pir Gali from where the overlooking view of mountain series, sub series, forests, streams, and habitations of Poonch, Rajouri, Bhimbar and Kotli upto Jhelum River is exposed. After that the visitors enter the shrine complex of Sheikh Ahmed Karem located exactly at Pir Gali and offer prayer, there. They have a cup of tea with Sattu from Langar of the shrine and then their journey starts again.
Apart from routine visit of tourists and visitors, on every Sunday the nature lovers of Poonch, Rajouri and Kashmir valley throng Pir Gali and Pir Marg for picnic purpose.
G.T. Vegne in his travelogue Kashmir, Ladakh and Iskardu say that he had crossed Pir Panchal via Pir Gali in 1834. He describes that two rounded hills, many hunderd feet higher than the pass rise on the right and left of it. The decent towards Kashmir which is very gentle commences immediately and the snow capped mountain tops are divided by verdant plain on which blooms numerous variety of flowers.
There are many references about Pir Panchal under the name of ‘Panchal’ in Mahabharata and other pre-historic books. However as per M.A. Stein, the commentator of Rajtarangni of Kalhana, the first reference about Pir Panchal or Panchala is available in the historic book ‘Sanayamatrika’ of Ksemendra, the ancient historian of Kashmir who named Pir Gali (Pass) as Panchal DharaMatha. Stien identifies Panchal Dhara Matha with present Pir Gali (Pass) from where this mountain series got its name. Dhara is equivalent to Pass and Matha is a Hindu religious place. Srivar another writer of this period narrates in his book relating to the return of Kashmiri refugees by Surapura (Hirpur) route in the time of Sultan Hassan Shah (between 1472-84 AD) and tells the fatal chill he caught on the top of Panchal Deva. It is clear that the name Panchal Deva corresponds exactly to the modern Pir Panchal or Pir Gali.
The name Pir Panchal was first used by Dr. Bernier who accompanied Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and Prince Aurangzeb in 1664 AD in his travelogue. He mentioned it as Pere Pengale that is present Pir Panchal. He found an aged hermit on the pass who had resided there since the time of Emperor Jhangir. He was supposed to work miracles caused thunder, hails, storm, wind, snow and rain.
G. T. Vigne, who crossed Pir Gali in 1834 AD while going to Kashmir writes that at the summit of Pir Panchal there is a 20 feet high octagonal tower and on its opposite side there is a stone hut of a Muslman Faqir who usually has a small store of floor, bread and water which he distributes among the travelers. He was a good humored looking person. As per B.C. Hugal, the writer of Kashmir and Punjab who crossed Pir Gali around 1855 writes that there was a grave of a MohmdanFaqir named Pir Panchal from whom the mountain derived its name.
As per the legend popular at Pir Gali narrated by Abdhul Star Bhatt the Khidmatghar of the Shrine located there, there was a Hindu Faqir residing at Pir Pass and known for miracles. During his period Hazrat Shah Hamdan along with his followers reached Pir Gali while going to Kashmir. Hazarat shah Hamdan was impressed with the intellect of Hindu Faqir and offered him to embrace Islam. Faqir was told that in case he does so, he would become immortal. Therefore the hermit changed his faith with Muslim name as Seikh Ahmed Karim. Hazrat Shah Hamdan allowed him to live at Pir Gali and was also blessed by Hazrat Shah Hamdan that after death, a shrine shall be constructed in his memory. He was also provided an attendant of Shopian. Therefore after death, he was buried at Pir Gali and Shrine was constructed there. Abdul Satar Bhatt belongs to the family of the attendant who had served Sheikh Ahmed Karem. Presently apart from Abdhul Satar Bhatt the family of Abdul Quyem Naik of village Poshana also looks after the Shrine turn by turn. A kawah and Sattu langer is run by the committee of the Shrine at Pir Gali and dinner is also provided to those who stay in the Shrine Hut. There remains great hustle bustle during summer season. The revenue of Shrine goes up to Rs. 4 Lakhs per month after the opening of Mughal road up to October. At present an attractive building of Shrine is under construction.
Pir Gali and Pir Marg was a famous resort and halting station during Mughal period (1586 to 1751 AD) who constructed Badshahi Sarai (Alia Bad Saria) at the end of Pir Merg for the Convenience of royal Carvans. Emperor Akbar, Jhangir and Shah Jhan enjoyed the natural beauty of this resort while going to Kashmir or returning from the valley. After Mughals, Afgans captured Kashmir in 1751 and ruled up to 1819. Afghan administration of Kashmir closed Mughal road for defense purposes. Therefore in this period the Mughal road and the monuments constructed around Pir Gali started depleting. During Sikh and Dogra period no attention was paid towards this important route leading towards Kashmir Via Pir Gali.
On 26th November 2009, the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah inaugurated Mughal road and reached Pir Gali with a Carvan of 260 vehicles. In his historic speech at Pir Gali, he had said that after 400 years, again a ruler reached Pir Gali. He assured the public that Pir Gali shall be converted into a modern tourist resort and made comfortable for tourist.