Paddar – Land of Sapphire mines

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G K Khajuria

Jammu & Kashmir is bestowed with wonderful landscape ranging from low lying areas to high peaks and pinnacles. Paddar amongst those is most enchanting and enthralling on all aspects. A land richest in thick vibrant and lushgreen cover co-existing with rich and invaluable minor forest produce. A land of world famed sapphire mines existing nowhere across the globe.
It is only Paddar famed for Chilgoza (Pinus Girardina), Guuchhi, Kala Zeera, Thangi and multihued herbs, shrubs of multi-medicinal values in the world of medicinal plants. The small but the prettiest mesmerizing valley midst the sky touching mountains, peaks is what we all nomenclaturised beautiful Paddar valley. The small valley has the privilege of encouraging valiant Jawans with Dogra hero-General Zorawar singh to conquer the frontier of Zanskar through Paddar way back in 1841 AD after paying obeisance at Machail Mata. Paddar is also famed for the land of Gods and Goddesses. On the one hand Chandi Mata offers blessings at Machail, Lord Shiva from the high Peak (Parvat) showers blessing over the devotees who throng for holy Darshan. At Machail, there is a union of Shiv-Shakti – the supreme. It was of course, the blessing of ‘Shiv-Shakti’ which made General Zorawar Singh victorious on the Zanskar frontier in Ladakh. And the people of that region still remember the general and sing songs in the memory of the general and his wife who expired when she was accompanying her husband on the fore-front of Ladakh. Paddar valley is having a population around 20,000 souls. Paddar once was ruled by local rulers called ‘Ranas’ having 6-7 villages which mostly remained cut off from the rest of world due to lack of communication.
With the passage of time, the Govt. of India entrusted Border Road construction Organization (BRO) for the construction of about 120 Km length from Kishtwar- Sanasari. Now with the best of technicalities, a convenient road through over- headed rocks has been thrown open and is the commendable road. Right from the beginning, common salt which had been the biggest problem of this area and was used to be carried by the locals and mules, sheep from Thathri after covering 100 Km stretch.
Now, Paddar is conveniently approachable from Jammu and Srinagar through regular buses as well as through owned are hired vehicles. In so far as availability of goods is concerned, the people of Paddar enjoy facility as good as elsewhere in J&K. Earlier, the people of Sapphire mine areas used to sell shining blue Sapphire to the Buddhists of Zanskar for an equal quantity of salt. Later on, during Maharajas rule the government came to know about the presence of world class Sapphire (Neelam) in these hills. As such, the government of India took up the entire mining under control. These mines were sealed and police post established at the village Machail for active surveillance. In so far as cultural aspect is concerned, it is on record that Paddar was discovered for the settlement of the migrated people from Pangi area of Himachal Pradesh. Zanskar and Bhadarwah and that is how Paddar is having Buddhist and Muslin heterogeneous culture, customs and rituals having their resemblance of those which are prevalent in Pangi Valley.
The people of Paddar are by and Large steeped in ignorance. Superstition has a pre-dominant influence over their psyche. Due to the lack of impact of modern society, the people still believe in witchcraft while being treating people with age-old traditional witch craft. The age old collective farming till exist amongst the people and they are very much cooperative with each other while being engaged in farming in their respective areas. Amongst women folk, they keep themselves busy in singing songs make them amusing while busy in their routine life. The people are of jovial nature. They enthusiastically celebrate their rituals with much fan and fair and that is how they keep themselves busy while being at their workplace. They feel amusing and merry-making in their life style, they are accustomed to their Padri language apart from Bhadarwahi, Pahari, Kashmiri, Dogri. They under no circumstances are ready to part with their age- old, culture customs, rituals which form a part and parcel of their life style. The people of Paddar are most hospitable and helpful amongst their own community but even with the outsiders. As far as their religion is concerned, the people are religious. Administratively Paddar falls under Kishtwar district. The main route branches off from Kishtwar towards Paddar encompassing through Atholi. Paddar valley is enthralling and enchanting which allure the visitors and tourists alike so much so that even foreigners have heavy influx. That’s why Paddar makes everyone attractive for all those who visit this paradise like landscape.
(The author is former Senior Forests Officer, J&K).