The winter chilll was quite evident. The tea at the lake side kiosk was refreshing after almost two hours of early morning journey. The slurps provided much needed warmth. During the not-too-smooth ride, we had watched the intoxicating sickle shaped moon giving way to a huge crimson shaded ball, burning and spreading its light. Overlooking the Mansar Lake, a tourist haven 54 kms east of Jammu, many hills that rarely qualify to be called mountains, were too appealing. All we could do was trekking the jagged peaks so as not to let them down.
Leaving the lake to soak in sun’s balmy rays, we turned left in a robust attempt to explore the unknown lands and hoping to return there by afternoon. Little had we trekked that a local gal at Jasor, asked us not to proceed, saying it will be worth nothing. That failed to detriment our energy levels though. We walked on, asking for routes from the local aunts (the men were away at work), who were welcoming enough to offer us tea (which we had to politely decline) and who cheerfully posed for a quick group shot, along with their children. Some even left their hardy chores for a warm tete-a-tete. An aunt, when was asked about the nearest possible route to a far away ridge, refused to even agree that we could reach.
Soon, habitations were left behind. Just the hint of trails guided us. Every hillock fetched us with a spectacular view of the lake, far away. The farther we traversed, the better overview greeted us. And then it disappeared behind layers of hills. With the bright sun overhead, walking past uninhibited not-too-steep heights with sparse pine trees and rarely with a lonely house perched upon, our robust energy shivered when the ridges seemed to be conspiring to multiply, one after another. That aunt’s limit had been crossed. Telling her wasn’t practically possible that very day as we had decided not to trek back but keep plodding on, till we reach a road, the only way we could escape from the beautiful maze of hills. The most adventurous part was climbing a huge rock of very steep gradient, with little steps dug out.
The surrounding hills were spectacular. We hardly had two five-minutes break that the sight of a village on a flattening hill boosted our morale. Evidently, there were many ridges between but happy with the possibility of a road connectivity kept our spirits high. Compensated by the powerfully stunning place, the hard trek kept us engrossed till the sudden and scary barks of a canine frightened us like anything. Loyal to its masters, it was guarding a cow barn, in the outskirts of that very village. In no time, a woman in her late twenties turned out. On being asked about the road, her expression staggered our hopes. We were still three hours away from the nearest road. Left with no option but to keep walking, we decided not to let go off the thrill.
Walking past the cleanly swept mudded floor houses of Dhergarh village, we were taken aback on seeing a maruti parked right in front of Government Primary School. There were traces of a road, a constricted one. What we saw next mesmerized us wholly solely. An ancient entrance monument, that was least expected to be there. A look around and there across a deep gorge, another similar structure, in a more dilapidated condition took us by surprise. We were all praises for the architectural style. The arches, the dome, the holders of non-existent door, the slabs. We gasped for breath as our eyes swept the entire thing. It was huge and it was beautiful.
A double storeyed structure, constructed in Persian architectural style- we had just collectively agreed it that our eyes fell on the Quranic verses engraved on the slabs. The frozen corners of brain were knocked at, yet couldn’t get any clue of a Muslim ruler in Jammu region. Nor did it exist in any historical record. We had never heard about it. Climbing the first storey almost rendered us to tears. It was being used a store house for ‘grass’ to be fed to cattle. Where’s the government slumbering? We couldn’t help.
Time was running out. We paced our steps, thinking about that beautiful structure, and hoping to bring it to limelight. Descending downhill as per the traces of a path on a majesty rock was a lot easier and thrilling. The opposite rock and that structure were no less than the mirror images of each other. As we reached the feet of that hill, there was no path but the river route doubling as the pathway as well. That maruti wheezed past us. A lot of crossings ; optimism was at its peak but the fear of flash floods being too common, aggravated by the dark gray sky and huge rocks was nibbling the toes.
Walking with no stop for two complete hours, moving past Dungan, Nedi, Chakma and Sarain village, our fear evaporated in thin air when we saw locals traversing too, few cars and bikes flaunting their royal being while we thumped on our feet. The bone tickling part was when we asked a tractor driver about how far the road was and his “one kilometer” turned out to be at least “ten kilometers”, taking a toll on our feet.
Finally the view of a bridge hinted of a nearby road. We had reached Nad, a hamlet in Vijaypur Tehsil of Samba district. Thankfully, we had ample time with us, to reach Jammu by evening. Hyphenating the journey with tea at the road side stall, we left with the hope of bringing that monument on tourist map. At the end of the day, well deserved sleep after almost seven hours of trekking and four hours of journey by bus was evident yet the sight of that ram shacked structure took away all the sleep. And as such we write with a purpose, hoping to know about that unknown monument, that if developed can turn out to be a major tourist attraction. Anyone listening?
About the author: Tazeem Akhter is currently working as Assistant Professor in Economics, BGSB University