If picturesque Kashmir valley of India is called “Paradise on earth” then surely Pahalgam is the capital of that paradise. Located at a distance of almost 97 km from Srinagar (the provincial capital of Jammu and Kashmir) and at an altitude of 7200 feet, Pahalgam is undoubtedly the most beautiful place in the Kashmir, India.
How did Pahalgam get its name?
If we try to find the origin of the name Pahalgam then we have to look back on the ancient history from Bronze Age Civilization. In local dialect, Pahalgam means “First (Pahala means first) Village (Gam means village or locality)”. But the most interesting question is “to whom it was the first village?” Those who arrived in the Kashmir Valley from south or west, Pahalgam could not be the first locality or village on their way. Only those people who arrived at the Kashmir Valley from the northern or western direction after crossing the mighty Himalaya Mountain, Pahalgam could be the first locality for them.
Next important question is who came to Kashmir Valley by crossing the Himalayas from the northern or eastern side?
Answer is not straight-forward. Let us make an attempt to find the answer. We know that early civilization grew near rivers. This is true for the four famous Bronze Age Civilizations:
- The Mesopotamian Civilization near the rivers Tigris and Euphrates (in Iraq)
- The Egyptian Civilization near the river Nile (in Egypt)
- The Harappa Civilization near the rivers Indus and Ravi (in India and Pakistan)
- The Chinese Civilization near the river Huang He (in China)
There is enough proof that the people of Harappa used to trade with Mesopotamia (Iraq), Iran and Afghanistan as various “Seals” of Harappa civilization have been found there. Also, traders from Memphis city (an ancient city located at a distance of 20 km south of Cairo) of Egypt used to come to Harappa via the Ur city (modern Tell el-Muqayyar in south Iraq) situated at the south of Babylon (an ancient city of Mesopotamia – present day Iraq – between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers). Traders of Kashgar of Central Asia (present day Chinese city of Kashi – an oasis city located near western border of China with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) used to come to Harappa via Balkh (ancient Greek city Bactria, visited by Marco Polo and present day small town in north Afghanistan near Maza-e-Sharif and south of Amu Darya river or Oxus river) and Bamiyan (present day central Afghanistan town located at a distance of 240 km north-west of Kabul and an important location on ancient Silk Route). Harappa was situated in the northern bank of Sutlej River which is a tributary of Indus River. These routes were followed for almost 4000 years. We do not hear about foreign visitors at Kashmir Valley at that time.
The Arians were known to be the first foreigners to make a colony at the Kashmir Valley. They arrived here via various mountain pass on the Hindu Kush (also called Caucasus Mountain and stretches from central Afghanistan to northern Pakistan) and Sulaiman Mountain (the southern extension of Hindu Kush Mountain in Pakistan). Till 300 BC foreigners including the Greeks came to India via these routes. And to all of them Pahalgam was certainly NOT the first village or locality in the Kashmir Valley.
After that, due to rapid growth of the Silk Trade new routes were discovered. One such route was from China to India via Kashgar (present day Chinese city of Kashi – an oasis city located near western border of China with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan), Taxkorgan (in China), Balkh (ancient Greek city Bactria, visited by Marco Polo and present day small town in north Afghanistan near Maza-e-Sharif and south of Amu Darya river or Oxus river) to Taxila in Pakistan (located at 32 km north-west of Islamabad). From Taxila, they crossed the Himalaya through various ways. One such group of traders came to Kashmir from Ladakh by crossing the Zozi-La Pass. They followed the present day Amarnath Cave trekking route to reach Pahalgam which was the first locality to them. It is very difficult to state the name of this place at that time, but to those ancient traders it was the “First Village” or “First Locality” or “Pahala Gaon”.
We now call it “Pahalgam”.
Your Kashmir Tour will remain incomplete if you do not visit Pahalgam. The Lidder River, Snow Peaks and the Pinewoods make Pahalgam a unique place in Kashmir.
Watch the accompanied video to feel the beauty of Pahalgam in Kashmir, India.