Indeed the whole of Kashmir is itself beautiful heaven keeping in view its elegant landscape and favourable climatic conditions, but the real paradise is located behind the lofty mountains that surround the valley. If anyone has ever seen this paradise, then surely he must be a herdsman or a trekker. There are countless meadows and lakes in Kashmir that have not been discovered yet. One such meadow is found in the upper reaches of the district Kulgam. The club Glacial Trails while on a mission to explore the surrounding areas of Ahrabal heard great praise of this place from the shepherds. This month on 15 May 2022 the club got a chance to visit this meadow and its surrounding areas to add a few more places and trekking routes to the tourism map. Glacial Trails is active since 2017 to explore new spots and bring them to light with the help of local guides and pastoral nomads.
Chiranbal- a blend of two Kashmiri words- Chir (lamb/ baby sheep) and Bal (place) put together to form a new word called Chiranbal, which means a place where baby sheep grow up or breeding and rearing ground for sheep. Whatever, Chiranbal is a high altitude grazing land (Neur) popular among professional herders commonly known as Pahel/ Chopan. The shepherds gather here in late spring to graze livestock for months together before they come back to the plains again in the autumn season.
Chiranbal (33.5985654 N, 74.8229697 E) is located at a distance of approximately 25 Kilometres from the main town Kulgam in a southwest direction. En route to the famous Ahrabal while reaching Manzgam one should take a left turn and drive a vehicle a few more kilometres to reach a place called Halan. This is where the motorable road ends and the journey for trekking begins. Chiranbal is just 2 hours' walking distance from this point. Easily accessible by a pedestrian route and off-road vehicles like 4×4 trucks, SUVs, bikes etc. To make the hardest climb easy one should approach a steep mountain by following a zig-zag path otherwise it would be a difficult and exhaustive task. It is not advisable to climb a mountain in a straight direction. There are many more routes to reach Chiranbal such as Batpora, Khur, Avil, Lisarpora, etc but Halan- Manzgam route is the most convenient and suitable for hikers.
Chiranbal (approx 2500 m ASL) is a vast lush green sub-alpine meadow spread over more than five kilometres on the right bank of the Zajinad river. The hill station is divided into two parts Haer Chiranbal and Bon Chiranbal connected by a narrow pathway covered by tall trees. Bon Chiranbal is bigger and presents a much more attractive look than Haer Chiranbal. These two meadowlands are situated in between two majestic mountains surrounded and separated by densely covered forests. The stunning view of the nearby glacial peaks adds to its beauty.
The terrain of these twin meadows presents a panoramic view. A step-like landform divides the meadows into terraces. Each terrace has its characteristic feature. The lower terraces are ideal for camping and the sheer beauty of the upper terraces presents a spectacular view to admire the hill walkers. It is highly recommended to pitch a tent anywhere on either bank of the boisterous river. The gurgling sound of fast-flowing water bubbling over rocks produces a soothing effect that touches one's soul. Furthermore, there is a beautiful natural cascade at Haer Chiranbal. Whenever you go there do visit this place to have a warm glance at this masterpiece of nature.
The meadows are decorated with all-natural colours. While camping at Chiranbal one should never miss the first glints of the morning sun. The scattering rays of downing sun over the meadows paint it with golden colour. It is a delight to stay out of tents during full moon nights to enjoy the attractive appearance of the snowy mountains after the light of the moon strikes them. It seems as if they are not mountains but silver mounds. Chiranbal and adjoining meadows have a great scoop for adventure sports like rafting, mountaineering, trekking, rock climbing, camping, skiing, mountain biking, hot air ballooning, and zorbing, etc.
The meadows of Chiranbal are used for multiple activities. The local people of adjacent villages come here every day for horse riding, fishing, etc. The cricket lovers come to play cricket on weekends and holidays. Chiranbal is known by different names. Originally being called Shepherds Heaven it is popular among the new generation as Riders or Anglers paradise. I would like to call it ‘The Wonderland of Backpackers’. It is the first foothold of trekkers to explore more and more virgin lands. The mountain in front of the Chiranbal is home to more than ten glacial lakes. The place serves as the base camp for many alpine lake treks such as Kounsarnag, Bramsar, Chirsar, Donthsar and Indarsar lakes.
Chiranbal is not the only meadow in this area that catches visitors' eye. It is the gateway to visiting many alpine and subalpine meadows like Sondirbug, Char-e- Khah, Bardalov, Kachoi, Rehman Dar, Kongwatan, Kadlibal, Lawayward, Manzpal, Lahnpathri, Hakwawas, Lawayward, Zajimarg and Astanmarg. Those who take interest in mountaineering activities like cliff hanging must go climbing the popular peak named Brahmsakli near Chirsar Lake.
(Author is a freelance writer and can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org)