Panchhi nadiyan pawan ke jhoken,
Koi sarhad naa inhe roke.
Sarhaden insaano keliye hain,
Socho, tumne aur maine,
Kya paaya insaan hoke.
(No borders block the path and flow of birds, rivers and wind. Borders are for people; think what it is that you and I have gained as human beings)
Lyricist Javeed Akhtar's heart touching song greeted us while entering into a local restaurant "THE LOC" run by a local young and energetic Zahid Ahmad wani on the banks of Kishanganga River (Neelum) in Keran valley of North Kashmir’s Kupwara District. Zahid is among the few first persons who has established a home stay unit for tourists. Once part of princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, Keran valley got divided into two parts leaving thousands of souls separated from each other. The pain humans face due to division of the valley can be well understood by Javeed Aktar's song "Panchhi nadiyan pawan ke jhoken".
Keran is a beautiful border area with the Kishenganga (Neelum) flowing through it which acts as line of control between Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Jammu and Kashmir. On the other side of Kishanganga River is Neelum Valley of POK and the village located to the opposite side is also called Keran, 93 kilometers from Muzaffarabad.
The ancient Sharada Peeth temple, as well as the adjacent ruins of Sharada University are situated in the same Neelam Valley just few miles from Keran. At Shardi village where Sharda temple and University is situated, the river Kishenganga (Neelum ) joins Madhumati and Sargun streams. Between the 6th and 12th centuries CE, it was among the most prominent temple universities in the Indian subcontinent. Kashmiri Pandit brethren have been demanding opening of the Sharda Peeth corridor for many years now.
Keran is home to many beauties like streams, springs, river, mountains, dense forests including walnut trees and to a variety of wildlife. 40 kms (approximately) towards west from District headquarter Kupwara, Keran enjoys a majestic view.
To reach to the valley one has to Pass through the Firkiyan Gali (Altitude 9634 ft). On the way to Keran at Firkiyan top the 360 degree view of surroundings is mesmerising and enchanting beauty bring goose bumps to the visitors. One can witness the lush Green forests, Meadows, Streams and also the architecture of wooden houses. The wooden architecture and style of construction of the house is still standing tall all across the Keran. These precious wooden houses need to be preserved and protected and must be promoted as heritage sites.
The landslide decision of Government of India to bring border area's like Keran, Gurez, Tangdhar, Machil, and Bangus on tourism map has brought happiness on the faces of People of Kashmir. These are the new tourist destinations which will facilitate peace and development to these border areas. Any non resident traveller, wishing to visit the border areas of Keran, Karnah, and Machil have to obtain permission from District Magistrate Kupwara which is very easy as the interested person need not to visit personally any office but can get it through online mode. A non resident travel can access the portal at http://epass.kupwara.co.in. and register himself/herself.
In Kupwara or Kralpora market, a traveller can hire any vehicle of his choice for Keran or can go in his own car also as the condition of the road from Kralpora to Kupwara is pretty good except at few kilometers which are not metallic but motorable. Along with few government owned rest houses, there are home stay facilities available for the tourists. Camping tents are also available along with all basic facilities.
Since the spot has recently been introduced as a tourist destination, a lot is being done to promote the tourism in the area by the government particularly Indian army that is always seen giving a helping hand to the local population to lead Keran towards peace and prosperity.
(Writer can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)