I n the heart of South Kashmir's Pulwama district lies Pampore Karewa, a mesmerizing tableland that enchants sightseers with its ever-changing beauty, whether bathed in the golden hues of autumn or adorned with the vibrant blooms of spring.
Come October, the Karewa along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway transforms into a picturesque canvas, donning a breathtaking look with the purplish saffron flowers in full bloom.
Travelers, drawn by this spectacle, often halt near Lethpora, Galander, Chandhara, and adjoining areas to soak in the captivating view.
Chandi is a young visitor from Mumbai city in Maharashtra. She has been to the Saffron Capital of Kashmir, Pampore, for the first time and was seen very excited for her visit to saffron fields. “I have seen real saffron flowers for the first time in my life,” she said, adding that it was a wonderful experience that she will carry with her for a long period of time. She suggested others visit this place to smell the fragrance and feel the joy by sensing the purple blossoms with their bare hands.
Rajni, another tourist from tMumbai describes the blossom as nature's finest gift, which visitors should enjoy. The visitor said that she landed in Kashmir especially for witnessing the purple wonder up close.
Irshad Ahmad, a saffron farmer from the area, said that the saffron fields, which are in full bloom these days, attract a huge footfall of tourists from different parts of the country, including Mumbai, Chennai, Kerala, and New Delhi. He said that the excited visitors roam through saffron beds and capture the beautiful moments by clicking selfies, photographs, and video recordings.
" Some try their hands at plucking the fresh flowers and collecting them in wicker baskets for farmers," he said.
Irshad believes that the Karewa has immense potential for agro-tourism. “Authorities can turn this area into an appealing tourist spot by developing model saffron gardens along the National highway,” he said, adding that these model saffron parks will attract more tourists and will also boost the economy of local farmers by increasing their production.
Saffron, crocus sativus, locally called Kong Posh, is a herbaceous perennial plant growing up to 30 cm in height.
A typical plant has three parts: corm, stem, and flower. Each Saffron flower has three prominent parts, which include tepals, stigma, and stamens.
It is the red-colored stigma which is the most precious part sold as dry Saffron. Corms for this heritage crop are sown during August and September, and harvesting of fresh flowers is done during October and November. After harvesting of flowers, stigmas are separated and then sold in the market after proper sun drying.
Blooming and harvesting of this costliest spice are attracting a good number of tourists to Pampore Karewa , which are known for growing one of the best quality saffron in the world, rekindling hope and optimism among growers.
Years ago growers used to celebrate harvesting of this heritage crop as a farming festival which would bring fortune and happiness to hard working farmers.
Pampore's Karewa doesn't limit its allure to the fall. In spring, a different symphony unfolds as wild tulips in shades of pink and white dance gracefully against the yellow backdrop of mustard flowers. Wild tulip (Tulipa Stellata) is a naturally occurring perennial herb that grows from bulbs.
Tulipa Stellata is an associated weed with saffron, creating a harmonious blend of colours in the landscape. This Asian Tulip species, belonging to the Liliaceae family, is native to India, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the western Himalayas.
Standing at a height of up to 30 cm, the star-shaped pink and white flowers of Tulipa Stellata stand out against the yellow background, creating an enchanting aura that captivates both travellers and locals alike.