Shopian or Shupiyan is a town and administrative division of the Shopian district, located in southern part of Kashmir Valley, bounded by Pulwama, Kulgam, Anantnag, and Peer Ki Gali where temperature often drops to as low as -7°c in winter, which is one of the extremely coldest towns of Jammu and Kashmir, India. The geologist Frederic Drew stated that Shopian derived its name from a distortion of word shah-payan, i.e. “royal stay”. However, the local people hold the view that Shopian was earlier named as “Shin-Van” meaning “snow forest”. The Shias have a different view, believing it was earlier inhabited by Shias so it is “Shin-Van” that is “The Forest of Shias”. Shopian is an ancient town of Kashmir and had an importance due to it being situated on the ancient imperial route, commonly known as Mughal Road, which connects Lahore and Srinagar. Shopian was one out of six Wazarat Headquarters in Kashmir from 1872-1892 A.D. Shopian town is 51 kilometres (32 mi) from Srinagar and 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Pulwama at an elevation of 2,146 metres (7,041 ft) above sea level. It has decades-old road connectivity with Anantnag as well as Kulgam.
The Mughal Road was originally known as Namak Road (Salt Route) before Kashmir was surmounted by Mughal. It was famous by this name because salt was exported to Kashmir from the Western Punjab through this circuit. It was a podium road on which travel could be carried out only on ponies and horses. It came to be known as the Mughal Road because the prominent Mughal Emperors like Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb along with their caravans travelled through this route/road to the Paradise of Kashmir.
The decision to construct the Mughal Road from Bufliaz Poonch to Shopian was taken in 1978 by the then Chief Minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah to afford an alternate route to Kashmir Valley, to establish direct link with Rajouri – Poonch and to make the most of scenic spots of Pir Panchal region as a tourist attraction. However, the work was really started in 1981 on both the sides, from Shopian and Bufliaz for which two Mughal road divisions were created. After the demise of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in 1982, the lick of the effort of work got mired due to the paucity of funds. The idea of constructing/ re-constructing the road by Sheikh Abdullah received a setback when on the intervention of Defence Ministry of India the work was completely bunged. But as an end result of the pressure and demand exerted by the people of Rajouri and Poonch for re- opening of the Mughal Road as an alternate choice for visiting Kashmir Valley, the construction of Mughal road was included in Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Programme in 2005. Two Mughal road divisions were rejuvenated and revitalized, one at Surankote Poonch and another at Shopian Kashmir. The then Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Syed laid the foundation of the reconstruction of the Mughal road at Bufliaz and Hirpure on 1st of October, 2005 but the tangible work was started in February, 2006. The work was again stalled during 2007 due to the trepidation of Wild Life Organization that the sanctuary alongside Mughal road may get endangered or blighted with the construction of the road.
During the travel on the Mughal Road, one comes to know that it passes through unwavering topography and landscape as compared to Jammu – Srinagar national Highway. Therefore, the road is really a better option to link Kashmir with rest of the country. However, at present the standing of road is not up to the mark because nearly 31 kilometers road pass from ten thousand to twelve thousand feet above the sea level from Dubjan to Chata Pani, remains under snow cover from December to March and also nearly six kilometers of the road are prone to avalanches and landslides which makes travel on this road impossible.
The opening of the Mughal Road has thrown opportunities to explore and exploit heritage tourism on the basis of existence of the ruins of Mughal culture, Sarais, Tombs and Baradaries alongside the road. The Aliabad Sarai is still intact where Royal Mughal Caravan after crossing Pir Panchal would halt for few days, relaxing and enjoying the rich nature of the area. The older brilliance of this Sarai can be revived with the original style of renovation. The halt at this spot may attract climbers and trackers for expeditions towards seven lakes. In the same manner, Noorichum waterfall, Bheramgala, Dhera-ki- Gali, Thanamandi and Chingus can be also developed as tourist resorts which are equally important for heritage tourism. The Unique cultural heritage of nomadic tribes of Pir Panchal region, their ethnicity, dresses, discrete lifestyle, mellow folklore, (Shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Aziz (RA) at Peer Ki Gali), Sarais and ruins of Mughal period shall improvise the heritage tourism.
The construction of 422 years old Mughal Road remained the foremost reverie of the people of Poonch- Rajouri because due to the establishment of LOC, the historic Poonch – Haji Peer Srinagar road was closed and this region remained cut off from Kashmir valley for the last 62 years. Due to the construction of Mughal road the distance from Poonch and Rajouri to Srinagar has been reduced to greater extent (From 500 Kilometers to 180 Kilometers) and journey for the people of Rajouri- Poonch to the valley has become expedient as compared to the travel via Jammu to Kashmir. It is just six hour journey with charming and attractive site scenes of Noorichum, Rat chum, Pir Marg, Aliabad, Sukh Sarai valley and Dubjan, (the small Gulmarag).
The Mughal Road in the coming years shall prove a superb tourist attraction because on this road there are a large number of lush green natural spots, high pasturelands and picturesque moors alongside the road from Pir Pass (12000 feet) to Rattan Pir (8600 feet). The virgin hill stations and charming spots shall be a source of attraction for the tourists at national as well as at international level. The number of peaks around the road like Tatakuti, Ganga Choti, and Kagalana shall be the point of attraction for the climbers. The Valley of seven lakes like Nandansar, Chandansar, Neelsar and so on located in the upper reaches of Pir Panchal in between 12000 feet to 15000 feet above the sea level is only seven Kilometers from Aliabad Sarai. The beautiful stretch of lush green from Pir Ki Gali to Aliabad Sarai can be converted into a world class Ski spot which can prove better than Gulmarag.
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