From the Book “KASHMIR’
By Sir Francis Younghusband
1st Published in September 1909
What will be one day know as the playground of India, and what is known as the Kashmiris as the ‘Meadow of Flowers,’ is situated twenty-six miles from Sringar, half-way up the northward-facing slopes of the Pir Panjal. There is no other place like Gulmarg. Originally a meadow to which the Kashmiri shepherds used to bring their sheep, cattle, and ponies for summer grazing, it is now the resort of six or seven hundred European visitors every summer.
The Maharaja has a palace there. There is a Residency, an hotel with a theatre and ball-room, post office, telegraph office, club, and more than a hundred ‘huts’ built and owned by Europeans. There are also golf links, two polo grounds, a cricket ground, four tennis courts, and two croquet grounds. There are level circular roads running all round it. There is a pipe water-supply, and electric lighting. And yet for eight months in the year the place is entirely deserted and under snow.
Like Kashmir generally, Gulmarg also is said by those who knew it in the old days to be now ‘spoilt’. With the increasing numbers of visitors, with the numerous huts springing up year by year in every direction, with the dinners and dances, it is said to have lost its former charms, and it is believed that in a few years it will not be worth living in. My own view is precisely the opposite. I knew Gulmarg in its early days, and it certainly then had many charms. The walks and scenery and the fresh bracing air were delightful. Where now are roads there were then only meandering paths. What is now the polo ground was then a swamp. The ‘fore’ of the golfer was unknown. All was then Arcadian simplicity. Nothing more thrilling than a walk in the woods, or at most a luncheon party, was ever heard of.
And, doubtless, this simplicity of life has its advantages. But it had also its drawback. Man cannot live forever on walks however charming and however fascinating his companion may be. His soul yearns for a ball of some kind whether it be a polo ball, a cricket ball, a tennis ball, a golf ball, or even a croquet ball. Until he has ball of some description to play with he is never really happy.
So now that sufficient number of visitors come to Gulmarg to supply subscriptions enough to make and keep up really good golf links, polo grounds, etc., So now that sufficient number of visitors come to Gulmarg to supply subscriptions enough to make and keep up really good golf links, polo grounds, etc., I for my part think Gulmarg is greatly improved. I think, further, that it has not yet reached the zenith of its attractions. It is the Gulmarg of the future that will be the really attractive Gulmarg, when there is money enough to make the second links as good as the first, to lay out good rides down and around the marg, to make a lake at the end, to stock it with trout, and when a good hotel and a good club, with quarters for casual bachelor visitor, have been built.
All this is straying far from the original Arcadiansimplicty, but those who wish for simplicity can still have it in many another valley in Kashmir – at Sonamarg, Pahlgam, or Tragbal – and the advantage of Gulmarg is that the visitor can still if he choose be very fairly simple. He can go about in a suit of putto. He need not go to a single dance, or theatrical performance, or dinner-party, or play a single game. He need not speak to a soul unless he wants to. He can pitch his tent in some remote end of the marg, and he can take his solitary walks in the woods; but, if after a while he finds his own society is not after all so agreeable as he had thought, if he feels a hankering for the society of his fellows, male or female, and if he finds the temptation to play with some ball is irresistible, then just under his nose is every attraction. He can indulge his misanthropic inclinations at will, and at a turn in those inclinations he can plunge into games and gaiety to his heart’s content.
The main charm of Gulmarg will, however, always remain the beauty of its natural scenery and the views of the peak, Nanga Parbat, 26,260 feet above sea-level, and 80 miles distant across the valley.
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