Bhalessa cultural history

Bhalessa cultural history

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By Sadaket Malik

The folk people of Bhalessa were called Bhalls in the past which makes one to believe that queen Bhala of Raja Nagpal have been from Bhaderwah. There are variety of opinions from different people regarding the origin of its name “Bhalessa” some talk it as Land of “Bhaley Manus” (Bhaley Lougun Ka Desh) which is meant the decent people with distinct identity. Dr. P K Koul who conducted a research on Bhaderwah, Chamba, Kangra and Bhalessa in early nineties opine that the Bhalessa area derived its name from Queen Bhalla-The Queen of Nagpal. Some people regard it as land of “Bhalay Loug” (The right people with right destiny)

It has become very difficult for the person of my stature to gauge the history of this otherwise hilly terrain. Before the Roots of Bhalessa saw a light of the day, I go through the pages of several researches conducted on the Himalayan region. The historical evidence regarding the area like of Bhalessa is not found widely in the books like “Rajtarangni” of Kalhana or other regional studies.
Nevertheless, some of the historians like Dr. P K Koul, Parvaiz Deewan (IAS) and Wali Mohd. Aseer has had spared their three lines regarding Bhalessa.
Bhalessa as it is commonly called comprised of the twin valleys of Bonjwah drained and carved by the rivults and Bhalessa drained by Kalgoni stream whereas the former emerges from the mountain ranges of Chamba near the Sach Peak. The later emerges from the Katari range near Son Bain (Golden Spring) mountain. The two rivults unite near Donadi, a few miles above Thathri on the National Highway 1 B where it finally merges into the chenab river.
The upper valley is very beautiful and picturesque. In former times the valley of Bhalessa were easily communicable from Churah Wazarat of Chamba state through more then one pass, namely Padri Gali (12862′) and Mahlwar Pass (13027′). On the north, it is bounded by snow clad peaks of Kishtwar and Padder and in the east it is bounded by chamba district of Himachal Pradesh through a padri pass.
The main divisions viz a viz locations are Neeli, Jatota, Pingal, Chilli, Nanota and Basnota, these areas seemed scattered owing to the area is having several picturesque places like Bal Padri, Kanthi Dhar, Soin Bhagar, Naglotan etc. The area of Bhaderwah and Bhalessa comprise of glaciated mountain slopes and terraced fields.
The Churah and Bhalessa must have been closely linked in the social and cultural fields as is evident today by a large of relations between Chamba and Bhalessa. There seemed a unity in social structure.
Bhalessa is full of meadows popularly known as Dhar like Kanthi, Naglotan, Soin Bhagar, Roharhi, Dagan, Bal Padri, etc. the area is mountainous, it has umpteen number of trekking routes which pass through places with unbelievable captivating scenic beauty.
The place is a comfortable base for trekkers and mountaineers, on their way to the Great Himalayas. By road, bus services from Doda connect Bhalessa.
Tiny patches of maize and mustard, like patchwork quilts, straddled the edge of the stream that rushed down from the snow-capped peaks in the distance with an irrepressible passion to merge into the Chenab beyond. Children played cricket on improvised pitches on patches of land left fallow or lazed around on conical haystacks.

Weather-beaten Bakkarwal men-with their hennaed beards and loosely wound turbans, led flocks of hairy mountain goats. Their children and womenfolk followed after them, driving mules laden with pots, pans and bedding their mobile homes. The perfect picture of serenity. It has a Muslim majority, with a Hindu minority of a little more than a third of the population.

The history of Bhalessa and Bhaderwah dates back to 200 B.C. When the revered Buddhist scholar Nagsena was invited to a discussion by king Mender in his palace at Sakla.Kishtwar. In the discussions Nagsena replied all the questions of the king who then embraced Buddhism and became king Milinda. Nagsena recorded the discussion in “Millinda Panha” a Pali Treatise on the fundamental principles of Buddhist philosophy.
The principality of Bhaderwah Bhalessa was distributed into 15 administrative units. The total area of Bhaderwah Jagir (including Bhalessa etc) was 533 sq.miles which after amalgamation with Udhampur district in 1931 was reduced to 213 sq.miles only. The earliest mention of the place is traced from Rajatarangni around (1112-28A.D.)
Bhalessa had come into existence in the year 1948 and its Headquarter is located at a distance of 241 Kmts from the Jammu winter capital and 282 kmts. from the Srinagar, the summer capital of the state. The area is located between 32-52 and 41-97 degree longitude.
The altitude of the area varies from 3200 to 15000 ft. from the sea level. The area is surrounded by Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh.
The form of the land is rugged and mountainous surrounded by the sprawling mountains of Himalayas from north to west. These are named as great Himalayas. Besides there are other lofty ridges and peaks. The nullahas like historical Kalgoni streem merge into river Chenab at Thathri. Nullahs called “Kalguni” is Pavitur in the sense that it is surrounded by historical Basaka Nag temple at the corner of village Kilhotran.
The main river in Bhalessa is Kalgoni straching from “Kansozoo” that merge into the chenab after. Besides this there are some other small Streems/ Nullahs such as Beer Sow with its origin from Ludoo Kansar with enormous hight, Kanchu sohow near Makhan Chuchool (local popular name of hindus and muslims) has its origin near Goha Kahagugasar. These rivers flow through gorges and are mainly exploited for generation of Hydel Power. Of late Bhalessa is rich in natural resources if exploited may contribute for the states economy.
The climate is almost dry. The rainfall is scanty, because of this reason the area is declared as Drought Prone Area by the Ministry of Rural Development Govt of India. The temperature remains snow bound for five-six months of the year. Summer is generally without rain and precipitation often occurs during the winter season.
The soil is generally loose and Gruti and in some places Sandy with very low moisture. The incidence of soil erosion is very high and roads blockage is frequent during the rainy season.
The places are notorious for fall of slides during every rainy season and cause inconvenience to all. The Soil conservation Department is surveying the area but no concrete steps has been put in place by the concerned officers to aware the people about the soil conservation schemes.
The role of NGOs is strongly laudable in this direction for contributing their bit owing to which many wastelands became green. Bhalessa is rich in coniferous forest wealth.
The forest provides timber of important varieties viz, Deodar, Fir, Kail, Chir, etc.These also yield products like dhoop, resin, guchian and other products. For rehabilitation of degraded forests and increase the forest area by plantation in the area taken up in a big way of the forest Department.
There might be some world’s oldest Deodars s in Jitota Zone of Bhalessa. The precious stones in the area are also expected to be found in the Dudwar area in abundance. The main crops are Maize, and wheat.

There is enough potential to hold back the tourist in Bhalessa and areas around for at least a fortnight. Imagine how much good it could do to the local economy. Places of pilgrimage if promoted will help bringing the tourist to these areas even while the infrastructure is being developed. Of course The Tourism Development Authority required have to be established.
Bhalessa presents beautiful picturesque as well as attractive fields on way to Padri Top which could be promoted as a health resort as well as a picnic spot. This is a connection line of Bhalessa and Bhaderwah. An everlasting Glacier, Bal Padri is just 15 Km from Padri Top/ Dhaar/ Khanni Top on foot/ horse back from Bhaderwah side. It is on huge heights and one could find large snow field here even in the month of June. Enough scope exists for Gandola rope ways. Bhadherwah to Kansar could be a good Gandola venture with Khanni Top, Padri Dhaar , Nagni MataTemple and Jaai Valley are lying around Bhalessa. Unfortunately, the area has been divided and has not taken care of geographical proximity or administrative conveniences. The areas like Bonjawah, Kahara, Basnota, Pingal and Cilly. There seemed more or less discrimination meted to people of these areas.
Bhalessa is presently a part of Bhaderwah Constituency including some little part of Bhatyas and chilly hamlets, whereas the areas like of Basnota (Kahara) and Bonjawah are part of Inderwal assembly segment.
Owing to the scatteredness of these areas the composite culture has been deteriorated. The regional chauvinism led its head high due to its political dislocation. The local traditional ethos has been damaged and area has been little progressed& planned. It may be due to poor administrative and political set up. The areas like Kahara and Bhatyas are disconnected owing to inadequate administrative presence.

Of late, the people in governance are in favor of creation of separate constituency under the pretext of Delimitation Commission report. Administrative reforms are already in place. The recent changes seemed to be happened. The Tehsil Thathri and Tehsil Bhalessa carved out of Sub- Division Bhaderwah very recently is a milestone in the history. Tehsil Bhalessa has been upgraded as Sub – Division. This way there again remain two Sub-Divisions i.e. Bhaderwah and Bhalessa with three Tehsils namely Bhaderwah, Bhalessa and Thathri in District Doda.
As such, in any case one Sub-Division is to have two Tehsils while the other will remain Sub-Division for one Tehsil. It may be in place to mention that the distance from Thathri to Tehsil Headquarter Bhalessa is only 30 Kms whereas distance from Thathri to Bhaderwah is around 60 Kms. Furthermore, the distance from Bhalessa to Bonjwah is only 20 kms and is geographically very close to Bhalessa.
However, In view of the above considerations the government proposed that new Sub-Division Bhalessa shall comprise, Tehsil Bhalessa and Tehsil Thathri.
Previously, a demand was projected by the public that twenty three villages falling in three Patwar Halqas namely Kansoo, Jora and Malanoo be attached with Tehsil Bhalessa after their deletion from Tehsil Thathri.
The demand for the setting up of Niabats at Bhatyas and Kahara is justified as the area is disconnected administratively.
Another demand received by the government team during its visit to the area pertained to attachment of eleven villages of Patwar Halqas Patnazi and Jawalapur commonly known as Bunjawa with Tehsil Thathri after their detachment from Tehsil Kishtwar on the ground of proximity of the area and convenience of the people.
After considering all counter claims in respect of these demands and taking into consideration, the proximity of Patwar Halqas, administrative convenience and public demand, the team recommended strongly that eight villages of Patwar Halqa Kansoo namely Kansoo, Bathri, Indlu, Dichhal, Bhatoli, Dharyouth, Piyakal, Kuthyara with population of 5,744 can be deleted from Tehsil Thathri and added in Tehsil Bhalessa. The demand for attachment of Patwar Halqas Jora and Malanoo with Bhalessa Tehsil is not found justified and agreeable. The government has found it unjustified. This was suggested by the committee formed by the government.
The area of Bonjawah is in close proximity with Bhalessa including Bhatyas and Khara. Geographically Bonjawah, Khara, Bhatyas and Gandoh Bhalessa upto khaljugasar is a single geographical unit.
Unfortunately, the area has been divided and has not taken care of its geographical proximity, Bhalessa is presently a part of Bhaderwah Constituency including some little part of Bhatyas and chilly, whereas the areas like of Khara and Bonjawah are part of Inderwal assembly segment thereby the local composite culture has been deteriorated. The regional chauvinism has its head high due to its political dislocation. The local composite culture has been damaged and area seemed little progressed & planned.

The locals are in favor of creation of separate political and administrative unit under the pretext of Delimitation commission by combining Tehsil Bhalessa, Khara, Bhatyas, Chilly and Bonjawah and deleting Bhalessa from Bhaderwah and Bonjawah from Inderwal.
It will be a progressive step if Bhalessa-Bhatyas –Bonjawah might be carved as a separate political and administrative unit. The state government should set up a committee for taking into account the sentiments of all three zones viz Tehsil Bhalessa, Bonjawah and Bhatyas Pingal & Chilly areas.
The advantage of separate unit may lead to the progress as far as developmental arena is concerned. The local community especially the people of all these areas be taken in confidence while preparing the final document on achievable motherhood so that the people of the area might get solace of the problems of inadequate development and help to maintain the age old tradition, folk lore and above all culture and geographical oneness.
The Author is a Researcher and freelance columnist based in Bhalessa and can be contacted at sadaketmalik@rediffmail.com

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