“ …. The valley is extremely picturesque, as the river comes dashing along through a rich meadow, partly covered with lindens, walnut and willow trees, while the mountains on either side present nothing but a succession of most abrupt precipices, and Alpine lodges, covered with fir trees….”
" Sir Charles Ellison Bates, 1872 AD "
Kashmir within its confines contains a vast and extremely rich geographical and cultural diversity forming the enduring legacy of Kashmir. The valley has been described as a melting point of different races and cultures. This rich heritage with its ethnic, geographical and linguistic diversity is represented both in the valley proper as well as in the higher surrounding mountain reaches of the Himalayas and Karokoram.
To a large extent, the physical characteristics of the area have determined and channeled rather then blocked human movement, which has resulted in maintaining a persistent contact between people speaking different languages. Hence we see that from time immemorial various tribes, clans have been accepted within the general, overall socio-political fabric of the area, even while retaining their own uniqueness. Aside from the principle race of the Kashir’s (or Kashmir’s as they are referred to) the land is also home to the mountain community of Paharis, the semi-nomadic Gujjars, the nomadic, pastoral community of Bakerwals and the Dards.
Dards: The People and their Land
In a widely known and often repeated story the famous Greek historian, Herodotus (4th century B.C.) mentions a war-like people on the frontier of India near to whom are found gold-digging ants. Herodotus provides the name Dadikai for this group living on India's frontier, which was then the seventh satrapy of the Achaemenian Empire. Writing much later, Strabo (64 B.C. to A.D. 23) and Pliny (A.D. 23 to A.D. 79) repeat Herodotus' story and name the war-like people Dardae. Alexander, whose travels provide much of the data for classical geography of India, apparently did not meet any Dard people, but he did go to a place called Daedala.
The Sanskrit references to Daradas, though laced with a great deal of myths and legends then real facts do nevertheless indicate that the Darada were known to those familiar with such texts. Researchers have based their observations in this regard on the basis of references, found in the ancient hindu texts, especially those in the Vayu, Brahmanda, Markandeya, Vamana, and Padma Puranas. Daradas are also mentioned in the Brhatsamhita, and in Manu, where they are classified pejoratively as Mlecchas. Mahabharata refers to them as degraded Kshatriyas (XII 35,). According to John Mock, who has done extensive research on the subject, the term Dard may have been used by early Sanskrit writers to characterize a fierce people, residing in the northwest, outside the boundaries of the then known civilization rather than a specific people. Even the description of their geographical setting as a land that is near to the "Strirajaya", the “Country of Women”, verges on legends rather than fact. These fantastic and vaguely defined regions and the people who lived in them belong as much to the mythic landscape of ancient India as to the historiography.
The valley of Gurez is located at a distance of around130 kms from Srinagar city, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Srinagar falls on the National Highway 1-A which is connected by International Airport and national highway network to other parts of the India.
From Srinagar a black top road leads to Bandipora, which forms the main transit point on the journey towards Gurez. Bandipora can also be reached from Baramulla via Sopore. Bandipora is connected to Dawar (Gurez) by sumo as well as bus service.
A black top road leads from Bandipora towards Razdan and then onto Gurez. This road provides some of the most spectacular overviews of the Wullar lake. The 40km (25mile) road stretch, from Razdan to Dawar, is in a bad shape. At Razdan (altitude 11672 ft) one can catch a glimpse of the Harmukh peak, one of the highest mountain peaks located in the Kashmir valley.
The land route to Gurez remains closed for three months of the winter starting from December due to heavy snowfall in the area. Access to the area during this period is maintained through a chopper service. However, there is no regular time table for running of this service.
We intend to conduct a Heritage Tour of unexplored Valleys of Gurez also called Dardistan (land of Dards) and the land of ancient Aryans in the first week of June 2008.
We invite expeditious and adventure loving professional and aspiring photographers, journalists and travel documentary film makers, trekkers, mountaineers and other nature lovers to join us to explore the rich and ancient heritage of this isolated corner of the world. We will provide Free support on ground while you are in Kashmir from arrival at the Srinagar airport till departure at the end of the expedition. Our support will include transportation, boarding and lodging, foodThe expeditionists will carry their own professional equipment
The invitation is made on first come first have basis.