land of Sapphire -Padder -
land of Sapphire -Padder
Posted 09 Dec 2016 03:18 PM

Padder is situated 33 15’North 76 09’East. It is a narrow bottomed Y-shaped valley nestled in towering mountains of the North-Western Himalayas on the South-east of District Kishtwar. The area is bordered by Zanskar(Ladakh) on the north and north-east, Bhalesa of TehsilGandoh on the south-west, Nagseni (Educational Block) of Tehsil Kishtwar and Pangi (Kelar) of Himachal Pradesh on south-west.The Tehsil Head Quarter of this area is Atholi(earlier Niabat) is an alluvial small plateau is at an elevation of 1851mabove sea level. Hardly 100 feet below along the north-east flows the mighty river Chinab gushing to the west. Across the river Chinab and quite opposite to Atholi is another major habitation of Padder famous by the name Gulabgarh(earlier known Chattergarh). From the northern side of Gulabgarh struggles the Bodhnalla rivulet to merge river Chinab in the west. Several water tributaries feed Bodhnalla from Bhuzas, Sumcham, Chissoti and Massu area up to Gulabgarh.

The valley of Atholi-Gulabgarh bifurcates into gorges of Sohal-Ishtihari along the river Chinab (ChanderBhaga) towards Pangi of Himachal Pradesh and the AndhraunNalla (course of Bodhnalla) leading to Massu, Kundhale,Chisoti and Machail where the famous sapphire mines and temple of goddess Chandiis situated.
The land of Sapphire
Padder is a treasure of sapphire-the blue gem variety of the mineral Corundum, the hardest mineral known after diamond. In geological terms sapphire is Aluminium Oxide (Al2O3) which is deposited in rhombohedra fashion. Colouration of sapphire is caused by the presence of oxides of iron and titanium.
Corundum deposits occur most frequently in metamorphic rocks and alluvials. The deposits of sapphire in Ratnapura south-east of Colombo (Sri-Lanka),have a history of several thousand years but the sapphire discovered in Padder is supposed to be of the best quality. It was a chance discovery in 1881 A.D when Padder was one of the eleven Parganas of Kishtwar under the ruleofDograMaharaja Ranbir Singh.
The mines are located at a height of 3060m above sea level on the mountain top above Sumcham village about 40 Km. Sapphire is also found in Thailand, Australia and Montana U.S.A. Small deposits occur in China and Madagascar too. In Tanzania and Cambodia sapphires occur with rubies. Asteriated sapphire is very interesting and is highly prized gem stone.Necessary measures were taken for the safeguard of mines by the ruler. Though the state had established a department of Mining J & K Mineral Ltd. in 1909 but the extraction work at the sapphire deposits was taken in Free India in 1960. It was later abandoned and the mines stands closed for the last five decades. A check point has been established at Machail posting a section of JK Police to guard the mines which is adding a burden on the exchequer rather utilizing the valuable resource for the welfare of the State. Associated with the sapphire, the red transparent variety of corundum “ruby” has also been reported to occur in the metamorphic rocks and alluvial deposits of Padder. There are also reserves of Quartz -amethyst (Silicon dioxide), mica etc. There was a time when the people used to exchange sapphire for salt and this barter system existed between the people coming from Zanskar via Umasila Pass or Bardhar Pass and inhabitants of Machail.
The mountainous region of Sumcham (Machail, Padder-The Treasure of Blue shiningGem).

Green Gold
Nature has bestowed Padder thick evergreen oak and pine forests. The oak (Quercus spp.) forests peter out upwards in coniferous forests of deodar Kail , silver fir calledRael in Paddari and Budal orZangul in Kashmiri, spruce known asKandalie in Paddari and kachil in Kashmiri. The upper reaches are occupied by birches, Rhododendron spp.and junipers. Bhojpatra form forests wellover 4000m (13000ft.)a.s.l . Above the upper limit of conifer forests begins the alpine pastures which lie between 3600m to 4000m and therefore remain extremely cold for the greater part of the year.
These forests are abodes of wild animals like muskdeer, snow leopard, leopard, brown bear, black bear, maskhor etc.
In addition to the valuable fauna the area is well known for the herbs like Aconitum heterophyllum (Patees or Atis), Arnebiabenthami (Khazaban,), Artemisia meritima (Saeski, worm weed), Buniumpersicum (black cumin, kalazira),Colchicum luteum (Khumb), Jurineamacrocephala (dhup orgugal), Picrorhizakurroa (kutki, kour), Podophyllumhexandrum (May apple, Bankakri, Banwangun), Thymus serphyllum (Banjwain, Jush, javid), Saussureacostus (kuth)Skimealaureola (Shanglie) etc.

Social Life
The area has a heterogeneous and rich culture with more than 22,000/25,000 population including Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. People speak Paddari, a pahari language like Bhaderwahi but different from it. Buddhists speak Bodhi (Ladakhi) whereas Muslims speak Kashmiri as well as Padderi. It has a temperate climate and precipitation in the form of snow is much greater on higher altitudes. 90% of the population is dependent on agriculture and live-stock for their livelihood. Wheat, sarsoon (mustard) and peas are cultivated as Rabi crops in lower elevations and paddy, maize, millets like Kodra, Kabru (Fagopyrum sp.) Cheeni (Setaria sp.) and pulses are raised as Kharif crops. The climate of Padder is best for growing Rajmash at lower elevations and befitting for the cultivation of quality potatoes, buckwheat (kuttu), barley at higher places like Kabban, Ungaie,Gandhari, Machail etc.People co-operate each other while ploughing, sowing, transplantation of paddy and harvesting the crops amidst traditional songs sung by women folk. The yak-cow hybrids locally called Chauner are preferred for ploughingthe fields as they are much robust and energetic than oxen.
Almost every season proves a boon for the hardworking section of the population. The Spring bestows the people with sprouting blewits and morels (Morchella spp.), the sponge mushroom or the guchhi of commerce which usually grow under the open woods or in open slopes and are sold at fabulous prices. These are the most delicious edible fungi known. The summer culminates in many parts with the crop of kalazira (Buniumpersicum) a very good spice and medicinal umblifer also known as black cumin. In rainy days of summer people also collect the oyster agarics (Pleurotussp.), and the other edible stump fungus (Pholiotamutabilis) locally called Sheerie which appear on logs or tree stumps in shelf-like layers. The Autumn is generous enough to supply hazel nuts (Corylusjacquemontii) called Virin in Kashmiri and Thangulie in Padderi as well as Chilgozae, Naizae (seeds of the gymnosperm, Pinusgerardianacalled Miyerie in Padderi).
Domestic work such as cooking and cleaning is performed primarily by women. During the months of July after being relieved from the sowing and deweeding work or in November when the major harvesting period is over the women folk engage themselves in weaving mats, chaklas or traditional shoes called Pulae and Litchrunlae (chappals) from the selected paddy straw and Kodra leaves (Quliaeth) for the purpose.During the snowy winter they remain busy in spinning wool to make blankets and Pattuof which loose shirts called Kamerie and pajamas (Suattern), coats are tailored. You may also find the male members in making the items of day to day use in the profession of agriculture and farming. Many of them utilize their spare time in weaving blankets or the said pattu cloth.
In most of the villages and many house-holds joint-family system still exists and in such families, one of the family member known as ‘Puhall’ is especially associated with the rearing of live-stocks [sheep, goats, cows, chaunri (the yak-cow female hybrids which are preferred by the people for their fitness to the climate and high quality milk)]. In summer the Puhall take their sheep, goats and cattle to the places owned at higher reaches called “Dhoks”(Goaths in Padderi) where a number of them also own pieces of land that is utilized for the cultivation of potatoes, barley, summer wheat, Fagopyrum sp.(Kabru, Phulan), peas, lentil etc. Now-a-days a large section of the population has left the cultivation of their land situated at far off places which otherwise used to be a good source of their income. Such abandoned fields of alpine region can be used for the establishment of herbal gardens and growing life-savingherbs.

Natural Beauty
The Padder Tehsil is endowed with a vast wealth of natural beauty and a tremendous potential for adventure tourism, ecotourism and pilgrimage tourism which needs to be utilized for providing employment to the people and income for the State. We have large number of alpine pastures like Bhuzanu, Bhuzas, Barnaz,Dharlung, KijaieNalla, UngaieNalla, Gandhari and Kabban which extend to the sight of eye with lush green patches studded with blooms of different colours. These pastures harbour the nomadic Gaddies and Bakerwals with their flock of sheep and herds of cattle during summer (June to August). For trekkers, Atholi to Zanskar, Padam and Kargil via Umasila Pass or Bardhar Pass is an ideal rout.Zanskar is approximately 120 km. from Gulabgar and therefore, the trekkers stay for night halt at Rujwas during their expedition to Zanskar.Umasila Pass is an icy path of about 07 km. at a height of 5340m (17370 feet) a.s.l. and had been an attraction both for foreign adventurers as well as native trekkers.

Water Resources
In addition to the main river Chinab which sprouts from the mountains of LahoulSpiti (Himachal Pradesh) and struggles through Padder, there are a large number of perennial downhill flowing water tributaries which can be utilized for generation of hydroelectricity at micro level. Though a number of mega hydropower projects like Salal, Dul-Hasti and Bughliar are functioning on the mighty river Chinab and many more would be coming up in future but the micro-hydel projects will be eco-friendly, cost-effective and suitable for the mountainous regions as these involve less expenditure which is otherwise incurred on laying the transmission lines and for their maintenance.
Hardly 03 km. from Atholi on way back to Kishtwar is Tattapani (Tatta=hot, pani=water) a wonderful place of hot-water springs. People from far off places take dips in the hot-water ponds to get rid of their rheumatic problems etc

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