The valley of Kashmir has several popular tourist destinations; Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalgam, Srinagar; but the southern part of Kashmir has many untouched and unsung locales which may not be as popular a tourist destination but are unmatched and unparalleled in their beauty. Inclusive of historical remnants, fresh water springs, trout farms (a chance to taste an exotic delicacy!), thick evergreen forests, beautifully designed gardens and an enthralling view of the snow clad mountain ranges; South Kashmir offers a scenic beauty to satisfy every palate. A few places that are worth mentioning here are; Kokernag, Verinag, Martand sun temple, Daksum, Sinthan pass.
Kokernag or kukernag, originally called as Bindoo Zalangam, owes its present name to the fresh water spring which gushes out of the base of a thickly forested hill from where it divides into various channels resembling the claws of a hen. Koker: fowl; Nag: spring and hence the name Kokernag.
As per a famous legend, a saint Gushwami visited Kokernag along with his bucket. While he was in meditation, a few ladies came in search of water but couldn’t find it till they spotted the saint in deep sleep and his bucket. Assuming that the bucket has water they came close to the saint and opened his bucket only to find snakes inside it. The snakes escaped as soon as the lid was opened and crept on the ground changing its shape to that of a chicken. It dug the soil of the land by its paws and water gushed out from these places wherever it dug. The saint opened his eyes and the water remained in the form of claws and hence the name Kokernag. I wonder what would have happened if the saint would not have opened his eyes!
Situated at a height of 2000 mts from sea level in the Bringhi valley, Kokernag boasts of its collection of springs, sprawling gardens fragrant with the blooms of a large number and variety of flora, largest fresh water spring, trout streams and a large trout farm.
The most interesting and beautiful site of Kokernag is the Kokernag spring, Papshudan nag, a fresh water spring with cool and sparkling clean water which bubbles at seven places at the foot of the forest hills. This spring is the largest fresh water spring in Kashmir and is also considered magical and curative. Its water is supposed to possess medicinal and digestive properties (even though I couldn’t drink it as the water was freezing cold!)
The botanical garden, Kokernag is a delightful and enchanting blend of natural and typical Kashmir architectural layout. The Japanese bridges built over the rushing, sparkling streams, lush greenery and miniature man-made islands in the gardens at the foothills of the mountains covered in coniferous trees made the whole experience a beautiful and captivating one. The gardens have a rose shrubbery, which during the flowering season fill the vicinity with their fragrance and brilliant hues against a background of green and blue.
My visit to the Kokernag garden in the month of January had me standing still in an envelope of white. The shimmering silver of white on the plants and trees, sunlight streaming through the snow covered forest and the magical sound of water flowing in the springs was an outward experience.
While in Kokernag, a trip to the Trout farm is must which is an under cold water fisheries trout fish farming project Kokernag through European Economic Community assistance. It was established in 1984 and a mother unit for production of quality seeds of rainbow trout and brown trout. Visiting the farm is a fascinating experience and watch the pools constructed in series where trouts are reared. Different pools have got trouts of different age and weight. We met an official who guided us through the entire farm and explained in detail all the technicalities of fish rearing. If interested, you can also buy trouts from the farm for an exquisite culinary experience.
Historically, Kokernag and nearby areas have been declared as the oldest urban human settlement in the world dating back to 5000 BC. Ain –i- Akbari, a chronicle of Emperor Akbar’s empire penned by his high ranking political advisor – Vizier Abul Fazl Ibn Mubarak in the 16th century, mentions Kokernag sprig and states that ‘ water of Kokernag satisfies both hunger and thirst and it is also a remedy for indigestion.’
Pack your picnic basket and spent at least a day reveling in the beauty of Kokernag!
How to reach?
The easiest way of reaching Kokernag is by air. The nearest airport is at the Badgam District around 70 kms away from the village of Kokernag.
The nearest railhead to Kokernag is at Jammu from where it takes an approximate time of around 2 hours to reach Kokernag.
Kokernag is well-connected to a number of other regions of Jammu and Kashmir. There are a number of well maintained roads which lead to Kokernag.
Sleeping and eating
JKTDC offers tourist bungalow and huts in Kokernag with lodging/boarding facilities and the cafeteria there serves Indian cuisine.