The first-ever Aharbal festival was held in the Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday with an aim to promote tourism in Kashmir, especially at Aharbal waterfall as a tourist destination.
The festival was a collaborative effort of the Kulgam district administration and the Department of Tourism, Jammu and Kashmir.
The waterfall is a popular tourist site in South Kashmir that attracts locals and people outside the union territory alike. People usually like taking pictures in front of this waterfall. The festival was organised in order to attract more tourism to the spot.
During the festival, a colourful cultural programme was held which featured beautiful musical performances which were immensely enjoyed by the audience. Events of trekking and cycling were flagged-off by the Director, Tourism Dr G.N. Itoo and other officers. Multiple stalls were also put up by various departments including Agriculture, Horticulture, Sheep, Animal Husbandry, Tourism, Khadi and Village Industries Board, Apiculture, Floriculture and Handicrafts and other departments and entrepreneurs.
A painting competition was also organized and students from various schools participated in this competition.
At the culmination of the programme, top performers in cycling, Painting and other competitions were awarded.
The Director of Tourism Department Dr GN Itoo said to ANI, "Aharbal is a beautiful place. As per instructions of the Lieutenant Governor, we are identifying 75 off-beat tourist destinations to be promoted as a part of Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav. People think that Aharbal waterfall is a place to visit only during summers. But we want to show them that it can be a good destination for winters too. I urge people to come here and enjoy. The environment here is really good."
People were extremely appreciative of this step taken by the tourist department to boost tourism at Aharbal waterfall. Tourists and stall owners together echoed the sentiment that employment will be generated through such initiatives if they are organised regularly.
A visitor named Irfan Shabir said, "We have come here for the festival. Here, the youth are getting a chance to showcase their talents and they are participating in various competitions like drawing and cycling. These festivals must happen more. Tourists should come here too because this place has Asia's largest cascade. Upgradation of hotels must be done. These things can generate a lot of employment for people."
Another tourist named Mudasir added, "This step is extremely great. It will increase employment. Such programmes must be held three to four times a year so that people know where Aharbal is. It will give jobs to transporters and youth and development will take place here."
A stall named Muzzafar said, "I have put up a stall here. The crowd is nice and I am extremely grateful to the tourism department for all this. People should come here and we will also come here in future. These programmes must happen more often." (ANI)