On September 3, elders in Gurez Valley - recently awarded as the best offbeat tourist destination of India at the Outlook Traveller Awards - had a reason to rejoice, for a polo match was played between two teams of local youth, that too after six decades. The match was a major attraction of the Grand Gurez Festival organised by the Department of Tourism in collaboration with District Administration Bandipora and J&K Academy of Art Culture and Languages (JKAACL) to enhance and promote tourism in the virgin valley.
In addition to polo, adventure activities like rafting, kayaking, cycling, mountain biking, and trekking were organized during the festival. Also, All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) were introduced–a move lauded by the locals. Dying Kashmiri dialects like Sheena, Dardi and Pahari that have lost speakers over time were also put in the spotlight by artists from JKAACL who seek to revive them. Additionally, several stalls were set up by different departments including animal and sheep husbandry, handloom, sericulture, handicrafts, and tourism. Traditional heritage items used in Gurez were also showcased.
Who said what?
Speaking on the occasion, Director of Tourism, Dr G N Itoo said that the Tourism Department has been promoting Gurez through a sustained and coordinated mechanism for the last two years, which yielded results recently in the destination being awarded as the best offbeat tourist spot. In addition, Deputy Commissioner, Bandipora, Dr Owais Ahmad congratulated the people of Gurez for being awarded and said that the youth are the main stakeholders in tourism promotion in Gurez Valley as tourism not only provides enjoyment but also employment to youth.
Who attended the festival?
The festival was attended by DDC members Gurez and Tulail, BDC members, Commander 109 Brigade Pranav Kumar, SSP Mohammad Zahid, ADC Bandipora Waseem Raja, senior officers of the District administration and Tourism Department and other officers. Thousands of local people and tourists also visited the stalls with a keen interest in the products on display.