The Mughal Road – A superb tourist attraction dotted with culture, history & natural beauty

The Mughal Road was originally known as Namak Road (Salt Route) before Mughals came. It was famous by this name because salt was exported to Kashmir from the Western Punjab through this circuit. It was a podium road on which travel could be carried out only on ponies and horses. After the invasion and consequent conquest of Kashmir by Emperor Akbar in 1586 AD, this road came into limelight for it turned to be the unswerving route between Lahore and Srinagar. The Mughal rulers loved raw, naked and philistine nature and scenic beauty, Kashmir gifted with the same began to fascinate them. Akbar visited twice and his son Jahangir visited more than a dozen times to Kashmir through the Mughal road. The other Mughal rulers like Shahijahan, and his son Aurengzeb also travelled through Mughal Road to Kashmir. Given the exigency and necessity of travelling by the Mughal caravans, the miniature alleyway was altered into a broad road which suited to the movement of elephants, horses, camels and Mughal army.
Akbar made his mind to visit Kashmir first time in 1587 and it was at that time that the broadening of the route was carried out. It is believed that ten thousand laborers and masons worked night and day on this road for months to make the visit of Akbar possible. However, the actual broadening of the road took place during the rule of Jahangir who appointed an Iranian Engineer, Ali Mardan Khan, for the construction of the road and asked him to build Sarais, Mosques, Baradaries, Hamams alongside the road for the comfort and convenience of the royal convoys of Mughal Kingdom. Er. Ali Mardan Khan separated the Mughal Road into various stops from Lahore to Srinagar. It is to mention here that the genuine and unadulterated Mughal Road started from Gujarat (though Mughals operated from the important station of Lahore) and the major stops consisted of Gujarat, Lahore, Bhimber, Nowshera, Chingus, Rajouri, Thanamandi, Bheramgala, Poshiana, Aliabad Sarai, Ramu, Kanakpura, Hirpur and Shopian. The travel from one station to another was accomplished in one day. Due to the bustle small rural townships began to come up on almost all the resting stations on this road during the Mughal period. In 1629 AD, while coming from Kashmir, Emperor Jahangir died during travel on the Mughal road. Some parts of his body like intestines were buried at a place called Chingus.
In 1753 AD, Kashmir was taken away from the Mughals by the Afghans. The Afghans clogged the Mughal road and cordoned off all the passes which were passing through Pir Panchal area because they thought that Mughals may attack Kashmir from Mughal Road. Due to the blocking of the road by the Afghans the glamour on this road went out. The people who had settled alongside this road left this area in search of livelihood. Thus the buildings and monuments constructed by the Mughals changed into remains. Later on this route was used by the local Gujjar, Pahari, and Kashmiri people to cross Pir Panchal and visit the other side of the region.
The decision for the building of the Mughal Road from Bufliaz, Poonch to Shopian was taken in 1978 by the then Chief Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to afford an alternate route to Kashmir Valley, to establish direct link with Rajouri – Poonch and to make the most of scenic spots of Pir Panchal region for the development of tourist attraction. However, the work really was started in 1981 on both the sides, from Shopian and Bufliaz for which two Mughal road divisions were created. After the demise of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1982, the project got delayed due to the paucity of funds. The innovative idea of constructing/re-constructing the road by Sheikh Abdullah received set back when on the intervention of Defence Ministry of India the work was completely bunged. But as an end result of the pressure and demand exerted by the people of Rajouri and Poonch for re-opening of the Mughal Road as an alternate choice for visiting Kashmir Valley, the construction of Mughal road was included in Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Programme in 2005. Two Mughal road divisions were rejuvenated and revitalized, one at Surankote, Poonch and another at Shopian, Kashmir. The then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Syed laid the foundation of the reconstruction of the Mughal road at Bufliaz and Hirpur on 1st of October, 2005, but the tangible work was started in February, 2006. The work was again stalled during 2007 due to the trepidation of Wild Life Organization that the sanctuary alongside Mughal road may get endangered or blighted with the construction of the road, which certainly has happened. On my travel from Poonch to Srinagar, I grasped that though the Mughal road has connected the people of Rajouri and Poonch with the People of Kashmir, but the blasting which was used during the reconstruction of the road, has totally vandalized and devastated the dense green forests, now turned into barren and muddy stretches of spots.
During the travel on the Mughal Road, one comes to know that it passes through unwavering topography and landscape as compared to Jammu – Srinagar national Highway. Therefore, the road is really a better option to link Kashmir with rest of the country. However, at present the standing of road is not up to the mark because nearly 31 kilometers of the road pass from ten thousand to twelve thousand feet above the sea level from Dubjan to Chata Pani, remains under snow cover from December to March and also nearly six kilometers of the road are prone to avalanches and landslides which makes travel on this road impossible. Another three months are taken for snow clearance and it is almost in the month of June that the road becomes trafficable. There is a dire need to construct a long tunnel on such stretches of terrains to make it convenient, secure and trafficable for all times during the year.
The opening of the Mughal Road has thrown opportunities to explore and exploit heritage tourism as there exist the ruins of Mughal culture, Sarais, Tombs and Baradaries alongside the road. The Aliabad Sarai is still intact where Royal Mughal Caravan after crossing Pir Panchal would halt for few days, relaxing and enjoying the rich nature of the area. The older brilliance of this Sarai can be revived with the original style of renovation. The halt at this spot may attract climbers and trackers for expeditions towards seven lakes. In the same manner, Noorichum waterfall, Bheramgala, Dhera-ki-Gali, Thanamandi and Chingus can be also developed as tourist resorts which are equally important for heritage tourism. The Unique cultural heritage of nomadic tribes of Pir Panchal region, their ethnicity, dresses, discrete lifestyle, mellow folklore, (Shrine of Hazrat Sheikh Ahmad Aziz (RA) at Peer ki Gali), Sarais and ruins of Mughal period shall improvise the heritage tourism.
The construction of 422 years old Mughal Road remained the foremost reverie of the people of Poonch-Rajouri because due to the establishment of LOC, the historic Poonch – Haji Peer Srinagar road was closed and this region remained cut off from Kashmir valley for the last 62 years. Due to the construction of Mughal road the distance from Poonch and Rajouri to Srinagar has been reduced to greater extent (From 500 Kilometers to 180 Kilometers) and journey for the people of Rajouri-Poonch to the valley has become expedient as compared to the travel via Jammu to Kashmir. It is just six hour journey with charming and attractive site scenes of Noorichum, Ratchum, Pir Marg, Aliabad, Sukh Sarai valley and Dubjan (the small Gulmarg).
The Mughal Road in the coming years shall prove a superb tourist attraction because on this road there are large number of lush green natural spots, high pasture lands and picturesque moors alongside the road from Pir Pass (12000 feet) to Rattan Pir (8600 feet). On the other hand Dubjan, Sukh Sarai valley, Aliabad and Pir Marg have incredible and fabulous potential for tourism. The virgin hill stations and charming spots shall be a source of attraction for the tourists at national as well as at international level. The number of peaks around the road like Tatakuti, Ganga Choti, and Kagalana shall be the point of attraction for the climbers. The Valley of seven lakes like Nandansar, Chandansar, Neelsar and so on located in the upper reaches of Pir Panchal in between 12000 feet to 15000 feet above the sea level is only seven Kilometers from Aliabad Sarai. The beautiful stretch of lush green from Pir Ki Gali to Aliabad Sarai can be converted into a world class Ski spot which can prove better than Gulmarg. There are a number of passes flowing elegantly towards the valley which are suitable for tracking purpose. The Mughal Road has also got much importance with the opening of Poonch-Rawalakote road and trade across the LoC. The fruit growers of Shopian and Pulwama have been able to export their fruits to Pakistan by means of Mughal Road.

Author Dr. Farooq Ahmad Peer
The author can be mailed at

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