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Habba Khatoon.jpg
Gurais is located in Jammu and Kashmir
Gurais is located in India
Location in Jammu and Kashmir, India
Coordinates: 34°38′00″N 74°50′00″E / 34.6333°N 74.8333°E / 34.6333; 74.8333Coordinates: 34°38′00″N 74°50′00″E / 34.6333°N 74.8333°E / 34.6333; 74.8333
Country  India
State Jammu and Kashmir
District Bandipora
Elevation 2,580 m (8,460 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 37,992
 • Official Urdu, Shina
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
PIN 193503

Gurez or Gurais, (Urdu; گُریز)also pronounced Gorai (گورأى) in the local Shina language, is a valley located in the high Himalayas, about 86 kilometres (53 mi) from Bandipore and 123 kilometres (76 mi) from Srinagar in northern Kashmir and southern Gilgit-Baltistan. At about 8,000 feet (2,400 m) above sea level, the valley is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It has diverse fauna and wildlife including the Himalayan brown bear and the snow leopard. The Kishanganga River flows through the valley. The road to Gilgit runs through Gurais.

Gurez is divided into three regions. The area from Toabat to Sharda Peeth is administered by Pakistan as Neelum District, that between Kamri and Minimarg is administered by the Pakistan as Astore District, Gilgit-Baltistan, and that from Toabat to Abdullae Tulail is known as Gurez Tehsil, and is part of the Indian-administered Bandipora District.

Being situated very close to the Burzil Pass, which leads into Astore District of Gilgit-Baltistan, the inhabitants are ethnic Dards/Shins. They speak the Shina language and have the same styles of dress and culture as their kinsmen in Pakistani- administered Northern areas.[1]


Dawar is the central township in the area. The population of the area is estimated to be about 30,000, and is scattered among fifteen villages. Due to heavy snowfall in winter, the valley remains cut off for six months of the year.


Historically, Gurais was part of ancient Dardistan, stretching between Sharada Peeth in the west, Minimarg in the north, Drass in the east, and Baghtor in the south. The valley falls along the ancient Silk Route, which connected the Kashmir Valley with Gilgit, before continuing further to Kashgar. Archaeological surveys in valleys north of Gurais have uncovered hundreds of carved inscriptions in Kharoshthi, Brahmi, and Tibetan. In particular, the carvings provide insights into the origins of the Kashmiri people and the early history of Buddhism.

The ancient capital of the Dards, Dawar, is located in the Gurais Valley and is an important archaeological site. Other archaeological sites of importance in the valley include Kanzilwan, where the last council of Buddhism is believed to have been held and, further downstream, the ruins of the ancient Sharada University are preserved along the Kishenganga/Neelum River.

Prior to the partition of Kashmir, Gurais had been a popular destination for foreign tourists, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who is known to have visited some time before he became the US president.[2] During the colonial period, Gurais was often visited by trekkers. Nehru and Indira Gandhi, accompanied by Sheikh Abdullah, were among those who visited the area in the 1940s, fishing for trout at Naranag, one of the lakes in the mountains above the valley.[3]

Quotations about Gurais[edit]

While describing the Kishenganga Valley (Gurais) Walter R. Lawrence writes in his book The Valley of Kashmir,

"Perhaps Pahalgam, the village of the shepherds that stands at the head of the Liddar valley with its healthy forest of pines, and Gurais, which lies at a distance of thirty-five miles from Bandipora, the port of the Wular Lake, will before long rival in popularity the other margs. Gurais is a lovely valley five miles in length lying at an elevation of about 8000 feet above the sea. The Kishenganga river flows through it, and on either side tower mountain scraps of indescribable grandeur. Perhaps one of the most beautiful scenes in the whole of the Kashmir is the grove of huge poplars through which the traveller enters the Gurais valley. The climate is dry and mild, excellent English vegetables can be grown, and the wild raspberries and currants are delicious."[4]

"The valley is extremely picturesque, as the river comes dashing along through a rich meadow, partly covered with lindens, walnut and willow trees, while the mountains on either side present nothing but a succession of most abrupt precipices, and Alpine lodges, covered with fir trees."[5]

Habba Khatoon[edit]

Fareed Kaloo; president Habba Khatoon club presenting a cultural item in Gurez
Hajji Abdul Aziz Samoon(middle) at a press conference in Srinagar

Gurais's most formidable peak is Habba Khatoon, around which legends abound and at one time, even a film starring Dimple Kapadia was planned.[6] This pyramid shaped peak was named after the Kashmiri poet Habba Khatoon. She was a beautiful and intelligent woman from Saffron village, and originally known as "Zoon" (which means Moon in English). She was the daughter of a peasant, who married her to an illiterate peasant boy named Habba. Zoon was ill-treated by her mother-in-law and husband, because she spent most of her time in poetry and singing. Dejected by her plight, she changed her name to Habba Khatoon.

The emperor of Kashmir, Yousuf Shah Chak, was entranced by her beauty, intelligence and poetry. He arranged her divorce from Habba and married her. According to the story, Shah Chak was imprisoned by his rival King Akbar, Habba Khatoon used to wander near the peak that now bears her name to look for her lover. After her husband's death, she wandered the banks of river Jhelum in mourning. She died twenty years later, and was buried in Athawajan.[7] [8] Habba Khatoon Drama club was founded in 1976 by the poet Late Hajji Abdul Aziz Samoon (Retired Police Officer; SSP). The club played a pivotal role in safeguarding the cultural ethos and traditions of the Dard-Shin tribe. Hajji Abdul Aziz Samoon(KPS) was also Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Dard-Shina Development Organization (JKDSDO), a body representing Dard community in the state JKDSDO [9] [10]


There is no central electricity in Gurais, although, as of 2009, a hydro-electric plant is under construction by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation. It is unclear if any of the generated energy will be available to the valley itself.[11] India had initially planned to construct a 100-metre-high dam on the Kishenganga, which would have flooded the majority of the Gurais Valley and forced nearly all of its residents to relocate. But due to resistance by the Dard Shin and by Pakistan, which is constructing a dam downstream, the dam’s height has been reduced to 37 metres. Set for completion in 2016, the dam will divert water from the Kishenganga towards Wular Lake via a 20 kilometre concrete tunnel, and will generate electricity for the nearby region. Although construction of the dam will temporarily bring work and money into the area, the Dard Shin have expressed concern that around 130 families will still lose their homes, and more than 300 hectares (740 acres) of land in the valley will be submerged.[12]

Because of the lack of electricity, there is no significant industrial activity in the valley. The only electricity which is available comes from a few diesel generators which provide power to some parts of the area in summer for an hour at a time. The Indian government’s relocation plans are unclear, and it has not yet committed to providing hydroelectricity to those who will remain in the valley.[13]


Shrine of Baba Razaaq in the lap of mountain in Dawar[14]
Shrine of Baba Darvaish in Fakirpora near Khandyal

Gurais has a Sunni Muslim population. Before the arrival of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (مير سيد على همدانى), the region was predominantly Hindu. Hamadani, also known as Shah Hamdan or Amir Kabir, was born in Iran in 1314, and came to Kashmir in 1372, during the rule of Sultan Shams-ud-Din (سلتان شمسءدين) as an Islamic missionary. Shah Hamdan visited the Kashmir valley three times, accompanied by about seven hundred saints, known as "Sadaats".

Of these seven hundred saints, seven came to Gurais, including Baba Abdur Razaq Shah ( بابا ابدور رزاق شأه) and Baba Dervaish (بابا درويش), whose shrines are located near the hamlet of Fakirpora. The names of the other saints are unknown, although they also have shrines, located at Chorwan, Bagtore, Dangital Tulail across the Kishan Ganga River, and at Kamri across the border near Dood-Gagi village in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.[15]

Peer Baba (پير بابا)[edit]

Grave of Peer Baba

The Peer Baba came from Multan (Pakistan) in 1933 and established himself in a cave at Durmat, north of Kanzalwan. He was about 35 years old, and his religion is unknown. He is said to have fasted for months without taking any food or water. On occasion, he came down to Kanzalwan and asked for food in Parsi with an Urdu accent. He never refused mutton offered by local Muslims. He was hard of hearing, spoke very little and was popularly known as "Nanga Baba". In Feb 1940, he came down from Durmat to Rajdhan during a heavy snowstorm, and subsequently died. When the locals tried to bring the Baba’s body to Bandipur for burial, they were attacked by large number of honeybees, and he was instead buried close to Rajdhan Pass.

Notable inhabitants[edit]

Mohammad Noor Khan[edit]

Mohammad Noor Khan

One of the most influential figures in Gurais during the pre-independence period was Mohammed Noor Khan, who helped to repel a tribal invasion of the area in 1948. Noor Khan influenced the politics of not only Gurais, but also of his birthplace in Chilas and Gilgit. He was a staunch supporter of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, whom he accompanied on the political campaign for an independent Kashmir before 1947, and who referred to him as "Sher-e-Gurez".

Haji Abdul Aziz Samoon (Pathaan)[edit]

Hajji Abdul Aziz Samoon

Hajji Abdul Aziz Samoon (1 May 1950 – 20 January 2012), also known as "Pathaan" in whole of the Gurais area was a great Shina scholar, poet, leader, teacher and a people friendly police officer. Haji Abdul Aziz Samoon was born in Khandyal village of Gurez Valley. Starting from a humble background, he achieved excellence under the care and guidance of Moulana Mohammad Anwar Samoon (Muslim saint), who also happen to be his maternal uncle. Hajji Abdul Aziz Samoon did his basic schooling from Gurez and got appointed as a teacher at very young age. Being a gold medallist in M.A Urdu, he contributed to Education System as a teacher and senior Lecturer. He made a tremendous contribution in educational field by serving far flung areas of Gurez and Tulail and developing a generation of doctors, engineers, administrative officers and teachers. He was the first person who conducted series of protests in order to get the first higher secondary School at Dawar, Gurez. He revolutionised Education system under the able guidance of Moulana Mohammad Anwar Samoon. [16]

Pathaan, was a great Shina Poet. Besides Shina he wrote brilliant Urdu and Persian Poetry. His Shina poetry is very famous in Gurez. His poetry had a deeper meaning and provides an insight into his persona. One finds a glimpse of Dard Shin culture and the serenity of the Shina language in his poetry. He was a bold and honest police officer. . Haji Abdul Aziz Samoon was 1984 batch KPS officer. He retired as Senior Superintendent of Police in 2008. During his tenure as a police officer he served people at every level, provided first hand justice on spot and was sympathetic towards his subordinates. He believed in people friendly policing and never compromised on the principles of justice and truth. He had a good reputation among general public and among his senior officers. He often helped people in distress and guided those youth who were in need of guidance.


Habba Khatoon Drama club was founded by him in 1976. The club played a pivotal role in safeguarding the cultural ethos and traditions of the Dard-Shin tribe. Hajji Abdul Aziz Samoon was also Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Dard-Shina Development Organization (JKDSDO), a body representing Dard community in the state JKDSDO. He was writing translation of the Holy Quraan in Shina Language. But due to his sudden death the work remained incomplete. Further he was also working on Grammar and script of Shina Language. He often voiced his concern against the step motherly treatment of Shina speaking public by the Jammu and Kashmir government. He pointed out the need for the preservation and Revival of Shina Language.[18][19][20]


Kishenganga River, with a length of 150 kilometres (93 mi), supports world class trout with an average weight of 24 pounds (11 kg). As of 2006, there were plans to develop the fishery potential of the area, making it a resource for the surrounding region.

Fish in the river include:[21]


  1. ^ "Gurez an introduction". 4 January 2008. 
  2. ^ "Hidden paradise". 6 December 2008. 
  3. ^ "GUREZ: KASHMIR: FIRST-HAND REPORT". 27 August 2007. 
  4. ^ (P: 16)
  5. ^ Sir Charles Ellison Bates, 1872 AD
  6. ^ "Gurez: Kashmir Untouched". 4 March 2002. 
  7. ^ Go to Kashmir. "About Gurez". 
  8. ^ Kashmir Images. "Shina conference". 
  9. ^ Greater Kashmir. "Shina Poet". 
  10. ^ kashmirimages. "Dard community alleges discrimination". 
  11. ^ "Electricity still a far-fetched dream for Gurez valley". 30 August 2009. 
  12. ^ "Dammed if you do". May 2010. 
  13. ^ "Dammed if you do". May 2010. 
  14. ^ "Photos by Zahid Samoon". 16 January 2007. 
  15. ^ "Religion in Gurez". 14 June 2008. 
  16. ^ "Pathaan". 21 Jan 2012. 
  17. ^ Rising Kashmir. "Dard Shin community lost its messiah". 
  18. ^ kashmirdispatch. "Pathaan". 
  19. ^ Greater Kashmir. "Shina Poet". 
  20. ^ kashmirimages. "Dard community alleges discrimination". 
  21. ^ "Gippsland Aquaculture Industry Network GAIN". 2 September 2006. 

External links[edit]