SRINAGAR, June 21: More than 65 years have passed since the last Dogra ruler ended his reign in Kashmir, but its vestiges still remain.
At least they do in in a small groove of cork oaks at the Royal Springs Golf Course in Srinagar.
The last Dogra maharaja, Hari Singh, had imported the trees from Europe to be grown here on a large scale for sale. Cork, in great demand then, was used mostly for bottles.
But no sooner had the autocrat begun to cherish his dream than his rule came to an end in 1947.
A bloody invasion by raiders from neighbouring Pakistan made him flee, with his entourage and royal treasures, to the state’s winter capital Jammu; but, only after signing the controversial instrument of accession with the Indian Union.
His trees are now a part of the state’s heritage.
The 18-hole golf course with its sprawling greens was carved out of a forest besides relocating an entire village. How the groove of cork oaks and some other exotic trees managed to escape being felled is still a mystery.
Now, the golf course has grown to become the best in the country, perhaps for its scenic beauty.
Overlooking it in the hills is a Mughal structure named Paree Mahal (Palace of the fairy) built by Prince Dara Shikoh, the son of Emperor Shah Jahan.
Maharaja Hari Singh constructed a palace in this area and shifted from the Shergarhi Palace, situated on the banks of the river Jhelum in the heart of the city.
The palace is among the only two 5-star hotel in the valley.
Motorized carts, imported turf besides an overflowing bar are just some other facilities which this golf course boasts of.
“This ground is a crowd puller. Whoever plays a game here once always come back. This includes golfing pros and corporate bigwigs besides the bureaucrats who have moved to the top circuit of the sport,” Peer Sohail, an employee said.