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Gulmarg ready to witness Christmas celebration

The well decorated church in the middle of the meadow presents a splendid look to the onlookers, reports Tejinder Singh Sodhi.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2006 18:55 IST

A meadow surrounded by mountains with thick pine trees around and everything enveloped under white snow - fun that never ends - what more could one desire from a dream destination to celebrate Christmas this season.

Gulmarg which is all set for the inauguration of this year's five day long winter sports festival from December 25 has also become one of the famous destinations for holidaymakers to celebrate this year's Christmas and the only church in the area is ready to welcome all the guests to sing 'merry Christmas' in a choir.

"We have made all the preparations to keep the prayer hall warm for tonight as we expect good number of people to attend the night's mass, which would be held at the time when Jesus was born," said the caretaker of the church.

The well decorated church in the middle of the meadow presents a splendid look to the onlookers with stone made building engulfed with snow, adding to the beauty are the icicles hanging from the roof of the church and other buildings.

"It's really out of the world experience, it's wonderful, and it seems that everything has been painted in white. The stone made church in the middle of the snow covered meadow and the black smoke coming out of its chimney, as if we are in a fairy tale, but it's not a one and we are witnessing everything here," said Anupama a college student from Mumbai.

Prayers were being held since morning in the lone church in Gulmarg with large number of people from different religions attending it and the final mass is scheduled to take place in the midnight.

"I have never attended any Christmas mass, but I am sure that attending one at such a beautiful place is a blessing for me from God," said Amarpreet Singh an Engineer by profession who had come to Gulmarg to spend his holidays.

Not only the domestic tourists but also foreigners who are in Gulmarg are planning to have a blast this evening to celebrate Christmas in Gulmarg.

"After the night's prayers are over we will dance around a bonfire as we usually do back home," said Andrew Lucas a Dutch tourist.

Besides horticulture, tourism is considered as the major source of the state's economy. But following this year's militant attack on tourists in Kashmir in which a dozen of tourists lost their lives and scores of others injured, there was a steep decline in the number of tourists visiting the valley. But this season the tourism industry has once again seen a revival with the tourist inflow gathering pace and the industry is having a boon time.

"This season we received heavy snowfall and we exploited it in attracting tourists to the valley in which we succeeded and now after the winter sports festival starts from Monday we expect more tourists to come to the valley," said an officer in the state tourism department.

"The five day long winter sports festival will be a Christmas gift from Kashmir to the whole world. Where people can come any enjoy their holidays," said Farooq Ahmed Shah Director Tourism Jammu and Kashmir government.

Tourists who have come to spend their holidays are also enjoying their stay in Gulmarg as they say they find themselves in the 'company of the Mother Nature' here.

"I assure you that if an atheist comes to this place once, he would definitely start believing in the existence of the God," said Neelima a college lecturer from Mumbai.

First Published: Dec 24, 2006 18:55 IST