World > India > Hill Stations > Jammu & Kashmir > Srinagar
PLACES OF INTEREST
The soft murmur of river Jhelum is an echo of the easy paced lifestyle of Srinagar. Its waters have flowed gently for ages through the centre of the State capital, the light splash of floating flowers and vegetable markets on the lakes calling each morning into this waterborne city. Srinagar's showpiece, the Dal lake, brightens slowly in the early sunshine with colourful reflections of gaily decorated houseboats. And all the delights of a holiday in Srinagar are finally awakened with the opening of the city bazaars, bringing out a dazzling array of exquisitely crafted work.
The network of waterways laces the city together, and life flows alongside. Suggestive of Alpine chalets, many homes overhang the river but the older quarter of the city is crowded with tulip-shaped domes and the houses here are stacked on narrow streets.
The canals glide past all to mingle in the Dal Lake, its water dancing with a simmering vision of reflected loveliness- the Mughal Gardens, laid out along its shores 400 years ago in a symmetrical profusion of flowers & fountains.
The quickly falling dusk is lit up immediately by the glitter of the city bazaars. Quaint shops crammed with endless treasure troves of Kashmir's renowned handicrafts-all at bargain prices, yet priceless in their delicate beauty.
Srinagar revolves around this expanse of blue water, bustling with a variety of crafts. In a way the lake is Srinagar's aquatic plaza & its heart. Brightly hued houseboats are moored on this lake. Each a comfortable home. Bright awnings & flower baskets sparkling in the sunshine. Mobile markets on Shikaras bob merrily criss-crossing waters with contrasting multitudes of goods & traffic, sing-song voices calling out wares as diverse as fruits & hand-woven carpets. Actually, three lakes in one-Gagribal, Lokut Dal & Bod Dal- the Dal is the obvious base for a holiday in Srinagar. Ringed by mountains, its banks are shadowed by poplars & willows. In Autumn, the lake is covered with lotus leaves & the canals fill up with a tiny plant which turns the surface into a green carpet. The darkening twilight transforms Dal Lake into a shimmering fantasy of lights-houseboats rock gently in the twinkling, sparkling waters, the shikaras stream past, flickering lamps from point to point, the red, dying Sun & a slow rising Moon spark flashes of fire into the black waters.
Crowned by the ruins of a fort, this hill, according to legend, grew out of a pebble dropped by Parvati (a Hindu Goddess) to crush a demon. Though turned to rubble, the thick, massive wall around the fort is an imposing evidence of a historic past. Over the ages, the sides of the hill have provided sites for many temples & shrines.
On the shores of Dal lake, this mosque houses one of the holiest Muslim relics-a hair of Prophet Mohammed. The holy relic was brought to Kashmir by Khwaja Noor-ud-din from Bijapur in 1700 A.D. On specific days in the year, it is shown to the faithful who gather in thousands in the courtyard.
The climb to the historic temple atop this hill is rewarded by a panoramic view of Srinagar's busy thoroughfares & blue lakes. The temple on the top is one of the earliest built & is said to be on the site of the Takht-i-Suleiman, or the Throne of Solomon. The top is also connected by a road to a Television tower.
The Mughal Gardens
Paid out for their pleasure by the Mughal emperors, these gardens create a magical enchantment all their own. Each with a name like the tingling splash of its fountains: Chashma Shahi, Nishat, Shalimar, each a personal vision of paradise with its own special light & colour, ablaze with flowers, chosen for their harmony of scent as well as colour. The dreamy, sensuous beauty is heightened by the sparkling ripple of cascading streams & fountains, limpid pools & airy pavilions. Nishat borders the Dal lake & was laid out by Asaf Khan, Empress Noor Jahan's brother. A garden of pleasure, Chashma Shahi, the royal spring with an illuminated garden is the smallest & the spring from which it derives its name is credited with medicinal properties, while Shalimar, the Abode of Love, was laid out by the Emperor Jahangir & is the most famous of the three. Here, a spectacular Son-et-Lumiere show recaptures the bewitching midsummer night's love of the Emperor & his beloved Queen, Noor Jahan.
Calm & peaceful, the only ripples on its serene waters are caused by water-skiing enthusiasts, divers, swimmers & sailors. The Nagin lake is a paradise for a sporting aquatic holiday. On the banks is a club & a tea pavilion.
The largest fresh water lake in Asia, it is surrounded by towering mountains & the valleys below. The jade green waters swirl gently around a curious bubbling spring in the middle of the lake. A small & picturesque island, Zaina Lank, adds to the beautiful setting of the lake. Built by the famous Sultan, Zain-ul-Abidin, it is covered by the ruins of a mosque still showing fragments of elegant pillars & arches.
25 km from Srinagar, it is a marble temple with a gold-plated dome. It stands in the middle of a pool formed by spring waters which change colours from time to time. Khir Bhawani is visited by hundreds of devotees.
Laden with lotus in summer & a bird watcher's paradise, this lake is one of the largest haunts of aquatic birds in Kashmir. Small but beautiful, Manasbal's deep stretches ensure a peaceful clarity in its waters, making it a still haven among the mountains, water meadows & reeds. Its serenity is undisturbed by anything but the chirping of birds. A small rest house, huts & a cafeteria provide welcome facilities.
It is situated at a distance of 29 km from Srinagar on the Srinagar-Anantnag road. The town was founded by King Awantivarman who reigned Kashmir from 855-883 A.D. Its chief interest centres in two magnificent & massive temple ruins with which the founder embellished the town.
Situated at the foot of a forested hill, it is 56 km from Srinagar. The Mughal Garden here was designed in 1620 A.D. by Jahanara Begum, the daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan. Fountain cascades & pavilions & shaded by great trees. Nearby is a trout farm for seed fish. Tourists can stay in the tourist bungalow or tourist huts. A cafeteria in the garden serves tea & snacks.
Near By Places
It was originally called Gaurimarg, in honour of Gauri, Lord Shiva’s consort, she being the presiding deity of this place. King Yusuf Shah, who strolled in this beautiful landscape with his wife, Habba Khatoon, changed the name to Gulmarg in 1581. Translated as the Meadow of Flowers, Gulmarg is a charming hill station at 2,653 m, situated at a distance of 51 km from Srinagar, amidst tall pines, gigantic firs and the snow-capped mountains. In spring the slopes get a carpet of daisies, buttercups, blue bells and other blooms. The Mughal Emperor is said to have once collected as many as 21 different varieties of flowers at Gulmarg.
During winter, Gulmarg is transformed into an Elysium for skiing, skating and tobogganing. The resort has a 2,000 m long ropeway and the highest golf course in the world. The buses go directly up to Gulmarg in summer and in winter too, provided the road is clear. An 11km circular walk girdling Gulmarg runs through pine scented woods which offers panoramic views of Naga Parbat, the Harmukh and the sunset peaks in the north.
Originally a small and sleepy village of shepherds, Pahalgam has grown into a major tourist centre because of its many untold scenic attractions. Pahalgam is located at an altitude of 2,133 metres, at the junction of Lidder and Sheshnag streams and amidst lofty deodars, fir, pine, junipers and other conifers. For trekking and mountaineering, and pilgrimage to the holy cave of Amarnath, the spot is an ideal starting point.
Pahalgam is accessible by road and there are a number of Tourist Huts and Tourist Bungalow available, besides a good number of private hotels with all the modern amenities including central heating.
For the keen shopper, Kashmir is a handicraft lover's delight. Beauty abounds in Kashmiri artifacts: papier mache, lacquered & painted in floral designs, wood carvings & screens, carpets soft & fine in typical oriental designs. Silks, woollen shawls embroidered in traditional paisley & crewel work of great beauty. Few places in the world as small as Kashmir offer such a rich variety of skilled craftsmanship.
The bazaars of Srinagar are dotted with handicraft stores & shops, almost like an Arabian Night's tale. And the street vendors are everywhere, adding their own colour to this picturesque setting.
For shopping around Srinagar or anywhere in the state, there is no need for guides. Tourists should be their own guides. Go round the various markets & choose after thorough satisfaction regarding quality & price. The J&K Handicrafts Corporation has a large display of all handicraft items, carpets, etc. at the Government Arts Emporium, housed in what was once the British resident's mansion with a big. lovely garden. The prices of all items here are fixed & quality guaranteed.
Food is another of Kashmir's marvels. Try the legendary Kashmiri meal called 'Wazwan'. The well-known meat preparations like 'Rista' & 'Gushtaba' that take many hours to be ready, as the meat is pounded boneless, & come to the palate after a series of processes. Round it off with green, spiced tea called 'Kahwa' served from gleaming samovars.
How to Reach
Srinagar is easily accessible. There are direct daily flights from New Delhi, while air passengers from Mumbai & Kolkata can get connecting flights from New Delhi on the same day. Train services operate upto Jammu. From here, regular taxis & bus services are available. One can also fly to Srinagar from Jammu.
Where to Stay
Srinagar has excellent modern, European-style hotels, houseboats, private guest houses & tourist huts. Hotels range from luxury to modest while the tourist huts at Chashma Shahi have different rates according to size. Houseboats are a unique experience by themselves & a visit to Kashmir without a brief stay in such a floating house is considered by many as incomplete.
A typical houseboat has a verandah in front for viewing the magnificent lake-side scenery, a living room, a dining room, two or three bedrooms with separate bathrooms, & a sun deck on the roof. The servant quarters & the kitchen are in a separate boat moored astern of the main boat. The interiors are richly furnished. The rental charges include meals prepared by cooks skilled in both Indian & European cuisine & the services of a house boy. Electricity is available & most of them have modern plumbing facilities. The houseboats are classified by the tourism authorities into different categories: Deluxe, A, B, & Economy. The deluxe boats are richly furnished & carpeted, some even having panelled living rooms. Each is maintained in perfect condition, bright paint, colourful awnings & bright flower baskets all glistening in the Sun. For most who stay in them, it is a holiday in itself.