Srinagar: A Lost Destination

1st Oct 2013
Photo of Srinagar: A Lost Destination 1/7 by Aftab Singh
Chasma Shahi
Photo of Srinagar: A Lost Destination 2/7 by Aftab Singh
Hazratbal Shrine on the left bank of Dal
Photo of Srinagar: A Lost Destination 3/7 by Aftab Singh
A fountain view of Shalimar Bagh
Photo of Srinagar: A Lost Destination 4/7 by Aftab Singh
Pari Mahal in all it's structural beauty
Photo of Srinagar: A Lost Destination 5/7 by Aftab Singh
Srinagar city with Dal Lake
Photo of Srinagar: A Lost Destination 6/7 by Aftab Singh
Dal backwaters
Photo of Srinagar: A Lost Destination 7/7 by Aftab Singh
A Shikara in Dal Lake

One lost destination on the traveller's map in the recent times has been the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir - Srinagar, or as it is more fondly called- Venice of the East.

I feel my visit should change the minds of a lot of people hesitant about visiting Srinagar. It is situated in the Kashmir Valley and lies on the banks of the Jhelum River, famous for its magnificent beauty in lakes, gardens and houseboats. The city is also famous for its nine old bridges, connecting the two parts of the city and close proximity to numerous places to visit. This being the 2nd time I am visiting Kashmir, after a span of close to 12 years.

Top of my list of places to visit had to be The Dal Lake, which can not be described in words, you have to see it for yourself to digest it's out of the world brilliance. Even world famous author Sir Walter Lawerence has written "Lake par-excellence" for Dal. After an enriching walk around the lake and a Shikara ride on the calm Dal waters, I decided to visit Hazratbal Shrine. Situated on the left bank of the lake in all it's 17th century architectural greatness, the white marble mosque looked enchanting up close. Right adjacent to the Hazratbal Mosque was the impressive Nishat Bagh which I went to next. The garden commands a magnificent view of the lake with a backdrop of the majestic Himalayas.

Photo of Dal Lake, Rainawari, Srinagar by Aftab Singh

A major part of Sringar and Kashmir in fact, has sprawling lush green gardens with the most beautifully landscaped flower beds and fountains amidst structures which date back to almost the late 16th century. I decided to see a few for myself and visited Shalimar Garden first. Situated 15 Kms from the city centre, it was built by Emperor Jahangir for his beloved wife, Nurjahan. Shalimar gets water from Harwan through a canal lined with fountains. These fountains were the main attraction for the tourists and children alike. Next I moved to Cheshma Shahi, or the Royal Spring was laid by Shah Jahan and Pari Mahal. The spring is famous for refreshing digestive water. After refreshing myself with water from the spring, I went 2kms uphill to reach Pari Mahal. The different views from the 7 terraces Srinagar felt surreal and I stood admiring the natural beauty for many a minutes.

Photo of Shalimar Gardens, Shalimar, Rainawari, Srinagar by Aftab Singh

Some things that mesmerised me about Srinagar were the Houseboats and back waters of Dal Lake. A shikara ride till one of the houseboats in the lake is an experience that is a must in a lifetime. As the Shikara passed through the various channels, we passed many houseboats which were managed by sincere dexterity by the locals. Kingfishers and other birds become a frequent sight once past the house boats into the backwaters. The kingfishers sit on the tops of houseboats nonchalantly almost within the touching distance of humans who seem to be equally unmindful of the birds. We moved further into the calm waters of Anchar Lake where we were in a totally different world, no crowd of boats, no motor boat engines to be heard and the mood was different altogether. It felt almost like we actually were in Venice, just with a lot of fauna instead of architectural structures.

Photo of Anchar Lake, Srinagar by Aftab Singh

Sringar also boasts of a very diverse religious representation along with it's incomparable natural and scenic beauty. I was pleasantly surprised to visit temples, mosques and gurudwaras in close distances of each other. Yet, the beauty and exclusivity of each was better than the other and in a league of it's own. I first visited the Shankaracharya Temple, also known as Takht-e-Suleiman. It was constructed in 371 B.C. and as such is the oldest shrine in Kashmir. The location commands a magnificent panoramic view of the entire Srinagar city. Then I moved on to visit Imambara Hassanabad, which was a developed city during the Mughal rule. It is the 2nd oldest shrine and is a world famous place of mourning and worship of one million shia population of J&K. Like I mentioned earlier, on one side of the Imambara was the Chatti Padshahi Sikh Gurudwara which is a must stop for all the sikhs coming to Srinagar.

Photo of Shankaracharya Temple, Srinagar by Aftab Singh

Read more about houseboats in Srinagar