Srinagar is located
in the heart of the Kashmir valley at an altitude of 1,730 m above
sea level, spread on both sides of the river Jhelum. The Dal
and Nagin lakes enhance its picturesque setting, while the
changing play of the seasons and the salubrious climate ensures
that the city is equally attractive to visitors around the year.
Dal Lake around Nehru Park
Kalhana, the author
of 'Rajtarangini’, states that Srinagar was founded by Emperor
Ashoka (3rd Century BC). The present city of Srinagar
was founded by Pravarasena-II, and Hiuen Tsang, who visited
Kashmir in 631 AD, found it at the same site as it is today.
Laltaditya Muktapida was the most illustrious ruler of Kashmir in
the Hindu period, which ended in 1339 AD. King
Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-70 AD), popularly known as ‘Budshah’,
was a great patron of Sanskrit. Akbar captured Kashmir valley for
the Mughals, who endowed Srinagar with beautiful mosques and
gardens. The Sikhs overthrew the last Muslim ruler in the reign of
Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1819. In 1846 the Dogras secured the
sovereignty of Kashmir from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar, and in 1947 the state of Jammu and Kashmir with Srinagar
capital, became part of the Indian Union.
Today Srinagar is a
resort for the tourist who can experience, at first hand, the
peculiar beauty of the valley that has attracted the Chinese, the
Mughals and the British to it.
Its waterways with
their own quaint lifestyle, the unique Houseboat, the blossoming
gardens, water sports activities, shopping for lovingly
hand-crafted souvenirs and the nearby resorts make it a cherished
spot among those looking for a memorable holiday.
Legend has it that when Pravarasena decided to build himself a new
capital, to choose the location he started walking at midnight and
was confronted by a demon on the other side of the Mahasarit
River. The demon spread his bent leg across the stream and dared
the king to cross over it to the other side. The king cut off the
leg with one stroke of his sword and calmly crossed.
The demon was delighted with the king's boldness and told him to
build the city where he would find the beginnings of a plan laid
out for him. The next morning the king found the boundary lines
drawn at the foot of Hari Parbat and built his city there. To this
day the waters of the Dal Lake are separated from the Tsont-i-Kul
by a Sathu or Bund that is shaped like a bent leg.
one is longing for the delights of a houseboat holiday, then check
out lakes of Srinagar to try one. Srinagar is a unique city
because of its lakes - the Dal , Nagin and Anchar. The River
Jhelum also flows through a part of the city.
Most houseboats on
the Nagin and the Jhelum are situated on the banks of the lake,
and can be accessed directly from land without the help of a
Shikara. While all those on the Dal require a Shikara to get to
and from them. Most houseboats on the Dal are situated in long
straggling rows some face the boulevard, Srinagar's exciting
address, while others are situated singly or in groups of two and
City Of Lakes
Srinagar's lakes are the reason why the city receives so many
tourists. Not just expanse of water, the lakes are filled with
houseboats, villages, narrow water canals, lotus and vegetable
gardens and houses and shops.
Life on the lakes, as witnessed from the confines of a Shikara, is
unique. It is possible to book a Shikara for the whole day and
sightsee Nishat Garden, Nasim Bagh, Hazratbal Mosque, Pathar
Masjid and Shah Hamdan's Shrine, having a picnic lunch in the
While Nagin is quieter, the Dal is full of local colour, with
tourists being rowed in Shikara to shops selling every conceivable
handicraft - all within the lake.
Let's Have A Ride Of The Lake!
A Shikara ride is one of the most soothing, relaxing aspects of a
holiday in Kashmir. It can be an hour-long ride to see the sights
of the Dal; a shopping by Shikara expedition to visit handicraft
shops within the periphery of the lake; or a whole day trip to
visit important city landmarks.
Because the Dal is so central to the landscape of Srinagar, many
places of tourist interest have, over the ages, been built in its
Kashmir At It's Royal Best
The Mughal (also spelt as Moghul)
emperors built gardens from Tehran to Agra but it is in Kashmir,
complemented by the lake and the mountains, that they reach
their perfection. Indeed after houseboats and the mountains it
is these gardens for which Kashmir is most famous.
The Garden's Layout
The gardens all follow the same rectangular layout with a series
of terraces rising one above the other up the hillside. Down the
centre flows a stone channel carrying water through a series of
pools and cascades. This system of carrying running water
through the artificial cascades, and the layout of the
fountains, was introduced to India by the artisans employed by
the emperor Akbar. 'Bagh' means garden. One can enjoy some of
Srinagar's better gardens in a leisurely bike ride around the
shores of the lake.
Set some distance back from the lake, but reached by a small
canal, the Shalimar were built by Emperor Jahangir for his wife
Noor Jahan, 'light of the world' in 1616. Although it is known
today as the 'garden of love' it was originally named the Farah
Bakhsh or 'delightful garden'.
The garden is built in four terraces with traditional
water channel running down the middle. The gardens measure 540
by 183 metres. During the Mughal period the top terraces used be
reserved for the emperor and the ladies of the court and was the
most magnificent. It include a pavilion made of black stone in
the middle of the tank. Black Marble fluted pillars supported
the pavilion, which was used as a banquet hall.
Shalimar Bagh has an air of seclusion and repose, and its rows
of fountains and shaded trees seem to recede towards the
snowcapped mountains. A sound and light show
is put on here every evening during the May to October tourist
The Nishat Bagh is another lovely garden with its 12 terraces
representing the 12 signs of the zodiac, which descend gradually
and seem to almost merge into the lake. It is situated on the
banks of world famous Dal Lake in the backdrop of Zabarwan
hills. With its flowerbeds, trees, fountains, the Nishat
presents a dramatic sight. The gardens were designed in 1633 by
Asaf Khan, brother of Noor Jahan, and follow the same pattern as
the Shalimar gardens with a polished stone channel running down
the centre and a series of terraces.
It's the largest of the Mughal gardens measuring 548 metres by
338 metres, and often the most crowed. The walks beside the
channel are bordered with lines of cypresses and Chinars. Also
found within its vicinity are some remains of Mughal period
buildings including a double storey pavilion enclosed on two
sides latticed windows.
Directly behind the garden is the Gopi Tirth, a small spring
gushing forth crystal clear water, which feeds the garden water.
Smallest of the Srinagar Mughal gardens, measuring just 108
metres by 38 metres, the Chasma Shahi, or 'Royal Spring', are
well up the hillside, above the Nehru Memorial Park. The fresh
water spring in these pleasant, quieter gardens is reputed to
have medicinal properties.
The gardens were laid out in 1632 by Ali Mardan Khan and include
three terraces, an aqueduct, waterfalls and fountains. The water
from the spring supplies the fountains and then goes through the
floor of the pavilion and falls to the lower terrace in a fine
cascade of five metres, over a polished black stone chute.
Some extensions have recently been made to the gardens. Like all
the gardens the Chasma Shahi is open from sunrise to sunset but
unlike the other gardens this is the only one, which charges
admission. There is a small shrine, the Chasma.