Srinagar - City of Dal Lake
youve longed for the delights of a houseboat holidays, now is
the time to try one out. 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.
¤ Attraction of House Boats
As a general rule, houseboats in the Dal are of all categories, from
deluxe through to D class, while those in the Nagin are largely luxury
class and those in the Jhelum largely economy class.
This, however, is a generalization. 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.
¤ Location of House Boats
Most houseboats on the Dal are situated in long straggling rows, some
face the Boulevard, Srinagar's most exciting address, while others are
situated singly or in groups of two and three. The location of the
houseboat tells us nothing about its class, but before checking into
one, there are a few factors you may like to consider.
A honeymoon couple may want to be away from it all, and may choose a
houseboat with few, if any, close neighbours. To them, it will be an
advantage to stay in the interior of the lake, accessible by a half
hour long shikara ride.
A family with young children on the other hand may find themselves
better served in an area which overlooks the Boulevard where a
crossing takes just five minutes. When your houseboat is in a busy
area of the Dal, it is enjoyable just to sit on the balcony and watch
the world row by.
¤ The Interior Layot of The Boat
Each houseboat has anything between two and four bedrooms in it with
attached bathrooms and a common sitting and dining room. The charges
of a houseboat always include all meals and a certain number of
crossings by shikara to and from the houseboat.
Houseboats offer far more personalized service than hotels because of
the far higher host:guest ratio. On the other hand, fellow guests at
the same houseboat tend to interact much more than if they were
staying at the same hotel. Which is why houseboats are ideal for a
large group of eight or more adults.
¤ The Dal Lake
The Dal is famous not only for its beauty, but for its vibrance,
because it sustains within its periphery, a life that is unique
anywhere in the world.
The houseboat and shikara communities have lived for centuries on the
Dal, and so complete is their infrastructure on the lake, that they
never have to step on land! Doctors, tailors, bakers youll
see them all in tiny wooden shops on the lake, near picturesque
vegetable gardens and acres of lotus gardens.
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
Because the Dal is so central to the landscape of Srinagar, many
places of tourist interest have, over the ages, been built in its
vicinity. Nishat and Shalimar gardens as well as Hazaratbal mosque are
directly accessible by shikara.
¤ Mughal Gardens
was a favorite of the Mughal emperors who visited it as often as they
could. Cool and refreshing after the plains of North India where the
business of governance kept them, they planted gardens with stepped
terraces and flowing water courses. When they rested in their gardens,
they dreamt they were in paradise. Cheshmashahi is the first Mughal
garden you will pass after Nehru Park. Built at a height above the
city, its views are as stupendous as its layout. The smallest of
Srinagar's Mughal gardens, Cheshmashahi has only three terraces in
addition to a natural spring of water enclosed in a stone pavilion.
The next garden along the road that encircles the Dal is the Nishat,
built by Empress Nur Jahan's brother Asaf Khan. The largest of the
gardens, Nishat has several terraces, a central water course and a
majestic site between the Dal and the Zabarwan hills.
The third Mughal garden the Shalimar was planted by
Jehangir, the Mughal emperor, whose love for Kashmir was legendary.
Shaded by magnificent chinar trees, the Shalimar is a series of stone
pavilions and flowing water with paint-box bright flower beds.
Across the Dal from Shalimar is the mosque of Hazaratbal, the
only one of its kind architecturally in Kashmir. Made of white marble
with a dome and a minaret, Hazaratbal is the repository of a single
hair of the Prophet Mohammed, exhibited to the public on certain days
of the year.
¤ Places of Pilgrimage
Within Srinagar, on its highest hill is the Shankaracharya temple,
nearly one thousand feet above the city. It is devoted to lord Shiva.
The site dates back to 2500 BC.
The philosopher Shankaracharya stayed at this site when he visited
Kashmir ten centuries ago to revive Sanatan Dharma. Before this date,
the temple was known as Gopadri, as an earlier edifice on the same
site was built by king Gopaditya in the 6th century. In fact the road
below the hill, with residences of high-ranking State Government
officials, is still known as Gupkar road.
To the west of the city is the much lower hill of Hari Parbat, which
is surrounded by a fort. On this hill is the temple of Sharika Devi,
believed to be a form of Durga Mata or Shakti. 25 kms from Srinagar,
past Ganderbal, is the most important pilgrim place in Kashmir, the
only exception being Amarnath cave.
This is the temple and spring of Tulla Mulla, the local name of
Goddess Raginia, believed to be another form of Durga Mata.
The site of the temple predates this millennium. The temple-spring
complex is affectionately known as Kheer Bhavani because of the
thousands of devotees who have offered milk and 'kheer' to the sacred
spring, which magically changes colour, turning black when warning of
¤ Chatti Padshahi Gurudwara
The sixth guru of Sikhism travelled through Kashmir, stopping to
preach occasionally. A gurudwara has been built at the exact site of
each of these halts. The most important one is Chatti Padshahi
Gurudwara near the Kathi Darwaza in Rainawari, Srinagar.
Courtesy J&K Tourism