Skip to main content

Zanskar Yatra - Part 1 (Srinagar - Dal Lake and Hazratbal Shrine)

This post is in continuation of Series of posts on my recent Zanskar trip. For the first part on Srinagar, Click here.

Dal Lake

Famous as "Jewel in the crown of Kashmir" or "Srinagar's Jewel”, Dal Lake is the second largest lake of the state with a shoreline of about 15kilometers and covering 18 sq km area. While, Houseboats and Shikara (small boats or gondolas) bejewel the Lake, Mughal era gardens decorate its periphery. During winter season, the temperature sometimes dives sub-zero and freezes the lake.
Sunset at Dal Lake
Spread over 18 square kilometres, this Lake is essentially a part of a natural wetland which covers 21.1 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi), including floating gardens that are actually fenced and tied to wooden logs. These floating gardens are known as "Rad" in Kashmiri. The wetland is divided by into four basins; Gagribal, Lokut Dal, Bod Dal and Nagin. Lokut-dal and Bod-dal each have an island in the centre, known as Rup Lank (or Char Chinari) and Sona Lank respectively. (Wikipedia)
Save Dal, Save Mother Nature Kashmir
(ironically Kingfishers support it ;)
A duck at Dal
A water-lily
It's just beautiful at every angle
A view across the Houseboats
I took a shikara (boat) for an hour. Rates are fixed by government as Rs 300/- for an hour, and service tip is exclusive.  The guy told me it would be an honour for him to tell me about the Lake and would be glad if I appreciate at end. I took the clue. He rowed me through the Golden Lake, Dal Lake and the Bazaar, sharing about the houseboats and showing that particular one where Mission Kashmir was shot. Life of a houseboat that is built with woods is usually 70 years and is licensed by the government. Rates vary with the facilities, and likes of houseboat where Hritik spent a few hours could cost up to 10,000 for a night.  I loved the serene off white-light yellow water lilies of the Lake. At far distance on Hari Parbat, he showed me an old fort built by Akbar. He also advised to buy shawls, dry fruits etc at the Lake’s bazaar only, as this is the market from where other vendors buy and resell the Kashmiri items. We reached the place from where we started in exactly an hour. It was a short trip but I surely liked it.


A view of Dal through Shikara
Mughal fort at Hari Parbat across the Lake
A floating Garden of Dal Lake
It's just beautiful :)
Can't confirm - the boatmen said this is houseboat where Hiritk for Mission Kashmir
Beautiful floating market of Dal Lake
Beautiful floating market of Dal Lake
Beautiful floating market of Dal Lake


Sunset at Nageen Lake


On our return trip, we decided to spend the night at one of the Houseboats. That morning in Srinagar had a different story and we were not even sure about the very next morning when we were to leave the city. President Pranab Mukherjee was in the city to felicitate Srinagar University’s Convocation and some groups have boycott his presence closing down the city. 
Our Houseboat
Nevertheless, our driver suggested to stay at or near Dal, so did us. Through an agent we booked the houseboat Fazil. There were three double-bed rooms in the houseboat and it was well suited for a large family, but seriously not for a couple on honeymoons (would be sharing the Hotel reviews soon). That evening I took another boot-ride in the Lake with Dheeraj and other mates. This time the trip was not time-bound, and was rated at Rs 900/- for 9loactions or so plus tip. Luckily, we did have an opportunity to see two marriage possessions (baarat) on boats in the Lake.

A Kashmiri Baarat procession in Dal Lake
Hazratbal Shrine

The Hazratbal Shrine is a Muslim shrine located north-east of Dal Lake in Srinagar. It contains a relic believed by many Muslims of Kashmir to be a hair of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The name Hazratbal derives from the Arabic word Hazrat, meaning holy or majestic, and the Kashmiri word bal (which is a corrupted form of Sanskrit word Vala meaning an enclosure) meaning place. (Wikipedia)
Hazratbal Shrine
After spending over an hour or so at Dal Lake, I thought to visit Hazrat Bal, leaving Shankrachrya Temple for next visit. I decided to walk, not just because the auto-walas were not quoting sanely, but as walking is the best way to learn and enjoy any city, especially the Old ones! There are two routes that lead to the shrine, one by the Hazratbal Road, through the city and Nigeen Lake; the other anticlockwise along the Lake and through the boulevards of magnificent gardens by Boulevard road. I chose the earlier one, it being shorter still an 8km walk. While crossing the bridge on lake, I met a Kashmiri guy who guided me through the alleys, which I loved to the core, towards the mosque. While walking, he told me how their lives have been getting back on track with tourism. According to him, foreigners aren’t afraid of Kashmir and they love roaming around. He was sorry for a few stone-pelters but, honestly, weren’t very comfortable to share his heart out. Well, probably I could understand and I shouldn’t try to give words to his feelings. I remembered the first taxi-guy I met at airport, who too wanted to share a lot, but wasn’t that comfortable. We could see the Army guys and trucks on corners and circles, near Gurudwara and Government buildings. It felt very weird and to good extent frightening to me, and I was praying not to meet any hooligan. That guy left me at a circle where the alley met the main road. There the army convoy was in anti-curfew outfit, with ... etc. I walked pass that area and after crossing NIT-Srinagar, reached another circle. On my left was a road with an actually disheartening look and stones on road, I could feel ‘something has happened’.  I could see the shrine on my left, though the main entrance was still at a hundred meters walk. I took a few snaps of the shrine and went ahead. So much I wanted to take snaps of the market, but yes I was scared. Taking recess at a kulfi-vendor, I asked about the market, and was told that have just missed the stone-pelting by a minute or so. Respecting the scene, I enquired autowalas to drive me back to Laal Chowk, and to no-surprise none agreed. That kulfi wala guy came to rescue me at that very crucial moment and arranged a seat in a pick-up auto for a few hundred bucks. That auto took the 16 km long Nishant Harwan-Boulevard road, and I enjoyed the ride happy that could take a round trip of the Lake. City was still alive, especially on the Boulevard road and Dal lake, but the talk I had with the driver alone that too in a ‘curfewed city’.

Amazing night of Dal Lake
Take aways
  1. As rightly said by one, there is no particular season to visit Srinagar. Whatever may be the season; one can visit this place any time and have a different view of the city.
  2. Most people are too good and amiable. They are going through bad times, but struggling hard to get on to the track. Respect them and roam freely, but yes – stay cautious. Just because of a few people Srinagar’s mood may change anytime, avoid being alone on roads.
  3. There are a lot of places to visit in and around Srinagar. Do your homework well before reaching the city.
  4. Give ample time to discover the Mughal Gardens – Shalimar Bagh and Nishant Bagh. They are not only marvellous, but also tell a magnificent historic tale. I missed it, and regret it :(
  5. Spend at least a night at a houseboat; it’s altogether a different experience. (for photolog on our houseboat, visit here.)
  6. Auto rates are on higher side, but that stays true with most of tourist destinations in India. Learn how to negotiate ;)
  7. If you want to shop ethnic Kashmiri, Meena Bazaar is probably the best place. I can’t assure the best rates, but this is the place I got recommendations for.
  8. Walking is the best way to learn a City, so is true with Srinagar with beautiful streets and great souls to interact with.
  9. And, please don’t visit Srinagar for just a day or two, spend some time here – you would never regret it :)



Top Blogs Related Posts with Thumbnails
Enhanced by Zemanta

Popular posts from this blog

Trekking Ghansoli Gawli Dev (Parsik) Hill

It’s been there for geological ages, we have been looking at it for last about 4years and I have been planning to trek it since a long time. Finally, few weeks back, we trekked the Ghansoli Hill.

Ghansoli Hill is located at the eastern boundary of Ghansoli town, behind our office complex at RCP. The hill or better hillock is a part of small range that separates Kalyan and Navi Mumbai towns. A search on Google Map returns with a name Parsik Hill for it, though there is one more rather famous Parsik Hill in Navi Mumbai. We also found a NewsArticle, that talks about NMMC plans to develop Nature Awareness Centre at this hills and calls it Gawli Dev Hill. Here, we would be calling it Ghansoli Hill. I asked my colleague about it and he readily agreed. The very next Sunday we did it with another friend. We weren't aware of the route. All we knew is that a Central Road runs along the western edge of the hill and can be reached through the Vashi-Mhape road. We later found that there’s a Bus…

A Day at Global Vipassana Pagoda (A Photo Story)

What I like most about the cities we live in is the places we generally not aware about. Like the case of one of its own kind Butterfly Park of Thane, which is at stone throw distance from my place and I came to knew about it a few months back only. Then there is this Pagoda – another one of its own kind – world renowned and still not known to many city dwellers. We visited this place to take pictures and let me confirm it, we were stoned by the colors and the mystical sky (check out the Photo Story at the bottom of the post)
Located at Northern most corner of the Megacity of Mumbai, across the Gorai creek, Global Vipassana Pagoda is a meditation hall built out of gratitude to the Buddha, his teaching and the community of monks practicing his teaching (Wikipedia).  The Pagoda is also known for being built on the world's largest stone dome without any supporting pillars, at height of ~29 metres and external diameter 94.82-97.46 m. It is, thus, twice the size of the Gol Gumbaz Dome in…

Trekking Naneghat in Monsoon

Naneghat has been like an annual pilgrimage for me. So, when I planned for the ride and trek this year, I was sure I wouldn’t be blogging about it. But the way it turned out to be – I couldn’t resist jotting it down and share. On just a few days’ notice three Decide&RideTM Bullet guys agreed for the ride and trek along with a colleague and my roommate. Plan was simple - Ride/ Food/ Trek/ Food/ Trek down/ Food/ Ride back. Itinerary included Heavy to moderate Rain and Fatigue with Directions, misdirection, lot of fresh pahadi water, scenery and slips. We started it at around 6 AM morning. It was raining since last evening, and when we started it was still raining. Josh took Ashutosh as pillion and Abhishek hoped on to my pillion seat, Sandy was to join us at Kalyan naka with Monty – who found his bull not ready for ride and had to cancel it (though he rushed and did power-trek to meet us at top later). Anyways, it was still raining when we met at Kalyan naka and left for Naneghat.
Nane…