Srinagar is everything you’ve heard off and even more! There are few places that have lived up to its hype and Srinagar tops my list.
Since I landed here I’ve been walking like a machine, waking up at wee hours to catch an early Shikara ride to the famous on-boat Saabzi Bazaar. There are too many things to explore and see within a short span of time and the idea that I’ll not be exploring everything suffocates me. I need a month, a couple of months rather, to come back to my senses. Right now, I’m still lost for words for the wonderful place, once known as ‘paradise on Earth.’
I arrived in Srinagar around 1.30am. It was no good time to arrive at a destination you knew nothing off. At the Taxi stand I was approached by a guy who owns a hotel nearby and I gave in to his persuasion. It was too late to start looking for any other hotel and moreover he looked like a decent guy.
Swishing through the empty streets I felt the cool breeze; one hallmark of any great tourists destination. In the dimly lit streets tall trees towered above the street lamps. Without thinking too much I knew they were Chinar trees laden with tons of green leaves. I’ve always seen photographs of golden Chinar trees in autumn but not in summer. This was my moment.
First thing I wanted to see was Dal lake; than everything else. The lake was around 20 minutes walk from my Hotel and I set out at once. The lake begins as a small canal like extension at Dal Gate but it widens slowly as you go further. The nicely paved footpath along the lake is known as the Boulevard Lane and it is one of the liveliest places in Srinagar. It was a bright day and in summer days can be mildly hot in Srinagar. Young people liberated themselves from the heat by dipping in the lake. Somewhere nearby fishermen sat on their boats and wait patiently for the bait. Hordes of tourist walked up and down the pavement just taking in the beauty or to take a Shikara ride across the lake. Shikaras painted in colorful shades exudes a jovial ambience. The more you explore the more you realized that Dal Lake is an integral part of Srinagar.
The city has rich culture and it continues to amaze me as I explore. There are many nooks and corner brimming with life and a rich cultural heritage. For many years the Mughals made beautiful gardens in and around Srinagar that survived to these days. The old city also simply called Downtown has some of the most interesting houses and faces. I believed the city’s facets have changed so little in spite of modernization and progress in lots of aspects.
Srinagar is richly blessed with natural beauty but the people and their culture entwined around Dal Lake makes this city unique from the rest of the country.
Places to Visit in Srinagar:
1. Dal Lake: Dal Lake is the heart and soul of Srinagar. The presence of Dal Lake in the middle of the valley makes Srinagar a scenic city. The life of the city is revolved around the fresh water lake. The Shikaras and houseboats floating on the lake add a new dimension to Srinagar's tourism.
2. Pari Mahal: Also known as “the Fairies’ Abode”, is one of the many Mughal gardens in Srinagar. It was built during the reign of Shah Jahan and has survived to this day in its amazing splendor. Shah Jahan’s son Dara Shikoh built the garden in the mid-1600s for his tutor. The seven terrace garden was built in the Islamic style of architecture. The garden is at a good elevation and the garden overlooks the golf course, Dal Lake and the city of Srinagar.
3. Nishat Bagh: Nishat Bagh is literally translated from Hindi as, ‘garden of joy’. The garden exudes unmatched energy.The beauty of the garden was the reason of discontent between Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his father-in-law Asif Khan, who designed and built the garden. When Shah Jahan saw the garden in 1633, right after it was built, he was very much impressed with its beauty. He expressed his appreciation to Asif Khan more than once with the hope that he would be gifted with the garden but no such thing happened which annoyed him. He then issued an order to block the water supply to the garden. The garden became dysfunctional for a while and broke Asif Khan’s heart. The garden, however, was restored to its full glory later.
4. Chashme Shahi: According to English writer and traveler Aldous Huxley, Chashme Shahi is, “architecturally the most charming of the gardens near Srinagar.” The garden is built around a fresh spring, from which it also gets its name. It was named after the clan of a saint woman, Rupa Bhawani who found the spring. She was from the Sahib clan and therefore, the spring was known as 'Chashme Sahibi.' The garden has a proper entrance gate like most Mughal gardens and opens to a small first terrace garden. With the mighty Zabarwan mountains at the backdrop, the beauty of the garden is timeless. Spring water ran down through the garden and kids enjoyed in the several small fountains, built in Mughal style.
5. Hazratbal Shrine. It is the holiest shrine in Srinagar. The presence of the hair of Prophet Mohammed makes it a revered place for the Muslims. The Shrine is right on the banks of Dal Lake and is an important pilgrimage site.
How to reach Srinagar:
Srinagar can be reached by road and air. There are no train services as of now. Buses for Srinagar leave Jammu between 6am to 7pm but taxis are available through out the day at Private Taxi points. Taxi fare can be bargained down to Rs.700 from Rs. 800.
Where to Stay in Srinagar:
Srinagar has an exciting range of hotels but even a budget hotel can be expensive during peak season in Summer. Houseboats are another option and many tourists made it a point to live on houseboats. Some of the popular budget hotels are located on the Boulevard lane facing the lake. For tourists who don't mind staying away from Dal Lake, there are many options at much better rates.