Srinagar, Kashmir - Paradise on Earth!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Date of Journey : 17 May 2008
>> Gulmarg - Jammu & Kashmir

My very first and strong memories of Kashmir were from the lines of my Telugu prose chapter called Kashmira Darsanam of class Vll. Neither do I remember the author nor his/her agenda in the chapter but all that remained in the years to follow was his/her description of our own paradise on earth. The lure of the pristine and lofty snow covered mountains was always there only to be fueled by its appearance in the popular media, for instance movies like Kashmir ki Kali or Roja. While the former showed the beauty of the valley in a lighter tone, the latter showed the crisis of militancy that was ripping the state apart. I was still in school and I used to wonder if matters would ever turn for good and if I’d ever get a chance to go to Kashmir.  Let’s fast forward 15 years, it is 2008 and right now I am sitting in a nondescript cubicle trying to earn my living – dreams of Kashmir all forgotten. 

I have to tell you until the summer of 2008 I was not the person (read travel freak) that you now know. You should also understand that I had just bought my camera and so forgive my gross injustice to the place in the photos. All I wanted was to have a good job, good income, good food, good movies and the likes of such - nothing of consequence. So you can imagine the shock when my dad calls me up one fine evening and tells me we are going to Kashmir. It took me weeks before I actually believed him. But turns out the old man was not kidding. Weeks later I was flying to Srinagar with my family. Needless to say what followed in the days to come had shaped me to what I am today- for better or for worse! ;) 


Jammu & Kashmir is the northern most state of the Indian Sub-Continent and it falls in the vicinity of the Karakoram and north-western Himalayan ranges. This state shares border and conflicts with Pakistan and China on either side. The state is divided into three divisions – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and each one of these areas is completely different from one another in every aspect starting from landscape to culture. 

So here I was, sitting in the plane waiting with baited breath for the first view of snow. My little brother had occupied the only window seat that we got but luckily one very handsome young Kashmiri man offered me his window seat maybe because he couldn’t put up with me jumping all over the place trying to get a good look of what lay beneath. But who cares about being clumsy now, hell this was the first time I was getting a glimpse of snow. And look what I saw! Drooool. 


Soon the scenery changed from white to green meaning we were getting close to Srinagar. There were endless green meadows speckled with small flowers and white chinar flowers were flying with the wind. For a moment I thought it was snowfall and I was all set to create yet another scene when someone enlightened me. Srinagar airport has got to be the prettiest one I’ve seen till date. I could feel the chill in the air and also the tension. The airport was heavily guarded and guards were watchful noticing each one of us as we entered. And I had to pinch myself. I was setting foot in Kashmir after 22 years of dreaming! Momentous I must say!


Srinagar is a very pretty town with river Jhelum running through it and the many bridges connecting the two banks over several canals. Chinar trees are of one of the main flora of the Kashmir valley along with pine and deodar trees. During the autumn season, Chinar trees are famous for putting up the show of colors of fire. But it was spring season and it was all green now. The swooshing sound from the swaying trees was in perfect harmony with the beautiful surroundings. The houses were mainly made of wood with sloped roofs and usually very huge with at least two floors. There were many army men to be seen everywhere. During the course of the four days that I stayed in Srinagar, I fell in love with the bridges. It was a dreamlike setting and I was staring at everything and everyone with such wide open eyes not wanting to miss any detail. 


Dal Lake:

It was evening by the time we settled down in the hotel. We set out for a tour of the very famous Dal Lake that evening. With a surface area of 18 sq. kms, this lake is set in one of the most gorgeous surroundings, with the sprawling city on one side and flanked by giant Mountains on the three other sides. The winds started blowing very cold in matter of few minutes. Now what’s a visit to Dal Lake without a ride in the Shikaras? For the uninitiated, shikara is a type of wooden boat which is the main mode of transportation in the lake. Over the years, the lake has sustained a community which depends entirely on the lake for its survival. 


As we took the tour of Dal Lake in the brightly colored Shikaras, we passed by a market floating on water and pretty flowers growing in water. The local communities here have been living on the lake for centuries taking up fishing or selling fruits/flowers/vegetables for survival. We passed through floating gardens, where a mass of matted earth floats on the water on which vegetables will be grown. Now this is a very clever idea to deal with the rising and falling water levels. We passed by families permanently housed in wooden shacks over the lake. And each of these houses had private gardens as well with a shikara parked in front of them instead of vehicles. Children and women were also gracefully rowing away in their shikaras and if I have to put a name to it, I’d say life on Dal Lake is like a floating town. 


And then suddenly the wind got turbulent and the teeming activity on the lake came to a standstill. All the shikaras reached out to some stable structure for support. Once the winds slowed down, everyone was back in action.  They have vendors, tailors, advertisers, handicrafts, daily goods, jewelry, hotels, even a post office on the lake. It is amazing to see how much the lake supports the livelihood of the communities sustaining on it and how easy these people make it look – living life on water. A long tour in the lake in highly recommended!

All said and done, the lake is being dumped with untreated sewage from the settlements and the myriads of houseboats that sprang up owing to the growing tourism needs along with the community houses on the lake. Amazing as it may be, I’d dare not touch the water. The outflow of water is blocked and the inflow is reduced which changes the equation of the water quality and eco-system. The night was getting cold and we decided to call it a day to retreat to the warm comforts of hotel room. 

It was a very clear night with brilliant view of stars through the window and I slipped into a dreamy slumber gazing at the sky. 

Moghul Gardens: 

Date of Journey :  20 May 2008

Another day, we ventured out to explore the Mughal Gardens with their terraced lawns, cascading fountains, bright flowerbeds and overlooking panoramas of the Dal Lake.  We visited Pari Mahal – the once royal observatory built on a spur of mountain by Dara Shikoh which offers an aerial view of the lake, Cheshma Shahi – five minutes away from Pari Mahal and the cool water spring here is believed to be medicinal, Nishat Bagh and Shalimar Bagh – both of these have colorful flowers, fountains and terraced gardens. I personally thought a visit to all these gardens can be skipped and Shalimar Bagh was the most beautiful one with huge trees to rest under and intricate structures along the canal. Later in the day we also visited Hazrat Bal Shrine along the distant corner of the lake. All these gardens have been built along the shore of the lake. 


Siraj Bagh, located on the way to Cheshma Shahi is emerging fast to claim it’s place as Asia’s largest Tulip Garden but as luck would have it, the blooming season was past when we went. If you ever go to Kashmir, make sure you visit this garden if the flowers are in bloom. The season seemed to be March/April. Below are some shots of Tulip Garden clicked by Ajan Jain of during his visit.

TULIPS AT SRINAGAR - Image Courtesy : Ajay Jain

Find More Pictures at kunzum

Fact File:

When did we visit - May 17 2008.
How was the weather - Pleasant, can make do with a sweater or shawl.
Where did we stay - Hotel Pine, Ph. No- 2476868
How was the hotel - Decent Budget Accommodation. Located very close to Tourism Reception Center, Taxi/Bus Stand and J&K Bank.

Stay tuned for my first experience with snow for tomorrow we head to Gulmarg – a mountain resort of exceptional beauty. 

You Might Also Like


  1. Need more photographs:-) am curious about the beautiful bridges u mentioned. Nice post....awaiting Gulmarg.

  2. The author of kashmira darshanam is a 'she' and she is nayani krishnakumari :)

    Keep posting!

  3. Hey nice one again Neelima. Keep blogging :)

  4. the shot of the snow clad peaks from the plane is fantastic!!

    The dal lake used to be really great, but now there is so much filth on it. It has already shrunk about 30-4-%. Hope the locals and environmentalists wake up to it and prevent it from becoming a disaster.

  5. You write beautifully. Awesome photos. I liked the fact file at the end too.

  6. # Janit - Welcome to my blog! I would've loved to post more photographs if there were more.. :)
    As i wrote already, this was my first trip with my first camera and i was not at all photographically inclined by then. Luckily for me, Kashmir was so beautiful it did not take any special effort from my side to get some decent shots.. :)
    But stay tuned for more.. the place only seemed to get better by the day. Thanks for commenting!

    # Anonymous - ha ha.. I said I remembered nothing other than the description of Kashmir.. and I see now that it is actually the case. :D
    Thanks for letting me know.. will update in the blog as well.. I hope you'd visit again.

    # Sudheesh - Thanks dude! :)

    # Sankara - Thanks.. it was amazing to be flying above himalayas. :)
    And it is indeed a sad story of Dal Lake. I did not feel the urge to stay in the houseboat at all even though it is the major selling point. But life on the lake was pretty amazing to say the least.

    # Arlene - Welcome and Glad you liked my writing. :)
    Thanks and hope to see you drop in here again.

  7. looks like a beautiful place to hang out..i love places with good food and nice to relaz..copper canyon grill boca raton is the place to be

  8. I don't like the huge watermarks!
    I know you are trying to protect, but it spoils the image.. :(

  9. What a wonderful post. Digging up images of long past are we...very nice.
    Actually your post brings back memories of my trip to Kashmir during college. We went by road and I was just awed as soon as we came out of the Jawahar Tunnel. I had finally arrived in the Srinagar Valley after years of only hearing about it. It felt like such a wonderful feeling that I have a fist punching the air picture too :) Couldn't visit too many of the places around Srinagar since we couldn't bunk any more classes! Looking forward to your next post.

  10. I liked the pictures so much that i immediately browsing for more in google....
    the only concern is the watermarks size....
    Also, i felt to have pictures for every major things you have described....

  11. ## Sandeep - Hmm.. i saw couple of my pictures being used on some other sites and i got really angry. But yea..later on even i felt the big C spoilt the image. :((
    Will try to put smaller watermarks or something.. Thanks for letting me know. :)

    ## Sid - ha ha..completely understand.. travel during college days was such constrained.. Although i dearly miss coll days..i am completely enjoying the travel now.
    And yea, setting foot in Srinagar is really momentous. :)

    ## Mahesh - Thanks Mahesh! Glad you liked the images. But as much as i would've loved to have taken more pictures of Srinagar, i was completely new to photography and so i couldn't capture most of what i was seeing.. :(
    Hope to see you here again!

  12. Hi this is very nice and well informetive blog i wannt to know more about this


  13. Thank you for you nice information im totally agree with your words and there is no doubt that Kashmir is the land which is is called paradise and perfect destination where holidays can be spent with the best houseboat in srinagar .

  14. wow. This is really very amazing. Each and every places are looking so beautiful and awesome. My favorite place is kargil. I like Kargil so much. Thank you this beautiful information.

    International Tour Packages from Chennai | Best Holiday Packages in India


Find me on Twitter