Srinagar is famous
for its canals, houseboats and Mughal gardens. The city itself
is quite unlike most other large Indian cities for here you
are much more in Central Asia than on the sub continent
Srinagar, the beautiful city was established by the Emperor
Ashoka, about 2300 years ago when his daughter Charumati took
a fancy to the Dal Lake during her visit to the region. The
present city was founded in the sixty century by King
Pravarsen. The king created various serpentine waterways that
still wriggle through the city like the sprawling Dal Lake,
and the smaller and more secluded Nagin Lake. Srinagar has
been described by some Western visitors as the Venice of the
East. Srinagar has been unable to show off the full extent of
its architectural heritage. Srinagarís old houses on the
Jhelum river with labyrinthine alleys appears not to have
changed since the time of the Mughals.
Houseboats in Srinagar
One of the
unique charm of Srinagar are the houseboats. The houseboats
are the floating little hotels which can be seen on the edge
of the Dal Lake or in the secluded areas of the Nagin Lake.
There are about 1300 houseboats moored on the waters of the
lake and about 1,000 are on the official approved list of the
Tourist Department of the State Government. The government has
fixed tariff for each houseboat depending on the facilities it
offers. Living in a houseboat is an exotic way of spending a
holiday in Srinagar.
Tourist Attractions in Srinagar
The various tourist attractions in Srinagar are the
Shankaracharya temple, Jama Masjid, Dal and Nagin Lake, Mughal
Gardens - Nishat, Shalimar and Chahma Shahi and Hari Parbat.
Besides this, Pathar Masjid, Shah Hamdan mosque are the famous
mosques in Srinagar.
Nishat, Shalimar and
Chashma Shahi are the three famous Mughal gardens which are
situated around the Dal Lake. These Mughal gardens are
beautifully laid out with fountains and cascading streams. The
Chashma Shahi is the first Mughal Garden which is set into the
slopes of its circling hills. Chashma Shahi means the Royal
Spring and is attributed to Shah Jahan. The Chashma Shahi is
named after a natural spring that flows here. The spring
waters are believed to have curative properties. The Pari
Mahal is situated nearby which was the Sufi Garden College.
Pari Mahal, once a Buddhist monastery, was converted into a
School of Astrology by Emperor Shah Jahanís son, Dara Shikoh.
Nishat and Shalimar are very large gardens, located much
further down the boulevard. Both these gardens are built on a
symmetrical plan of central waterways with fountains dividing
a series of garden terraces. Nishat is the larger of the two
and has an impressive plantation of Chenar trees on its
highest terrace. The trees were planted during the Mughal
period perhaps by the kings themselves. The Shalimar Garden is
the most famous garden due to its romantic association with
Emperor Jahangir and his lovely queen Noor Jahan. An
interesting Sound and Light Show on the love story of the two
has been mounted here. The central piece on the upper terrace
of Shalimar is the Baradari. It was here that Jahangir relaxed
with his beautiful bride surrounded by a million roses and the
heady smell of all of them.
Dal lake and
Dal Lake and
Nagin Lake are fed by natural springs. The waters in the Dal
and Nagin lake are transparent. But, due to overuse of the Dal
lake over the years for growing of vegetables, tourism and
other purposes, its size has been reduced to almost half.
Nowadays, the government is trying to clean the lake. The
various houseboats are located along the banks of the Nagin
and Dal Lake. Nagin Lake is clean and provides quiet solitude
to tourists. The vegetable market is also located on the Dal
and Nagin lake, only a short shikara ride away. Early in the
morning, the farmers emerge from a maze of floating gardens
and canals bringing boat-loads of their produce. They gather
in an open waterway to buy, sell or barter their produce.
The Shankaracharya temple is
the unique landmark of Srinagar. This temple is located on a
sharp hill, about 1000 feet high overlooking the city. There
are stone steps which will take you right on top where a small
temple dedicated to Lord Shiva stands. This temple was built
in the memory of the Shankaracharya who came to Kashmir from
Kerala some 1200 years ago to revive Hinduism. From the top of
the Shankaracharya Hill, you can have a panoramic view of the
valley, city, lakes and their houseboats, waterways, gardens,
the confluence of the Jhelum and Dal Lake and the seven
original bridges spanning the serpentine flow of Jhelum river.
The Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in Kashmir. This mosque
was built in 1402 out of wood and bricks. Jama Masjid is the
prominent example of the Kashmiri mosque, and combination of
Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist styles of architecture
distinguished by its tall spires. Inside, the masjid are the
frayed carpets and stone alcoves and the 40-foot high wooden
columns, out of which about 300 of them support the roof. The
foundation of this mosque was laid by Sikandar in 1398 AD. The
mosque was burnt down three times and rebuilt by Aurangzeb in
1674, who, when he heard that fire had gutted the mosque,
first asked whether the chinars were safe. Even now, there are
chinars in the courtyard. In the upper hall, there are the
Shah Hamdan Mosque
pagoda-like Shah Hamdan mosque is located on the Naseem Lake.
This mosque is believed to have a relic of the sacred hair of
the Prophet Mohammad. This mosque is made entirely of wood and
named after the saint who is credited with the peaceful
conversion of millions of Hindus into Islam. The non-Muslims
are not allowed into the mosque but they can only see the
intricately painted papier-mache ceiling and doors.
The Hari Parbat is located beyond Nagin Lake. This famous and
small fortress was built three hundred years ago by Emperor
Akbar on the top of the hill. This hill is believed to have
appeared at the spot where goddess Parvati killed a demon.
How to reach Srinagar
Srinagar is connected to Delhi, Bombay, Ahmedabad, Amritsar,
Chandigarh, Jammu and Leh by Indian Airlilnes Services.
The nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi which has direct
connections with Agra, Amritsar, Bhopal, Bombay, Calcutta,
Cochin, Delhi, Kanyakumari, Lucknow, Madras, Pune, Trivandrum,
Srinagar is connected by road to Jammu, Leh, Amritsar,
Chandigarh, Delhi, Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Kargil.