Srinagar is one destination I will never get tired of going back time and again. I have been there umpteen times ‘but yeh dil hai ki bharta hi nahin’ (The heart longs for more and more). Instead of spending another day in Sonamarg we decided to head back straight to Srinagar from Drass.
We started from Drass at around 12 pm and after a brief lunch halt at Sonamarg made it to the Srinagar around 5pm. My limited vocabulary of English language restricts the expression of emotions I felt on entering the city. The beauty, serenity and the purity just overwhelm you. Amir Khusro has so aptly said ‘If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here’.
Srinagar is located astride the river Jhelum. The earliest historical records such as Rajtaringini by Kalahana mentions the name as Shri- Nagara. This has been interpreted by scholars in two distinct ways. Some historians refer it to as city of Sun (Suryanagari) and the other group call it city of ‘Shri’ ie Goddess Lakshmi.
It was ruled by the independent Hindu and Buddhist rulers till late 14th century after which the city came under the control of various muslim rulers. Akbar conquered Kashmir in 1586 and brought it under Mughals.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh annexed the city in 1814 and thus the sikh influence. In 1846 after signing of Lahore Treaty the valley came under British suzerainty and Maharaja Gulab Singh became a semi-independent ruler of the state.
Srinagar is one of the most beautiful city one can visit in his/ her lifetime. Blessed with natural beauty in abundance, the city has numerous sites to whet a tourist’s appetite. The Nishat and the Shalimar gardens, a shikara ride in the Dal lake, the house boats, a drive on the Boulevard or a visit to historical religious sites should be on the must do list of a visitor. The Jhelum River, meandering through the city adds to the beauty. The Tulip garden adds to the splendour in summers.
I decided to limit our ventures to limited places of natural beauty only due to the COVID pandemic having affected the city badly, The aim being was to fill our lungs with as much purity as possible and to calm the mind.
The Nishat Bagh….
The Nishat Bagh is a terraced garden located on the bank of Dal lake in Srinagar. It was designed and built by Asif Khan, the elder brother of Nur Jehan in 1633. It has 12 terraces with the second being the most impressive. The Chinars (maples) lined all around, the variety of flowers the water channel running through the centre and the mountain range in the background add to the beauty.
The Shalimar Bagh…..
The garden was built by Mughal ruler Jahangir for his wife Nur Jahan in 1619.Considered as a high point of Mughal horticulture the park is also referred to as the ‘Crown of Srinagar’. Over the years the garden was extended by Shahjahan, the Sikhs and the Dogra rulers. The garden has a central water channel fed by Dal lake and three distinct terraces. The first terrace was for public, the second restricted to nobles and royal guests and the third was for the queen.
The Shalimar looked pale this time around as compared to the Nishat bagh mainly due to the maintenance issues. But still it was impressive as ever and brought in that feeling of calm and peace.
The Dal Lake….
Dal lake also referred to as the ‘the lake of flowers’ is not just beautiful but also a true reflection of the Kashmiriyat (the culture). An hour long Shikara (Boat) ride in the lake brings in so much peace which hours of meditation may not. One gets a first-hand experience of the floating market and the restaurants. (warning- Exercise caution in making purchases; make optimal use of your bargaining ability). A stay in the house boat gives a lovely experience of the Kashmiri hospitality and the cuisine.
Srinagar is a shopping paradise especially for ladies. The valley is known for dry fruits, spices, handcrafted shawls, siver jewellery, furniture, papier mache products and carpets. One can visit Lal chowk, Residency road, the Zaina Kadal road or Polo view for shopping. Kashmir Government Art Emporium is a safe bet for picking up all handicrafts made by local artisans. Everything is so beautifully crafted that my wife would have loved to pick up almost everything but then better sense prevailed. I honestly suggest to the tourists to keep a tight control on budget and emotions before hitting gthe market.
It is with fabulous memories that we departed from Srinagar airport on 31 Oct 20. As the plane landed at the Delhi Airport one could immediately feel the difference. What a change it was from the clear blue sky and pure air of the valley to the severely polluted environment of Delhi. I am sure this was not my last visit to the Paradise of Kashmir. I will keep coming back again and again.