is at once a collection of images: a son et
lumiere that tells the story of the love of the
Mughal emperors for this paradise vale; deep green
rice fields and river bridges, of gardens in bloom
and lakes rimmed by houseboats; at once summer
capital of the state, business centre and holiday
resort. It lies 900 kms north of Delhi.
A Shikara in the Dal lake, Srinagar.
pits around Srinagar date the settlement
back to 4,000 years. Recorded history
suggests the origin of Srinagar in the 3rd
century B.C. under the domain of Emperor
History has shaped
the development of Srinagar, but it was the
lakes and the river that have always
remained at the center of all activity.
Initially laid out to the north-eastern bank
of the river Jhelum, Srinagar soon
spread across to the opposite bank, the two
sides linked by cantilevered bridges. Some
of these bridges still retain their
builders' names, as Zaina Kadal, named after
an enlightened benevolent Afghan monarch.
One of the bridges that span the Jhelum in the
The river Jhelum and
the Dal and Nagin lakes
dominate Srinagar and its life and
activities. Here, lush wild gardens of lotus
and waterlily flower amidst bustling lanes.
By the lakeside spread the gardens of the
Mughals in patterned beauty. And the people
move with a tranquillity borne of a history
laden pulse of activity. lf legends are to
be believed, the Kashmir valley was once a
lake as large as a sea, and here lived an
abominable demon who was killed, after most
of the lake had been drained, with the
collective help of Brahma's grandson,
Kashyap, and the goddess Parvati. She it was
who finally stilled the demon by dropping
upon him a mountain, and thereby crushing
him to death.
On the western
shore of the Dal, opposite Nishat Bagh,
stands Hazratbal, a monument which
houses a holy relic of the Prophet. A great
festival is held here annually. The oldest
and largest of mosques of Kashmir are also
in Srinagar. Shah Hamdan Masjid, a
wooden structure with fine papier mache
workmanship on its walls and ceilings, is
the oldest, with five facets, each of which
has five arches, signifying the daily five
prayers offered to Allah. Jamia Masjid,
another wooden mosque in Indo-Saracenic is
the largest, built in 1400 by Sultan
In the heart of the
city, rises the 304 meters high Shankaracharya
Hill. It offers a panoramic view of the
city, the valley and the Pir Panjal range.
On the northeastern side is Hari Parbat,
another sacred mount which has a
fortification built by Emperor Akbar in
1592, surrounded by fragrant almond
orchards. A Durga temple stands nearby at Chakreshwari.
Then there are the Pather Masjid
built in l620 by the Empress Noor Jehan, the
Madani Masjid built by Sultan
Zain-ul-Abidin, the poet- musician-ruler of
Kashmir, the single greatest influence on
the artistic heritage of the land.
No destination is
quite so romantic, no setting as enchanting
as Srinagar. More or less in the center of
Kashmir, at an altitude of 1,730 meters
above sea level, Srinagar's allure changes
with the passing of each season. Srinagar is
as much imagination as it is fact, for every
season offers new vistas to this city of
great antiquity. Spring breathes life again
into a frozen world, and the air is heady
with the fragrance of a million flowers that
blossom on trees, shrubs and creepers.
Summer heightens the effect, and autumn is
poignant in its colours of warm
introspection. Winter brings with it snow,
sometimes the Dal Lake freezes, and beneath
a leaden sky, roasted chestnuts turn the
atmosphere aromatic with the promise of
warmth and comfort.
extends roughly from March to early May, is
when a million blossoms carpet the ground.
The weather during this time can be
gloriously pleasant at 23 deg. C chilly and
windy at 6 deg. C. This is the season when
Srinagar experiences its rains, but showers
Spring in Srinagar
Summer extends from
May until the end of August. In higher
altitudes night temperatures drop slightly.
Srinagar at this time experiences day
temperatures of between 21 deg. C and 30
deg. C. At this time, the whole valley is a
mosaic of varying shades of green rice
fields, meadows, trees and Srinagar with its
lakes and waterways is a haven after the
scorching heat of the plains.
Summer in Srinagar
The onset of autumn,
perhaps Kashmir's loveliest season, is
towards September, when green turns to gold
and then to russet and red. The highest day
temperatures in September are around 23 deg.
C and night temperatures dip to 10 deg. C by
about October, lower by November when heavy
woollens are essential.
Autumn in Srinagar
December through to
the beginning of March is yet another mood
of Srinagar. Bare snow covered landscapes
being watched from beside the warmth of a
fire is a joy that cannot be described to
anyone who has not experienced it. Some
houseboats and hotels remain open throughout
winter these are either centrally heated or
heated with bukharis, a typical
Kashmiri stove kept alight wlth embers of
wood, marvellously effective in the winter.
Houseboats line the lake's banks.
In the luxurious living room of a houseboat.