Unseen Kashmir – Bangus and Lolab Valley - Srinagar revisited

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A houseboat over Dal Lake
A houseboat over Dal Lake


Unseen Kashmir - Bangus and Lolab Valley - Srinagar revisited

It was day 3 – we got up early morning, as usual, freshened up, prepared tea and sat in the verandah like the area of the houseboat. The early morning we could see the life of the lake. As we go to our offices in cars or bikes or public transport, the people living in the lake do so on their shikaras.  For those who do not know, Shikaras are small boats, which are a trademark of Kashmir and are used over dal lake for transportation as well as recreation activities. People were going to their jobs on Shikaras. It was blissful sitting there chatting and soaking in the beauty of the lake. An occasional chirp of the bird or the sound of water produced by the oar of a passing Shikara was a welcome break in the soothing silence.

Our houseboat and its verandah like space
Our houseboat and its verandah like space, where we love to sit see the world go by.

Another view of the houseboat with a veranda in front
Another view of the houseboat 



Ornately carved interiors of the houseboat
A cosy and comfy bedroom in the houseboat

A well appointed drawing room in the houseboat
A well-appointed drawing room in the houseboat 


Sun rising behind the houseboat
Sun rising behind the houseboat

Shikarawala passing by our houseboat early morning
Shikarawala passing by our houseboat early morning 

Another person going to work on his Shikara
Another person going to work on his Shikara

Houseboats of Kashmir and its History

                     Houseboats are wooden boat like structures, made of Devdar wood and has accommodation of a mid-sized house. It has 2-3 bedrooms, a drawing room a Dining room. They are very ornately carved and are appointed with plush Kashmiri Carpets. Generally, the wood is left as it is without any paint or polish. This renders a beautiful aroma of deodar wood to the entire boat. Earlier these were floating houses, but now they are moored at one spot. How did the idea of living in a huge boat over Dal lake originate? In Nineteenth Century Europeans took fancy of Kashmir and were interested in buying land and building their holiday homes there. However the Law of the land prohibited outsiders from buying land in Kashmir, which still persists. Then came the idea of living over a huge boat over water, which was well within the law. Later the Britishers left, but the idea of houseboats stayed and they became the icon of Kashmir. The first boat was built by Narain Das after his shop got gutted and sold to a European. It became so popular, that by 1948, he had built and sold more than 300 boats

After some time the kids were also ready. We called up our Shikarawala and he took his own sweet time to arrive. Staying in a houseboat offers you a unique experience of summoning a Shikara as we call a cab in our routine. I generally do not like to stay at Srinagar because of its chaotic traffic and Concrete structures, however as it was Sarthak's first visit to Kashmir, so we decided to spare one day for Srinagar also. Our first destination for the day was Shankaracharya Mandir.

Shankaracharya temple Srinagar History and Architecture

                   This beautiful stone temple dedicated to supreme Lord Shiva is atop an 1100 feet high Shankaracharya hill overlooking the city of Srinagar. This hill was also known as Takht e Sulemani - A throne of the king. The temple is said to have been built in 200BC. When Adi Shankaracharya came here, he lived and meditated here. Since then the temple came to be known as Shankaracharya temple. The temple has been erected on an octagonal platform. Inside the temple, there are some inscriptions in Persian dating back to Shahjahan's rule and some other inscriptions on the fencing wall. The temple has undergone various repairs and expansions starting from King Lalitaditya to those by Maharaja Gulab Singh. 


Shankracharya Temple
Shankracharya Temple P.C. Google images


Pro tip – If you want to visit Shankaracharya Mandir, go there as early as possible, because later on, it becomes a lot crowded and getting a parking also becomes a tough task. Shankaracharya Mandir is situated atop the hill and offers a 360-degree view of Srinagar. However, I do not have any pics as cameras are not allowed inside the temple premises due to security reasons. After paying our obeisance at Shankaracharya Mandir, we were feeling hungry and headed for a hearty breakfast.


Dad is going to drop his kids to school in a Shikara
Dad is going to drop his kids to school in a Shikara

These kids are going to school in Shikara on their own
These kids are going to school in Shikara on their own

After breakfast, we had a slow drive on the Boulevard road. I have always loved driving on this tree lined road aimlessly. Soon the slow ride on the Boulevard Road ended and we headed for Pari Mahal. Pari Mahal is one of the Mughal gardens, which I had not been to. All the Mughal gardens in Srinagar are beautiful, but the mainstream ones Nishat and Shalimar attract too many tourists, so do not suit my palette. Another garden which people rarely visit, but is very beautiful is Badamwari. I visited this garden in March 2017 during almond bloom. I do not have words to explain its beauty during the bloom. Will talk about it in some other post.

Beautiful fountains in Dal Lake
Beautiful fountains in Dal Lake


A beautiful view from our room window
A beautiful view from our room window


A Floating post office at Dal lake Srinagar
A Floating post office at Dal Lake Srinagar


             The drive to Pari Mahal is a beautiful one and this garden is slightly ahead of another Mughal garden Chasme Shahi. The Parking space in front of PariMahal is narrow and tests all your skills to park your vehicle amidst the already parked vehicles. We bought tickets and soon we were inside after the security check, which is a routine procedure in Kashmir.

Pari Mahal was built by Dara Shikoh a Mughal Prince and eldest son of Shah Jahan. He built it as a library and as a centre for the study of Sufiism. Pari Mahal is also a terraced garden as all the Mughal gardens are. The entrance is an arched one and is on the third terrace almost in the middle of the garden and one can move up and down from the landing terrace. Like other Mughal gardens, it does not have the cascading water channels but has individual water pipes laid to each level to fill up the water tanks. The Gardens are beautifully laid with a lot of ornamental plants and flowerbeds. We were having a lot of fun roaming in the gardens, clicking photographs, but the best thing about Pari Mahal was the view of Dal lake from it. Being situated high up in Zabarwan Hills, it offers a breathtaking view of Golf course, mountain range, Boulevard and the Hills around.

View of Golf course and Dal lake from Pari Mahal Srinagar
View of Golf course and Dal lake from Pari Mahal Srinagar

Another view from Pari Mahal
Another view from Pari Mahal

Some structures inside Pari Mahal
Some structures inside Pari Mahal

Beautiful Blooming flowers inside Pari Mahal.
Beautiful Blooming flowers inside Pari Mahal.


After spending a lot of time at Pari Mahal, we came down on Boulevard road and it was time to enjoy Shikara ride. Shikara ride at Dal lake is one of the experiences not to be missed. Lying lazily on the shikara and seeing the world go by as the shikara is rowed slowly is a heavenly experience, but this experience is spoilt by the sellers in the shikras trying to sell you everything from souvenirs, Jewellery, eatables to flowers. They pester you so much and spoil and do not get shrugged easily and the whole experience gets somewhat spoilt.


Shikaras lined up to take you for a joyride
Shikaras lined up to take you for a joyride


Sun playing hide and seek while we take a joyride in Shikara over Dal
Sun playing hide and seek while we take a joyride in Shikara over Dal

Water lillies at The Dal
Water lillies at The Dal

some more of them
Some more of them

The lone warrior
The lone warrior

After the Shikara ride, it was time to head for some shopping at Bemina silk mills showroom at Rajbagh. We buy from this outlet whenever we are in Srinagar as they offer good stuff, but it was closed that day. Nearby was a cute cafe named 14th Avenue. We had some pizzas, hummus and some other things. Food was good and so was the view as it overlooked Jehlum.

Now we had nothing else to do so we headed for Nishat Garden. We all had already been there except for Sarthak. So spent some time there and saw the Sun go down at Nishat Bagh. After Nishat Bagh, we headed back towards the city centre and did some window shopping. Finally, after dinner, we came back to our houseboat and retired for the day. Tomorrow we will start our journey to Lolab valley



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