Srinagar Travelogue | The Kashmir I Knew
This is the 11th post for #BlogchatterA2Z 2021 powered by Blogchatter. K for Kashmir.‘If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here”, the Sufi musician and poet, Amir Khusrau aptly eulogized Kashmir as far back in time as the 12th century and it still rings true… ‘Agar firdaus baroye zameen ast, hami asto, hami asto, hami ast’. Here is my Srinagar Travelogue | The Kashmir I Knew.
My tribute to Srinagar Travelogue |The Kashmir I Knew and fell in love with. Kashmir said to come fall in love with me and I did. I fell hook, line and sinker for this heaven on earth, for the outstanding people and just for being Kashmir. From the acme of the Himalayas to the deep valleys, gushing springs and tranquil lakes, they all seduce and captivate your senses . Before you realize it, some sort of magic takes place and you actually rise in love.
My First visit to Srinagar Travelogue | The Kashmir I Knew
Tips to Experience Srinagar
After returning from Kashmir with my priceless stash of kahwa powder, I relive my vivid memories with the wafting aroma of a steaming cup of Kahwa in my hand. I landed in Srinagar with lots of expectations and aspirations. The early sunrise helped when I went to the floating market and the late sunset when I was visiting the illuminated gardens in the city. I hired a cab to see the sights of the city, which are on the list of every tourist. When you hire a cab, ask and decide the time and places he will take you to and drive a good bargain. Do your homework well and note the places that you want to visit according to the area they are located. Ask the cabbie to take you there.
The Beauty of Srinagar, Kashmir
Srinagar, the capital city, is the jewel in the crown of Kashmir as it embodies all the proper colours of the state. It sits quietly on the banks of the Jhelum, mulling over its exuberance. The gleaming water of the Dal and Nageen Lakes with the musty smell of the houseboats and the romantic veiled Shikaras are the flowing robes of Srinagar. The divinity of the Shankaracharya temple looks down benevolently from the hilltop while the benediction of Prophet Mohammad from the Hazratbal Shrine and the Jama Masjid keeps the city blessed.
Cheshmashahi Gardens in Srinagar Travelogue | The Kashmir I Knew
My first pit stop was the small Cheshmashahi Garden, which is snugly ensconced amid the wooded hills. Shah Jehan, the Mughal Emperor, commissioned Ali Mardan Khan to build the gardens as a gift for his son Dara Shikoh. It is a part of the Zabarwan range and overlooks the Dal Lake. Security personnel added security en route as it is near the Raj Bhavan. The entry ticket is a mere 20 INR for adults and 10 INR for kids for each of the gardens.
Cheshmashahi literally means Royal Spring, which gushes forth from the garden’s uppermost level, where there is a square fountain pool fed by a water spring directly from the mountains. I was looking wide-eyed at the spacious lawns and the flora and fauna, which are captivating. The terraced garden layout is open, and I spotted some rare flowers, gigantic Chinar trees, and tall pear trees. A flight of stairs on either side of the terraces leads to the spring, which flows down through falls and fountains to the ground level. I was looking around agape at the exquisite blossoms in myriad colours and climbed the first flight of stairs.
Memories in Images
I was approached by a genial photographer, Mr Bhat, who smooth-talked me into getting my pictures clicked in the traditional Kashmiri attire. I reluctantly agreed to 1 picture and ended up paying for 7! He volunteered to take my pictures in the garden with my camera. He saw me struggling with my selfie stick and auto click but still; I was a gullible tourist like most and succumbed to the Kashmiri charm.
Do not forget to drink the water of the spring and carry it home in a bottle. They say the cool sparkling water has curing properties. It is said that Nehru had the water of the spring flown to Delhi. They illuminate Cheshmashahi at night and it is as if the stars are sparkling on Earth. If you have time, just sit awhile on the lawns and feel the cool zephyr kiss your cheeks and you will never want to leave. There were couples everywhere soaking in the romance.
Srinagar Travelogue | The Kashmir I Knew
Do not forget to drink the water from the spring and carry it home in a bottle. The cool sparkling water has curing properties. It is said that Nehru had the water of the spring flown to Delhi. Cheshmashahi, illuminated at night, looks as if the stars are sparkling on earth. If you have time, just sit awhile on the lawn and feel the cool zephyr kiss your cheeks and you would never want to leave. There were couples everywhere soaking in the romance.
Pari Mahal, the next stop is on the tourist map, but the cabbie will try to dissuade you from going there. Do not get taken in and insist on visiting Pari Mahal, which is just a 5-minute drive away from Cheshmashahi. Another name for Pari Mahal is “The Abode of Fairies” and it is a seven-terraced garden at the top of the Zabarwan mountain, southwest of the Dal Lake. The view from the top is breathtaking and not to be missed. Steps leading to the top are crumbling and I was breathless by the time I reached the top and sat on the edge to get my breath back. The view enthralled me and I lingered a while longer.
Dara Shikoh, the son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, created the Pari Mahal in the mid of 1600s. He dedicated the garden to his Sufi teacher, Mullah Shah. Built around a small spring, Pari Mahal boasts of, beds of vivid flowers and they illuminate it at night. The entrance is typical of Mughal architecture, with an arch and a row of rooms on either side. As it is at a height it gets freezing in winter and it is best to visit in the summer. It opens at 9.30 am and closes early at 5.30 pm.
Nishat Bagh is a 12-terraced Mughal garden built on the eastern side of Dal Lake. It is the second-largest Mughal garden and is very well maintained. Overlooking the Dal Lake, the garden overflows with flowers and the sentinel Chinars. The Nishat Bagh is a garden of bliss and has a central water channel leading to numerous fountains lined with flower beds on either side. Nur Jehan’s brother Asif Khan built this garden in 1633. Modelled along the lines of Persian gardens, the concept had to be tweaked to suit the topography and water resources in Srinagar. The twelve terraces represent the 12 signs of the zodiac and the two sections are the public garden and the private Shalimar Bagh. I didn’t find anyone to take my pictures here so I used the auto-click feature and I struggled to take a couple myself.
By the time I reached Shalimar Bagh, I was a wee bit drained as the sun was sapping my energy and I forgot to get my hat and parasol, thinking that Kashmir would give me relief from the Bezwada heat. Shalimar Bagh is one of the stupendous and exquisitely laid out gardens by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir for his beloved wife Nurjahan in 1619. It showcases the exemplary craftsmanship of the Mughals in horticulture. The Mughals sure knew how to express their love; Shalimar literally means ‘Abode of love.”
And while I was walking down one side of the fountains capturing the fountains and colossal flowers in my camera, I heard someone calling out to me. I turned around and there was this tall, stately grey-haired man relaxing on a charpoy. ” Hello daughter, how are you? He asked.” Now the said gentleman definitely didn’t look old enough to be my dad, and I was reluctant to reply, but he approached me and struck up a conversation. I said I couldn’t I be his daughter, and he placed his hand on my head in blessing and said okay then sister!
Wherever I went, people would approach me unabashedly and ask where I was from and why I was alone. This gentleman asked me where my partner was!! He was the head caretaker of the gardens and had been maintaining them for 38 years, now retired. He spoke impeccable English and was ever so polite. He became my self-appointed guide, giving me a brief history of the garden and insisted on clicking my pictures. And he made me pose at spots he liked and how he wanted me to pose! My trip is full of such incidents where little boys, teenage girls and others conversed were clicking my pictures clicked everywhere. Each moment spent with them was precious.
Travelogue on Srinagar, Kashmir
The history of Shalimar Bagh dates back to the second century in the reign of King Pravarsena, who was the founder of the city of Srinagar. He built a cottage here surrounded by a garden and named it Shalimar. In time, it came to ruins, but the name stuck on. In 1630, the garden was further expanded on the order of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and he named it “Faiz Baksh” meaning “the Bountiful”. Other rulers have made alterations to further stimulate its beauty. Shalimar Bagh is a typical Mughal Garden with a layout of three terraces; each terrace comprises a water fountain and pool with a water supply in series. The sound of the water of the 410 fountains falling simultaneously makes a lyrical symphony that is music to the ears.
Gulshan Book Store
I stopped for lunch on the Boulevard. As it was a sunny day to sail around the lake, I visited the Gulshan Bookstore on the Dal Lake. I am a bookworm and I HAD to check out this amazing bookstore on the lake. Even if you are not interested in books, explore the bookstore. You can go there only by Shikara.
An idyllic bookshop with a reading room and a cafe attached to it on the Nehru Park island of the Dal Lake is a book lover’s utopia. I had to hire a shikara to get there. The shikara man talked me into paying 100 bucks for the short ride. The name of the shikara was Facebook Deluxe! Once I reached the bookstore, I was told that there was a dedicated boat from the bookstore which gave free rides! I was so easily duped, but I didn’t mind it.
Srinagar Travelogue | The Kashmir I Knew
The bookstore is well stocked, and the interiors have some antique curios and pictures dotting the room. For Sheikh Ajaz Ahmad, owner of the Gulshan Bookstore having a bookshop near the Dal Lake was his lifelong dream that he says he has realized finally. His great-grandfather opened the first bookstore 100 years ago on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway. The bookshop remains open from 11 am to 11 pm. Even if you do not want to buy a book you can read books in the reading room that overlooks the Dal Lake and the Zabarwan Hills. I adore kids and right below I saw kids learning to kayak. It was heartening to see girls wearing a hijab and learning to paddle.
Cafeteria in Gulshan Bookstore
I ordered a lemon iced tea and settled down to read a book on Kashmir, but I never got around flipping a couple of pages as there were so many things to take in. Men and kids were splashing about in the fountain pools to shake off the heat, and shikaras were taking a lazy round of the lake in the late afternoon. The hills were looming in front and a cool breeze floated once every few minutes. I soaked in all this, pledging to visit again. I had to leave as the cabbie was waiting for me.
While driving back home, I was hugging my cache of memories close to my heart to be reopened from time to time and re-lived. There is much more to explore.
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My previous posts for #BlogchatterA2Z are Andhra Pachi Tomato Pachadi, Bourbon Cream Pudding, 5 Reasons to use cast iron utensils, Egg Dosa How to Make Fajitas, My First Visit to Goa Healthy Garlicky Potato Wedges, Coconut Cherry Jelly Cups