Kashmir’s beauty is unmatched and the place is called ‘Paradise on Earth’. Making this place so beautiful are nature’s many blessings- mountains, lakes, lush green trees that wonderfully come together and form the beautiful place that Kashmir is.
And one such wonder is this scenic lake. One of the many reasons why tourists are drawn to Srinagar is due to what is often referred to as ‘Jewel of Srinagar’- the Dal lake. Considered to be the most beautiful lake, Dal jheel or lake is the second largest lake in the state. It covers an area of about 15 kilometers.
Interestingly, this lake has five basins and numerous intricate waterways and canals that beautifully interconnect with each other. It is a shallow lake with a minimum depth of 5 ft. and maximum depth of 20 ft.
Any time one thinks of Srinagar, the first thing that comes to is this gorgeous lake. It is as if this lake has almost become a symbol of tourism in Srinagar and Kashmir. There is so much more to the lake than its pristine water. In this article, we take you along to explore its magnificence and tell you what makes it so incredibly special.
The Beauty of Dal Lake
Just imagine a scene that goes like this- A large lake with snow-capped mountains surrounding three of its sides, signature Kashmiri style houseboats and colorful shikaras that afloat the lake and the stunning Mughal gardens and orchards lined on its banks. Overlooking the lake are two hillocks that house the Shankaracharya and Hari Parbat temples. Yes, that is just how picturesque the Dal lake is. And the Dal lake images are a testimony to this fact.
Moreover, the floating gardens on the Dal have a magic of their own. They are an ecological system in the lake. Farmers residing here are dedicated to growing crops and vegetables on this lake. Over 6,000 families depend on these floating gardens for their livelihood. The produce obtained is then sold in local markets throughout Srinagar.
Its beauty hasn’t just attracted tourists all over the world but quite a lot of filmmakers as well. As many as 20 films have been shot in and around this area. Some of the most popular ones include Kashmir ki Kali, Lamhaa, Kabhi Kabhi and Dil se- among many others.
The temperature here varies between 12 to 30 degrees celsius during the summer and about 1 to 11 degrees celsius during the winters. If the temperatures fall down extremely low during severe winter, Srinagar witnesses a frozen Dal lake.
The History and Origin of Dal Lake Srinagar
There are basically two theories that suggest how the lake originated. One historical theory backed by geologists suggests that the lake is actually a post-glacial lake that formed after the Pleistocene period. While another theory suggests that the Dal lake simply formed from flood spillage.
During their reign in India, the Mughal rulers designated Srinagar as their summer resort. They defined the boundaries of the lake by building Mughal-style gardens as resorts to experience Srinagar’s splendid beauty during the months of summer.
Several years later, during the rule of the British in India, the Britishers also designated Srinagar as their summer resort. The Britishers weren’t allowed to buy land and build houses in the Kashmir valley. Although, they found a legal loophole in this rule- that there was no restriction on living on water. As a result, they built houseboats. Even though the houseboats in the Dal lake are made in the traditional Kashmiri style, they still have a hint of colonial feel to them even today.
The beauty of Dal lake Kashmir has stood the test of time and has carved a place for itself in its beholders’ hearts through the years.
Dal Lake Kashmir and Floating Markets
Yet another fascinating thing that makes the Dal jheel stand apart is its floating markets. There are many wonderful stories that surround the Dal lake and one such story is that of its floating markets. It is one of the most famous markets of its kind in the world.
Wake up at the crack of dawn and head to the Dal lake to witness its beauty from a different perspective. It is quite an adventure in itself- watching the local farmers wearing the traditional pherans making their way through the lake on their respective shikaras, selling the fresh produce that they obtain from their floating gardens. There are as many as hundred boats that gather here every morning.
All of these farmers gather in the middle of the lake.with their boats laden with a variety of vegetables and start calling out to the buyers in the local dialect. The business is at its peak during this hour and everything is wrapped up by the time the sunlight just begins to hit the water.
The exchange lasts for hardly an hour. After this, everyone makes their way back to their respective homes; making it seem as though the market never existed. This wonderful scenario also portrays the life of local Kashmiris residing here, giving you an insight into the Kashmiri way of life.
Whenever you find yourself in Srinagar, make sure to visit the Dal lake early in the morning. We guarantee you that it is an experience that you’ll remember and cherish forever!
Wow, just the thought of this makes us want to be transported here immediately. Doesn’t it make you feel the same way too?
The Shikaras and Houseboats of Dal lake Kashmir
A shikara is nothing but a small carved wooden boat. This is one of the top attractions of the lake and the city. The shikaras are often compared to the ‘Gondolas’ of Venice. These boats are an integral part of the day-to-day life of Kashmiris residing in Srinagar. It is as if, with these shikaras, there is a whole another world in the Dal lake. Right from vegetables and baked goods to doctors and tailors- you will find everything on these tiny wood boats!
These boats are also used for transportation of people. There is nothing quite like a shikara ride along the Dal lake. Refresh your mind and relax your body as you prepare to set out on this epic adventure. The ride offers breathtaking panoramic views of the lake and its surroundings. When visiting Srinagar, a shikara ride is high up on the travellers’ must-do list. An extremely joyous ride, every minute spent on the boat is worthwhile. Come equipped with a fully charged camera as every portion of the lake shows an altogether different picture of the gorgeous city and it’s hard to decide which sight is prettier- the one you just saw or the one that you’re about to see next.
Your trip to Kashmir is incomplete without a stay at the houseboats in Dal lake. Unlike many houseboats in other parts of India, the Kashmiri houseboats are stationary. A houseboat, as the name goes is nothing but a house made inside a boat. It has all the amenities that a traveller would need. Houseboats typically have 5 to 6 rooms.
A houseboat is the perfect example of ‘comfort meets luxury’; but, at an affordable price. The houseboats are designed in an antique style that give you the feel of nothing short of a royalty. These houseboats are also examples of what a typical Kashmiri home looks like, with every inch of the boat carefully decorated with classic Kashmiri-style decor.
Once in, the caretakers will spoil you with their warm hospitality- something you aren’t bound to forget anytime soon.
Aboard these wonderful houseboats to have an experience of a lifetime. Wake up to a picturesque setting of the mountains. Relax on the deck and watch the mesmerizing sunrise and sunsets.
Take a shikara ride to and fro from your houseboat and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Dal lake and maybe buy some flowers and other goodies to bring back to your houseboat. Just relax and take this time to rejuvenate your mind and soul and let the pristine waters calm and soothe you down.
While many boats offer food on request, you can relish the lip-smacking authentic Kashmiri delicacies. Right from basic to royal and exquisite, there are houseboats to suit every traveller’s budget.
When residing on these houseboats, you can also take shikara rides to the famous tourist destinations like the Mughal Gardens and the Hazrat Bal.
What is the best time to visit the Dal jheel?
The best time would be to visit from May to November.
Right from providing a means of livelihood to the locals to providing a once in a lifetime experience to its tourists, the Dal lake’s splendour is unmatched. Come here once and experience its charm for yourself; and we are sure you’d want to come back again, and again.
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Mir Saeid is the Co-Founder of Kashmirica. He is an enthusiastic cultural entrepreneur driven by the passion to bring about a social impact. Mir has worked at leading Marketing positions at various SMEs and Start-ups for 7+ years. He also has a Masters in International Business from the University of Bedfordshire to his credit.