‘Dal’ means ‘Lake’ in Kashmiri. Don’t call it ‘Dal Lake’, only Dal….
With bewitching landscapes, verdant surroundings, undulating mountains, gorgeous trekking trails and bounteous blessings of nature, Kashmir is blessed. It is rightly called the paradise on Earth. I had always known it through books, news, websites and people until I got an opportunity to see it myself. With no second thoughts, it will always be a trip, very very close to my heart. I am a traveller who does not believe in making a bucket list but I will confess, I always had an urge to see Kashmir. Ever since I started travelling in India and abroad, there was a fascination to see Kashmir and maybe that came from two things, first, its breath-taking landscapes and second the conflicts of the valley.
No doubt, there were many apprehensions and speculations around the lurking tension in the city but my intense desire to see it at least once won over my fears. I can’t even explain how happy I had felt that day when I had got a confirmation mail for my trip to Kashmir. The fresh snow, the Gondola ride, the Mughal gardens, the colourful houseboats and the floating market, everything that I had heard or read about Gulmarg and Srinagar seemed closer. When we landed at Srinagar, in the very next hour, we (a team of travel bloggers and journalist) were headed to Khyber Resorts first. The plan was that we would come back to Srinagar after exploring Gulmarg.
The idea of seeing the ravishing landscape of snow-covered Gulmarg and surrendering to the world-class hospitality of Khyber Resorts and Spa for three days made me feel lucky for the rest of the road trip. The views of the valley on the way were equally heartening. To cut the story short, the next three days in the lap of luxury passed in a jiffy and the overall experience turned out to be better than my expectations.
Gulmarg – Drung – Srinagar
So it was the fourth day! After having a gala time in Khyber, we bid goodbye to Gulmarg and came to the city that often makes news for all those reasons that keep us away from exploring its beauty. On the way, we stopped to explore Drung (14 kilometres from Gulmarg and 3 kilometres from Tangmarg).
However, I must confess I was impatient and anxious to see Dal. For all these years, the only thing that defined Srinagar for me was this beautiful water body and the city that floated over it. I wanted to see it for real, what a Shikara looked like and what the Kashmiri houseboats looked like.
By 5 p.m., we entered the Boulevard Road and I had my first ever view of the Dal, the houseboats, the floating life, and most importantly the soul of Srinagar. It was precious. It was more beautiful that the image that I had painted in my mind. I almost choked with happiness and my heart skipped a beat. If you are close to your dream, you know how it feels and what it does for your soul and body. I was extremely thankful to God for being kind. I wanted to stop there but we went on to cover the whole stretch of the road around the Dal and checked into our hotel first. I am glad, my friends decided to walk to the Dal in the next fifteen minutes. This was really important because I couldn’t afford to miss the ‘Sunset of Srinagar‘. I will sum up by saying that it was an evening to remember.
The next day we went for a ride in the Nageen Lake. It was a small ride but totally worth it. It is one of the major lakes in Srinagar – Dal Lake, Manasbal Lake, Nigeen Lake, Wullar Lake while River Jhelum crisscrosses the city. I got a chance to see a Kashmiri houseboat (Mascot Groups of Houseboats) for the first time and as luck would have it, it was one of the best on Nageen. The view from the deck was pristine. We missed the sunset on the other side but the view on the other side was equally worthy of our time and indulgence. On the sixth day, we went to Mattan to discover and learn about the famous Sun temple of Kashmir and returned by late evening. By the time we made it to the boulevard road, the water in the Dal reflected many colours from the light falling from the houseboats. I walked around the promenade of the Dal and silently watched the pace of life. I would have loved to do a Shikara ride but then my gang decided to go to Hazratbal Mosque.
The Shikara Ride is all that I wanted from Srinagar!
On my last day in Kashmir, everything in the universe conspired for that one wish of mine. As they say, all is well that ends well. The bird’s eye view of the Dal from the Shankaracharya temple simply stunned me and changed my view of the lake. For the first time, I realised that Dal was more than a lake. It was the soul of the city. It seemed to be an entirely different world, a full-fledged city in itself where people had their houses, gardens, shops, fields, schools, cafes and more. When we came down from the temple, the only thing that I wanted to do was to spend the rest of the time around the Dal. Due to the hectic schedule and so many things on our ‘to-do’ list in the last 3 days, we had not been able to spend quality time around Dal. Before returning to Delhi, I wanted to dedicate all the time to Dal. And we did just as I desired. We hired a Shikara and he took us for a round trip introducing us to the many facets that lay hidden in the lake. From the various mobile shops to the houseboats, he also told us about the floating fields and why people also call them ‘Chori ki Zameen’. We explored the interiors and the lanes between the houses and shops. only to take a snack break at Gulshan Bookstore and Cafe. This soulful ride was the highlight of my entire trip. It was a dream come true moment and its evident with the contentment on my face(picture above).
So here is the story, when I was asked to list down my expectations from the media trip organised by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism and Kashmir Trails, while other bloggers had listed down everything from sightseeing to culture to art to food, I had a sweet and simple request. I wanted to do a Shikara ride on the Dal. Rest everything was a lovely add-on. So as they say, dreams do come true!
The trip to Kashmir is incomplete without a sikhara ride in the Dal. Period!
I am in love with the TULIPS OF KASHMIR