World / India / Jammu and Kashmir
Dal Lake is one of the most tranquil places I have ever visited. I could stand by its shore, mersmerized by its beauty, as I watch shikaras - the Kashmiri gondolas - gliding through the veil of morning mist. At Dal Lake, I am part of the scenery. I am lost to time. I am in a dream world ... only to jolt back to reality by the sight of Indian soldiers with submachine guns. With all its beauty, with all its perceived tranquility, Dal Lake sits on one of the most politically volatile regions of the world: Kashmir. Although the state is governed by India, neighbouring Pakistan continued to challenge its right to rule. So entering Kashmir is like entering a war zone. But for the common people, the shepherds continue to herd their flock, the boatmen continue to row their shikaras. In short, life goes on.
Beautiful yet volatile: Dal lakeside view at Srinagar. Can you see a soldier standing guard in the distance?
I am fortunate for the opportunity to explore Dal Lake. There is so much I want to show you, dear members, but many places are out-of-bounds to photography. And I do not want to take risks that could lead to the confiscation of my cameras. But the shots on this page should give you an appreciation that even in a land where the big powers continue to fight each other, there is peace for the common people.
The Kashmir valley is blessed with much scenic beauty. Right in the middle of the valley are two of the most beautiful lakes in India, Dal Lake and Nagin Lake. Dal Lake is the focus of many domestic as well as international tourists.
Dal Lake is one of the biggest as well as most beautiful lake in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, surrounded on three sides by majestic mountains. Along the shores of Dal Lake is the campus of University of Kashmir. But what makes Dal Lake so special is that it is the home to houseboats and the gondola-like shikaras. Shikaras provide transportation around Dal Lake and its floating gardens. At last count, there are 125 hamlets, 602 houseboats, 272 doonga boats in Dal Lake, supporting a population of nearly 60,000 people.
The houseboats offers an opportunity for tourists to escape into a world of overwhelming peace and tranquility. For us from AsiaExplorers, however, it was like a screeching halt to an otherwise breakneck journey across India. We got bored of being cooped up in the houseboat after just a day or two, and were anxious to explore the countryside.
There is a lovely boulevard that goes around Dal Lake. Poplars and willow line the shore, while conifers clad the mountains in the distance.
The water of Dal Lake used to irrigate vegetable fields, many of them floating on the lake itself. The present maximum depth of the lake is 6 m. The inhabitants harvest aquatic plants from the lake for use as food, fodder and compost.
Living in the Dal Lake houseboats, you do not have to fear being cut off from any shopping opportunities, because the shopping comes to your doorsteps. Itinerant salesmen paddle up from boat to boat, selling you everything from cold drinks to fruit, nuts, fresh flowers, film, baked goods, papier-mâché boxes, woolen shawls, silk carpets, leather goods, money-changing services and on and on. While they are persistent, they are also incredibly polite, so it is up to you to be firm if you are not interested in their ware. But some times, I do feel some pity, and often, the soft-hearted and his money are soon parted.
How is Dal Lake watered? There is a channel that enters the lake from the north. It supplies Dal Lake with about 80% of its water. Towards the southwest side another channel drains the lake into a tributary of the River Jhelum.
The Mughal kings laid out many gardens around Dal Lake in the 16-17th century. The number was said to be about five hundred, but today only a few Mughal Gardens remains.
Of late, there has been worldwide concern over the deteriorating quality of the water of Dal Lake. This is due to increase use of the lake, increased influx of tourists, and large quantities of raw sewage being discharged into Dal Lake. As a result, environmental issues such as excessive weed growth, reduction in water clarity, and high microbial activity are being monitored.
If you have the opportunity, I would you to make a visit to Kashmir. Of course you should also visit Dal Lake. See it while the beauty is still there. Although Kashmir is considered one of the most volatile regions on earth, and security is very tight, the trip will be well worth the effort.
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Dal Lake Photo Album
Boatman with one passengar on a shikara.
Colourful Kashmiri gondolas parked by the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar.
A family in a shikara.
A boatman and his shikara on Dal Lake
Dal Lakeview, as seen from the road that skirts the bank.
The fountain at Nehru Park on Dal Lake.
An elderly man collecting firewood with his grandchildren.
Reflections of an elderly boatman at Dal Lake.
Kashmiri women congregate in the middle of Dal Lake.
Chicken in a shikara.
Farmer transporting chicken in a shikara.
Autumn leaves litter the promenade around Dal Lake.
One of the many mosques on the edge of Dal Lake. The majority of the people here are Muslims.
Houseboat turned guesthouse.
Tranquility of Dal Lake at nightfall.
Tim at Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir.