Srinagar is the heart of the Kashmir Valley, still preserves the imprints of the Mughals and the British. The valley takes great pride in its lakes, gardens and the charming rows of houseboats floating on them. Popular for traditional Kashmiri handicrafts, kashmiri clothes and dry fruits, Srinagar is bordered by five districts. To its northern side is Kargil, in the south is Pulwama and in the north-west lies Budgam. "If there is a heaven on earth, it's here, it's here, it's here", exclaimed the Mughal emperor Jahangir on his first visit to this place. Srinagar has the privilege of having a multifaceted and unique cultural blend, making it different from the rest of the country, not only from the cultural front, but in point of geography, demography, ethics and social entities. as well. With its beautiful picturesque Himalayan backdrop, the crowning glory of hill stations Srinagar is enticed by the colourful houseboats , shikaras and the grandeur of Mughal sense of style. Sri means Lakshmi or wealth and nagar a city. The summer capital of J&K State, Srinagar city has a vital role in the history of Kashmir. For this reason, Persian chronicles call it Shehr-e-Kashmir or 'City of Kashmir'. According to Kalhana's 'Rajtarangini',Srinagri was founded by King Ashoka in 3rd century BC near Panderethan about 8 km from the present city Srinagri remained capital until the new city of Pravarapura was founded by Parvarasana II in AD 630 near Hari Parbat, which is the present city. Years after the new city also assumed the name of Srinagri since both cities were near to each other. Hiuen Tsang the Chinese traveler mentions Paravapura as the capital when he traveled to Kashmir in 631 AD. The choice of Parvarasana Il is considered impeccable as the present Srinagar city is supposed to be almost equidistant from Jammu, Rawalpindi, Leh and Gilgit through the old routes. Every ruler chiseled a new shape of Srinagar and emphasized on better connectivity with surrounding areas. Srinagar has both medieval charm and a touch of modernity. The city is surrounded by awesome mountains and river Jehlum meanders through it. The old city bazaars,malls and shopping centers around Lal chowk reflect her importance as a commercial hub.Here, months could pass sightseeing at different locations, be it historical or religious places, gardens or lakes, craft bazaars or stone carving centres, places of poets or saints, wildlife sanctuaries or trout hatcheries - its a destination that always remains a discovery for visitors. Lal Chowk and Residency Road, one finds selling stylish clothes and fast food specialities, located in some of the best shopping malls and lively streets open throughout the day and late evenings. Connected by more than a dozen bridges over river Jehlum flowing across the city, a major portion of the old city is named after these bridges such as Amira Kadal, Budshah Kadal, Habba Kadal, Fateh Kadal, Zaina Kadal, Nawa Kadal, Aali Kadal and Safa Kadal and more. Zaina Hal, the first wooden bridge, was Kadal and more.Zaina Kadal,the first wooden bridge,was constructed by Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin.
Major Attractions of Srinagar
-The Dal Lake
The Dal Lake is unique for its beauty that lies in its pulsating surroundings, since it sustains a life on waters not found anywhere else in the world. The houseboat and Shikara communities have survived on the Dal for centuries and every thing is found on and nearby the houseboats including doctors, tailors and bakers in tiny wooden shops on the lake. The picturesque lotuses and gardens add to their mystic beauty. Shikara can also take you to the surrounding market places to have your buys. 8 km by 4 krn, Dal lake has a total area of 26 sq km. At Dalgate, a gate lets out the lake water to prevent it from floods. Dal has three islands ; Ropa Lank popular as Char-Chinar was built by Prince Murad, son of Emperor Shah Jahan in Lokut Dal (Smaller Dal). Sona Lank at the south end was rebuilt by Afghan governor Amir Khan Jawansher (1770-76), in Bod Dal (Bigger Dal). Nehru Park is an island just few yards away from the road side near Shankar Acharya hill.
-Water skiing in Srinagar Lake
In Srinagar water skiing is a favorite sport among tourists during summer. Motor launches with ski boards are available on hire. During the winter season, migratory birds float in the lake making it a magnificent scene. Srinagar lake offers splendid colours and moods with every change in the weather that mesmerizes the visitors and locals too. Dal is a photographers delight.
Expansion of houseboats is said to have been carried out during Mughal period and later, the Europeans further modernised them along with the boatmen of the day. Srinagar Dal Lake is home to more than a thousand houseboats known for their unique luxury, mostly having 2 to 6 double bedrooms with modern facilities. The interiors of the houseboat can be compared with a palace or a modern boutique hotel. Houseboats ore designed with Walnutand Deodar wood work and the base is made of a special wood that makes it float for decades. It is advisable to book a room in advance directly with the owner or a travel agent. The centuries old hospitality culture of the houseboat owners and their endless efforts to promote tourism in the valley is worth of appreciation. A stay in houseboats in Dal Lake is always a memorable experience for every tourist, a not-to-be-missed experience. 'Boulevard', along the banks of Dal Lake, houses almost every tourist facility from internet cafes to vegetarian dhabas. It is a favorite route of joggers and cyclists. Nine kms from Dal, is yet another lake with serene waters, "Nagin Lake". It has some of the most luxurious deluxe houseboats. This area is preferred by people looking for calm and quiet environment. For this reason, foreigners find it more interesting to stay at Nagin Lake. The Lake is approachable by road through the old city and fore-shore Road alongside the Dal Lake. Shikara ride in this placid lake is a memorable experience.
Shikara are boats used as means of transportation from ghats to houseboats and for sightseeing in the lake. While on shikara ride, one gets immersed in the panoramic view of the Zabarwan range and the vastness of the loke symphonized with the waves formed by shikarawala's rowing. A boat ride of interior Dal is an adventure. The water borne life of the people inside the lake is a different experience. The floating shops on the boats are the main markets of the people. Visit to floating gardens (radh) is yet another wonderful experience. Radh is a long strip of Lake reed.with a breadth of about 6 feet. These strips can be towed from one place to another and are moored at four corners bypoles. Vegetables are grown on these floating gardens carried in number of small boats and supplied to the city early morning. A cluster of lotus flowers amidst the lake is a heavenly sight. One keeps watching the light pink petals adorned by the water droplets, atop the large round heart shaped green leaf. This flower is popular as 'Pamposh'. Rates for the shikara rides are fixed by J&K Tourism dept for every Shikara stand.
The Mughal emperors gave birth to the gardens to feel the presence of heavenly bliss in Srinagar. Chesmansahi is the first Mughal garden with a stupendous layout and a wonderful view. It has to its credit three terraces in addition to a natural spring of water enclosed in a stone pavilion. Nishat Bagh, constructed by empress Nur Jahan's Brother Asaf Khan, has several terraces and a central water course which gives a magnificent view of the Dal and the Zabarwan Hills. The last and the third one, the Shalimar Bagh was created by emperor Jehangir and was shaded by magnificent chinar trees with paintbox bright flower beds.Most pleasurable day picnic spot for the tourist, the famed Mughal Garden are located between Dal Lake and Zabarwan mountain range on Boulevord.These gardens in Srinagar are memorials of love for mankind and the natural beauty.
Crowned to greatness by the ruins of a fort, the Hari Parbat hill, according to legends, grew out of pebble stones dropped by Parvati the Hindu Goddess while trying to defeat a demon. Though today it is no more than rubble, the thick massive wall around the fort is an imposing evidence of a historic past. Over the centuries, the vicinity of the hill has seen several temples being erected in the name of its past glory.
(Royal Springs) (9km) from Srinagar. Situated on the foothills of Zabarwan range, the garden has a spring known for its medicinal properties. Cheshmashahi was Iaid out in 1632 by Ali Mardan Khan. It is considered as most serene since the garden is 4 km away from Boulevard's hustle and bustle. On the way to Cheshmashahi, one can visit a marvelous garden spread over several acres of land. The Botanical Garden was established by government for floricultural purpose is now open for the public.
(Palace of Fairies), 3km ahead of Cheshmashahi, is a school of astrology built by Prince Dora Shukho, eldest son of Shah Jahan, who had keen interest in observation of stars & Sufism. Situated amidst the Zabarawan hills, the breathtaking scene of the lake and city makes every visitor stay for a little longer at garden.
(Garden of Pleasure) (11km) Designed in AD 1634 by Abul Hassan 'Asif Khan',eldest brother of Nur Jehan, who was governor of Kashmir during the reign of Jehangir. This garden has 7 terraces and a stone channel for running water in the centre. Largest of Mughal Gardens, it is most visited as well. Garden offers spellbinding view of the Dal Lake and Zabarwan hills.
(Garden of Love) (15 km) built by Emperor Jehangir for his wife Nur Jehan in 1616.The garden has some attractive Mughal structure carved from black marble in "Diwan-e-Khas" (hall of private audience)used for the guests of the Emperor as banquet halls. The outermost enclosures "Diwan-e-Aam" (hall of public audience)were used for public gatherings.
20km, like Mughal Gardens, Harwan gets a large flow of visitors for its natural ambience and crystal clear lake 'Sarband'.Ancient remains dating back to the buddhist period have been excavated in this area. The tiles depict dresses of the people which reveal Central Asian inluence during the supremacy of Kushans.Kanishka, greatest of Kushan emperors, is said to have convened his great council of Buddhist divines near Harwan. At a short distance from Harwan Garden is "Dachgam Wildlife Sanctuary"where Kashmiri Stag, Hongul or Barasingha (cervus elaphus hanglu), is protected. Hangul sheds its horns around the end of March, making its way to high mountains and returns to the lower ridges when its horns are renewed in autumn. The sanctuary also protects brown and black bears, leopards, musk deers, marmots and various bird species. At the mini zoo near the entrance gate Leopards can be closely seen in the enclosed areas. Behind the sanctuary lies the Mahadev peak (4267 meters), it is a trekkers delight. For a visit to Dachigam, entrance passes for visiting the sancutury should be procured from Wildlife Dept office at Gupkar, boulevard. Visit to Dachigam is real treat of Jungle safari for children and adults alike.
Religious Places in Srinagar
The Hazratbal shrine was originally built in 1634AD by Sadiq Khan for the purpose of prayers.Emperor Shah Jehan declared this place as perfect for worship as he would conveniently perform ablution at banks of the Dallake and then pray. The holy relic Moi-e-muqqadas was placed at Hazratbal during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb around 1699AD when Fazil Khan was the governor of Kashmir. It is believed that the relic passed on from the descendant of Prophet PBUH and reached to Sayyid Abdullah, a muttawali(caretaker) of Prophets PBUH Shrine in Madina.In 1634 AD Sayyid alongwith his family visited India, where he was granted jagir and got settled in Bijapur. After his death the relic passed to his son Sayyid Hamid. He saught the help of a Kashmiri trader Khawaja Noor-ud-din Ashwari in Jehanabad where Hamid wanted to restore his Jagir. For immense suoport from Kashmiri traders Sayyid Hamid in- return offered the holy relic to Khawja. On his ourney to Kashmir, emperor Aurangzeb wanted to place the relic at Ajmer and demanded for the relic. Khwaja was aggrieved by this and died at Lahore due to the shock. Before his death he had desired to take the relic to Kashmir to another friend Khwaja Medanish. Meanwhile it is said that Aurangzeb in his dream was directed by Prophet PBUH to restore the relic to the trader. Khwaja Medanish took the relic to Kashmir where initially it was placed at Khankah of Naqashband and finally the relic was placed inside the mosque of Hazrat bal The body of Khwaja Noor-ud-din lshbari wasburied near the ziarat at a graveyard in Hazrat bal.
-Pir Dastagir Sahib
(5km) the shrine of Hazrat Shiekh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani RA of Baghdad, is one of the most revered shrines in Valley. The shrine has a wonderful appearance borne by its architecture. The holy relic in the shrine is displayed to the faithful on religious occasions when large gathering of people are witnessed. The belief in Dastagir Sahib is deep rooted in the hearts of common people of the Valley.
-Srinagar Jamia Masjid
Sultan Sikander conceived the idea of having a mosque for congregation purpose, he selected some other place but his queen suggested the present one. In 1398 AD the construction of Jamia Masjid was started by Sultan Sikander in consultation with Shah Hamdan. Sultan Sikandar invited the great engineer Sayyid Mohhammad Sadur-ud-din from Khurasan who the plan of Jamia masjid. The plan was laid such that the mosque would accomodatede 40,000 worshipers at a time. The ceiling of the mosque is supported by 378 wooden pillars. The construction was completed in about 1402 AD.
Shah Hamdan Mosque (7km) is one of the oldest mosques in Srinagar built in 14th century by Sultan Qutab-ud-din and Sultan Sikandar in respect of Syed Ali Hamdani RA. Syed Ali Hamdani born in 1314 AD learnt Quran by heart in his teens. When Timur unleashed a policy of repression against Sayyids, Syed Ali Hamdani RA left his homeland along with 700 more Sayyids and came to Kashmir in 1372 for the first time . During his regular long stays in Kashmir Shah e Hamdan played a major role in spreading Islam in the Valley. Syed Ali Hamdani RA commonly known as Shah-e-Hamdan was a profound scholar, a prolific writer, versatile in many subjects of science and had a charm of a Sufi who treat all religions alike. The mosque's breathtaking wood carvings and fine papier-mache work indicates Chinese origin. Rear view of the mosque blend with the golden colour of the JehIum is a speaking landmark in the history of Kashmir. On the doorway of the shrine carved inscription 786 Hijri corresponds to 1384 AD ,the year of Shah Hamdans demise at Pakli in Hazara where after he was buried in Khutlan.
-Roza Bal (Tomb of Jesus PBUH)
"The sacred tomb" located n Anzimar, near Khanyar in the heart of old Srinagar city, is the tomb of Hazrat "Yuzu Asaph". According tophilosophy in Hebrew wordYuzu indicates to Jesus and Asaph means the 'gatherer'.It is believed hat Jesus PBUH arrived in the valley from Palistine after the Resurection in quest of the lostIsareal tribe and this tomb is said to be the final place of resting place of Jesus PBUH.according to Tarihk-e-Kashmir byMulla Nadiri,Hazrat yuzu Asaph arrived from the holy land ofPalastine to the Holy valley of Kashmir and proclaimed his ministry.He called people to follow the oneness of Godduring the reins of Raja gopadatta in year 54(middle of the first century) or 78 AD.Acoording to Sulaiman a minister of Gopadatta, who had come from Pesi to repair a temple"Yusu was the Prophet of Children of Israel". It is said that the people of Kashmir having become the idolators after the great flood of Noah,Yuzu Asaph was sent as prophet for the people.Some ssy Yuzu asaph Was Jesus in disguise.Some describe Yuzu or Jesus PBUH as an apostle of God sent to minister the people of Kashmir.
-Shankar Acharya Temple
5km from Nehru Park,the temple satnds atop takht-e-Suleman (1100 ft).Legend describes the building of temple by King Solomon in 3000BC to store the treasure of 300 golden and silver statues.Other thought describes that the temple was originbally built by Jluka,Ashoka's son,around 200BC.The present temple was built during the rein of Jehangir on the original plinth of the temple.Shankarachaya ,a famous hindu saint came to Kashmir fron South India to revive Hinduism.He stayed on top of hill near the temple,for which it is named after this saint.
-Shrine of Maqdoom Sahib
A revered saint of Kashmir, commonly known as Hazrat Sultan, is on the southern side of the Kohi Maran, making it a precedent of religious solidarity in Kashmir.
(5.5 km) The Shrine of Syed Bahaudin Naqashband Sahib Mushkil RA who who fouded Sufism in Bukhara (Uzbekistan),it is a masterpiece designed with wonderful woodwork, yet another example of architectural talent of Kashmir in early 17th century when the shrine was built in memory of Khwaja who did not visit the valley himself but sent his disciple Khwaja Noor-ud-Din ,who is buried close to the main shrine. The graveyard "Mazar e Shohdha'adjacent to the shrine is a burial place of some of the famous Kashmiri Freedom fighters of the past.
On the other side of Jehlum, opposite Shah Hamdan Mosque, is Pather Masjid which was built by Empress Nur-Jehan. It is said that the mosque never consecrated as Nur Jehan apparently had hurt the sentiments of the religious leaders of the time. Even today, no collective prayers (Jamat) is offered here officially.The structure stands witness unmatched stonework that still has a glorious shine. Pather Masjid is a historical monument protected by the Archeological Society of India.
8 km from Lalchowk one of the oldest mosques in Srinagar is situated at the famous Iddgah grounds. Originaly built by Ali Shah the son of Sultan Sikander in 1415 AD ond rebuilt by Aurangzebs goverernor Islam Khan 1664-65. Mosques pristine architecture and woodwork reflects masterpiece workmanship of old times. The mosque measures 18ft length by 75ft breadth, the central holl of the mosque is constructed on 96 huge wooden pillars each about 50ft high. The outer courtyard has more than 30 pillars with a staircase on two sides. Aali Masjid has a history of being a most religiously and politically active platform after the Jamia Masjid. It has not been used for prayers for many years but the quality of the entire structure has the same vigor even today. The authorities have started the repair work to protect a valuable vernacular structure for the future.
Other Places of Interest
On the sides of Boulevard, ahead of Nehru Park, recently opened Zabarwan Park offers Fun mixed with the exotic Kashmiri cuisine to be relished at the picturesque environs of Dallake. The weekends are full of folk dance and music till late evenings. The park is a delightful picnic spot for the nature lovers through out the year.
(24 km) Driving off the Dal Lake towards Habak, Burzahama is a renowed archeological site.Excavations of pots,animal skeletons, tools from Neolithic age provides evidence of people living valley during 2500 BC.
Situated on the bank of Jehlum near Zaina Kadal is the octagonal dome over the grave of Sultan Zain ul Abidin's mother. In the front side of the tomb a graveyard contains the burials of some Kashmiri Emperors like Sultan Sikander, Sultan ZaiulAbidin (Budshah), Mirza Haider Daughlat and the graves of governors and nobles of the past.
7 km from Srinagar, Maharaj Ganj is situated in old city near the Budshah Tomb.It is an 18th century old Super market constructed by Dogra emperor Maharaja Partap Singh at the bank of river Jhelum, where water transportation conveniently carried in & out all type of raw and manufactured material from Lahore to Srinagar. The Maharaj Ganj merchants were mostly Hindus from different parts of valley. This market complex still exists, where some of the old shops are now used by the present time merchants. A visit to this market place would revive your thoughts about the merchandising history of the valley. In an unfortunate fire incedent very recently major portion of the Mahjaraj Gunj was devastated. (Remembering this pristine shopping centre, the picture is given of this place, in hope that the authorities would revive its old glory.
The oldest in Kashmir, Sri Pratap Singh Museum is a real treasure stone sculptures and various artifacts depict the religion, culture and history of Jammu & Kashmir. As one enters the museum the first hall contains stone sculptures as early as 6th century AD and the Terracotta tiles dating back to 2nd Century AD. The second hall is full of miniature paintings of early times from different regions, there are large dominating portraits of the Dogra Maharajas too. Thefourth hall has Papier- mâché articles, Jewelry,Copper brass utensils and straw wear of 18th & 19th century. The adjacent roomis loaded with the oldest weaponries, canons and armors used by the royal militia.The fifth hall has some of the oldest and magnificent Shah Pasand Kani Shawls of 17th century. Silk brocades, silk cocoon samples, Amli shawl embroidered in the form of the map of Srinagar are 17th to 18th century old. Another hall contains the Holy Quran, Shanama and Sikandar Nama of 17th century. The coins as old as 20 BC and Sharda manuscript of 8th century AD can noticed in the gloss boxes. The last hall connects to the First one has a variety of stuffed carcasses of birds, wild animals snakes of different sizes and aquatic birds hunted from time to time in the region. Behind the museum lies the SPS library that holds valuable collection of books on three regions of the state. The museum and the library remains closed on every Monday and government holidays in J&K. For official website log on to http://spsmuseum.org
Nearby attractions of Srinagar
Srinagar is the best base camp to the wonder destination of Gulmarg and Pahalgam, Sonmarg. Yusmarg, Dudparther, Wular lake, and other Tourist destinations. Gulmarg enjoys the distinction of having the highest golf course in the world. A wonderful view of the Nanga Parbat, one of the highest mountain peaks in the world, can be had from there. you can also enjoy Highest Gondola ride in the world. Pahalgam gives a fine trout fishing experience and it Side valleys like Aru and Bisaran, lidherwatt, makes not just another enchanting popular hill resort, Pahalgam is also the base camp for the pilgrimages to the sacred Amarnath Cave. White waters of lidder make it ideal for the thrilling adventure sport like white water rafting. Pahalgam can be base camp for Trekking expeditions to Sonmarg, wadwan and Suru Valley. Other adventure destinations is Sonmarg, which is ideal for the treks like Gangbal, Harmukh, Kolohai Glacier, Tilel Valley etc, also famous for adventure sports like Paragliding and White water rafting. World famous mughal gardens, Dachigam National Park, the exquisite Nagin Lake close to the Dal Lake and the Hazratbal Shrine, the holiest Muslim shrine in India are located in Srinagar City itself. Other famous destinations accessible from Srinagar are Wular lake – Asia's Largest Fresh water lake, Yousmarg, Charar Shareef, Doodhpather etc.