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Jammu and Kashmir: Dal Lake and Mughal Gardens
Dal Lake and the Mughal Gardens ~ The Best of Srinagar
Go east for half a kilometers from the reception center of Srinagar, and you will reach the beautiful Dal lake. Dal lake is a combination of Gangabal, Lakuti Dal, Bara (also called Bera or Bada) Dal and Nagin Lake, and these are separated by floating islands. The islands too shift from time to time, due to their floating nature. It is about 6 kms long and 3 kms wide. Adjoining Dal in the boulevard road, on which Ghats abound. Shikaras are always ready to take tourists to houseboats. The other side of the road has been taken by hotels of all shapes and size. On the south of Dal is the Shankaracharya mountain, while on the east is the Hari mountain. The northern banks of the Dal also has the Mughal gardens, which are a visual treat. On the west stands the Hazrat Bal mosque. It is because of this Dal lake and its houseboats that the region is also called the Venice of the east. Water lilies and lotuses dot the entire Dal in the months of June and July. A canal has been made to connect Dal to Jhelum river. Trade happens through this route by Shikaras. Overall, a sight to behold. If you are lucky to get a moon lit night, check out Dal. Words cannot describe its beauty. On a clear day, you will also find the reflection of snow capped mountains on the waters of Dal.
Nehru Park: At the foothills of Shankaracharya mountain, you will find Nehru park. Should be visited in the evenings, as the whole park is well lit at that time. It disturbs the overall ambience, though.
Kabutar khana: Literally meaning house of the pigeons, it is an island where the pigeons of Maharajas used to be fed. You have to see it from a distance, as reaching it is not allowed.
Char Chinar: Sahazada Murad had planted 4 chinar saplings, with water in between, hence the name. Planted right on the waters of Dal. There is a hotel too, on the island.
Hari Parvat or Hari Mountain: On the top of Hari parvat, King Akbar had built a fort in 1586, which was later renovated in 1812 by Atta Khan. Most of the fortress is in riuns but you can make out the old Hindu temples, paintings at the walls, and the mosque built by Prince Dara Shuko. Fruit cultivation is also done here, and flowers abound in spring. You will need permission from the Defence to visit the fort.
Harwan: Hosts the reservoir to supply water to Srinagar, it is about 18kms off Srinagar. It also has archeological importance.
Gagri bal Park: Situated at the entrance of Dal, it is a nice park on a nice small island. You can take rest here absorbing the nature or even take a swim.
Chashmashahi: 9 kms off the city is this wonderful 3 stepped botanial garden named after Jawaharlal Nehru. The water here is rich in medicinal properties. You will need permission from the tourist office to visit the place.
On the apex of chashmasahi is the pari mahal built by prince Dara. It now hosts a astrology school. One can get a beautiful view of Dal lake from this mahal. There also a Devi Parvati mandir here.
Nishat Bagh: Another 4 kms from Chashmashahi and you will reach Nishat Bag. The mountains has been cut into 12 steps to accomodate this beautiful garden. You will find ample examples of Mughal architectures here. Every kind of regional trees can be found here. You can see ripe apples hanging from trees in August, but beware, do not pluck any fruits from trees. Nishat is the biggest of all mughal gardens. The Engineering college of Kashmir university is situated nearby.
Shalimar Bagh: 3 kms from Nishat bagh is Shalimar bagh. Built by King Jahangir for his beloved wife Noor Jehan, it is built in 4 steps. bordered by chinar trees, it has seasonal flowers catering to all seasons. The first step was built for the commons, the second step for Royal appointments, the third for Harem and the fourth and topmost for the Kings own. In summers, the King used to spend quality time with his wife here. the garden has royalty written all over. Sundays are special in this garden as the fountains are operational only on sundays. There is also the light and sound show (Son et Lumiere) organized by ITDC. You will get a one hour stop here by conducted tour.
Nasim Bagh: On the opposite side of Nishat Bagh is Nasim Bagh, which literally means morning breeze. The mornings are truly glorious here, true to its name. The Dal also looks terrific from here. It is the oldest Mughal garden.
You can choose conducted tour by bus or by shikara to visit the Mughal gardens. If you are going by Shikara, remember to take packet lunch and water.
Hazratbal Mosque: Opposite of Nishat is also the Hazratbal masjid, which is said to have the holy relic of a hair of Muhammad the prophet. It was built by Shah Jehan. The hair of Muhammad is kept in a glass container. it is one of the holiest destination of Muslims. Only Muslims are allowed in the mosque.
Pratap Singh Museum: On the south of Jhelum is the museum, which houses different artifacts of the valley. Should check it out.
Shah Hamdan Mosque: 6 Kms from Dal lake gate, on the southern banks of Jhelum is the mosque. It was built in 1395. 37,000 hindus were converted here. The Masjid was possibly also a hindu temple once and the wall and ceiling carvings bears testimony to the fact. No iron has been used in the construction and the architecture resembles that of pyramids. Only Muslims are allowed. The structure had been subject to fire outbreaks many a times. The present structure was built in 1732.
Pathhar Masjid: Noor Jahan had this mosque built for the shias. It has been boycotted by the muslims since it was built by a lady.
Jumma Masjid: 17 m each side square structure, supported by Sal pillers. This is the biggest mosque of Kashmir, built by Sultan Sikander. 10,000 muslims can prey together. Eid is the biggest celebration time.
Shankarachariya temple: Shankaracharya mandir is on the top of the Takht - e - Suleiman mountain, behind Nehru park. A shiva temple was built here by son of Ashoka the great, King Jhaluka, in 200 B.C. Raja Lalitaditya carried on repairing works in the 8th century. Shankarachariya came here and sat on meditation. Since then, the mountain is known as Shankarachariya Mountain. The view of Jhelam, Dal and Srinagar from here is unparalleled. Jhelam looks like a sword from here. The Pir Panjal mountain range can also be viewed clearly from here. If you are in Srinagar you must visit this place. One can take the 282 step staircase or a car to the mandir.