The Happy Valley, Super Switzerland of Asia, Mughal Emperor's dreamgarden and Emerald amongst the white pearls of the Himalaya are only a few of the many appellations given to the valley of Kashmir, over the countries. The Mughal king Jehangir, moved to such an ecstasy by the beauty of Kashmir exclaimed, “if there is a Paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here”. He was doubtlessly, enthralled by the valley’s lust greenery, its abundance of flowers and fruits, its shimmering springs and translucent lakes. Unlike the other Himalayan regions, Kashmir has been an traveler’s paradise and holiday resort for a long time, probably one of the oldest on the earth.Nestling in the lap of the dazzling snow-capped Himalayas, the Kashmir valley is undoubtedly a jewel in India’s crown. An inspiration for so much art, music and poetry, Kashmir is also a honey-mooner’s paradise, a nature lover’s wonderland and a shopper’s dream come true. Over the years, Kashmir has come to love and looks after its tourists, fulfilling their every whim. Tourists are everywhere, soaking up all that Kashmir has to offer – the walks, the pony treks, the cable car rides over Gulmarg resort, the Shikara rides at sunset on the Dal Lake.And once you have visited Kashmir, you will agree that what began as a dream, lives on as an unforgettable experience.
GULMARG Gulmarg means “Meadow of flowers”. A huge cup shaped meadow, lush and green with slopes where the silence is broken only by the tinkle of cow bells Gulmarg looks like a fantasy set in a film, and not surprisingly has been the venue of several films. From Gulmarg, a pony track leads upwards to Khilanmarg, Kongdori and seven springs, a couple of hours by pony,longer on foot. From here across the Apharwat the peak which looms up from this point is Alpather Lake, a picturesque alpine lake, frozen till late June. Gulmarg also has one of the worlds highest green gold courses, as well as a club house which is a historical building in its own right. For the would be golfer, there are golf sets on hire pros to instruct one in the game and temporary memberships. In winter, Gulmarg acquires a new persona that of the country’s premier skiing resort. Skiing to many who watch it on TV, seems like a very elitist sport, requiring a high level of training and expensive equipment. They are surprised, when they visit Gulmarg for a day expedition to see the snow that others with the same level of physical fitness and training are skiing down slopes.
PAHALGAMPahalgam means “The valley of Shepherds”. At the confluence of the streams flowing from the river Lidder and Sheshnag lake, Pahalgam was once a humble shepherds village with breathtaking views. Now it is Kashmiri’s premier resort, cool even during the height of summer. Around Pahalgam are many places of interest, and because the resort is set between fairly steep hills, it is worth hiring a pony rather than walking. The most beautiful of these is the huge, undulating meadow of Baisaran, surrounded by thickly wooded forests of pine. Hajan, on the way to Chandanwari is an idyllic spot for a picnic. Chandanwari, 16 Kms. From Pahalgam, is the starting point of the Amarnath Yatra which takes place every year in the month of wawan (July – August). The destination is the Amarnath cave, believed to be abode of lord shiva.
SONAMARGSonamarg means “The Meadow of Gold”. The drive to Sonamarg is through yet another spectacular facet of country side in Kashmir, this time the sind valley. Sonamarg has as its backdrop, snowy mountains against a cerulean sky. The Sind meanders along here and abounds with trout and mahseer fishes. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier a major attraction during the summer months. Sonamarg’s importance is two fold: it is the starting point of a major trek passing several mountain lakes Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar and Gangabal.
SRINAGARSrinagar ( The city of Sun), the “ Venice of the Himalaya” the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, offers many sights worth seeing, as well as various sports and entertainment facilities. Due to its central location, it is an ideal station for longer holidays as well. The present city was founded by King Pravarasen II around A.D. 150. The city lies to the right and left of the Jhelum and stretches eastwards up to the Dal and Nagin Lakes. Nine bridges, partly wooden even today, cross the Jhelum within the city borders. Srinagar is a unique city because of its lakes – the Dal, Nagin and Anchar. The river Jhelum also flows through a part of the city. The Dal, Stinagar’s largest lake, has the most number of Houseboats followed by the Nagin and the Jhelum. As a general rule Houseboat in the Dal are of all categories from deluxe through to D class.
MUGHAL GARDENSKashmir was a favorite of the Mughal emperors who visited it as often as they could. Cool and refreshing after the plain of North India where the business of governance kept them, they planted gardens with stepped terraces and flowing water courses. Cheshmashahi is the first Mughal garden you will pass after Nehru Park. Built at a height above the city, its view are as stupendous as its layout. The smallest of Srinagar’s Mughal gardens, Cheshmashahi has only three terraces in addition to a natural spring of water enclosed in a stone pavilion.The next garden along the road that encircles the Dal is the Nishat, built by Empress Nur Jahan’s brother Asaf Khan. The largest of the gardens, Nishat has several terraces, a central water course and the zabarwan hills.The third Mughal garden – the Shalimar was planted by Jehangir, the Mughal emperor whose love for Kashmir was legendary. Shaded by magnificent chinar trees, the Shalimar is a series of stone pavilions and flowing water with paint box bright flower beds.
HAZRATBAL MOSQUEAcross the Dal from Shalimar is the mosque of Hazrathbal, the only one of its kind architecturally in Kashmir. Made of white marble with a dome and a minaret, Hazratbal is the repository of a single hair of the Prophet Mohammed, exhibited to the public on certain days of the year. The mosque was built in 1619 during the reign of the great Mughal Emperor Jehangir and shelters as a relic single thread of the Prophet Mohammed which Sayed Abdullah had brought here from Medina.
SHANKARACHARYA TEMPLEWithin Srinagar, on its highest hill is the Shankaracharya temple nearly one thousand feet above the city. It is devoted to lord Shiva. The site dates back to 2500 BC. The philosopher Shankaracharya stayed at this site when he visited Kashmir ten centuries ago to revive sanatan Dharma. Before this date, the temple was known as Gopadri, as an earlier edifice on the same site was built by king Gppaditya in the 16th century.
DAL LAKEThe Dal Lake which has the length of 8 Km long and a width of 4 Km, spreads over a total of 26 Sq. Km. The fascinating Dal Lake is divided into two smaller ones the Lokut (small) and Bod (big) Dal. The south western part of the lake has a maximum depth of approximately 12 M. the Dal Lake gets some of its water from spring but is also supplemented by water from the mountain lake, Mar Sar. In the western part of the Lake one can glimpse a few islands, some bigger, some smaller. Its shores are very fertile and surrounded by willows. Potato, tomato, pumpkin, cucumber, radish and lots of other vegetables are grown here cultivation of the floating gardens which also lie in this part of the lake is another interesting feature. These gardens consist of reed rafts of different lengths and a width of approximately one and a half by three meters and are covered by 1020 CM thick layer of earth and mud. Vegetables and melons are grown on these artificial floating islands.
DACHIGAMIf one drives from Harwan upwards along Dagwan rivulet, one reaches after approximately 25 Km from Srinagar the wild life sanctuary, Dachigam. Dachigam was already In former days a royal wild life sanctuary. The game preserve is divided into two parts, lower Dachigam, lying in the valley where black bears have their habitat and upper Dachigam. It can be reached by several path. In June one can observe in upper Dachigam hanguls (Kashmi Stag), a near relation of the European red deer, and brown bear. The best time for a visit to this game preserve are the months of June and July.
AMARNATH CAVEThe cave of Amarnath, lying at an height of 3880 Mtrs. is a famous holy place of pilgrimage for the Hindus and is held in the same veneration as Mount Kailash in Tibet. The sacred Cave contains a Shiva Lingam formed of Ice, the size of which increases or decreases according to the position of the Moon. Usually there is a big Festival in the 3rd week of August every year thousands of people from all over the country and from different parts of the world visit this Cave. The difficulty of the pilgrimage continues in itself, an extra ordinary sacrifice.