Kashmir popularly known as ‘The paradise on Earth’ is indeed the best destination for the worldwide tourists. Throwing aside the negative myths the people outside J&K generally possess at large that “Kashmir is not safe”, I totally disagree and feel that there is truly no match to this beautiful paradise and J&K is definitely the safest place for the tourists.
During my first visit to Kashmir, I was overwhelmed to have met the dynamic Hon’ble LG, J&K Manoj Sinha and know from him the intensity and the unsurpassed essence of the divine culture & heritage of Jammu & Kashmir. Also, I am really thankful to the Vice Chancellor Central University Of Kashmir, Mehrajud din Mir, Professor Hamid, Professors of Kashmir University-Professor Mushtaq, Prof Dr Sameer & Islamic University who organized my motivational sessions for the students and Faculty Development Programme for the professors, along with IMPA and NIT where I organized Asia’s Pacific Leading Career Counselling Meet for the youth of J&K.
I also extend my gratitude to the bureaucrats and the officials of J&K government namely DC Srinagar Aijaz, Shahid Chaudhary, Dr. G.N Itoo, Dr Aijaz Ahmad Khan from whom I really learnt a lot about Kashmir and the Editor-in-Chief of the leading newspapers of J&K, ‘The Rising Kashmir’, Hafiz Ayaz, with whom I had a detailed interaction which was quite positive & the overall scenario became a driving force for me to become a columnist in this newspaper and express my views / experiences with the masses of J&K. I must say that the hospitality which the Kashmiris deliver, the picturesque destinations of Kashmir, the Kashmiri’s Mouth-watering Cuisine, especially the “Wazwan” incredibly turns one on.
Well, in today’s column I would like to pen down about the beautiful picturesque destinations of the Kashmir Valley along with their historical importance.
The moment one talks about Kashmir, the first thing which comes to the mind is the famous ‘Dal Lake’. The very well-known Dal Lake in Srinagar is a delightful entry on the Srinagar’s list of attractions. The Lake is the second largest lake in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and has gardens all along its shores. The Dal Lake with its sparkling quiet waters is surrounded by the beautiful snow-capped mountains on three sides making the Dal Lake one of the most beautiful lakes in India which is immensely popular amongst tourist.
Moreover, the stunning ‘Shikaras’ loaded with fresh flowers look like some metaphorical version of the gondolas of Venice. You can see these gaily decorated shikaras floating around the lake for transporting goods to markets, children to school and travellers from houseboats to shore. The dramatic houseboats equally attract tourists for a peaceful and unforgettable stay on the lake. These houseboats are well-equipped and well-attended and make for a very pleasant stay. Both shikaras and houseboats form an integral part of the scenery of the Dal Lake. To get a glimpse of the life style of Srinagar a joy ride on a Shikara or a houseboat is a must.
The shores of the Lake have some Mughal monuments and the campus of the Kashmir University surrounding it. The Shankaracharya and Hari Parbat temples are on the two hillocks overlooking the lake. The Lake covers an area of 18 square kms.and has a floating garden which blossoms with various flowers during July and August. One can enjoy the colourful spectacle by visiting the floating garden or flower and vegetable markets via shikaras. Apart from the houseboats and shikara rides, the activities like kayaking, water surfing and licensed angling on the lake are also available. An experience of gliding through the Dal Lake in a shikara is indeed an experience of a life time.
Trust me, the Kashmir Valley has a lot to cherish for. The most famous historical palace to visit in Srinagar is definitely PARI MAHAL which is believed to have been constructed in the 1600s. Dara Shikoh is said to have lived in this palace in the years 1640, 1645, and 1654.Nestled in the Zabarwan Mountain, PariMahal is amongst the top tourist places to visit in Srinagar. This palace was built to be used as a residence and a library for Dara Shikoh, which was further used as an observatory to teach astronomy and astrology. In the night, the entire Mahal gleams with light and its reflection can be seen on the famous Dal Lake. Dara Sikoh is said to have dedicated this garden to his Sufi teacher, Mullah Shah.
Talking about the other mesmerizing destinations in Kashmir, comes the name of Gulmarg. This compound word or portmanteau of two Persian words Gul and Marg. Gul means flowers and Marg means meadow. So, Gulmarg is a meadow of flowers. The credit for discovering the charms of Gulmarg first time in history has been given to Yousuf Shah Chak, the last Chak ruler who reigned from 1579 to 1586 AD. It is believed that Yousuf Shah Chak was the most romantic ruler of Kashmir’s post-medieval period. By nature, he was pleasure-loving, who used to love spending time at picnic spots of Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Achabal and Ahrabal.
Sonamarg is also quite popular amongst the visitors. The name ‘Sonamarg’ is derived from the Hindi language where ‘Sona’ means gold, and ‘marg’ means meadow. The destination is famous for its valleys, which are carpeting with lush yellow flowers, which bloom during the spring season. The entire valley and the regions around are often carpeted with yellow flowers, which resemble a gold valley, and thus the name.Talking about the history of Sonamarg and the regions around, it is said that they were under the control of King Pravarasena II, 2000 years ago. However, Srinagar, Sonamarg, and the surrounding regions then came under the control of Mauryan Reign. Under this period, Buddhism thrived. Later, Kushanas took control over the region in 1st century AD. Later, it came under the control of Ujjain’s Vikramaditya, and during the 6th century, Huns controlled it for a short period, thereafter which it fell under the reigns of numerous small kings. However, in the 14th century, Sonamarg and major parts of Kashmir and the surrounding regions went under the Mughal rule.
According to the ancient literature describing this region, Sonamarg and the surrounding regions came under the famous silk route that connected India with Tibet. Due to its altitude and strategic location, Sonamarg is now a military defense post. It is also a famous tourist destination and base camp for trekkers and campers. Sonamarg was once a hidden beauty in Kashmir and today it is becoming a famous tourist destination, especially among adventure lovers.
At the end, I would conclude by saying that each one of us should travel a lot, as this is the best way to enhance our knowledge and cherish the beauty which has been laid by our ancestors. After all someone has rightly said, “Jobs fill your pockets, adventures fill your soul”.
(The Author is Senior Journalist. An Intl Educationist, Counsellor, Capacity Building, Research & Development Expert, Motivational Speaker & Social Reformer. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)