Hearted in Srinagar the capital of Jammu and Kashmir is the Dal Lake aka Srinagar’s Jewel. Having a length of 7.44 km, a width of 3.5 km, and an average depth of 1.42 meters (4.7 ft) this lake is not only the main tourist attraction, but it also plays an important role in commercial roles such as fishing and water plant harvesting. Now the origin of the lake is something to be talked about, which up to this date remains unsolved. While some say that Dal Lake is a remnant of an oligotrophic lake that once covered the entire valley of Kashmir, the rest of the opinions are about Dal Lake being a plain flood lake.
Dal Lake during the evening
Built during the reign of Mughal emperor Jahangir, the Mughal-era gardens such as Shalimar Bagh, Nishant Bagh, parks, houseboats embed the shoreline of the lake making the place look a beautiful different world in itself. The houseboats being the center of every tourist’s attention,t never fails to amaze the visitors by the intricacy of the Kashmiri wood carving, Kashmiri embroidered curtains and carpets, and the strong built. Having the body made up of cedarwood, the interior of the houseboats consists of a corridor, drawing room, dining room, pantry, two to four bedrooms with attached bathroom and named as Paradise, Small Heaven, Flower Palace, Dream Palace, etc. At the current moment, there are more than 1200 houseboats in Dal Lake. Floating gardens ( “Raad” in Kashmiri ) blossom with lotus flowers during July and August.
Houseboats on Dal lake
Floating Markets on Dal Lake
Dal Lake is a part of the natural wetland and is divided by causeways into four basins; i) Gagribal ii) Lokut Dal iii) Bod Dal iv) Nagin (considered as an independent lake). Rup Lank is also known as Char Chinari is the island of Lokut Dal while Sona lank is the island of Bod Dal.
To the date, Dal Lake in particular holds a little piece of every ruler who had gotten to take a hold of it. Be it the Mughal emperors or the afghans or the Sikhs. It all started during the Mughal period when the Mughal emperor associated their authority over Kashmir, Srinagar to be very specific. Developing the vicinities of Dal by creating Mughal-type gardens and pavilions was their way of claiming the place. Mughal empire deteriorated when Aurangzeb died in 1707. Afghan Durrani Empire governed the city for several decades filling it with their sophistication. In 1814, a substantial part of Kashmir including Srinagar was clasped out of Afghans by Raja Ranjit Singh to his kingdoms and Sikhs were to rule it for the next 27 years.
Britishers evaded the rules of the Dogra Maharaj of not building houses in the valley by building lavish houseboats on the Dal Lake. The houseboats are still referred to as “ each one a little piece of England afloat on Dal”. And after the independence, the India of Kashmiri Hanji people built, owned, and maintained these houseboats. And creating floating gardens, manufacturing goods was their way of making the living.
Top 5 must-do things at Dal lake
You’re at Dal Lake and you don’t know where to begin with your adventure? Then our first suggestion would be, begin with, the Shikara ride. A ride through the rippling water of Dal lake filling your sight with the canopic view of the shikaras will be an experience you definitely won’t regret having in your life. Now it depends on you on how long of a ride you want. The ride starts from 30 minutes to two hours allowing you to explore the sight in front of you briefly.
Can’t get enough of the lake and its beauty? Well, we have another option for you. You can and should try the houseboat. Standing proudly on the water this beauty is something you’ve never witnessed before. Unlike the backwater houseboats in Kerala, these are set in one place.
Remember how we mentioned at the beginning of this article that this place is a whole different world in itself? Well, once you visit the floating markets of Dal Lake you won’t have any choice but to agree with us. From grocery to fancy clothes to ice cream to fruits, you will find everything here.
Built by the Mughals during the Mughal era these gardens are known to be tourists’ favorites. Consisting of Nishat Bagh and Shalimar Bagh this place is a must-to-go place if you’re in Srinagar.
Planted near Dal Lake Hazrathbal is a shrine that is considered to be Kashmir’s holiest Muslim shrine. Having the most beautiful architecture in the whole of Kashmir this place will forever stay in your memories once you visit it.
When to visit Dal Lake?
The best time of the year to visit Dal Lake is from May to November when the weather is quite pleasant allowing you to explore the beauty of this place.