Srinagar is the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is situated in the Kashmir Valley and lies on the banks of the Jhelum River, a tributary of the Indus. The city is famous for its gardens, lakes and houseboats. It is also known for traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and dry fruits.
Etymologically Srinagar is composed of two Sanskrit words, Å›rÄ« (venerable) and nagar, which means “city”. One theory of the origin of the name is that a Pandava King Ashoka (not to be confused with the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka) built the city of Srinagari (Srinagar). Another theory is that Mauryan Emperor Ashoka founded the original city of Srinagar, then situated on the site of the present village of Pandrethan, 5 km to the north of the existing capital.
On the shores of the Dal are the great Mughal Gardens, glimpses into an earthly heaven of many-hued flowers, carpets of grass and playful fountains. On the two great hills that overlook the city and the lake – Hari Parbat (Kohi-e-Maran) and Shankracharaya (Takht-e-Sulaiman) are reminders of the city’s eclectic past: graced with ancient temples and medieval mosques, imposing fortress walls and simple, quiet shrines. The sacred is equally pervasive in the old city, lined along both sides of the Jhelum river. Here are the wooden Islamic shrines with pagoda-like roofs that are so distinctive of Kashmir, and here too are the spires of old temples built amidst winding lanes of wooden houses with their delicately carved balconies, centuries’ old bridges and bustling markets.
The markets of Srinagar offer a vast variety of the most refined crafts – from pashmina shawls, as light and soft as the breeze that blows across the Dal, to intricately handwoven carpets, delicately carved woodwork and glittering copperware. Epicureans will delight in the rich Kashmir cuisine: from melt-in-the-mouth gushtabas to irresistible walnut tarts, or even a handful of warm, roasted chestnuts cracked open in the sun. For those who wish to squeeze a little more of Kashmir into their stay, Srinagar is within comfortable driving distance of several popular sites. Horse-riding though the meadows of Gulmarg, angling in the cold waters of the Lidder river at Pahalgam, the spellbinding beauty of Sonamarg and the architectural treasures of Pandrethan and Parihaspura, these can all be experienced as day-trips from Srinagar.
Whether you spend your time in Srinagar exploring its many facets or simply unwinding by the lake, you will find yourself carrying home memories of a gentle, refined beauty that braces the senses and unclutters the mind.
What To See
It is the most popular for its houseboats and Shikaras and remains crowded throughout the year. The lake covers an area of approximately 26 sq km and is divided intro four sections. It provides a perfect site to enjoying kayaking, swimming, angling, canoeing, water surfing, houseboats and Shikara riding. Fishing activities and water plant harvesting is also done at the lake. During winters, the temperature falls so low that it sometimes freezestheLake.
Situated in the backdrop of the Dal Lake, the Nagin Lake is entitled as the 'Jewel in the Ring'. A narrow causeway is what separates the two lakes. Tourists can spot many Shikaras and houseboats. Water skiing, boat sailing facilities are available at this lake. The lake is a little isolated and much cleaner than the Dal lake.
Located at a height of 1,100 ft, the temple is on top of Shankaracharya Hill. It is believed to be built around 200 BC by Jaluka, the son of Emperor Ashoka. From the hill top visitors can get a spectacular view of the snow clad mountains of Pir Panjal mountain range.
It is among the oldest mosques in Srinagar and displays a monument of Islamic architecture. It was built in 1674 with four spires tower, 370 pillars, prayer halls, etc. Each pillar is made from a single piece of deodar trunk. The temple was destroyed and restored many times. It is also known as the Friday Mosque.
Located on the banks of Dal Lake, the Mosque is made from white marble and a fusion of Kashmiri and Mughal styles of architecture can be noticed in its construction. The Mosque is also called Dargah Sharif, Asar-e-Sharif, and Madinat-us-Sani. There is a shrine in the Mosque which is believed to contain a relic-a hair of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.
Sir Pratap Museum
Established in 1898, the museum exhibits some of the rare terracotta heads of 3rd century, various molded terracotta plaques from 4th & 5th century, ancient brass model of Lokeshvara and a green stone figure of Lord Vishnu sitting on a Garuda. The museum also displays a 5th century copper image of Buddha carved in Gandhara architectural style and some paintings, ancient coins, handicrafts and arms. Its a must watch while you are in Srinagar.
The Garden is located at the foothills of Zabarwan Mountains near Dal Lake. The garden is famous for its annual Tulip Festival that last for seven days. The garden is very spacious and has more than 70 varieties of colored tulip flowers. About 90 acres of land nurture 1.3 million tulip bulbs. Among its vicinity are other gardens like Nishat Garden, Shalimar Garden, Achabal Bagh, Chashma Shahi Garden, Pari Mahal and other Mughal Gardens.
Located on the banks of Dal Lake, the garden was built by Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan in 1633 and is one of the largest Mughal Gardens built here. The garden has some of the rare species of flowers, 12 terraces, flowerbeds, fountains and huge lawns that makes it more stunning.
Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is recognized for housing the rare Kashmir stag Hangul and black & brown bears. It is encircled by beautiful mountains and greenery. The sanctuary is spread out across an area of approx 141 sq km. In 1951, the sanctuary was acknowledged as a National Park. A wide variety of flora and fauna is present in the sanctuary. The sanctuary also provides a habitat for various avifauna species too. Special permit is necessary to enter the park.
Commissioned by Jahangir for Noor Jehan in 1619, Shalimar Bagh is a four-terraced fiesta of chinars and watercourses with an exquisite hill as its immediate backdrop. A very prominent feature of the garden is the arched recesses behind the fountains. These recesses used to be lit with lamps, giving the fountains a majestic, dreamy look.
The garden is located at a distance of 15 km from the Tourist Reception Centre and covers an area of around 12.40 hectares (30.6 acres). An October visit among the flaming autumnal chinars is perhaps even more desirable than the floral riot in spring. All year round though, the most lovely thing in Shalimar is a baradari, a summer house, which is today a fading gracious structure, with black marble pillars (from Pampore) and gorgeous painted ceilings.
Meaning Royal Spring, Cheshmashahi is one of the three Mughal Gardens in Srinagar.It was Shah Jahan’s governor Ali Mardan Khan who built the small but perfect Chashma Shahi Gardens on the slopes of the Zaberwan Hill in 1632.
The garden consists of a pavilion and three terraces. It is famous for the natural spring that flows from it. Its location, being at an elevated plane above the city, provides a panoramic view of the city. The state’s governor house is located nearby. The famous Pari Mahal, Tulip garden and the City Botanical Garden is also located near Cheshmashahi. The garden is at a distance of 9 kms from the Tourist Reception Centre.
Pari Mahal, meaning ‘house of fairies’ in Srinagar is a majestic historic monument that is located above the alluring Chashma Shahi Gardens. A short drive further, along a spur of the Zaberwan Hill, lie the six massive terraces of Pari Mahal (also known as Quntilon), with wonderful views. This age old monument displays the architectural brilliance of the medieval times. A vast and beautiful garden surrounds this structure. Commissioned by Mughal prince Dara Shikoh, this beautiful garden was originally intended as a retreat for Sufi scholars. It is a 5 minutes drive from the Chashma Shahi Gardens and is a beautiful place that is a must visit on your trip to Srinagar
To be thorough, visit the Harwan Gardens, which are not Mughal at all but a modern imitation. At the top lies the reservoir that feeds the authentic gardens. A short walk to the left as you exit the gardens leads to the ruins of the 4th-5th century CE Buddhist site of Harwan Vihara. The great Nagarjuna was here and Kushana king Kanishka may have visited too.
How To Reach
Indian Airlines operate regular daily flights to Srinagar from Delhi, Mumbai and Jammu. They leave from Delhi directly, from Delhi via Jammu, and from Bombay via New Delhi and Jammu. Jet Airways also operate daily flights to Srinagar from Delhi as well as Jammu. Indian Airlines has its city office in the Tourist Reception Centre, while the Jet Airways office is close by.
Srinagar airport is 14 kms from the city. The taxi ride to the Tourist Reception Centre costs about Rs.450/-.
Indian Airlines: Airport Office Tel. : 2430334, 2430163 City Office Tel. : 2450256, 2450247
Jet Airways: Airport Office Tel. : 0194-2433035, 2433007 City Office : Dhanji-Bhoy Building, Sherwani Road, Srinagar-190001, Kashmir, India. Tel. : 0194-2480801-06.
Note: All foreigners are required to register themselves at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, at its Airport counter.
The nearest railhead for Srinagar is Jammu Tawi (305 kms) where trains arrive from Delhi, Calcutta, Pune, Mumbai, Kanyakumari, Ahmedabad, etc. As with flights, train bookings have to be made well in advance. During the holiday season, additional trains operate to and from various parts of the country.
National Highway 1-A, connecting Srinagar with Jammu, is a good, all-weather road with several sharp inclines and hairpin bends. The famous Jawahar Tunnel that connects Jammu with the Kashmir Valley across the Pir Panjal range falls en route. For those wishing to travel to Srinagar by a private car from Jammu, there are several places en route which have been developed for the convenience of the motorist. Among them Jajjar Kotli, Kud, Pantnitop, Batote, Ramban, Banihal and Qazi Gund, all having tourist bungalows and provisions for meals, snacks, petrol pumps and repairs.
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