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Floating Sojourn : Srinagar, J&K

    

Apples and apple-cheeked children, beautiful Pahari women and the pink lotus flowers, paisleys and carpets, jewellery and wood carvings, the Shikaras and houseboats complete a holiday in Srinagar.

Floating Sojourn : Srinagar, J&K-1

Srinagar used to be all about shikaras, houseboats, the Dal lake, the paharis and the apples, it still is …if it was not for the separated country issue littered all over. As one drives into Srinagar, it seems that the area has been taken over by the Army. At every ten steps, an armed man will stop you to ensure that you are just a tourist. Hence, it is advisable to cooperate with them and carry a valid identity proof. This description is not meant to scare anybody and should be taken as a tip to ensure that you have a hassle free trip. In fact, soon enough you will start enjoying their company, since they not only make you feel safe but also are always eager to chat and share a cup of tea, with a sermon or two flowing in, if you accidentally touch upon the subject of national security.

The best thing about Srinagar, after the abundant cold fresh air, the beautiful children and the orchids are the houseboats. It is a good idea to book your houseboat prior to your arrival, since it saves you the trouble of first locating and then bargaining for what you like after you reach. Various websites on Kashmir tourism should help you with this.

Floating Sojourn : Srinagar, J&K-2

The only way to reach to your houseboat is to take the shikaras. These shikaras are smaller boats that are decorated with flowers and brightly colored shiny fabrics and are specifically meant to take people to and fro between the houseboats and the shore.

In the early 19th century, the boat dwelling community started building luxurious versions of their homes in order to cater to British visitors and the regal tourists of those days. Hence, even today these houseboats have names like Duke Well, Silver Street or NewPalaPalace that clearly refer to Colonial influence. Unlike the houseboats of the backwaters in Kerala, these houseboats are fixes. Another story associated with the history of houseboats, is that the Maharaja of Kashmir prevented the British to buy land in his territory, hence they came up with the idea of houseboats. Whatever the story might be, we can only thank Kashmir for having these houses floating on the serene, crystal dear waters of Dal and Nagin lakes of Srinagar.

Places to visit

Shalimar Bagh

Floating Sojourn : Srinagar, J&K-3

A tribute of love from Emperor Jehangir to his wife Nur Jahan, the Shalimar Bagh is also known as the Garden of Love. This is where the emperor and his queen enjoyed moments of solitude.

Nishat Bagh

Floating Sojourn : Srinagar, J&K-4

The Nishat Bagh, built by Empress Nur Jahan’s brother, Asaf Ali has a unique theme, its 12 terraces represent the 12 sons of the zodiac, which descend gradually and seem to almost merge into the DalLake.

Chasme Shahi

Floating Sojourn : Srinagar, J&K-5

The smallest of Srinagar’s Mughal gardens, it has only three terraces, in addition to a natural spring enclosed in a stone pavilion. The waters of the spring are believed to have medicinal properties.

Parimahal

Floating Sojourn : Srinagar, J&K-6

This ‘Palace of the Fairies’, is an ancient Sufi centre, just a stone’s throw away from the Chasma Shahi Garden. You can easily approach Parimahal via the garden. Gracefully arched terraces are its striking feature.

Hazratbal Mosque

Floating Sojourn : Srinagar, J&K-7

Pristine white, it is one of the touchstones of Islamic faith, because a hair of Prophet Mohammed is said to be preserved here. This is displayed to the public on days of religious significance.

Shankaracharya Temple

Floating Sojourn : Srinagar, J&K-8

Built on the highest hill in Srinagar, the ShankaracharyaTemple has a hoary past dating back to 2500 BC. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is believed to be the place from where the philosopher Shankaracharya commenced his efforts to revive Hinduism.

Each houseboat is complete in itself with a few large rooms, a living room and a kitchen. The reminiscence of Mughal regal sensibilities can be seen in the fine furniture, delicate rugs and fabrics. Most of these houseboats are beautifully crafted in cheddar wood, and are adorned with intricate nakkashi (carvings) and in lay work.

The romantic settings of the lake in Kashmir together with the royal setting of the houseboats create magic. The water is so clear that one can clearly see the underwater weeds and small fishes swimming. While on the houseboat you will be taken care of by a cook-cum-caretaker, driven on memorable excursions and fed royally on fresh local food. And for all this, you do not pay a thing till the hour before you leave the houseboat. Mutual trust makes life so easy here. Living on the houseboat opens doors to a new forgotten age, where time is inconsequential. Once cold sit and watch life go by on the water, read a good book, entertain sellers of all sorts of delightful things who will arrive in shikaras to show you their wares – but only if you invite them to.

The breathtaking views combined with the silent and serene atmosphere and the happy inquisitive children who are only eager to be clicked are enough to infuse new life and rejuvenate visitors. The innocence of the people and the place is one refreshing memory you will take back with you.
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