History Of The City
The Dal has, within its area, two enormous sheet-like expanses of water – Lokutdal and Boddal, the rest of its surface being broken up alternatively by man-made strips of land inhabited by whole colonies of people and vegetation. Thus the lake is not a flat, unbroken mass of water, but a labyrinth of waterways, awash with a lifestyle not encountered elsewhere in the world. The Dal is Srinagar's major life-support system with its wide variety of marine life: fish, lotus roots, plants and floating gardens. The hospitable boat people of Kashmir trace their descent from Noah. Entire families live on boats, accepting a way of life that was bequeathed to them by their ancestors and clinging stubbornly to their traditional culture.
Leading from the Dal is the smaller Nagin Lake. Here too, the waters are edged by trees of willow and poplar whose reflection is mirrored in the lake. 'Bathing boats' here, as well as on the Dal, hire out water-skis and motor launches. The waters of the lakes are pleasantly cool from mid-May to mid-September.
Shikaras can be hired from any of the steps called Ghats leading to the lake. Shikaras are a refreshingly novel way of seeing Srinagar by day; and at twilight, the gentle soothing motion of the boat as it glides along the water is unbelievably romantic. Mughal Gardens and Pari Mahal:terraced lawns, cascading fountains, paint-box bright flower beds with the panorama of the Dal in front of them the three Mughal Gardens of Cheshmashahi, Nishat and Shalimar are the Mughal emperors' concept of paradise and are today very popular places for picnics. Pari Mahal, once the royal observatory, also has a charmingly laid out garden and is a five minute drive from Cheshmashahi. Every evening in the summer a sound and light show at Shalimar Gardens recreates the era of Emperor Jehangir's court in Kashmir. Timings vary slightly, but the first show is soon after dark and there are two shows in Urdu and English. Hari Parbat Fort: to the west of the Dal lies the Hari Parbat Hill, sacred to the Goddess Sharika in whose honor a temple has been consecrated on the western slopes of the hill. Further up, on the crest of the hill is Hari ParhatFort which dates to the 18th century. Shri Pratap Singh Museum at Lal Mandi: on the banks of the river Jhelum, ahead of Raj Bagh, is a treasure trove of Kashmiri culture. Shankaracharya Temple: the antiquity of Shankaracharya temple is akin to that of Vaishno Devi in Jammu. The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, has legends dating back to 200 BC. Built to overlook the valley, situated atop the Hill it has the devout climb the hill with offerings in their hands, a motor able road has been built leading to the TV Tower on the hill. The sacred temple is situated to the south east of Srinagar. However, neither the hill nor the temple retain their per-historic names, Gopadari and Jyeshtheswara respectively. The temple is built on a high octagonal plinth approached by a flight of steps.
Clock Tower at Lal Chawak This is the main city center and it the hub of all political activities of Kashimir valley. The famous clock tower or Ghanta Ghar is located here. This is the busy area with old shops selling traditional and modern items. You can get the feeling of Kashmiri culture by staying at this junction. There are some good hotels available here.
Hazratbal Mosque Overview
The silvery white Hazratbal Mosque is revered for housing a relic, the Prophet’s hair. Situated near the Dal Lake, the only domed mosque in Srinagar is a place of serenity, a must visit. Women are allowed only till the first part of the mosque. The Hazratbal Mosque lends a historic and divine appeal to Srinagar. As you walk down the corridors of this famous religious sanctum, you marvel at the intricate Persian and Iranian architectural influences.
Sadiq Khan, Subedar of Shahjahan constructed this shrine (then called Ishrat Mahal or pleasure house). It was converted into a mosque later in 1634. It was again reconstructed between 1968 and 1979. The mosque is built in white marble and reflects its divinity on the western area of Dal Lake. This mosque is also known by names like Dargah Sharif, Assar-e-Sharif and is located on the other side of Nishat Bagh.
Nishat Bagh Srinagar
Returning from the Chashma-i-Shahi to the main road, the visitor proceeds 2½ miles to Nishat Bagh. This is the most favored resort of pleasure-seekers in Kashmir. " Its twelve terraces, one for each sign of the zodiac, rise dramatically high and higher up the mountain-side from the eastern shore of the lake. The stream tears foaming down the carved cascades, and fountains play in every tank and water-course, filling the garden with their joyous life and movement The flower beds on these sunny terraces blaze with color— roses, lilies, geraniums, asters, gorgeous tall-growing zinnias, and feathery cosmos, pink and white. Beautiful at all times, when autumn lights up the poplars in clear gold and the big chenars burn red against the dark blue rocky background, there are few more brilliant, more breathlessly entrancing sights than this first view of Asaf Khan's Garden of Gladness
The lowest terrace has unfortunately been cut off by the modern road, which has likewise shorn Shalimar of part of its length. The two wooden doorways as well as the gaudily painted barahdari on the third terrace are innovations which date from the time of Wazir Pannu's governorship of Kashmir in the reign of the late Maharaja Ranbir Singhji. These Mughal gardens of Kashmir owe a heavy debt of gratitude to this gentleman, if not for restoring them to their original grandeur, at any rate for arresting their further decay. He also repaired them thoroughly according to his lights; and if his barahdaris and porticoes do not bear comparison with similar structures of the Mughals, not he but the times to which he belonged are responsible.
The brightest and most fragrant spot in the garden is undoubtedly the second terrace, with its thick groves of Persian lilacs, its high, broad, and vertical cascade of sparkling water, and its beds of brilliant pansies. The twenty-three small niches in the arched recess immediately behind the cascade were originally intended to contain rows of lamps, whose flickering light, reflected and multiplied in the transparent sheet of water behind which they lay, must have presented a singularly pleasing spectacle at night.
Two flights of stone steps which survive from the date of their original construction give access to the third terrace. The barahdari is a two-storied structure. In the middle of the lower floor " is a reservoir about fourteen feet square and three feet deep, with five fountains, the one in the center being the only old stone fountain left in the garden. On a summer day there are few more attractive rooms than the fountain hall of this Kashmir garden house. The gay colors of the carved woodwork shine through the spray in delightful contrast with the dull green running water. Through a latticed arch a glimpse is caught of the brilliant garden terraces and their waterfalls flashing white against the mountain-side. Looking over the lake which glitters below in the sunshine, the views of the valley are bounded by the distant snow-capped peaks, the far country of the Pir Panjal. Climbing roses twine about the painted wooden pillars, and nod their creamy flowers through the openings of the lattice. All the long afternoon a little breeze ruffles the surface of the lake and blows in the scent of the flowers, mingling it with the drifting fountain spray; for the terrace below the pavilion is planted after the old custom with a thicket of Persian lilac.
Here begins the long series of open terraces—each rising higher than the one preceding it—which terminates in the eleventh terrace at the upper end of the garden. They are bisected by a broad watercourse, which on certain days in the week is converted into a bounteous stream with numerous fountains playing in its midst, saturating the atmosphere with their driving spray. A feature of this garden are the beautiful marble thrones which span the water-courses at intervals. These are now, as they undoubtedly were in Mughal times, the favorite seats of visitors to the garden. The tank in the eleventh terrace contains a group of twenty-five fountains. From this terrace a flight of stone steps leads to the last, and, in the eyes of its Mughal founder, Asaf Khan, the most sacred part of the garden, the zenana enclosure. The low parapet wall which screened this terrace from the remainder of the garden is still in existence. At the upper end of the footpath near the pavilion is a remnant of the original brick pavement. An octagonal tower is built at each end of the retaining wall of the terrace, and contains a stair which leads down to the lower and more exposed parts of the garden.
Strolling down the flower-bordered walks on the right side of the channel, the visitor who makes his exit into the second terrace will notice two rather well-executed elephants, standing on either side of a vase containing lotuses, carved on the stone lintel of the doorway. The presence of these animals would show, if other evidence were wanting, which is not the case, that the Nishat Bagh was built before the time of Aurangzeb. Perhaps he did not enter the garden, as it was a private one, and did not belong to the king, which may also account for Bernier not mentioning it.
The original approach to the garden was from the lake, which was also its lower boundary. The old flight of stone steps which gave direct access to the garden is still in an excellent state of preservation. There is a story that the emperor Shah Jahan, who visited Kashmir in 1633, "decided that the garden was altogether too splendid for a subject, even though that subject might happen to be his own prime minister and father-in-law. He told Asaf Khan on three occasions how much he admired his pleasure-ground, expecting that it would be immediately offered for the royal acceptance. But if Shah Jahan coveted his neighbor's vine-yard, the Wazir was a no less stiff-necked Naboth; he could not bring himself to surrender his cherished pleasantness to be ' a garden of herbs ' for his royal master, and he remained silent. Then as now, the same stream supplied both the Royal Garden (Shahlimar) and Nishat Bagh, which lies on the mountain-side between Shalimar and the city of Srinagar. So Shah Jahan in his anger ordered the water-supply to be cut off from Nishat Bagh, and was avenged, for the garden he envied was shorn of all its beauty.
Nothing is more desolate than one of these great enclosures when their stone-lined tanks and water channels are dry and empty. Asaf Khan, who was staying in his summer palace at the time, could do nothing, and all his household knew of his grief and bitter dis appointment. One day, lost in a melancholy reverie, he at last fell fast asleep in the shade by the empty water-course. At length a noise aroused him; rubbing his eyes, he could hardly believe what he saw, for the fountains were all playing merrily once more and the long carved water-chutes were white with foam. A faithful servant, risking his life, had defied the Emperor's orders, and removed the obstruction from the stream. Asaf Khan rebuked him for his zeal and hastily had the stream closed again. But the news reached the Emperor in his gardens at Shalimar; whereupon he sent for the terrified servant and,much to the surprise of the Court, instead of punishing him, bestowed a robe of honor upon him to mark his admiration for this act of devoted service; at the same time granting a sand which gave the right to his master to draw water from the garden from the Shalimar stream.
This ancient monument over a hill is well preserved and is visible from Dal Lake area. This is located near Cheshma Shahi garden. It was constructed by Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of emperor Shah Jahan. There is beautiful garden in front of it.
The striking group of arched terraces perched higher up on the mountain slope to the west of Chashma-i-Shahi is Pari Mahal, " the fairies' abode," a ruined garden palace, the construction of which is ascribed by tradition to the ill-starred prince Dara Shikoh, who was beheaded in 1659 by order of his brother Aurangzeb-Despite its dilapidated condition, it is easy to determine its principal features; for the garden has, probably owing to its difficulty of access, escaped the restoration to which the other Mughal gardens in Kashmir have been subjected. Pari, Mahal differs from other Kashmir gardens in that it does not possess any cascades or water chutes, though it seems probable that there were fountains in the tanks. Water was mainly conducted by underground earthen pipes, though a few traces of open water-courses have also been found. The garden consists of six terraces, with a total length of about 40c/. The width of the terraces varies from 179' to 205'.
In the uppermost terrace are the ruins of two structures, a barah-dari facing the lake, and a water reservoir built against the mountainside. The reservoir was fed from above by a spring, which has since gone dry, and of which the only extant remains are the fragmentary stone conduit and the retaining wall against the hill-side. It is a simple chamber, built of rubble stones in lime, with a facade of two small arches. Internally it measures 11' 3" by 5', and has a recess in each of its walls. Water flowed through an arched drain pierced in the front wall which is now partially blocked up. At each corner of the terrace wall is a flight of steps leading to the lower terrace, measuring 22' 3" by 4' 3"
In the middle of the second terrace exactly in front of the barahdari is a large tank with brick sides measuring 39' 6" by 26' 6". The facade of the retaining wall is ornamented with a series of twenty-one arches, including two of the side-stairs. The arches are built in descending order of height from the center. Each of them is surmounted by a niche, the height of which increases in proportion to decrease in the height of the arch. The central arch is covered with a coat of fine painted plaster, which seems to have always served as a favorite board for scribbling notices in pen and pencil. Various people have recorded on this the date of their visit to the garden. Among them was the cruel Azad Khan, a Pathan Governor.
This terrace seems to have been screened off from the lower court by a parapet wall, which is still extant in parts.
The third terrace is, architecturally, the most interesting portion of the garden. The entrance, which is of the usual Mughal type, arched in front and behind with a central domed chamber, is in the middle of the east wall, and is covered with a coat of fine painted plaster. On either side of it are a series of spacious rooms: the one to its north seems to have been the hammam. Fragments of the water-pipe are still to be seen projecting from a corner of its domed ceiling. Its interior is the most highly decorated of all the rooms in Pari Mahal. On the south side of the entrance are two other chambers, but it is difficult to say to what use they were put. Both of them have pipes inserted into their ceilings, the one nearest the gateway having only one, but the other, two; possibly the latter chamber was used as a kitchen. The western half of the retaining wall has recently fallen; doubtless it also contained chambers similar to those on the other side.
In the central recess of the arcade is visible the originally hidden earthen pipe which conveyed water from the terrace above. From it the water flowed through an open channel and an underground pipe, which ran side by side, and entered the barahdari at the middle of the broad end of the terrace. In all probability the channel formed a tank in the center of the principal chamber and then emptied itself into the pipe which ran underground, of which traces are still visible on the floor of the barahdari.
It is probable that these three terraces were reserved solely for the prince's private use. The fourth terrace has nothing remarkable in it except the ruins of the tank—perhaps it was a tank within a barahdari—whose plinth projects far beyond the line of the wall. About the middle of its north wall is the earthen pipe which conducted water to the terrace below.
In the fifth terrace a curious feature of the plinth of the barahdari or the tank, of the upper terrace is the numerous square holes with which the upper half of its surface is perforated. They were probably intended to harbor flocks of pigeons. The retaining wall is arcade. The arcade is a double one, the upper row of arches faced a corridor which ran on both sides of the plinth of the barahdari.
The sixth and the last terrace has a rectangular tank in the middle and octagonal bastions at the ends. The lower end is not supported by any retaining wall.
The ruined structure a few yards below seems to have been intended for a kind of a guard house.
This is a Mughal garden with natural spring of water enclosed in a stone pavilion. You can enjoy the view of Dal Lake below and snow-capped mountain peaks at top.
This is the smallest, though not on that account the least attractive, of the Mughal gardens of Kashmir. It is situated at a distance of five and a half miles from Srinagar, a little less than a mile off the road to Nishat. The conformation of the ground round about shows that the garden can never have been large, but there is evidence to prove that it was not as circumscribed as it is now. The two barahdarts as well as the surrounding wall and the side entrance belong to recent times. The cascades, the plinths of the barahdaris, the water-courses, tanks, and fountains, are genuine Mughal works, save, of course, for the restorations. The lowest terrace has a tank in the center containing five fountains arranged as a quincunx. A flight of steps on each side of the barahdari leads up to the second terrace and to the ground-floor of the barahdari itself.
This is one of the most favoured haunts of tourists in spring and early summer, for the view it commands of the Dal lake is one of the most charming that can be had anywhere, at any rate among those which are easy of access. In spring, when the fields of the blossoming rape-seed flank the verdant hill slopes with gold; when the snow-capped mountains are being ceaselessly washed by melting snows and frequent showers; when in sunny intervals white masses of downy clouds are seen floating majestically in the translucent azure of the sky, their shadows trailing after them as if caught by the sharp mountain peaks; when the lake is free from weeds and reeds—beardless, as the Kashmiris call it—and its two small islets of Rupalank and Sonalank, the Chahar-chinar, are like two emeralds set in the sapphire shield of the Dal; when vast patches of the slopes of the Chashma-i-Shahi hill and the Hari Parbat are covered with red and white almond blossoms, the fortunate spectator stands entranced as he gazes out of the arch of the barahdari, his feelings lulled by the gentle murmur of the little fountain that plays in the center of the hall.
The tank in the second terrace contains only one fountain and a small carved chute, down which the water of the channels in the upper terraces comes rippling joyously. All these fountains, channels, and cascades are fed by the real Chashma-i-Shahi, a truly " royal" spring, which perennially gives forth its wealth of the coolest and purest water in a lotus basin built in the centre of a Mughal platform. The pavilion which covers it is unusually ugly and dilapidated. According to an inscription said to have been put up at the gateway, the garden was constructed in the reign of Shah Jahan, probably by the emperor himself. The exact wording of the verse which contained the date is as follows: The term kausar-i-shdhi is synonymous with Chashma-i-Shahi, and according to the abjad system of reckoning gives the Hijra year 1042, corresponding with A.D. 1632-33.