The heart of Kashmir valley lies in Srinagar. It is the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It derives its name from ‘Sri’ which means wealth and ‘Nagar’ which means city. Mughals and the British have both affected this place to a large extent. Lakes, gardens and charming houseboats highlight the valley. Srinagar touches the boundaries of 5 different districts. It is famous for Kashmiri handicrafts, Kashmiri clothes and dry fruits. Kargil touches the northern boundary of Srinagar, Pulwama in the south and Budgam in the north-west. The famous Mughal Emperor Jahangir was so impressed by the beauty of this place that he described this place as ‘The heaven on Earth’.
Srinagar is very different from other parts of the country in terms of geography, demography, ethics, cultural mix and other social entities. It has a unique cultural blend. The background is covered with the mesmerizing, sky-touching Himalayas. Srinagar is dotted with numerous houseboats or “Shikaras” as they are locally known. The architecture marks the sense of Mughal style. Srinagar has played a very significant role in the history of Kashmir. It is also referred to as the ‘Shehr-e-Kashmir’ or the ‘City of Kashmir’ according to the Persian chronicles.
Srinagar was founded 2000 years ago by King Pravarasena II. The city of Srinagar once formed part of the Mauryan Empire which was one of the most powerful empires in the history of India. The Kushans also ruled over the place in the 1st century AD during which time the place flourished. It was also an important Buddhist pilgrimage site during this period.
Srinagar became part of the kingdom of Vikramaditya in the 6th century. Vikramaditya was the ruler of Ujjain. It was ruled by the Hindu rulers until the 14th century AD when the Muslims invaded and captured it. It then went into the hands of the Mughals during which time it flourished once again.
After that, Srinagar was retained by the Sikhs when Ranjit Singh defeated the Pathans. The British then followed suit, deafeated Ranjit Singh and handed over the place to Gulab Singh as the autonomous ruler of Kashmir according to the Treaty of Lahore in 1846. In 1948, with the efforts of Hari Singh who was the grandson of Gulab Singh, Srinagar became part of India as the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Tourist places in Srinagar
The Mughal Gardens: The Mughal Gardens comprise of three gardens which are Chesmashahi, Nishat and Shalimar. The gardens has some striking features such as terraced lawns, cascading fountains and brightly colored flowers. Dal Lake can be seen behind the gardens which multiplies the beauty of these gardens. These gardens are ideal picnic spots and are suited for excursions too. Spring time brings out the best in the gardens.
Chashmashahi: It is the smallest of the three gardens. This garden was set up in the year 1632 under the rule of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The name means ‘Royal Spring’. The dimensions of the garden are 108 meters by 38 meters. It is situated above the Nehru Memorial Park. A special kind of energizing mineral water is found inside the garden.
Nishat Garden: It is the largest of all the three Mughal gardens. It is located on the banks of the Dal Lake. It is also referred to as “The Garden of Bliss”. The Zabarwan Mountains are seen at the background of the garden. The garden was built in the year 1633AD. It was designed by Nur Jahan’s brother Asaf Khan. Some buildings are also found inside the garden. A small spring behind the garden, known as ‘Gopi Tirth’ supplies crystal clear water to the garden.
Shalimar Garden: This garden was built in the year 1616. Jahangir had this garden built for his loving wife Nur Jahan. The dimensions of the garden are approximately 539 meters by 182 meters. It is also referred to as the “garden of love”. It has four terraces built one on top of the other. The royal ladies used to visit this place. A canal runs through the center of the garden lined with polished stones on either side. It supplies water to the garden. You can see other gardens, lakes and shallow terraces from the Shalimar Bagh.
Dal Lake: The Dal Lake is famous for sustaining life on waters. The ‘Shikara’ community lives on water in houseboats. Various colored houseboats can be seen all over the lake. One can find doctors, tailors, bakers and grocery items can be found on the lake in houseboats. This community has lived like that for centuries. It is a very unique habitat found nowhere else in the world.
Hari Parbat: The myth has it that the ‘Hari Parbat’ was formed by goddess Parvati as she dropped pebbles to defeat a demon. It consists of the ruins of a fort. Though the fort is no more, it used to be an imposing structure at that time. Many temples have been built around this hill. Situated on the boundary of Srinagar, this hill has religious importance within Kashmir. This is believed to be the abode of the divine Mahashakti called as ‘Hari’ by the locals.
Pari Mahal: It means ‘Palace of Fairies’. It was found by Dara Shiko for his Sufi teacher, Mulla Shah. Dara Shiko was the eldest son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Numerous springs covered up the place, which have now dried up. It is located at the top of a hill, yet can be seen from many places within Srinagar. Radiant lights at night offer a spectacular view to Pari Mahal. It used to be a Buddhist monastery but was later turned into a school for astrology by Dara Shiko.
Shankaracharya Mandir: It is a holy site for Hindus. This temple is situated on top of a hill and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The visitors are not allowed to bring cameras or cellphones inside the temple premises.
The Hazratlbal Shrine: This is a shrine dedicated to Prophet Mohammad. It is situated on the left bank of Dal Lake.
Nagin Lake: Luxurious houseboats are found here. This lake is calmer and quieter than the Dal Lake. One can reach the lake via the old city route. One will never regret a ‘Shikara’ ride at this place.
Water skiing in Srinagar Lake: Water skiing is a favorite sport in Srinagar. Ski boards can be hired. Migratory birds also come during the winter season. Photographers have a special bent towards this place.
How to reach Srinagar
By air: Srinagar has an airport. It is connected to Delhi and Mumbai via Indian Airlines and Jet Airways.
By rail: Jammu is the nearest railhead which is 290 kilometers away from Srinagar. Jammu is well connected to cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata via trains.
By road: Srinagar is very well connected to places like Chandigarh (630 km), Delhi (876 km), Jammu (290 km), Leh (434 km), Gulmarg (48 km), Sonamarg (88 km) and Pahalgam (96 km).