Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kashmir Trip-1

Summer vacations meant a trip to the hills for the family,my first real memory is of a trip to Kashmir in the early 1960s. Maybe my memories are reinforced by the photographs in the family album and the Hindi movies.Most of the Hindi movies of that time were filmed in Kashmir and it was and still is the most beautiful place on earth! But it was a gruelling journey at that time, one had to reach Pathankot by train and take a two day and one night trip to Srinagar by bus.Now one take a flight at a reasonable rate from anywhere in India.
We stayed at a hotel which had cherries growing near the hotel room window,an awesome sight to be sure.Srinagar is criss-crossed by Dal, Nagin and Jhelum Lakes , sort of interconnected with each other. There are several quaint bridges with exotic names.
I still remember the houseboats and the small boats called shikaras floating on the placid Dal Lake at Srinagar and the floating gardens.We took a shikara ride to Char Chinar , a tiny island having just four chinar trees. We missed staying in a houseboat made of wood with luxurious accomodation for tourists, equipped with all modern amenities and a kitchen. These were anchored in the Dal lake and one could shop from the shikara vendors selling flowers and other things.

We spent a couple of days seeing the local sites like the Shalimar , Mughal and Nishat gardens built by the Mughals long ago.Terraced lawns, waterfalls, fountains have survived through centuries and mesmerise tourists even today.
The Mughals were from cooler climes though settled in the vast Gangetic plain of India , found Kashmir to be closest to their original homeland . They used it as their summer retreat and came here to escape the hot summers of the plains.
The splendid Shalimar Gardens were built by Emperor Jehangir for his wife Nur Jehan in 1616 . Jehangir famously said,"If there is Paradise on earth, this is it, this is it, this it" .

The Chasme- Shahi or the royal springs, ('chasma' means spring or a waterfall ) was built by Emperor Shah Jehan in 1632, legend says that his wife Mumtaz Mahal benefitted from the medicinal values of Chasme Shahi ,the couple stayed at Pari Mahal built for the purpose.The place is full of chinar trees, orchards and flowers , the cool climate making it a perfect getaway.Kashmir is dotted with historical buildings of superb architecture made by the local rulers and also the mighty Mughals for their convenience.

Imagine the royal entrourage travelling hundreds of miles from Delhi to Srinagar accompanied by horses, elephants, palanquins, tents and other paraphenalia ,it must have taken them months to cover the distance to and fro!

PS-The recently laidout Tulip Garden has joined the elite list of gardens in Srinagar , its the highest Tulip garden in Asia having around 20,000 tulips of various hues and colors.An excellent excuse to visit Kashmir again!

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