Shirnagar is the northernmost city of India. With population of around 1,2 million people, it is the largest city in the Kashmir valley, surrounded by snowy summits. They call Shrinagar North Venice, because of the floating homes in the Dal lake. These houses-boats appeared here, when the British arrived on these lands during 19 century. They had appreciated the beauty of the Dal lake and the vicinities, but not having right to buy properties and to build dwellings, they had invented how to sojourn in the magnificent valley of Kashmir. They have built these small wooden houses with all necessary conveniences. When they departed in 1947 they sold the famous houses-boats to the local people. Nowadays they are a tourist attraction of Shrinagar.
The transport on the lake are the boats – gondolas or shikara. Besides for transport these boats are used as floating markets, which offer everything – clothes, souvenirs, scarfs, jewelry. In the middle of the city flows Jhelum river, a tributary of Indus river, over which are built nine bridges, which connect the two parts of the city. The climate in the Kashmir valley is the most pleasant in India. Therefore, the mogul emperors have chosen this place for rest, as they left behind themselves beautiful mosques and lovely gardens with thousands of plants. The Mogul gardens, impressing with their size, flowers and fountains are the most visited by the tourists. Those, who created them have given them names, which have remained for the generations.
Chashme Shahi is one of the gardens, created by the governor of Mughal by an order of emperor Shah Jahan in 1632. It is situated with a view towards the Dal lake, at the background of the beautiful mountains, with the five fountains and the sophisticated two-storey palace on the first terrace, this garden is most beautiful during the spring, when all flowers in the flower-beds are blossomed. Therefore, it is called „A garden of spring“. The Pari Mahal palace is built in this garden by the Muslim ruler Dara, who used it as an observatory. This magnificent place is open for visits from March until November. The Chashme Shahi garden is located at 14 km from the airport of Shrinagar.
Nishat Bagh is the other garden, created in 1632 for the brother of emperor Jahangir, Asif Khan. With its seven terraces and magnificent water canals, flowers and trees, it really corresponds to its name – Garden of the pleasures.
Shalimar is the biggest garden along the shores of Dal lake, built by emperor Jahangir in 1619 for his beloved wife Nur Jehar. A beginning of the creation of this magnificent garden is as early as 12 century, when the manager of Kashmir Pravesena II, built a house for rest in the North Eastern part of the Dal lake and called it Shalimar, meaning „A cloister of the love“ in Sanskrit. As time has passed the house has demolished, but the name has remained. When in 1619 emperor Jahangir and his wife visited Shrinagar, they fell in love in this bewitching nook of India. On the place of the ancient garden has arisen this new fairy garden, in which every new ruler has added something.
Nowadays the Shalimar garden is with area 12,4 hectares with length 587 m and width 251m. The three terraces together with the fountains and with the plane (sycamore) trees around are a wonderful place for a walk. The garden is connected with the Dal lake by Shah Nahar canal with length 1,6 km and width 11m. On each of the three terraces there are buildings with different purpose. On the first terrace there is a big hall with a black marble throne, preserved until nowadays. On the second terrace is situated the hall for private audiences and royal baths with fountains and 410 fountains. On the third terrace in the middle of an artificial lake is situated the Black pavilion, which ceiling and walls are drawn with many flowers in yellow, blue and red – beautiful, the way the rulers used to see their lives – as magic. In this pavilion is also the eminent Persian inscription: „If there is heaven on Earth, it is here, it is here…“ And beneath each water cascade in this magical garden there are concaved niches, in which they used to put lit small lamps, which gave some strange magic to the vicinity during the night. The Shalimar garden is small heaven beneath the summits of Pir Panjal.
City of Shrinagar has gathered in itself different religions and cultures. This is visible by the temples and the holy places here. The Hindu Shankaracharya temple is dedicated to god Shiva. It was built by Raja Gopadatiya on Gopadari hill above the city at 330 m height, it dates from 371 B.C. and is considered for holy by the Buddhists. The stone steps towards the Shankaracharya temple were built later. It is reckoned for the most ancient temple in the Kashmir valley and the view towards the city and the valley from here is beautiful.
Hazratbal sanctuary is one of the most honoured palaces for worship of the Muslims in Kashmir, since here is kept the holy Mohamed’s hair ( Moi-e Mukadas). The sanctuary was built out of white marble in 17 century and is situated on the left shore of the Dal lake.
The Masjid mosque, situated in the Old city of Shrinagar was built by the Mogul sultan Shikandar in 1394 and it accommodates around 30 thousand worshippers. The patio is with length 375m, it has at its disposal an enormous fountain. There are internal stairs up to the top of the four minarets, reaching their terraces, from where impressive view is revealed.
Hari Parbat is a hill above Shinagar, where there has been a fortification since 1808. But above all are interesting the several religious temples on the hill. One of them is Sharika Mata, which is situated in the medial part of the west slope of the hill. Sharika Mata is a goddess, who possesses 18 weapons and is on this place, where according to the legend the cosmic energy is the strongest. On the day of the hypothetical birthday of the goddess many worshippers come here, making a sacrifice in compliance with the Kashmirian custom – boiled rice with curcuma, butter and salt, together with boiled goat liver. They believe that thus the goddess shall help them. Other sanctuaries on the hill are the Temple Makhdoom Sahib of Hamza Makhdoom – a Sufic priest from 16 century and the Shah Badahshi’s temple, a Sufic saint from 17 century. There is a cabin line with length 594m, allowing to be traveled to the temple of the Sufic priest Hamza Makhdoom of Hari Parbat.
The markets in Shrinagar are the most interesting place for the tourist. Besides the boats-shops along the Dal lake, in the old city there are many small shops, in which may be found souvenirs, clothes, shoes, jewelry and etc. Very interesting are the small figures out of papier-mache – a Kashmirian craft, which is applied and in other countries. The well rumpled India paper is mixed with a little bit of water and out of the obtained dough are done different small figures, which are very beautiful when coloured.
The most appropriate time for visit of Shrinagar is from June to September. The airport, which has an interesting vaulted architecture, has regular internal flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Leh and etc., and also international flights.
Shrinagar is a city, which remains unforgettable memories…