Dal Lake is the toast of Srinagar often referred to as the jewel in the crown of Kashmir!! Be it a Shikara Ride, or a lazy cup of Kahwa in a Houseboat, walk along the boulevard or brisk business in the eateries and handicraft stores, life revolves around the Dal Lake ( 18 square kilometers in size). I spent 1.5 days in Srinagar and almost every moment was spent in and around the Dal, experiencing its many moods.
Dal at Sunrise : Mornings are often misty and hazy yet this is the time (6am) to capture the birds and visit the Floating Flower and Vegetable Market to experience the brisk business that takes place from one Shikara to another. It was a cold morning and the droplets of ice on the lotus leaves looked like translucent pearls. In all my excitement in the market, I purchased some green apples that I curried back home with the special Kashmiri spice. Some were trying to sell Saffron, dry fruits, trinkets etc but it is better purchased from the shops in Lal Chowk (market). While returning, We stopped by at Char Chinar (island with 4 trees) which has seen the history of the land evolve over the years.
During the day, the Dal is best admired from the Boulevard or from the Mughal Gardens or with a book in hand from the houseboat. The view of the Dal from Nishat Bagh is enchanting to say the least.
Dal in Evening – It is a happy carnival on the Dal in the evening, with colourful Shikaras floating around with romantic couples, happy families and dreamy youth. All I wanted was to just be in that moment. The pretty ladies sharing a laugh while they rowed their boat was heart warming, reminding me of my younger days. While we waited for sunset, another Shikara pulled up with some mouthwatering kababs that could hardly be resisted. On the other side, Shankaracharya Temple atop the hill could be seen through the trees which we had visited during the day.
The rates of the Shikara Ride are fixed by the hour and area which is printed and exhibited near the Boulevard Stand. Yet, it is better to negotiate a rate upfront since many a times, people are taken far away into the lake and a return trip within the time frame becomes nearly impossible.