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SRINAGAR: Dal Lake, a jewel in the crown of Kashmir

It's a Kashmir tempting for the honey-mooners, challenging for the adventurers raring to go, heavenly for the pilgrims impatiently waiting to unload the sins of a life-time and it is for nature-lovers a paradise of bewitching beauty at bountiful heights.

Kashmir beckons you to a four-fold bonanza: Srinagar with its well-known lakes, Gulmarg known for its finest skiing resort, Pahalgam where the mysterious streams meander through and Sonamarg providing a glimpse of the glacier.

SRINAGAR

The Capital of Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar is situated at an altitude of 1730 metres above sea level. Dal, Nagin and Anchar are some of the well-known lakes here. River Jhelum also runs through Srinagar (pic: below, rafting). Dal is a very large lake requiring `shikara' ride to reach houseboats. A couple may like a houseboat in the interior of the lake, needing half-an-hour shikara ride, to reach far enough from public glare.

A houseboat has two to four bedrooms, attached bathroom and common sitting/dining room. Nishat, Cheshmashahi, Shalimar Gardens and Hazratbal are accessible directly by shikara. Mughal Gardens, with stepped terraces, were built by Mughal emperors who liked Kashmir. Hazratbal is said to have preserved the hair of Prophet Mohammed. It was damaged about 10 years ago in a fire following violence by militants.

Perching at the top in Srinagar is the Sankaracharya temple (pic: right), a Lord Shiva temple rebuilt about a 1000 years ago by the patriarch of all godmen, Adi Sankara. The site itself dates back to 2500 BC. It is said the philosopher visited Kashmir as part of his pursuit of propagating Sanatan Dharma. Earlier the temple was known as Gopadri in the 8th century as it was rebuilt then by King Gopaditya. Kheer Bhavani is a beautiful temple-spring complex 25 km away. Devotees offer milk and gheer at this Durga mata temple, to the sacred spring that is said to change colour, if black, a premonition of bad things to come.

How to reach: There are flights to Srinagar from Delhi. Road links Srinagar with Jammu. The nearest railhead for Srinagar is also Jammu (under extension). For Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg one has to travel from Srinagar by road only, returning to Srinagar from one resort to go to other. That is, there are no interconnecting routes for the three resorts. Gulmarg is 87 km from Srinagar, Pahalgam is 96 km and Sonamarg 87 km.

Climate: The temperature in June-August summer is 25 deg C to 35 deg C. It plummets to 7 deg C in spring (March-May) and autumn (Oct-Nov). In winter (Dec-Feb) temperature drops to minus 10 deg C. Heavy woollens are required in winter and light ones at other times, though one can move without woollens in summer in Srinagar. Winter is peak season only for Gulmarg. In all the four resorts there is snowfall in winter and rainfall in spring.

Shopping: Pure woollen shawls are a good buy. A pure Pashmina shawl costs thousands of rupees.

Go To: Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg

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