This post is in continuation with a previous one; and a part of my Kashmir Travelogue. Details below are of our 6th day of the trip. I spent some time sightseeing in Srinagar early in the morning; post which we reached Gurez Valley by evening. We stayed in Gurez on Day 7 and returned to Srinagar on 8th Day. Details of this journey are described in the post below. In order to read previous parts of this travelogue, please click on the link below.
Journey So Far: Srinagar to Yusmarg – The Heaven of Kashmir
All of us were up till late last night bur surprisingly, I was still wide awake early in the morning. Shoaib and Lavish were both fast asleep and leaving them so, I stepped out of the hotel to get a cup of tea; and some early morning shots of Dal Lake. Our plan for today was to reach Gurez which I knew would be abut 5 to 6 hours of road time. So there was really no need for me to wake up both of them early.
Sightseeing in Srinagar
My main idea of stepping out was to get some morning shots of the lake which I thought would be great. Unfortunately though, it was a bit hazy in the morning; and even after taking a full circle around the lake, I still could not manage to get even a single good shot.
I then decided to go to Nigeen lake, but surprise surprise, it turned out to be in an even worst condition than Dal. This lake was until some time ago a pat of Dal itself and is still considered to be so sometimes. It is connected to Dal by via a narrow strait; and also to Khushal Sar and Gil Sar lakes via a channel known as Nallah Amir Khan.
The Nigeen lake is surrounded by a large number of willow and poplar trees. Hence, it has come to be referred as a “nageena”, which means “the jewel in the ring”. The word “nigeen” is a local variant of the same word. The lake is a major tourist attraction in Srinagar, known for its relatively pristine waters as compared to the Dal lake. Houseboats and shikaras are a usual sight. Its also ideal for swimming, being deeper and less crowded than the Dal lake. However, as is the problem with other water bodies in the Kashmir Valley; the lake also suffers from encroachments which are deteriorating its water quality and also increasing the risk of floods (Source Wiki)
What I copy pasted above is what Wikipedia says about Nigeen lake however it no longer stands true. This lake is really in a terrible condition. Dal Lake is far better maintained but everyone seems to have forgotten about taking care of Nigeen. This was the only decent shot that I could manage to get.
You will be surprised to know that the Nigeen is actually the sight for the expensive kind of houseboats. The budget ones are in Dal and the luxury one are said to be in Nigeen. I haven’t tried staying at a houseboat in Nigeen so I can’t really verify this; but what I can indeed tell you is that Dal is actually a far better sight.
Disappointed with Nigeen, my next destination for the morning became the beautiful Hazratbal Shrine. I was actually not sure of where to go so just started to ride around in Srinagar. Hazratbal is quite close to Nigeen and that is where I ended up eventually.
The Hazratbal Shrine, (literally “Majestic Place”), is a Muslim shrine in Hazratbal, Srinagar. It contains a relic, the Moi-e-Muqqadas, believed by many Muslims of Kashmir to be a hair of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. The name of the shrine comes from the Urdu word Hazrat, meaning “respected”, and the Kashmiri word bal, meaning “place”. Thus it means the place which is given high regards and is respected among the people. The shrine is situated on the left bank of the Dal Lake, Srinagar and is considered to be Kashmir’s holiest Muslim shrine. (Source Wiki)
I did not really go inside the shrine and just took a few shots from the gate. The entire place, including the gate and the road in front seems to have been invaded and taken over by pigeons. And trust me when I say this, there numbers in front of the shrine must be in thousands.
The Pigeons at the Shrine
There is a shop right outside the shrine where you can buy some seeds from and feed the birds. For Rs. 30, the woman running the shop will give you a huge packet of some kind of seed; I am not really sure what it was. And the packet is actually really big. But the moment you empty it on the road, an entire swarm of pigeons will come down and wipe it clean in a matter of seconds. You actually won’t even get to see the seeds on the road. Because the moment you throw it on the ground, pigeons will be all over it and in about 10 seconds, it will be all eaten.
It was kind of fun actually. I bought 3 packets of seeds because I was really enjoying feeding all those birds. It is also a common practice there. People will arrive at the shrine, buy the seed, feed the birds and be on their way.
Noticed this kid having a great time playing around, trying to scare the pigeons away.
After spending some time at the shrine, I then arrived at the market in front of it to have some breakfast; a cup of tea and some Kashmiri cake which is actually a popular from of breakfast here.
Sun was already up and the clock was showing 8 AM already; means time to go back and wake the other two so that we can be on our way to the destination for the day, Gurez valley. I started riding back to the hotel but then decided to cover one more place on the way, the beautiful Nishat Bagh which was just opening up when I arrived there.
Nishat Bagh is a terraced Mughal garden built on the eastern side of the Dal Lake. It is the largest Mughal garden in the Kashmir Valley. ‘Nishat Bagh’ is Urdu, which means “Garden of Joy,” “Garden of Gladness” and “Garden of Delight. The Bagh was designed and built in 1633 by Asif Khan, elder brother of Nur Jehan. (Source Wiki)
Of all the Mughal gardens in Srinagar, Nishat Bagh I think is the most well maintained one with still a bit of its past grandeur left. Another garden that is quite close to this one, Shalimar Bagh, is really in a bad condition with in dire need of some maintenance. But I think with all the unrest in the valley, violence, human rights violation and greater issues at hand; maintaining a park is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind.
Time for Gurez Valley
I had a really pleasant early morning walk through the garden and managed to get some good pictures as well. At around 9, Lavish called asking about my whereabouts which meant that it was time for me to head back to the hotel; and get ready for the next part of today’s journey. It was time to go explore the virgin beauty of Gurez Valley.
Journey Ahead: Srinagar to Gurez Valley – The Unexplored Kashmir
I wanted to get some good pictures of Dal which unfortunately I failed to but in the process; was able to cover three other beautiful places in Srinagar city. Please read Gurez Valley – The Unexplored Kashmir to read the next part of this travelogue. If you have any questions, or need my help in planning your trip to Kashmir; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.