★★★★Kashmir Heritage Tour
Kashmir was romantic, no doubt about it, fertile, with a river down the middle, encircled by mountains, a holy land with miraculous fountains At least, that's the way Rennell describes it. "And the landscape of the deep romantic Vale of Kashmir and the landscape of the valley of the upper Nile seem to have melted into one another in the dream, and the enchanted territory of the poem becomes "holy land."
Srinagar is the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and is the 'Jewel in the Crown' of the beautiful valley of Kashmir. Bounded by dramatic mountains soaring majestically skyward, the valley is softened by the shimmering waters of the Dal and Nagin Lakes where generations have come to find peace and relax in the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Here you find the timeless gardens of the Mughal Emperors built for sheer beauty and love. The historic city boasts many ancient city centers, shrines and mosques. The most important being the Habba Kadal and Fateh Kadal. Shah-i-Hamdan, came from Persia in the 13th century, and spread the Word of Islam in Kashmir. The mosque of Khanqah-i-Mualla, built in his memory on the banks of the Jhelum, is a stunning example of wooden architecture. The mosque is ornately decorated with papier-mâché. The Shrine of Makhdoom Sahib, Patthar Masjid, Jama Masjid and Pir Dastagir are other significant mosques and shrines in the old city. There are few excellent temple sites along the banks of river Jhelum in the city of Srinagar.
The essence of Old Srinagar lies in its Medieval heritage – a timeless scene still lingers – the city is dissected by a labyrinth of roads lined with burnt brick coloured buildings - their russet hues mellow in the evening light. Bustling bazaars line the little streets – many dedicated to traditional arts and crafts. Local people, dressed in their traditional garb scurry about their daily life – perhaps lingering to talk to a friend, shop or go to the Mosque for prayer. The old city has many moods – and all are a photographer's delight! The River Jhelum is spanned by nine bridges and was the catalyst that brought the city to greatness. It was the thoroughfare for commerce and linked the myriad of waterways that brought the lifeblood of trade to all.
You will still see Doonga boats moored on the banks of river Jhelum. These were, a t time, the only means of transport in the valley of Kashmir. They are the prototype of the houseboats on River Jhelum, Dal and Nagin Lakes. Walking through the streets of Nowhatta Chowk and Zainakdal will bring to close to a constant chatter of beating copper. Copperware is a necessity for every Kashmiri household. Some pieces are simple and plain whilst others are quite exotic with intricate bas-relief with engraving on them. Well appointed shops sell the famous tapestries, shawls and rugs that are famous throughout the world. At the same time you can buy cocks comb – a natural colourant from the market for your cuisine in addition to Saffron and Kahwa Tea of Kashmir.
The old city also boasts of Kashmir's many ancient shrines and mosques of which the shrine of Shah-i-Hamdan is the most important. Shah-i-Hamdan, who came from Persia in the 13th C. was responsible for the spread of Islam in Kashmir. Khanqah-i-Mualla, on the banks of the Jhelum, was the very spot where Shah-i-Hamdan used to offer prayers. Upon his death, a shrine, ornately decorated with papier-mache on the walls and ceiling, was built in his memory. Makhdoom Sahib, Patthar Masjid, Jama Masjid and Pir Dastagir are the major mosques and shrines in the old city The view from any of the old city's bridges is wholly and unmistakably Kashmiri. Old brick buildings line the banks and in the muddy water of the River Jhelum ancient doongas are moored along its banks. These boats, with their shingled roofs, are the prototype of Srinagar's houseboat.
In a lane off Nowhatta Chowk, there are several copper shops – copper tableware is a necessity for every Kashmiri household. Some pieces are simple and plain whilst others are quite exotic with intricate bas-relief and engraving on them. Well appointed shops sell the famous tapestries, shawls and rugs that are famous throughout the world. Kashmiri colours are subtle, almost earthy and reflecting the mellow brickwork and the magnificent colours of the valley in autumn when leaves turn to reds, gold and oranges in a blaze of natures glory.
Fruits spills out of brimming baskets; strawberries and cherries, peaches and apricots; all the bounty of a fertile land. Pale green paddy fields rise in tiered steps upon the hills. In the high meadows, trout are jumping in rushing, snow-fed streams. The encircling snow-capped mountains provide a perfect setting for a valley that's vibrantly alive.