Experience houseboat and Shikara at Dal Lake, Kashmir
Kashmir is always being the best option to travel and one of the Persian poet said – “Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, haimin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast”. It means – I always wondered how a place can be so beautiful that poets compare it to heaven.
Kashmir, paradise on earth is known for it’s captivating beauty. The magnificent landscape, charming lakes and royal Mughal gardens of Kashmir leaves an impregnable experience for the people. Furthermore, from the heights of snow-capped mountains to the breathtaking view of dazzling rivers, Kashmir is simply heaven.
In fact, Jahangir (Mughal Emperor) also quote a line in tribute to Kashmir – “If there is heaven of earth, it is here, it is here“.
So to explore his wordings, I planned a short trip to Kashmir during third year of my college. But why I’m writing it now? What had came into my mind to write about Kashmir? Just go on reading….
Three days back, I was having a good discussion on “houseboats” with one of my friend, when he asked me; “How it feels to live on houseboat?”, “How it feels to spend a night on houseboat?”, In fact, the irony is that the boat is so large that it accumulate number of bedrooms, bathrooms and open space to dine…
As a result, with this discussion a pile of thoughts came into my mind and gushed about how lucky I was to experience these remarkable houseboats. The first one was in the backwaters of Kerala and then in the Dal lake of Kashmir.
Actually the first was Srinagar (Kashmir), then Kerala, but I’ve shared Kerala first. Above all, it is time to share memoir of Kashmir’s houseboat and Shikara…
“Srinagar is well known for it’s Dal Lake and the serene beauty of Dal Lake is famous for houseboats and Shikaras”
Uhmm.. I remember the time – it was afternoon when my flight landed in Srinagar. The atmosphere was so chilling and crispy that without wasting any time I directly headed to the Dal Lake – one of the most beautiful part of Kashmir”. As I reached there, thousands of houseboats were waiting for me, and I have to choose only one. Every houseboat had a royal and novel feel; so it rather turned out to be a tough task to pick the best one.
History of Kashmir suggests…
When Britishers came to Kashmir valley, they were not allowed to buy land. Therefore, they brought up the concept of houseboat in Kashmir (as an alternate option). But, today these houseboats have become an integral part of Kashmir.
Finally I had chosen one (I don’t exactly remember the name of houseboat) and hired Shikara (the only possible transport facility) which took me to the houseboat.
What is so royal about Houseboat…
Staying in houseboat is real gem of Dal Lake that attracts tourists, providing the experience similar to that of any luxurious hotel. If you look at the size of houseboat, you’ll amused to see, how can a single houseboat accommodate lots of things.
There is balcony, lounge to relax and dine, pantry and 2-3 elegant bedrooms with attached sanitary; all these are made of Cedar wood (water resistant wood). In addition to that, walls, doors and windows of houseboat are furnished with well designed Kashmiri carvings. Also, the floor and windows are tagged along with carpets and curtains with exclusive Kashmiri touch.
Finally, as I entered in houseboat, the houseboat manager welcomed me with Kashmir special tea “noon chai“.
Furthermore, every houseboat is categorized into grades of luxury; price of houseboats also varies with respect to the location.
Ultimately, living on houseboats or I would say living on lake was a remarkable experience. Also, the tranquil environment of Dal Lake and snow capped mountains by the side Lake leaves me with the peaceful mind. That’s why, it is perfect gateway from maddening pace of city life.
The Great Shikaras
Shikara – boat which is the most suitable transportation service, transporting people and goods across the Dal Lake. My experience with Shikara had started as I reached Dal Lake from airport. At Dal Lake there were lots of Shikaras waiting for customer to provide services. So I just hired one Shikara which took me and my luggage to my houseboat.
Moreover, Shikara is famous for it’s lovely ride and it cost approximately Rs. 500/- for a Shikara. The ride includes the sailing on tranquil environment, watching few water sports activities, birds and visiting the whole floating market.
Hence, it was the time to take a leisure Shikara ride. I again sat on the Shikara and my rover started roving it into the rippling water. Very soon my Shikara was followed by many other Shikaras which were selling several products like jewelry, Kashmir special handicraft, food products like corn, famous Noon tea and coffee etc..
I bought some fruits to eat during this journey. Afterthat, my boat rover took me to a market, known as floating market. Floating market has everything in it such as from grocery stores, clothing and leather products to fine carved luxurious furniture and handicrafts.
Tip – Bargin hard and Bargin is must if you want to buy something.
With curiosity I bought many things from this floating market; I purchased Kashmiri saffron (kesar), handcraft product for my sister and helped my father in booking hand carved furniture set.
Coming back to the Lake, I would like to say, it is much more charming and soothing then what it looks like. Therefore, 2 hours Shikara ride is the main highlight of tour and if you misses it then your trip is incomplete.
With this, my day ended, but Dal lake had never stopped to show me more of a complete different angle at night, as you can seen in photograph..
Isn’t it captivating?
Another thing is that Shikara and Dal Lake became more famous with Hindi super hit 1964 movie “Kashmir Ki Kalli“. The song “Taarif karu kya uski jisne tumhe banaya” sung my great Mohemmad Rafi. So actually, Shikara is the perfect place to romance. You’ll find many couples enjoying the romantic ride of Shikara.
So if you ever visit Kashmir, you must stay on houseboat and experience the best of Kashmir “The Shikara ride”. I’m sure you’ll love that.
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