Dal Lake- Once upon a Time

September 24, 2010

The Dal Lake, in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir state is one of the most exquisite sample of Nature’s Beauty. Sir Walter Lawrence had described this world famous water body as the “Lake Par Excellence”. The lake is within Srinagar Municipal area and is heart throb spot for the locals as well as for the tourist around the year.

The reflection of the Zaberwan mountain in its clear water; the islet covered with willows and poplars trees; the vegetative strips of floating gardens; the untidy hamlets of peasants; the chatter of aquatic birds; the melodious songs of birds among bulrushes and other trees adds to the grace and charm of the Lake.Great mystic poets of Kashmir have written pages of their poems on the beauty of the Dal Lake. The lake always gives its own enchanting glow and shine in all four seasons of Kashmir. The lake gives livelihood to the people who live in and around it. Early in the morning fishermen row their boats into the lake area with their nets to catch fish. Small vegetable sellers ferry the fresh vegetables through the lake from their hamlets to main vegetable markets. Houseboats are anchored in the middle of the lake side near islets. Houseboats are the special choice to stay during holidays. In the peak season, if the law and order is normal; it is difficult to get accommodation in good houseboats. It is wonderful to enjoy the view of the lake and the mountains around under both moonlight and sun. The calmness of the lake and dark mist green look of the mountain vegetation and plants in the morning hours gives the pleasure to the heart and mind. More often during late night this calmness gets ripped, when some ferry boatman traverses the lake while singing some melody. This ferry boatman, alone oars the boat in pitch dark towards his hearth. His melodious song goes across all the layers of air to lull the listeners in houseboats. One such melodious voice of a ferry boatman on a moonlit night mesmerized Late Smt Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India when she was staying in a houseboat at Dal Lake. She reflected this experience in her book Eternal India by terming this outflow of ferry boatman as “Culture in Illiteracy”.

Late C.E.Tyndale Biscoe, who introduced first Christian Missionary School in Kashmir in 1881 at Fatehkadal, Srinagar; made the Dal Lake as the hub of aquatic sports activities for his students. He made swimming and rowing of boats compulsorily to the students in the school. Biscoe also organized inter house regatta of his school boys and encouraged the boys to swim across the Dal Lake. Biscoe extended the aquatic sports activities even to Wular lake during the summer months. In one of such aquatic sports activity in Wular lake, 12 Mission school teachers were drowned while rowing 12 oar boat, after their boat got capsized in stormy lake The Mission school boys churned the waters of every bay and gulfs in Wular lake and climbed every peak in the valley.

During the floods in Kashmir, many lives were lost. By this sport, Biscoe created student volunteers who were trained to save the lives of their neighbours from drowning.

This sports festival in the Dal Lake was further championed by Late Ghulam Mohd. Bakshi the then Prime Minister of Kashmir till he headed the state. Late Bakshi was the student of the Biscoe school. He had imbibed sportsman spirit as one of his personality traits from the school teaching. During those years, the lake around Nehru park was decorated with colorful banners, flags, loudspeakers, gas balloons and bugle sounds. Great leaders like Late Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru the then Prime Minister of India used to be Chief guest of honour at Nehru Park point on these events. Boat crews of the of different Srinagar based schools and colleges participated in regattas. All class of people crowded along the Boulvard Bund of the lake to enjoy a thrilling water sports. Under the premiership of Late Bakshi regatta at Dal Lake and Jashn-e-Kashmir were regular grand annual finale. On the culmination of the regatta, Late Bakshi declared school holiday on the next day from the balcony of Nehru park hotel and at times ordered for distribution pastries to all boat crew of the schools / colleges in the lawns of Nehru Park. After G.M.Bakshi rule all these festivities in Dal Lake ended gradually. Late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had special fascination for Kashmir. He would never miss a chance to swim in this lake whenever he visited Srinagar.

The lake is girdled by well mettled road along the bank from Dal gate to Shalimar Bagh with long row of poplar trees along the road side. While driving along this road one gets ample time to enjoy panoramic view of the whole lake on one side and a salubrious look of mountain slopes, dotted with a royal castles of the Dogra Kings and Queens. There are many Mughal Gardens laid on the shore of Dal lake. Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Chesmishahi are famous gardens laid by Mughal nobilities. The lower slopes of Shalimar and Zabarwan ranges along the bank of Dal Lake adds a fantastic beauty to the whole area. These slopes are covered with thick vegetation, plants, shrubs and trees. Some of the spurs on the slopes are decked with places which are historically known. Pari mahal has historical background. There are old ruins which were said to be one of the biggest Buddhist library when Buddhism was prevalent among the Kashmiri masses.

Darashoku, brother of Mughal King Aurangzeb, had spent many years to study Hindu and Buddhist scriptures and other Kashmiri ethical Philosophies at Pari Mahal. Among the common persons in Srinagar it was a blind belief that Pari Mahal was haunted by faries.On the hillock of Shankracharya there is an ancient Shiva temple, said to be built by Sandiman, the King of Kashmir. Visitors to this sight can have full bird’s eye view of whole of Srinagar, Dal Lake, Hari Parbat and the flowing river of the Jhelum (Vitasta). Just below the slope of Pari Mahal, there is a temple of Zestha Devi in the lap of mountain slopes.

Of late, the lake has shrunken considerably in size. Water has dried up along the shores, giving way to marshy lands. The houseboat owners flush out all the dirt, filth and all human excrete into the lake thereby polluting the lake further. It has caused great concern to environmentalists. The lake was 6/3kms. in area. Causeways have divided the lake in four parts; Gagribal, Loket Dal, Bud Dal, Nagin Lake.

These water patches/bodies large and small justify that the whole valley must have been glorious lake of the world centuries ago. These geophysical facts get further corroborated, when one finds high altitude lakes and several mountain tarn encircling the valley.

Courtesy:- Daily Excelsior

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