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Kashmir

»  Dal Lake
»  Gurez
 
Kashmir – The Eternal Paradise of East
Srinagar – City of Lakes & Mountains:
Srinagar, the state’s capital, is a lush green valley at 5,000ft. That abounds with beautiful lakes, rivers, gardens, fruit orchards and is surrounded by mighty snow-capped Himalayan peaks. The natural beauty of the valley is enhanced by the charm and hospitality of its people, and the wonderful artistry of its craftsman who are world renowned in their works. The bustling city of Srinagar has been famous throughout central Asia, for it is the place wherefrom the caravans passed for thousands of years carrying goods from China to the Kingdoms of Persia and India, and still has much of an Arabian Nights atmosphere. Narrow streets shrouded by aromatic sweet and tea stalls; silversmiths, carpet sellers, wood carvers, leather craftsmen and hoards of tailors, each able to bargain the gold fillings out of your teeth! Srinagar, founded by Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC, has a largely Muslim population, with a small but strong Hindu minority, well known for its intellectual pursuits.

Pahalgam- Valley of Shepherds:
Pahalgam at a height of 2240 m is situated at the union of the streams flowing from Sheshnag Lake and the Lidder River in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Once a humble shepherd's village with awesome vistas, and surrounded by soaring, hill slopes covered with groves of pine, and snow capped peaks rising behind them, Pahalgam is now Kashmir's premier resort, cool even during the height of summer when the maximum temperature does not exceed 25 degrees Celsius. Pahalgam has numerous places of tourist's interest. This hill resort is set between fairly steep hills; hence it is worth hiring a pony rather than walking. Pahalgam is characterized by gushing, silvery streams of ice-water and by densely wooded mountains. As the road winds along, Pahalgam appears round the corner against a background of mountains and glistering glaciers with streams rushing past.

Gulmarg – Meadow of Flowers: and Sycamore Trees:
This is known to be as a favorite haunt for travelers from round the world because of its luxuriant surroundings, salubrious climate and bewitching sights. Today Gulmarg is not merely a mountain resort of unimaginable beauty - but is also popular for its golf course, which is highest in the world and skiing during the winter season. This is also an excellent trekking base. In winter, it is used as India’s premier skiing resort. The highlights of this pleasant meadow are the Cable car "Gondola" which ferry tourist’s right up to the height of 3090 meters from 2690 meters at the base (Gulmarg). A circular road, 11 Km in length, runs right round the Gulmarg through pleasant pine forests with excellent views over the Kashmir Valley. This exotic meadow is in the shape of a bowl, with 3.5 Km in length and 1 Km in width. It comprises grassy slopes, with a small scattering of houses. The bowl is encircled by fir clad hills, and in the distance are snow covered peaks.

Sonmarg – Valley of Golden Sun:
Situated at an altitude of 2730 m, Sonmarg (‘the meadow of gold’) has, as its backdrop, snowy mountains against a cerulean sky. The Sindh River that meanders through the valley abounds with trout and mahaseer. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier, which is a major local attraction during the summer months.

Sonmarg is a quite valley, carved and circled by placid lakes and awesome glaciers. Surrounded by mountains up to 5,300 meters, the Valley is divided by a spur of the Thajiwas range. The spur dividing the valley is covered by fir, pine, silver birch and sycamore trees. The valley is also known as the base of a major trek that crisscrosses through passes along several mountain lakes –Vishansar, Kishansar, Gadsar, Satsar and Gangabal. Sonmarg is also the take off station for the drive to Ladakh across the Zojila, a major pass in the Great Himalayan Range, through which the Srinagar-Leh Road passes.

Dal Lake:
The Dal Lake is a prime tourist attraction of Srinagar. It is located on the eastern end of the city. The Dal Lake consists of a series of interconnected lakes and rivers that make the city a visual delight for travelers. Tourists coming to this place can enjoy taking a ride on traditional Kashmiri boats or the Shikara’s to explore the intricate maze of waterways of this lake. The highlight of this sheer mass of water is the Shikara. These small boats maneuvered by a person or two can take you to the entire length and breadth of the lake. The exploring areas are of course the floating markets and the backwaters. Within the lake are two islands which are popular picnic spots. Sona Lank ( Golden Island) and Rupa Lank (Silver Island) both are also known as Char Chinar because they each have four Chinar trees on them planted by the Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Shalimar Garden – Abode of Love:
Built by Emperor Jehangir for his wife Nur Jehan, the beautiful garden has sweeping vistas over the lake. The garden is 539 m by 182 m and has four terraces, rising one above the other. A canal lined with polished stones and supplied with water from Harwan runs through the middle of the garden. The splendid garden with fountains and a water channel was laid out by Emperor Jehangir in 1616 and was extended in 1727 A.D by Shah Jehan. During the Mughal period the top-most of the four terraces were reserved for the Emperor and the ladies of the court.

Nishat Garden- Garden of pleasure:
Situated on the banks of the Dal Lake, with the Zabarwan Mountains as its backdrop, this 'garden of bliss' commands a magnificent view of the lake and the snow capped Pir Panjal mountain range which stands far away to the west of the valley. The Nishat Bagh was designed in 1633 by Asif Khan the brother of Nur Jahan. With ten terraces of carefully laid out flower beds and magnificent lawns topped with fruitful trees and the giant Chinar’s, acting as silent sentinels the garden is by far the best known in comparison to it counterparts of Lahore and Delhi.

Pari Mahal - Palace of the Fairies:
Once the royal observatory, Pari Mahal has a charmingly laid out garden and is a five-minute drive from Cheshmashahi. A Buddhist monastery at one time, it was converted into a school of astrology by Dara Shikh, Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan's eldest son. Situated on the spur of a mountain overlooking the Dal, the ancient monument, with a well-laid spacious garden in front, is connected to Cheshmashahi by road.

Shankaracharya Temple:
The sacred temple of Shankaracharya is located on the top of a hill, southeast of Srinagar and is commonly known as the Takht-i-Sulaiman. This temple is situated at a height of 1100 feet above the Srinagar city. The temple is devoted to the worship of lord Shiva. This ancient temple dates back to 250 B.C. It is believed that the saint Shankaracharya stayed here when he visited Kashmir ten centuries ago to preach the Sanatan Dharma. In the ancient times this temple was known as the Gopadri. The main shrine has a circular cell inside. An inscription in Persian inside the shrine indicates that the origin of this sacred place dates back to the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan. The saint Adi Shankaracharya visited Kashmir in the first quarter of the ninth century with the basic aim of spreading the philosophy of Vedanta. The saint also popularized the worship of lord Shiva in Kashmir.

Hazratbal shrine:
The Muslim pilgrimage destination of the Hazratbal shrine is situated on the banks of the Dal Lake in Srinagar opposite Nishat Bagh. The shrine houses a relic that is known as Moi-e-Muqqadus. The history of this shrine dates back to the seventeenth century. The Hazratbal shrine is a marble structure that was specifically constructed by Muslim Auqaf Trust with the objective of preserving the Prophet's hair, this piece of hair arrived in Kashmir in the year 1699. The architecture of the shrine is a combination of Mughal and traditional Kashmiri. The Moi-e-Muqqadus is usually on public display inside a glass casket on certain sacred and holy days.

The Jama Masjid:
In the heart of the old city, lies the ever imposing and the most important mosque of Srinagar. Of great proportions, the mosque is built around a courtyard and is supported by 370 wooden pillars. The hushed quiet of the mosque counterpoints the bustle of the old bazaars surrounding it. Originally built by Sultan Sikandar in 1400 AD, and enlarged by his son, Zain-ul- Abidin, it is a typical example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Destroyed thrice by fire and rebuilt each time, the mosque, as it now stands, was repaired during the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh.

Gurez:
143km Alt: 2700m
Gurez / Gurais also pronounced Gorai in local Shina Language is a valley deep located in the high Himalayas , about 86 km from Bandipore and 123 km of Srinagar in northern Jammu and Kashmir, India. Situated at an altitude of about 8,000 ft above sea level, the valley is surrounded by snow capped mountains. It has diverse fauna and wildlife including the Himalayan Brown Bear and the Snow Leopard. The Neelum River flows through the valley. The road to Gilgit and Kashmir's border with Gilgit runs through Gurez and is also known as the Gurez-Gilgit transport road. The treakking routes from Gurez and Tilel lead up to Gangabal and Sonamarg to its east and Drass, Dahanu and Zanskar to its north. The traditional log wood houses make Gurez no less than a European countryside. Gurez also has lovely campsites where the tents can be pitched near the river.

Amarnathji Yatra:
One of the holy trinity, Shiva is a living god. The most ancient and sacred book of India, the Rig Veda evokes his presence in its hymns. Vedic myths, ritual and even astronomy testify to his existence from the dawn of time. Shiva is known to have made his home in the Himalayas. He built no house nor shelter, not for himself or his bride. He was an ascetic, and yet married; he could be both for "he was the wild god sporting in the forest or taking his ease on a cloud."

Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in the Amarnathji cave. Unknown to them, a pair of mating pigeons eavesdropped on this conversation and having learned the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode. Many pilgrims report seeing the pigeons-pair when they trek the arduous route to pay obeisance before the ice-lingam (the phallic symbol of Shiva). The trek to Amaranth, in the month of Shravan (July - August) has the devout flock to this incredible shrine, where the image of Shiva, in the form of a lingam, is formed naturally of an ice - stalagmite, and which waxes and wanes with the moon. By its side are, fascinatingly, two more ice - lingams, that of Parvati and of their son, Ganesha.

According to an ancient tale, there was once a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik who was given a sack of coal by a sadhu. Upon reaching home he discovered that the sack, in fact, contained gold. Overjoyed and overcome, Buta Malik rushed back to look for the sadhu and thank him, but on the spot of their meeting discovered a cave, and eventually this became a place of pilgrimage for all believers. To date, a percentage of the donations made by pilgrims are given to the descendants of Malik, and the remaining to the trust which manages the shrine.

Yet another legend has it that when Kashap Reshi drained the Kashmir valley of water (it was believed to have been a vast lake), the cave and the lingam were discovered by Bregish Reshi who was travelling the Himalayas. When people heard of the lingam, Amaranth for them became Shiva's abode and a centre of pilgrimage.

Whatever the legends and the history of Amarnathji's discovery, it is today a very important centre of pilgrimage and though the route is as difficult to negotiate as it is exciting, every year, thousands of devotees come to pay homage before Shiva in one of his famous Himalayan abodes.

Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder valley, Amaranth stands at 3,888 m and is 45 km from Pahalgam and 141 km from Srinagar. Though the original pilgrimage subscribes that the yatra be undertaken from Srinagar, the more common practice is to begin the journey from Pahalgam, and cover the distance to Amaranth and back in four or five days. Pahalgam is 96 km from Srinagar.

Since the base point for the pilgrim's trek is picturesque Pahalgam, a large tented township springs up to accommodate the pilgrims. The conduct of the yatra is a gigantic task in which the State Government takes the assistance of the security departments for providing security and helping to keep the route open. All intermediate halting places have the same kind of facilities as are provided at Pahalgam, and a Yatra Officer is appointed to conduct the pilgrimage.
Temperature:   Summer 29.5° C (Max) 10.6° C (Min)
  Winter 7.3° C (Max) -1.9° C (Min)
Rainfall:
  52.9 cm

Just like the valley of Kashmir, Srinagar weather is also divided into four seasons that of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The spring season lasts from March to early May and is characterized with light showers and slow breeze. With the ending of spring in May, starts the summer season that stretches on till end-August. Because of the cool climate of Srinagar, even in summers, it has become the most preferred destination for summer holidays in the evenings; light woolens are required for Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonmarg. Come September and it is the time of autumn that goes on till late-November woolens are necessary. As per Srinagar weather information, the winter season starts from early-December and covers the entire district with snow, Heavy woolens are required. With the starting of March, it is again the time for spring in Srinagar.

 
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