“Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.”
“If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here.”
Mughal Emperor Jehangir said it all when he visited Kashmir in the 17th century. You’ve been places and you’ve been places, but if you have not visited this Paradise on Earth, you’ve missed out on an experience of a lifetime.
The name Kashmir, in Sanskrit, implies land desiccated from water and is derived from the two words, ‘ka’ (water) and ‘shimeera’ (to desiccate). According to Hindu mythology, Sage Kashyap drained the erstwhile lake to produce the land of Kashmir.
Modern day Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) is the northernmost state of India, lying mostly in the Himalayas. The state shares a border with Himachal Pradesh on the south, Pakistan on the west and China on the north and the east.
(J & K) consists of three divisions: Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh. Srinagar is its summer capital and Jammu its winter capital. (J & K) is India’s only Muslim majority state. Minority religions in the state include Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism. The languages spoken here are Kashmiri and Urdu, with most people also speaking Hindi and English. The only Indian state to witness all four seasons — spring, summer, autumn and winter — Kashmir has something on offer for every type of traveller. While its quiet, almost virginal beauty makes it the ideal honeymoon getaway, it is also great for a family vacation, offering activities like shikara rides, horse riding and cable car rides and much more. The adventure-seeker can trek the lovely mountainous terrain of Ladakh and nature lovers will be smitten by the verdant greenery of the Valley in summer and its snow-topped mountains in winter. For religious travellers, Kashmir offers the famous Amarnath Cave, a 5,000-year old shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, where an ice stalagmite is formed every year in the shape of a Shivling.
Once you come here, you are sure to fall in love with its beautiful gardens, vast lakes, pristine streams, alpine forests, stunning mountains and, most of all, its friendly people. Kashmiris are a very warm and welcoming people.
PLACES TO VISIT
Also called the ‘Garden of Pleasure’, Nishat garden lies on the left bank of the Dal Lake, with the Zabarwan Mountains as its backdrop. The Mughal garden commands a magnificent view of the lake beneath the snow-capped Pir Panjal mountain range. Nishat Bagh was designed and built in 1633 by Asif Khan, the elder brother of Nur Jehan. The garden is a broad cascade of terraces lined with avenues of chinar and cypress trees, starting from the lakeshore and reaching up to an artificial façade at the hill end. Nishat has twelve 12 terraces representing the twelve signs of the zodiac.
The Shalimar Garden, one of the Mughal Gardens of Kashmir, was built by Emperor Jehangir for his wife Nur Jehan, in 1616. Located on the right of Dal Lake, Shalimar Bagh is linked through a channel to the northeast of the lake. Shalimar Garden has four terraces and a number of fountains, shaded trees and innumerable varieties of flowers. The best views of the garden’s beauty are afforded during autumn and spring, when leaves change colours and flowers blossom, respectively. One can also enjoy a sound-and-light show (son et lumeiere) in the evening, organized daily during the tourist season, May to October.
Situated near the Chashma Shahi Mughal garden, Pari Mahal has beautiful terraced gardens and the ruins of a five-storied Mughal building that is illuminated in the evening. It offers a fantastic view of the Dal Lake and the city of Srinagar and is the ideal place for some soul searching.Pari Mahal is valued more as a historical monument than a park or a garden. The Mahal was initially a Buddhist Monastery, which was later converted into an observatory and a school of astrology by Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Emperor Shah Jahan. He dedicated the place to his Sufi teacher, Mulla Shah.
The smallest of the Srinagar’s Mughal gardens, the Chashma Shahi or Royal Spring was laid out by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632. ‘Chashma’ in Urdu means ‘waterfall’. The garden was so named because of a mountain spring/waterfall that feeds it. The famous freshwater spring inside the garden is believed to have medicinal values. As legend goes, when Mumtaz Mahal (Shah Jahan’s wife) fell ill and could not be cured even by the world’s best doctors, somebody suggested she be taken to some health resort. Shah Jahan preferred to stay at Pari Mahal in Kashmir along with his queen. She enjoyed the fresh air and flora and drank the sweet water of Chashma Shahi, resulting in dramatic improvement in her health. Since then, the water here is thought to have medicinal properties. The garden abounds in fruits, flowers and chinar trees.
Tulip Garden in Chashma Shahi, Srinagar, is spread over an area of about 30 hectares and is situated at the foothills of Zabarwan Hills with an overview of the Dal Lake. This garden was created in the year 2006-07 with the aim of boosting floriculture and advancing tourism in Kashmir Valley. Lakhs of tulips in about 68 varieties bloom here during November December, making the entire garden look like a bright, colourful carpet of flowers. The best time to visit the Tulip Garden is between March-end and early April.
Located about 18 km from Srinagar, Harwan is a huge garden lined with flowerbeds and massive chinar trees. A canal passes through the garden, which is dotted with bright, colourful flowers. The fresh air and big, green carpeted lawns make it an ideal spot for picnics and excursions. The garden serves as a gateway to the famous wildlife sanctuary of Dachigam and Mahadev Mountain.Behind the garden, there is the small but beautiful Harwan lake, which feeds the garden and provides an astounding view of the majestic mountains.
Shankaracharya Temple is an ancient temple located on Gopadari Hill dedicated to Lord Shiva. A climb to the hill, located in southeast Srinagar, will take about 40 minutes. Said to be the oldest shrine in the Kashmir valley, this temple stands on a solid rock and consists of an octagonal basement of 13 layers. Be it the chanting of shlokas or the offering of prayers to the presiding deity, Shankaracharya represents the traditional beliefs and customs of Hinduism. The temple offers panoramic view of the Valley. Early April, when the snow lies thick on the mountains, or after rains on a summer day offer the best views from the hill.
The white-domed shrine contains a relic believed by many Muslims of Kashmir to be a hair of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. The name of the shrine comes from the Arabic word ‘hazrat’, meaning holy or majestic and the Kashmiri word ‘bal’, (a corrupted form of the Sanskrit ‘vala’, which means an enclosure) meaning place. The shrine is situated on the left bank of the Dal Lake and is considered to be Kashmir's holiest Muslim shrine. Hazratbal is known by many names including Assar-e-Sharief, Madinat-us-Sani, Dargah Sharief & Dargah.
Hari Parbat, a hill overlooking Srinagar, is the site of a Durrani fort, built in 1808. The fort was constructed by Ata Muhammad, an Afghan governor. The wall around the hill was built by Mughal Emperor Akbar. Hari Parbat is sacred to Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs as it has the famous Shakti Temple on the western slope and the Muslim shrines of Khwaja Makhdoom Sahib and Akhund Mullah Shah on the southern slope. On the southern side of the outer wall there is a gurudwara, which commemorates the visit of Guru Hargobind to Kashmir.
The temple is dedicated to Goddess Kheer Bhawani (originally just Bhawani) and is constructed over a sacred spring. The colour of the spring’s water changes occasionally. When black or darkish, it’s believed to be an indication of inauspicious times for Kashmir.The famous Kheer Bhawani temple is located in the village of Tulla Mulla, about 22km from Srinagar. The worship of Kheer Bhawani is universal among the Hindus of Kashmir. The term ‘kheer’ refers to the rice pudding that is offered in the spring to appease the Goddess, which became part of the name of the temple. As is the custom with Hindu deities, Goddess Kheer Bawani has many names: Maharagya Devi, Ragnya Devi, Rajni, Ragnya Bhagwati and so on.
Royal Spring Golf Course