Any holiday for me is incomplete without a visit to the temples and shrines- this trip was to be no exception.
So day 2- a Friday- started with a visit to the famous Hazratbal shrine. We left early in the morning to avoid the devout throng. The tranquility exuded by the imposing white mausoleum can calm the most turbulent mind . This place is revered as it is believed to house a relic- the hair of Prophet Mohammed. It also offers an enchanting view of the Dal. Another distinguishing fact that sets it apart is its roof; it’s the only mosque in Kashmir to have a domed structure.
Pari Mahal-This beautiful 7 terraced garden was actually built on a Buddhist monastery. It offers breathtaking views of Srinagar and Zabarwan mountains. The stone walls and arched niches are distinctly reminiscent of Islamic architecture. We ventured to the highest and lowest of the terraces only to be surprised by some hidden beauty- and actually found some solitude away from the chatter of the ever increasing tourist traffic.
Jyeshtha Devi temple- A temple dedicated to Maa jyestha, the goddess of protection.
Then we visited the Adi Shankaracharya Temple. Situated atop the Shankaracharya hill, it was built in 200 AD. A shortcut steep climb of 243 steps notwithstanding, this place is sacred as Adi Shankarachya is believed to have meditated in a cave here during his stay in Kashmir. I meditated in the same cave and the vibrations are so strong, that it completely rejuvenated me. For the non-religious junta this place is must visit for the panoramic view of Srinagar and the mountain ranges that surround the Kashimir Valley. Tourists tend to generalise these as the himalayas- it’s actually Pir-Panjals to the south and west, the greater Himalayas (and Zanskar) to the North and East.
A Shikara ride around the floating markets is another one of those cheesy touristy must do’s and we couldn’t resist either. It was during this ride that we got a glimpse of the hardships that the locals face. The business from tourist lasts only for 4 to 6 months a year. The winters are spent weaving carpets, sculpting wood and knitting shawls and sweaters which can be purchased by tourists on a boat trip like this.
The day ended with us checking on our houseboat which was akin to a home stay- that too a very comfortable one, with every modern amenity on the lake. We got the biggest room on the boat with a huge bed, duvets and even a bath tub! The gregarious owner chatted with us and told us how the government wants them to resettle on a different part of the lake and why Lotus stems are not available, et al. We got some more insights into the life on the lake. The government had even raised the water levels to stop the on-lake agriculture and stilt based local settlements. While this is good for the locals individually- it destroys the lake ecosystem besides causing pollution- fitting into the aptly named economic phenomenon “the tragedy of commons” (a phrase originally used by ecologist Garrett Hardin). The J& K floods came up during the conversation and we learnt that 50,000 cars were destroyed or swept away in the J& K floods last September and the phone lines were submerged in water hence everyone had to get a new number. We were treated to some delicious Kashmiri home cooked food and tired us crashed on our bed with the lapping water lulling us to sleep.
P.s- I loved the radio channel In Srinagar, RJ’s don’t yap endlessly instead they raise pertinent questions and try to build the bridge between civic authorities and citizens.