Dal Lake

Dal Lake is the iconic feature of Kashmir and its tourism industry. A part of Srinagar, which is the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, the urban Dal Lake is known as the second largest lake in J&K and is instrumental in boosting the tourism worth of the state apart from offering recreational activities in Kashmir.

Dal Lake is nicknamed as the ‘Jewel in the crown of Kashmir’ and forms an important revenue source for operations in fishing and harvesting of water plants. This magnificent Lake is fringed with a boulevard that measures about 15.5 kms and is lined with ancient Mughal Gardens, Parks, Hotels, and the unique Kashmiri houseboats that offer excellent views of the lake shorelines and the lake itself cradling a number of colourful Shikara Boats.

The Dal Lake, inclusive of its floating gardens, forms a part of a natural wetland that captures 21.1 sq. km. of which 18 sq. km. covers the lake area. The floating gardens, also referred to as ‘Rad’, in the Kashmiri language, comes to live enveloped with fully blossomed lotus flowers, during the months of July and August.

The main natural wetland of Dal Lake is segregated into four basins by causeways that include Bod Dal, Gagribal, Lokut Dal, and Nagin Lake, though Nagin Lake is considered as an independent water body. Bod Dal and Lokut Dal, each feature an Island at the centre, referred to as Char Chinari or Rup Lank and Sona Lank, respectively.

The Mughal Gardens surrounding Dal Lake, such as the famous Shalimar Bagh and the Nishat Bagh situated on its periphery are undergoing extensive restoration work in order to restore the Lake area into its original grandeur and splendor for tourism purposes.

The Origin of Dal Lake remains shrouded in mystery whereas a few geologists do claim that this Lake is a part of a 2 million year old Oligotrophic Lake that once captured the entire Kashmir Valley, while a few others believe that Dal Lake was fed by centuries of Flood waters that remained forever stagnant. According to ancient Sanskrit texts, legend has that Isabar village, situated on the eastern end of Dal Lake, was once the residence of Goddess Durga. The Lake was originally known as Sureshwari, and was fed by a spring called the Satadhara, however, today, it is simply known as the Dal Lake.

The Mughal era saw Kashmir and Srinagar in particular, as the summer resort of the Mughals. It was the Mughals who developed the precincts of the Dal Lake and adorned it with sprawling lush Mughal-style Gardens and beautiful Pavilions thus, transforming the area around Dal Lake into a pleasure resort for all to enjoy the cool breeze of the Lake and the tempting salubrious cool climate of Kashmir.

Upon the demise of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 AD, Kashmir was ruled by the Durrani Empire for several decades and the Dal Lake was primarily dominated by the Pashtun tribes and thus, the city-size increased. It was until 1814, when a significant part of the Kashmir valley, inclusive of Srinagar, was taken over by Raja Ranjit Singh, made as a part to his Kingdom, and the Sikhs dominated this region for 27 long years.

The British Rule in India saw Srinagar as their summer capital resort owing to its cool climate and the stunning snow-capped Himalayas as the backdrop. Despite the protest by the Dogra Ruler, who restricted construction of buildings in the Kashmir Valley, the British bypassed this rule and commissioned lavish houseboats to be established on the Dal Lake, making them the iconic figure of Kashmir Tourism even to this date.

Post Independence of India, the Kashmiri Hanji inhabitants who built these boats, owned and maintained them. They cultivated the famous floating lotus gardens and produced commodities to be retailed on the Lake, popularly known as the floating Markets thus, transforming the Lake area into an integral source of their livelihoods. These Kashmiri Houseboats started offering accommodation options in Srinagar and henceforth, become a haven for tourists, earning the title of the ‘Jewel in the tourist crown’.

The Dal Lake nestles at an average elevation of 1,583 meters or 5,194 feet above sea level and spreads around three sides of a catchment area that forms a part of the mesmerizing Zabarwan mountain valley, situated in the foothills of the Himalayan Range.

Dal Lake captures the eastern and northern sections of Srinagar including the floating lotus gardens and reveals a depth level that varies from 20 feet, deepest at Nagin Lake, to 8.2 feet, which is the shallowest at Gagribal. The Lake is ecologically rich in floating macrophytes, submerged macrophytes, and phytoplankton with the Macrophyte flora comprising of 117 species that belongs to 42 families and 69 varieties.

Dal Lake is undoubtedly touted as one of the most beautiful Lakes in India, blessed with pristine, sparkling, and serene waters, surrounded on its three sides by snow-capped Himalayan Mountains. Houseboats mark the scenery of Dal Lake welcoming tourists onboard to experience one of the most romantic and unforgettable stays on a Lake in Kashmir, apart from offering some of the most exotic landscape views to indulge in.

After enjoying a Shikara boat ride on the Lake and the sights of the mesmerizing floating lotus gardens, you can enjoy the sights of Mughal Gardens, a beauty in their own right and spend your evenings relaxing and enjoying a scrumptious meal at any one of the many restaurants fringed along the lakefront offering a panoramic view of the postcard picture-perfect Dal Lake against the blue-hazed Mountain Ranges. These aspects were encouraged to cater to the large influx of tourists, visiting Kashmir throughout the year.

Lakes of Kashmir