Wular Lake

Wular Lake in Kashmir is beauty personified that mere words cannot describe as one must witness the scenic beauty of this lake, in person, to believe its existence. Also spelled as Wullar Lake, it is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia, nestling within the district of Bandipore in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Wular Lake basin was created as a result of massive tectonic activity that occurred centuries ago and is fed by the River Jhelum. The size of Wular Lake varies from 12 sq. miles to 100 sq. miles depending on the monsoon season. Recently, in September 2011, the Tourism Department of J&K launched Boating facilities and water sports like water skiing, in collaboration with the Kerala Tourism Department of the Government of India.

Historically, Wular Lake was known by the name of ‘Mahapadamsar’ and as ‘Bolor’ by Al-Biruni, between 960 AD and 1031 AD, while its name according to Nilamata Purana is Mahapadmasaras. The name originated due to the Lake giving rise to high leaping waves, seen during the afternoons, caused as a result of its vast dimensions and heavy volume of water. This effect was referred to as Ullola in the Sanskrit language, which means ‘Stormy Leaping and High Rising Waves’.

Over the centuries, the name of the Lake, then known as ‘Ullola’, transitioned to ‘Bolor’, as mentioned by Al-Biruni and centuries later, the name Bolor transitioned into ‘Wulor’, followed by ‘Wular’ or ‘Wullar’, as we know today. Another version states that the origin of the name of this Lake can be attributed to ‘Wul’, a Kashmiri word, which means ‘Gap’ or ‘Crevice’, an abbreviated title that must have emerged during this century, indicating its origin to a fissure that was created to allow the flow water into the Wular Lake basin, mainly fed by the Jhelum River.

Wular Lake is considered as one of the 6 main Indian wetlands that are designated as a Ramsar site of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Significance. Wular Lake does face environmental threats with a large part of its catchment area seen converted into an agriculture land, giving rise to water pollutions from animal wastes and fertilizers, waterfowl and migratory birds hunting activities including infestation of weed growth in the lake itself.

Wular Lake forms an integral part of the aquatic habitat, featuring main species like the Common Carp [Cyprinus Carpio], Crossocheilus Latius, Mosquitofish [Gambusia Affinis], Nemacheilus Species, Rosy Barb [Barbus Conchonius], and varied Snow trout species identified as the Chirruh Snowtrout [Schizopyge Esocinus], Chush Snowtrout [Schizopyge Niger], Sattar Snowtrout [Schizopyge Curvifrons], Schizothorax Longipinus, Schizothorax Macropogon, and the Schizothorax Planifrons.

Fishing at Wular Lake offers a significant amount of fish, as a part of the daily diet for many locals residing on its shores and within the Valley of Kashmir. Over 8,000 fishermen earn their livelihood from Wular Lake, who primarily fish for endemic snowtrout species and the non-indigenous carp species. Fishing captures about 60% of the total fish-catch yield in Kashmir Valley whereas Cooperative Societies employ a number of other local villagers to trade the fish-catch. Villagers also harvest plants including Nymphoides and Grass Phragmites from the Wular Lake to be used as animal fodder.

Wular Lake also sustains a rich bird population including terrestrial birds such as the Alpine Swift, Black-Eared Kite, Blue Rock Pigeon, Chukar Partridge, Common Swallow, Cuckoo, Golden Oriole, Himalayan Golden Eagle, Himalayan Woodpecker, Hoopoe, Kashmir Roller, Koklass Pheasant, Monal Pheasant, Short-Toed Eagle, Small Cuckoo, and Sparrow Hawk [probably], and many other species.

Wular Lake is truly inspiring to watch with every mile showcasing a change in the hues of its waters, which is mesmerizing yet a unique and intriguing sight to see apart from controlling the flow of the Jhelum River traversing through it.

A town called ‘Sopur’ – situated on the southwestern shore, and a small Island of Zaina Lank – situated to the northeastern shore of the Wular Lake comprises of remnants dating back to the 15th Century. It is known that Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, who once reigned over J&K, can be accredited for the construction of this artificial Zaina Lank Island, way back in 1444 AD, situated at the heart of Wular Lake, a must-visit for all tourists vacationing in Jammu & Kashmir, India.

Lakes of Kashmir