Kashmir: A Symphony of Riches

Gopal Lahiri

Photo Feature by Gopal Lahiri

It’s all about beauty and nature; the two go hand in hand in Kashmir which offers paradise to the visitors. You are likely to feel your breath getting calmer and your senses quietened. Autumn is one of the best times to visit the valley and we were blessed with sunny weather all through.

Kashmir’s flowers were breath-taking in an alluring range of colours, from the brightest to the deepest and their presence charged with emotion too. Whether wild or cultivated, they bloom with an abundance and vigour that defy their high, thanks to a short but intensive growing season during and spring lasting a few months, with good sunlight a day.

Equally as impressive was our hill top hotel overlooking Dal Lake and Zabarwan mountains whose sun-flooded space is the real inspiration for the instaphotos. It was indeed a picture-perfect place just found in films.

The view of lake and the mountains from the cosy balcony were breath-taking! We were blown away to see the apple tree in the vicinity! Almost every space within the property was filled with blossoming flowers! The autumn chill was there in the morning and evening.

“Awesome!” is Kashmir’s default exclamation, and once you go out to visit places you can feel the nuances of this word. The ever-changing landscape and the geological features are the focal points and you will see a record of untranslatable mystery and rare beauty in sunlight, in crisp shadow and occasional moody clouds. Our journey along the Sonamarg road was really exciting with occasional glimpses of the orange orchards and walnut farms.

We walked up to Sindh river and it was a unique experience walking in the chill weather and spent some time. We also had a glimpse of an elegant lake on way to Sonamarg surrounded by lush greenery all around. This is so much better and far less crowded.

There is a pervading silence in the beautiful rock geometry faithful in their forms and the high mountains at a distance. It’s almost too simple, like the nature’s snapshot. This deep dream images stayed on with you forever.

We could see and also hear the water flowing with force in the river, the vast meadow surrounding house skirted by distant snowclad mountain tops, dense forest behind with patches of unmelted snow.

The day we reached Sonamarg, where grey-tinted walls of ice front holding behind stunning mountain views. We strolled through the exquisite meadows and soaked in the beauty of the valley.
To explore the glacier, we opted for the Pony ride and it was a really tiresome journey over uneven pebble-strewn path to arrive at Thajiwas Glacier. The distance covered was total around 8kms to and fro. Some people opted to go on foot which was really tiresome. But the journey was like walking down to dream and there was a sublime beauty.

Winding our way up in unpaved road escape from chaos of life and connect to the nature. the route makes a complete circuit of this magic mountain through the moody, rugged wilderness at its feet. There is a stream that runs down the hillside where you can soak for hours.

When visible through the clouds that often conceal its wind-lashed summit, its dominance reduces the surrounding peaks — which are spectacular in their own right. We were fortunate: the clouds did clear and the grandeur of the snow-clad mountain took our breath away.

The canopied Shikara (small decorative boat) ride all along in the famous Dal Lake was a revelation.
We had glimpses of a few nice attractions! Char Chinar was a great place- a tiny island surrounded by four Chinar (maple) trees which incidentally a film shooting place!

Lily cultivation within the lake was an added attraction! The fountains and the house boats added spice to this natural lake, an icon in Srinagar! The surrounding mountains were breath-taking! The location of the houses is just idyllic here like in Bollywood films.
The rolling landscape which alternates between mature forests and open fields connected by streams and rivers that flow into the infinity while the trail meanders along the meadows. when the landscape is all wilderness.

As you walk, in the footsteps of the wild animals that once grazed the lush grasslands cultivated by the retreating glacier, you feel the magic in the surroundings.

It’s true that the emotional icon for many devotees was as much an artefact of historical importance as the artefacts inside the Shankaracharya Temple and Hazratbal Shrine.

Parimahal was a historic garden located at the hill top. The approach road was also good and surrounded by Zabarwan Mountains! It’s the best spot to click the Srinagar city, golf course and the inimitable Dal lake, the heart of the city!

It’s a multi-storey garden with a lot of steps and the structures were built by Dara Shukoh in Moghul era! Flowers were aplenty during our visit! No doubt it’s an amazing place to be soaked in!

The past comes to live at the first sight of these structures and gives this place a sort of hushed spirituality. The mixture of various styles, cast in ancient grey stone, and lost in the mysterious silence of the history, is something worth experiencing.

Chashma Sahi garden was actually a little slice of Eden, untamed but very comfortable, and great for children. Great place to drink spring water! People were filling bottles!

During our visit the weather was sunny and terrific! We relaxed a bit there even though there was good crowd busy with selfies! Beautiful flowers were all around and the atmosphere was really pleasant!

In this surround of Great monuments in the valley, you always realize that the ultimate secrets lie in the living inside. Ablaze with autumn colour the valley showcases the most spectacular colour.
It’s the void between the high mountains and low valley that makes onlookers feel small. You feel that everything is flowing here as going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water.

Kashmir valley packs a powerful punch when it comes to flora and fauna and stretches of trail. The botanical garden is a place of magical beauty. A few more gardens also added the splendour of the valley.

Srinagar is a wonderful city and reflects the exuberance of the lively Kashmiri people. Lalchowk is a happening place with its cafes and restaurants and shops. Chay Jaay is an endearing tea place located beside Jhelum river and housed in Mahtass studio!

We enjoyed the Poetry session in the adjoining hall with Kahwa tea (nuts and saffron flavour) and Kashmiri bread! Then enjoyed Shamikebab and the exotic salad with chestnut, lettuce and then the superb noon Chai (salt tea). The paper machete wall and the superb collection of tea pots, Kettle and numerous photos hung on the wall were a real treat.

Only later did I realise that time spent in the valley around the mountain can be even more rewarding. The allure here is the tremendous variety of terrain, which makes for fascinating travel.

The 360-degree view of the mountain, under changing light, is reason enough to come. The cathedral-like ancient forests of tall trees, the expanses of lovely alpine meadows, the Himalayan mountain ranges and the all combine for a landscape unique in every respect.

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