Shikara in Dal Lake

The shikar is a type of wooden boat found on Dal Lake and other water bodies of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, India. … Shikars are of varied sizes and are used for multiple purposes, including transportation of people. A usual shikar seats half-a-dozen people, with the driver paddling at the rear.

Wikipedia

The deodar crafted wood ranging from 25-40 feet in length, gliding on the waters of Dal Lake resembling the antiquity of their forefathers and a paradigm of the ‘Paradise on Earth’ are called Shikara Boats.

There is a respectable lineage to the semi-cute, semi-hilarious names of Srinagar’s houseboats; the early European boats were called HB Duke Wells, or New Buckingham Palace, in honour of the settler’s memories and sensibilities. How this led to our contemporary beauty bobbing on the Dal — New Soul Kiss —remains a matter of lively interest, though.

A Shikara is traditional Gondola type light rowing boat, mostly seen on the unsullied Dal Lake. It is one of the most incredible and relaxing aspects of a holiday in Kashmir and should be included in anyone’s itinerary if the surreal beauty of the valley has to be explored. Along with the houseboats, it is also considered to be a cultural symbol. But even apart from leisure and tourism purposes, the Shikara is used by the locals for seaweed harvesting, fishing and transportation. To watch these beautifully decorated boats glide serenely on the lake is a treat to the eyes and certainly a shadow of the culture of Kashmiris on the wall of time.

Famous places to enjoy a Shikara ride is the fabulous Dal Lake, with its gorgeous views and incredible surroundings. Few of them to count are – The Nehru Park, The island of Char Chinar, and a couple of hotels and restaurants located at its edges while enjoying a Shikara Ride. Nigeen Lake, although a part of Dal Lake, is great for enjoying a Shikara ride. It is much calmer, serene and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, and treats you to spell binding views of sunrise and sunset.

While riding on Shikara one can often observe white breasted Kingfishers, large striking birds with robust bills perched on the branches of willow trees. These birds concentrate their efforts to hunting on the floating gardens. These man-made islands in middle of lake comprise of reeds, willow rods, aquatic vegetation and are held together with humus consisting of mud from the lake bottom. This is extremely fertile for vegetation, besides provisioning feast to Kingfishers in form of frogs, grasshoppers and other insects.

Lotus Garden in Dal Lake

How soothing it feels to let your fingers glide through the chill waters of the Dal Lake, while chatting with family on a Shikara boat. Surrounded by a variety of deciduous trees that promise a colourful show in their fall season, the weather in Kashmir is an experience of its own. The sun rises at five in the morning and sets at nearly eight at night, giving its tourists enough time to enjoy the valley, the people and the cuisine. It is very rightly said, “If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here in Kashmir”.

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