It is said that once God imagined a place filled with natural beauty, a place where people would be so humble and warm that one feels at home and Kashmir happened. Kun Faya Kun.
From time unmemorable, Kashmir has been a place of attraction for its pure, virgin beauty. For ancient Rishis and holy men, Kashmir has been a place of choice for meditation. Some even claim that Jesus Christ preferred to get himself buried in this land.
Kashmir is one of the most photographed places on Earth, its architecture, its beautiful people, flora-fauna and landscape presents innumerable panoramas to both amateur and seasoned photographers. As per eminent historian Chitralekha Zutshi, landscape photography in Kashmir reached its technical height at least a decade before it attained the same levels in other parts of the world. Kashmir, with its snow clad mountains touching the heavens, roaring waterfalls of Aharbal, calm banks of Vitasta, presents a variety of natural beauty one can imagine.
Once Kashyapa Meru, Kashmir is now a cradle of Indian civilization. It lies on the cross road of South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia and Tibet-China. The ancient sites of Kashmir ranging from Gigantic Martand Temple of Anantnag in South to Kheer Bhavani of Kupwara in North and Sharda Temple, now under illegal occupation of Pakistan, present a strong historical base for itself. Unfortunately, the mainstream photography enthusiasts are not aware of such architectural wonders. Sitting on the banks of mesmerizing Dal Lake in Central Kashmir, one can’t take his eyes off the iconic white dome of Hazrat-Bal Mosque which has its own footprints in Kashmiri history. Dusk and dawn, Hazrat-Bal looks enthrallingly out of world. The rising sun presents perfect light and sight for photographers to click memories of a lifetime. One more historical monument visible from most parts of Srinagar is Shankaracharya Temple. This is a more than 4000 year old, completely rock carved structure, still standing dauntingly in its full splendor. One can’t turn his gaze from arts and crafts of Kashmiri. The famous wooden architecture of Kashmir is incredible in itself. The art of Naqashi and Khatamband introduced by Persians and Central Asians automatically attract photographers to save the memories of Kashmir. The well-known rugs and carpets of Kashmir has been documented since time immemorial in medieval Moghul paintings and contemporary photography.
Certainly, Kashmir is a multi-faceted marvel of natural beauty. Every district and tehsil of Kashmir is unique in itself and provide photographers unmatched frame to capture. Gulmarg and Dal Lake have been in mainstream media for a long period, rightly captured in numerous films, documentaries and photographs. There are numerous untouched and equally beautiful places though. From Lidder valley in Anantnag to Lolab Valley in Kupwara, every place has its own charm. Tulip Garden covering a vast area in Srinagar is one of its kind in India. The garden is house to many dazzling and colorful Tulips, once considered a specialty of Europe. Other garden of Kashmir, namely Nishat, Shalimar, Moghul, Verinag Gardens, dispersed across Kashmir is testimony to the Islamic concept of paradise and Persian gardening that “Heaven can be imitated to its near perfection on Earth”. These gardens serve as treats to horticulture enthusiasts and lovers of “Symmetric Photography”.
Crystal clear glacier fed streams of Kashmir make numerous waterfalls of differing sizes. Such places are mesmerizing sites, aptly suited for natural photography. Kashmiri highlands and mountains are home to mysterious turquoise lakes, though Oligotrophic, but full of energy. These places are ideal for Star Gazing and Astral Photography, where night is dark with zero light pollution and clear sky. Not only Dal but Gangabal, Vishansar, Nundkol lakes are worth a mention.
Kashmir valley has numerous Natural Parks which are nothing short of hidden gems. Kazinag National Park, Hemis National Park are home to unique creatures like Markhors and Snow leopards. For natural and wildlife photographers these national parks provide incredible opportunities to capture rarest of rare animal species. Salim Ali National Park in Srinagar, bordering the soothing Dal, provides mangrove habitat to several endangered animals, birds. This is another place of interest for birdwatchers and bird photographers alike.
Nothing about Kashmir finishes without cuisine of Kashmir! Kashmiri Cuisine is indeed special and an indulgence for food photographers.
Culinary day starts with morning Harissa and ends with rich locally made Wazwan, a cup of Kahwa or Pink Noon Chai on a chilly morning astride Dal Lake could get a poet lost in thoughts.
Kashmir has always been paradise for photographers since decades. British India’s famed photographers regularly published clicks of Kashmir in British Journal of Photography. With the insurgency, terrorism and disturbances it brought along, Kashmir was about to become a case of “Lost Paradise”.
However, with the situation drastically improving in the last few years, it is encouraging to see an increasing number of young photographers venturing around. There is surely hope that “The Paradise” will slowly regain its charm. Amidst COVID 19 restrictions and much hyped abrogation of article 370 in valley, a flood of top social media digital creators, photographers, cinematographers toured Kashmir soaked in bright amber palette of autumn. This November 2020, the instagram was aerating the beauty of Kashmir for many wedding destination planners; becoming the favourite wedding photography backdrop for love doves.
Habba Khatoon has rightly written about Kashmir …
Lajy phulai kwola saran
vwothoo neeryan khasavo
phojy yosman anda vanan
Come, let us ascend these meadows nowHabba Khaton
The lilac blooms in distant woods