Living on water is traditional in Kashmir and one of the simple joys of living life in an imaginative way. In the peaceful aquatic surroundings, there are fantastic sights galore take for example, reflections of the horizon intercepted by the shining moonshine over the surface of the water, facing a fragrant breeze. Shikaras (Decorated canoes lining the lakes in Kashmir valley) fetch a delightful scene of floating gardens dotted by smiling lotus and blooming lilies, wherein the calmness or clearness of backwater, multi-species of colorful fishes, recite rhymes to the glory of the Creator. I was very lucky to realize my imagination of living in such a glory, into reality for 5 days. In these five days, I realised my dream of staying as close to nature as possible.
The credit for initiating the trend of living in a houseboat in Kashmir goes to the British residents who were prohibited to own land by the Maharaja of Kashmir. As a result, they built their residences on water. Today, it is more than just a house on the lake. Almost all the major rivers and lakes in Kashmir offer houseboat cruises to the people. These houseboats can also be used for Shikara rides (simply wandering in the lake), or sunbathing on the top-deck. These have made people’s fantasy of living on the water come true. Facing the majestic Himalayas and offering the pleasant sounds of rolling waters.
This lifestyle was very calm & delicate for me, and transported me very far from my really world. I was completely lost in the fairy tales which my grandmother used to narrate to us in the childhood. Let me take a long breath because without realizing I was holding my breath remembering those five days. Take my word that experiencing the stunning beauty of these houseboats and the natural surroundings on ‘Dal’ Lake, ‘Nagin’ Lake and ‘Jhelum’ River is not an experience you will forget in a hurry. These houses also have charm of relative antiquity. Houseboats as old as 50 years can also be seen in Kashmir.
Generally you will find two or more bedrooms n a houseboat with attached bathroom, common eating-place and a balcony. The interiors are decorated in typical Kashmiri style with vibrant colors and art usually comprising carved wood panels and rich carpeting in ‘Persian’ style. While living in a large houseboat you can travel on highways of water through beautiful rides on Shikaras; visiting ‘Nehru park’, ‘Kabutur Khana’, ‘Charchinari’, ‘Floating Island’s and typical vegetable farmer villages on the ‘Dal’ lake. Nishat and Shalimar gardens as well as Hazratbal mosque are directly accessible by ‘Shikara’. The canals crisscrossing the valley are also spectacular and can now be easily explored through a canal ride in a motorboat run by ‘Kashmir’ Tourism.
My ride to ‘Char Chinar’ fetches a special memory. The four ‘Chinar’ (Kashmir Maple) trees are situated at center of ‘Dal’ Lake which seems you that four people are standing & waiting for your welcome with full hands of leaves. This made me feel so welcome that I was filled with a pristine joy, while wandering on the lake. I was surrounded with lots of fishes and swan birds, hunting on the floating gardens and lotus flowers. My evening stroll walk on water was also decorated by Mountain View from majestic cliffs surrounding the valley.
At nights when I feel a cold, I take a blanket and sit on chair in the balcony to just have a little chat with all my friends in ‘Kashmir, the people, the Chinars, the boats and the lakes which made my five days a fantasy brought from heaven. Just a stay in a houseboat in Kashmir will take gives you a piece of heaven in your hand and fills a void somewhere deep within the soul.