Dal Lake is a lake in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The urban lake, which is the second largest in the state, is integral to tourism and recreation in Kashmir and is named the "Jewel in the crown of Kashmir" or "Srinagar's Jewel". The lake is also an important source for commercial operations in fishing and water plant harvesting.
The shore line of the lake, is about 15.5 kilometres (9.6 mi), is encompassed by a boulevard lined with Mughal era gardens, parks, houseboats and hotels. Scenic views of the lake can be witnessed from the shore line Mughal gardens, such as Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and from houseboats cruising along the lake in the colourful shikaras. During the winter season, the temperature sometimes reaches −11 °C (12 °F), freezing the lake.
The lake covers an area of 18 square kilometres (6.9 sq mi) and is part of a natural wetland which covers 21.1 square kilometres (8.1 sq mi), including its floating gardens. The floating gardens, known as "Rad" in Kashmiri, blossom with lotus flowers during July and August. The wetland is divided by causeways into four basins; Gagribal, Lokut Dal, Bod Dal and Nagin (although Nagin is also considered as an independent lake). Lokut-dal and Bod-dal each have an island in the centre, known as Rup Lank (or Char Chinari) and Sona Lank respectively.
Dal lake is mentioned as Mahasarit in ancient Sanskrit texts. Ancient history records mention that a village named Isabar to the east of Dal Lake was the residence of goddess Durga. This place was known as Sureshwari on the bank of the lake, which was sourced by a spring called the Satadhara.
During the Mughal period, the Mughal rulers of India designated Kashmir, Srinagar in particular, as their summer resort. They developed the precincts of the Dal lake in Srinagar with sprawling Mughal-type gardens and pavilions as pleasure resorts to enjoy the salubrious cool climate. After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, which led to the disintegration of the Mughal Empire, Pashtun tribes in the area around the lake and city increased, and the Durrani Empire ruled the city for several decades. In 1814 a significant part of the Kashmir valley, including Srinagar, was annexed by Raja Ranjit Singh to his kingdom, and the Sikhs grew in influence in the region for 27 years.
The lake is located within a catchment area covering 316 square kilometres (122 sq mi) in the Zabarwan mountain valley, in the foothills of the Zabarwan Range, which surrounds it on three sides. The lake, which lies to the east and north of Srinagar city covers an area of 18 square kilometres (6.9 sq mi), although including the floating gardens of lotus blooms, it is 21.2 square kilometres (8.2 sq mi) (an estimated figure of 22–24 square kilometres (8.5–9.3 sq mi) is also mentioned). The main basin draining the lake is a complex of five interconnected basins with causeways; the Nehru Park basin, the Nishat basin, the Hazratbal basin, the Nagin basin and the Barari Nambad basin. Navigational channels provide the transportation links to all the five basins.
The average elevation of the lake is 1,583 metres (5,194 ft). The depth of water varies from 6 metres (20 ft) at its deepest in Nagin lake to 2.5 metres (8.2 ft), the shallowest at Gagribal. The depth ratio between the maximum and minimum depths varies with the season between 0.29 and 0.25, which is interpreted as flat bed slope. The length of the lake is 7.44 kilometres (4.62 mi) with a width of 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi). The lake has e basin hava shore length of 15.5 kilometres (9.6 mi) and roads run all along the periphery. Irreversible changes through urbanThe lake is located within a catchment area covering 316 square kilometres (122 sq mi) in the Zabarwan mountain vaplaced further restrictions on the flow of the lake and as a result, marshy lands have emerged on the peripheral zones, notably in the foothill areas of the Shankaracharya and Zaharbwan hills. These marshy lands have since been reclaimed and converted into large residential complexes.
Uses and attractions
The lake is popular as a visitor attraction and a summer resort. Fisheries and the harvesting of food and fodder plants are also important on Dal Lake. Weeds from the lake are extracted and converted into compost for the gardens. It also serves as a flood lung of the Jhelum River. Swimming, boating, snow skiing (particularly when the lake is frozen during the severe winter), and canoeing are amongst some of the water sports activities practised on the lake.
The lake has numerous sites and places of interest, many of which are important to the cultural heritage of Srinagar. Aside from the Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh, some of the other places frequented by tourists are the Shankaracharya temple, the Hari Parbat, the Nagin Lake, the Chashme Shahi, the Hazratbal Shrine, and the Mazar-e-Shura cemetery containing the graves of famous Mughal-era poets. Visitors and native alike also enjoy relaxing on the water in a houseboat or a shikara boat, often called "the Gondola of Kashm