Dal Lake Unveiled
By MooL Raj
Once again, I traversed over the majestic Harmukh, finding solace in its embrace. Dal Lake, an urban water haven, reveals a serene calmness in its interiors, transforming into a rural refuge. Often crowned as the “Jewel of Kashmir,” this lake, in its pursuit of tourism, sometimes overshadows the untapped benefits it offers to someone like me, a commoner seeking simplicity.
Residing amidst the expanse of Dal Lake, it took years for me to fathom that Dal possesses the remedy for a drowning heart. The lake, sprawling across 18 square kilometers, unfolds new realms each time I visit Kashmir. My sanctuary during these trips has been a houseboat, gracefully floating on the surface of Lake Dal. Its vastness, however, has proven elusive; not once have I reached a familiar shore.
Stepping onto the banks, resembling a sea shore, at the foothills of Shankar Acharya Hill, locals extend a welcome befitting a deity’s arrival. Such is the warmth and care embedded in the essence of Kashmir. Boarding a Shikara for the second leg of my journey, I venture into a realm where electronic companions become superfluous, and an undisturbed rest beckons.
I recall visiting a village where mobile network signals eluded my phone, yet within the fresh air, I found calmness, transported to another world. For the first time, Dal ceased to be just the heart of the city; it emerged as an undiscovered sanctuary beyond meadows, a secret forever undisclosed, untouched, and unexplored. The beautiful Dal, cradled in the arms of colossal mountains, painted a picture coveted by urban souls—eyes of the sky scanning its face, the shining Sun kissing its lips, and Dal’s dark eyes adorned with the collyrium of burning leaves.
We often anticipate weekends to escape to farmhouses for a taste of rural life. To my surprise, the interiors of Dal offered everything I sought. The grand residential houseboats, known as “dongas,” provided a unique way of life. Here, people don’t tread on paths but swim afar. Supermarkets were replaced by rustic tin sheds adorned with chips, candies, and a charming simplicity. The allure heightened with the velvet carpet of green lotus and chestnut leaves, illuminated by the radiant stars reflected on Dal’s surface, interspersed with water lilies.
Dal conceals a haven of hideouts, each ripple leading to a new world. This non-existent village, a mosaic of landscapes invisible to a casual eye, captivates with its awe-inspiring vistas. The city center transforms into my village, unveiling scenic wonders and an atmosphere that steals one’s heart.
As a columnist and freelance writer, I find solace in Dal’s embrace—a reminder that within the urban sprawl lies a tranquil haven waiting to be discovered. Beyond the clamor of tourism, Dal Lake stands as an invitation to explore, to delve into the untouched corners of Kashmir’s urban heart, and to witness the charm of a hidden village that exists only in the serenity of Dal’s waters.