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 nicknamed 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, about 15.5 kilometres (9.6 mt), 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.
The lake covers an area of 18 square kilometres (6.9 sq mt) and is part of a natural wetland which covers 21.1 square kilometres (8.1 sq mt), 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. At present, the Dal Lake and its Mughal gardens, Shalimar Bagh and the Nishat Bagh on its periphery are undergoing intensive restoration measures to fully address the serious eutrophication problems experienced by the lake.
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 Srinigar. 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, the famous Kashmir houseboat and the shikara (boat) called the Gandola of Kashmir.
- Nagin Lake, Nagin Lake, though sometimes referred to as a separate lake, is actually part of Dal Lake, being linked through a causeway which permits only bikers and walkers to enter the lake precincts. The caseway carries the water supply pipeline to the Srinagar city in the east. The lake is bounded by the Shankaracharya hill (Takht-e-Suleiman) on the south and Hari Parbat on the west and is located at the foot of the Zabarwan hills. Willow and poplar trees flank the edges of the lake.
- Chashme Shahi, Chashme Shahi, meaning "Royal Spring", is a fresh water spring and garden known for its medicinal properties. Its source located above the Nehru Memorial Park. It is the smallest of all the Mughal gardens in Srinagar, measuring 108 metres (354 ft) x 38 metres (125 ft) and it has three terraces, an aqueduct, waterfalls and fountains. Ali Mardan Khan built the garden in 1632, and is built in a such a way that the spring water is the source of fountains. From the fountains, water flows along the floor of the pavilion and cascades to a lower terrace over a drop of 5 metres (16 ft) along a polished black stone chute. A small shrine, known as the Chasma Sahibi, is located in the vicinity of the gardens and has a fresh water spring.
- Shankaracharya Temple, The sacred Shankaracharya temple, also known as Jyeshteswara, occupies the top of the hills (about 1,000 feet (300 m) above the surrounding Takht-I-Sulaiman plains in the south-east of Srinagar. The site, initially named Gopadri, dates back to 250 BC as a Buddhist monument, probably built by Emperor Ashoka's son Jhaloka. In the 7th century it was replaced by the present temple by King Lalitaditya. The philosopher Shankaracharya is documented as having stayed at this place when he visited Kashmir ten centuries ago to revive Sanātana Dharma.
Dal Lake lies in heart of the Srinagar city and is well connected by road and air links. The nearest airport, which connects with other major cities in the country, is about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) away at Badgam
. The nearest railway station is 300 kilometres (190 mi) away at Jammu. The National Highway NH1A connects the Kashmir Valley
with rest of the country. Shikaras provide a water taxi service available to see the sights in the Dal Lake and to approach the houseboats moored on the lake periphery.