A GONDOLA THROUGH THE INDIAN PARADISE…
I have always felt that one thing that is truly attractive about Indian culture, is its colors. Like every country has its own smell, every place in India, big or small, has its own unique color palette. Playing beautifully with the true essence of primary hues, of the most basic blues, yellow, red and greens, are still the numerous Shikara’s that stay lined for their turn – ‘a paradise ride found in the Dal lake of Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir.
Standing equal to the Venetian gondolas, they have long been a cultural symbol of Kashmir and today the very reason why most of the tourists flock to the lake, only to have their some exclusive time of this color filled ride.
For centuries the Shikara’s have been serving as the taxi boats of the Dal lake, uniquely crafted out of wood, with a canopy and a spade shaped bottom. Heavily cushioned with the most vibrantly printed tapestry, and made private with the flowing curtains by the sides, the ride is nothing less than a true Mughal style experience for the ferrying visitors, also used for the vending of fruits, vegetables and flowers and for the fishing and harvesting of aquatic vegetation. As Kashmir Tourism correctly puts it – ‘without a shikara ride in the Dal Lake, your Srinagar visit will never be complete.’
A true lively hood for the generations of boats men, fondly addressed as Hanjis, who have helped retain this very special way of life on the Dal lake, many claim to be the descendants of the Jewish patriarch, Noa, a part of history that states that Jewish tribes settled in this area long before the birth of Christ.
Almost fighting, waiting in a queue to get their turn of a customer at all hours, the shikara’s that sometime seem to crowd the lake, often become a fascinating subject for a lot of touring camera’s, owing to their rich color, simple yet creative sense of decorations, and how simply they seem to be waiting for attention…
While many Shikara’s date almost 100 or more years old, even the most ruined nature of these wooden boats have seemed to attract world wide popularity, providing relaxing sights of the floating gardens, which are either vegetables or laid with spreads of the mystic lotus flowers.
Not just another boat, but rich in culture, the Shikara’s are also little market places floating on water, that chase you till the time you stop and shop, but all on water. Rusted but still bright, chipped but still alive, the rides are a pass through the Paradise on Earth (Kashmir), that make you believe in a royal and calming way of life, and needless to say, a colorful way to survive.