KASHMIR is a land of unmatched beauty, culture, landscapes, literature and with a long yet noteworthy history of Greeks, Mughals, Buddhists, Hindus and the British. It is needless to say that Kashmir, popularly referred to as ‘Paradise on Earth’, is a majestic intersection of the most becoming heritages.
Tourism is one of the main focus and source of earning for the people of this state, situated in the north of India. Wanderlust and adventure seeking people can easily be spotted here, either enjoying a trek in the ice-clad mountains, enjoying a stay in the famous Dal lake boat houses, or shopping for the famous Pashmina shawls.
However, one beautiful aspect of Kashmir tourism is the heritage walks of Srinagar, which are planned and designed for those that take great interest in the culture, monuments and true glimpses of the life of the locals.
The state’s tourism sector has carefully designed different types of heritage walks to suit the tastes of all kinds of tourists. They are walks such as Sheher–e-Khaas,
Lal Chowk, Mughal, Pilgrim’s walk and the Crafts walk. There are certain common spots and activities that are present in every kind of heritage walk because they are pristine and important if one must know about the culture and daily life of the inhabitants of the city.
THE GREAT MOSQUE
Most walks begin with the local guides introducing you to the great mosque in Nowhatta or the Jamia Masjid. It is a 14th century edifice which transitioned from a Buddhist place of worship to an Islamic mosque, and now serves as the main place for praying for the locals.
It has a fusion of Kashmiri style of architecture along with the roofs still retaining the ethnic Buddhist elements. The mosque is also famously built with 370 pillars – all of them logs of Chinar trees. It has a calm and enlightening vibe to it and invoke much amazement from visiting tourists.
The way here also consists of the 17th century shrine, or Ziyarat that is dedicated to Khawaja Syed Bha-u-Deen
Naqsaband, who is the founder of the Sufi order of Islam. Also amazing the folks is the shrine of RozaBal, dedicated to YouzaAsouph. The simple shrine is believed by one Islamic sect, and many scholars, to be the grave of Jesus Christ, who they say, survived crucifixion and came to Kashmir in search of the lost tribes of Israel.
Next, as a treat for the soul, come the narrow streets of the old city of Zaina Kadal, filled with the aroma of spices, the sounds of weavers working on their masterpieces, the sight of minarets and the colourful garments adorned by the men and womenfolk.
A quick visit here will familiarise the tourists with the true meaning of ‘Kashmiriyat’. It is the most prominent examples of Islamic architectural styles of Kashmir from the 14th to 17th century and can be seen alongside over 100-year-old vernacular houses. A haven for spices and dry fruits, copper crafts and tilla embroidery for guests to browse, most walks end here.
The ‘Craft walks’ lets you watch master craftsmen at work, creating delicate art like papier-mache and Pashmina shawls. One can get a vague idea of the production process, raw materials and techniques involved in each craft followed by discussions led by craft experts.
There is no place untouched here and every corner either amazes you or proves to be a treat for your eyes. Like the huge old 14th century ‘Badshah tomb,’ which was originally built by the ‘meritorious’ Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, for his mother Queen Miran, or the exquisite wooden Khanqah-i-Moulla, that is a prayer hall dedicated to the Persian ruler, Shāh-e-Hamadā – everything is just majestic.
The heritage and livelihood of Srinagar consisting of its monuments, its trade, its cultural vibrancy, all revolve around the river Jhelum which is prominent throughout Srinagar.
If you plan on a trip to Jammu and Kashmir, do take out some time from the adventure activities and the shopping and go explore the magnificent roots of Srinagar.