Steeped in tradition and set in one of the most dramatic locations in India, with majestic mountains pressing in on three sides, SRINAGAR is the summer administrative capital of J&K. All too often associated with strife in recent times, this city of almost a million inhabitants is most famous with tourists for the houseboats that line the fringes of Dal Lake and Nageen Lake, as well as the central section of the Jhelum River, a tributary of the Indus. Dal lake is usually as flat as a mirror and incredibly photogenic, with the surrounding peaks reflected in the greenish-blue waters.
The town has some other splendid attractions, which in recent years have once again been opened to visitors after long periods of being off-limits. Chief among these are two of the most venerated mosques, Jami Masjid, deep in the heart of the atmospheric Old City, and the lakeside Hazratbal. Another important Islamic place of worship is the Sufi shrine of Makhdoom Sahib, halfway up to the inaccessible fort.
Srinagar, like the rest of Kashmir, is predominantly Muslim, even more so since the advent of serious trouble in 1990, when almost all the Hindu Pandits were driven out – though this region was known for centuries for its religious tolerance, where adherents of all the major eastern faiths lived side by side. The most important Hindu temple is the Shankaracharya Mandir, atop a hill overlooking Dal Lake.
The bustling centre of Srinagar, which revolves around the two main thoroughfares of Residency Road and MA Road, is not particularly appealing, although the bazaar area of Lal Chowk at the western end of these streets holds more interest. Of the city’s secular sights, options include the engaging Sri Pratap Singh Museum and the Mughal pleasure gardens that surround the lake, such as Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh.