In Pictures: Trading On The Dal

Srinagar's picturesque Dal Lake is home to floating gardens where locals cultivate vegetables like collard greens, carrots, radishes, and turnips
In Pictures Trading On The Dal
In Pictures Trading On The Dal

Ringed by mountains, banks shadowed by poplars and willows, speckled by beds of lotus and lilies, adorned with houseboats, dotted by islets of floating gardens, decked by a floating vegetable market, drifted by iconic shikaras, and with the famous floating post office, is the soul of Kashmir&mdashthe Dal Lake. The word 'dal' in Kashmiri means 'lake'. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, stunning valleys, and chinar trees that turn golden-red in autumn, the tranquil Dal Lake has an unearthly beauty.

A Lifeline For Locals

The Dal Lake is also a source of livelihood for a population of over 60,000. Besides tourism and fishing, the lake's agriculture is one of the most important local industries.

Dal Lake resembles the 'Chinampas' of old Mexico. According to Pandit Srivara, the court chronicler, Zain&ndashul-Abidin (the eighth Sultan of Kashmir) had created the floating islands in the Dal Lake. A recent study indicates that these floating gardens constitute an area of 7.5 km2 within the lake. Known locally as 'raad', the gardens are typically 40 to 50 yards long. The raft-like gardens float, rising and falling with the lake. Interestingly, these gardens can be towed to a convenient location and moored by poles.

So how are they created A floating base is first prepared by weaving the weeds together. The weeds, locally known as pech (Typha angustata) and nargasa (Phragmites australis), grow wild in some parts of the lake. These weeds are laid on the water by one strip over another. With the constant layering of weeds for 30 days, the floating garden slowly solidifies, thus forming a floating mat above the lake's surface. Once the floating base is ready, seeds of different vegetables are cultivated.

Various vegetables, including cauliflower, carrots, pumpkins, cucumber, bottle guard, tomatoes, turnips, and red radish, are cultivated in the floating gardens for sale in the Srinagar market. Apart from these, the market's most famous crop is nadru (lotus stems), which grows underwater and is used in many Kashmiri dishes.

The Floating Market

The floating market starts as early as 4 am, and sellers and buyers visit the market in their narrow boats at dawn. By the time the sun rises, the market loses its buzz. The market is also a social scene where locals chat and exchange news. It is said that this bustling floating market on the Dal, which has been going on for over a century, keeps functioning even on curfew days when the city is closed.

Embed photo credits Niranjana KarthigaiRajan 

Cover photo credit Shutterstock

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