Take A Boat Ride To Go Veggie Shopping In Srinagar

The floating market at Dal lake is a must-have experience for tourists and is a paradise for photographers
Vegetable vendors greet each other at the Floating Market
Vegetable vendors greet each other at the Floating Market

The floating market, locally called Raad, on the Dal lake is a mix of matted vegetation and earth, and produces some superb veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers. With colourful produce being hawked on equally colourful shikaras, the early morning floating vegetable market on Srinagar's Dal Lake is a must-have experience for all tourists.

Early Morning Rush

Vegetable growers come with shikaras laden with leafy greens, water chestnuts, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and more, to sell to agents of shops on land. Given tourist interest in this, the market now also has a plethora of shikaras selling flowers, saffron, wood carving et al. Reach by about 5 in the morning and it's all over by 7-7.30 am.

It is an unorganized market where individual sellers gather in the center of the lake at the break of day and wrap up just as the sunlight touches the water.

The Floating Market on Dal is the second largest wholesale market in the world
The Floating Market on Dal is the second largest wholesale market in the worldWikimedia Commons

Barter System Still Prevails

Dal lake's Floating Market is one of the few places where the barter system is still practiced in India. Partially adopting the traditional exchange system with the local traders, it also accepts the modern currency system for tourists and vendors.  The locals here grow vegetables in small lands near the house. Every morning, they stock up their shikharas with their homegrowns and exchange them here. At the end of one hour, they all go back home with a mixed bag of vegetables.

Second Largest Wholesale Market

With an annual turnover of about Rs 35 crore, the Floating Market on Dal is the second largest wholesale market in the world, the first being Vietnam's Mekong Delta.

All the items that are sold on the boats are grown in the very same lake. The farmers and suppliers step out of their homes at 4 am and head towards the floating gardens to reap the harvest of the veggie. After that, all the vegetables are taken to the subzi mandi which is located in the center of the lake.

Centuries Old Market

Dal Lake covers an area of 18 sq kilometres and is a part of a natural wetland that covers 21.1 square kilometres. The Dal lake's origins can be traced back to the reign of Zain-ul-Abidin, Kashmir’s eighth ruler. The lake shot to limelight in 1960 when a photo taken by a Japanese photographer was published in a tourist guide, gaining worldwide recognition.  The lake water is clear and often the reflection of the snow covered mountains can be seen on the lake. 

Photographer's Delight

The market with its colourful fruits and vegetables, coupled with the natural beauty of the Dal lake, known as “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir”, is truly a photographer's delight. Capturing the early morning rush during dawn when nature is at its very best can result in some stunning pictures. Also, those looking for a traditional Kashmiri photoshoot can do so on one of the boats which have 'Kashmir Ki Kali' type set-ups complete with traditional attire and jewellery.

Meena Bazaar

Besides vegetables, some shikaras also sell handicrafts, saffron, wool dhurries, shawls, scarves, hats etc. Food items like Maggi, Kashmiri Kahwa or kebabs are also available during a shopping trip to the Dal lake.

Best Time To Visit

The best time to visit the Dal lake is from March to October when the weather is pleasant.

Unique Facilities

There is a floating Post Office on Dal Lake and now SBI has also opened a floating ATM on a houseboat on the Lake. A mobile recharge shop, medical store or even a barber's shop, the Dal lake shikaras have them all.

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