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  noun    INDIAN
         a light, flat bottomed wooden boat. Used for multiple purposes, including transportation of people.

Srinagar – Northern India

City of Prosperity

As the largest city and summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, known for its gardens, waterfronts, and houseboats, Srinagar has also been called the Venice of the East. The name Srinagar originates from two Sanskrit words: Sri, a name for the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, meaning glory or prosperity, and Nagar meaning city. This then translates into the City of Prosperity.

Part of the floating market, a merchant paddles in good: colourful clay vases offering beautiful flowers. White and gold daisies and fiery marigold sit in the forefront of the frame, with violet, indigo, and fuchsia pockets of colourful petals poking through their delicate counterparts.

The region of Kashmir is also known for its political unrest, as it is divided between three large opposing forces – India, Pakistan, and China – in a territorial dispute. The timing of my visit coincided with the beginning of what they called the worst unrest Kashmir has seen since 2010. Tensions were high and curfews forbade people from going downtown, unless that is where they lived. Luckily we were staying on the shores of Dal Lake, outside of the city’s core.

On a sea of floating lily pads sits a lone woman cultivating the floating flower's pink roots. Her boat, barely noticeable through the green lily pads. She meets the camera's eye in a candid upwards gaze.
During the months of July-August, the lotus flowers covering the lake start blossoming. Women paddle on the still waters early in the morning to harvest their fruit pods, which they then sell at the market or use to feed cattle.

Srinagar’s Floating Vegetable Markets

Not only is it the only floating market in India, it is one of only two markets of its kind worldwide. The other one is situated along the backwaters of the Mekong Delta, in Vietnam. In Srinagar, the floating vegetable markets take place every morning at dawn, between the hours of 5am-7am. The exchange occurs on Dal Lake, which is also where all the produce sold is sourced from. The vegetables are grown on the floating gardens, known as Rad in Kashmiri.

A man, perched at the end of his shikara, looks back at the camera. Between the two, heaps of fresh green vegetables wait to be traded.

If you are like me, and like to take in your new surroundings through social interaction and watching social interactions, I would highly recommend you visit the floating vegetable markets of Srinagar. This unique market is a beautiful display of hidden gems and early mornings that are worthwhile. Someone once told me that if you want to truly experience and get to know a new area, one of the most telling places to visit is local markets. Obviously, it won’t explain things to you the way a museum would, rather it shows you local customs through the exchange of goods, the way people communicate, and the types of goods that are exchanged. Here, you will learn so much more about local customs.

Men have paddled their shikaras together, and are exchanging vegetables. In the foreground, one older gentleman is weighing pink eggplants on a traditional scale.
Fresh colourful produce is measured by weight and exchanged.

In order to catch these markets, I had to wake up at 4am. While waking up with the sun was always a struggle, the gentle lull of the lake made this early morning surprisingly bearable, dare I say pleasant. We quietly paddled through Dal Lake, which offered this calm and serene atmosphere. Sitting comfortably in the colourful pillows padding the shikara’s floors, I was sipping sweet Kashmiri tea and watching the sun rise on the beautiful backdrop that is the tall Zabarwan mountain range. Every morning at dawn, these men come exchange their freshly picked vegetables – there truly isn’t anything quite like it.

Pros: Unique, breathtaking, and beautiful.
Cons: Waking up at 4am

One Comment on “Shikara”

  1. Beautiful pictures! They capture really well the quietness of the lake and then social interaction you mentionned in your article.:)

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