|| Kashmir is a happy combination of the
mighty splendor of mountains, of lovely glades and forests. The river Jhelum
meanders its steady course through corn-fields into the heart of the Srinagar
city and, onwards, till it rushes headlong through the frowning gorges, and
dashing against boulders joins the Arabian Sea through the plains of Punjab. The
onlooker will find nature wild and vibrant wherever he may go in the country.
The mountains lend unique charm to the land and in this aspect of its natural
beauty, Kashmir even excels the much-adored Switzerland. To a traveler hailing
from the plains or other parts of India and the world, familiar with the routes
leading into Kashmir, the whole sweep of towering ranges opens up before his
eyes when he steps up the Pir Panchal whose peaks rise over 15,000 feet on the
South-West of the country. The natural surroundings of Kashmir unfold themselves
on the journey both through the Banihal and the Jhelum Valley roads. Here he
observes a sharp change of scene.
From Pir Panchal range further North, the
open grassy highlands of Tosa Maidan (14,000 ft. high) catch the eye. The
Pastures of this vast highland are the regular haunts of the cheerful, homely
shepherds who bring up their flocks for grazing. Further Northwest is the Kazi
Nag range – the home of the Markhor. It stands 12,125 feet high and is
snow-covered with slopes coated with dense forests. The towering peak of Nanga
Parbat (26, 620 ft. high) stands as a sentinel guarding, as it were, the Valley
on this side. It is an imposing sight. Far away from here are seen the Karakoram
ranges also known as Mustagh, with some of its peaks rising over 25,000 ft and
among them the World-famous K2 (over 28,000 ft.), the second highest in the
world, stands out boldly in its mountain glory. To the east of the valley stands
the noble, snow-clad peak of Haramukh (16,903 ft.) overlooking it.
The famous Gangabal lake of Haramukh is regarded as sacred by Kashmiri Hindus
to the same extent as Haridwar is held in India. Here also Saussurea Sacra grows
in plenty. Another remarkable peak in the east seen all over the city is Mahadev
(13,000 ft.). in Summer pilgrims climb this peak. On the lower sides of this
mountain, one comes across a herb Macrotomia Benthami in wild profusion. This
herb is well known as Kah zaban or Gaw Zaban. It is frequently prescribed by the
local physicians to ailing persons.
On the South of the Valley, the peaks of Amar Nath and Kolahoi springing from
the same massif are found prominent. Amar Nath stands 17, 321 feet high and
Kolahoi 17,800 feet.
Kolahoi is also known as Gwash Brari. At dawn the radiant rays of the sun fall
on this cone-like peak and the lurid glare of the dazzling snows is a sight.
Here and there on this range, one is attracted by wild graceful flowers, wild
roses, poppies, anemones and hosts of other unknown floral Shikaras on Dal Lake.
It is interesting to observe the colors these ranges richly display at certain
hours of the day. These are peculiar to Kashmir mountains and are aptly
described by Sir Walter Lawrence thus:
"It would be difficult to describe the colors which are seen on the Kashmir
mountains. In early morning they are often a delicate semi-transparent violet
relieved against a saffron sky, and with light vapor clinging round their
crests. Then the rising Sun deepens the shadows, and produces sharp outlines and
strong passages of purple and indigo in the deep ravines. Later on, it is nearly
all blue and lavender, with white snow peaks and ridges under a vertical sun,
and as the afternoon wears on, these become richer violet and pale bronze,
gradually changing to rose and pink with, yellow or orange snow, till the last
rays of the sun have gone, leaving the mountains dyed a ruddy crimson with the
snows showing a pale creamy by contrast."
For its fresh-water lakes and tarns, Kashmir is known all the world over. Those
lying in the valley against the charming mountain background are : the Wular
Lake, the Dal Lake and the Manasbal lake. The Wular is the largest fresh-water
lake in India and according to some, perhaps in Asia too. It is 121 miles long
and 5 miles broad. It lies to the north-cast of the valley with mountains
overlooking it. The Dal Lake lies on the suburbs of Srinagar in the east. It is
at the foot of the mountain range. The lake is 4 miles long and 11 miles broad.
Against Shikaras on Dal Lake, Srinagar Scenic View the mountain background which
is reflected in its calm expanse and enclosed by trees the lake looks superb. In
summer, it is a paradise for visitors who glide over its waters in shikaras and
houseboats. The Manasbal lake is the deepest lake in the country. Its
greenish-blue waters are wondrous and beautiful. Besides these lakes, which are
fed by the melting snows from the mountains, there are hosts of mountain tarns
form-glared by the glacial action and other phenomenal activities of range
nature. There are several glaciers on Haramoukh. On the South side they only
descend to about 13,500 ft., but alter the North 1,500 ft lower. They are fed by
the large snow fields on the summit, which are of great thickness. The snow
cliffs on the middle peak show a vertical thickness of nearly 200 feet. In there
seen all the surrounding valleys. There are lakelets varying in size from mere
ponds to sheets of water a mile or so in length and quarter a mile broad., most
of these occur at a height of 11,500 feet. There can be no doubt that they are
all due in some way to glacial action , and that they are not of very remote
age. Tydall points out that a glacier 900 feet deep would produce a vertical
pressure of 486, 000 lbs. upon every square inch of its bed. But the small
glacier on the shoulders gone, of such mountains as Haramoukh or Tutakuthi A
view evening view of Dal Lake
Coming down from Khardungla to Leh, the highest motorable road in the world
would not exceed 200 feet in thickness, and would not be capable of excavating
hard rocks beneath. So the numerous tarns and lakes may be own regarded as due
chiefly to the formation of embankments across line of drainage. Sometimes such
embankments may have been caused by the deposit of avalanche debris from a
slideslope or by the advance of a side glacier with its lateral moraines. The
lakes and lakelets found in upper valleys around Haramukh mountain are Gangabal,
Lool Gool and Sarbal. They are at an elevation of nearly12,000 feet above sea
level. The shimmering waters lend glory to the Gangabal Lake, which stands at an
elevation of 11,800 feet. To the South cast of the Pir Panchal range lies the
lake Konsar Nag (12,800 feet) surrounded by three peaks. Its is fed by glaciers.
It is said to be a source of the Jhelum. In the spring and summer, the water is
some 40-ft higher than in winter. In the spring, its surface is said to be
covered with icebergs, which are driven about by the wind.
In the Liddar Valley, large glaciers are observed. On the mountain range of
this Valley, the glaciers are found in Kolahoi. According to Dr. Neve " one
glacier is about five miles in length and comes down as low as 11,000 feet" From
here to the cast on the way to Amar Nath cave lies the famous Shesh Nag at an
elevation of 14,000 feet. Glaciers are prominent in this area.
Coming into the Valley proper, we find the frozen lake of Alapathar or Apharwat,
well over Khilanmarg. Flowers of rainbow colors are found in wild profusion
here. The mountain tarn stands at the height of about 12,500 feet. It is said to
be 500 yards long and 150 yards wide. The surroundings are austere and wild. It
is popular haunt of tourists.
The nearest tarn to the city is that of Harwan on the slopes of Mahadev Mountain
about a mile and a half further away from the Moghul garden –Shalimar. The
source of its fresh water is Tarsar, a lake on the Amar Nath Mountain. Harwan
looks beautiful in its sylvan surroundings. This tarn is the chief source of
water supply to the city.
Besides the above enumerated lakes and lakelets, there are scores of tarns and
glaciers found in the mountain ranges around the Gurais valley, Ladakh and
Kashmir is rich in forests. A variety of spruce, stately trees some of which are
towering masses, grow in them such as Blue Pine, silver Fir, Himalayan spruce,
Birch, Maple, Beech, Hazel, wild Oak. Almost all the mountains are coated with
dense forests, which, besides lending charm and healthful fragrance to the