Srinagar, the summer seat of the government of the state of Jammu and Kashmir has long been one of Indiaâs most popular tourist destinations.
In part, this has had to do with the multi-layered character of the city and its several attractions.
And in part, this is because Srinagar serves as the base for the numerous places of interest and immense natural beauty that lie within Kashmir â and for most places, this remains the access point.
Up to Indiaâs Independence in 1947, only the cream of the country traveled and holidayed in Kashmir.
Then, within a few short years, there was a boom in tourism and this soon became the backbone of Srinagarâs economy and thousands of visitors thronged to the valley of which the Mughal Emperor, Jehangir is said to have remarked in the seventeenth century, "Agar Firdaus
bar rue zameen ast, Hamin ast-o, hamin ast-o, hamin ast" - If there is a Paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.
Srinagar is built on both sides of the river, Jhelum.
The old city has quite a different character to the wide spaces of the parks and boulevards and gives expression to the phrase âcheek by jowlâ; this part of the city with narrow streets and houses of exposed brick and elaborate timberwork â which includes half a dozen old bridges â is also the area where many craftsmen live and work; this includes most, if not all of the cityâs copper workers.
Srinagar, which lies in a valley, changes its character with every season.
It gets snow-laden winds coming down from the hills fairly early in winter.
The lakes practically freeze over and yet, some of the iconic houseboats tethered to the icy banks still function.
The famous chinar trees and boulevards lined by poplars are stripped clean of their leaves and before rain and snow firmly hush them, they make for a remarkably noisy carpet that rustles and crunches at every step.
The inner architecture and scaffolding of these magnificent trees now comes up for display with proud trunks and wiry branches.
People move about with 'kangris' with clay bowls and frames of wicker, that hold smoldering bits of charcoal under heavy 'phirans', warm long tunics.
In summer, Srinagar gets fairly hot and temperatures can touch 38 degrees Celsius.
The numerous parks become the venue for evening promenades.