Sports in Kashmir
two major natural advantages are its mountains on
the one hand, and lakes and rivers on the other.
These waterways enhance the beauty of the land and
are one of the chief sources that attract tourists
to its verdant valleys. But more than just a means
of pleasure, the water-ways are an activity
oriented way of discovering new leisure sports.
To those of
you who are by nature passive, there is little
more needed than a wining nod to a passing
shikara-wala before you are invited on board these
narrow boats with their sprung-cushion seats and
chintz curtains. You can command a shikara on the
Dal and Nagin lakes in Srinagar for just a
crossing, or for a whole day, and discover the tranquility
of being gently oared over water from
one scenic spot to another. You can also stretch
your time limit by actually staving aboard a
houseboat so you wake to the sound of soft waves
lapping beside your bedroom window.
on this can be the hiring of a motor boat so you
travel faster over water. Or better still, when
the summer days are balmy, go water skiing.
Interested enthusiasts can use the facilities of
the Watersports Institute at Nagin Lake.
river has remained the lifeline of Srinagar, and
there are people who live on the river in boats,
called doongas. These water-people claim to be
descendants of Noah. If you hire a slow boat from
them, you can actually visit old parts of Srinagar
where, because of narrow, winding roads, access
by taxi is almost impossible. The advantage of
going by boat is that you get to see numerous old
mosques and temples, as well as attractive houses,
that line the banks hut cannot be viewed or
photographed from land. Constructed of wood, and
with carved and latticed balconies and verandahs,
they are well maintained and preserve the ancient
heritage of Srinagar.
As you float
past the houseboats moored along the river front,
you also have the opportunity to observe the life
of the people of Kashmir. In succession, the
numerous bridges spanning the Jhelum pass by (and
at places are ferry services for local travel).
Srinagar city is located by the banks between Zero
Bridge and Chattabal where a meir controls the
water level on this stretch. A small lock on the
west bank allows the movement of boats up or down
stream. Once past Chattabal, the river changes
character as it widens and meanders past visages
in the valley. The river flows into the giant
Wular Lake but the journey is best terminated at
advantage of cruising by a low powered boat over a
shikara or a doonga is that a river-trip from
Anantnag to Manasbal is considerably shortened
over its three days, that photography is more
convenient, and that mooring at the place of your
choice is not restricted.
rivers, Indus and Lidder, are essentially mountain
streams and are suitable for white water rafting
on some stretches. The Indus in Ladakh, in
particular. has three portions that are ideal for
this sport Due to a low volume of water and a wide
river bed, it can be navigated only in pares.
Options offered are a half day run for amateurs
from Phey to Niemo, or a two day exciting run from
Phey to Alchi (day one) and Nurla (day two) with a
choice of going further to Khalsi. The Zanskar
River, also in Ladakh, can offer professionals six
days on rapids that begin at Padum and And through
the picturesque Zanskar valley. The best season is
the Lidder near Pahalgam has two short stretches
suitable for white water rafting, specially for
day trips. As the gradients are not steep, they
are excellent for first-timers being introduced to
this enthusing sport.
has many lakes - Dal, Nagin, Mansbal and Wular.
These are excellent spots for rowing - whether it
is a shikara or a racing skull. No OIIC has tried
canoeing in these lakes so far. These lakes are
inter-connect-ed as also the river Jhelum which
flows through the entire length of the valley and
connects with all the lakes. An interesting sport
is what is locally called 'Water Trekking'.
One can have a three to four day trip along the
river to various lakes in a shikara with all the
camping gear. There are lovely spots to camp for
The lakes are also famous
for water skiing. The Ski School of Gulmarg
organises ten day water ski courses in Dal and
Nagin lakes during the summer months. The courses
include boarding and lodging facilities.
As you pick up more
courage you can venture into the white waters.
Rafting is a very recent sport in Kashmir. Indus,
the river which gave India its name, offers two to
three day host stretches for rafting in the
vicinity of Len. However the most challenging and
enjoyable ride is on Zanskar: a five day trip from
Padam to its confluence with Indus at Nimu. One
has to pass through a narrow gorge where only a
streak of sky is visible for as long as two days.
The Zanskar ride can be combined with a week long
trek from Manali to Pa-dam.
White water canoeing has
extensive possibilities. Lidder, Sindh, Drass,
Suru, Indus, Zanskar, Chenab and for the less
adventurous, even the Jhelum river can present
interesting trips. The time to raft is either in
May/June or in September/October. Equipment is
available with some local agents.
No one has yet tried
diving in the lakes. It would be fun to discover
the legendary city which is believed to lie at the
bottom of Wular Lake. It is also said that
Manasbal lake has no bottom. The high altitude
lakes of Tarsar, Marsar, Kaunsarnag, Kishensar,
Vishensar and Gangabal could also be interesting
for canoeing, a sport that has still to catch on.