About this blog: The floating vegetable market Srinagar is one of the major attractions in Dal Lake. Read this blog to know about the market and our experience there.
Dal Lake in Srinagar is a world of its own. I am not speaking about the houseboats where we travellers and tourists stay for a few days and experience the Kashmiri hospitality. The lake spread across 22 square kilometers is full of life and spirit. One of the major attractions in Dal Lake is the Floating Vegetable market. I knew about the floating markets in Bangkok. But I had little inkling about our very own floating vegetable market in Srinagar until before I had planned to visit Kashmir.
Dal Lake is particularly mesmerizing. The lake is definitely one of the major attractions of Srinagar and I had no idea about its vastness before I was there. On the clear waters of the vast lake, you can see the reflections of the Pir Panjal ranges. The entire scenery is just gorgeous.
Floating Vegetable Market Srinagar
The Floating Vegetable market Srinagar is a completely unorganized market. Here individual sellers gather in the middle of the lake at the crack of dawn to sell their produce. Most of the produce sold here is grown in the floating gardens of Dal Lake.
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The rich ecosystem of the lake produces a variety of vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, water chestnuts and the famous nadru or the lotus stems which is a delicacy in Kashmiri cuisine. We also saw other vegetables like aubergines, carrots, radishes, turnips and various types of fruits. There are also people selling flowers. But I think the flowers are mainly for the tourists.
We heard that the floating vegetable market in Srinagar is the second largest wholesale floating market in the world, right after the floating market in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. It is also one of the few markets in India where the barter system is still carried out.
This floating vegetable market first gained international prominence when a Japanese photographer featured it in a tourist guide in Japan in 1960.
Shops on Boats
Well, there are no permanent shops on the lake. The local traders conduct their business in their small shikaras or boats. They bring their produce to this sabji bazar (vegetable market) early in dawn, sit in front of their small boats and go on about their business. The market mainly focuses on wholesale transactions.
There is a rush of sellers and vendors early in the morning and by the time it is 7 AM, the traders have already conducted their business for the day and leave. That part of Dal Lake again becomes quiet as if the cacophonic market was never there. The vegetables left after the selling is done are usually sent to the local street markets.
Floating Vegetable Market Srinagar in Visuals – A Cinematic Film
Our Experience at Floating Vegetable Market Srinagar
So if you want to witness this amazing exchange of vegetables, you have to get up really early. And the best way to experience the morning vegetable market in Srinagar Dal Lake is by taking a leisurely Shikara ride. If you are visiting Kashmir, you will definitely want to experience a stay at the houseboats. Arrange with the houseboat for a visit to the vegetable market.
We had quite an exciting day at Doodhpathri (where we lost our drone) and wanted a relatively peaceful next day. So we opted to visit the floating vegetable market the next morning and then take a shikara ride on Dal Lake.
Life on Dal Lake
We got up at 5 AM and were already on the Shikara by 5:20 AM. It was dark and cold. The Shikara moved at a leisurely pace through the channels of Dal Lake. I was shivering in the cold when our Shikara owner gave us a cup of Kashmiri Kahwa (a type of Kashmiri tea).
We saw the houseboats, a few shops as we cruised through the lake towards the vegetable market. As we moved further, the sky gradually started turning yellow. We also saw the Kashmiri houses opening up to the lake. These are the houses of Dal Lake. Only shikaras reach these houses. There are schools, medical centres located deep inside the lake. It was the life of Dal Lake. And it was beautiful!
The Floating Market
When we reached the floating vegetable market, the market was already in full swing. The sun was peeking in the horizon and we could see darkness give way to light. There were sounds of different kinds. That small area in the lake was totally abuzz with activity. People were buying and selling their goods and exchanging money. It also seemed that they were sharing their daily life with each other.
And in the middle of the market, there were a few boats selling Kashmiri flowers. There was another boat selling hot Kahwa. It was a busy market, something that I had seen at Mullick Ghat Flower Market in Kolkata.
As we were enjoying the sights and sound, some of the Kashmiri locals started a conversation with us. They were mainly intrigued with our camera. We heard that the market on that day was quite small. Infact, because of the pandemic situation, many traders were not coming to the market and there were fewer boats. But what we witnessed was quite enough to make us happy.
There is a rickety wooden bridge in the market area. It is a place from where you get a vantage position to take photographs of the boats and the people. We stayed there for some time. It was almost 6:45 and the sun was up. It seemed all the selling, buying and haggling was over for the day. The boats started moving away. We did not even realize how the time had passed. It seemed all too soon.
The Floating vegetable market Srinagar is the social fabric of Dal Lake. You will experience the life on Dal Lake, the life of the local people as you spend some time in this incredible market. It is an adventure in itself.
Shikara Ride in Dal Lake
After our visit to the floating vegetable market in Srinagar, we took a leisurely ride of the Shikara along the beautiful Dal Lake. There are a number of attractions on the lake itself.
The first place we visited was the Char Chinar. The Char Chinar is an iconic point in Dal Lake. Char Chinar is a small island on the Dal Lake also known as Char-Chinari or the Rupa Lank (Silver Island). The specialty of the place is the presence of four Chinar trees at four corners of the island. Unfortunately, the chinar trees are no longer as majestic as they used to be. Infact, three of the four trees are showing signs of drying up.
Nevertheless, it is a beautiful place. A few Bollywood films have also been shot at this island.
Murad Baksh, brother of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, constructed the Rupa Lank. There is another Char Chinar island known as the Sona Lank (Golden Island) located near the Hazratbal shrine.
Markets & Others
After visiting Char Chinar, we cruised around Dal Lake. Our Shikara owner took us to see the floating gardens where the vegetables are grown and the Maharaja palace (which has now been converted to an army camp). The palace was used as a leisure stay for the Maharaja of Kashmir.
We also went to the Meena Bazar, which is essentially a cluster of shops selling Kashmiri shawls, sarees, dress materials and handicrafts. There was also a handicraft market, which was closed. Our ever jovial Shikara owner also showed us the places where the song “Taarif karu kya uski” and songs from the movie Mission Kashmir were shot.
Let me tell you one thing – while you are on the Shikara ride, many boats will come near your shikara to sell handicrafts, gift items, jewellery and trinkets. If you want, you can buy from them. You can get a few good things at a cheap price. We bought a few gift items to bring back home. But I would suggest you not buy saffron from these sellers.
After a shikara ride of almost 3 hours, we were back to our houseboat. It was a lovely day and was well spent. The experience was something that we would always remember. We witnessed the beauty of Kashmir and the warmth of the Kashmiris all in such a small time. So while you are in Kashmir, go for a Shikara ride at Dal Lake. It is a unique experience.
Another good time to go for the Shikara ride is during the sunset. You can visit the Char Chinar, Meena Bazar, floating gardens and other attractions.
The Floating Market of Srinagar is quite a sensory experience. We loved this experience. Would you want to wake up early to visit the Floating market? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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