KASHMIR SCAN: NOVEMBER 2013:
Famous For: Mansabal Lake
How To Get There: Bus, Taxi from Srinagar
Nearby Places Of Interest: Sonamarg, Khirbhawani
Situated about 30 km from Srinagar, Manasbal is said to be the deepest lake in Kashmir at 43 feet. Its name comes from Manusarwar, a sacred lake that skirts the Kailash Mountain. Since Mansarovar was far-off for pilgrimage, Kashmiri Hindus satisfied their religious craving by naming this secluded sheet of green water Manasbal.
The lake has long mesmerized people, most famously the Mughal emperors. Queen Nur Jahan laid a garden called Jaroka, meaning bay window, which overlooks the lake and, along with a large bloom of lotus, makes the crystal-clear lake all the more riveting.
In the south, the lake is overlooked by Aha Teng, a 6,256 feet high hillock. The northern and eastern shores are riddled with springs and covered with watercress. On the southeastern side a stream from the Sindh merges into the lake. There appears a fissure right in the middle of the lake running east to west.
What a pleasure a cruise on the lake is! The land shelf is covered with various kinds of pond weed, in which fish are seen darting about. Fishermen often stand on the prows of their light boats, their eyes scanning the depths of the lake and their hands holding a spear with which to strike and catch the fish. As the boat moves down, the mountain peaks in the east — Mahadiv, Kotwal and Harmoukh — stand out conspicuously. Moving outwards the lake looks turf green, perfectly weed less and refreshing. The high mountain wall which surrounds the lake renders tranquility impregnable to all external disturbing forces.
There are two camping sites on the shore. One is near the ruined Jaroka, an artistically built pavilion with a seat on the window for the queen to look out at the charming lake. The other encampment site, and one of the best stands, is on the farther end under Padshah Boni or the royal Chinars.
‘Supreme gem’ of all Kashmir Lakes it is called and Manasbal indeed is. It is a delight for bird watchers, being one of the largest natural stamping grounds of aquatic birds in Kashmir.
One can drive to the lake from Srinagar via Shadipor and Sumbal, have breakfast under Padshah Boni and then hire a boat across and have lunch in Jaroka garden. From Manasbal, excursions can be organized to places like Khirbhawani and Sonamarg.