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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

We prepared to cross the famous Dal Lake to the Nishat Bagh


_April_

27.--His Highness the Maharajah having invited us to a luncheon given by him in honour of Colonel Pears, the new Resident, we prepared to cross the famous Dal Lake to the Nishat Bagh, the scene of the present feast, which we fondly hoped might recall the glorious days of the Moguls when Jehangir dallied in the historic Shalimar with the fair Nourmahal.

"Th' Imperial Selim held a feast In his magnificent Shalimar:-- In whose saloons ... The valleys' loveliest all assembled."

Our shikara, a sort of canoe paddled by four active fellows, with the stern, where we sat on cushions, carefully screened from the sun by an awning, was brought alongside the dounga at about 11.30, as we had some seven or eight miles to accomplish before reaching the Nishat Bagh.

Leaving the main river just above the Club, we paddled down the Sunt-i-kul Canal, which runs between the European quarter and the Takht-i-Suleiman, the rough brown hill which, crowned with its temple, forms a constant background to Srinagar.

The canal was closely lined with house-boats and their satellite cook-boats, clinging to the poplar-shaded banks. The golf-links lay on our left, and on a low spur to the right stood the hospital, which the energy and philanthropy of the Neves has gained for the remarkably ungrateful Kashmiri. It is told that a man, being exceedingly ill, was cared

for and nursed during many weeks in the Mission Hospital, his whole family likewise living on the kindly sahibs. When he was cured and shown the door, he burst into tears because he was not paid wages for all the time he had spent in hospital!

Just before entering the waterway of noble chenars, known as the Chenar Bagh (a camping-ground reserved for bachelors only), we ported our helm (or at least would have done so had there been any rudders in Kashmir), and pushed through the lock-gate, which gives entrance to the Dal Lake, against a brisk current.

This gate, cunningly arranged upon the non-return-valve principle, is normally kept open by the current from the Dal; but if the Jhelum, rising in flood, threatens to pour back into the lake and swamp the low ground and floating gardens, it closes automatically, and so remains sealed until the outward flow regains the mastery.

A sharp bout of paddling, puffing, and splashing shot us into the peaceful waters of the Dal Lake, over which every traveller has gushed and raved. It is difficult, indeed, not to do so, for it is truly a dream of beauty.

A placid sheet of still water, its surface only broken here and there by the silvery trails of rippled wake left by the darting shikaras or slow-moving market boats, lay before us, shining in the crystal-clear atmosphere. On the right rose the Takht, his thousand feet of rocky stature dwarfed into insignificance by holy Mahadeo and his peers, whose shattered peaks ring round the lake to the north, their dark cliffs and shaggy steeps mirrored in its peaceful surface.

On the lower slopes strong patches of yellow mustard and white masses of blossoming pear-trees rose behind the tender green fringe of the young willows.


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