Visit this paradise on earth. Luxuriate in a floating hotel otherwise called the houseboat in the beauteous environs of Dal lake. Romaticise as you float among the lotus on a moon night. Haggle at the floating fruit and flower markets at the crack of dawn. Among other customers are mallards and geese. Ski in the meadow of flowers and watch the sun rise from the golden meadow. The vale of Kashmir is heaven on earth.
As the legend goes, during the treta yuga, an evil power had taken control over the world. Mahalakshmi, Mahakali and Mahasaraswati combined their power to produce a powerful goddess, Vaishno Devi, to free the people of their suffering. After disposing of the evil power, she went to South India and meditated for Lord Rama. He appeared before Vaishnodevi who asked to be his wife. At that time Lord Rama was searching for his wife Sita who had been abducted by Ravana and refused, saying that he was already married. But if Vaishno Devi could recognise him when he returned next then he would marry her.
After killing Ravana and rescuing Sita, Rama returned to Vaishno Devi’s hermitage disguised as an old sadhu. Vaishno Devi did not recognise him. He consoled her saying that he would again be born in kalyug (the present age) and then they would get married. Lord Rama advised Vaishno Devi to stay in a cave in the Trikuta hills where Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati were staying. He also sent Hanuman to serve Her. Since that time Vaishno Devi has been there serving the world and waiting for Lord Rama’s return.
Emperor Jehangir’s love for Kashmir is legendary. Kashmiris never tire of telling you the Jehangir deathbed story. How as he breathed his last he whispered his dying wish, “Only Kashmir.” The Mughal emperor’s love for the Valley is reflected in his creation, Shalimar Gardens, romantic and florid but appropriately so since the garden is a labour of love for his beloved wife.
With all his passion for Kashmir, it was Jehangir’s grandson Dara Shikoh who grasped the essence of Kashmir’s sufi culture but remains the relatively unsung hero. He made several trips to Kashmir to commune with his teacher, Akhund Mulla Shah. Dara Shikoh built a magical garden high on a hill overlooking the Dal as a school for religious discourses. Fortunately for the spirit of the sufis, but not so for the devotees, the place has been closed for the public. Still, Kashmir is a virtual pilgrimage for sufi devotees. There is Akhund Mulla Shah’s shrine, built by Dara Shikoh for his teacher. It looks a little lonely next to the far more pop lar shrine of Makhdoom Sahib which gets all the visitors and most of the fanfare. During the annual urs, Makhdoom Sahib’s shrine is visited by thousands of people every day. En route to Lolab valley is the sufi shrine of Shah Walli, who was reputed to have the power of raising the dead. Hazratbal Shrine, situated on the bank of famous Dal Lake, is the most important Muslim shrine of Kashmir. It commands the reverence of the people beyond measure as the Prophet Mohammad’s Moi-e-Muqqadas (the sacred hair) is preserved in it.