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Dal - Nagin

~History | Background~

Dal - Nagin

Dal lake is situated in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the northern-most state of India, strategically surrounded by four countries, on the East by Tibet, on the North-East by China, on the North by Afghanistan and on the West by Pakistan. Dal Lake is an Himalayan Urban Lake, located in the heart of Srinagar (Latitude 34o 18’N Longitude 7491’E) at an average altitude of 1,583 M.
Srinagar is the summer capital of J&K. The top crust of the Lake has also been observed to freeze during winters when the mercury falls to -11o C. Early spring and summers are the wet periods when maximum rainfall occurs and average annual rainfall recorded is 655 mm. It is in this season that the snow thaw in the higher catchment results in maximum discharge in Dachigam & Dara Nallah which inflows into the Lake.
Dal Lake has been an epitome of the Kashmiri Civilization from times immemorial. Kalhana a 12th Century poet writes in his Rajtarangini “It is a place where the sun shines mildly, being the place created by Kashayapa as if for his glory. The saffron, iced-water and grapes, which are rare even in heaven, are common here. Kailasa is the best place in the three worlds, Himalaya the best part of Kailasa, and Kashmir the best place in Himalaya”. Hassan (1833) in his celebrated history of Kashmir popularly known as Tarikh-i-Hassan gives a detailed account of origin and evolution of Dal lake based on ancient historian Pt. Ratnakar (Ratnakarpuran) written 300 years earlier than Kalhan’s Rajtarangini. According to Hassan in olden times at the site of present Dal Lake was a plain desert which was known as Vitalini Marg. King Pravarsen closed the river Behat (now the river Jhelum) from Nowpora side and brought the river into city by way of the foot of Kohimaran (also known as Hari Parbat Hillock). After a great deal of time, the river Jhelum rose in spate and as a result of the deluge, during the reign of King Durlab Vardhan (625-661 AD) desert became a lake. Sultan Sikandar (1389-1413 AD) constructed a very strong bund upon it from Nayiyar to Nishat Bagh along with six bridges viz. Choudhary Bridge, Dood Phokhri Bridge, Tulkhan Bridge, Gani Bridge, Oont Bridge and Nishat Bridge. Another bund from Khwajayarbal to Aishabad (presently Ashai-Bagh) on Sodrakhun Lake (now the Nagin Basin) was constructed by Saif Khan (Governor of Kashmir who ruled the valley twice i.e. 1647 AD to 1667 AD and 1668 AD to 1671 AD during the reign of Aurangzeb). Consequently the Dal Lake was divided into three parts viz. Bod Dal (in front of Hazratbal), Lokut Dal (expanse from Shankryacharya to Nishat Bagh) and Sodderkhun (situated in front of Hari Parbat) Hassan describes the water of the lake as sweet and delicious and it was so clear that one could see the fishes down below. The Sona tank island (presently Teen -Chinari) in the Bod Dal in front of Hazratbal was constructed by Sultan Zainul-Abidin with a three storey Royal Palace. The said Palace according to Hassan fell down by an earthquake. Afterwards the Moghul Emperor built over it a sight-seeing tower. Ameer Khan renovated it and drew the lake water to the Chinar trees and into the garden of the building through a Persian water wheel and also raised up exhilarating fountains, the sight of which he used to enjoy very often. In the Lokut Dal Ropa tank island (presently known as Char-Chinari) was built by Sultan Hassan Shah (1475-1478 AD) but its building was destroyed in Sikh period (1819-1843). Walter R. Lawrence, who was Resettlement Commissioner of Kashmir, in 1887, writes “Perhaps in the whole world there is no corner as pleasant as the Dal Lake. The water of the Dal is clear and soft as silk, and the people say that the shawls of Kashmir owe much of their excellence to being washed in the soft waters of the lake”. The importance of the lake as a tourist resort is more than five centuries old. Several rulers in the past used the lake for recreation and its beautified surroundings. The famous Moghul gardens around the lake have been built during 16th –17th century and their number was about five hundred but only a few of these have survived. The lake up to the commencement of 16th century was in its pristine state. In 18th and 19th century the city of Srinagar started expanding towards the lake resulting in far reaching changes in the lake environs. Human interference by way of settlement in the lake to facilitate pedestrian traffic and establishment of lake tourism by providing floating residences (house-boats) got accelerated. Nature has done much for the Dal, but the Mughal emperors have in their time nobly exerted themselves to enhance the natural beauties of the lake. The park of plane trees known as the Nasim Bagh, the garden of breezes, which was planted in Akbar’s time, is the most beautiful of all the pleasure places of the royal gardens of old times. Nothing is perhaps more striking than the ruined Pari Mahal, standing grandly on a spur of the Zabarwan Mountain, a memorial of the Moghul love for letters. The Pari Mahal was built by Prince Dara Shikoh for his tutor Mulla Shah. Mulla Shah’s tomb is at Mulshahi Bagh, near the entrance of the Sind valley. The houseboats in Dal Lake owe their origin to the British rule, during which these lavish floating wooden palaces were constructed.
Dal Lake is a large shallow urban, hyper eutrophic lake situated within Srinagar City, India. The lake is known as a tourist attraction and it also provides drinking water, fish and vegetables, – and recreational opportunities to the local population. The lake is divided into three basins (1) Hazratbal (northern basin), (2) Bod-Dal (southern basin), and (3) Nigeen (western basin). Large areas of the lake are covered by floating gardens, which are land masses used for vegetable cultivation. The lake is having an area of about 25 km2, which is comprised of open water area, floating garden, built-up land masses with human settlements, houseboat areas etc.



Area in Km2



Car Parking /Transportation






Graveyard /crematorium


Park /Lawn






Roads /Paths


Shikara Stand


Tourist Infrastructure


Vacant Land with or without vegetation


Waterbody with Houseboats


Waterbody with Rads /Flotating Gardens


Waterbody with submerged vegetation /Open Expanse


Waterbody with floating /emergent vegetation


Waterbody with floating emergent Vegetatin


Database: Quick Bird Imagery of January, 2007





The lake is having a total catchment area of 337 km2, out of which Telbal-Dachigham is largest catchment (234 km2), which is further divided into the Telbal-Dara (89 km2) and Dachigham National Wildlife Reserve (141 km2) sub-catchments. The Telbal-Khimber-Hadoora sub-catchment consists of the south facing slope and are mostly treeless (barren landscape) with soil characteristics being undifferentiated yellow grey podsolic to distinct podsolic (AHEC, 2000).During precipitation events it is a source of diffuse runoff laden with silt and nutrients. Soils of the Dachigham National Wildlife Reserve sub-catchment are dominated by undifferentiated brown soils, lacustrine sediments, moraine tongues, and parcels of recent alluvium (AHEC, 2000). While most of the Dachigham National Wildlife Reserve is forested, grassland areas in the reserve are overgrazed by nomadic livestock. The reserve is drained primarily by Dachigham Creek (perennial flows), which splits into four smaller streams in its lower reaches: (1) Telbal Creek, (2) Pishpuw Creek, and (3) Meerakshah Creek.These streams enter the Hazratbal Basin of Dal Lake from the north-northeast. Lake Hillside catchment (46 km2) rises from 1582 m to 2924 m above sea level. It is composed of weathered rocks with underlying brown/yellow – grey soils (AHEC, 2000). High elevations in this catchment are mostly barren, except for sparse stands of Pinus, Deodar and Kail located on ridges and along southern slopes. Its lower slopes are being rapidly developed for residential use, and hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls with associated parking lots have been constructed in riparian areas adjacent to the lake. In comparison, Srinagar Centre (14 km2) and Srinagar North (24 km2) catchments are mostly flat and nearly completely urbanized, being mainly within Srinagar City. Major sections of down town Srinagar City are within the Srinagar Centre catchment, in which there are negligible areas of undeveloped land. Dal Lake has three outlets, one to the south, and two one to the west. The Dal Lock Gate and Nallah Amir Khan outlets are regulated by a weir system, and flow almost year round, while the Brari-Numbal  outflow carved out recently by the Authority discharges out water by gravity into River Jehlum.



1581m above sea level



34°9' N and 74°8' E


Maximum Depth (m)



Surface Area (Km2)



Volume (x 106m3)



Flushing rate (times / yr)

14 - 16


Total Catchment area (km2)



Land Use Classes (Km2)



Bare Grounds

161 (47.8%)


Dense Forests

52 (15.4%)



46 (13.6%)


Open Forests

34 (10.1%)



33 (9.8%)


Permanent Snow

9 (2.7%)


Degraded Forests

2 (0.6%)


The dwellers who have settled in the Dal lake areas form part of the history of the lake. Walter. R. Lawrence reports in the book: “The Valley of Kashmir” that the half amphibious dwellers on the Dal lake practised cultivation on floating gardens and demb lands in late 19th century and had property rights on the marsh land and related water channels. Their main occupation was to collect wild products of Dal lake and grow vegetables for the city consumption. They were registered as tennents and revenue was collected daily from them by the state administration. The cultivators of the Dal lake were called Mir Behris. In due course the number of dwellers has been continuously growing and the families have got extended and the occupations have diversified. The lake dwellers have been part and parcel of the lake ecosystem and have consequently caused certain stress on the lake ecosystem. The Hamlets on which they reside within the lake have been discharging since ages uncontrolled and untreated liquid and solid waste into the lake which has caused its pollution and subsequent degradation.


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