Sunday, 10 May 2015

People of the Lake in Kashmir

Dal Lake, Srinagar, in the Himalayan foothills is home to people who have a unique lifestyle spent living on its waters - it is where they work, shop, raise their families, and grow flowers and vegetables on floating gardens.
Their shallow shakira boats are like a fifth limb as they skim seamlessly across the water; their children learn to paddle a boat like ours learn to walk. The lake people paddle on one side of the boat only but always travel in a straight line. If we did that we would go round and round in endless circles. Elderly men sit crossed legged on the very ends of the shakira's bow or stern and can even been seen standing up in the middle of their shallow shakira's paddling effortlessly along
How they get up from these positions without rolling themselves and the boat over is a mystery to me; their limbs and balance must be incredibly

From our veranda I counted at least 30 people clambering into this boat
I have already bought several packets of special Kashmiri tea, made with local saffron and cardamon, from this young man, but he is ever hopeful that I will buy some more.
The coat he is wearing is called a Pheran - it has a zip at the top and goes over the head like a cloak. In the winter time the men of Srinagar wear a longer loose fitting one made from kashmir (cashmere). Under the cloak they hold an earthenware container covered with wickerwork, called a Kangri, it is filled with hot embers to keep them warm during the bitterly cold snowy days. According to the owner of our houseboat  all the men wander around in the winter months looking as if they are pregnant. 
Do you know where cashmere comes from? I always assumed that it came from the wool of sheep. It actually comes from the downy undercoat of the Kashmiri mountain goat, only products from the Kashmiri goat are considered to be true cashmere.
A Kangri seller
When we first arrived at the lake the water was relatively clear, but within days, and following all the sunshine, the lake bloomed with weed. The men and women worked all day long pulling it from the water into their boats to keep the waterways clear. It was then placed in large piles, and left to rot into a rich compost to fertilise their floating gardens. The way the lake bloomed so quickly indicates, I believe, a very serious and ongoing problem for the people of the lake. 
The lake is an ornithologists delight - several types of Kingfisher, Herons, Swallows, Bitterns, Egrets, numerous water birds, and the ever present Kites patrolling the skies. The lake must look stunning in July and August when it is filled with Lotus flowers floating on top of the water.

Here the main lake is clear of weed we saw it being harvested with large water machines especially designed for the job
Our Boat-boy is resting in the back of his shakira chatting to the vegetable seller - he is waiting to see if we want to go ashore
A shopkeeper pulls alongside our shakira -
you can buy anything on the water - jewellery, Kashmir shawls, fruit, vegetables, flowers, chocolate, biscuits, nuts
That's the money changer, sim card, and camera battery seller heading off home - business is finished for today

53 comments:

  1. My father was stationed in India once upon a time. Kashmir was his favourite place. It's on my must see list. So thank you for all your wonderful images.

    Jean
    x

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    1. Dear Jean - I do hope that you can manage a trip to Kashmir - it has been closed for visits to us for many years following recommendations by our FO. I am pleased that you enjoyed the images.

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  2. That is a complete different life on the water. Here we have houseboats but people just sleep and eat there but their life is on the shore. Must be difficult always to be on the water on those wobbly boats. And using one paddle at one side would be very unusual for us indeed.

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    1. They have no problems at all with the shallow wobbly boats, as I mentioned they become like a 5th limb to them - they know no other way of life than living on the water.

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  3. Super picture, your fifth picture is our favorite.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. Pleased that you enjoyed seeing them - it was a unique environment for us to live in whilst we were there.

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  4. Hello Rosemary,
    I loved hearing your account of living on the river and the various vendors and characters you met. Never a dull moment.
    Have a great week

    Helen xx

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    1. Hello Helen - We found it really interesting to be living on the fringes and watching such a different lifestyle to our own - humans are very resilient in the way that they can adapt themselves to living in different circumstances around the world.

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    2. Hello again Rosemary. Yes indeed I totally agree as to how resilient humans are. The marvels of travel bring to light how we take so much for granted. This trip must provide you with hours of discussion and recollections.
      Helen xx

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  5. Gosh it is a whole floating town at work!!! Amazing how the paddle just on one side, I would go round in circles for sure - although thinking about it I would probably do that with two paddles too... xx

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    1. It was so interesting to observe their lifestyle Amy - a way of living that they have made their own.

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  6. What a strangely beautiful way of life, on a lake, Rosemary. Your pictures tell their story very well, and it is very intriguing. I am guessing they have been there many centuries, given the dexterity with which they handle the boats, and life in general. It reminds me a little bit of Venice, and I wonder if the origins were also to do with defence of the community. I have really enjoyed your posts about India. Thank you!

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    1. I imagine Patricia that this life has been going on for millennia. Many people have a wooden boat structure permanently fixed in the lake or down the water roads, but in the first photo you can see a man and woman with two boats, one of which is used as their home.

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  7. How utterly beautiful those first photos are Rosemary. I have been fascinated with India for many years, but have lacked the courage to travel there. Watching your posts with interest.......

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    1. It has been the same for me H, and now I don't know why it took me so long to make the journey. I decided that if we didn't do the journey now we never would - age is creeping up. However, I have no idea now why I had any anxieties, they were all totally unfounded. I would return again without hesitation, in fact I hope that I will - India gets under your skin.

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  8. Hello Rosemary, It seems that wherever there is water a special way of life grows up adapting to it. In the US we read about the swamps of Florida and the bayous of the Mississippi. And how many novels depict dockside life in old London? Your Indian lake adds a large dose of exoticism, and I especially admire their sensible green lifestyle--recycling the weeds for compost and fertilizer.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - on my photos it appears to be idyllic, but I suspect that it is a very hard life, and must be really difficult when the snows and icy winds blow in from the Himalayas during the winter months.
      The women in India always look so colourful and elegant whether they are paddling their shakira, pulling in the weeds from the waterways, or working in their vegetable gardens.

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  9. Thanks again Rosemary for this wonderful look at the people of Dal Lake and their boats - I'd last about 30 seconds trying to get into one of those boats - the photos are, as always, wonderful.

    Ms Soup

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    1. I had concerns myself about getting into a shakira, which we had to do regularly when travelling to and from our houseboat. Fortunately they were slightly deeper and bigger than the everyday ones, and we managed better than I had imagined. There were always lots of willing hands, and the boat-boys kept them well secure whilst we climbed aboard.
      Glad that you enjoyed seeing the photos.

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  10. Amazing to see the lifestyle of those people. I love your photos from the beginning to the end with highlights of the elderly people sitting on the very end of their boats, just great.

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    1. Thank you Janneke - it was a fascinating culture to live amongst, something that we shall remember always.

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  11. Cashmere, i didn't know where it really came from, very interesting. The boat people to me are amazing and colourful boats..

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    1. Their life and world is so completely different from the life that we know.

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  12. Dear Rosemary, What a charmed life these boat people live. My favorite photograph is the "Kangri Seller" It is all about harmony and quiet beauty.
    How lucky we are that you are sharing your adventures with us.

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    1. Dear Gina - they have a hard life - in the winter when they need their kangris filled with hot embers to keep them warm outside can you imagine the weather that comes down the valley from the Himalayas - it must be piercingly cold.
      Dal Lake is a wonderful place to photograph from sunrise, and throughout the day until sunset.

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  13. A wonder back in time, it seems that those areas have been left intact from "civilization".I know Cashmere for its famous silk-carpets but never heard of its floating way of life.In winter, don't they get frozen in?

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    1. We saw them making the carpets, I will show a photo on another post. Yes, you are right they do get frozen in from time to time, but Dal Lake is not very deep, and I believe that they all set about clearing away the ice in the same way that they clear away the weed in the summertime.

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  14. Dear Rosemary,

    Wouldn't it be interesting to know how such a way of living evolved? Perhaps from a single lake person who was very successful selling to fishermen. This group of people reminds me of the boat people that I saw in Hong Kong. They even had a boat school.

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    1. Dear Mark - As I mentioned to Patricia I imagine that this way of life has evolved over millennia. I found it endlessly interesting sitting on the verandah and watching life carried out on the water. When we travelled around in the shakira we discovered that there was every kind of shop in the lake from tailors to curtain makers to ironmongers.

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  15. Amazing way to live, really interesting post !

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    1. Thank you Jane - they do have a very unique way of life.

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  16. I’m so impressed by the spirituality of the place and the people conveyed in your wonderful images. Thanks for showing us the unique lifestyle in such exotic landscape.

    Yoko

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    1. Delighted that you enjoyed seeing it Yoko - it certainly was a pleasure to photograph these unique waterways and its people.

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  17. These are the most wonderful photographic memories that will bring India back to you each and every time you look at them Rosemary.
    I've been on the water in Bangkok with the wonderful array of boats and lovely gentle Thai people selling their wares - so different to our lives.
    I'm sure India is mesmerising - I would love to visit one day!
    Shane

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    1. Dear Shane - there is no doubt that India, once visited, does get under your skin. I just wish that I had not taken so long to pluck up the courage to go. However, when I arrived I discovered that no courage whatsoever was required, just wonderful places and people to see.

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  18. You are in Srinagar?!?! Wow, this is one part of India I would love to visit - so very different to the states of India I have spent time in. What a delightful time with amazing views and exotic culture.

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    1. Kashmir and the things to see there are wonderful - the people are lovely

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  19. Fantastic post, which reminded me so much of my visit to Inle Lake, Myanamar!

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    1. Sorry about spelling error, Myanmar. :)

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    2. We had decided to stop doing long-haul flights, but India was only 8 hours away. Now that I have realised Myanmar is only another 4 hours, that is what I have my sights set on for next year.

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  20. Thrilled to hear that you are planning a trip to Myanmar, I will go again if I get the opportunity, such a wonderful country.

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  21. This is such a fascinating peek into a life so different from mine. I almost can't imagine living like this. You really have to see it to believe it - which you've allowed me to do with your blog. Thank you for the lovely photos and detailed descriptions of everything you see, hear and taste while you're on vacation. It's as if I've taken the trip with you. I have to say I am completely intrigued so far and would love to visit this diverse country one day.

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    1. Dear Rosemary - It seems that once visited 'India gets under your skin'. Everyday during our journey it opened our eyes on to another world. I am pleased that your enjoyed seeing the post - thank you.

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  22. Really wonderful photos. The boat seems to be as the third feet for these people.
    This serie is amazing.
    Hugs

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    1. Pleased that you enjoyed seeing the people of the lake - they have a unique way of life which we were fascinated to observe it from the sidelines.

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  23. What an interesting peek into a life on water. Your photos do a great job of telling a story. I love the picture of the man with the baskets and am amazed by the floating store. It is sad that the lake bloom underlies serious issues. On the surface of things life on the water seems like a wonderful way to live.

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    1. Thank you for your visit Jennifer - staying on the lake was a fascinating experience watching what was a normal life for the locals but a very extraordinary one to us.

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  24. It must have been wonderful to have stayed on the houseboat and watched what was going on all around you. Those are amazing images that capture such a different way of life. The picture of the 3 men on their boats is fantastic. Sarah x

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    1. Thanks Sarah for your kind comment - it was a lovely place to stay, we enjoyed the ambience of the houseboat and the constantly changing views from the verandah both on the water and to the mountains beyond.

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  25. A fascinating glimpse into a totally different way of life, one with ancient roots but which also seems to keep up with the times. Your Indian posts and photos are mesmerising, Rosemary.

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    1. I am pleased that you have enjoyed seeing the posts from India Perpetua

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