Kashmir, the crowning glory of our country, was, originally a huge body of water. An interesting narrative in the Nilmata Purana describes the origin of this valley from the Satisar Lake. The demon Jalodhbhava was blessed with immortality by Lord Brahma, as long as he was in the waters of the Satisar lake. His demonic behaviour towards the Nagas and the humans in the valley forced Sage Kashyapa and his son Nila to seek help from Lord Vishnu. The mighty God emptied the Satisaras and destroyed the asura with his chakrayudha (discus). With all the water drained from the valley, Sage Kashyap approached the three Devis — Parvathi, Lakshmi and Saraswathi — beseeching them to flow down from the heavens. Parvathi surged out as Vitastha (Jhelum), originating from the Verinag spring in the Pir Panjal range; Goddess Lakshmi cascaded as the Veshaw River and Mata Saraswathi flowed down as the Rumbiara River reviving the lifeless place. This lush valley came to be named as Kashmir (Kashyapa’s lake) after Sage Kashyapa.
Kashmir, even today, continues to be the abode of several rivers and lakes. The jewel of Kashmir, the Dal Lake, and its four basins — Gagribal, Lokut Dal, Bod Dal and Nigeen — are famous for their floating vegetable gardens and colourful shikaras. The largest freshwater Lake, the Wular, also contributes to the fertility of the valley.
The water bodies
Starting from the pretty hamlet of Sarbal, near Sonamarg, located on the banks of the River Sindh, one has to hike up to the Durinar meadows to reach the Durinar lake — a crystal clear blue lake that is safely concealed among giant granite spires. The Nilnag lake lies further up in the Thejwas range. From here on, trudging over steep snowy slopes and ice fields of the Kolohai glacier one would reach Barafsar (frozen lake), the highest alpine lake of the Kashmir valley situated at 4,605 mts. Although, L. Watts discovered this lake in 1933, it was brought to public notice only in 2017. From this vantage point one can see the fascinating 5,425 m tallest peak of Kashmir, Mt. Kolohai (Gwash Brari or the Goddess of light), the Sindh Valley, the Lidder Valley, Zoji La, Whalehead, Crystal Peak, Innominate and many more.
These water bodies and glaciers feed the Sarbal Nallah, which connects with the Sindh before uniting with River Jhelum, the lifeline of Kashmir. The Thejwas Baltal wildlife Sanctuary is located in this area and is home to the critically endangered Markhor.
(The writers are ace photographers known for their travelogues)