The timeless beauty of Kashmir can not be restricted to seasons. However, there is no denying that the valley looks as enduring in summer as it does in winter. Here’s a half sum up of the summer in Kashmir on the pretext that its classic charm and lifestyle can never be fully justified with words.
As the frigid white scenes take their departure from Kashmir, the entire valley comes to life with greens and fresh brightness, the locals say. The landscape of lush greenery and blooming flowers are captured during summer in Kashmir, and as far as the sight goes, yellow and green colours cover most of the parts. Although the onset of summer is observed in May every year in Kashmir, it arrived early this time, near March. Nevertheless, the pre-arrival that hints toward the problem of climate change, the ‘heaven on the earth’ seems to have maintained its evergreen summer charisma.
Under the clear blue sky with a blue backdrop of mountains, Kashmir glamours during the entire period of May to September, which is marked as summer. However, just before that time, the valley is drenched with light rains during spring that often acts as an intimation of summer for the locals. The temperature rises slightly, while the colourful flowery fields that appear with the background of snow-capped mountains suffice as “breathtaking”.
When Aqif Hussain, a photographer based in Srinagar, describes his surroundings, he does not fail to stress the attractiveness of Kashmir, which doubles with summers. Especially, about Srinagar, he says, “It looks like a beautifully painted canvas with clear and stunning views of Dal, Nigeen and Wular lakes surrounded by the snow-tipped Himalayas and sparkling Jhelum river, rolling down the hills in full volume.”
Hussain’s grandfather is one of the sellers at the floating market on Dal lake, who sets up his boat every season. While the timings of the market don’t change with the seasons, the types of vegetables certainly do. Summer allows the fresh vegetation to take place in the valley, and trees and plants bear fruits and flowers all around. The people who get confined to the four walls of their homes due to cold, venture out during this time, and in the outskirts of the valley, many begin with farming and gardening on their land.
The streets of the Kashmir are also thronged with locals in casual clothing as the Pherans and Kangri find their place in trunks. With the dismissal of snow from the roads, even bikes become common, and locals begin to get used to the fragrant air once again. Mohammed Ilyas, another Srinagar native, says that summer has three phases in Kashmir. The initial phase is marked by yellowish-greenery and flowers all around with a blue backdrop as the snow melts, except for the glacier.
The second phase, or mid-summer, however, turns the entire valley into a dark-green arena with rivers flowing fast. The late summer comes with hiking options and various adventures in the mountains. Being a passionate photographer, Ilyas loves to capture the essence of mustard and almond fields with his camera, which appears much more buoyant during this time. What is even more enthralling is when Ilyas says, “I can straight look up to 50 to 60 km far from my house. The scenes are neither hindered nor much blurry.”
A popular tourist attraction in Srinagar, namely the Tulip garden, remains the focal point with the arrival of summer as it opens its doors for people. While the occurrence of Tulips in Srinagar and other touristic places is a known fact, Maliq Abid, a resident of Pampore, takes pride in saying that he brought the place in front of the people through social media tools. The reason is simple. Pampore was an unexplored place till a few years ago, which is usually, full of wild tulips and other flowers during summer.
Pampore, also known as the saffron town of Kashmir, is a secluded place on the eastern side of Jhelum with beautiful saffron fields. Since childhood, Abid had seen the place becoming a flowerbed during this season. Only a few years back, did he begin seizing the beauty of the town and posting about the Spring festival, and other appealing elements. Almond flowers are another attraction in Pampore, Abid mentions and says it is a sight to behold. He also confers that locals love to grow Kashmiri Mirchi, and there are various medicinal plants in the jungles of the town that are used to treat ailments, all of which are part of summer blossoms.
There is no hidden fact that the valley struggles with business opportunities and the winters fall even more harsh on the few businesses operating in Kashmir. Even Maliq Abid, who runs a wholesale store of crockery, has to face the low sales since people do not prefer to move out of their homes. At times, Abid has to either shift to the alternatives like winter products or partially depend on photography projects.
With summer, he says, a drastic change comes for the businesses. Locals make a comeback in the markets and prefer long walks to choose products that help businesses run at a normal pace. Abid’s business also earns good revenue at this time and doesn’t have to depend on the seasonal demands to thrive.
As Abid says, it is the time when Gujjars, a tribal community that lives on the top of the hills, descend to the town with their sheep. While their sheep enjoy the green grass, they prefer to live in their second home down the hill and indulge themselves in other works.
With tourism increasing in the valley, especially with the activities like hot-air balloon rides, camping, fishing, river rafting, and other expeditions, the season is also a blessing for the locals involved in the travel sector.
Kashmir might have seen the most number of tourists this year exploring various places with the help of local guides, according to Mudabir Khan, locals prefer to spend their weekends at Pahalgam, the summer capital of Kashmir, and Gulmarg to avoid the hot weather. The Srinagar-resident says, “Kashmir shines during summer. We love to visit these places since they are chilly even in June and July.”
Trends in the valley
Astonishing as it may sound, even Kashmiri schools announce a summer vacation of 10 to 15 days. However, unlike before, the natives of Kashmir have observed a recent trend of hiking and trekking among students and young folks living in various parts of the valley. Yassir Mushtaque Bhat, who belongs to Kulgam in South Kashmir, calls it a phenomenon not old than 2-3 years, adding that summer is the best time for photographers and travellers.
The gushing waterfalls and lakes predominantly visible in summer is a major cause backing the trekking opportunities that are now conducted by various travel groups. Bhat says that even the small kids from Kashmir take part in such adventures. “Not just has it become a part of ‘summer culture’ but also a good diversion from drugs in the valley,” he adds.
As stated by him, a stroll down at the Betab valley for a view of lush vegetation also takes one to the Chandanwari base camp. Near to it lies the Aru valley, which also comprises a trekking destination for people. High altitude alpine lakes, along with a few others like Brahmsar lakes are also the priority during this time. “Locals flock to vast Meadows, Pir Panjal, Kolahoi and places like Chiranbal,” he says.
Bhat also highlights that haak — a kind of green leaves — which is an important ingredient used in food for the majority of the Kashmiri families, is different in summer as the leaves in this season are big as compared to winter. Like many rural families in Kashmir, even Yassir has his farm and procures vegetables from it.
Another important cultural aspect of Kashmir, seen flourishing is, handicrafts, and interestingly, even the migrants do not fail to take notice of such peculiarities. Shyamli Shukla, who moved to Srinagar a few years back, says that summer leads the handicrafts to bloom in the valley. Being a traveller herself, she names a few places like Gurez valley, Gangbal, and Tarsar Marsar, without which a visit to Kashmir during this season is incomplete.
While there could be countless things to admire in Kashmir during summer, Shukla says that the blue sky and the clean green grass beneath her feet are remedial. For some, the entire valley heals many seen, and unseen wounds with its mere existence.