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Kashmir, one of the popular destinations in the Indian subcontinent is rich in lakes, rivers, mountains and swampy lagoons that attract tourists from far and near. The most famous lakes in the state are Dal Lake, Nagin Lake, Pangong Lake and Wular Lake. Among these, Wular Lake is the largest lake in India and also the largest fresh Water lake in Asia. The beauty of mountains in the background make it a place worth visiting.
Situated in north Kashmir district of Bandipora it is 40 km northwest of Srinagar city. The lake was formed as a result of tectonic activity and is fed by the Jhelum River. Wular Lake is also fed by three mountain streams Madmati, Erin and Bohnar.
Due to its high productive ecosystem, hydrological values and socio-economic importance, Wular Lake was designated as a Ramsar site in 1990, under the convention of wetlands of international importance.
In ancient times, it was called as Mahapadamsar. In Nilamata Purana (a Kashmiri Purana) mentions it as 'Mahapadmasaras'. Wular is also referred as Bolor by Al-Biruni (a great Persian Muslim scholar of the 10th and 11th centuries). Wular Lake is best known for high waves in the afternoons, called Ullola in Sanskrit; meaning 'a large wave'. So, it was also being called 'Ullola'. Its corrupted form saw its transition as 'Bolor' by Al-Biruni and over the centuries it may be corrupted as Wulor' or 'Wular'. The name Wular may also derives its name from the local Kashmiri word 'Wul meaning a gap or a fissure.
There is one legend behind this lake, that this place where the lake stands now, was once a great city which was destroyed in an earthquake and left behind a rich structure which was filled out by rainwater and River Jhelum.
It is also believed the famous Kashmiri Sultan, Zain-ul-Abidin had ordered the construction of an artificial island named Zaina Lank, which is situated in the middle of Wular Lake in 1444. The Lake within River Jhelum basin plays a significant role because thousands of people in Kashmir Valley depend on Wular Lake for fishing to earn their livelihood. With a size of 189 sq. km, Wular has a maximum depth of 5.8m, has a length of 16 km and a breadth of 10 km.
The lake varies it's size from 30 to 260 sq km, according to the changing seasons.
The water is calm and placid across most seasons of the year but, it is often flooded by melting snow and heavy volumes of water draining in from Pohru stream. So, visitors should get an insight on the prevailing weather conditions before visiting the lake.
To prevent dangers, embankments and small dams are being constructed at strategic places.
The deepest part of Wular Lake is known as Mota Khon or Gulf of Corpses. Usually, local fishermen and boatmen avoid this area to reduce the risk of drowning. The bodies of people drowned in the lake reach this deepest point--giving Mota Khon its name.
Containing a large variety of fish the lake privides livelihood to thousands of fishermen in the Kashmir Valley. Hundreds of boats sail out daily on the lake in search of rosy barb, common carp, and mosquito fish and snow trouts- along with hundreds of others.
The Lake also flutters with thousands of birds and water-fowls and some of the common terrestrial birds spotted here include the Eurasian Sparrow hawk, Black-eared Kite, Short-toed Eagle, Himalayan Monal, Himalayan Golden Eagle, Chukar Partridge, Rock Dove, Koklass Pheasant, Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Hoopoe, Barn Swallow, Common Cuckoo etc.
The lake offers plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing and water skiing. Tourists can hire houseboats, sailing boats and doongas to cruise along designated mooring places in the region. The most noteworthy amongst them are located at Ningal Kiuhnus Bay, Nullah and Ajus Spur. Tourists visiting here, also like to experience the delights of shopping for woolen carpets at Bandipore.
Note that, the lake, calm though it may appear, fierce
winds come down the mountain gorges of Erin and Bandipur blow up and make
journey dangerous. Tourists are advised to hire a cruise from an experienced
The lake can also be approached from Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, which is a paradise for bird watchers.