The old city of Srinagar – An Indian city that still holds on to its medieval charm with its meandering roads, smells and sounds from its bustling bazaars, the muddy brown river Jhelum and the of-course the lifelines of the city, the Kadals. It’ll seem as if you have stepped into the pages of an enchanting storybook.
Today let us dive into one such page of the book. About 80kms south of Srinagar, the integral part of the city, the muddy brown river Jhelum passes from Verinag to the Wular Lake in the north. Settlers relied on this river for commercial vitality.
The two banks of the river are knitted together with the help of the bridges which are naturally divided by the Jhelum. There are a total of eight bridges connecting the two banks of the river. And as love connects one to the other, it takes both sides to build a bridge.
Therefore I guess the same word ‘Kadal’ means ‘a bridge’ in Kashmiri and ‘love’ in Tamil.
The Jhelum River runs eight bridges spanning the city. The bridges are, Amira Kadal, Habba Kadal, Fateh Kadal, Zaina Kadal, Aali Kadal, Nawa Kadal, Safa Kadal and Zero Bridge. Each of these bridges has a history as rich and unique as the place itself.
Don’t be surprised if you get a view of Kashmir, having buildings of old bricks and stone work lining both sides of the river, from any of the old city’s bridges.
Amira Kadal – The first bridge
The heart is the first organ to form during the development of the body. Probably that is the reason ‘Amira Kadal’ is referred to as ‘The heart of Srinagar’. Dating back from the 1770s, during the Afghan rule over the valley through the re-construction in 1982, the bridge adds to the feel of the local life and livelihood. Flocks of friendly welcoming bunch of fisherwomen are seen doing business sticking to the walkway. Take out your camera and show your photography skills or simply buy them to cook some Kashmiri style fish.
Haba Kadal – The second bridge
A very familiar view from the window of the small lower houses located across the river during the 1980s was that of goods being transported on horse carts. The mountain peaks of Kashmir Valley formed a magnificent backdrop of the Habba-Kadal area. Take a walk of the entire historic bridge to get a sight of the hub of commercial activity. Recently there’s an ongoing work at the bridge.
Fateh Kadal – The third bridge
The kadal was built during Fateh Khan’s rule and thus it is known how the bridge got its name. Being one of the oldest among all the bridges it is now in a crumbling state.
Zain Kadal – The fourth bridge
The city was divided into two halves by the Jhelum which finally united after Sultan Zainul Aabideen built the only connecting link, the Zaina Kadal. It is one of the city’s oldest bridges. A hope of togetherness stands tall with the Khanqah-i-Moulla on one side and a temple on the other. The architecture of this bridge is the best preserved example of ancient Kashmir.
Ail Kadal – The fifth bridge
Earlier, the rulers had all the time and privilege to adjust things to their heart’s content. Sultan Ali Shah had also done something similar. In a wish to get the beautiful panoramic view of the splashing water of the Jhelum and to enjoy the gentle breeze that blows, he created this bridge. However now you might not get such a view as the old bridge was burnt down.
Nawa Kadal – The sixth bridge
The New bridge or Boat Bridge was destroyed completely and rebuilt by the then CM Sheikh Abdulla.
Safa Kadal – The seventh bridge
The Safa Kadal in Kashmir is perhaps the oldest bridge in the league. It depicts a long story of achievements of the skilled workers who hand-crafted the bridge on the gushing Jhelum.
Though there are a total of eight bridges that connects the two banks of the river, yet Srinagar is known as the ‘city of seven bridges’. Well, this is the story of ‘Zero’ who has no place. There’s a bridge in Srinagar by the name of Zero. And the story goes like this; this bridge was built by a deaf contractor and was therefore called ‘zorr Kadal’. In the due course of time the name changed to become ‘Zero bridge’. Therefore it did not find its place on the list.
“An address of Kashmiri culture and heritage, the bridge provides a grand view of the main city, now usually being referred as the old city.”
From then to now, most of these bridges have witnessed the history of Kashmir.
A small tip for the travelers, make sure to take a walk around the city instead of just spending hours at the stores. You can see stories and histories unfold while you walk instead of realizing that you’ve walked for hours.
Go for this walk to see this Kashmir, you haven’t seen otherwise!