In our time, very few floating markets still thrive on lakes across the world. There’s the Cai Rang floating market in Vietnam, the Solomon Islands market and Damnoen Saduak floating market of Thailand. In Jammu and Kashmir, we have our very own floating vegetable market on Dal Lake in Srinagar, where locals trade out of their canoes.
Most of the produce sold here is grown in floating gardens on the Dal Lake. The rich ecosystem of this wetland produces plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, water chestnuts and of course, the famous nadru (lotus roots, a delicacy in the Kashmir Valley).
It’s an adventure on its own, to catch these elusive boatmen in action. They gather in the centre of the lake at the crack of dawn, and wrap up just as sunlight hits the waters. The haggling and exchange all last hardly an hour, soon after which everyone disappears back to their village as if the market never existed.
There is no better way to witness life on the Dal than from the comfort of a shikara. After the floating market winds up, take a leisurely two-hour ride through the local canals and you’re sure to return spellbound. Visitors often stay in houseboats, which surprisingly enough are a British legacy. During the Dogra rule of Kashmir, the British were not allowed to build houses in the valley. So to circumvent this rule, they commissioned the building of lavish houseboats, each with elaborate walnut wood carvings and splendid open decks.
Stroll through the vibrant, floating marketplace in the following photos.
Mayank Soni is a travel and documentary photographer with a keen interest in tribal culture. He loves places one can explore on foot. When not actually in the field, he annoys librarians with his ever-increasing list of research books.