Kashmir, with its lush vegetation and wide variety of
fruits, presents a different face for every season. The almond trees
blossom in March, when the thaw begins, but it's the Chinars, which leaf
in April that really herald spring. Strawberries and cherries are on sale
in May, followed by apricots in June and apples in July.
The sound of running water dominates the vale in May and June as the snow melt rushes down from the high snow and is channelled onto terraces to irrigate the rice, barely and wheat crops. During these months, groups of colourfully dressed women sing as they stoop to plant the rice shoots in paddies right across the vale.
The Chinar trees are in full leaf, while on the mountain slopes the villagers are cutting fir and cedar for building houses or repairing those damaged by the winter snow. The Gujars begin moving their herds of sheep and goats to the high pastures and Ranunculus, Anenome and impatience begin to flower in the meadows and along the streams.
In mid summer Srinagar is just another picture of any of the cities of plains, noisy, busy and chaotic city. The only refuges are the houseboats on the quiet lakes and the hill stations like Gulmarg or Pahalgam.
The early autumn brings pears, pomegranates and walnuts. Water birds and swallows, heading south for the winter, pause in Kashmir in great numbers. Finally the leaves fall and by November or December the first snow can be expected around the valley. In January houseboat roofs must be shovelled clean to prevent them being pressed into the lake by the weight of snow.
In winter the Kashmir valley can be a bitterly cold place but the Dal Lake only freezes over on rare occasions. Kashmir becomes a quieter, more sedate place than during the hectic days of summer. Houseboat owners bring out their potbelly stoves and 'Hgang' carpets at the doorways to keep in the warmth, and the valley, now stilled by a thick layer of snow, rests.