Reflections on a watery trail

Plethora of pristine lakes decorate India across its length and breadth, each carrying a story of its own, and offering moments of quietude and introspection in a distinct fashion; writes Monjit. P

Reflections on a watery trail

The allure of India’s diverse landscapes has always held a special place in my heart, beckoning me to explore its hidden treasures. Among these, the country’s pristine lakes stand out as symbols of tranquillity and untouched beauty, each telling its own unique story against the backdrop of India’s rich

tapestry of nature and culture. Driven by an insatiable desire to experience these serene waters first-hand, I embarked on a journey that would take me from the rugged terrains of the Himalayas to the lush greenery of the southern backwaters.

My quest began with a sense of anticipation and excitement, fuelled by tales of azure waters nestled amidst towering mountains and serene lakes cradled by verdant forests. I was drawn not only to the visual splendour of these aquatic jewels but also to the profound peace and solitude they offered. In a world that moves at a relentless pace, the idea of standing by a tranquil lake, with the only sounds being the gentle lapping of water against the shore and the distant calls of birds, seemed like a distant dream I yearned to fulfil.

Each lake on my itinerary promised a different experience, from the mystical changing colours of high-altitude lakes to the vibrant ecosystems of coastal backwaters. I was eager to immerse myself in the natural beauty, cultural richness, and spiritual tranquillity these lakes offered. This journey was not just about sightseeing; it was a pilgrimage to the heart of nature, seeking moments of reflection and connection with the environment.

Armed with a backpack, a camera, and an open heart, I set out to traverse the varied landscapes of India, eager to witness the untouched splendour of its lakes. From the moment I glimpsed the first shimmering waters of Pangong Tso, high in the Ladakh region, to the serene expanse of Vembanad Lake in Kerala, each lake unfolded its unique charm, weaving a spell of tranquillity that enveloped me completely.

This travelogue is a personal account of my journey, a narrative woven from the serene moments by the lakeside, the captivating natural beauty, and the unforgettable experiences that marked my quest for India’s hidden aquatic jewels. It is a tale of discovery, not just of India’s pristine lakes but also of the quietude and introspection that such serene settings can foster within the wandering soul. Join me as I recount my journey through the tranquil waters of India, a journey that left an indelible mark on my heart and soul, reminding me of the profound beauty and peace that nature holds, waiting to be discovered.

Pangong Tso: the enigmatic blue

My adventure began with Pangong Tso, a mesmerizing lake situated in the cold desert of Ladakh. Known for its changing hues, from azure to light blue to green and grey, Pangong Tso is like a chameleon of the water world.

The journey to the lake was as breathtaking as the destination itself, with rugged mountains and ancient monasteries dotting the landscape.

Camping by the lake, under a blanket of stars, was an ethereal experience. The silence was profound, broken only by the gentle lapping of the waves against the shore. Pangong Tso’s tranquil yet harsh environment reminded me of nature’s delicate balance, where beauty thrives even in the most challenging conditions.

Nainital Lake: the nostalgic charm

Leaving the stark landscapes of Ladakh, I ventured into the verdant embrace of Uttarakhand to visit Nainital Lake. Encircled by the quaint town of Nainital, this eye-shaped lake is a hub of nostalgia and colonial echoes. The vibrant boats dotting the emerald waters, set against the backdrop of rolling hills, presented a picture-perfect postcard scene.

Strolling along Mall Road, with the lake on one side and bustling shops on the other, I felt transported to a different era. The old-world charm of Nainital, coupled with the serene beauty of the lake, made it a refreshing retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Chilika Lake: the avian paradise

Next on my list was Chilika Lake in Odisha, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon. This biodiverse hotspot is a haven for migratory birds and home to the elusive Irrawaddy dolphins. The boat ride across the lake was a journey through a vibrant tapestry of nature, with flocks of flamingos, herons, and egrets painting the sky in various hues.

Exploring the small islands dotting Chilika, each with its unique ecosystem, was an insightful experience. The local fishing communities, with their sustainable practices and deep respect for the lake’s biodiversity, were a testament to the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature.

Gurudongmar Lake: the sacred solitude

Venturing further north, I reached Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim, one of the highest lakes in the world. The journey was arduous, with winding roads and thinning air, but the sight that greeted me was unparalleled. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the lake’s crystal-clear waters reflected the skies like a giant mirror, creating a surreal landscape.

The sacredness of Gurudongmar, revered by both Buddhists and Sikhs, added a profound spiritual dimension to its natural beauty. The sense of peace and solitude here was absolute, offering a sanctuary for the soul amidst the majestic Himalayas.

Vembanad Lake: the backwater bliss

My journey culminated in the serene backwaters of Kerala, where Vembanad Lake stretched before me in a vast expanse of tranquillity. As the longest lake in India, Vembanad forms the heart of Kerala’s backwater tourism. Boarding a traditional houseboat, I drifted along the gentle waters, passing through picturesque villages, lush paddy fields, and coconut groves.

The rhythmic sound of water, the cool breeze, and the delicious aroma of local cuisine prepared on the boat made for an unforgettable experience. Vembanad’s serene beauty, coupled with the warmth of Kerala’s hospitality, was the perfect endnote to my quest for India’s pristine lakes.

Each lake I visited was a world unto itself, with its unique charm, stories, and ecosystems. From the high-altitude wonders to the lush backwater expanses, India’s lakes are not just water bodies; they are sanctuaries of nature, culture, and peace. This journey was not just about witnessing natural beauty; it was about understanding the delicate interplay between humans and nature, and the need to preserve these pristine jewels for generations to come.

As I pen down these reflections, the images of tranquil waters, vibrant birdlife, and smiling faces flash before my eyes, reminding me of the serene yet vibrant spirit of India’s lakes. These hidden aquatic jewels are a testament to nature’s artistry, inviting travellers to pause, reflect, and immerse in their untouched splendour.

The writer is a freelance travel journalist

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