Bandersar is supposedly one of the most beautiful lakes in Kashmir. Just like many other Kashmiri places, the name of this lake is derived from a fantastic mythological story. It is said that once there was no lake on this spot and the local demons (danav in Hindi) liked to have picnics there. Once a wedding party of the local demons on their way to someplace camped there overnight. They were a merry group complete with their band of musicians (hence the Band er Sar – sar means lake in the local language). Unfortunately, it rained very hard (or probably there was a flash flood) thus creating a lake and the entire party drowned. Only a small bit of land remained dry and today it can be seen as a tiny island in the middle of this gorgeous lake.

Towards Bandersar

As you can guess, I was very eager to see this beautiful spot so woke up early on the third day of the trek. Upon peeping out of my tent, I saw that it had rained the whole night and that the grounds were swampy. Millions of wildflowers seemed to have bloomed overnight, thus carpeting the meadow yellow, and tiny channels that crisscrossed were swollen with water. The sky was overcast and a milky, light mist swirled around like wisps of cotton. It was not a promising sight. Nevertheless, we started our trek and it turned out to be a long and difficult one. First of all, because of the low visibility, we went off our trail and muddy trekking paths did not make things easier. The mud was squelchy, sticky, and at times, ankle-deep. We kept walking for what seemed like hours towards Bandersar. Wildflowers changed colours, mists came and cleared, and glaciers scrunched underneath our boots.

Walking through mists

At times, we saw (or heard) shrill whistles of some Bakarwal shepherds, and sharp barks made us aware of their watchful sheepdogs in the vicinity. There was a lot of bleating and pounding of hoofs and often in the blinding mist, that was all we had to know of another living creature´s presence around us. That day we climbed quite a bit; over those massive rose coloured boulders that stretch like rivers in the midst of Kashmiri meadows. These are remnants of the Ice Age glacial deposits and are often many kilometers long. As stunning as they look, these rocks are difficult to climb and the previous night´s rain made them slippery. I do not remember how many ridges we climbed over but I have vivid memories of my sight of the Bandersar lake. It lay shimmering in a patch of sunlight; serenely reflecting the snow-capped peaks on its glassy surface. A vast meadow stretched between us and the lake and it seemed like a place where magic folks like faes lived. It was just too beautiful to be real.

A land of faes and magical beauty

The sun played truant that day. It hid and appeared amidst low-hanging clouds thus dappling the meadow with occasional sunshine and showers. We reached Bandersar in the middle of blinding rain and we unsuccessfully took shelter underneath massive overhanging stony ledges. Our numb fingers shook as we ate a cold lunch and watched mists rising from Bandersar. However, like all mountain showers, the rain stopped as quickly as it started and a spectacular sight lay in front of us. Bandersar was indeed magnificent. In fact, it was the most beautiful lake I saw during the Greater Lakes trek. Pieces of ice floated on its surface and its crystal clear water reflected the sky, the surrounding mountain peaks, and our awe-struck faces. It was like looking at a mirror.

Leaving Bandersar

However, as beautiful as Bandersar was, it was a suitable spot for camping and so we started our long trek towards Chanze meadow. Chanze, however, was too far, and we stopped overnight midway between Bandersar and our destination….to be contd.

Follow the rest of the Kashmir series