India is blessed with thousands of water bodies. Almost every state has a major river flowing through it. But it’s not just rivers that India is famous for. India’s lakes, that number in the thousands, do not disappoint either. These lakes, dotted across the entire country, are breathtakingly scenic. In addition, many of them have colourful stories and legends associated with them that are bound to fascinate the knowledge buff in you.
Here’s a list of 10 lakes in India that invite a visit once in a lifetime at least:
Bhojtal lake, formerly known as bada talab, is a man made lake located in the western part of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. It has been part of the city’s history for a long time and also provides drinking water to a large number of residents.
Trivia: According to local folklore, the lake was built by Raja Bhoj, who also established the city of Bhopal. Apparently, King Bhoj was suffering from a skin disease, which no vaidya was able to cure.
One day, a saint told the king to construct a tank with 365 tributaries, and then have a bath in it to cure the disease. The lake that was constructed is now known as Bhojtal.
2. Dal Lake
Dal lake is arguably one of the most popular and beautiful lakes in India. It is the second largest in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and is also known as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Kashmir. It provides for tourism, fishing and other activities.
Trivia: According to ancient folklore, the Hindu goddess Durga resided in the village Isabar on the side of the lake. The lake was also once the paradise of the Mughal rulers, who built lavish residences around it.
Even during the British Raj, the lake witnessed a fair amount of activity – Englishmen built large boat houseboats where they holidayed on the lake; these boats are now maintained by the locals.
3. Bhimtal Lake
Bhimtal lake is located in the town of Bhimtal, Uttar Pradesh. It is the largest lake in the Kumaon region, which is known as the Lake District of India. It provides drinking water supply to the residents in the vicinity and is populated with many varieties of fish.
Trivia: The town and the lake are named after Bhima, who was one of the five Pandavas. He is said to have visited the lake.
An old temple built by Raja Raj Bahadur of the Kumaon kingdom is located on the banks of the lake.
4. Chilka Lake
Chilka lake is a water lagoon in the state of Orissa. It is the second largest lagoon in the world. It is also the largest winter habitat for migratory birds in India, hosting over 160 birds in peak migratory season.
Trivia: There is a 4th century folktale that talks about the birth of Chilka lake. According to the legend, the pirate king Raktabahu planned to attack the nearby city of Puri with a fleet of ships. He stealthily anchored out of sight to avoid detection, but someone managed to warn the residents of imminent danger; they escaped the town with all their belongings. On reaching the abandoned town, Raktabahu got furious at the sea, which he thought had betrayed him.
The waters of the ocean parted to let his army march in, then rushed back, drowning the army and forming the lake.
5. Gurudongmar Lake
The Gurudongmar lake, located in Sikkim, is one of the highest lakes in the world. Situated at an astonishing 5,430 metres above sea level, it is considered sacred by both Buddhists and Hindus.
Trivia: The lake is one of the 108 major holy lakes in Sikkim, and is believed to be the home of a local deity. It is named after Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, who is said to have visited the lake in the 8th century. According to legend, when he first visited the lake, residents were facing water shortage because the lake had frozen during the winter.
He touched the lake with his hand, after which the lake stopped freezing during winter.
6. Wular Lake
The Wular Lake, located in Bandipura district of Jammu and Kashmir, is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. The extensive marshes surrounding the lake act as a natural habitat for wildlife. The lake accounts for almost 60% of the total fish production in the state.
Trivia: The lake wasn’t always called Wular. Since it gives rise to high waves in the afternoons, called ullola in Sanskrit, the earliest name of the lake was Ullola. The lake transitioned from being called Ullola to Bolor by Al Biruni.
Over the centuries, the name changed again to the present name of Wular.
7. Lake Pichola
Lake Pichola, situated in Udaipur city in Rajasthan, is an artificial freshwater lake. It was built in the year 1362, and is named after the nearby Picholi village. The lake also houses four islands, namely, Jag Niwas, Jag Mandir, Mohan Mandir and Arsi Vilas.
Trivia: The lake was built in the year 1362 by a Banjara tribesman. Maharana Udai Singh, impressed by the beauty of the lake, constructed the city of Udaipur around the lake and also enlarged it.
The lake also has ties with the rebellion of Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) against his father Jahangir.
8. Lake Mansarovar
Lake Mansarovar is a freshwater lake in the Tibetan autonomous region, and is known the world over for its breathtaking views of the Himalayas! The lake is situated 4,900 metres above sea level and is at a distance of 940 kilometres from Lhasa.
Trivia: Followers of various religions such as Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism consider the lake sacred. Hindus believe that if one drinks from and bathes in the waters of the lake, one will be cleansed of all past sins. Buddhists believe the lake is connected to Anavatapta, where Maya gave birth to Buddha.
Jains associate the lake with Rishabha, the first tirthankara.
9. Chandra Tal
Chandra Tal literally means lake of the moon, a name that originates from its crescent shape. The lake is a popular destination for campers and trekkers, who flock to the site every year in large numbers. The lake is situated 4,300 metres above sea level, 14 kilometres away from Batal.
Trivia: On the banks of the river lie vast meadows that are used by trekkers as camping sites. During summer, the meadows are dotted with hundreds of wildflowers of various species.
The lake is also one of the two high altitude wetlands that have been designated as Ramsar sites for the conservation of wetlands.
10. Vembanad Lake
Vembanad Lake is one of the prized possessions of the the people of god’s own country, Kerala. This largest lake in the state also plays host to the popular Nehru boat race that takes place every year. The lake spans several districts of Kerala and also houses several islands.
Trivia: Vembanad Lake holds the title of being the longest lake in India and is also the largest wetland system in the country. The Kumarakom tourist village, situated on the east of the lake, is a very popular resort.
The lake is also home to the Kumarakom bird sanctuary.