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Home » North India Hill Station Tour » Srinagar

Srinagar

The capital of Jammu and Kashmir and the largest city in the state, Srinagar (1,730m) is famous for its canals, houseboats and Mughal gardens. The city itself is quite unlike most other large Indian cities for here you are much more in Central Asia than on the sub continent. It's a city full of intriguing alleyways and curious buildings. A place where it's very easy to spend a few hours simply wandering - particularly along the old city streets near the Jhelum river.

An Ancient Learning Centre Arts & Culture

The city has long been a centre of the arts and learning - it has had a university or for hundreds of years and is a centre of Sanskrit study. 'Sri' means beauty or wealth of knowledge and 'Nagar' means city. The city was originally founded by the great Buddhist emperor Ashoka - his old city is marked by the present village of Pandrethan. The present city was founded by Pravarasena II (79-139 AD) who named it "Praparapura" and built it practically contiguous with the old capital, which was called "Srinagari".

Praparapura is recorded in Chinese annals by Hiuan Tsang who visited the city in about 630 AD and described it as extending about 4-km from north to south and about 2-km from east to west along the right bank of the Jhelum. King Ananta was the first to transfer his royal residence to the left bank of the river.

A Legend

Legend has it that when Pravarasena decided to build himself a new capital, to choose the location he started walking at midnight and was confronted by a demon on the other side of the Mahasarit River. The demon spread his bent leg across the stream and dared the king to cross over it to the other side. The king cut off the leg with one stroke of his sword and calmly crossed.

The demon was delighted with the king's boldness and told him to build the city where he would find the beginnings of a plan laid out for him. The next morning the king found the boundary lines drawn at the foot of Hari Parbat and built his city there. To this day the waters of the Dal Lake are separated from the Tsont-i-Kul by a Sathu or Bund that is shaped like a bent leg.

Houseboats

If one is longing for the delights of a houseboat holiday, then check out lakes of Srinagar to try one. Srinagar is a unique city because of its lakes - the Dal, Nagin and Anchar. The River Jhelum also flows through a part of the city.

Most houseboats on the Nagin and the Jhelum are situated on the banks of the lake, and can be accessed directly from land without the help of a Shikara. While all those on the Dal require a Shikara to get to and from them. Most houseboats on the Dal are situated in long straggling rows; some face the boulevard, Srinagar's exciting address, while others are situated singly or in groups of two and three.

City Of Lakes

Srinagar's lakes are the reason why the city receives so many tourists. Not just expanse of water, the lakes are filled with houseboats, villages, narrow water canals, lotus and vegetable gardens and houses and shops.

Life on the lakes, as witnessed from the confines of a Shikara, is unique. It is possible to book a Shikara for the whole day and sightsee Nishat Garden, Nasim Bagh, Hazratbal Mosque, Pathar Masjid and Shah Hamdan's Shrine, having a picnic lunch in the boat.

While Nagin is quieter, the Dal is full of local colour, with tourists being rowed in Shikara to shops selling every conceivable handicraft - all within the lake.

Let's Have A Ride Of The Lake!

A Shikara ride is one of the most soothing, relaxing aspects of a holiday in Kashmir. It can be an hour-long ride to see the sights of the Dal; a shopping by Shikara expedition to visit handicraft shops within the periphery of the lake; or a whole day trip to visit important city landmarks.

Because the Dal is so central to the landscape of Srinagar, many places of tourist interest have, over the ages, been built in its vicinity.

The Mughal Gardens

The art of designing formal gardens which the Mughal (also spelt as Moghul) emperors expended such time and energy upon, reached its zenith in Kashmir. The Mughal gardens in Agra or Lahore may be very fine but only in Kashmir is the formal beauty of the gardens matched by the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside. The gardens follow a standard pattern with a central channel carrying water through the descending terraces in a delightful series of cascades, falls and pools.

Prime Attractions of Srinagar

Aru

The chirrup of birds, the gentle swish of the breeze, the sapphire coloured sky, and all at 2408m above sea level - this is Aru. Far far away from the routine urban life, Aru is a meadow bordered on one side by a ravine of the Lidder River. A little stream also flows past in the green-gold grass.

Avantipur

Situated at the foot of one of the spurs of the mountain Wastarwan, this temple site overlooks the Jhelum, which wends its tortuous way gently by the side of the Jammu-Srinagar highway.

Dal Lake

Dal Lake is, initially, one of the most confusing parts of Srinagar for it's not really one lake at all, but three. Further more much of it is hardly what one would expect a lake to be like - it's a maze of intricate waterways and channels, floating islands of vegetation, houseboats that look so firmly moored they could almost be islands and hotels on islands which look like they could simply float away.

Gulmarg Biosphere Reserves

The reserve area is located at a distance of 48-km from Srinagar, to its southwest. It is famous for retaining several rare and endangered species such as the musk deer, and a rich and varied avifauna.

Hari Parbat Fort

The 18th century fort tops the Sharika Hill, which is clearly visible, rising to the west of Dal Lake. The fort was constructed by Atta Mohammed Khan from 1776 but the surrounding wall is much older, it was built between 1592 and 1598 during the rule of Akbar.

Hazratbal Mosque

The most important Muslim shrine of Kashmir, that commands the reverence of the people beyond measure, is undoubtedly the Hazratbal Shrine, which is situated on the left bank of the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar. This unmatched reverence is anchored in the love and respect for the Prophet.

Khir Bhawani Temple

Situated at Tullamula in the Srinagar district, it is an important Hindu Shrine. The temple is associated with the Hindu Goddess, Ragnya Devi. An Annual festival is held here on Jeshth Ashtami (May-June) when Hindus visit the place in large numbers to offer prayers to seek the blessings of the deity.

Kokernag Springs

The great Mughal historian, Abul Fazi, has chronicled for posterity the benefits of the sweet water spring of Kokernag. This beneficent gift of nature is still regarded as having extraordinary healing powers .

Mughal Gardens

Set some distance back from the lake, but reached by a small canal, the Shalimar were built by Emperor Jehangir for his wife Nur Jahan, 'light of the world' in 1616. The Nishat Bagh is another lovely garden with its 12 terraces representing the 12 signs of the zodiac, which descend gradually and seem to almost merge into the lake. Smallest of the Srinagar Mughal gardens, measuring just 108 metres by 38 metres, the Chasma Shahi, or 'Royal Spring', are well up the hillside, above the Nehru Memorial Park.

Nagin Lake

Known as the 'Jewel In The Ring', Nagin is generally held to be the most beautiful of the Dal lakes. Its name comes from the many trees, which encircle the small, deep blue lake. Nagin is only separated from the Larer Dal lakes by a narrow causeway and it also has a number of houseboats moored around its perimeter.

Pandrethan

Pandrethan 5-km to the southeast of Srinagar, is now within the Municipal limits of Srinagar itself. The modern name is derived from the ancient appellation Puranadhishthana, which literally means the 'old capital'. Thus, Pandrethan represents the site of the ancient capital, Srinagari, believed to have been founded by the great Maurya emperor Ashoka (Circa 276-36 BC).

Shankaracharya Hill

Rising up behind the boulevard, beside Dal Lake, the hill was once known as Takht-i-Sulaiman, the throne of Solomon. The philosopher Shankaracharya stayed at this place when he visited Kashmir ten centuries ago to revive "Sanatan Dharma".

Tomb of Zain Ul Abidin

One of the east banks of the Jhelum River, between the Zaina Kadal and the Ali Kadal, is the slightly decrepit tomb of King Zain-ul-Abidin, the highly regarded son of Sultan Sikander, who built the Jami Masjid.

Verinag Springs

One of the largest springs in India, Verinag, which lies in the Kothar district, is 78-km southeast of Srinagar via Anantnag, and is easily accessible through a bypass from the Jammu-Srinagar highway.

Burzahom

In the opposite direction from the Shalimar gardens about 5-km to the northwest, are the even older excavations of Burzahom. The archaeological dig here has provided evidence of people living in the vale up to 5,000 years ago. The oldest excavations have revealed implements, pots, animal skeletons, arrowheads and tools from the Neolithic age. Much of the material taken from this site is now in the museum in Srinagar.

Islands

There are three main islands in the lake, each poplar excursion points. Silver Island is at the northern end of Dal Lake and is also known as "Char Chinar" after the four-chinar trees, which grow on it. There's a small snack bar on the island as there is also on Gold Island at the south end of the lake. It is also known as "Char Chinar" for it too has four Chinar trees. The third island is Nehru Park, at the end of the main stretch of the boulevard and only a short distance from the shore. It too has a restaurant although it's a very run down, miserable affair. The children's playground here has also seen better days. Often in summer there are evening shows, dances and festivals held at Nehru Park. North of Nehru Island a long causeway leads out into the lake from the boulevard just off its end is "Kotar Khana", the 'house of pigeons', which was once a royal summer house.

Jami Masjid

one of the most important mosque is an impressive wooden structure, notable for the more than 300 soaring pillars supporting the roof; each made of a single deodar tree trunk. The main gate is to the south and the outer cloisters surround a spacious, green and peaceful inner courtyard.

Khanqah-e-Moulla

The shrine of Shah-e-Hamdan or Khanqah-e Moulla is one of the oldest Muslim shrines in Kashmir situated on the banks of river Jehlum in the old city. The shrine was originally constructed by Sultan Sikander (1389-1413 AD) in the memory of Muslim preacher Mir Syed Ali Hamdani who had visited Kashmir and stayed there for meditation and preaching.

Mansabal Lake

Situated in the Jhelum valley on the route to the Wular Lake via Safapur, the lake can be reached from Srinagar via Shadipur or via Nasim and Gandarbal. The secluded, crystal clear sheet of green water was named after the sacred lake of Mansarowar that skirts the equally sacred Mt. Kailash.

Nasim Bagh

Only a short distance beyond the Hazratbal mosque, the Nasim gardens, the 'garden of tepid airs' or 'garden of the morning breeze', were built by the Mughal emperor Akbar after his conquest of Kashmir in 1586. He had 1,200 Chinar trees planted in the garden, which is the oldest of Kashmir's Mughal gardens.

Overa-Aru Biosphere Reserves

The area is located at a distance of 76-kms from Srinagar to its southeast. It is famous for retaining several rare and endangered species

Pari Mahal

The old Sufi college of Pari Mahal, the 'palace of the fairies', is only a short distance above the Chasma Shahi gardens. One can easily walk from the gardens up to the Pari Mahal then follow a footpath directly down the hill to the road that runs by the Oberoi Palace Hotel. The Pari Mahal consists of a series of arched terraces. Recently it has been turned into a very pleasant and well-kept garden with fine views over Dal Lake. It's attractively sited on a spur of the Zabarwan Mountains. The gardens are beautifully kept even today and a Son Et Lumiere show is put on here every evening during the May to October tourist season.

Pather Masjid

Almost directly opposite the Shah Hamdan mosque, on the other bank of the Jhelum, the Pather Masjid is a fine stone mosque built by Nur Jahan in 1623. It is not, however, in everyday use today and is consequently rather run down. Reach it by crossing Zaina Kadal, the fourth bridge.

Shadaharwan

5-km beyond the Shalimar gardens, this place is said to have been the site of a monastery in which the fourth international council of Buddhism was held in the year 300 AD. At this time Kashmir was part of the Kushan Empire under the rule of the Buddhist emperor Kanishka. The monastery is said to have contained a Stupa, some chapels and other buildings. Excavations in the area recently have brought to light some illustrated tiles on the hillside south of the village of Harwan. One can see examples of the tiles, with their central Asian influence in the peoples dress and ornaments, in the museum in Srinagar. Nearby is the Harwan Lake, at the foot of the 4,267metre Mahadev peak, a popular climb for hikers during the summer. The lake is actually the reservoir, which provides the water supply for Srinagar and it is supplied by the run off from Marsar Lake. There is also a garden and trout hatchery at the site.

Shah Hamdan Mosque

Shah Hamdan Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Srinagar. The wooden mosque stands right beside the Jhelum and is noted for the Papier Mache work on its walls and ceilings. No nails or screws were used in the construction of this all-wooden mosque. Originally built in 1395 it has been destroyed by fire in 1479 and again in 1731.

Shawls

Kashmiri shawls are noted for the extreme fineness of the cream coloured goats wool known as Pashmina and for the intricate embroidery work.

Shri Pratap Singh Museum

The Shri Pratap Singh museum is in Lal Mandi, just south of the river between zero bridge and Amira Kadal. It has an interesting collection of exhibits relevant to Kashmir including illustrated tiles excavated near Harwan. The museum is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm except on Wednesdays when it is closed and admission is free.

The Bund

From above Zero Bridge to below Badshah Bridge one can walk along the banks of the Jhelum River on the popular footpath known as the bund. It's a pleasant relaxing place to stroll along and many Doonga houseboats can be seen beside it. The GPO, the government handicrafts emporium and a string of handicraft shops are all close beside the Bund.

Tomb Of Zain-ul-Abidin

One of the east banks of the Jhelum River, between the Zaina Kadal and the Ali Kadal, is the slightly decrepit tomb of King Zain-ul-Abidin, the highly regarded son of Sultan Sikander, who built the Jami Masjid.

Excursions from Srinagar

Gulmarg (56Km.)

The valley of Gulmarg, a large meadow about 3-sq-kms in area, stands at 2,730m, 56-km south west of Srinagar. The name means 'Meadow Of Flowers' and in the spring it's just that, a rolling meadow dotted with countless colourful Bluebells, Daisies, Forget Me Not's and Buttercups. more..

Pahalgam (86Km.)

At an altitude of 2,130m and about 95-km from Srinagar, Pahalgam is probably the most popular hill resort in the Kashmir valley. Since it is rather lower than Gulmarg the nighttime temperatures do not drop so low and it has the further advantage of the beautiful Lidder River running right through the town. more..

Sonamarg (87Km.)

At a height of 2,740m, Sonamarg is the last major point in the Kashmir valley before the Zoji La pass into Ladakh. At the pass the green, lush Kashmiri landscape abruptly switches to the barren, dry landscape of Ladakh. Sonamarg is thus not only a good base for treks but also a jumping off point for trips into Ladakh. more..

Amarnath (143Km.)

The Yatra (pilgrimage) on foot to Amarnath Cave, considered one of the holiest naturally occurring shrines of the Hindu faith, has continued annually for little more than a hundred years. Extending up 130 feet, the Amarnath Cave is high and shallow.
Chrar-e-Sharief

Charer-e-Sharif was a Shrine holy to both Muslims and Hindus. The Islamic militants burned it down in 1995 at the behest of Pakistan. Sheikh Nooruddin, after all, was arguably the greatest mystic-saint of Kashmir.

Dachigam National Park (22Km.)

Located very close to Srinagar (22-km), Dachigam National Park with its splendid forests and magnificent scenery is easily accessible. Of all the many sanctuaries in the state, the one at Dachigam is the best known.

Wular Lake (50Km.)

Claimed to be the largest freshwater lake in India, the Wular lake can spread over nearly 200-sq-kms but its actual surface area tends to vary during the year. The Jhelum River flows into the lake, 40-km downstream from Srinagar, and then out again.

Aharbal(51Km.)

This was another popular resting place for the Mughal emperors when they made the long trip north from Delhi to Kashmir. It's in an area famed for its apples and also has an interesting waterfall. It's also the start of the popular trek to the Konsarnag Lake.

Aharbal Falls

The falls are about 13-km from Shupian, from where there is a motorable road and a trekker's route leading through dense pine forest. The falls are said to be the best in Kashmir. The road leads over a high bridge at Kongwatan from where a magnificent view of the awesome gorge created by the Vishav River can be seen less than 2-km further on are the foot of the falls, where the river drops more than 15 metres over a distance of 3-km. The road continues on here a further 3-km to the top of the falls where from a rock outcrop one can look down around 60 metres to the river rushing below. The road continues a further 6-km to the village of Sedau, where the trek to Konsarnag begins. The first stage is a climb of about four hours to Kongwatan, an upland meadow. From here it is a further 10 to 15 hours walking to Konsarnag.

Anchar Lake

Although this large lake is no great distance from Srinagar and easily reached by bus, it is rarely visited. A daily bus leaves Srinagar for the lake early in the morning and returns late in the afternoon. In winter it is home for a wide variety of water birds including Mallard, Pochard, Gadwall Snipe and Teal.

Gandarbal


Just beyond the Wular and Manasbal lakes turn off from the Leh road, this pleasant little town marks the point where the icy Sindh River leaves the mountains and enters the plains. Gandarbal is the official headquarters of the Sindh valley and was originally called "Doderhom". It has a bazaar, a post office and two hospitals. About 5-km from Gandarbal, in the village of Tullamulla, is the shrine of Khirbhawani, the Goddess Ragni, the Hindu guardian Goddess of Kashmir. The marble temple, built by Maharaja Pratap Singh, stands in a small spring. It is an irregular, seven sided structure and is said to be surrounded by 360 springs, most of which have run dry or been silted up. The village is a floating garden surrounded by swamps. Its many islands are covered with willows, poplars and wildflowers, while the island on which the spring stands is covered with Chinar, Mulberry and Elm trees. The nearby village named after Khirbhawani has almond groves where the best quality almonds in Kashmir are said to grow. Gandarbal can be reached from Srinagar by road or one can go there by boat along the Mar Canal, or take a six hour round trip via the Jhelum River and Anchar Lake. There are many excellent camping places along these routes.

Kongwatan

This is a charming meadow just a short distance from the river. Among the pines near the river bank there is a small sulphur spring and also a forest rest hut. The lace is inhabited by nomadic Gujar shepherds, said to be descendants of the biblical Abraham and Isaac, or Gujar Rajputs, who come each summer from the plains with their flocks of cattle and buffalo to spend July and August in the high meadows. They wear black clothes adorned only with a small cap, embroidered and set with 'Kari' shells. The caps of the women project over the neck to protect from sunburn. The women are very agile and seem to do all the work as well as taking care of the children.

Pandrethan Temple

A small, beautifully proportioned Shiva temple built around 900 AD, the Pandrethan temple is in the military cantonment area on the Jammu road out of Srinagar.

Shupian

Lying in the crook of a bend of the Pir Panjal range, at the foot of several passes which lead out on to the plains, this fairly large town is an important centre of trade, the centre of the wool industry of the valley, and is famous for its apples. It lies on the Rembiara River and has several rest houses and a couple of guesthouses. It is also the base for treks to Konsarnag, to Yusmarg and to the Aharbal falls. The first stage on the trek to Konasarnag is the drive to Kongwatan.

Sindh Valley

North of Srinagar the Sindh valley is an area of mountains, lakes, rivers and glaciers. The Sindh River flows down from the Amarnath and Haramukh glaciers into the Anchar Lake. The Leh road from Srinagar follows this river to beyond Sonamarg. The Zoji La pass marks the boundary from the Sindh valley into Ladakh.

Yushmarg (47Km.)

Standing in the Pir Panjal hills, out beyond the airport, at an altitude of 2,700 metres, the meadow of Yusmarg is reputed to have the best spring flowers in Kashmir. The beautiful valley is at the foot of the Sangisafaid valley on the northern slopes of the Pir Panjal range. Near to Yusmarg is the picturesque Nila Nag Lake where there is a forest rest house. Yusmarg has tourist huts and is a good base for treks into the surrounding hills. To reach the Nila Nag one can walk 19-km from Magam, across roads on the way to Gulmarg. The path then follows down from Nila Nag to Yusmarg and from there the road runs to Yus, where a track leads off towards Sangam and Sunset Peak, up the valley of the Khanchi Kol. Sunset peak is the highest mountain in the Pir Panjal range at 4,746 metres. Other popular treks over here include those to Sangisafaid and Dodha Patri. If one can take some time out, then take tour of Yushmarg in daytime. Buses on conducted tours run to Yushmarg thrice a week. 47-km southwest of Srinagar amidst pines and firs lies the vale - Yushmarg (2,700m) at the slope of the Pir Panjal ranges. Its is a beautiful pasture as well as a nice picnic spot.

Srinagar

Shopping

There is a whole string of Government Handicraft Emporiums scattered around Srinagar but the main one is housed in the fine Old British Residency buildings by the Bund. Here one will find a representative selection of reasonably good quality items at reasonable prices. Even if one doesn't buy anything, and take advantage of the government's quality guarantee, it's a good idea to familiarise oneself with what's available here.

How To Get There - Srinagar

By Air

Various airlines fly to Srinagar from New Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Jammu and there are flights operating from Srinagar to Leh and back. Flights are more frequent during the summer Tourist Season; at that time there will probably be several flights a day between Delhi and Srinagar. Some services are direct, while others operate via Chandigarh, Amritsar or Jammu. Flight time duration from Delhi on the direct flights is about an hour and ten minutes.

By Road

Srinagar is connected by an all weather road to Jammu, which in turn is connected to many parts of North India. One can catch buses from Delhi but people making the trip by road should take up the route via Chandigarh, Amritsar or from the Himachal Pradesh hill stations.

By Buses

Buses leave Jammu early in the morning for the 10 to 12 hour trip to Srinagar in the Kashmir valley. Although there are many buses, still one should book a seat as soon as one arrives in Jammu. The same applies from Srinagar as the day before departure all seats may be sold out. Buses also go from here to Leh and Kargil.

The buses all arrive and depart in Srinagar from the Tourist Reception Centre bus compound. From here's it's about a 10 to 15 minute walk to Dal Lake and the houseboat ghats. If one wants to go straight to the houseboat area or to one of the upmarket hotels by the lake ask for the boulevard. Bus bookings are made at the tourist reception centre.

Local Transport

Srinagar lends itself to human power transport - either by feet, bicycles or Shikaras. Many of the interesting parts of town are within walking distance wherever one stay. If one is on a houseboat, walking along the boulevard into the area of Residency Road, the Tourist Reception Centre, the Polo Ground and the Bund, will provide one with the opportunity for plenty of sightseeing and shopping.

Shikaras

The best-known Kashmiri transport is, of course, the Shikara. These are the graceful, long boats, which crowd the Srinagar lakes. They're used for getting back and forth from the houseboats or for longer tours. Officially there is a standard fare for every trip around the lake and these are prominently posted at the main landings.

Try paddling a Shikara yourself sometime - it's nowhere near as easy as it looks. You'll spend lots of time going round in circles trying to master that single, heart shaped paddle. Even if you do start to travel in a straight line you'll find it requires a good amount of stamina to maintain the pace. If your houseboat hasn't got one to spare some children passing by will find you a boat although you may have to pay them. One can rent rowboats on Nagin Lake.

Taxis & Auto Rickshaws

There are stands for these at the Tourist Reception Centre and other strategic locations in town.

Buses

The Jammu & Kashmir road transport corporation buses go from the Tourist Reception Centre while private buses operate from a variety of stands in Srinagar. Certain major long distance routes are reserved for the J&K buses but others are open for competition and there will be a great number of buses operating. Fares are set for all routes and the drivers or conductors are usually very helpful.

Bicycles

Bicycles seeing Srinagar by bicycle is a surprisingly pleasant way of getting around. Although the mountains soar up all around the valley, Srinagar itself is surprisingly flat. Bicycles are economical too. One can hire bikes for sightseeing purpose from bicycle shops. There are several along the boulevard close to Dal gate. Pleasant trips to be made include:

By Rail

Srinagar's railhead is Jammu, which in turn is connects all parts of the country, including Delhi, Kolkata (Calcutta), Pune, Mumbai and Kanyakumari. The distance is about 876-km from Delhi to Srinagar although almost everybody coming up from Delhi, or other Indian cities, by land will come through Jammu from where the buses run daily to Srinagar.

By train there are about four services a day from Delhi or New Delhi to Jammu Tawi, across the river from Jammu. The trip takes nine to 13 hours, usually overnight. For information about booking trains from Jammu while in Srinagar enquire at the railways office in the tourist reception centre.

Places To Stay - Srinagar

Srinagar has a great number of hotels apart from its well-known floating hostelries. If one wants something at the very bottom of the price scale or, conversely, at the top end of the luxury scale, one may find it easier on dry land. Prices are very variable with the season and the number of tourists.

General Information - Srinagar

Distances To Important From Srinagar:
Jammu Tawi: 293-km
Delhi: 876-km
Leh: 434-km
Sonamarg: 87-km
Gulmarg: 56-km
Pahalgam: 86-km
Amarnath: 143-km
Aharbal: 51-km
Yushmarg: 47-km
Katra: 285-km.
Location
Kashmir Region, J&K.

Main Attraction

Dal Lake, Nagin Lake, Mughal Gardens, The Islands, The Bund, Sri Pratap Singh Museum, Nasim Bagh, Pari Mahal, Hari Parbat Fort, Burzahom.

Best Time

In Summer - June To Early November
In Winter - December To February.



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