Of Kashmir, it was said, “Gar bar-ru-e-zamin ast; hamin ast, hamin ast, hamin asto” or ” If there be a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”
The lofty snow clad mountain ranges, sylvan landscape and remarkably good-looking people made this state a virtual paradise. Of Kashmir, it was said, “Gar bar-ru-e-zamin ast; hamin ast, hamin ast, hamin asto”. Or ” If there be a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.”
This state is at the extreme north west of India. On the southeast and south are the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. However, it is bounded on the west and north by Pakistan. And on the northeast it’s neighbour is China. The State lies between 32.17″ and 36.58″ north latitude. And east to west, the State lies between 73.26″ and 80.30″ longitude.
More than 90 percent of the state is mountainous. From southwest to northeast the region contains the fertile Jammu and Punch plains. And the coniferous Himalayan foothills are from 2,000 to 7,000 feet. Followed by the heavily glaciated Pir Panjal range at 12,500 feet. Additionally, the valley of Kashmir is at 5,300 feet. While the Himalayan ranges are above 20,000 feet, the upper Indus River valley is at 11,000 feet. Moreover, the stark, barren plateau of Ladakh and the remote Karokaram range are also here. The Indus, Jhelum, Chenab and Tawi are the principal rivers. While the Dal and Wular are the major lakes. The climate varies from alpine in the northeast to subtropical in the southwest.
The topography of Jammu and Kashmir offers a wide variety of climate and vegetation. Because of this, the state is a wildlife enthusiast’s delight. No animal better exemplifies the character and concerns of mountain environment than the snow leopard. Another rare animal is the hangul or Kashmir stag. One of the most endangered species of red deer in the world is found here. The eco-system here is well balanced with animals and people coexisting peacefully. One third of the world’s true mountain animals belonging to these mountains.
According to legend, corroborated by some geologists, Kashmir was earlier a huge lake called the Karewa. And the area was formed by the blocking of the Jhelum river. Because of the rising Pir Panjal range during one of the periodic phases of Himalayan uplift. Therefore the valley of Kashmir was left behind. There is evidence of coral and other marine fossils in this region.
In the second century, Kashmir was known to have been annexed by emperor Kanishka and became a part of the Kushan Empire. But reliable sources trace the history of Kashmir only to the seventh century. For a thousand years after, the area flourished, maintaining its culture. Converting peacefully to Islam in the 14th century, the state was later subdued by Akbar in 1585. Thereafter followed a period of brutal Afghan rule, which was replaced by neighbouring Punjab’s Sikh rule.
Following the Treaty of Amritsar in 1846, Kashmir and the adjoining regions of Jammu, Baltistan and Ladakh became part of the Maharaja’s state of Jammu and Kashmir. While the British assumed control over the state’s external affairs, the Maharajas determined their own domestic policy.
A Hindu maharaja in a predominantly Muslim state, attacked by Pathan tribals, appealed to India for protection. In the ensuing conflict, 64,000 sq. kms in Ladakh were occupied by China. Also, one third of Kashmir’s territory was occupied by Pakistan. And the rest was claimed by India. Though there was a formal ratification of Kashmir’s accession to India in 1954, the state has continued to witness bloody wars, territorial disputes and terrorism.
Jammu & Kashmir is divided into three broad segments : Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Kashmir has the maximum population at 53%. Population of Jammu is 45%. While remote and difficult to access Ladakh is a stark, sparsely populated moonscape of incredible rough-hewn beauty. However, the state has been in the glare of international interest. This is unfortunately because of the constant disputes over territorial rights.
The state has several pilgrim destinations for Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. The Amarnath temple and the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine are among the most revered and sacred of Hindu pilgri mage sites and hundreds of devotees pay homage every year at these places. The Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar is where the Moi-e-Muqqadus, or sacred hair of Prophet Mohaamad is preserved. It is a Muslim pilgrim site where the faithful come to pay homage. The Shahdara Sharief in Rajouri district is a symbol of communal harmony. Baba Ghulam Shah, born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, made Shahdara his home. And Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs visit the shrine to offer prayers and seek the blessings of the Pir.
Ladakh, remote and isolated, has a fascinating barren landscape and attracts tourists from everywhere. There is a simplicity and enduring mysticism that beckons. Many are keen to experience the stark atmosphere that forms the backdrop to the many monasteries and monastic festivals here.
The state has several diverse locations, which are enthralling, indeed. These include Srinagar, the land of Mughal gardens and enchanting houseboats. And this is the summer capital of the state. While Jammu is the winter capital.
Pahalgam with its soaring mountains, icy glaciers and cascading streams is the base for the famous Amarnath yatra. Gulmarg with its pretty landscapes has the highest golf course in the world. Its ski slopes tempt the daring. Sonamarg is the land of the golden meadows. Buddhist populated Ladakh has its own special enduring charm. For instance, the isolated plateau of Leh. Also, Kargil the second largest town of Ladakh. And the enchanting Suru Valley and mountainous Zanskar.