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Jammu and Kashmir, India
Tour Information & Highlights
Area : 222,236 sq km
Population : 12,548,926
Religion : Islam, Buddhists, Hindus (inclusive of Megh Bhagats) and Sikhs.
Monthly Rainfall : 650 mm.
Capital : Srinagar (Summer), Jammu (Winter)
Languages : Kashmiri, Urdu, Dogri, Pahari, Ladakhi etc.
Literacy Rate : 66.7% (21st)
Best Time to Visit : April to June (Kashmir Valley), October to March (Jammu Region)
The history of Jammu & Kashmir is quite old. Kashmir is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. In 250 BC, Ashoka, the great Mauryan king, established the city of Pandrethan and built many viharas and chaityas. This says much about the strategic importance that this region held even in that time. Some sources claim that Buddha also visited this region, though no proof is available to validate this theory. Kanishka, the great Kushana king, called the Third Buddhist Council at Harwan, near Srinagar, in the first century AD. This Council saw the division of Buddhism in two distinct streams called Hinayana and Mahayana.
Kalhana, the first Indian history writer, gave a vivid account of the history of Kashmir before the 10th century AD. Local kingdoms ruled extensively in this region until the 12th century AD when Muslims invaded the region. The greatest Muslim king of early medieval age in Kashmir was Zain-ul-Abidin, who ascended the throne in AD 1420 and ruled up to 1470. His long rule contributed extensively to the spread of art, culture, music, and every other sphere in the life of Kashmir people. He also created a strong army and annexed many regions nearby Kashmir. These were the time of golden rule in Kashmir when peace and harmony prevailed. After the death of King Zain-ul-Abidin, a period of destruction came calling to Kashmir and many raiders from outside looted the state and made the people and local rulers their captive.
In 1587, Akbar annexed Kashmir into his vast empire. Jahangir, son of Akbar and next Mughal ruler, visited Kashmir 13 times and created two beautiful gardens on the bank of Dal Lake, namely, the Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh. After two centuries of peace and development, Kashmir came into the hands of the Pathans in 1752, when the Afghan ruler Abdul Shah Abdali attacked this region on the request of local noblemen. The Pathans established a rule of terror here, no better than that of Aurangzeb, the last important Mughal ruler.
In 1819, the Sikhs under Maharaja Ranjit Singh annexed this region, but their empire remained in place only for 27 years. From 1846 to 1957, the Dogras ruled over this region when British defeated Ranjit Singh and handed over the administration of this region to Maharaja Gulab Singh. The Dogra rule also for the first time put in reality the modern state of Jammu & Kashmir. During India's freedom struggle, people from this state participated extensively under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah and decided to go with India in 1948 after the country became independent.
Major Tourist Attractions in Jammu and Kashmir: Srinagar, Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh etc.
Jammu and Kashmir
Situated in the northern part of India, Jammu & Kashmir is the essence of everything that is Indian-its culture, history, tradition, people, and natural splendor. The state has a long history encompassing around 4,000 years and there are many prehistoric sites, which give indication of human settlement in this region in those times.
The state was integrated as a part of India in 1948, when the then ruler of Jammu & Kashmir agreed to join the Indian federation and the state was given a special status under article 370 of the Indian constitution.
Jammu and Kashmir - Geographical Information
1. Location :
Situated in the northernmost part of India, Jammu and Kashmir is bordered by Pakistan, China, and Afghanistan from West to East. From South to East, the boundary of the state touches Punjab and Himachal. The state extends between the latitudes 32°17¢N to 36°58'N and longitudes 37°26¢E to 80°30¢E.
2. Physical Features :
The state can be divided into four major regions: the sub-mountain and semi-mountain plain known as kandi or dry belt; the Shivalik ranges, the high mountain zone constituting the Kashmir Valley; Pir Panchal range and its off-shoots including Doda, Poonch and Rajouri districts and part of Kathua and Udhampur districts; and the middle run of the Indus River comprising Leh and Kargil.
Tourist Places, Jammu and Kashmir
Srinagar, the state capital, is the most famous tourist destination in the state. An ancient city, there are many attractions that can attract even the most unwilling of tourists to this magical land. Dal Lake, Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Bagh, and Chashme Shahi are some of the best-known tourist spot in Srinagar.
Jammu is the winter capital of the state and next in importance after Srinagar. Most of the tourists who come to the Jammu region have the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine as their destination, which is quite close by. However, the spirit of holiness permeates through the entire city, so much so that Jammu is also known as the 'City of Temples'. If Bahu Mata is the presiding deity of Jammu, the dargah of Peer Budhan Ali Shah is the other shrine that is believed to protect the local people. The other major tourist attraction is the Raghunath Temple Complex, which is the largest temple in North India devoted to Lord Rama. The construction of this temple was begun by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1851 and completed by his son Ranbir Singh six years later.
Ladakh is home to the minority Buddhist community in the state. They have preserved their unique culture for the past hundreds of years. Leh is the headquarters of this region. The major points of attraction are the Leh Palace, Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, Sankar Gompa, Shanti Stupa, and Soma Gompa.
Climate, Jammu and Kashmir
Although a small state, the climate of this state varies from one region to another. The climate of Jammu region is tropical while it is semi-arctic in Ladakh and temperate in Srinagar region. Accordingly, rainfall also varies from region to region and while there is almost no rainfall in Ladakh, Jammu receives a rainfall of above 1,100 mm and Srinagar around 650 mm.
Flora and Fauna, Jammu and Kashmir
The state is rich in flora and fauna. In Jammu, the flora ranges from the thorn bush type of the arid plain to the temperate and alpine flora of the higher altitudes. Of the broad-leaf trees, there are maple, horse chestnuts, silver fir, etc. At the higher altitudes, there are birch, rhododendron, and a large number of herbal plants.
Kashmir is also resplendent with many hues of wood and game. The most magnificent of the Kashmir trees is the chinar found throughout the valley. Mountain ranges in the valley have dense deodar, pine and fir. Walnut, willow, almond and cider also add to the rich flora of Kashmir.
In the hilly regions of Doda, Udhampur, Poonch and Rajouri, there is a large and varied fauna including leopard, cheetah and deer, wild sheep, bear, brown musk shrew, and muskrat. Varieties of snakes, bats, lizards and frogs are also found in the region. The game birds in Jammu include chakor (Alectorisgraeca), snow partridge, pheasants, and peacock.
The dense forests of Kashmir are a delight to the sport lovers and adventurers for whom there are ibex, snow leopard, musk deer, wolf, red bear, black bear and leopard. The winged game includes ducks, goose, partridge, chakor, pheasant, wagtails, herons, water pigeons, warblers, and doves. In the otherwise arid desert of Ladakh, some 240 species of local and migratory birds have been identified including the black-necked crane.
The Ladakh fauna includes yak, Himalayan ibex, Tibetan antelope, snow leopard, wild ass, red bear and gazelle.
Ethnicity, Jammu and Kashmir
Majority of the people in this region are Muslims with concentration of Hindus mainly in Jammu region, while Buddhists are confined to Ladakh region.
Arts and Crafts, Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmiri shawls, the woven jewels of Kashmir, have developed over 300 years. There are two distinct types of shawls-the amli and the kani. Amli means embroidered, where narrow strips of cloth woven on a small loom are carefully joined together with almost invisible stitches. In kani shawls the designs are woven on the loom like twill tapestry. The most valued shawls are the pashminas composed of treads of delicate wool from the under-belly of the wild Tibetan goat that lives 4,000 feet above sea level. The finest wool is shahtoosh. It is superfine, extraordinarily light and amazingly warm. The most complex woven shawl is the jamawar, woven like tapestry. Sometimes, as many as 50 colors are used in a single weft.
The origins of hand-knotted carpets can be traced back to more than 2,000 years. In India, the hand-knotted carpet appeared in the 15th century. In Kashmir, it attained a high degree of perfection especially in the 16th and 17th centuries under the Mughal emperors. Wool is the basic material, but in Kashmir silk is also commonly used. The appearance and number of knots on the back of the carpet indicates the quality. The Bokhara carpets are one of the finest with about 125-500 knots in a square inch.
For over 2,500 years, the patterns reproduced were those of flower arabesques and rhomboids with an occasional animal design. The patterns have never become outmoded even today.
Music and Dance, Jammu and Kashmir
As is the beauty of this state, it has a great cultural tradition. Major performing traditions of this state are Rouf (a dance form performed on the occasion of Eid and Ramjan), Hafiz Nagma (based on Sufiana Qalam, a classical music tradition of Kashmir), song of HabbaKhaton (based on the folk renderings of Kashmiri music), Jagarna (a theatrical activity performed by the women folk of house when men go out in a marriage), Surma (Dogri songs set to dance), Bakhan (Dogri songs), and Geetru (Dogri dance and song performance).
Fairs and Festivals, Jammu and Kashmir
The Hemis Festival is held in the month of July when tourists in large numbers converge here from all over the world to watch the famous masked dances. The music is characteristically punctuated with sounds of cymbals, drums and long, unwieldy trumpets. The masked dancers move around slowly, very slowly, and the most vital part of the dance is the masks and not so much the actual movements of the dance. The dances end with Good vanquishing Evil and the evil one is brought into the protective fold of Buddhism.
Like the Hemis festival, monasteries like Lamayuru, Thiksey, Spitook, Likir and many others also have their individual festivals. Since they follow the lunar calendar, the actual dates of the festivals vary from one year to another. Other than these religious celebrations, Ladakh has also been host to a 15-day festival each year to bring forward the many nuances of this rich and exotic culture that is peculiar to this high part of the world. The Jammu and Kashmir tourism department organizes the Ladakh Festival in the month of September bringing forward the region's folk dances, art and craft, sporting events and rituals.
Cuisine, Jammu and Kashmir
Think of Kashmiri cuisine and visions of deliciously spicy meat dishes and the delicate flavor of saffron come to mind. The Kashmiris are passionate about their food and this is evident from the amount of time they spend either cooking it or discussing about it. Meat being the staple, most of the special dishes have mutton as a major ingredient. Nahari, a special breakfast dish, is a stew of trotters and tongue, seasoned with cassia buds, cardamom, sandalwood powder, vetiver roots and dried rose petals. The sheermal bread goes well with this stew. The methimaz , on the other hand, is a superb blend of mild-tasting entrails and strong-flavored fenugreek leaves.
Tracing its roots to Kashmir is the ever-popular rogan josh, which is spiced lamb cooked in yogurt and aniseed, a spice not very commonly used in other regional cuisines. While tabakmaz is spiced ribs fried to crispiness, for the qorma, a lightly sour creamy dish, shoulder of lamb and tail are cooked in milk and dried apricots, and the yakhni uses curd as the base for its sauce. Rista, the first gravy dish to make its appearance in a wazwan, is a meatball of pounded lamb that is silky in texture. After a whole range of dishes comes the gushtaba, a giant meatball made of the same, pounded meat, cooked in a curd based gravy.
A semolina pudding sometimes follows the main courses of the wazwan, but there are not too many sweet dishes in the Kashmiri repertoire. However, a different preparation, served to freshen the mouth after the wazwan, is the gota-a mixture of aniseed, sugar candy, bits of supari (optional), coarsely grated coconut and kernels of muskmelon seeds.
Another specialty of Kashmir is the delicately understated saffron. It is the world's most expensive spice because farmers would have to harvest 70,000 of Crocus sativus flowers to extract 210 thousand stigmas to make one pound, which is less than a kilogram of saffron.
How to reach Jammu and Kashmir?
By Air - The state has three major civil airports at Srinagar, Jammu, and Ladakh connected to Delhi and other places in the country. Indian Airlines and its subsidiary Alliance Air operate in the Delhi-Chandigarh-Ladakh and Delhi-Jammu-Srinagar routes.
By Rail - Jammu Tawi is the main railhead of Jammu & Kashmir. It is connected to most of the important towns and cities of the country. Moreover, the longest rail route that stretches from Jammu Tawi to Kanyakumari and touches almost all the main cities and towns of the country originates from here.
By Road - One can easily reach Jammu by the National Highway 1A that goes from Punjab and runs through this city, connecting it to the rest of the state, including the capital Srinagar. The state transport corporation runs several buses to most of the big towns and cities in north India