Travel – Beautiful Kashmir valley

The Kashmir Valley (Urduوادی کشمیر‎; Hindiकश्मीर घाटी) or Vale of Kashmir is a valley located between theKarakoram and the Pir Panjal Range in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. No part of the valley lies in the area currently administered by Pakistan and is currently under Indian control.[1] It is around 135 km long and 32 km wide, formed by the Jhelum River.[2] Kashmir Valley is one of the three administrative divisions in Jammu and Kashmir state other being Jammu and Ladakh and consists of Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam, Bandipore, Ganderbal, Kupwara, Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian and Srinagar districts.[3]

Quick facts: Kashmir Valley Vale of Kashmir, Country …

The Mughal emperor Jahangir, called it “Paradise on Earth.”

Geography

Kashmir Valley borders Jammu region to the south, Ladakh region to the east, and the Line of Control in the north and the west.

Kashmir valley seen from satellite. Snow-capped Pir Panjal rangeseparates the valley from plains.

Climate

Quick facts: Srinagar, Climate chart (explanation) …

Kashmir Valley has a moderate climate, which is largely defined by its geographic location, with the toweringKarakoram Range in the north, Pir Panjal Range in the south and west andZanskar Range in the east.[5] It can be generally described as cool in the spring and autumn, mild in the summer and cold in the winter. As a large valley with significant differences in geo-location among various districts, the weather is often cooler in the hilly areas compared to the flat lower part.

Summer is usually mild and with good little rain, but relative humidity is generally high and the nights are cool. The precipitation occurs throughout the year and no month is particularly dry. The hottest month is July (mean minimum temperature 6 °C, mean maximum temperature 32 °C) and the coldest are December–January (mean minimum temperature −15 °C, mean maximum temperature 0 °C).

Compared with other plain parts of India, Kashmir valley enjoys a more moderate climate but weather conditions are unpredictable. The recorded high temperature is 33 °C and the recorded low is −18 °C. On 5 and 6 January 2012, after years of relatively little snow, a wave of heavy snow and low temperatures (winter storm) shocked the valley covering it in a thick layer of snow and ice.

Kashmir Valley has seen an increase in the relative humidity and annual precipitation in the last few years. This is most likely because of the commercial afforestation projects which also include expanding parks and green cover.

In his introduction to the Rajatarangini, Kulan or Kalhana says about the climate of Valley:[6]

It is a country where the sun shines mildly, being the place created by Kashayapa as if for his glory. High school-houses, the saffron, iced water and grapes, which are rare even in heaven, are common here. Kailasa is the best place in the three worlds, Himalaya the best part of Kailasa, and Kashmir the best place in Himalaya.

Sir Walter Roper Lawrence writes in his book The Valley of Kashmir that:[7]

In latitude Kashmir corresponds with Peshawar, Baghdad and Damascus in Asia, with Fez in Morocco and South Carolina in America, but it presents none of the characteristics of those countries. People have linked the climate of Kashmir to that of Switzerland until the end of May, and of Southern France in July and August. But it is impossible to speak of Kashmir as possessing any one climate or group of characteristics. Every hundred feet of elevation brings some new phase of climate and of vegetation.

History

Main article: History of Kashmir

General view of Temple and Enclosure of Martand or the Sun, near Bhawan. Probable date of temple AD 490–555. Probable date of colonnade AD 693–729.Photograph of the Surya Temple atMartand in Jammu & Kashmir taken by John Burke in 1868.

According to folk etymology, the name “Kashmir” means “desiccated land” (from the SanskritKa = water andshimeera = desiccate). In theRajatarangini, a history of Kashmirwritten by Kalhana in the mid-12th century, it is stated that the valley of Kashmir was formerly a lake. As perHindu mythology, the lake was drained by the great sage, Rishi Kashyapa, son of Marichi, son of Brahma, by cutting a gap in the hills at Baramulla (Varahamula). When Kashmir had been drained, Kashyapa asked Brahmans to settle there. The name of Kashyapa is by history and tradition connected with the draining of the lake, and the chief town or collection of dwellings in the valley was called Kashyapa-pura, which has been identified with Kaspapyros ofHecataeus (apud Stephanus of Byzantium) and Kaspatyros of Herodotus(3.102, 4.44).[8] Kashmir is also believed to be the country meant by Ptolemy‘sKaspeiria.[9]

In the first half of the 1st millennium, the Kashmir region became an important centre of Hinduism and later ofBuddhism; later still, in the ninth century,Kashmir Shaivism arose.[10] In 1349,Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir, inaugurating the Salatin-i-Kashmir or Swati dynasty.[11] For the next five centuries, Muslim monarchs ruled Kashmir, including the Mughals, who ruled from 1526 until 1751, and the Afghan Durrani Empire, which ruled from 1747 until 1820.[11] That year, the Sikhs, under Ranjit Singh, annexed Kashmir.[11]In 1846, after the Sikh defeat in the First Anglo-Sikh War, and upon the purchase of the region from the British under theTreaty of Amritsar, the Raja of Jammu,Gulab Singh, became the new ruler of Kashmir. The rule of his descendants, under the paramountcy (or tutelage) of the British Crown, lasted until 1947, when the former princely state of British India became a disputed territory, now administered by three countries: India, Pakistan, and the People’s Republic of China. Kashmir valley is about 15,948 Square Kilometres in area which is about 15.73% of Total area under Indian control. Jammu and Kashmir state has 48 per cent of its territory under Indian control, 35 per cent is under Pakistani control and rest 17 per cent is under control of China.

Demographics

A mosque in Srinagar

The majority people of Kashmir Valley are ethnic Kashmiris and they speak the Kashmiri language. Kashmir Valley has a Muslim majority population. Islam is practiced by 97% of the population.[12]The valley has also small communities of Hindu Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs.[13]

Ten districts in the Kashmir valley (Kashmir Division of the Jammu and Kashmir state) had a population of 6,907,623 as per the 2011 census.[14]The religious composition was 97.16% Muslim and 2.84% Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and others.[15][16]

The principal spoken languages in the valley are Kashmiri and Urdu and Urdu is the official language. Many speakers of these languages also know English as a second language.[17]

Districts

Kashmir Division consists of ten districts:

More information: Name of District, Headquarters …
Name of District Headquarters Area (km²) Population
2001 Census
Population
2011 Census
Anantnag district Anantnag 3,984 734,549 1,069,749
Kulgam district Kulgam 437,885 423,181
Pulwama district Pulwama 1,398 441,275 570,060
Shopian district Shopian 211,332 265,960
Budgam district Budgam 1,371 629,309 755,331
Srinagar district Srinagar 2,228 990,548 1,250,173
Ganderbal district Ganderbal 211,899 297,003
Bandipore district Bandipore 316,436 385,099
Baramulla district Baramulla 4,588 853,344 1,015,503
Kupwara district Kupwara 2,379 650,393 875,564
Close

Cities

Srinagar is its main city and also the summer capital of the state. Other main cities are AnantnagBaramullaSopore,Handwara and Shopian.

Gund village in Sindh valley, a sub valley of Kashmir Valley

naina village in district pulwama

and ghat mohallah in naina, a beautiful village, in Kashmir valley

Politics

The major political parties in the region are the National Conference, the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Partyand the Congress. Srinagar in the valley is the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The capital moves out of the valley in the winter to Jammuin a grand ceremony called “Durbar Move”. pro-freedom parties who advocate independence for Kashmir such as All Parties Hurriyat Conference,JKLF and other enjoy mass support and pro-independence leaders are highly popular. Pro-freedom and pro-UN charter politics is an important part of politics in Kashmir due to its disputed nature.

Tourism

Skiing is popular in Gulmarg, showing cable car in a snow clad mountain

Kashmir valley is a popular tourist destination for domestic and foreign tourists. Among the popular tourist places in the valley are Gulmarg that has a ski resort, Dal Lake that has popular house boats, Pahalgam and the majorHindu shrine Amarnath Temple.

Before insurgency intensified in 1989, tourism formed an important part of the Kashmiri economy. As a result, the tourism economy in the Kashmir valley was worst hit. Thousands of Hindupilgrims visit holy shrine of Amarnathevery year and this significantly benefits the state’s economy.[18] But this yatra has put Kashmir on the verge of ecological disaster .[19]

Tourism in the Kashmir valley has rebounded in recent years and in 2009, the state became one of the top tourist destinations of India.[20] Gulmarg, one of the most popular ski resort destinations in India, is also home to the world’s highest green golf course.[21] However with the decrease in violence in the state has boosted the states economy specifically tourism.[22] It was reported that 736,000 tourists including 23,000 foreigners visited Kashmir in 2010. Other tourist places include Sonamarg, Kokernag, Verinag, Aharbal and Semthan-Top .

Hill stations

Sind River at Nilgrar Sonamarg

Lidder River flowing through Pahalgam Valley

Mughal gardens

Nishat Bagh

Shalimar Garden

Lakes

Mountaineering

This Himalayan valley provides a base to climb some of the challenging Himalayan peaks. These peaks were closed due to the rise in militancy, now they are opened for mountaineering.

Culture and cuisine

Kashmiri cuisine includes dum aloo(boiled potatoes hollowed and stuffed with heavy amounts of spice), tzaman (a solid cottage cheese), rogan josh (lamb cooked in heavy spices), yakhiyn (lamb cooked in curd with mild spices), hakh (a spinach-like leaf), rista-gushtaba (minced meat balls in tomato and curd curry),danival korme and the signature rice. The traditional wazwan feast involves cooking meat or vegetables, usually mutton, in several different ways.

Alcohol is not consumed by many Muslims in the valley. There are two styles of making tea in the region: Noon Chai or salt tea that is pink in colour (known as chinen posh rang or peach flower colour) and popular with locals, and kahwah, a tea for festive occasions, made with saffron and spices (cardamom, cinnamon, sugar, noon chai leaves) and black tea.

Economy

Apricot here grow in abundance, image from village Benhama

Tourism is one of the main sources of income for vast sections of the Kashmiri population. Kashmir Valley‘s economy is centred around tourism and agriculture. Traditionally the staple crop of the valley is rice, it forms the chief food of the people. In addition, Indian corn, wheat, barley and oats are also grown. Given its temperate climate, it is suited for crops like asparagus, artichoke, seakale, broad beans, scarlet runners, beetroot, cauliflower and cabbage. Fruit trees are common in the valley, and the cultivated orchards yield pears, applespeaches, and cherries. The chief trees are deodar, firs and pineschenar or plane, maple, birch and walnut, apple and cherry.

Historically, Kashmir became known worldwide when Cashmere wool was exported to other regions and nations (exports have ceased due to decreased abundance of the cashmere goat and increased competition from China). Kashmiris are well adept at knitting and making Pashmina shawls, silk carpets, rugs, kurtas, and pottery. Saffron, too, is grown in Kashmir. Efforts are on to export the naturally grown fruits and vegetables as organic foods mainly to the Middle East. Srinagar is known for its silver-work, papier mache, wood-carving, and the weaving of silk.

The economy was badly damaged by the 2005 Kashmir earthquake which, as of October 8, 2005, resulted around 1,500 deaths in Kashmir Valley.

Kashmir Valley is believed to have potentially rich rocks containing hydrocarbon reserves.[23][24]

Transport

Kashmir valley is connected to Jammu and Ladakh regions by road and air. It has access to Jammu region and the rest of India through the Banihal road tunnel near Qazigund on national highway NH 1A.

Air

Srinagar is the main airport in Kashmir valley and has scheduled flights from Jammu, Leh, Mumbai, Chandigarh and New Delhi.

Railway

Kashmir valley has a 119 km (74 mi) long modern railway line that started in October 2009 and connects Baramulla in the western part of the valley to Srinagar and Qazigund. It further links the Kashmir Valley to Banihal across the Pir Panjal mountains through the new 11.215 km (7 mile) long Pir Panjal Railway Tunnel or Banihal rail tunnel from 26 June 2013. Banihal railway station will be linked to the rest of India in another few years as the construction of the railway line from Jammu to Banihal progresses steadily.

Road

Transport within the valley is predominantly by road.[25]

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