Jammu & Kashmir - Geography & Geology
Geologists believe that about ten crore years have passed when Kashmir Valley which was once a lake called Satisar, the lake of goddess Sati, came into its present form.
For hundreds of million years Kashmir Valley is supposed to have remained under Tethys Sea and the high sedimentary-rock hills seen in the valley now were once under water. Geologists have come to believe that Kashmir Valley was earlier affected by earthquakes. Once there was such a devastating earthquake that it broke open the mountain wall at Baramulla and the water of the Satisar lake flowed out leaving behind latchstring mud on the margins of the mountains known as karewas. Thus came into existence the oval but irregular Valley of Kashmir. The karewas being in fact the remnants of this lake confirm this view. The karewas are found mostly to the west of the river Jhelum where these table-lands attain a height of about 380 meters above the level of the Valley. These karewas protrude towards the east and look like tongue-shaped spurs with deep ravines.
Ancient legends and popular traditions say that Samdimat Nagar, capital of the kingdom of Sundra Sena, was submerged as a result of an earthquake and the water that filled the area formed the Wular Lake, the largest fresh water lake in India. The oldest igneous rocks are still found at Shankaracharya hill. When the whole Valley of Kashmir was under water this hillock was the first piece of dry land lying in the form of an igneous island.
Significance of its name - Historians say that Kashmir Valley was originally known as Kashyapmar or the abode of Kashyap Rishi. It is said that the Rishi once went on a pilgrimage to Kashmir. When he reached Naukabandan near Kaunsarnag via Rajouri, he killed Bahudev, the Giant of Satisar, at the request of the people and let the water of the lake flow out near Baramulla. The land, therefore, came to be known as Kashyampar, which afterwards changed into Kashmar and from Kashmar to Kashmir. But some historians are of the opinion that when the people of Kash caste settled here permanently the valley came to be known as Kashmir. Kashmir is known by many other names also. The Greeks called it Kaspeiria, while the chinese named it Shie-in or Kia-Shi-Lo. The Tibetans called its Kanapal and Dards named it Kashart.
Situation, Location, Area and Extent - The territories of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and Gilgit form the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The state of Jammu and Kashmir, which had earlier been under Hindu rulers and Muslim sultans, became part of the Mughal Empire under Akbar from 1586. After a period of Afgan rule from l756, it was annexed to the Sikh Kingdom of Punjab in 1819. In 1820 Maharaja Ranjit Singh made over the territory of Jammu to Gulab Singh. In 1846 Kashmir was also made over to Gulab Singh under the Treaty of Amritsar. Ladakh was annexed by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1830. Thus this northernmost state was founded by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1846 and was the biggest princely state in India before the partition of the country in August 1947. At that time the total area of the state was 2, 22,236 sq. km. Pakistan invaded the State in October 1947. Indian forces pushed Pakistan back but in 1949 when a cease fire line was drawn about one third of the area i.e. 78932 sq. km. i.e. the whole of Gilgit, Mirpur, Kotli and a part of Poonch came into the possession of Pakistan, leaving behind only 143, 30 sq. km. on the Indian side. Jammu, Udhampur, Kathua and Anantnag districts remained unaffected. Again in 1962 China occupied about 64000 sq. kms. in Ladakh known as Aksai Chin. Pakistan again made possession over Chhamb, Deva, Chakla and Manawar gaining an area of 3999 sq. kms. Thus total area left on the Indian side is about 12850 sq. kms.
On the map of India, the State of Jammu and Kashmir looks like a crown. The state is 640 kms. in length from north to south and 480 kms. form east to west. To its north lie Chinese and Russian Turkistan. On its east is Chinese Tibet. On the South and South-West lie the states of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. On the west is the North West Frontier Provinces of Pakistan, China and Russia. Afghanistan and Pakistan now have come close to the boundaries of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, The nearness to the boundaries of foreign countries has made the position of the State most important from military point of view.
The entire State lies between 32.17" and 36.58" North altitude and East to West, the State lies between 73.26" and 80.30" longitude. The standard time is 5.30 hours ahead of Greenwich Time as in the rest of India and has a difference of half an hour with the local time. In latitude, the State of Jammu and Kashmir corresponds with South Carolina (North America), Fez (Morocco), Damascus, Baghdad and Peshawar (Pakistan).
Geographical Importance - Kashmir is famous for its beauty and natural scenery throughout the world. Its high snow-clad mountains, scenic spots, beautiful valleys, rivers with ice-cold water, attractive lakes and springs and ever-green fields, dense forests and beautiful health resorts, enhance its grandeur and are a source of great attraction for tourists.
It is also widely known for its different kinds of agricultural products, fruit, vegetables, saffron, herbs, minerals, precious stones handicrafts like woollen carpets, shawls and finest kind of embroidery on clothes. During summer, one can enjoy the beauty of nature, trout fishing, big and small game hunting etc.; during winter climbing mountain peaks and sports like skating and skiing on snow slopes are commonly enjoyed. In addition to the above, Pilgrimage to famous religious shrines of the Hindus and the Muslims make Kashmir a great tourist attraction. About Kashmir Sheikh Sadia great Persian poet is believed to have said, "If there is any heaven on earth, it is here in Kashmir."
Political Importance - The state of Jammu and Kashmir has acquired since the 19th century a unique geo-political status in the Indian sub-continent It has contiguous boundaries with Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Tibet that deserve constant vigil and as such it has made the State very important, geographically, politically, economically and from the military point of view. Jammu and Kashmir state acceded to the Indian Union in 1947 after the partition. Before the partition in 1947, The English rulers of India took away Gilgit in 1946 from the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir on lease for thirty years so that they could check the advancement of Russia towards India.
Physical Divisions, Mountains and Passes - The State of Jammu and Kashmir falls in the great north-western, complex of the Himalayan ranges with marked relief variation, snow- capped summits, antecedent drainage, complex geological structure and rich temperate flora and fauna.
Summer is pleasant but winter is cold and there is snowfall. It rains from the middle of March to the middle of May in the valley with an annual rainfall of about 75 cms. Road transport is common in the valley but the river Jhelum still serves as one of the means of transportation. There is also Air Service from Delhi and Jammu to Srinagar and Ladakh.
Kashmir is the home of handicrafts like wood carving, papier-mache, carpet, gabba and shawl making and embroidery on clothes. Natural scenery of the valley attracts thousands of visitors every year from abroad. People generally speak Kashmiri and their common dress is phiran, shalwar and a turban or a Kashmiri cap. There are also some small valleys in this region. On the north of Baramulla is Lolab valley which is 6 Kms long and 4.4 Kms wide. It has many meadows and grovesof walnut trees. Forests are so thick that they hide villages in them. Nullah Sind is the largest tributary of the river Jhelum. The Nullah Sind valley is 100 Kms long upwards and its scenery is diversified. At the head of the valley is the Zojilla pass which leads to Ladakh.
Towards Pehlgam lies the Lidar Valley. Its length is 64 Kms. It has small glaciers, grassy meadows, huge rock walls and gorges in its upper mountains. The path to the holy Amarnath cave passé through this valley. The Kolohai and Sheshnag streams join at Pahalgam to form the Lidar River.
Mountains and their Passes - Mountains have a special geographical importance to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir valley is enclosed by high mountain-chains on all sides except for certain passes and a narrow gorge at Baramulla. There are Siwalik Hills towards the south and very lofty mountains in the north, the peaks of which always remain covered with snow. There are volcanic mountains too in the State. They have caused havoc in Kashmir in the past.
Some of the famous mountains and their passes are:
Climate - The territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir lies between four degrees of latitude from 32.17 to 36.58 north. Within these 640 Kms. there is a sudden rise of altitude from 305 metres to 6910 metres above sea level. The State of Jammu and Kashmir, therefore, lies between the hot plains of the Jammu Province and coldest dry table-land of Ladakh. These territories are, as such, transitional in climate.
Weather conditions are different at different places. There are many causes of difference:
Climate of Kashmir - The climate found in the zone of the Middle Mountains and the valleys enclosed is of a particular type. Altitude determines the degree of coolness and elevation the form of precipitation and summer temperature. Winter is cold and of long duration. When the monsoons are strong, rain is caused. In higher mountains round the valley of Kashmir, winter is very cold and there is snow-fall. Summer is very short and milder.
The climate in the Valley of Kashmir has its own peculiarities. Winter is very cold. It lasts from November to March. During these months strong winds bring snow and rain from the Mediterranean depressions. These come over from Iran and Afghanistan. Spring begins after 15th of March when rain falls heavily. It causes landslides. But for sowing crops this rain is extremely useful. Rainfall in July and August is as high as 70% and with summer temperature, it causes discomfort. The lakes and waterways make the atmosphere damp and oppressive. The entire valley is covered with a haze that hides the surrounding mountains from view.
The seasons are marked with sudden change and the year is divided into six seasons of two months each.
From December 24 to March 8 temperature is often below zero. Strong winds blow from south and southeast. It snows during winter and there are thick black clouds in the sky.
Annual rainfall of the valley recorded is about 75 cms. It rains in July and August and also in March and April. August is the warmest month. Temperature rises to 85 deg. F. January is the coldest month. Temperature falls down to below zero. Longest sunshine hours are in September, October and November. December has 80% humidity which is the highest and May has 71% which is the lowest. In July atmosphere has a pressure of 62.68 cms.
Vegetation & Soil Types - Vegetation is influenced by climate, rainfall soil and altitude. Since these factors vary as the altitude rises from the outer plains of Jammu Province to the loftiest mountain ranges of the Inner Himalayas, it is but natural that the vegetation should vary from the Inner Himalayas to the middle mountains and the outer plains of Jammu region.
Forests - Forests are one of the most important resources of Jammu and Kashmir. Spread over 2,236 sq. kms. of the demarcated area forests accounts for 20% of the total geographical area of the state on this side of the Line of Control. More than 99% of forest area is confined to the province of Jammu & Kashmir only, with largest area of 5848 sq. kms. in district of Doda and smallest are of 481 sq. kms. in the district of Budgam. Over 19,236 sq. kms. is under coniferous softwood (Pine) and 946 sq. kms. under non-coniferous softwood. In the coniferous category. Fir accounts for 3355 sq. kms, Kail for 1874 sq. kms, Chir for 1773 sq. kms. and Deodar for 1122 sq. kms. Forests require abundance of moisture in the soil. So they are found in the areas where there is sufficient rainfall or along the banks of the rivers where sufficient water is available. In the State of Jammu and Kashmir forests are mainly found where annual rainfall is about 100 cms. However, scrub forests are found, where rainfall is even less than100 cms.
The valley of Kashmir has deciduous vegetation. The Chinar, Poplar, Deodar, Fir, Pine, Kail, Partal, Mulbery, Walnut and other fruit trees grow throughout the valley. Baramulla and Anantnag districts have respectively 71% and 60% of their areas under forests.
Big forests in the valley provide timber and fire-wood. Grassy meadows in the forest provide fodder for the cattle. Medicinal herbs such as balladona, hyoseyamus, digitalis, menthol, artemisis, polygola, podophyllum, rubus, trilliu, hops and kuth.grow in these forests. Industries like paper, joinery sports goods, furniture, wood carving, herbal drugs, silk industry and manufacture of agricultural implements and construction of railway sleepers depend on these forests.
The thick undergrowth in the forests stores up rain water and allows it to flow slowly and that is why rivers that have their sources in the forests donot run dry in the dry seasons and check floods during the rainy season.
Among these forests are situated the famous health resourts like Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Achhabbal, Verinag and Kokarnag etc.
Industries Dependent on Forests
Research on different kinds of forest herbs is carried in the Regional Research Laboratories, one at Jammu and the other at Burzala, Srinagar. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research uses raw material from these forests for making medicines.
The State Government has established two large joinery mills at Pompore (Kashmir) and at Bari Brahmana (Jammu).
Walnut trees grow in abundance in Kashmir. Walnut wood is suitable for wood carving and Kashmiri artisans are expert wood carvers. The carved goods are exported to foreign countries also.
Three large Truck and Bus Body Building factories for the manufacture of truck and bus bodies are established in Jammu and Srinagar.
Pulp required for the manufacture of Hand-made paper strawboard and cardboard. is also obtained from the forests.
Soils - In the regions of Jammu and Kashmir the soils are loamy and there is little clay content in them. Poor in lime but with a high content of magnesia, the soil is treated with chemical fertilisers and enriched with green manure and legume before cultivation. There is sufficient organic matter and nitrogen content in the alluvium of the Kashmir valley as a result of plant residue, crops stubble, natural vegetation and animal excretion. The valley of Kashmir has many types of soils like: Gurti (clay), Bahil (Loam), Sekil (Sandy), Nambaal (Peats), Surzamin, Lemb, Floating garden soils and Karewa soils. No wonder, in Kashmir, soil is virtually worshipped as a miracle of divinity as it is a source of wealth of the land.
Irrigation - Irrigation plays an important role in the agriculture of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Our State does not receive rain throughout the year and sometimes it is quite insufficient and it is neither uniform nor certain. In Jammu region temperature conditions favour cultivation of crops throughout the year but due to non availability of water in the region the plant growth is limited. Rainy season provides sufficient water from July to September. In winter also this region receives several showers of rain. The remaining months of the year are dry. This problem had since been solved by irrigation and 25% of the total cultivated land is irrigated. Out of 6, 00,000 Hectares of cultivated land 1, 50,000 is cultivated through irrigation.
In Kashmir valley it rains mostly in winter when temperature is too low for plant growth. When the temperature begins to raise in May and onwards the rainfall decreases and except some showers of rain in July-August most of the growing season remains dry. Since ages the farm economy has been dependent on a single crop and the cultivator cannot take chances with it. He always requires sufficient water supply for his fields, therefore, he depends mostly upon canals for irrigation. Many snows fed streams running down the slopes of the mountains makes it very easy for him to construct small canals or pools. In this way 60% of the cultivated land in the valley is irrigated.
Methods of Irrigation - The following methods of irrigation are in use in the State of Jammu and Kashmir:
Canals in the Valley of Kashmir
Besides these, Chandosa, Beoarachani, Gand, Malora, Rikhiletar, Gorkha, Awanpura and Brinjal are other small canals in the valley that irrigate about 15000 acres of land in the surrounding areas.
Geological Structure - The Geology of the territories of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh has been studied in some detail by R. Lydekkar. He has divided the territory into three different structural Zones:
These three Geological divisions form the basis of the four physical divisions of the State.
The oval valley of Kashmir is longitudinal. It is about 1700 metres above sea level. There is a high wall of mountains round the valley. These rise to a height of 5500 metres above sea level. The only outlet of the valley is Baramulla where the Jehlum flows out through a narrow gorge. The entire drainage of the valley of Kashmir and its surrounding areas has only this outlet. In the north, Kashmir has many volcanic rock formations. These are mostly stratified and several thousand metres thick. There are many layers of sedimentary rocks which are found in Liddar valley, Baramulla, district and Banihal Verinag section of the Pir Panjal range. Limestones and shells are common. The rock layers have many fossils. Near Yarkand to the extreme north, shells have been found showing that the region was under sea in the geological past.
To the south and west of the valley there are karewa formations which are lake-laid clays and shales. These are lacustine deposits and appear like flat mounds on the margin of high mountains. Below these karewas is spread the alluvium of the Jehlum. The highest karewa is near the Pir Panjal. It is 3800 meters above sea level and more than 2100 metres above the level of the Jhelum
The mountains surrounding the different valleys of the State of Jammu and Kashmir have varied mineral wealth. The first survey of minerals wealth in the State was made by a renowned geologist. Mr. Middlemiss in 1924 in collaboration with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, but an intensive mineral survey was taken up in the year 1956 when systematic investigation began, as a consequence of which mineral exploitation in the State was organised and developed.
Ladakh Valley - Ladakh is bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram and lies transversely to the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range. In geological terms, it is a young land, formed only a few million years ago by the buckling and folding of the earth's crust as the Indian sub-continent pushed with irresistible force against the immovable mass of Asia. Today, a high-altitude desert, Ladakh was once covered by an extensive lake system. The remnants of such a lake system still exists in the southeast plateaus of Rupshu and Chushul where there are drainage basins such as Tso-moriri, Tsokar, and grandest of all, Pangong-tso. Despite the rainfall by some stray monsoon clouds that cross over to the area, the main source of water remains the winter snowfall.
Drass, Zanskar and the Suru Valley to the north of Himalayas receive heavy snow in winter feeding the glaciers that melt in summers to form the streams used for irrigating the fields. For the rest of the region, the snow on the peaks is virtually the only source of water. Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet at Kargil to 25,170 feet at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Its frozen landscape is miraculous while its clear skies with glaring sun are welcome. Shooting stars are visible quite often in the area while silence and tranquility reign the area. There are wizened faces and rosy cheeks, and the dragons and Zen adorn every other human inhabitation, making Ladakh a quite place to visit. Also known as 'The Last Shangrila', 'Moonscape' and 'Little Tibet', the land is full of surprises.
Drass Valley - An enchanting valley formed by the Drass River that has its origin in the Machoi glacier near the famous Zozila Pass. River Shigar flowing in from the north drains a bordering part of the Drass Valley. In summers, due to the melting of snow, the volume of the river rises considerably. It meets the Suru River near Kharul, a short distance away from Kargil. The area is rocky with an occasional green patch formed by willow and groves. The short summer season in the Drass Valley begins in May, when the snows begin to melt. Inhabited by Brokpas who probably migrated to this tract from Gilgit several centuries ago, the chief occupation of the natives is growing mainly barley and other coarse cereals, as there is a lack of irrigation facilities in many parts of Drass. The soil is poor and unproductive and the agricultural production is also poor. As a result, food grains have to be imported from the Kashmir Valley while the scarcity of fuel causes it to be brought in from across the Zozila Pass.
Suru Valley - The average height of the Suru valley is 3,000 m. In the winters starting from mid-November and usually continuing till May, almost all parts of the valley is covered with a thick layer of snow. Formed by the catchments of the Suru River, that rises from the Panzella glacier and joins the Indus River at Nurla and the Dras River at Kharul, the general topography of the valley is as rugged and mountainous as most of Ladakh. However, it is relatively more fertile and extends from the Panzella glacier to south of Kargil town, where the Suru River merges with the Botkul River rising from the Botkul glacier.
Agriculture is the chief occupation of the valley people, which are blessed with a relatively longer summer, which begins in May. The main crops of the region are wheat, barley and millets along with the vegetables such as turnip, radish, peas and black peas. Grapes, apricots and melons are produced in fairly large quantities at Darchik and Garkoon along the lower course of the Indus through Ladakh that find a ready market in Kargil. Liquor is made from grapes.
Nubra Valley - Yellow and pink wild roses cover Nubra during early summers till August when a carpet of wild lavender enwraps it. A relatively warmer valley in Ladakh, it yields better crops and fruits, thus, earning the nickname of the Ldumra or the orchard of Ladakh. Diskit, one of the larger villages in the region, is dotted with apricot plantations and is renowned for housing the 350 year-old Diskit Gompa, which is the oldest and the largest monastery in the Nubra Valley. The road between Diskit and the pretty little Hunder Village winds through a gorgeous stretch of sand dunes. In Hunder, one can see the double-humped camels as one goes to visit the Hunder Gompa having some old frescos and a statue of Buddha. This monastery is also the best place in the village to catch a view of the setting sun.
Salt Lake Valley - One of the widest open areas in Rupshu, it has a length of about 20 km and a maximum width of about 7 km. The average height of the region is 5,000 m and can be approached from Leh across the Tanglang La pass. The main settlement of the valley is Thuggi while the two lakes here are - the fresh water Panluk Lake and the salt-water Tsokar Lake, which is 5 times the area of the former one. Named so because of the deposits of impure salt that occur on the northern shore of the Tsokar Lake, Changpas collect it and use it to barter goods from other parts of Ladakh.
Shyok Valley - The valley of the Shyok River or the river of death, it was called so by the Central Asian traders who ventured on this treacherous route for centuries and perished. Rising from the Khumdang glacier, Nubra and Changchenmo rivers fill the waters of Shylok River. The river freezes in winters forming an easy access between the Khaplu and the Nubra valleys while in summers, as the snow melts in the uplands, the river overflows its banks and create a vast marsh. During this period, the Shyok River has to be crossed on rafts of inflated skin.