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Kashmir - An Introduction

Carved tectonically, the valley of Kashmir is a longitudinal depression in the great north-western Himalayan range, situated at an altitude of 1590 mtrs (5209) feet having latitude between 23-4' and 37-6 'North and longitude between 72-31' and 77-30' East. A typical oval shaped valley, its length has a parallel axis to the general direction of the bordering mountains – The Shivaliks, The Middle Mountains, The Pir Panjal, The Himalayas, The Zanaskar, The Ladakh and The Korakaram.

 

 
Srinagar: Srinagar is located in the heart of the Kashmir valley at an altitude of 1,730 m(1530 feet) above sea level, spread on both sides of the river Jhelum. The Dal and Nagin lakes enhance its picturesque setting, while the changing play of the seasons and the salubrious climate ensures that the city is equally attractive to visitors around the year.

Kalhana, the author of 'Rajtarangini’, states that Srinagar was founded by Emperor Ashoka (3rd Century BC). The present city of Srinagar was founded by Pravarasena-II, and Hiuen Tsang, who visited Kashmir in 631 AD, found it at the same site as it is today. Laltaditya Muktapida was the most illustrious ruler of Kashmir in the Hindu period, till 1339 AD. King Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-70 AD), popularly known as ‘Budshah’, was a great patron of Sanskrit. Akbar captured Kashmir valley for the Mughals, who endowed Srinagar with beautiful mosques and gardens. The Sikhs overthrew the last Muslim ruler in the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1819. In 1846 the Dogras secured the sovereignty of Kashmir from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar, and in 1947 the state of Jammu and Kashmir, became part of the Indian Union.

Initially, the valley of Kashmir used to be vast Lake, mythologically called Satt e Sar, which in course of time got drained by deepening of the Baramulla - Khadiniyar gorge. The valley is distinctively marked by breath-taking lakes, fresh water streams, luscious fruits, magnificent forests, mighty mountains and lush meadows which makes it a paradise on Earth. The mountain-downs or “margs” are numerous on the tops of the hill ranges prominent being Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Yousmarg etc.

Famous valleys of Kashmir include: Lidder Valley, Sindh Valley, Lolab Valley, Bangus Valley, Dachigam Valley, Gulmarg Valley, Gurez Valley, Yousmarg Valley etc.

The summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar is a scintillating hill resort located ideally in the Kashmir valley. Lovely lakes and roomy houseboats, dry fruits, Chinar trees and traditional Kashmiri handicrafts are the highlights of the region. Mughal Emperor, Jehangir, was so astounded by the beauty of Srinagar that he exclaimed 'Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto', which means 'If there is a heaven on earth, it's here, it's here, it's here'. Jhelum River flows through Srinagar, the city of natural wealth and is often referred to as the land of lakes and gardens owing to the abundance of both.

Dal Lake has become an icon of Srinagar but there are several other lakes on its eastern side, Nagin Lake being the most famous one. A ride on the 'Shikaras' or the floating gardens is a delight in itself and the backdrop of the sunset infuses a magical charm to the panoramic views of the lake. The favorite of Mughals, Srinagar has many well laid out Mughal styled gardens such as Chashme Shahi or the Royal Spring, Shalimar Bagh or the Garden of Love and the Nishat Bagh or the Pleasure Garden, on the far eastern side of the Dal Lake. The waterworks in the gardens add to their rich greenish beauty. While animal lovers would like an excursion to the Dachigam National Park, the wildlife reserve 22 km from Srinagar, skiing in winters attract the adventure lovers to Srinagar but it is living in the beautiful houseboats on the Dal Lake, which is to be missed by none.

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