Set like a jeweled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is a multi-faceted diamond, changing its hues with the seasons – always extravagantly beautiful. Two major Himalayan ranges, the Great Himalayan Range and the Pir Panchal, surround the landscape from the north and south respectively. They are the source of great rivers, which flow down into the valleys, forested with orchards and decorated by lily-laden lakes.
The Mughals aptly called Kashmir ‘Paradise on Earth’ where they journeyed across the hot plains of India, to the valleys cool environs in summer. Here they laid, with great love and care, Srinagar’s many formal, waterfront gardens, now collectively known as the Mughal Gardens. Anecdotes of four and five centuries ago describe their love for these gardens, and the rivalries that centred around their ownership. They also patronized the development of art & craft among the people of Kashmir, leaving behind a heritage of exquisite artisanship among thes people and making the handicrafts of the land prized gifts all over the world.
Kashmir is a land where myriad holiday ideas are realised. In winter, when snow carpets the mountains, there is skiing, tobogganing, sledge-riding, etc. along the gentle slopes. In spring and summer, the honey-dewed orchards, rippling lakes and blue skies beckon every soul to sample the many delights the mountains and valleys have to offer. Golfing at 2,700 m above the sea, water-skiing in the lakes and angling for prized rainbow trout, or simply drifting down the willow fringed alleys of lakes in shikaras and living in gorgeous houseboats are some of the most favoured ones.
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, which ended in 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 Amrjtsar, and in 1947 the state of Jammu and Kashmir with Srinagar as its capital, 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 â€œmargsâ€ 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.