Jammu and Kashmir
The state of Jammu and Kashmir combine three distinct areas, each unique Physically, culturally and aesthetically Not only do people in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh live in radically different environments; they also speak different languages, worship different Gods and think along separate cultural lines. This rich diversity enhances the mystery of remote mountain valleys and flavors the cultural complexities of busy urban centers, The city of Jammu is a big, sprawling entrepot town situated at the interface of the plains and the hills. It is difficult to enjoy Jammu in the terrific heat of the summer, which is when most people pass through on their way to the cool mountains of Kashmir and Ladakh, but the old part of the city has a number of unusual attractions.
There are two major temple complexes: the Ranbireshwar Temple, with a towering 246-foot (75-meter) tower, is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is renowned for its large crystal lingams (the phallic symbols of Lord Shiva); and the Raghunath Temple, which is surrounded by one of the largest temple in northern India. Its interiors covered with gold leaf, the temple is dedicated to Rama, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and hero of the Ramayana epic.
The Dogra Art Gallery contains over 500 paintings in the delicate miniature style which was sponsored by the royal families of neighbouring hill ' like Basohli and Kangra. The rough stone-cut Bahu Fort on the opposite bank of the Tawi River is undoubtedly the oldest monument in Jammu while the Amar Mahal Palace claims irst prize as the oldest. Designed for an eooentric mahataja by a French architect, the Amar Mahal resembles a medieval , complete with turrets. Converted into a museum, the building now houses a library, portrait gallery and more beautiful miniature paintings.
A number of interesting excursions can be made from Jammu to small lakes and temples in the surrounding hills. The Mansar Lake, with its shrine to a local goddess, is a wonderful oasis in the dry hills. Bordering the southern edge of the sacred lake area a tourist bungalow and a small enclosure for deer. By far the most shrine to north India's Hindus, is the cave temple of Vaishno Devi, 37 miles (60 km) northwest of Jammu city. Thousands of devout Hindus make the pilgrimage to this temple every year, many of them fulfilling vows that they would cover the distance on foot or bicycle.
Kashmir is an ancient country, much fought over because of its strategic location. According to tradition, its name derives from the Khasi, a people who lived in the northern mountains several centuries before the Christian era. The country was originally a stronghold of Hinduism; Buddhism was introduced about 245 BC. Beginning in the mid-14th century AD, Muslim sultans controlled the area for two centuries. Akbar, the Mughal emperor of Hindustan, conquered Kashmir between 1586 and 1592and it became a part of the Mughal empire. Between 1756 and 1819 it was under Afghan rule; in the latter year, Kashmir was conquered by Ranjit Singh, the Sikh maharaja of the Punjab. In 1846 Kashmir was annexed to the (Hindu) Dogra kingdom of Jammu; the Dogra dynasty continued to rule the region until August 1947, when British India was partitioned into a predominantly Muslim Pakistan and a predominantly Hindu India.
Dal Lake in Kashmir Following partition, a section of the Muslim population of Kashmir demanded accession to Pakistan. The reigning maharaja, Sir Hari Singh, a Hindu, resisted the pro-Pakistani movement. Pakistan invaded the area, after which the maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession to the Indian Union. India thereupon dispatched troops to Kashmir and in the ensuing conflict forced the Pakistarus to yield ground.
The Kashmir Valley
For the visitor, the first view of Kashmir is unforgettable whether it is seen from the air or the ground. In tlu; verdant summer the valley is a sea of deepest green rice fields, intersected by rigid avenues of tall poplar, dotted with neatly planted oi chards of apple, plum and almond trees. Interspersed are villages of tall, double-story farmhouses made of wood and brick. The Mughal emperors who came here in the summer months coined a word for the valley "Paradiss." And no one would dispute that, no one who has seen the valley in its correct perspective- shaded by magnificent chinars surrounded on all sides by a ring of mountains and its innumerable rushing streams, and blessed with the scent of wild briar roses,
This beautiful land has been settled since very early times. Excavations have unearthed circular residential pits and stone implements dating from 2,500 B.C. Much more recently, in 250 B.C. the Emperor Ashoka is credited with having introduced Buddhism into Kashmir. Harwan, just north of Shalimar, the nuns of an ancient Buddhist settlement have been found. The glorious age of Hindu rule reached its apex under King Lalitaditya who lived in the beginning of the 8th Century A.D. His memory is immortalized in the remains of his massive temple of hewn stone at Martand, near Mattan on the road to Pahalgam, and in the ruins of his extensive city oF Parihasapura, three miles (five km) off The road to Baramullah, beyond the Gulmarg turnoff, The Kashmiri valley is sprinkled with hundreds of other ancient temples including the famous Avantiswami Temple in Awantipura on the Pahalgam tourist route.
Alchi is located near the small village of Saspol. It is one of the earliest monasteries built in Ladakh, dating from the 11th century. Because it was constructed before the invading wars begun in the 15th century, Alchi was built on lowlands, rather than on a hilltop as other gompas were, to protect them from marauding armies.
It is a cold desert lying at an altitude on 3500 mts in the rain shadow of the Great Himalayas and other smaller ranges. Little rain and snow reaches this dry area, where natural forces have created a fantastic landscape. Surrounded by rugged mountains this land is completely different from the green landscape of many parts of the Himalayas. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karokaram, it is a land which has no match.
Leh was once the central meeting-point for trade caravans from Central Asia and the plains of India. Religious ceremonies and monastic festivals are regular features of the Ladakhi landscape. It is one of the only few places where one can experience Tibetan Buddhism being practiced in its original form. The town is still dominated by the now ruined Leh Palace, former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace.
Arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth, the town of Pahalgam offers breathtaking views. Located on the banks of river Lidder at an altitude of 7200 ft. from sea level and due to lush green grazing grounds, it is also known as "Valley of Sephereds". One can just relax in one of the many hotels in Pahalgam, or trek on some of the many mountains.
Sarchu, also known as Sir Bhum Chun is a halting place on the Leh-Manali Highway, on the boundary between Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. It is located at an altitude of 4,290 m between Baralacha La to the south and Lachulung La to the north. The place is an important overnight stop for tourists and travelers on the 475 km stretch between Manali and Leh. Sarchu comes into focus during May to September every year when the snow thaws on this route thus making the place a transit camp site in the Himalyas on the Leh-Manali Highway.
The lush greenery of the valley with its terraced rice fields, fruit orchards and swirling waterways spills into the city of Srinagar via the Dal Lake and great of avenues of poplar and chinar trees. This is fresh natural atmosphere combined with the commercial clamor of the old city's of twisting medieval streets gives Srinagar distinctive and vitalizing flavor. The water world of the Dal and Nagin lakes in Srinagar can be explored in the almost decadent comfort of Shikaras, hand-paddled water taxis. In the mountains, sturdy hill ponies are available for riding or as pack animals to carry trekking supplies on a number of beautiful trekking routes.
The name is composed of two Sanskrit words, Sri (venerable) and nagar, which means "city".
Located in the heart of the Kashmir Valley, which is called 'Paradise on Earth', Srinagar’s landscape is interspersed with greenery, lakes and hillocks. The city is spread out along the banks of the Jhelum River and is famous for its surrounding natural beauty and postcard tourist spots.
The grand Himalayas, calm lakes, floating houseboats and Shikaras and majestic Mughal architecture are the highlights of this mesmerizing city.
The Mughal emperor Jahangir was so captivated by the beauty of this valley that he exclaimed "Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto" - If there is a heaven on earth, it's here, it's here, it's here.