Inside Jammu and Kashmir

Inside Jammu and Kashmir


Many a poet has said that if there is a heaven on earth, it is Kashmir. If Srinagar is the summer capital of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, (J & K), Jammu is the winter capital. The capital city of J & K is Srinagar. The main languages spoken in J & K are Kashmiri and Dogri. This state was earlier ruled by Muslim sultans and Hindu kings. It came under emperor Akar's rule in 1576. Later, it was ruled by Afghans and Ranjit Singh and later on, by the British until independence.

When India was partitioned in the year 1947, J & K came under a dispute. Till today, the problem is not solved. How- ever, according to India, there is no Kashmir dispute at all, and the whole of the state belongs to us. But, Pakistan has held by military force, a third part of the state, since the time of partition.

J & K is bordered on the north by China, east by Tibet, south by Himachal Pradesh and west by Pakistan and the Punjab.

The main occupation of the people here is agriculture. The chief crops are paddy, wheat, barley and maize. J & K is well known for its orchards. About 15 per cent of the area in the state is covered by forests. J & K is also famous for its handicrafts. The shawls made here are in demand all over the world.

Places to see:

Jammu: It is the second largest city in the state and is situated on the plains. Summer heat here is in contrast with the cool heights of Kashmir. The town of Jammu consists of the old town and the new town of Jammu Tawi. In the heart of the old town is the Raghunath temple, built in 1835. In the sanctum sanctorum are beautiful idols of Sri Rama and Sita. Another temple here is the Rambireswar temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, built in 1883. The Dogra Art Gallery at Gandhi Bhavan has an important collection of miniature paintings including many from the locally renowned Basohli and Kangra schools of painting.

On the outskirts of the town, is the Amar Mahal Palace of French architecture. The palace of museum has a family portrait gallery and a collection of paintings.

About 35 kms from Jammu is the cave temple of Vaishno Devi. It is an ancient temple and is a must for every Hindu tourist.

How to get there:

Air: Flights operate from Jammu to Delhi, Srinagar, Chandigarh, Leh & Amritsar.

Bus: Buses connect Jammu with Srinagar, Delhi, Amritsar, Pathankot.

Train: Trains link Jammu with Delhi, Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, Gorakhpur and Varanasi.

Jammu-Srinagar: On the way from Jammu to Srinagar, there are a number of places to visit. The Jawahar tunnel which is 2,500 metres long is 200 kms away from Jammu and 93 kms away from Srinagar. Before this tunnel was constructed, it used to take two days to reach Srinagar from Jammu.

Thirty two kms, north-west of Jammu is Akhnoor. The Chenab river meets the plains here. Basohli, close to Dalhousie, across the border in Himachal Pradesh is the birth place of the Pahari miniature painting style. Billawar, Sukrala, Babor and Permandal are now in ruins, nevertheless, they have some temples which are not fully complete.

To the east of Jammu are the Surinsar and Mansar lakes which are picturesque. Near the town of Riasi is the ruined fort of General Zorawar Singh, renowned for his clashes with the Chinese over Ladakh. At Kud, there is a well-known spring, Swami ki Bauli. Batote is a hill resort at a height of 1560 metres. Patnitop is a popular hill station at 2024 metres height and has many pleasant walks.

Kashmir: This beautiful region in India was a summer retreat of the Mughal rulers of India. It was en route to Kashmir that the Mughal Emperor, Jehangir, died. Some of the gar- dens developed by the Mughals are beautifully kept even to this day.

The Dal lake house boats are one of Kashmir's greatest attractions. During the British period in India, the rulers of Kashmir would not allow them to own land in Kashmir. So, the Britishers hit upon the idea of building house-boats. It is said that a visit to Kashmir, is not complete until one has stayed on a house-boat.

Around the edge of the valley are Kashmir's delightful hill stations. Pahalgam and Gulmarg are pleasant places for trekking trips.

Srinagar: Srinagar, the capital city of J & K stands on the Dallake and the Jhelum river.Connecting the Dal Lake and the Jhelum river to Srinagar, there are nine bridges.

The Dal Lake is a maze of intricate waterways. It is divided into Gagribal, Lokut Dal and Bod Dal by a series of causeways. Within the lake, there are two islands. They are: Silver Island and Gold Island, both of which are good picnic spots. Both are also known as Char Chinar because they each have four chinar trees on them. The waters of Dal Lake are very clear. A leisurely cruise around the lake takes a better part of the day, including a visit to the Mughal gardens.

The Shah Hamdan Mosque, built in 1395, was destroyed by a fire twice. The present mosque is shaped like a cube with a pyramidal roof rising to a spire.

Pather Masjid or stone mosque was built by Nur Jahan in 1623; on the east bank is the tomb of King Zain-ul-Abidin, son of Sultan Sikander It is built on the foundations of an earlier temple and has Persian influence in its domed construction and glazed tiles. The Jami Masjid was first built in 1385 by Sultan Sikandar. This impressive wooden mosque is notable for its 300 plus pillars supporting the roof.

The Shankaracharya Hill is beside the Dal Lake. The hill was once known as Takht-i- Sulaiman. A temple is said to have been first built here by Ashoka's son, around 200 BC The Chasma Shahi is the smallest of the Mughal gardens in Srinagar. It was laid out in 1632. Above the Chasma Shahi is the Pari Mahal. Its arched terraces are pleasant and it has a well-kept garden with fine views over the Dal lake. The Nishat Bagh or Nishat gardens were designed in 1633 by Nur Jahan's brother, Asaf Khan, and is the largest of the Mughal gardens following the traditional pattern of a central channel running down a series of terraces. The Shalimar Bagh was built in 1616 by Jehangir for his wife Nur Jahan. During the Mughal period, the top- most of the four terraces was reserved for the emperor and the ladies of the court. During the tourist season from May to October, a nightly "sound and light" show is put on in these gardens. On the north- west shore of the Dal Lake, is the Hazratbal mosque. It enshrines a hair of the Prophet. Beyond the Hazratbal mosque, is the Nasim Bagh built by Akbar in 1586. The Nagin lake is considered as the 'jewel in the ring' and is the most beautiful of the Dal lakes and is ringed by trees all-round. On the western side of the Dal lake is the Hari Parbat Fort built in 1592 during the reign of Akbar. Nearby is a shrine of the sixth Sikh Guru. The Pandrathan Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, dates back to 900 AD and is beautifully proportioned.

Things to buy:

Handicrafts, carpets, paper made articles, leather, fur, wood carvings, shawls, embroidery, knitted sweaters, cardigans, saffron etc.

How to get there:

Air: Srinagar is connected with Delhi, Amritsar, Jammu, Chandigarh and Leh.

Bus: Buses ply from Srinagar to Jammu, Leh, Delhi, Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Gulmarg, Tangmarg, Wular lake, etc.

Srinagar-Pahalgam: The 95 km route from Srinagar to Pahalgam passes through some interesting places including the famed Moghal Gardens. Six- teen kms from Srinagar is Pam- pore, the centre of Kashmir's saffron industry. Thirty five kms. away is Sangram which is a centre for production of cricket bats. Built between 855 and 883 AD, are two Hindu temples at Avantipur. The larger of the two the Avantiswami temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the smaller one to Lord Shiva.

Achabal, a Moghul garden laid out in 1620 by Shah Jahan's daughter, Jahanara, is on the Pahalgam road. Further on is Kokarnag, which is famed for its rose gardens. Verinag in the extreme south of the Kashmir Valley, has a spring. Jehangir built an actagonal stone basin at the spring in 1612 and Shah Jahan laid out a garden around it in 1620.

Pahalgam: This town is situated at a height of 2130 metres and night time temperatures are warmer than in Gulmarg which is still higher up. The bidder River flows right through the town, surrounded by fir-covered mountains with snow-capped peaks rising be- hind. Sheep rearing is an important occupation here. Pahalgam serves as a base for treks.

Mamaleswara, on the opposite bank of the Lidder River, has a 12th century Shiva temple. Five km away from Pahalgam is Baisaran which offers excellent views over the town and the Lidder Valley. Eleven kms. further is the Tulian lake at a height of 3353 metres. It is ice-covered for most part of the year.

Gulmarg: The name 'Gulmarg' means a 'meadow of flowers'. Gulmarg is situated at a height of 2730 metres and is 52 kms. away from Srinagar. This is India's premier skiing resort in winter. Gulmarg offers beautiful long and short walks. It IS also an excellent base for trekking.

The Amarnath Cave near Pahalgam is a pilgrim centre where thousands of Hindus throng on the full moon day in the month of July/August. Here a natural ice Linga, the symbol of Lord Shiva, reaches its largest size during this period.

Ladakh: This was opened to outside visitors only in the mid- 1970s. This is a sensitive border region disputed by India, Pakistan and China.

Ladakh has a predominantly Tibetan influence. It is a miniature version of Tibet. The people are Tibetan in their culture and religion and there are many Tibetan refugees here. Ladakh is barren except for a few places where the rivers flow. There are many gompas to visit here which are on high hill- tops and many palaces clinging to rock walls. The people here are very friendly. Many of the inhabitants here are Buddhists.

Leh: Centuries ago, this was an important stop on the old caravan silk route from China. Today, it is a military base and a tourist centre.

The leh Palace, built in the 16th century, is now deserted and badly damaged. But, it offers superb views from the roof. The Zanskar mountains across the Indus river, look close enough to touch. The palace is still the property of the Ladakhi royal family. The central prayer room is still preserved.

High above the palace is the Red Gompa, built in 1430. It has a thee-storey high seated Buddha image. The gompa above, though in a ruined condition, offers superb views down on Leh.

The Sankar Gompa is just two km. away from Leh. It has electric lighting facility and an impressive representation of Avalokitesvara with 100 arms and 1,000 heads.

How to get there:

Air: Flights operate from Leh to Delhi, Srinagar, Jammu, Chandigarh.

Bus: Buses connect Leh with Srinagar, Kargil and Manali.

Ten kms. from Leh is the Spitok Gompa. The temple is about a 1,000 years old. Even this offers fine views over the Indus. The Phyang Gompa is 16 kms. from Leh and there is an interesting little village below the gompa.

The Beacon highway which reaches one to the Nubra valley, is probably the highest road in the world. It crosses a pass at 5606 metres. The road is motorable only during September and October, as it takes the whole summer for the snow and ice to melt.

Choglamsar, which is a Tibetan refuge, is an important centre for the study of Tibetan literature and history and Buddhist philosophy. Shey is an old summer palace of the kings of Ladakh built about 550 years ago. Though in ruins now, the palace gompa has a 12-metre high seated Buddha image. The Tikse Campa is 17 kms. away from Leh. The monastery is picturesque and is situated on the hill-top overlooking the village and the Indus. It has an important collection of Tibetan style books and some excellent art works.

One of the most important and large Compas in Ladakh is the Hemis Campa. It is 45 kms. away from Leh. It is famous for its Hemis festival which occurs in June/July and lasts for two days, featuring elaborate mask dances.

The other Compas worth visiting nearby is the Matho Campa and the Pharka Campa. The Stock palace, which is 200 years old, is close to the Choglamsar bridge where the Rani of Stock still lives.

Zanskar: This long, narrow valley remains an area for trekkers. A number of interesting treks can be made from here either down the valley or out of it to Ladakh, Kashmir or Himachal Pradesh. Padum is the 'capital' of Zanskar and has a population of about a thousand. A number of shorter treks can be made from here. The Zangla and Karsha Campa is a four-day trek around Padum. On the way is Zangla, where the "king" of Zanskar has his castle.

Other treks are Tungri and Zongkhul Gampa. Drass- Sanku, Kargil-Padum, Manali- Padum and Padum-Lamayuru.



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