Kashmir has been set like a jeweled crown on the map of India. It is known because of its multi-faceted diamond, which is changing its hues with the seasons always being extravagantly beautiful. The two major Himalayan ranges, the Pir Panchal and the Great Himalayan Range, surrounds the landscape from the north to south respectively. They are also a great source of rivers, which flow down to the valleys, which are forested with orchards and also decorated by lily-laden lakes.
The Mughals called Kashmir the ‘Paradise on Earth’, where they journeyed, to the valleys for its cool environs in summer. Here they laid, many formal, waterfront gardens, which is now collectively known as the Mughal Gardens. They also patronized the art & craft among the Kashmiris, leaving behind the heritage of exquisite artisanship among the people and making the handicrafts a land prized gift all over the world.
The main history of Kashmir is intertwined, in between the borders of central Asia, South Asia, and East Asia. Nowadays, it denotes a larger area, which includes the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which comprises of the Kashmir valley, Jammu, and Ladakh. The Pakistan occupied territories of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, the Chinese-administered region of Aksai-Chin, and the Trans-Karakoram Tract.
According to some etymology “Kashmir”, basically means “desiccated” land. According to the historian Kalhan, he stated that the valley of Kashmir was formerly a lake. According to some Hindu mythology, that lake was drained by a great rishi, Kashyapa, son of Marichi, when he cut a gap in the hills of Baramulla. When the river was drained, Kashyapa asked the Brahmans to settle there.
During the first millennium, the Kashmir region became a very important center of Hinduism and later of Buddhism and in much later like in ninth century Shaivism rose. Islam came to the state during the 13th and the 15th century, which led to the decline of the Shaivism. The first Muslim ruler was Shah Mir, who occupied the throne in 1339, which also inaugurated the Shah Mir Dynasty and this rise had ledto the ruling of the Muslim dynasty for the next five centuries, which also included Mughal emperors.
Places to visit in Kashmir
It is originally called ‘Gaurimarg’ by the shepherds, its present name was given by Sultan Yusuf Shah in the 16th century, as he was inspired by its sight of grassy slopes with wild flowers. Gulmarg was a favourite place for Emperor Jehangir who collected 21 different varieties of flowers from here.
Gulmarg is known as skiers’ paradise. Gulmarg is amongst one of the best places you can visit in Jammu & Kashmir. It is located approximately 52 kilometers away from Srinagar. Gulmarg is popularly meant as Meadow of Flowers, is also a haven for any adventure enthusiasts.
The prime options in Gulmarg are skiing, snowboarding, trekking, mount biking, golfing, and fishing. You can visit Kongdori, Shark Fin and Apparwath Peak, which is not only famous for skiing and have a splendid vision of the natural landscape . Other places in Gulmarg to see the majestic natureare, Nagin valley which is famous for trekking, Frozen Lake, Khilanmarg, and Bota Pathri. Gulmarg Gondola (Cable car) also makes Gulmarg a must visit in place.
Today Gulmarg has mountain resorts known for its exceptional beauty. It also has one of the highest golf course in the world, which is at the altitude of 2,650m and is also the country’s premier ski resort during the winter.
Pahalgam is situated at a confluence of streams, which is flowing from the Lidder river and the Sheshnag Lake, Pahalgam was once known as a humble shepherd’s village with some breathtaking views. Now it is one of the Kashmir’s premier resort. It is always cool even during the height of summer when the temperature does not exceed 25oC.
Around Pahalgam, you will find many places of interest, and as because the resorts are set in between the fairly steep hills, it is better hiring a pony than walking.
The most beautiful part is the undulating, and huge meadow of Baisaran, which is surrounded with thick pine forests. Hajan, which is on the way to Chandanwari, is also an idyllic spot for a picnic. Film buffs can recognize this place in an instant at this location has been there for several movie scenes.
Pahalgam has mostly eight tiny villages, one of them is Mamal. There you can find a Shiva temple, which is also generally considered as the Kashmir’s oldest existing temple, and also dated back to the 5th century.
Pahalgam is mostly associated with the annual Amarnath Yatra. Chandanwari, is 16kms away from Pahalgam, is the starting point of yatra which takes place every year during the month of Sawan or July to August. The road to travel from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is on a flat terrain, which can be undertaken in a car.
But, from Chandanwari onwards the track becomes much steeper and is accessible by foot or a pony. 11kms from Chandanwari is the mountain lake called Sheshnag, which is 13kms away is the last stop, Panchtarni. The main Amarnath cave is 6kms away from Panchtarni. During the month of Sawan, an ice stalagmite forms natural shivling in the cave, which wanes and waxes with the moon.
If you want to drive to Sonamarg, then it is through the Sindh Valley, which presents another spectacular side of Kashmir. It is situated at the altitude of 2730m, Sonamarg means ‘The meadow of gold’ and it has its amazing backdrop, of snowy mountains against the cerulean sky.
The Sindh River, which meanders through the valley can abound with the trout and the mahaseer. For an amazing ride, Ponies can be hired for the trip to Thajiwas glacier, which is also a major local attraction during the summers.
Sonamarg is known as the base of a major trek which passes along with several mountain lakes like Kishansar, Vishansar, Satsar, Gadsar, and Gangabal. Sonamarg is also known as a take off station for a drive to the Ladakh across the Zojila, which is the major pass in the Great Himalayan Range.
Sonamarg is also known to be the base for undertaking of the yatra to the holy Amarnath, during Sawan Purnima.
This capital city is a very prized possession on the Vale of Kashmir. It imbibes the many colors of this state, it also reflects the authenticity of Jammu & Kashmir. This city sits quietly on the banks of the Jhelum and also contemplates its vivaciousness.
Canopied Shikara boats, snow-capped mountains, plush houseboats, and all the sparkling water of Dal and the Nageen Lake came to bring the picture of the authenticity of Srinagar coming alive. The Hazratbal Shrine of Prophet Mohammad and the Jama Masjid, with the divinity of Shankaracharya temple, and the glimpse of the floating vegetable market with its bountiful flora and fauna, honors the capital city with the very deserved title of ‘Paradise on Earth’.
Srinagar also rendersgreat options for the activities like bird watching in the Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary, water skiing in the Dal Lake, Nagin Lake and Bod-dal, golfing in the Kashmir Golf Course, trekking towards the Pir Panjal, which is 89kms from Srinagar and the boating of the Shikara ride on Dal Lake and Nagin Lake makes the holidays in Jammu & Kashmir a successful expedition.
Leh is a compliment in the northern periphery, it is a land of sheer adventure and queer beauty. The lofty mountains, divine Gompas, the alpine lakes, and the settings of Leh is one of the best places to visit in Kashmir. It is located at 434kms from Srinagar, and it also majorly intrigues the adventure enthusiasts as well as the people with an artistic mind.
The architectural grandeur of Leh is like the spiritual places situated there like Hemis Monastery, Alchi Monastery, Matho Monastery, Thiksey Monastery and Spituk Monastery that dazzles all the tourists, whereas the General Zorawar fort, Stok Palace, and the Jama Masjid has its own potential to surprise the spectators. At Leh, one can get the perfect blend of adventure as well as the spirituality, which is accompanied by its natural scenic beauty.
Trekking and the Mountain Biking excites the adventure seekers more and more; there are also several types of beautiful trails which can instigate the opportunity for a brilliant adventure experience. It is clad with the beauty of nature, and Leh is provides with the opportunity to witness the Himalayas in a panoramic view.
Rajauri is known as a refuge of several Bakerwalas and the Gujjars, it is situated almost 154kms away from Jammu. This district shares its border with Pakistan and is also an intriguing travel destination. Rajauri is blessed with charming places like; Thanna Mandi, Dehra Ki Gali, and Kotranka Budhal which are an apt place for sightseeing.
The weather in these remote places during the summers months or any other months remains pleasant, all year round. The magnificent Rajauri Fort, of the Balidan Bhavan, Dhanidar Fort, and Rama Temple are one of the few places which can be visited in the vicinity of Rajauri. This place is an absolute delight for the travel and adventure enthusiasts, it is also amongst one of the top places to visit in Jammu Kashmir.
Ways to reach Kashmir:
To fly to Kashmir, take the Srinagar Airport, which is 15km away, and which is also well connected to all the prime Indian cities. Air India, IndiGo, GoAir, and Jet Airways operate a regular flight from Delhi, Goa, Jammu, Mumbai and Bangalore. After reaching the airport, visitors can hire a taxi to reach to the various cities as well as towns of the Kashmir.
The state of Kashmir is very well connected with many networks of other states and private buses as there are very nearby cities as well as towns. National Highway no. 1-A connects to Srinagar with Jammu. Also, the very popular Jawahar Tunnel connects Jammu with its valley of Kashmir as it falls on the way. A number of J&K State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC), luxury as well as private luxury, deluxe buses ply frequently to and from the state. These buses are very comfy and cost-effective.
The Jammu Tawi Railway Station is situated basically at a distance of 330km, and it is also one of the nearest railhead serving in the beautiful valley of Kashmir. New Delhi to Jammu Tawi Rajdhani Express, or the Jammu Mail, or the Jammu Tawi Express is some of the most prominent trains which are operating from Delhi. From outside the station, you can also hire a private taxi or can take a state or the private buses to reach various places in Kashmir.
By – Triptika Basu