A Paradise on Earth
The state of Jammu and Kashmir is known all over the world as “Paradise on Earth”. Dilating on Kashmir’s beauties would be labouring the obvious. For centuries now it has been celebrated as the most enchanting spot
on the earth, the Shangrila, The paradise on earth. A Persian poet of the Moghul age sang about Kashmir the following couplet:
If there could be a paradise on earth
It is this, it is this, and it is this
The sentiments of this Persian poet have been echoed since by countless millions. Even a brief
description of Kashmir’s natural beauties would require thick volumes.
The Valley of Kashmir owes its fame, doubtless, not less to the wild grandeur of the barriers,
which surround it than to its own intrinsic loveliness. It is this contrast which led the poets of all nations to speak of
it as an "Emerald set in Pearls". But the varied beauties of Kashmir appeal to every want and taste. For the cultivator of the soil, there is fertility of land, abundance of water, variety
and plenty of natural products, whether grains or fruits. For the herdsman, there is rich pasturage and broad meadows. The
sportsman finds game in the jungles and along the mountainsides. The fisherman finds ample use for the rod, the artist for
his sketch block and colors, the archaeologist, linguist, botanist or geologist, may luxuriant vegetation, or the many geological
problems awaiting their investigation; while they, who have neither hobbies nor inclinations, who want but rest and amusement
in lovely country and pleasant climate, can take their fill out of Nature's bounty.
Couched in the lap of snow clad mountains, the valley of Kashmir
looks like a chaste and lovely bride decorated by Nature herself. The crystal clear streams that tumble down from their mountain
heights murmuring as they gently glide over the pebbles glittering like gems in the bright sunshine, the numerous lakes that
intersperse the Valley like bright ornaments, the breathtakingly beautiful hill stations with lush green pine forests and
cool and clear waters make it a virtual heaven. Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Daksum, Kokernag, Achchabal, Verinag, Sonamarg and Yusmarg
are some of the well known hill stations of the Valley. Each of them has a peculiar charm or beauty of its own. Aming the
various lakes specially are Dal Lake, The Wular Lake and Mansbal Lake.
This short list does not, by any means, exhaust the beauty spots of Kashmir which are so numerous as to fill up a volume on their own.
Although the other two regions of the state namely Jammu and Ladakh are not as beautiful as the Kashmir Valley,
yet they are not devoid of it. Jammu has
its lovely hill stations and Ladakh is known for its rich historical heritage.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir, as it existed in the year 1947, is generally known by the name
“Kashmir”, because it is the biggest and most beautiful region of the state, which is located in its centre and
is known all over the world as “Paradise on Earth”. Strategically
and Kashmir State constitutes the northern most extremity of Indian sub continent. It
is situated in the heart of Asia in north of India and Pakistan. It lies between 32.17 degree and 36.58 degree north
latitude and 73.25 degree and 80.30 degree east longitude. Kashmir shares common frontiers with China on north and north-east, with Afghanistan on the north-west, with Pakistan on western and with India on southern sides. The southern border of Tajikistan is separated from northern borders of Kashmir (Gilgit) by very narrow strips of Afghan and Chinese territories.
Kashmir has historical links with both south and central
Two important geographical features are particularly noteworthy; it’s strategic location
and its extraordinarily charming, almost mesmerizing beauty. Because of its highly strategic placement, Kashmir has always been the centre of attraction for superpowers and the consideration
of this crucial position played no mean part in determining the attitude of the superpowers during the United Nations Security
Council debates and other international moves to settle the dispute of Kashmir. The problem is one of the most effective examples to explode the myth of the independence of any of the Third World countries. Many a time the former Soviet Union vetoed several just
U.N Security Council resolutions asking for the settlement of the Kashmir dispute through plebiscite because it thought that
the strategic region would become available to the U.S.A via Pakistan while the same advantage would be available to it through
its cold war ally, India, if Kashmir remains under Indian occupation.
The State consists of four geographical zones of:
1. Sub-mountain and semi-mountain plain known as kandi or dry belt,
2. The Shivalak ranges,
3. The high mountain zone constituting the Kashmir Valley,
Pir Panchal range and its off-shoots including Doda, Poonch and Rajouri and part of Kathua and Udhampur districts,
4. The middle run of the Indus river comprising Leh and Kargil.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir comprises three distinct Climatic regions viz. Arctic cold desert areas of Ladakh, temperate Kashmir valley and sub-tropical region of Jammu.
There is a sharp rise of altitude from 1000 feet to 28250 feet above the sea level within State’s
four degree of latitude.
Two (K2 and Nanga Parbat) of the four highest peaks in the world are in Kashmir (Gilgit- Baltistan).
Geographically and culturally, the state has three district regions - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
Kashmir has a well defined geography extending over the total area of 22,22,236 sq. kms (more
than the individual areas of 93 independent countries of the world, larger than Bangladesh in Asia and in Europe larger than
the areas of Albania, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Holland put together). Since 1947, Kashmir is divided into three parts i.e Indian occupied area (IHK) which covers about 1,44,000
sq. kms. (including about 42,000 sq. kms of Aksai-Chin which is under Chinese control since 1962); Azad Kashmir, a semi independent
area under indirect control of Pakistan covers about 11000 sq. kms and Gilgit-Baltistan (Northern areas) under direct control
of Pakistan covers about 67,000 sq. kms.
Jammu and Kashmir came into being as a single political and geographical entity following
the “Treaty of Amristar” between the British Government and Gulab singh signed on March 16, 1846. The Treaty handed over the control of the Kashmir State to the Dogra ruler of Jammu who
had earlier annexed Ladakh. Thus a new State comprising three distinct religions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh
was formed with Maharaja Gulab Singh as its founder ruler.
At present the total population of the state is over 13.5 million (more than the individual populations
of as many as 127 independent nations of the world). Of these about 8.5 million live in IHK, about 2.5 million in Azad Kashmir,
about 1 million in Gilgit-Baltistan and about 1.5 million in Pakistan, India, the Middle East, Europe and USA.
The Indian held part, with its summer and a winter capital at Srinagar and Jammu respectively, is divided into 14 districts. Population showed sluggish growth in the first six
decades of the present century and the decadal growth rate ranged from 5.75 to 10.42 during 1901 to 1961. The latest two decades
have, however, shown growth of 29.65% and 29.69%, which reflects considerable fall in death rate without any substantial fall
in birth rate in the post 1947.
The religious composition of the State's population is 77% Muslim, 20% Hindus and 3% Buddhists,
Sikhs and Christians. The populations of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are 100% Muslims where as the population of Indian
held Kashmir has 35% non Muslims.
The regional languages of the state are Kashmiri, Pahari, Gojri, Dogri, Ladakhi, Shina, Balti and
Dadri whereas Urdu and English are official languages.
The climate varies from tropical in Jammu plains to semi-arctic cold in Ladakh with Kashmir and Jammu mountainous tracts having temperate climatic conditions.
The annual rainfall also varies from region to region with 92.6 mm in Leh, 650.5 mm in Srinagar and 1115.9 mm in Jammu. A large part of the State forms part of the Himalayan Mountains. The State is geologically constituted of rocks varying from the oldest period of the earth’s
history to the youngest present day river and lake deposits.
A major portion of J&K State consists of the western Himalayas, which besides many lofty mountain ranges with varying heights of
3000 to 6000 metres and above also abound in rivers, lakes, passes, glaciers, plateaus and plains. The number of streams,
brooks, hill torrents and rivers is also fairly large. The most important rivers are the Indus, Chenab, Jehlum and Ravi.