Kashmir is one of the beautiful parts of South Asia, if not the world. When there is no trouble or violence there, it a popular tourist destination, attracting up to 700,000 people during the summer season. Ordinary people in Pakistan and India, especially those who live in the sweltering plains, look upon Kashmir as a kind of cool, green, water-filled paradise surrounded by snow-capped mountains of the Pir Panjal and Himalayan ranges. It has provided a backdrop for many musical scenes in popular Bollywood movies.

The total area of Kashmir, including Jammu and Kashmir in India and the Northern Areas in Pakistan, is 222,738 square kilometers (86,000 square miles) — twice the size of Virginia and embracing two of the world’s largest peaks: 28,250-foot-high K2 and 26,660-foot-high Nanga Parbat. India controls 101,338 square kilometers (39,127 square miles) of the disputed territory, Pakistan controls 85,846 square kilometers (33,145 square miles), and the People's Republic of China controls the remaining 37,555 square kilometers (14,500 square miles).

Kashmir sits on a strategic area , where India, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia all come together. The Indus River, which winds through northern Kashmir, is essential to Pakistan’s irrigation-based agriculture. The main branch of the Silk Road passed just to the north. So many invaders, religions and cultures have passed through Kashmir that it has been described as an old cloth covered by so many patches you can’t make out the original.

In spite of it troubles, most of Kashmir's legendary beauty remains unspoiled. Three quarters of Kashmir, including Azad Kashmir (the area held by Pakistan) and Aksai Chin (the area held by China) are permanently under snow and glaciers because of their high elevation. Kashmir owes its greenness more to meltwater tumbling down out the mountains than to the monsoons. The mountains block out much of the monsoon clouds so the summer monsoon season from June to September in Kashmir is relatively dry and often. hot. The annual rainfall in Srinagar rarely exceed 30 inches. April, May and October are regarded as the best time time to visit Kashmir. The winters are cold. There is often snow.

Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir is a northern Indian state sandwiched between China and Pakistan in the western part of Himalayas. This part of India is known for it lovely streams, gardens, mosques, Sufi shrines, high grazing valleys,cedar forest, golden saffron fields, apple orchards, glacier-cloaked 20,000-foot-high mountains, and violence. The hills contain shrines honoring Shiva and Skakti — the anthropomorphic representations of Hindu Cosmic energy — and each year hundreds of thousands of pilgrims follow some of India's most sacred pilgrimage routes to reach these shrines. State Tourism Website: www.jktourism.org

Jammu and Kashmir was administered by India as a state from 1954 to 2019. There was a clause in the constitution that enshrined Kashmir and Jammu with a special status as India's only Indian-majority state. In 2019, the Indian government repealed Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Indian constitution and 2019, Jammu and Kashmir state was dissolved and reorganized into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir in the west and Ladakh in the east. At the time of its dissolution, Jammu and Kashmir was the only state in India with a Muslim-majority population.

Jammu and Kashmir union territory covers 101,338 square kilometers (39,127 square miles), is home to about 13 million people and has a population density of 56 people per square kilometer. About 27 percent of the population live in urban areas. Srinagar is the capital and largest city, with about 1.2 million people. The area is dominated by a large, central agricultural valley called the Vale of Kashmir, where Srinagar is located.

About 57 percent of the population lives in the Kashmir Valley and 43 percent lives in Jammu. About 68 percent of the population is Muslim and 28 percent is Hindu. In the Kashmir Valley, Muslims make up 98 percent of the population. In Jammu, Hindus make up 56 percent of the population. The people in Jammu do not speak Kashmiri and for the most part they are happy under Indian rule. The people of Ladakh, which was part of Jammu and Kashmir but no longer is, are of Tibetan origin. They have traditionally been more worried about being dominated by Srinagar than by New Delhi.

Over the last few years Jammu and Kashmir has been the site of fighting between the Indian Army and Muslim separatists who want Kashmir either to be a separate state or part of Pakistan. There have also been Indian government clampdown on the largely Muslim population in Kashmir, particularly in Srinagar. Kashmir is 35 to 40 percent Shia (Shiite) Muslim. It was joined with Hindu Jammu at least in part to dilute Muslim power.

Kashmir is a land of lofty Himalayan peaks, lush green valleys, glistening lakes, temples, spectacular Mughal-era gardens, chinar tree-lined roads, wooden bridges, bustling bazaars, sufi shrines, forts and walnut trees. In winter, much of Kashmir is blanked with snow. In the spring, as the snow melts, flowers in the meadows bloom. Jammu lies on the banks of the Tapi river. It is dotted with hundreds of temples and shrines, including the popular Hindu pilgrimage site of Vaishno Devi.

Vale of Kashmir

Vale of Kashmir is the name of the Kashmir Valley, which forms the heart of Kashmir. It is 134 kilometers (90 miles) long and 40 kilometers (25 miles) wide and surrounded by mountains, which reach a height up to 5,150 meters (16,900 feet). The average elevation of the valley is about 1,500 meters (4920 feet). Many rivers and streams pour into the valley, providing its with ample sources of water. The climate is temperate with four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Much of the annual precipitation of 66 centimeters falls in the form of snow. The mean temperature for January is about 0 degrees C. In the summer temperatures often rise above 35 degrees C.

The first recognized historical narrative of India, the Rajatarangini (“River of Kings”), composed in the mid 12th century, by a Kashmiri Brahman, Kalhana, speaks of a mythical origin of the valley in a sacred lake. Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in 1940 of his birthplace: "Kashmir calls back, its pull stronger than ever, it whispers its fairy magic to the ears, and its memory disturbs the mind."

The Vale of Kashmir is very fertile as a result of thousands of years of alluvial Himalayan soil accumulating on its floor. It is bordered to the south by the Pir Panjal Range and to the north by the Himalayas. It is filled with lakes, flower mustard fields, vineyards, large marijuana patches. rice paddies, saffron crocus fields, pine and fir forest and orchards with apples, pears, apricots, plums, walnuts and almond trees. Forests on the lower slopes contain sycamores, cedars, pines and oaks.

Getting to and Traveling in Kashmir

Getting There: Trains only go as far as Jammu. After that, in Kashmir and Ladakh, you have to rely on buses or hired vehicles with a driver. By Air: Srinagar has its own airport, Sheikh-ul-Alam, which is well-connected with all the major cities of India. By Road: The city is connected to major cities in India through good roads. By Train: Jammu Tawi is the nearest railway station that connects Srinagar with other parts of the country.

North-South Corridor National Highway 1A (NH 1A) winds through the rugged Pir Panjal Mountain Range. The region is seismically active. Frequent landslides, avalanches and rock falls often close the road for up to 20 days a year. The road includes Jawahar Tunnel. The NH-1 begin in Jalandhar in Punjab state and ends in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir state. It links Jalandhar, Madhopur, Jammu, Banihal, Srinagar, Baramula and Uri. It intersects with NH-1 in Jalandhar, NH1D in Srinagar, NH-15 in Pathankot and NH-20 in Pathankot. The section from Srinagar to Jalandhar is part of the North-South Corridor. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2010]

Jawahar Tunnel also called Banihal Tunnel or Banihal Pass is a road tunnel more or less between Jammu and Kashmir. Named after the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, it was constructed between 1954 and 1956 and is 2.85 kilometers (1.77 miles) in length. It has one lane road in either direction. It is situated between Banihāl and Qazigund on NH 1A that has been renumbered NH 44. The tunnel lies on the main route between the cities of Srinagar and Jammu. The tunnel was designed for 150 vehicles per day but generally handles around 7,000 vehicles in both directions. After renovation, the tunnel now has a two-way ventilation system, pollution & temperature sensors, lighting system and with emergency phones for any assistance installed from Border Roads Organization.

Jawahar Tunnel is very important militarily as it lies on the primary route that military supplies are brought into Kashmir. It is guarded by military round the clock. Photography or videography inside or nearby the tunnel is strictly prohibited. Once the vehicle enters the tunnel, it has to maintain the same speed throughout the tunnel. CCTVs are installed in the tunnel for continuous monitoring. Until 2009 the tunnel was closed for civilian traffic between midnight and 08:00. It is now open all 24 hours a day. A new higher capacity, all-weather tunnel (Banihal Qazigund Road Tunnel) has been dug in May 2018 and is expected to reduce the traffic through the Jawahar tunnel when opened for traffic in early 2020.


Kashmiris are the Hindu and Muslim inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir and the Pakistan-controlled areas called Azad Kashmir (Gilgit, Baltistan, and four other districts, all thinly populated). Although the Kashmiri population is divided by religion they are united by a common language and history and until recently had a reputation for being easy-going, tolerant and business minded. The term "Kashmiri" is applied particularly to those who inhabit the Vale of Kashmir, which is the most populous area, and includes over two dozen Muslim and Hindu castes.

Kashmiris have traditionally been an independent people separated from the rest of India. Originating from Persia and Central Asia, they have light eyes, fair skin, and hair. They also have their own culture, arts, poetry, architecture, food and style of dressing. The Kashmiri language is an Indo-Aryan tongue, written with a form of the Perso-Arabic script. It is the major language of the Dardic Subgroup, and it has a Literature reaching back to the fourteenth-century poetess Lal Ded.

According to the “Encyclopedia of World Cultures”: “Although the culture is predominantly Muslim today, prior to the Turkic incursions of the eleventh and twelfth centuries Kashmir was an important Buddhist territory, as some of its temple ruins testify. Later, under the Mughals, music, poetry, architecture, and garden design flourished there. The Hindus, though not very numerous, have been quite influential in the state, especially as landowners.” [Source: “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 3: South Asia,” edited by Paul Hockings, 1992]

The vast majority of Kashmiris are Muslims (the remainder are mostly Hindus in the south and Buddhists in the east). In 1990, Muslims made up about 75 percent of the population. Today they make up more due to the fact many Hindus have been driven out of the state. Kashmiris consider themselves to be neither Indian or Pakistani. Although the majority of them are Muslims, they practice Sufism, a mystical and tolerant form of Islam, that is frowned upon in many parts of Pakistan, or are Shia (Shiite) Muslims. The vast majority of Pakistanis are Sunnis.

Kashmiri Hindus, known as Pandits, have traditionally lived in relative harmony with the Muslims. Before the troubles there were about 150,000 to 300,000 of them. They were generally better educated and more successful than Muslim Kashmiri. Since they troubles began they have brutally attacked and forced to leave their homes. Many are now refugees.

Early History of Kashmir

Neolithic remains dating to 3000 B.C. have been found north of Srinagar. Kashmir was an important early Buddhist territory. Some ruins of temples are a reminder of this era. The first recognized historical narrative of India, the “Rajatarangini” (“River of Kings”), composed in the mid 12th century, suggests that caste-based Hindu society existed before the arrival of Buddhism and survived under Buddhism and was revived by Hindu dynasties that ruled until the 14th century.

Islam was brought to Kashmir by kings and Sufi missionaries from central Asia, Afghanistan and Persia and Turkic incursions in the 11th and 12th century. The Hindus, although not very numerous, were very influential, especially as landowners. The liberal policies of the Mughals gave these Hindus a place in society. Many however migrated out.

The valleys of Kashmir have long served as invasion routes for armies that have invaded India. But until the advent of the airplane in the 20th century Kashmir could largely only be reached by foot, horse, camel and elephant. It was connected with the Silk Road. Products like Pashmina shawls made their way to the Middle East, where they made their way to Europe.

Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin (1421-1474) is fondly remembered as the great king, the 'Budshah' or simply the 'Badshah'. He ruled over Kashmir for over 50 years and that period is counted as one of the most peaceful times that the region has ever seen. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin was the son of Shah Mir, who started the rule of the Mughal dynasty in India in the mid-14th century, when he migrated to India from Central Asia. The sultan was loved and hailed by his people throughout his reign and after the death of his beloved mother, he had the Badshah Tomb built in her fond memory.

Xuanzang on Kashmir in the 7th Century

In A.D. 629, early in the Tang Dynasty period, the Chinese monk Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang) left the Chinese dynasty capital for India to obtain Buddhist texts from which the Chinese could learn more about Buddhism. He traveled west — on foot, on horseback and by camel and elephant — to Central Asia and then south and east to India and returned in A.D. 645 with 700 Buddhist texts from which Chinese deepened their understanding of Buddhism. Xuanzang is remembered as a great scholar for his translations from Sanskrit to Chinese but also for his descriptions of the places he visited — the great Silk Road cities of Kashgar and Samarkand and the great stone Buddhas in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. His trip inspired the Chinese literary classic “Journey to the West” by Wu Ch'eng-en, a 16th century story about a wandering Buddhist monk accompanied by a pig, an immortal that poses as a monkey and a feminine spirit. It is widely regarded as one of the great novels of Chinese literature. [Book: "Ultimate Journey, Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment" by Richard Bernstein (Alfred A. Knopf); See Separate Article on Xuanzang]

Sally Hovey Wriggins wrote: He stopped in Taxila in modern-day Pakistan and wrote it “was above 2,000 li in circuit, its capital being above 10 li in circuit. The chiefs of the states were in a state of open feud, the royal family being extinguished; the country had formerly been subject to Kapisa but now it was a dependency of Kashmir; it had a fertile soil and bore good crops, with flowing streams and luxuriant vegetation; the climate was genial; and the people, who were plucky, were adherents of Buddhism. Although the Monasteries were numerous, many of them were desolate, and the Brethren, who were very few, were all Mahayanist. [Source: “Xuanzang on the Silk Road” by Sally Hovey Wriggins mongolianculture.com \~/]

“Aurel Stein, the great Central Asian explorer and archeologist, credits Xuanzang with the first ethnographic survey of Kashmir, where the pilgrim studied Buddhist philosophy for two years from 631-633 C.E. This long stay was not surprising for as his biographer reports: “This country from remote times was distinguished for learning, and these priests were all of high religious merit and conspicuous virtue, as well as of marked talent, and power of clear exposition of doctrine: and though the other priests {i.e, of other nations} were in their own way distinguished, yet they could not be compared with these so different were they from the ordinary class." \~/ Burzahom

Neolithic Settlement of Burzahom (five kilometers north of Srinagar) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The Neolithic Site of Burzahom, in the district of Srinagar, India brings to light transitions in human habitation patterns from Neolithic Period to Megalithic period to the early Historic period. From transition in architecture to development in tool-making techniques to introduction and diffusion of lentil in the northwestern India, the site of Burzahom is a unique comprehensive story teller of life between 3000 B.C. to 1000 B.C.. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“The remains of the site document the gradual change in the nature of dwelling spaces among early societies. From subterranean dwelling pits, the evidences in the site show the emergence of mud-structures, thereon mud-bricks constructions on level ground. The range of tools recovered from the site shows the evolution in tool making Neolithic men skilled hunters and their knowledge in applying the implements for cultivation.

“The subterranean pit-dwelling of Neolithic men (Aceramic Neolithic/Period I) were cut into the natural soil usually dug out with long stone celts, the cuts-marks of which can still be traced. The pits were circular or oval in plan, narrow at the top and wide at the base having (wooden) post holes on the ground level suggesting a birch cover as a protection against the harsh weather. Some pits were shallower, with depth of about 91 centimeters (as opposed to 3.95 meters depth) and were possibly either storage pits or those used as dwellings during warmer period. Stone hearths have also been found at ground levels, near the mouth of pits, showing that habitation activities were also at the ground level. Ascribed to the same era are subterranean dwellings of quadrangular section, covered by a layer of birch, with a centrally placed stone or clay hearth and storage pit.

“The several pottery shards of steel grey, dull red, brown or buff have been recovered from the pits as one of the material remain. Crude in finish, the continuity of these types of crude pottery can be seen in today's Kashmir. Apart from pottery, bones and stone tools like harpoons, needles with or without eyes, awls used probably for stitching skins, spear-points, arrow-heads and daggers for hunting game, scrapers for treating skins, stone axes, chisels, adzes, pounders, mace-heads, points and picks were used by the Neolithic settlers in this period. Apart from stone, antlers were also used for tool-production. This layer is marked by absence of any burial system as well as cultivation.

“In the next stage (Ceramic Neolithic/Period II) structures in mud or mud bricks with regular floors made of rammed karewa soil, often reusing pits by filling in with mud and finished by plastering a layer of mud, covered with a thin coat of red ochre as well as timbre showing evolution in construction techniques. This layer also yielded few copper arrowheads, black-ware pottery, a dish with a hollow stand, globular pot, jar, stem with triangular perforations, a funnel-shaped vase, a wheel made red ware pot with contained 950 beads, beads of areore, agate and carnelian and painted pots, the latter could have been an evidence of a trade. One of the unique finds of this layer is a red-ware pot with a horned figure painted on it. The stone and bone-wares of this period shows distinct development in finish. Of the implements recovered, the rectangular harvesters with a curved cutting edge with two or more holes on either side, double edged picks in stone, long sized needles with or without eye and the unique borer on a long hollow bone, like the cobbler's poker. An instance of art-producing behaviour of Neolithic men is witnessed in the site where an engraved stone depicting a hunting scene, with human, a dog, the sun path diagram has been found.

“The earliest remains of pit burial is ascribed to the Period II. Oval pits were dug into the house floor and were plastered with lime and bodies were placed with red-ochre on the bones. Skeletons were also found in crouched positions often without any grave furniture while in some instances accompanied with animal skeletal remains. Seven evidences of complete and four incomplete evidences of trepanning of human skulls have also been noted. One of the interesting burials recovered is that of five wild dogs and antler's horn.

“The Neolithic period is followed by Megalithic culture associated with the erection of massive stones or menhirs, most probably as commemorative establishments. The material culture recovered constitutes of a gritty red ware pottery, manufactured in potters wheel, metal objects and few tools made of bone and stone continued. Rubble structures associated with the Megalithic men have also been found. The last level of activity at Burzahom is ascribed to the early historical period and is dateable to 3rd-4th century A.D. Mudbrick structures, pottery manufactured in a wheel and a few metal objects have been found from this era.

“The practice of agriculture has been established through the tools and finding of palaeo-botanic analysis. Periods I and II provided evidence for wheat, barley and lentil cultivation. The presence of lentil in the Burzahom Neolithic further explains that the people of Burzahom had wide contacts with Central Asia, a critical evidence of the human movement through mountain passes into the Kashmir valley.”


Harwan (20 kilometers northeast of Srinagar) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site as one of the Silk Road Sites in India in 2010 . According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The archeological site of Harwan was a thriving and a prosperous Buddhist settlement in the early centuries of Christian era. The complex of Harwan consists of a monastery for the monks, prayer hall or Chaitya, and a Stupa dated to fourth or fifth century A.D. [Source: Archaeological Survey of India]

“The most important feature of the site of great archaeological value is the terracotta or baked clay titles, which embellished the Chaitya or Buddhist temple. It is an apsidal Chaitya or horseshoe arched temple in diaper pebble style with a tiled courtyard as circumambulatory passage. These Harwan terracotta floor covering have unique place in the plastic art of India represented beautifully in the Kashmir valley for the first time. The tiles in backed clay are 18'x12'' long and moulded with floral, geometrical, human and animal designs. They reflect a colorful and pulsating life style of the contemporary society.

“Some tiles have dancing girls, and musician beating the drums lovers chatting on the balconies a favorite theme depicted on them. There are rams and cocks fighting, geese running, ducks and pheasants within a floral pattern. The geometric design consists of wary lines, frets and fish bone patterns lotus and aquatic plants and various types of flowers adequately represented. The site represents a unique tradition of Kashmir which was connected with the Silk Road in its architecture and art, particularly in the decorated patterns of terracotta tile-pavements in the apsidal stupa which became a symbol of the art of Kashmir.

Kashmir Under the Mughals

Kashmir was incorporated into the Mughal Empire in the 16th century and defined the northern reaches of their empire. The Mughals used Kashmir as place to escape the summer heat. They built lovely gardens — with fountains, roses and jasmine and rows of chinar trees — on terraces and palaces on Dal Lake and supported a rich court culture that included music, poetry and art.

The Mughal Emperors had a great influence on Kashmir. Akbar extended the Mughal empire there. Jahangir loved Kashmir. He treasured the time he spent with his father Akbar there. Jahangir enjoyed gardens and spent his summers in relatively cool Kashmir. He built the Gardens of Shalimar ("Abode of Love") there. He once wrote, "The flowers of Kashmir are beyond counting and calculation...The breeze in that place scented one's brain." Jahangir died in Kashmir in 1666. Shah Jahan moved 36 times between 1628 and 1657, from Agra to Kashmir, and from Delhi to Lahore

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Before the Mughals set foot in Kashmir in the 16th C., it was already home to various ruling dynasties beginning with the ancient Hindu kings to the Shahmiris and the Chaks. Kashmir had, however, always been a pre-occupying thought for the Mughal emperors. The sheer beauty of the place along with its potential to be exploited as their favorite hobby of laying out pleasure gardens may have fascinated them. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]

“Mughals attempted to annexe Kashmir even during Babur's lifetime. During Humayun's reign, the place was for ten years ruled by his uncle Mirza Muhammad Haider Dughlat, in the Emperor's name. In 1585 A.D, Akbar waged a war against Yousuf Shah, a Chak ruler but was defeated. A treaty was nevertheless signed on Kashmir. Within a year it was broken and Akbar dispatched another army to Kashmir. After a stiff battle, the Emperor was victorious. From this time onwards, Kashmir was ruled by the Mughals as one of their provinces through their governors.

“Emperor Akbar paid three consecutive visits to Kashmir and with each one his love for the place grew more and henceforth Kashmir became the summer resort to successive Emperors: Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurengzeb. To Jahangir, Kashmir seemed a paradise of which 'priests had prophesied and poets sung' (Gascoigne et. al., 1971). For nearly a century and a half these four great Emperors came, from far away Delhi and Agra, in stately progress across the Pir Panjal, with glittering retinues and splendid state, with escorts and audiences, tributes and labour, from the dusty glamour of an Indian court to the cool and quite of a Kashmiri summer.

“Jahangir spent fourteen summers in the Valley of Kashmir, coming in with the blossoming of the lilac and the wild iris in the spring, and setting out back towards the hot plains of India when the saffron flowers had bloomed in autumn. He died in Bahram-Galah (a small village near Poonch), almost within the sight of his beloved and favorite land. “Mughal rule in Kashmir may not have been impressionable politically but it will always be remembered for the eternal legacy they left behind, including the gardens, Arts And Crafts.”

Kashmir in the British Era

After the Mughals, Kashmir was occupied by Afghans — who conquered Kashmir in 1756 — and the Sikhs from the Punjab who remained around until the 19th century when they were driven out by the British, who then sold the valley for 7½ million rupees to Gulab Singh, a brutal Hindu ruler from the Dogra dynasty in the Jammu area. One of the first Europeans to lay eyes on the Vale of Kashmir was the French doctor Francois Bernier, After entering the valley in 1665 he wrote, ”In truth it surpasses in beauty all that my warm imagination had anticipated. It is not indeed with reason that the Mughals call Kashmir the terrestrial paradise of the Indies.”

Gulab Singh joined Kashmir with Jammu and built them into a powerful state through conquest and treaties. In 1846, he signed a treaty with Britain, making Kashmir a princely state. Gulab Gingh and his Hindu successors ruled the predominately-Muslim state in an autocratic and repressive manner. They exacted high taxes from the residents and spent their winters in Jammu and their summers in Kashmir, enjoying fishing, duck hunting, boating on Dal Lake and moonlit parties in terraced gardens.

Under British rule, Kashmir and Jammu was an autonomous state larger than France. The Muslims never liked the maharajah much. In 1931, the Muslim population rebelled against the maharajah Hari Singh but the rebellion was ruthlessly put down. Hari Singh was regarded by historians as weak, indecisive and indulgent. He was a colorful character known for his love of diamonds, pearls and large emeralds. He made headlines before World War II for his involvement in an adultery-blackmail scandal in London.

In 1932, Sheikh Abdullah founded Kashmir’s first political party, the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, renamed the National Conference in 1939. As independence of India and Pakistan neared the desires for an independent Kashmir grew.

Kashmir After Partition

At the time of partition of India and Pakistan, in 1947, Kashmir was the largest princely state in India, with a predominately Muslim population ruled by the Maharajah of Kashmir Hari Singh. About 77 percent of the population was Muslim and 20 percent was Hindu. According to independence accords, the rulers of he princely states could join either India or Pakistan. Most had done so before independence took effect.

Both India and Pakistan desperately wanted Kashmir as parts of their new nations. The Indian leader, Jawalharlal Nehru, a committed Hindu secularist whose Pandit family came Kashmir, wanted to hold up Kashmir as an example of how Muslims could prosper in a Hindu majority nation. The first Pakistan leader, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, insisted that his vision of a Muslim nation would be incomplete without Kashmir. He and others assumed that Kashmir would become part of Pakistan because it was mostly Muslim.

At the time of partition, in August 1947, the maharajah wanted Kashmir to be an independent state but was not sure how to achieve this He hesitated apparently in an effort win independence, He signed a “standstill agreement” with Pakistan to continue essentials services While the maharajah hesitated, tensions in the regions rose and a rebellion broke out between Muslim farm workers and their Hindu landlords.

Pathans Move on Kashmir

Kashmir largely escaped the savage violence that occurred in nearby Punjab when India and Pakistan were divided in 1947. Instead it went through its own unique series of events. While the Maharajah of Kashmir Hari Singh was making up his mind, in October 1947, Pakistani-backed Pathan tribal fighters invaded Kashmir in an attempt to unite Kashmir with Pakistan. They were advancing at a rapid pace towards Srinagar.

The Pakistani government supported the Pathans but did not commit regular troops. Pakistani leaders felt that Pakistan had to make a move on Kashmir or lose it but could not risk a total war against stronger India. The Pathan tribesmen led a jihad to save their Muslim brothers.

The maharajah fled his palace in Srinagar in an American station wagon with his most valued possessions after the Pathans blew up Kashmir's main power station and power in his palace went out. As he headed for Jammu with his treasures the Pathans got as close as 45 kilometers to their objective, Srinagar. If the Pathans were intent on reaching this objective, some historians have argues, Kashmir might belong to Pakistan right now, but they began looting and taking booty and never reached Srinagar.

The maharajah appealed for help to India, which airlifted Indian troops, weapons and ammunition into Kashmir In all, Nehru sent in 100,000 troops to crush what he claimed was an invasion of Indian territory. The Pathan tribesmen were driven out and India claimed most of the territory around Srinagar it had taken.

Maharaja Signs an Agreement with India

On October 26, 1947, the Maharajah of Kashmir signed an agreement called the Instrument of Accession to India to join India, pending a plebiscite. He rationalized his decision on the assumption that Kashmir would do better in secular India than Pakistan, an Islamic state. The agreement of accession itself is controversial. It was supposed to be temporary and the airlift of troops had begun before it was signed.

Whether Kashmir actually joined India legally remains a matter of dispute. Pakistan never recognized the accession, and the United Nations calls Kashmir a disputed region. Pakistan asserts that India pressured the maharajah to join India but most historians believe the maharajah made the agreement to remain in power. India insists the Instrument of Accession was signed before the Indian troops arrived in Kashmir to fight secessionist rebels.

In agreeing to join India, Jammu and Kashmir were promised special status, with its own prime minster and control over all matters except defense, foreign policy and communications. There is a clause in the constitution that enshrines Kashmir and Jammu with a special status as India's only Indian-majority state.

First War in Kashmir

The Indo-Pakistan wars of 1948, 1965, and 1971 were largely fought over the issue of who should control Kashmir (although in 1971 Bangladesh was also a central issue). The raid by the Pathans is regarded as the beginning of the first war in Kashmir. After the Pathan advance was halted, much of the fighting took place in the Himalayan mountains around the valley. There, regular Pakistani troops faced against regular Indian troops in an undeclared war, with India having the most success and taking the most territory.

India lobbied their position at the United Nations. Several United Nations resolutions between April 1948 and January 1949 called for a cease-fire, withdrawal of Pakistani troops and Pathan fighters and a plebiscite for on the future for Kashmir.

The conflict was ended in 1949 by a United Nations a cease-fire, which left Kashmir and adjacent Jammu — between Pakistan and India — with the borders they more or less have today. India claimed about two thirds of Jammu and Kashmir, which included the predominately-Muslim Kashmir valley, the predominately-Hindu area of Jammu and predominately-Buddhist Ladakh, and the headwaters of rivers that are vital for Pakistan’s agriculture. Pakistan claimed northern Kashmir, an area now called the Northern Territories.

United Nations and Kashmir

Lord Mountbatten, the key British representative in the partioning of India and Pakistan, and even Nehru agreed that the decision of whether Kashmir belonged to India or Pakistan should be decided by a referendum "under international auspices."

On April 28, 1948, a United Nations Security Council resolution called for a plebiscite to allow the Kashmiri people to determine their future since it was claimed by both Pakistan and India. The Indian government promised the Kashmiris the plebiscite but reneged on their promise. The plebiscite was never held because, according to India, Pakistani troops did not comply with the United Nations resolutions and withdraw from the areas of Kashmir they controlled. Pakistan countered that India didn’t withdraw from the areas itt was supposed to withdraw from.

The United Nations does not recognize India’s occupation of its section of Kashmir nor Pakistan's occupation of its section of Kashmir. United Nations peace keepers helped enforce a truce along the frontier between India and Pakistan.

India insists that resolution was overtaken by subsequent accords with Pakistan and that a referendum on self-determination have been avoided on the Kashmir issue in the belief that it could trigger all out war. The reasoning was referendums are all or nothing propositions and the likely losers often turn to violence because they feel they other way to stick up for their rights. A better proposition is to work out a compromise in which all groups involved get something. Many say that India didn’t allow the referendum to be held because the mostly Muslim residents of Kashmir would likely — or at least possibly — have voted for Kashmir to become part of Pakistan.

India Takes Controls of Largely Autonomous Kashmir

In the early 1950s, Kashmir enjoyed a fair amount of autonomy from the central Indian government. Before 1953, Kashmir had its own flag and own leader. Laws passed by the Indian parliament did not apply to Kashmir except in matters of foreign affairs, communications and defense.

Sheik Mohammed Abdullah — a heroic figure who spent many years in prison for his efforts to win independence for Kashmir and who helped fight off the Pathans — became the first Kashmiri prime minister. He was popular and known to many Kashmiris as the “Lion of Kashmir." He wanted Kashmir to be a secular state where Hindus and Muslims could live in harmony.

In 1953, Kashmiri Prime Minister Abudullah was arrested and New Delhi installed its own leaders. Other arrests followed. Between 1953 and 1957, the Indian government took power away from Kashmir, and diminished Kashmir's autonomy as the Indian government rigged elections to gain control of the local government, eventually replacing Kashmir's leader with a governor appointed by New Delhi, which also imposed more Indian central laws on Kashmir.

On January 26, 1957 the New York Times reported; “The state of Kashmir became officially a part of India after ten years of bitter and bloody disputes between India and Pakistan over its ownership. In defiance of the United Nations Security Council, the Kashmir Constituent Assembly at Jammu, in India-held Kashmir dissolved just before midnight after completing the task of framing a constitution and thus becoming a legal part of India.” A United Nations “resolution passed by a 10-0 vote, with the Soviet Union abstaining, called on India to maintain the status quo in Kashmir until its future was decided by a plebiscite under UN supervision,

In 1963, a sacred relic—a hair from the Prophet’s beard—disappeared from the Hazratbal mosque in Srinagar and demonstrations broke out. The following year the Indian government passed a order that allowed the India President to rule directly in Kashmiri affairs.

Line of Control

A 550-mile-long Line of Control (LOC) divides the disputed territory between Pakistan-held Kashmir and India-held Kashmir. It is border or sorts drawn up by the United Nations in 1949. It runs through some of the world's most rugged terrain and has been modified slightly by a series of wars. It not recognized by either country and has ben breached many times. Only U.N. troops are allowed to cross the LOC. Journalist who try to cover the story from both sides have to travel hundred of miles by air and road to cover a distance that is only a few miles as the crow flies.

Pakistan and India each maintain a number of military outpost along the line with sandbagged trenches and concrete and hardened-clay bunkers and tens of thousands of Pakistani and Indian army soldiers face one another along the line. Hills of dirt and hay, top with dead teras hide anti-aircraft and antitank weapons. Tanks and soldiers hide under netting designed to thwart grenade attacks.

Along some sections there is a thick mid wall, and a 3-tower maze of barbed wire fences. Efforts to electrify the fence are hampered by waist-high snow in th winter. Senspir are often ste of by cattle. Indian and Pakistan have sewn huge amounts of land mines along the Line of Control. By some estimates more than 70,000 acres have bee affected,,

Wars in Kashmir

India and Pakistan fought three short wars over Kashmir: the first in 1947-49, the second in 1965, and a third in the 1971. India won all the wars in Kashmir. Pakistan lost territory in the 1947-49. The conflicts in 1965 and 1971 produced little change. .

The second war broke out in September 1965 after border clashes in southeastern end of the India-Pakistan border escalated into war. Angered Pakistani incursions in Kashmir, the Indians declared war and launched an invasion in the Punjab. Troops from both countries crossed the Line of Control and launched air assaults against each other. The fighting lasted for three weeks fire United Nations cease-fire took hold and troops pulled back behind the Lie of Control. The Soviets brokered the Tashkent Declaration in January 1966, which officially ended the war.

The third war began in December 1971 while Pakistan was breaking up into Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan attacked several India airfields, including in Kashmir. The war lasted only two weeks and ended in a crushing defeat for Pakistan and treaty signed in July 1972 had called for peaceful negotiation on Kashmir and respect the Line of Control. At thus war Pakistan began aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapons program after that so that to would ever suffer a humiliation like that again.

In 1987, the Indian army started a military exercise with live ammunition near the Pakistani border, Caught unprepared, Pakistan rushed 50,000 troops o the border. Intervention by Western leaders, convinced the two sides to back down.

Unrest in Kashmir in the 1990s and 2000s

In the 1990s the conflict in Kashmir took a new destructive turn. What began as a political problem over Indian rule in Kashmir escalated into a violent, destructive, messy conflict that involved conventional military activities and terrorist acts. A number of different group became involved and the Indian and Pakistan governments were stubborn in the positions. The whole thing became big complex mess that has proved to be difficult to control and end.

Between May and July 1999, the area around Kargil was the site of the Kargil War, an armed conflict between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LOC) that left more than 500 Indian and nearly 400 Pakistani soldiers dead. The conflict began when Pakistan's military and Kashmiri rebels occupied strategic positions on the Indian side of LOC and ended with India successfully pushing back Pakistani fighters to the other side of the LOC.

As of 2004, 30,000 to 65,000 people, mostly civilians had been killed in the conflict. Casualty figures are notoriously unreliable. Indian police said that around 30,000 people were killed. Some have estimated that the true figure was as high as 80,000. It is also difficult to determine how many are civilians. Many listed as militants, separatists or terrorists by the Indian government are believed to have been innocent civilians. In addition around $500 million worth of property was and 300,000 people were made homeless.

The conflict has been marked by ambushes, strikes, bombing, mines, torture, shoot outs, massacres, abductions, terrorist attacks, gun battles at the Line of Control, attacks from high ground, artillery exchanges and village raids. Planes and helicopters are rarely used. Few soldiers are killed. Most of the victims are civilians that are targeted or get caught in the crossfire.

The stakes are high Kashmir is considered a possible flash point for a nuclear war. The Kashmiris want their own their independent state, or at least the right to vote on a referendum, to determine their future. The Pakistanis want to be able to assert their claim on region or at least for the Indian forces to withdraw and allow Kashmiris to determine their own fate. New Delhi insists that Kashmir is an “integral” part of India that it will never relinquish.

High Altitude War

India and Pakistan continue to fight a war on the 685-square-kilometer Siachen Glacier where temperatures drop to -50̊ C (-60̊F) in the winter and troops are stationed at 6010 meters (20,500 feet).

Siachen glacier is the world's largest glacier outside the polar regions. It is 70 kilometers (48 miles) long and shadowed by 7010-meter (23,000-foot) -high Himalayan and Karakorum peaks and is not far from 8,611-meter (28,253-foot) K2, the world's second highest mountain. It is a desolate palace with no trees, no grass and no wildlife. Just ice, snow and rock.

The high-altitude war costs two of the world's poorest countries each around $1 million a day. Each nation has about 3,000 men deployed in the area. The opposing sides can't see each other. The closest village is about a 10-day walk away.

History of the High Altitude War

In 1949, when the first war between Pakistan and India ended the two sides agreed on a cease-fire line that ended at the foot Siachen Glacier at a map coordinate known as NJ9842. For years the only people that went near the glacier were mountain climbers and because they tended to enter from Pakistan it showed up as Pakistan territory on maps. When the LOC was defined in 1971, Siachin glacier was not included because no fighting took place there. Both countries made claims on it.

The war started in 1984 when the Indian army sent several hundred troops to take the glacier. They took most of the glacier and the mountains around, The Pakistanis had no idea what was going on until a group of mountaineers told them they saw Indian troops. A Pakistan army unit rushed to the area and seized some of the glacier and mountains for themselves. Both sides soon set up camps across from each other on the ice on the highest known battlefield in the world.

In 1989, India and Pakistan reached an agreement to withdraw but India backed out of the deal at the last minute. One reason Pakistan refuses to withdraw is that the conflict costs India much more than it costs Pakistan. The Indians don’t want to leave because they hold the best positions. In August 2004, Indian and Pakistan held discussions on the Siachen Glacier conflict. A cease-fire was signed in November 2004. A peace agreement on the issue hinges on India moving back from a high ridge and Pakistan promising not to occupy the position after India withdraws. Such an agreement has been agreed upon in principal but has not been carried out.

Death and Logistics in the High Altitude War

As of the mid 2000s, about 3,500 men had died and 10,000 had been injured or wounded in the Siachen glacier area. The first arrivals were the most unprepared and suffered the most. Of the first 50 Indian troops to arrive, 30 either died or had to be evacuated with “severe exposure." Soldiers from the plains are much more vulnerable than those from the mountains. Often men that could have been saved died because rescue helicopters had a hard time landing in the thin air.

Far more men are lost to avalanches, crevasses and cold that to shells and bullets. The biggest killer is pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) and cerebral edema (fluid in the brain) brought on by altitude sickness.

In the thin air and freezing temperatures, sweats turns to ice, guns and artillery freeze, skin sticks to metal and there is not enough oxygen to light a match. The lack of friction in the thin air, allows artillery shells to sail for miles. Three bureaucrats who held up a deliver of snowmobiles to Kashmir for three years were sent to Siachen Glacier as punishment.

Drinking water comes from melted snow. No one bathes. Soldiers sleep in fiberglass shells and walk around in puffy white suits that make them look like the Pillsbury Dough boys. The Indians installed the world's highest phone booth at 15,000 feet so troops could call heir families. Fuel to operate helicopters is carried up the mountainsides on the backs of porters and soldiers. Artillery is carried in by helicopters pieces by piece and once it up there it never comes down.

Kashmiri Food and Cuisine

A part of traditional Kashmiri cuisine, wazwan is a 36-course dinner spread that has all meat-based dishes. Its preparation is considered as a point of pride in the Kashmiri culture. Usually served during weddings, wazwan is more than a meal. Feasting on it is almost like a ceremony, in which a group of four people sit on a white sheet and share the meal. Some of the popular dishes served in wazwan are tabak-maaz, which is meat of lamb ribs; daeni phoul, which is mutton meat; waza chicken, which are two cooked halves of whole chicken; Kashmiri methi, which is a stew made of lamb stomach and fenugreek; rista, which are Kashmiri meatballs made in red gravy; doodh ras, which is meat cooked in sweet milk gravy, etc.

Mutton Rogan Josh is a popular winter dish. Prepared on a low flame and cooked with a blend of spices, this Kashmiri delicacy tastes best when served with sheermala (sweet bread), naan (leavened bread), roti (Indian flatbread), rice, biryani (layered rice dish) and raita (watered down yoghurt). Rogan josh was introduced in Kashmir by the Mughals in 15th century, therefore, it has some Persian influences as well. Conventionally eaten with rice, the signature non-vegetarian dish of Rogan Josh is a red lamb-based curry dish mixed with ginger, bay leaves, Kashmiri chillies and yoghurt.

Yakhni is a yoghurt-based mutton delicacy with has a creamy texture and is best savoured with rice, along with a cup of kahwah. It is seasoned with cloves and cardamoms. A part of traditional Kashmiri cuisine, Dum aloo is cooked under pressure and garnished with dry fruits. Kashmiri dum aloo is a very popular Kashmiri dish that is made using baby potatoes dipped in a yoghurt-based gravy. It is flavored with dry ginger powder and fennel. Usually served with flatbreads (like naan, roti and tandoori roti), this Kashmiri dish tastes amazing.

Tujj, also known as seek-e-tujj, is a barbecue dish, which is prepared by baking or smoking chopped meat pieces over slow burning wood or charcoal. Tujj is simply found in the form of minced mutton, held through steel rods called ‘seekh’ over an iron grill and roasted over red heated bath-e-czini. It is best served with chutney and special Kashmiri bread called lawasa.

Yakhni is a traditional Kashmiri non-vegetarian dish that is made using mutton, curd, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Yakhni is of many types like its roasted variant, which is a grilled spiced leg of a lamb. Mostly consumed during celebrations, it has a wonderful aroma of spices. A delicacy from Kashmiri cuisine, gushtaba is also known as Kashmiri meat-ball curry. It is the main dish of the multi-course Kashmiri cuisine, wazwan, and is traditionally offered at the end of the meal. It involves minced mutton balls cooked in curd and spices.

Kashmiri Sweets and Snacks

Nander monjje is a snack from Kashmir that is made using lotus stems and spices. A fried delicacy, it is traditionally served with Kashmiri onion chutney and tomato sauce. Sewai is a sweet dish served mainly during the festival of Eid. Also known as sweet vermicelli and meethi sewai, this dish is a quick dessert that is symbolic with festivities. It is a preparation of vermicelli in milk and almonds and pistachio mixed in desi ghee (clarified butter).

Sheermala is a traditional flatbread that is slightly sweet and flavored with kewra (an extract from the flower of the Pandanus plant) water and topped with sesame seeds. Sheermala is a common delicacy of Awadhi cuisine that has a Mughlai influence. It looks and tastes a lot like Persian saffron bread.

Gadde monje is a fish-based dish of Kashmir valley. Deep-fried and coated with spicy flour batter, it is a tasty treat for fish lovers. Its vegetarian counterpart is a dish called Nader monjee, which uses lotus stem instead of fish. Served during festivals and special occasions, Kashmiri muji gaad is a fish-based dish that is garnished with radish. Gaad is a combination of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items.

Kashmiri Drinks

The two must-have tea varieties in Kashmir are Noon chai and kahwah. While the former is made of milk, soda and salt, and is uniquely pink, the latter is a type of green tea made with spices like almonds and walnuts.

Kahwa (also spelled kehwa) is perfumed Kashmiri tea. It is often sweetened with a little milk and steeped with cardamom seeds. Sometimes it is a little salty. Sometimes it has saffron, with almonds and cardamom floating in it. Kahwa is a type of traditional green tea consumed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. A drink discovered in India and grown in the Western Ghats, Malabar and Kashmir Valley, it has now spread across central Asia. This drink is very popular among Kashmiris and is usually consumed at breakfast with baked Kashmiri girda (bread).

Kashmiri noon tea, also known as the sheer cha, gulabi chai, Kashmir tea, or pink tea, is a traditional tea beverage in the valley. Originating from the Indian subcontinent, this tea is world famous for its aroma and taste. Noon tea is usually made up of special type of green tea leaves, milk and baking soda. It is prepared in a special cooking pot known as samavar.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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