One of the largest states of the Indian union, Jammu and Kashmir covers an area
of 222,236 sq km . This includes 78,114 sq km under illegal occupation of
Pakistan, 5,180 sq km handed over by Pakistan to China, and 37,555 sq km under
occupation of China.
The state lies between 32o
17' to 36o 58'
North latitude and 73o 26'
to 80o 30' East
longitude. From North to South, it extends over 640 km and from East to West 480
km. It occupies the North-West niche of India, bounded on the South by
Himachal Pradesh and the Punjab, on the South West and West by Pakistan, on
the North by Chinese Turkistan and a little of Russian Turkistan, and on the
East by Chinese Tibet - thus strategically bordering the territories of
three countries - Russia, China, and Pakistan.
The population of the state, according to the 1981 census was
5,987,389 (3,164,660 males and 2,822,729 females) - this figure excludes the areas under
the occupation of Pakistan and China.
According to the projections made by the standing Committee
of Experts on
Population Projections , October 1989, the population of the state was
7,718,700. The 1991 census could not be held due to disturbances in the state.
The density of population as given by this Committee is 76 persons per sq km.
The decimal population growth rate for 1981-91 was given as 28.92% as against
29.69% for the period 1971-81.
The religion wise break-up of the population as per the 1981 census showed that
the Muslims constituted the predominant religious community of the
state at 64.19%, Hindus came next at 32.24%, Sikhs 2.23%, Buddhists
1.16 %, Christians 0.14%, and others form the remaining part.
Geographically, the Jammu and Kashmir state is divided into four zones. First,
the mountainous and semi-mountainous plain commonly known as Kandi belt, the
second, hills including Shiwalik ranges, the third, mountains of Kashmir
valley, and Pir Panjal range and the fourth is Tibetan tract of Ladakh and
The valley of Kashmir is a unique, oval plain, approximately 134 km in length
and 32 to 40 km in breadth, with an average height of 1,800 m above the sea level, and nested securely among the
Pir- Panjal range of the Himalayas.
The mountains which surround the valley are varied in form, height, and colour .
To the east stands hoary-headed Harmukh (5,150 m), the formidable mountain
guarding the valley of the Sindh. Further south is Mahadev and the lofty ranges
of Gwasha Brari (5,425 m). The peak of Amarnath (5,280 m) also lies in this
area. On the south-west is the Pir Panjal range with peaks 4,500 m high and to
the north are ranges of the Karakorams and the Himalayas, dominated by the
majestic Nanga Parbat (7,980 m), also called by the poetic name of Diyamir.
Covered with snow all the year round and rising glistening white , it is the
fifth highest mountain in the world. Latitude wise, Kashmir corresponds to
Damascus in Syria, Fez in Morocco and South Carolina in the United States.
The legend that the Kashmir valley was a vast lake,
Satisar, in pre-historical
times, corresponds with the results of geological observations. The sandstone
rock at the western corner of the basin was most probably formed by volcanic
action. The lake was drained by the deepening of the Baramulla gorge - the
result of the slow process of erosion spread over geological years. Tradition
has it that the drainer of the lake was Kashyap, after whom the valley was
called Kashyap-mar, which, with the passage of time, became Kashmir .
According to an interpretation, Kashmir is a prakrit compound with its
components Kas meaning ' a channel ' and Mir, 'a mountain ' - the compound word
adding to a 'a rock trough'. In the puranas, Kashmir is called gerek
(hill) because of its overwhelming hilly features. The word Kashmir has been
shortened by Kashmiris into Kashir . Kashmiris call their language Koshur or
The shape of the valley is that of an elliptical saucer. The floor of the vast
valley is built of small consolidated lake beds and alluvial soils. Numerous
plateaus, locally known as Karewas, stand up isolated in the middle of the
Kashmir is a land of lakes and rivers. The river Jhelum (ancient name , Vitasta
- trasformed into Veth, in Kashmiri parlance) meanders through the valley in
artistic Zigzags, which have furnished the motifs to the deft Kashmiri artisans.
Nestled among hills in the north-east of the valley is the Wular (20 km by 8
km), the largest fresh-water lake in India. The Dal lake, well known for the
Mughal gardens flanking it, in the vicinity of Srinagar, is about 6 km long
and about 3 km broad. Other well-known lakes are the Manasbal (the deepest in
Kashmir), the Kaunsar Nag (3,901.44 m) and the Gangabal and other mountain
tarns, at an elevation of over 3,300 m. In the Lidder valley, there are huge
glaciers like Kolahai which is about 8 km long and comes down as low as 3,300 m
. The mountains and lakes are complemented by luxuriant orchards dotted with
majestic chinar trees, providing so many breathtaking spectacles.
The Kashmir valley enjoys an enchanting climate for the major part of the year.
A unique feature of the climate is the four clear-cut seasons - spring,
summer, autumn, and winter. Till the end of May , the climate of Kashmir is
comparable with that of Switzerland. In spring, the valley wears blankets of
emerald green grass and is decked with flowers of various hues and fresh leaves
- a phenomenon of rejuvenation from the rigors of a long winter. It is then the
worlds' most wonderful of natural gardens. In summer, the sleepy blue mountains
with snow-capped peaks, clear streams, cool bubbling springs, noisy torrents, beautiful lakes, shady chinar groves, silvery poplars, drooping willows and
pine forests make Kashmir the ' play ground of Asia '. In autumn, the trees and
forests turn into bronze and copper colours, and the foliage becomes a riot of
golden yellow and green. In winter, the giant size trees wear a bare look when
the landscape dons a mantle of snow.
Srinagar (the city of Saraswati - the goddess of learning) is an ancient city.
Founded by Asoka (272-232 B.C), it was then called Pravarapura, after king
Pravarsena. Srinagar was a great seat of learning in those days, throbbing with
life and bristling with commerce. It was also called Shrinagri - the city of
wealth and beauty. Situated tin the centre of the valley, Srinagar, the summer
capital of the state, is the most populous city, covering an area of about 28.5
sq km. The river Jhelum, flanked by the Dal lake and intersected by canals,
runs through the city and lends an idyllic charm to it. Hence, the city has
been called the ' Venice of the East '.
Anantnag (also called Islamabad) is another ancient town of Kashmir, about 64
km to the north of Srinagar. It is an exotic town full of springs, and streams
run in every other compound. Some of these are sulphurous springs which have
Other major towns are Baramulla and
Sopore, both situated on the Jhelum after
the river enters the Wular lake and emerges from it
Agriculture is the mainstay of the Jammu and Kashmir economy. Nearly 82% of
the state's population living in rural areas is dependent on agriculture and
allied activities. About 37% income of the Jammu and Kashmir state is from the
agriculture sector. About 724,000 hectares of land are under cultivation and
more areas are being brought under the high - yielding variety crops.
Rice, wheat, barley, bajra and jowar and various fruits are grown
Raising livestock is another source of income to the farmers.
The strip of level land at the northernmost extremity of the plains of the
Punjab which touches the low ridges of the hills and spreads over a large tract, constitutes what is called the ' region of the outer hills'. Varying in
height from 60 m to 1,200 m above the sea level, these rugged hills run
parallel to one another, enclosing small, narrow valleys.
The province of Jammu lies between the 'outer hills ' region bounding the valley
of Kashmir in the south, and the hilly tract extending to the plains of the
Punjab. The river Ravi flows in the east of this region and the river Jhelum in
the west. The Chenab issues forth from the mountain into the plains near the
town of Akhnur and flows through the Jammu district before entering the plains
of the Punjab.
The 'outer hills ' region consists of
Kdhampur, Ramnagar, and Rampur. The rugged
hills give way in the north and north-east to the outer hills of the Shiwaliks,
1,200 m to 3,600 m above the sea level. There is a continuous rise in elevation
to what are conveniently called the 'middle hills' or the middle Himalayas. In
this region lie the districts of Batote, Bhadarwah, Kishtwar, Doda, and Ramban.
Jammu city, the winter capital of the state, stands on the spurs of a rugged
hill overlooking the plains and the river Tawi. The city is about 300 m above
the sea level and about 4 km wide. According to 1991 census, the city had a
population of 1,207,996. The prominent features of the city are its temples,
whose pointed spires can be seen from afar. Other towns in this plain, and to
the east of the Chenab are Basoli, Ramkot, Ramnagr, and Samba and to the west
of Chenab, Akhnur and Bhimber.
The Jammu district occupies an area of 26,089.4 sq km. The relief features of
the province provide interesting climatic as well as floral phenomena. There is
a sort of wind divide starting from poonch and extending to the southern edge
of the Pir Panjal. The area has summer precipitation . As in the plains,
the south-west monsoons cause rain in the 'outer plains' area and the 'outer
hills' region. As the altitude rises towards the 'middle mountains' area of
Batote, Bhadarwah, Kishtwar, Padar, and Banihal, the summer rainfall averages
45 inches (113 cm). Riasi and poonch get more than 60 inches (150 cm) of
rainfall annually. The 'outer plains' areas of Ramnagar, Ramkot, Samba, Basoli,
Akhnur, and Bhimber experience the extremes of tropical heat. The
average annual rainfall in Jammu district is nearly 45 inches (113 cm). The hot
season lasts from April to June, followed by the rainy season from July to
September. Winter lasts from October to March.
There is a luxurious growth of vegetation all over the 'outer hill' and the
'middle mountains' areas which is mostly of tropical variety. The upper reaches
of the mountains are thickly covered with coniferous forests. The lower regions
have forests of silver fir, deodar, spruce, oak, and pine. The best varieties
of pine and deodar are found in the dense forests of Kishtwar and Bhadarwah. The
'plain area ' bounds in cactus varieties of bushes and trees.
The main crops in the Jammu valley are maize, rice, millet,
barley, and wheat.
Jammu province is rich in minerals coal, bauxite, copper, zinc, and lead are
abundant. Sapphire mines are located at higher elevations in the Papar valley.
Semi - precious stones like beryl and aquamarine and crystals like quartz and
felopar are also found in the region. Riasi has coal, gem stones, gypsum,
clay, copper, bauxite, and iron ore.
Though little known, the tableland of Kishtwar is flanked by the high and steep
mountains of the 'middle mountains' region, the highest point being 4,089 km
above sea level. It has an area of 7,311 sq km. Kistwar is famous for mines of
sapphire and rubies. The climate is pleasant and bracing in summer and cold in
Bhadarwah, with heavily forested mountains, are regular haunts
of hunters. They can hunt panthers, black and red bear,
wild goat, ibex, musk deer, wolf, barasingha, pig, Himalayan chamois,
leopard, etc. In the river beds, swamps, and low forests, a variety of winged
game - duck, goose, chakor, monal pheasant, partridge, and snipe, are found
in preserves for sportsmen.
Saffron is grown here. Black cumin, medicinal herbs,
like banafsha, kalizaban, dhoop, musk, sala, artemesia , belladonna are grown in the
region. Narcotic herbs are also found. Blankets and leather
goods of the region are famous .
Beyond the valley of Kashmir , the inner Himalayas rising in the north and
east contain the frontier region of the state . The territory comprises
the three geographical divisions of Ladakh, Baltistan, and Dardistan. Out of the
total area of the state of 138,992.1 sq km, the district of Ladakh (97,782
sq km ) covers 70.4% of the total area .
The province of Ladakh touches the Chinese border on the north,
Tibet in the east and is contained along the south by the extension of
the great Himalayan ranger . The Karakoram range of mountain lies in the north
Ladakh. The second highest peak in the world, K2, crowns one of its many tall
mountains. The Karakoram pass (5,517.64 m) is situated towards the
north-east of Karakoram, in an area where China, Tibet, and Ladakh
meet. This pass facilitates a direct route from India to China.
Until some years ago, Ladakh used to be the gateway to Tibet, connecting India
with Tibet and east Turkistan. As such, it was an important trade centre, also being the meeting point of the Tibetan, Indian, Chinese, and Islamic
cultures and traditions.
Leh, the capital (3,521 m above the sea level) is a fascinating town built on a
hillside and surrounded by rocky hills. It was once the commercial nerve centre
of Asia, just as Hong Kong is of the Far east. Traders thronged Leh from Turkey,
Arab countries, Iran, and Afghanistan. Leh town is full of orchards, groves,
gardens, and monasteries and is crowded with people. Poplars and Willows are
aplenty. Apples, apricots, and giant-size melons are grown in these orchards.
Ladakh is a mountainous terrain between the Himalayas and the Kuenlum mountains.
One of the highest habitations in the world, Ladakh has an elevation ranging
between 2,400 m and 4,500 m above the sea level. The average height of its
mountain is between 5000 and 7000 m. Its valleys, about 500 sq km in area, lie
along the headwaters of the Indus, the Sutlej, and the Chenab rivers. The Indus, having originated hundreds of kilometres further east from near the
Kailash mountain and the Mansarovar lake in Tibet, flows in an almost straight
line from north-west to the south-east of Ladakh. The river enters the
region of Skardu in Baltistan.
An interesting spectacle in Ladakh is represented by hot springs and geysers
roaring and throwing steaming hot water up to a height of 150 m and projecting
fantastic rainbow colours. These fountains of water represent phenomenon in
winter when the boiling water comes down in the shape of ice blocks with the
impact of chilly winds, and form mounds next to the geysers.
In the north-east of Leh, at the town of
Nyoma, lies an unusual terrain,
where the colour of the soil and rocks is purple. The awe-inspiring mountain
peaks seem to touch the sky. There is a conspicuous absence of life of any form
and hence it has been aptly called the 'Land of the broken moon', a truly
Over the Ladakh range and in the north of Leh is the road to Khardung La (5,600
m above the sea level), the highest road in the world- a veritable walk over
thick ice-sheets, ice-walls, and glaciers, with the Karakoram range in the
background. Further on, Chushul, the Pangong salt water lake, is about 112
km long. Its water is blue-green and sometimes indigo-purple.
Kargil (about 2,750 m above the sea level) has a similar network of mountains
around it. The people of Kargil do some farming and raise sheep. Their houses
are built of stone and plastered with thick layers of mud to escape the extreme
rigours of the cold. They profess Islam.
The high altitude of Ladakh and Kargil and high mountains encircling the region
give it a unique climate - absolute dryness (the annual rainfall is about 4
inches, i.e. 10 cm, and there is very little snow), arctic cold and extremes
of weather. It is burning hot by day and piercing cold by night, very hot in
summer and extremely cold in winter.