Kashmir is one of those places that many people have heard of but ask them to point it out on a map and they would be unsure as to its global location. It is in fact the most northern region of South Asia, squeezed between Pakistan to the west, Himachal Pradesh to the south and China to the east. As was the case of most remote districts of the Himalaya in the early – mid 19th century it denoted the main area of habitation in the region. Nepal was considered for many centuries to be ‘just’ the Kathmandu Valley, likewise Kashmir ‘was’ the valley between the snow capped mountains of the Great Himalaya and Pir Panjal both running in a north west – south east direction.
Jammu and Kashmir, often referred to as simply J & K, has a unique and distinctive landscape consisting of towering icy pinnacles, frozen water falls, lakes and mountain streams flowing through a rich and vibrant landscape of tall coniferous forests and lush grazing meadows of wild flowers. The dry high regions are punctuated by the mighty rivers, the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Shyok, and to a lesser extent, the Zanskar , the Suru, Doda and the Chandra Bhaga rivers, all irrigating the immediate river banks producing distinctive swaths of vibrant vegetation amongst the otherwise arid landscape. A trekkers’ paradise for all seasons!
A thousand years ago Kashmir was an important centre for the Kambojas, people of probably an Indo-Iranian origin. Later Buddhism became the way of life and this was in turn replaced in the 9th century when Kashmir Shaivism rose to prominence.