Jammu and Kashmir - Heaven on earth

Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state of India locked in Himalayan Mountains. Jammu and Kashmir is home to several Valleys such as the Kashmir Valley, Tawi, Chenab Valley, Poonch, Sindh Valley and Lidder Valley. Some major tourist attractions in Jammu and Kashmir are Srinagar, the Mughal Gardens, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Patnitop, Jammu, and Ladakh. Some areas require a special permit for non-Indians to visit.

Situated in the northernmost part of India, Jammu and Kashmir is bordered by Pakistan, China, and Afghanistan from West to East. From South to East, the boundary of the state touches Punjab and Himachal.The state can be divided into four major regions: the sub-mountain and semi-mountain plain known as kandi or dry belt; the Shivalik ranges, the high mountain zone constituting the Kashmir Valley; Pir Panchal range and its off-shoots including Doda, Poonch and Rajouri districts and part of Kathua and Udhampur districts; and the middle run of the Indus River comprising Leh and Kargil.

The history of Jammu & Kashmir is quite old. Kashmir is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. In 250 BC, Ashoka, the great Mauryan king, established the city of Pandrethan and built many viharas and chaityas. This says much about the strategic importance that this region hadd even in that time. Some sources claim that Buddha also visited this region, though no proof is available to validate this theory. Kanishka, the great Kushana king, called the Third Buddhist Council at Harwan, near Srinagar, in the first century AD. This Council saw the division of Buddhism in two distinct streams called Hinayana and Mahayana. Kalhana, the first Indian history writer, gave a vivid account of the history of Kashmir before the 10th century AD. Local kingdoms ruled extensively in this region until the 12th century AD when Muslims invaded the region. The greatest Muslim king of early medieval age in Kashmir was Zain-ul-Abidin, who ascended the throne in AD 1420 and ruled up to 1470. His long rule contributed extensively to the spread of art, culture, music, and every other sphere in the life of Kashmir people. He also created a strong army and annexed many regions nearby Kashmir. These were the time of golden rule in Kashmir when peace and harmony prevailed. After the death of King Zain-ul-Abidin, a period of destruction came calling to Kashmir and many raiders from outside looted the state and made the people and local rulers their captive. In 1587, Akbar annexed Kashmir into his vast empire. Jahangir, son of Akbar and next Mughal ruler, visited Kashmir 13 times and created two beautiful gardens on the bank of Dal Lake, namely, the Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh. After two centuries of peace and development, Kashmir came into the hands of the Pathans in 1752, when the Afghan ruler Abdul Shah Abdali attacked this region on the request of local noblemen. The Pathans established a rule of terror here, no better than that of Aurangzeb, the last important Mughal ruler.In 1819, the Sikhs under Maharaja Ranjit Singh annexed this region, but their empire remained in place only for 27 years. From 1846 to 1957, the Dogras ruled over this region when British defeated Ranjit Singh and handed over the administration of this region to Maharaja Gulab Singh. The Dogra rule also for the first time put in reality the modern state of Jammu & Kashmir. During India's freedom struggle, people from this state participated extensively under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah and decided to go with India in 1948 after the country became independent.

Best Time To Visit Jammu and Kashmir : -Jammu and Kashmir is unarguably "Heaven on Earth"; and there isn't any season when heaven twitches its admirers away. It can be visited throughout the year but winters are the best time for snow lovers as compare to other season, spring tops the deal for nature enthusiasts and summers are perfect time to plan a Jammu & Kashmir tour with family.

Local Cuisine of Jammu and Kashmir : - Kashmiri food originated from the picturesque Kashmir Valley, the crown of India that lies in the lap of the Himalayas. Kashmir not only offers mesmerising locations but also a wide range of lip smacking and exotic delicacies. Traditionally rice has remained the staple food for the Kashmir populace which is most popularly complimented with varied preparations of meat. Kashmiris including the Brahmin Pandits are voracious meat eaters and thus a number of appetizing and luscious Kashmiri dishes of meat like rogan josh and yakhni are available. Varied range of traditional Kashmiri breads like bakarkhani and tea like sheer chai are also quite popular in the region.The region offers a wide array of food items, zaeka-e-Kashmir, particularly authentic non-veg cuisines made of chicken, mutton and fish, some of which has become hugely popular across the nation. The Kashmiri cuisines primarily non-vegetarian with of course some exquisite vegetarian dishes on offer are mostly influenced by the traditional cuisines of the Kashmiri pundits and the mughlai cuisines. Of late aspects of culinary styles of regions like Afghanistan, Persia and Central Asia are also noticeable in Kashmiri food. Generally Kashmiri cuisines, most of which are marked with ample use of turmeric and yogurt are quite rich in flavour and mild in taste. Spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and fennel which are generally considered hot are used widely in different Kashmiri cuisines, while garlic and onion are not used much.

Places to Stay in Jammu and Kashmir !

Here are my select set of hotels with great views of the snow peaks. Visit the links and read detailed reviews to know about all aspects of the hotel including service and amenities before you decide on one. Remember, only a great view isn't just enough to make a hotel a great one.

Place Of Visit-Sightseeing

Gulmarg : -Gulmarg is well known for its natural environment and it is counted as one of unique tourist destinations in the India. Gulmarg is surrounded by dense forest. This place has a highland golf course.There is a special Gondola ride(ropeway) from Gulmarg.

Vaishno Devi : - The town of Katra, which is close to Jammu, contains the Vaishno Devi shrine. Nestling on top of the Trikuta Hills at a height of 1700 m is the sacred cave shrine of Vaishno Devi, the mother goddess. At a distance of 48 km from Jammu, the cave is 30 metres long and just 1.5 metres high. At the end of the cave are shrines dedicated to the three forms of the mother goddess - Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasarasvati, which is manifested as Vaishno Devi. Pilgrims start trekking to the cave temple, which is 13 km from Katra, enter in small groups through a narrow opening and walk through ice waters to reach the shrines.

Sonmarg : -The way to reach Sonmarg or the Meadow of the gold is from the Sindh Valley. This valley also shows more amazing facet in Kashmir. Sonmarg is located at an altitude of around 2730 meters from the sea level; it has snow-covered mountains as its backdrop against the sky. The ZOZILLA path which is one of the deadliest roads on the earth can be travelled from here.

Raghunath Temple :-Raghunath Temple is dedicated to the Hindu Lord Shri Rama. All the inner walls of this temple are covered with gold, on three sides. Galleries of this temples are covered with 'Saligrams'. The other surrounding temples are related to other gods from the Ramayana. This temple is located in the centre or we can say in the heart of Jammu.

Mubarak Mandi Palace :-Mubarak Palace was built with the touch of three different styles, Rajasthani, Mughal and Gothic. Most famous part of this Palace is the Sheesh Mahal segment. There is a Dogra Art Museum, which is a treasure house of miniature paintings from various hill schools.

How to reach Jammu and Kashmir

by Air: -The Jammu airport in the city is the closest domestic airport that is well-connected to different cities like New Delhi, Srinagar and Leh. Popular air carriers like Spice Jet, Jet Airways and Air India have regular flights from the airport. The other two nearest domestic airports are in Srinagar and Leh. New Delhi is the closet international airport with daily flights to Jammu. The Delhi airport is connected with different cities in the world. Once you reach the airport, you can hire a taxi or a cab who will charge as per the distance covered.

by Rail: -The nearest rail junction in Jammu is located within the city and is known as Jammu Tawi. This railhead is linked to most of the Indian cities like Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Kolkata, Mumbai and Trivandrum. Some of the popular trains that run to and from the railway station are Jammu Rajdhani, Uttar S Kranti, Jhelum Express, Andaman Express, Himgiri Express, Swarak Express and Himsagar Express. Some of the trains do not run daily so it is advisable to check the train schedule before booking it.

by Road :-Many neighbouring cities like Manali, Shimla, Ludhiana and Delhi are well-connected with Jammu as many city and tourist buses are run by Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation. You can choose from a regular to a deluxe bus and the fare may vary depending upon the type of bus as well as the distance covered.

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