Situated in the northern part of India, Jammu & Kashmir is the essence of everything that is Indian-its culture, history, tradition, people, and natural splendor. The state has a long history encompassing around 4,000 years and there are many prehistoric sites, which give indication of human settlement in this region in those times.
The state was integrated as a part of India in 1948, when the then ruler of Jammu & Kashmir agreed to join the Indian federation and the state was given a special status under article 370 of the Indian constitution.
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 held 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.
Celebrations and festive activities during festivals offer an important diversion to the simple and monotonous lifestyle of these people. The festivals that are celebrated with great fervor include, Id-ul-fitr, Diwali, Hemis festival, Navratras and the Loshar festival. Tours and travel to the state of Kashmir gives you a chance to see a secular Indian tradition where the people of different religions celebrate their colorful festivals with gusto and enthusiasm.
The houses in the area usually have a lot of woodwork; as a result the interiors are very warm. The brick houses have pagoda roofs and picturesque facades.
Cultural heritage of Kashmir is as multi-dimensional as the variegated backdrop of its physical exuberance which has nursed and inspired it all along. Its sanctity and evergreen stature can be conveniently inferred from the chaste shimmering snow, with its virgin demeanor from top to toe, adorning the towering peaks of its mountainous periphery. Mellowing kisses of the sun endow these summits with a rosy blush lending perennial health to our warbling brooks, roaring waterfalls and sedate and solemn lakes. To crown all, this very nectarine glow has most meaningfully groomed our mental attitude to glean unity amidst seeming diversity.