Laced with wild flowers, shimmering lakes-it is truly what the mogul emperors described it as-“a paradise on earth-. Taking inspiration from their surrounding this unique craft involves the use of paper pulp for creating beautiful artifacts painted by expert craftsmen in lifelike images of kingfishers, maple leaves and other motifs.
In a craft known as the Safi, paper pulp was used to make book covers. Papier-mache work began to be done in leather bindings in holy books like the Quran.
The craft was originally known in Kashmir by its Iranian name ‘Kar-I-Qalamdani’. Qalamdan means a pen case, and was named such because in its initial stages the craft was used only to make pen cases. The noblemen and men of high stature commissioned the manufacture of pen cases. The Qalamdan was used to hold belongings like bottles of medicines, handkerchiefs, rings, insignia etc.
Many products are crafted out of this technique, both decorative and utilitarian. The popular ones are flower vases, wall plaques, bowls, trays, boxes, bangles, mirror holders, frames etc.
Groups of people called the ‘Sakta-makers’ makes papier-mache objects out of pulp and sell these objects to the ‘naqaash’ or papier-mache painter.
The Sakta makes the molds themselves according to the object and purpose. Great tributes have been paid to Kashmir artists for their cleverness and ability to copy even the minutest details of the figures they wish to recreate. Though the Kashmiri handicraft of papier-mache has foreign origins, these influences have been aptly imbibed and adapted to evolve into unmistakably Kashmiri characteristics.
Myths & Legends:
The legend of how papier-mache became famous has been passed down with much respect in the local’s families. The legend is such: In the year 1398, when Tamur Lane invaded India, Sultan Sikander sent his son to pay tribute to the invader. Tamur lane betrayed the agreement of his alliance with the Sultan and made his son a hostage in Samarkand for seven years. Many craftsmen from Central Asia and Persia had accompanied Tamur Lane to India and were placed in Samarkand as well. There this young dynamic Prince was told that the people of Samarkand practiced a strange craft made of paper pulp, which he saw and was very inspired. He learnt the art and later when he became the king after his father’s death, he spread this art among the craftsmen of his region, taking it up to great heights.
Paper is the crucial propagator of this craft, without which it would not have originated. It is said that paper in China originated as early as 105 AD, built on the revolutionary idea of a court official named Tsai Lum. Many substances like old rags; fishnet, hem waste etc. were used to make paper with the purpose of preserving some documentary records on it. After almost 6 centuries had elapsed, papermaking moved from China to the west. Paper is believed to have been one of the major commodities in trade, which the Chinese carried to Western parts of China when the trade route from Pacific Ocean to Mediterranean was opened.
During the Aryan occupation of Samarkand in AD 751, they took a number of Chinese prisoners who were adept in the art of making paper. The place had abundant raw materials like crops of flare and hem. The craft is believed to have successfully passed over to the Arabs around this time. From there it spread to wherever the Arabs went and conquered due to their keenness to spread religion and culture in a scientific manner too. The craft spread from central Asia to Iran and from there to Kashmir during the reign of emperor Akbar.
The two men who stand out for their contribution to the development of this new culture are Mir Syed Ali Hamdani and Sultan Zain-ul Abideen. Syed who fled to Kashmir from Persia following Timur’s invasion brought with him a host of artisans and craftsmen who found favor with local court from Central Asia. The 15th Century king of Kashmir Sultan Zain-ul-Abideen supplemented this work of Syed Ali. Most traditional historical references maintain that Zain-ul-Abideen invited craftsmen from all part of Islamic world especially from Iran and Central Asia. It was from Samarkand, according to a leading contemporary papier-mache artist Mohammed Saleh Beigh that Zain-ul Abideen obtained artisans well versed in the art of kar-i-kalamdan or as it was alternatively called kar-i-munakash. Indeed according to popular legends, Zain-ul-Abideen is said to have spent some time at Samarkand before his accession to the throne. According to Encyclopedia Kashmir, the art of making pen cases from mashed paper was known in the Seljuk Iran, from where it must have spread to other parts of Central Asia including Samarkand.
This journey to the then heart of the Islamic civilization if it did actually take is would indeed have imbibed the young prince with a refined taste for art and crafts that were yet lacking in his own kingdom. And once he ascended the throne, the Sultan made a sustained attempt (even coercion) to enrich his land. Amongst the various crafts that got introduced in this period is the art of making lacquered pen cases known as Kar-I-Qalamdan.
Qalamdan means a pen case, and was named such because in its initial stages the craft was used only to make pen cases. The noblemen and men of high stature commissioned the manufacture of pen cases. The Qalamdan was used to hold belongings like bottles of medicines, handkerchiefs, rings, insignia etc. Another name it had was the ‘Kar-I-Munaqqash’ probably because it was used for ornamenting smooth surfaces made of paper pulp or polished paper. The illustrated Persian magazine Honar-o-Mardam (Tehran vol.73) carries a detailed article on the topic. According to the article, the art was necessitated by Qalamdan, which existed during the days of Seljuka (12th century). The art of making pen cases received a great impetus during the rule of the Safavids of Iran in the 16th century.
Before Akbar’s time, various materials were employed for writing, like stones, bricks, wooden boards, chips of bamboo, copper plates, barks of trees and palm leaves. The oldest manuscript existing today in the time where paper usage was at its peak is from the 8th century. In India, paper was used to impart dignity in the correspondence. Slowly the uses of paper moved on to that of making pulp. This is evident from the tomb of Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother at Zaina Kadal in Srinagar where mashed paper with glue was used for fixing glazed tiles on the outer walls. Most historical records maintain that the craft was to a large extent limited to the capital city of Srinagar and that too within the Shia community, a majority of whom were immigrants from Persia or surrounding areas. Unfortunately no papier-mache object from the Sultanate period(14th to 16th Century)survives today. The art must also have been practiced during the Mughal period but hardly any documentary evidences from that period survive to explain the nature and the extent of the craft. Mughal records, nevertheless make mention of the fact that the Kashmiris were renowned for their painting skills. Though the reference seems to be with regards to miniature painting, yet it does support the tradition of an established artisan community whose members might have diversified into the wider and more acclaimed field of miniature painting.
During the course of the 19th century, a number of French agents were operating within the valley. These agents who were basically engaged in the trading of pashmina shawls also gave an impetus to the papier-mache industry also albeit in an indirect manner. The shawls that were sent from Kashmir to France used to be packed in papier-mache boxes and once they had reached France were sold separately, fetching high price. Soon these papier-mache objects carved a separate market for themselves in France and other parts of Europe. Gradually along with boxes, papier-mache flower vases were also in demand in the French market.
The extent of the French influence on the local Kashmiri artisan can be gauged from the fact that the term “papier-mache” replaced the traditional name of the craft in its native place also. The French influence had its drawbacks, the most serious of which was the designs or color schemes that were introduced on the demand of the French agents catering to the then prevalent European tastes.
This unique craft involves the use of paper pulp for creating beautiful artifacts painted by expert craftsmen in lifelike images of Kingfishers, maple leaves and other motifs. Elements of nature mostly feature in the designs. Flowers, birds (particularly kingfisher and bulbul) and a variety of animals appear on these patterns. Historical figures as well hunting and battle scenes are also seen, which are inspired from the miniature paintings.
Papier-mache, today, has become highly stylized and appealing by using real gold and silver paint and by adding intricate decorations. The designs and decorations of the Kashmiri Papier-mache, usually in the form of flowers and birds, have a strong Persian flavor. Among other rich designs are ‘Arabesque’, done in gold against a brown or red ground to show sprays of rose blossoms in fine lines and ‘Yarkand’, an elaborate design built up in spirals with golden rosettes radiating from various centers and white flowers laid over golden scroll work. Some items like bowls and vases are lined with brass, while on special orders boxes and other items are ornamented with gold and silver leaves and depict beautiful landscapes and objects like a house boat, that form an inseparable part of Kashmiri lifestyle.
The papier-mache object produced in Kashmir today varies from Christmas ornaments to coasters and include boxes of every imaginable size and shape. These objects are not only beautifully decorated, but are surprisingly light and strong. Their coating of lacquer protects them from water and gives them extra durability.
The popular traditional patterns are the following:
Hazara This pattern is called the ‘thousand flowers’. It attempts to display every conceivable flower from roses and irises to hyacinths and narcissus. The Hazara patterns could be ‘rangbasta’/colorful, monochromatic or achromatic. In rangbasta, the colours used are the actual colours of the flowers.
Gul-i-wilayat The name means ‘flowers found in foreign lands’. It is similar to the rangbasta but has stems and foliage drawn in too. It also sometimes has birds featuring in it.
Gulandergul This too is a pattern brimming with flowers where they are drawn in bunches and one behind another.
Badam tarah The name means the ‘almond’. The motif is a popular traditional one seen a lot in the Kani shawl of Kashmir. It has grown to be the symbol of Kashmiri craftsmanship. It is also generically called the paisley.
Chinar The five-pointed leaf from the majestic Chinar tree lends the shape and name to this pattern. Its predominance in the Kashmir landscape has led to it being beautifully used to embellish the papier-mache products. It has thus also developed into something of a souvenir value.
Sarav The Sarav pattern is that of a cypress shrub and has evolved into a more tapering shape, gradually drawn out into a long delicate form of an individual tree. Details of leaf, bud, flower, fruit and even birds perching for fruit and nectar are drawn. It proves to be a sophisticated form of ornamentation with its motifs subjected to flowing curvilinear and intertwining forms.
Zambuk Zambuk is a type of grass in Kashmir, the leaves of which resemble the Chinar leaves. The Zambuk pattern is done only in golden or silver with colorful birds displayed in it.
Sonposh Any of the patterns or motifs done only in gold is called the Sonposh. If a hazara is done in gold, it’s called the Hazara Sonposh.
Bagaldar These are designs in which the motif clusters are placed side by side forming ornate sections.
Zarad gulab (yellow rose) This pattern, like its name, displays a yellow rose and also other flowers like panchbargi, sosan, kalder etc. in yellow.
Phulai A pattern consisting of small and tiny flowers in bunches is called the Phulai. It mainly shows the panchbargi, tchubargi, trebargi and ikbargi on branches or bunches.
Tcheen This pattern is made of small and big flowers of the apple tree. In this design, the base and the flowers are shades of the same color.
Darazland This pattern is a variation of the Phulai and has bigger flowers in various colors.
Borders (Haashiya) These are border patterns, which were traditionally induced with calligraphic patterns. Taking one basic motif and repeating it one after the other form the pattern. The borders are made with patterns such as the Tyond (space fillers) and Gondur (geometrical abstract done with gold in a black background with white insides).
A great variety of richly painted products like flower vases, wall plaques, bowls, trays, boxes of various shapes and sizes, bangles, mirror holders and frames, caskets, lamp vases, screens and items of furniture are made for their functional appeal and decorative charm. There is much more scope for pleasing functional items, such as bedstead legs, candle stands, trinket boxes, and fine packaging for expensive items. The style of Papier-mache painting has also been applied on cookie boxes, steel trays and glasses and similar items of daily use. The ingenious Papier-mache artisans of Kashmir transform a variety of utility articles into rare art pieces. These skills are passed down from generation to generation, son taking the place of his father and father taking place of his father this art has been handed down from family to family. Kashmiri craftsman have tried to maintain the culture of Papier-mache and to this day it is still being made by hand in these small home shops where families gather together and work on it and bring these beautiful creations to the world.
Passed down from generation to generation, son taking the place of his father and father taking place of his father this art has been handed down from family to family. Kashmiri craftsman have tried to maintain the culture of Papier-mache and to this day it is still being made by hand in these small home shops where families gather together and work on it and bring these beautiful creations to the world. But with the age of technology and fast paced economies, the art of Papier-mache has shown signs of decline. The new generation of Kashmiris is as worldly and knowledgeable as the rest of their peers and has not shown the inclination to preserve this art.
However, as with anything else there is new awareness among the Kashmiri’s that his art needs to be preserved and brought out to the world to see and admire. An interesting feature of the industry was the slow and steady replacement of paper as the basic material for the craft. In the latter part of the 19th Century wooden boxes made of silver fir (budloo) replaced the traditional paper pulp boxes.
Thereafter in the 20th Century mashed paper and wood was increasingly replaced by ghata (paper board sheet). Thus today very few items that are sold in the Kashmiri market by the name of papier-mache are made from mashed paper. Indeed papier-mache, as is referred to, both locally and in the outside market, is the art of naqashi or the painting of various floral, geometrical and figurative designs and patterns on the various items covered with lacquer.
The traditional Kashmiri method of making Papier-mache starts with waste paper, which is soaked in water for several days until it disintegrates. The excess water is drained and the soaked waste paper, cloth, rice straw and copper sulphate are mixed to form a pulp.
Waste paper, Saresh (Thick glue made of natural gum and mishri/sugar), Chalk, Glue
Colours – In the early days of this craft mineral, organic and vegetable colours were used. The colours would not loose intensity, strength even if the objects were kept in direct sunlight or in water for days together.
Organic and Vegetable Colour Sources:
White – white lead came from Russia Body white – was prepared from a local stone called ‘shallaneen’ Ultramarine Blue – was prepared from ‘Virdigris’ (green) and ‘lapis lazuli’ Browns – were prepared from a clay which was imported from Armenia Yellows – were prepared from a flower ‘guli ksu’ and a wild plant ‘weftangil’ Violet and Blue – were extracted using the Indigo leaf and weed Reds – were derived from cochineal, log wood and local forest wood named ‘lin’. Red was sometime obtained from saffron Light Brown– Green and dried walnut skins yielded light browns Black – was produced from lampblacks as well as from walnuts. For large and plain groundwork, black was produced from half-burnt cow dung.
A craft made from waste, papier-mache tends to use the whole pulp, which is made and there is zero wastage after the product is complete.
Tools & Tech:
Kanz and muhal – This is Limestone mortar and pestle, which is worked by a lever on a pivotal beam. Karin – Trowel used to spread the pulp onto the mold Polishing stoneSaw – to cut the Mache out of the mold. Kathwa – wooden file Qalam – brush made from goat’s hair Kurket – rough piece of baked brick for polishing Clay containers – to hold colors Brushes – The bristle of the hair of goat, cat and ass are set in handles of feather (quills) by means of silken threads, inferior bristles are cut and trimmed up. Craftsmen make use of these special types of brushes for producing exquisite designs. Brushes used for this art form are different from those used by painters and artists.
This Kashmiri craft recycles waste paper into beautiful artifacts painted by expert craftsmen. The wonderfully vibrant hand painted motifs on the different types of items look illuminated as a result of the shiny varnish finish. Paper Mache (also spelled Papier-mache, Papier-mache) has a long and rich tradition in Kashmir, it is a delicate decorative art, which shows the artistic zeal of a craftsman. At first glance, all papier-mache objects look roughly the same, but there is a price differential, which depends on the quality of the product. However, besides at least three different grades of papier-mache, some are actually cardboard or wood! The idea, however, is not to hoodwink the unwary, but to provide a cheaper product with the look of papier-mache.
The creation of a papier-mache object can be divided into two distinct categories, the sakhtsazi (making the object) and the naqashi (painting the surface). Grinding and soaking various vegetable mineral dyes in pigment or stone form obtain the colors for painting designs on the surface. The final product is a beautiful art work that cannot be called a creation of one artist. It travels many pairs of talented hands before reaching a table or a mantel. Above all other talents, the aesthetic sensibility and hereditary skills are most essential in these craftsmen.
The traditional Kashmiri method of making Papier-mache starts with waste paper, which is soaked in water for several days until it disintegrates. The excess water is drained and the soaked waste paper, cloth, rice straw and copper sulphate are mixed to form a pulp. This mixture is placed in a mould and left to dry for two to three more days. On the drying of pulp, the shape is cut away from the mould in two halves and then glued again. The surface is coated with the layer of glue and gypsum, rubbed smooth with a stone or baked piece of clay and pasted with layers of tissue paper. A base color is painted on, and a design is added free hand. The object is then sandpapered or burnished and is finally painted with several coats of lacquer.
Above all other talents, the aesthetic sensibility and hereditary skills are most essential in these craftsmen.
Preparation of molds The molds were traditionally made out of clay by the craftsmen themselves and left to dry. They were dried in the shade since exposure to sunrays would cause cracks to develop on the surfaces. Molds today are also made out of wood and brass. Pulp is applied to the mold and is removed from it when it dries. Then the same mold can be reused several times. In the case of objects with brass and copper, the mold is not removed and remains part of the strengthening structure. Especially in case of flower vases so that they can be filled with water without the paper causing it to collapse.
Making the pulp A mixture of old rags of cotton and paper is soaked in 25 liters of water till it becomes pulpy in a tub. The pulp is drained and put in a mortar and ground. It is then beaten using wooden pieces and dried in mild sunlight. Rice or wheat starch is added to the pulp to give it the softness and sticky quality.
Laying the pulp Several layers of pulp are laid one over the other till the required thickness has been obtained and the object has taken a shape. This is done with the help of the karin or trowel. After it dries, it is rubbed with a polishing stone to obtain an even surface.
Making the product The article detached from the mold in parts using a saw to cut it out. It is then rejoined using saresh. The article is then lightly rubbed using the kathwa to even out the surface. Glue and chalk mixture is applied both inside and outside using the qalam. The surface is smoothened out yet again using a kurket. Small pieces of tissue paper are stuck over with glue to make the surface secure against crack being developed in the glue and chalk coat. It is polished till the zamin or ground colour is obtained.
Drawing Outlines are generally drawn with a zarda or yellow colour and the spaces are delineated for floral works are stained with astar and white paint. Then the floral works are painted in different colours. The art lies here; it is an interesting sight to see an old artist, elaborating from memory patterns of artistic designs in rich and subdued colours. The opening work called ‘partaz’ is done with any appropriate color.
Colour Preparation The process of preparation of mineral colours is a painstaking effort. At the first place, the minerals are tied in a sack/bag of cloth and moistened with water and then roughly beaten. This broken wet material is grounded into paste on a fislab and the paste is dried into fine powder. Finally, this powder is mixed with glue and water. The material is then rigorously stirred till a fine colour in the shape of mixture is obtained.
Painting It begins with the outlines being drawn using zarda or yellow colours. The spaces required for floral work are stained with astar and white paint consisting of gypsum mixed with glue. If the decoration is to be of a raised type, then these areas are also marked at this stage. This is then dried and polished for the ground colour to be painted. The opening work called partaz is done using required colours and designs are added in the descending order of detailing required. Then fine detailing is done using a thin brush. The artists skillfully draw in intricate arabesque designs. Where large sections of gold are required, then dor (melted caramel sugar) is applied over the parts. The leaves of golden foil are stuck over this. When the leaves are taken off, the gold is stuck only to the parts of design where dor is applied. For fine strokes of gold are needed, ink made from these gold leaves are used and drawn using a thin brush.
Varnishing Once the colours are set, the article is varnished using amber or copal dissolved methylated spirit. It is left to dry in the sun and then wiped with a wet cloth before washing it clean. A jade stone is used to polish it at this stage. The gold coat is applied after this and the interiors are painted in black. The interiors are also varnished after the black paint dries.
One of the most beautiful cities this country houses, Srinagar is known for its elegance and marvel, straight out of a fairy tale. Wrapped in the hem of snow-capped mountains, the city holds in itself the most serene lakes, impeccable flower gardens, unending apple and apricot orchards and a plethora of handmade crafts of a variety of materials, unique only to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
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Up-to 600 BC : According to the Rajatarangini, the oldest ruler was Gonanda I, who appears to have ruled in the days just before the Mahabharata. It is emperor Ashok who is said to have founded the city of Srinagari, now Srinagar. The dialect of the North was known for its purity hence Brahmanas flocked to the North for the purposes of study. This is corroborated by the fact that Takshshila became a centre of learning and classical Sanskrit was first developed in Kashmir.
Alexander left the King of Abhisara to rule in Kashmir. According to the Mahavimsa, the Third Buddhist Council met at Pataliputra (Patna) and deputed a missionary by the name of Majjhantika to go to Kashmir and Gandhara (in modern day Afghanistan).
320 to 1000 AD: According to Kalhana (referred to above), nearly the whole of the Gupta age was ruled by the Gonanada dynasty i.e. for about 300 yrs. (unlikely though). It is also believed that the Kushanas and the Huns ruled over Kashmir during this period. After them a new dynasty known as Karkota or Naga was founded by Durlabha-vardhana. He had married the daughter of the last Gonanada king and became king in 527 AD.
Lalitaaditya Muktapada in 724 AD, the greatest king of that dynasty followed him. He defeated the Tibetans and the Turks. Lalitaditya's son Vajraditya who ruled from 762 AD is said to have sold many Kashmiris to the Arabs of Sindh and introduced many Islamic practices in Kashmir. The Arab governor of Sind raided Kashmir around 770 and took many slaves / prisoners. The next successor was Jayapida referred to above. He was a brave general like his dada Lalitaditya. Away from Kashmir, he won some battles and lost others and ruled Kashmir from 770 ad up to the closing years of the eighth century. Thereafter, a series of Kings ruled Kashmir. The Karkota dynasty came to an end in 855-6 AD.
1000 TO 1800 AD: Around 1014 AD, Mahmud Ghazni plundered the Valley for the first time. He carried him with a large number of prisoners and converted to Islam. He returned in 1015 AD and made a fruitless attempt to capture the hill fort of Lohkot, modern day Loharin. He failed to capture the fort in 1021 AD too.
In 1301 ad, Suhadeva asserted his supremacy over Kashmir but had to face Dulucha, commander in chief of the King of Kandahar who took a large number of Kashmiris as slaves. It is a very significant fact that the Himalayan countries of Kashmir, Nepal and Tibet came out of the mountain seclusion and enter the arena of Indian history and culture, almost simultaneously, from the seventh century onwards. Kashmir maintained this intimate association till the Muslims while Nepal; Tibet overran it until very recent times.
The next important king was Sikandar whose reign marks a turning point in the history of Kashmir from a religious/social perspective. Shahi Khan became the next king in 1420. He is the greatest king of Kashmir. The state became prosperous and he treated the Hindus well. He was well versed in Persian and Sanskrit, had the Mahabharata translated into Persian. He died in 1470 AD. From there on till 1530, there were a number of kings with treachery and instability being the name of the game.
A series of kings ruled Kashmir till 1540. It was then decided by Humayun's generals mainly Mirza Haidar to invade Kashmir. He conquered it in 1540. His imprisonment in spite of a promise of safe custody is a dark blot on the character of the chivalrous Akbar. His son Yaqub continued fighting Akbar till he was defeated.
1800 TO 1947 AD: Afghans ruled it till 1819. As long as they got their annual tribute of Rs 20 lakhs a year, the Afghan king did not interfere in the administration. Maharaja Ranjit Singh conferred Jammu as a jagir to the family of Gulab Singh. Among the three traitors in The First Sikh War was the Dogra Chief Gulab Singh. As a reward for siding with the Brits he was given the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1846 on payment of fifty lakhs rupees in cash.
Jammu and Kashmir was the biggest among the 562 princely Indian States that comprised two-fifths of the India under colonial rule for well over a century. Unlike the remaining 60 per cent area constituting the British India Provinces, these States possessed sovereignty in various degrees depending on their individual treaties with His Majesty's government; broadly speaking, they had a system of personal government while being under the overall suzerainty of the British Crown. The British Parliament's Indian Independence Act, 1947 (which received Royal Assent on 18th July that year) created two independent Dominions of India and Pakistan made up of the erstwhile British India Provinces. The Act freed the princely States from the Crown's paramountcy but denied them dominion status while permitting them to accede to India or to Pakistan.
If the state acceded to Pakistan, the non-Muslims of Jammu and Ladakh as well as considerable sections of Muslims led by the National Conference Party would definitely have resented such action. On the other hand, accession to India would have provoked adverse reactions in Gilgit and certain regions contiguous to Pakistan. Further, the road communications were with Pakistan and rivers flowing into Pakistan were transporting forest resources that constituted a considerable portion of the State's revenue.
In the early hours of 27th October 1947 began an operation the like of which had never before occurred in the history of warfare. On 7th November the Indian troops won the battle of Shaltang, thereby removing all threats to Srinagar. Three days later, Baramulla was recaptured. The process of retreat by the enemy on all fronts began. With the Indian Army finding that the only way the raiders could be completely removed from Kashmir was by attacking their bases and sources of supply in Pakistan, India warned Pakistan on 22nd December 1947 that unless Pakistan denied her assistance and bases to the invaders, India would be compelled to take such action.
At that critical stage in J&K's history, 53 years ago, Lord Mountbatten urged our PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, about "the overwhelming need for caution and restraint"
he stressed "how embroilment in war with Pakistan would undermine the whole of Nehru's independent foreign policy and progressive social aspirations. And, on Mountbatten's advice, Nehru decided to lodge a complaint to the United Nations Security Council. That was done on 31st December 31, 1947.
Jammu & Kashmir is a mystifying land. It is a picturesque collage of various elements of nature that makes it an ideal tourist destination. The northern frontier of the state is fortified with the majestic mountains of the Himalaya Range. These ranges and their snow-capped peaks complete a picturesque landscape that includes crystal clear streams and lush green vegetation. Jammu and Kashmir is not a homogeneous land. It is marked by undulating topography and varied soil types that lead to the growth of diverse plants. These in turn, support numerous life forms to constitute an ecological pyramid.
In terms of climate, Jammu and Kashmir is unique. The vast distribution of topographical features is a cause of this fact. The controlling factor of the climate is the Himalayas. Except the dry plateaus of Ladakh, the state receives ample amounts of rainfall. Srinagar has a humid subtropical climate, much cooler than what is found in much of the rest of India, due to its moderately high elevation and northerly position. The valley is surrounded by the Himalayas on all sides. Winters are cool, with daytime a January average of 2.5 Â°C (36.5 Â°F), and temperatures below freezing at night. Moderate to heavy snowfall occurs in winter and the only road that connects Srinagar with the rest of India may get blocked for a few days due to avalanches. Summers are warm with a July daytime average of 24.1 Â°C (75.4 Â°F). The average annual rainfall is around 710 millimetres (28 in). Spring is the wettest season while autumn is the driest. The highest temperature reliably recorded is 38.3 Â°C (100.9 Â°F) and the lowest is âˆ’20.0 Â°C (âˆ’4.0 Â°F)
Perennial streams of fresh water crisscross the land. The streams water the land and sustain the lives of the people that inhabit the land. Winter season sees extensive precipitation in terms of snowfall. In the winter, the snow resembles a vast sheet of white blanket covering the valleys.
Srinagar is a heavy cantonment area and it is the starting point to the Srinagar-Leh highway. Army movements and requirements have led to the city having impeccable roads and proper medical facilities and some very good hospitals, scattered across the city. Medical facilities are a heavy requirement in Srinagar because of the constant political and pseudo-social disruptions that the city and the state have to face together. Srinagar being the capital of Jammu and Kashmir has to be kept in order when it comes to the basic facilities because of it being the central point for the locals, the Indian army as well as prominent tourism. Electricity and water supplies are abundant and Srinagar has a large range of hotels of different tariffs and facilities to choose from. Markets are many and have all supplies for basic and luxurious living. Jammu and Kashmir mostly has manufacturing industries, small-scale industries, cottage industries etc. There are industries in almost all parts of Jammu and Kashmir but some areas have been marked as primarily and significantly industrial areas. Some of these important areas are:
Industrial Growth Centre in Samba
Integrated Infrastructure Development Project in Udhampur
Industrial Complex in Bari Brahmana
Industrial Estate in Zakura
Industrial Growth Centre in Ompora
The Government of Jammu and Kashmir has also laid some policies for the development of industries in the state. Educational institutes are abundant with medical, engineering colleges along with a number of specialized colleges.
Srinagar Airport (IATA code SXR) has regular domestic flights to Leh, Jammu, Chandigarh and Delhi and occasional international flights. The International flights terminal was inaugurated on 14 February 2009 with an Air India flight from Dubai. Hajj flights also operate from this airport to Saudi Arabia. Srinagar is a station on the 119 km (74 mi) long Kashmir railway that started in October 2009 and connects Baramulla to Srinagar, Anantnag and Qazigund. The railway track also connects to Banihal across the Pir Panjal Mountains through a newly constructed 11 km long Banihal tunnel, and subsequently to the Indian railway network after a few years. It takes approximately 9 minutes and 30 seconds for train to cross the tunnel. It is the longest rail tunnel in India. This railway system, proposed in 2001, is not expected to connect the Indian railway network until 2017 at the earliest, with a cost overrun of INR5, 500 crores. The train also runs during heavy snow.
In December 2013, the 594m cable car allowing people to travel to the shrine of the Sufi saint Hamza Makhdoom on Hari Parbat was unveiled. The project is run by the Jammu and Kashmir Cable Car Corporation (JKCCC), and has been envisioned for 25 years. An investment of INR30cr was made, and it is the second cable car in Kashmir after the Gulmarg Gondola.
Architecture of Srinagar can be divided into at least three different time periods. Dating back in the history, before arrival of Parmars of Gujarat to Garhwal, and Srinagar's emergence as Capital in later time, the place was understandably a small hillside settlement scattered across the valley at an immediate sight. Excluding some Archaeological significance and recent findings, the place was much a junction and a stopover en-route Badrinath - Kedarnath. Excluding recent excavations and few heritage sites around Srinagar which reveal some breath-taking findings of settlements, civilisations and remains of prehistoric era or around 3,000 - 5,000 B.C. resembling culture, these depict an age old Architecture scattered randomly in some remains and submerged structures. This tells us various things including the very Culture and Architecture of the region. Findings at Ranihat & Thapli villages are a thriving reference and much needs to be undertaken to unearth, study and preserve this heritage. The Himalayan Archaeological & Ethnography Museum is taking keen interests in this mission.
The pre-medieval time when Srinagar was a small centre, the architecture was houses with conventional mountain specific design complying the low temperatures, snow-falls, heavy rains, etc. features which are high altitude typicality. However, yet placed at a moderate height of about 579 meters and settled across a moderate mountain fare of the valley, it gained the real architectural momentum when King Ajaypal established Srinagar as Garhwal capital in 1358. Previously the office was at Devalgarh, some miles away from Srinagar. The architecture was a conventional Himalayan Architecture blended with some extravagant attempts.
Year 1803 and 1804 are most unfortunate episodes in the History of Srinagar & Garhwal. The devastating earthquake destroyed the relics of capital Srinagar. It brought down and literally destroyed the 'living' of Srinagar. The period now is crucial phase, which makes a significant and more tangible architectural state of Srinagar. This composition is a well assessed, planned and better executed design of what is Srinagar of post the flood of 1894 till date. Never denying the recurrent floods and few more earthquakes, which took place during this period. Some officials made visits to few places and the present day Srinagar much resembling to Jaipur architecture as Jaipur's Architecture & Plans are reasonably followed to comply with Srinagar's exposition as:
a. A Big Valley Bazar
b. Garhwal Capital
c. Important Junction on Badrinath - Kedarnath route
However the volume and expansion of present day Srinagar is vast and wide comparing to other mountain towns. The old Architecture is visible and felt more in olden town area and the structures constructed within. Today, it is more a semi-urban structures yet rising in a random and unorganised manner across any available flat-patch of land. Typicality of high altitude and low temperature zones, snowfalls, foggy weather and unpredictable climate change, all have to play a vital role in designing a strong and rigid structure complying to the hillside rather than thinking and executing any pro-urban plans in this architecture.
Like the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar too has a distinctive blend of cultural heritage. Holy places in and around the city depict the historical cultural and religious diversity of the city as well as the Kashmir valley.
The culture, language, and traditions of Srinagar reflect a life that of a typical any contemporary, regional Indian town. It has to exhibit much uniqueness with customs, traditions, climate and folklore of the territory, the landscape where it sits. Mostly, the Himalayan Hills are still a maiden mountain space, so different, so natural, simple and very much mystic. Yet a very cosmopolitan Indian culture of Srinagar places this Himalayan valley, the ancient Garhwali Capital differently.
The very Himalayan culture intermixed with Lower Northern & Upper Western India's cultures, presence of Nath Sect in olden times, being headquarter to some prominent socio-cultural movements in Uttarakhand, creations in form of paintings (later and now known as Garhwali Paintings) and poetry from famous Garhwali Languages spoken in Srinagar are mainly Garhwali, Hindi, Punjabi and English. Sufiana Music: Sufi music came to Kashmir from Iran in the 15th century. Over the years it has established itself as the classical music form of Kashmir and has incorporated a number of Indian Ragas in its body. There are only a few families in Kashmir who are practising this musical form in Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir has the distinction of having multifaceted, variegated and unique cultural blend, making it distinct from the rest of the country, not only from the different cultural forms and heritage, but from geographical, demographically, ethical, social entities, forming a distinct spectrum of diversity and diversions into Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh, all professing diverse religion, language and culture, but continuously intermingling, making it vibrant specimens of Indian Unity amidst diversity. Its different cultural forms like art and architecture, fair and festivals, rites and rituals, seer and sagas, language and mountains, embedded in ageless period of history, speak volumes of unity and diversity with unparalleled cultural cohesion and cultural service.
While the Kashmir has been the highest learning centre of Sanskrit and Persian where early Indo-Aryanise civilization has originated and flourished, it has also been embracing point of advent of Islam bringing its fold finest traditions of Persian civilization, tolerance, brotherhood and sacrifice.
The Dumhal is a famous dance in the Kashmir Valley, performed by men of the Wattal region. The women perform the Rouff, another traditional folk dance. Kashmir has been noted for its fine arts for centuries, including poetry and handicrafts. Shikaras, traditional small wooden boats, and houseboats are a common feature in lakes and rivers across the Valley.
Jammu and Kashmir is a state of different religions and beliefs. And accordingly, the customs followed and festivals celebrated are many. But the heartening thing about the all festivals here are that people of all faiths together with same enthusiasm celebrate them. Main festivals include - Eid-ul-Fitr, Baisakhi, Lohri and Hemis Festival.
As of 2011 census, Srinagar city's population was 1,192,792. Both the city and the urban agglomeration has average literacy rate of approximately 71%, whereas the national average is 74.04%. The child population of both the city and the urban agglomeration is approximately 12% of the total population. Males constituted 53.0% and females 47.0% of the population. The sex ratio in the city area is 888 females per 1000 males, whereas in the urban agglomeration it is 880 per 1000, and nationwide value of this ratio is 940. The predominant religion of Srinagar is Islam with 95% of the population being Muslim. Hindus constitute the second largest religious group representing 4% of the population. The remaining 1% of the population is Sikhs, Buddhist and Jains.
The Kashmiri people are a Dardic ethno-linguistic group living in or originating from the Kashmir Valley, located in the Indian administered part of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. There are both Hindu and Muslim Kashmiris. Other ethnic groups living in the state include Gujjars, Bakarwals, Dogras, Punjabis and Gaddis.
The Constitution of India does not allow people from regions other than Jammu and Kashmir to purchase land in the state. As a consequence, houseboats became popular among those who were unable to purchase land in the Valley and has now become an integral part of the Kashmiri lifestyle. Kawa, traditional green tea with spices and almond, is consumed all through the day in the chilly winter climate of Kashmir. Most of the buildings in the Valley and Ladakh are made from softwood and are influenced by Indian, Tibetan, and Islamic architecture.
According to language research conducted by the International Institute of UCLA, the Kashmiri language is "a North-western Dardic language of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European language family." There is, however, no universally agreed genetic basis for the language. UCLA estimates the number of speakers as being around 4.4 million, with preponderance in the Kashmir Valley, whereas the 2001 census of India recorded 5,362,349 throughout India, and thus excluding speakers in the non-Indian Kashmiri areas. The people living in Azad Kashmir speak Pothohari dialect that is also known as Pahari language. Pothohari is also spoken in neighbouring regions as well. There are approximately 4.6 million people living within Pakistani administered Azad Kashmir, this does not include the population living in Gilgit-Baltistan which if included increases the number to 6.4 million people. Most of these people speak languages other than Kashmiri, and are not ethnic Kashmiris, as they do not trace their origins to the Kashmir valley.
The people of Kashmir are believed to be the descendants of the immigrants from India proper. As Buddhism spread here, people from far and wide came for research and study. People of Kashmir experience a culture that is an amalgamation of a number of other cultures they came in contact with. Roman, Greek and Persian civilizations have influenced the culture of Kashmiri people to quite an extent. Kashmiri population is a blend of people belonging to distinct races with different looks, dresses, food habits, customs, traditions, rituals, etc. Have a look at the people and main ethnic groups in Jammu and Kashmir.
Kashmiri Pundits: Kashmiri Pundits are amongst the original inhabitants of the valley. They used to dominate the region of Kashmir, at one point of time. However, acute terrorism in the Kashmir valley forced them to migrate to other places in the country. Today, their population has been reduced to minority in Kashmir.
Kashmiri Muslims: Approximately ninety per-cent of the population of Kashmir consists of Kashmiri Muslims. Muslims belonging to both the Shia sect and the Sunni sect reside in the valley. They are considered to be quite skilful in arts and crafts. Their other occupations include agriculture, sheep rearing, cattle rearing and other cottage industries.
Gujjars: Gujjars are considered to be the Rajasthani Rajputs, who converted to Muslim faith. They belong to the hilly area of Kashmir and are generally herdsmen by occupation. Tall and well built, Gujjars have notably Jewish features.
Kashmiri women love to dress up with a lot of ornaments. Almost every body part, be it the head, ears, neck, arms or ankles, is adorned with jewellery. A typical ornament of a married Kashmiri pundit woman is Dejharoo. It is a pair of gold pendants, which hangs on a silk thread or gold chain and passes through holes in the ears pieced at the top end of the lobes. The Muslim women are quite fond of wearing a bunch of earrings. The typical dress of a Kashmiris man is Pheran, a long loose gown hanging down below the knees. The men wear a skullcap, a close-fitting salwar (Muslims) or churidar pyjama (Pundits) and lace less shoes called gurgabi. In case of Kashmiri women, the Pheran is either knee-length (Muslim) or touching the feet (Hindu). The Pheran is tied at the waist with folded material called lhungi.
Indulgent houseboats, historic gardens, distinctive Kashmiri wooden mosques and a mild summer climate combine to make Srinagar one of India's top domestic tourist attractions. Except, that is, when inter-communal tensions paralyse the city with strikes and curfews. Srinagar's three main areas converge around Dal-gate, where the nose of Dal Lake passes through a lock gate. Northwest lies the Old City, fascinatingly chaotic in normal times but largely out-of-bounds during curfews. The busy commercial centre is southwest around Lal Chowk. The city's greatest draw card is mesmerizingly placid Dal Lake, which stretches in a south western channel towards the city centre, paralleled by the hotel-lined Boulevard from which a colourful array of houseboats form a particularly colourful scene. This area usually remains free of trouble even during the worst disturbances, as do the famous Mughal gardens, strung out over several kilometres further east around the lake.
Reaching Srinagar is quite easy as it is well connected via air, rail and road. Mini-buses and Auto- rickshaws form an integral part of the intra-city transport. The best time to come to Srinagar is between October and June. However, each season brings it's own beauty. Marvellous Spring, enjoyable summer and frosty winter, all have their characteristic beauty to offer.