Nestling in the lap of dazzling, snow capped Himalayas; the Kashmir valley is undoubtedly a jewel in Indians crown. This stands as an inspiration for so much art, music and poetry. Set like a jewelled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is a multi-faceted diamond, changing its hues with the seasons - always extravagantly beautiful. Two major Himalayan ranges, the Great Himalayan Range and the Pir Panjal, surround the landscape from the north and south respectively. They are the source of great rivers, which flow down into the valleys, forested with orchards and decorated by lily-laden lakes.
The Mughals aptly called Kashmir 'Paradise on Earth' where they journeyed across the hot plains of India, to the valley's cool environs in summer. Here they laid, with great love and care, Srinagar's many formal, waterfront gardens, now collectively known as the Mughal Gardens. Anecdotes of four and five centuries ago describe their love for these gardens, and the rivalries that centred around their ownership. They also patronized the development of art & craft among the people of Kashmir, leaving behind a heritage of exquisite artisanship among these people and making the handicrafts of the land prized gifts all over the world.
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Babar, the Great Mughal Emperor called out "Gar Bar-ru-e-Zamin Ast; Hamin Ast ,Hamin Ast Hamin Asto" - meaning "If there is paradise on this earth: This is it, this is it, this is it". If legends are to be believed, the Kashmir valley was once a lake as large as a sea and here lived an atrocious demon that was killed after most of the lake had been drained with the collective help of Lord Brahma's grandson, Kashap and the goddess Parvati. She finally stilled the demon by dropping upon him a mountain and thereby crushing him to death. This legendary mountain is no other than Hari Parbat, Srinagar's 'Takht-i- Sulaiman' hill that forms the famous backdrop to the city.
Jammu is such a land where the past still has a living presence. It is the land of grand ancient temples, and beautiful palaces all nestling in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is said that, on becoming King, the Suryavanshi Jambu Lochan went on a hunt and, crossing the Tawi, found a deer and a tiger drinking water from the same tank. His ministers explained to him that the soil of the place was so virtuous that no living creature bore hostility against another. Raja Jambu Lochan, who lived in the later Vedic period, decided to found his capital, Jambupura, on his soil, on the right bank of the Tawi, overlooking his brother king Bahu's fort. Today the temple of Maha Kali, located in the Bahufort, is considered second only to Mata Vaishno Devi in terms of mystical power. The present temple was built shortly after the coronation of Maharaja Gulab Singh, in 1822. The existing fort, as well as the Manasabdar's palace inside it, was constructed in 1820. Raghunath Mandir Complex houses a rich collection of ancient texts and manuscripts.
Srinagar is sited in the heart of the Kashmir valley at an altitude of 1,730 m above sea level, spread on both sides of the river Jhelum. The Dal and Nagin lakes enhance its beautiful setting, while the changing play of the seasons and the healthy climate ensures that the city is equally magnetic to visitors around the year. Srinagar is a resort for the tourist who can experience, at first hand, the peculiar beauty of the valley that has attracted the Chinese, the Mughals and the British to it. Its waterways with their own old-time lifestyle, the unique Houseboat, the blossoming gardens, water sports activities, shopping for lovingly handcrafted relics and the nearby resorts make it a cherished spot among those looking for a memorable holiday.
Gulmarg's legendary beauty, prime location and proximity to Srinagar naturally make it one of the premier hill resorts in the country. Originally called 'Gaurimarg' by shepherds, its present name was given in the 16th century by Sultan Yusuf Shah, who was inspired by the sight of its grassy slopes emblazoned with wild flowers. The journey to Gulmarg is almost nearly as enchanting as reaching there-- roads bordered by rigid avenues of poplar give over to flat expanses of rice fields interspersed with picturesque villages. Depending on the season, nature's colours could be the translucent green of spring, summer's rich emerald, or autumn's golden hues, when scarlet chillies festoon windows of village homes. After Tangmarg, the climb to Gulmarg begins through fir-covered hillsides. At one point, known simply as View Point, travellers generally stop their vehicles for a few minutes and look out a spectacle of snow-covered mountains, almost within touching distance.
Kashmir has four distinct seasons, each with its own peculiar character and distinctive charm. These are spring, which extends roughly from March to early May; when a million blossoms carpet the ground. Summer, extends from May until the end of August. Light woollens may be required to wear out of Srinagar. In higher altitudes night temperatures drop slightly. Srinagar at this time experiences day temperatures of between 25°C and 35°C. The onset of autumn, perhaps Kashmir's loveliest season, is towards September, when green turns to gold and then to russet and red. The highest day temperatures in September are around 23°C and night temperatures dip to 10°C by October, and further drop by November, when heavy woollens are essential. Through December, to the beginning of March is wintertime, which presents Srinagar in yet another mood. Bare, snow-covered landscapes being watched from beside the warmth of a fire is a joy that cannot be described to anyone who has not experienced it. Some houseboats and hotels remain open in winter-these are either centrally heated or heated with 'bukharis', a typically Kashmiri stove kept alight with embers of wood, quite effective in the winter.