Famed for its majestic beauty, the land of Jammu & Kashmir has been eulogised by poets, saints and travellers. The great Mughals, including a homesick Babur, fell in love with its beautiful valleys; the Emperor Jahangir was so overwhelmed by the beauty of its lakes and rivers that he transformed the state into a garden paradise.
With immaculately maintained gardens, rows of golden chinar trees, sparkling rivers, alpine pastures and a backdrop of snow peaks, Kashmir became a most sought-after destination. Jammu & Kashmir is now the jewel in the crown of the Indian Republic. Lying deep in the folds and foothills of the sentinel range of the Himalayas, one of the most beautiful of Indian states has become its most fiercely embattled region. A bone of contention between India and Pakistan, after partition in 1947, the Kashmir valley with a Muslim majority has been fought over for the past five decades. In this bitter struggle for supremacy, the land has been fractured, thousands of lives lost and the economy in shambles.
The largest of India’s mountain states, it is divided into three regions, the subtropical foothills of Jammu, the luxuriant Kashmir valley between Pir Panjal and Higher Himalayas and the cold desert of Ladakh. Ladakh, with its severe landscape, high mountain passes, deep gorges, remained isolated from the rest of the country. A remote land with hardy people struggling against great physical and climatic odds, Ladakh had close ethnic and economic links with Tibet. Only in recent times has the region opened up to the outside world, revealing its ancient monasteries, rich cultural heritage and imposing landscape.