Raj Taringini, the chronology of the Kashmir Kings written by Kalhana eulogizes the beauty of Kashmir as follows:
“Kasmira Parvati Paroksh; tat Swami ch Maheshwara” means “Kashmir is as beautiful as Goddess as Parvati manifest and its owner is Lord Shiva Himself”
………. and the Mohul Emperor once exclaimed “Gar Bar-ru-e-Zamin Ast; Hamin Ast, Hamin Ast, Hamin Ast” means that if there is Paradise on Earth; This is it, This is it, This is it.
……….. and it is also said about the one of famous Mogul Emperor Jehangir, that at his death bed, he was asked about his last wish. He said restlessly Kashmir! Kashmir! and nothing else but Kashmir.
Who does not know, or has not read about the valley of Kashmir, especially about its scenic beauty, salubrious climate, pure water coming from natural springs or from mountain peaks after the snow melts in summer season, sweet and juicy fruits that grow in abundance here; rich flora and fauna; lush forests of pine and other trees; and last but not the least its glorious ancient cultural heritage. Thus the foreigners called it as the Switzerland of Asia or as “The Heaven on the Earth” by Firdausi or as “Lalla Rukh” meadow of flowers by Persian Scholars. Set like a jeweled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is many a faceted diamond, changing character with season-always extravagantly beautiful. It is one of the most beautiful part of Jammu and Kashmir state which is called “Paradise on Earth” having unbelievable natural beauties along with pleasant climate, beautiful mountains, attractive wide range of flowers and fruits, beautiful wild life, beautiful lakes, rivers, glaciers, snow capped mountains and what not. Three Himalayan ranges; Karakoram, Zanaskar and Pir-Panjal-snow capped, majestic, frame the landscape from northwest to northeast. They are birthplace of great rivers which flow through the Kashmir valley.
The Valley of Kashmir is know as the Crown of the sub-continent of India and Pakistan and situated between 32 degree- 17’ and 36 degree- 58’ North latitude and 73 degree– 36’ and 80 degree- 39’ East longitude. The Valley is 80 miles long and 25 miles wide at the centre and has more or less a boat or spindle shape and has an average height of 5500 feet above sea level.
One, who did not see Kashmir in life, unfortunately missed a chance to see Paradise on Earth. This beautiful valley has been liked, loved and praised by many kings, scholars and historians from time immemorial. It has captured with in its territories the quintessence of all elements in nature that poetry demands. When snow covers all plains and mountains, the skiing and sledge riding gives an immense pleasure. Where Kashmir look white with neat and clean snow. The spring season appears in all its glory where gentle pastel shades of the different colors come out.
Of course, the valley of Kashmir is indeed a gift of nature and is really a paradise on earth. Every traveler and every visitor has paradise the beauty of Kashmir since times immemorial. The famous historian, Kalhana, in his famous book “Rajtarangini” writes: “Kailasa is the best place in the three worlds”: the Himalayas are the best part of the Kailasa; and Kashmir the best part in the Himalayas. In travels of Marco Polo, There is a reference of Kashmir. The men are brown and lean, but the women, taking them as brunettes, are very beautiful.
The clime is finely tempered but neither very hot nor very cold. The famous Chinese pilgrim, Hieun Tsang, who traveled through India and Central Asia for 16 years in 7th century A.D., was captivated by the lovely vale of Kashmir to spend two years here. An Iranian poet, “Toghra” of “Ispahan” delineated Kashmir:
“Tell me what land can boast such treasures?
Is aught so fair, is aught so sweet?
Hail! Paradise of endless pleasure!
Hail! Beautiful and beloved Kashmir!”
Thomas Moore whose celebrated “Lalla Rukh” sang the beauties of the Vale of Cashmere” in undying verse never visited Kashmir but drew up the travel accounts of Bernier, Forests and the memories of Jehangir. He writes:
Who has not heard of the vale of Cashmere?
With its roses the brightest ever gave,
Its temple and grottos, and fountains as clear,
As the love-lighted eyes that hang over their wave.
One is really delighted to see the dreamland of Kashmir valley, after crossing the Banihal tunnel, in the Pir-Panjal range which is the gateway of the valley. When the traveler air dashes at the Budgam airport, the cool breeze and the picturesque landscape welcomes him. The Angler finds plenty of scope for his rod, as the valley abounds in water bodies, which have plenty of fish. People interested in water sports move to Dal, Anchar and Mansabal lakes.
The valley a beautiful health resort is enchanting all the year round. The spring season in Kashmir is the season of flowers, the mustard fields are in full bloom, depicting a golden look which catches the mind and soul of the onlooker. The summer is all green; as the pastures or margs are full of lush green grass and the Rice fields all along the river Jhelum, look all green. The autumn presents a charming look with Chinar leaves exhibiting a pretty colour and fall. The autumn is also the fruit season in Kashmir which finds the valley ablaze in red and russet. The cool winter is the season for winter sports in Kashmir as the valley has a white shining cover of snow. The tall and lowering popars; the green willows and the mighty Chinars dot the valley landscape everywhere.
According to a legend coming by oral tradition the valley of Kashmir was once a mighty lake. Goddess Parvati used to sail on the water of this lake in a pleasure boat from Haramukh in the north to the Konsarnag in the south. So, this lake was called as the Satisar, or ‘the lake of the Virtuous Woman’. There was a demon named Jaldev, or Jaldbhava, who often harassed the people living in the country side. Lord Brahma then incarnated himself as Kashyap who came to the help of the people. But the demon eluded him by hiding under the water. Finally, Lord Vishnu came to the rescue of the people by striking the mountain at Baramulla with his trident. So the waters rushed out, but the demon took shelter at the place where the Srinagar City now stands. To kill him Goddess Parvati hurled a small mountain on him. This mountain has since been called Hari Parvati and the Goddess has been worshipped on its slopes. A shrine has been set up in honour of the goddess on the hill also and this is called Chakreshwari temple.
Srinagar the City, is the star attraction for the tourists. No destination is quite so romantic, so setting as enchanting as the beautiful city of Srinagar, which is often referred as the “Venice of East”. It situated in the centre of the Kashmir Valley and is surrounded by five districts. In the north it is flanked by Kargil, in the south by Pulwama, in the north-west by Budgam. The capital city of Srinagar, is located 1730 meters above sea level. The city situated upon the bank of river Jhelum. It comprises three tehsils/towns viz Srinagar, Ganderbal and Kangan & four blocks; Srinagar, Ganderbal, Kangan and Leh, besides 175 villages.
Srinagar is at once a collection of images; a son-et-lumiere that tells the story of the love of Mogul Emperors for this Paradise Vale; deep green rice fields and river bridges of gardens in bloom and lakes rimmed by houseboats; at once summer capital of the state, business centre and holiday resort.
Srinagar is about 293 kms from Jammu by road. The road from Jammu to Srinagar is an all weather road with few obstructions from landslides and precipitation during apring and winter seasons. This National Highway is maintained by an agency “BEACON”.
The tourists are received at the Tourist Reception Centre situated just down the Shankeracharaya hill near Dalgate. In the vicinity of the TRC, is Radio Kashmir; Doordarshan; Kashmir Arts Emporium; Indian Airlines Cargo Office; General Post office; Grindlays Bank, Residency road; Polo Ground; Polo View Shopping Centre; Hotel Broadway; Golf club with Golf Ground. Further down is the “Lal Chowk”, a famous market and a nerve centre for all political activities in the valley, during past and present. Very close to the “Lal Chowk”, a famous market and a nerve centre for all political activities in the valley, during past and present. Very close to the Lal Chowk is the crowded “Budshah Chowk” and “Amira Kadal” or the second bridge. The old city of Srinagar, with its sights and sounds, and the hustle and bustle, starts after Amira Kadal. Crossing Amira Kadal on left side or Badshah Kadal on right side, are the structures of old secretariat, Jehangir Hotel; High Court complex; New Civil Secretariat and office of the Accountant General. The Maulana Azad road from Dalgate to Budshah Bridge runs along the right side of TRC. Along this road lies MLA’s Hostels; C.M’s Secretariat; Church; S.P. College; Maulana Azad Women’s College; State Institute of Education, College of Education and Telegraph office.
The city of Srinagar known by many names in the past including Hemavat, Praverpora and Praversenpur, remained the seat of power ever since, with different kings shifting their capital from one portion of the present extensive Srinagar city to the other. In the sixth century A.D. a new city at the present site broadly was founded by Raja Praversena II near the Hariparbat hill in the middle of sixth century which came to be known as Praverpora after its founder’s name. The new name however, did not find favour with the people and the city again came to be known as Srinagar.
The description of Praverpora by the famous chronicler, Kalhana, is broadly in conformity with the present Srinagar with “market and mansions mostly built of wood reaching the clouds.” Sir Aurel Stein, the English interpreter of Kalhana’s Rajatarangni was able to identify some of the ancient buildings and localities in Srinagar reffered to by Kalhana. The later Capitals of Kashmir founded by successive rulers lost their importance to the city of Praverpora, Lalitaditya’s Parihaspura, Jayapida’s Jayapura, Avantivarman’s Awantipura or the cities of Kanishkapura and Juskapura are either in ruins or only part of history.
During the Muslim rule, Sadar-ud-Din Rinchan Shah founded Rinchenpur and Aja-ud-Din laid out the city of Aja-ud-Din Pora near Hariparbat hill in 1345 A.D. as his capital. Zain-ul-Abideen founded Nowshera as the capital while Akbar founded Naagar Nagar and raised around it 28 ft. high wall. The Moguls called the city as Kashmir. However, during the Sikh rule the name is believed to have been reverted to Srinagar. It was during the Dogra rule that Srinagar, besides being the Capital of Kashmir, was elevated to the status of the summer capital with the Royal Court of the newly formed State, extending from Leh to Lakhanpur, moving annually to the “Venice of the East” on the eve of summer.
Srinagar has been described as the city of Sri, an appellation of Hindu goddess Lakshmi, while some believe that it means city of the Sun, as Sri is other name of the Sun. The Koshur (Kashmiri) Encyclopedia however, rejects this belief and translates the word Srinagar into English, as the “City” and its Arabic equivalent, “AJ-Balad”.
The city of Srinagar or broadly the present district of Srinagar, has always been an attraction for all kinds of people. Kings have fought pitched battles here to gain control over the territory of Kashmir. Travellers and tourists have been drawn in numbers to see the symbol of the Paradise on Earth and pilgrims and preachers have found the city as a place for the attainment of ultimate spiritual contentment. The place was the venue of the Buddhist conference during the region of Kanishka and muslim preachers, Syed Sharif-ud-Din Bulbul and Mir Syed Ali Hamdani, chose this place to spread Islam. Travellogues and the chronicles are full of praise for the beauty of Srinagar. The eleventh century chronicler, Bilhana, gives a glowing picture of the beauties of the city. To him, Srinagar was not only the principal city of Kashmir but excelled in beauty over all other cities. Under the Mogul rule, “Srinagar was a splendid city by the standard of time”. Akbar’s courtier, Abul Fazl remarks, “Srinagar is a great city and has long been peopled”.
Srinagar was deprived of the fruits of development since the rulers of the times, Lalitaditya and Awantivarman, transferred their capitals elsewhere. The advent of Muslim rule saw Srinagar undergoing radical change and its political, social and economic importance rose to new heights. The Moguls enriched the beauty and the landscape of Srinagar by laying gardens and planting Chinar trees.
Over the centuries, city of Srinagar, originally situated on the right bank of the JHhelum river, expanded in all the directions and post 1947 period saw expansion of the city to about 90 sq kms, extending on one side from Pandrethan to Pandach in Ganderbal and on the other from Harwan to Chhanpora in Budgam district while on another side its boundaries have stretched beyond Zainakot in the Baramulla district. The beginning of the popular rule in 1947 was watershed in the development of the Srinagar district in general and the city of Srinagar in particular. The high rising buildings, concrete bridges, medical and educational institutions, agricultural development and an impetus to business and trade are the hallmarks of this period, transforming life of the people from deprivation to plenty.