It’s a Kashmir convenient for the honeymooners, challenging for the adventurers raring to go, heavenly for the pilgrims impatiently waiting to unload the sins of a lifetime and it is for nature-lovers a paradise of bewitching beauty at bountiful heights.
It beckons you to a four-fold bonanza: Srinagar with its well-known lakes, Gulmarg is known for its finest skiing resort, Pahalgam where the mysterious streams meander through, and Sonamarg providing a glimpse of the glacier.
The Capital of Jammu & Kashmir, it is situated at an altitude of 1730 metres above sea level. Dal, Nagin and Anchar are some of the well-known lakes here. River Jhelum also runs through Srinagar. Dal is a very large lake requiring “shikara ride” to reach houseboats. a couple may like a houseboat in the interior of the lake, needing a half-an-hour shikara ride, to reach far enough from glare.
A houseboat has two to four bedrooms, an attached bathroom and a common sitting/dining room. Nishat, Cheshmashahi, Shalimar Gardens and Hazratbal are accessible directly by shikara. Mughal Gardens, with stepped terraces, were built by Mughal emperors who liked Kashmir. Hazratbal is said to have preserved the hair of Prophet Mohammed. It was damaged about 10 years ago in violence involving militants. Perching at the top in Srinagar is the Shankaracharya temple, a Lord Shiva temple rebuilt about 1000 years ago by the patriarch of all godmen, Adi Shankara. The site itself dates back to 2500 BC. It is said the philosopher visited Kashmir as part of his pursuit of propagating Sanatan Dharma.
Earlier the temple was known as Gopadri in the 8th century as it was rebuilt then by King Gopaditya. Kheer Bhavani is a beautiful temple-spring complex 25 km away. Devotees offer milk and gheer at this Durga mata temple, to the sacred spring that is said to change colour, if black, a premonition of bad things to come.
The temperature in June-August summer is 25 deg to 35 deg C. It plummets to 7 deg C in spring ( March-May) and autumn (Oct – Nov). In winter (Dec-Feb) temperature drops to minus 10 deg C. Heavy woollens are required in winter and light ones at other times, though one can move without woollens in summer in Srinagar. Winter is peak season only for Gulmarg. In all the four resorts there is snowfall in winter and rainfall in spring.
There are direct flights to Srinagar from Delhi via Jammu. Road links Srinagar with Jammu. The nearest railhead for Srinagar is also Jammu. For Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg you have to travel from Srinagar by road only. You have to return to Srinagar from one resort to go to other. That is, there are no interconnecting routes for the three resorts. Gulmarg is 87 km from Srinagar, Pahalgam is 96 km and Sonamarg 87 km.
The music of Jammu & Kashmir has been influenced by a variety of musical influences, including that of Central, Eastern & Southern Asia. Some of the most famous musical forms practiced in Kashmir are Chakri, Henzae, Ladishah, Rouf, Hindustani Classical & Sufiana Kalam. The rich culture of Jammu & Kashmir also includes several dances that are performed during birthdays, festivals & other special occasions. Some of the traditional dance forms are Dumhal, Kud, Bhand Pather, Rouf, Hafiza & Bacha Nagma.
The history of Ladakh can be traced in a better way after the 9th Century. The Kingdom of Ladakh was established around 950 CE when the early Tibetan Empire collapsed. Independent kingdoms were formed under independent rulers that mostly were from Tibetan royal family.
The earliest population of Ladakh has been asserted to be that of Dards or Brokpas. Many ancient accounts by the Greek historians, Herodotus and Megasthenes, and the admiral of Alexander the Great, Nearchus have confirmed the existence of the Brokpas (Dards) in Ladakh. An interesting fact tells that Herodotus also mentioned the gold-digging ants of central Asia, which is also mentioned in connection with the Dardi people of Ladakh by Nearchus. The Kharoshti inscription discovered near Khalatse Bridge tells that Ladakh in the 1st Century was under the rule of the Kushan Empire.
Leh, the capital city of the Union Territory of Ladakh, offers you with a wide range of sightseeing options. There are several monasteries, with the famous ones being Hemis, Alchi, Spituk & Matho. Other must see places are Shanti Stupa, Magnetic Hill, Gurudwara Pattar Sahib, War Museum & the Leh market, which is a great place for shopping in Ladakh.
Kargil, famously known as the gateway to Ladakh, is home to ancient monasteries like Mulbekh, Rangdum & Sani. A top sightseeing attraction in Kargil is the Kargil War Memorial, which commemorates the Kargil War which occurred between India & Pakistan in 1999. Other must visit tourist places are the ancient Hunderman village & Nun Kun Massif. No tour to Ladakh is ever complete without visiting Drass, the second coldest place in the world & home to sightseeing attractions, which are historical, cultural and religious, like Ningoor Masjid, Bimbhet, Draupadi Kund, Tiger Hill & Goashan, a picnic spot which also serves as a polo ground.
The fairs & festivals of Ladakh, marked by beautifully synchronised masked dances, Buddhist rituals, ceremonies of various types & vigorous celebrations, are an integral and important part of Ladakh tourism. They offer an extremely useful insight into the heritage & culture of the people of Ladakh.
The influence of Tibetan Buddhism on this region is especially strong, and naturally, this is reflected in the festivals which are celebrated. Domestic as well as international tourists attend these festivals during their holidays in Ladakh in large numbers, since they offer an experience which is exclusive to this region. Attending the festivals in Ladakh also gives you an idea of the cultural diversity of Ladakh.
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