Madhu Latha
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Jammu and Kashmir - Paradise Lost

This land has been called a paradise on earth by many who travelled here. The serene landscapes, the snow capped mountains, the fertile valleies blooming in the youth of spring, truely make us feel that Gods too came down to roam these lands. The people here are humble and modest and quiet friendly. But there has been trouble in paradise for many years. The dispute of border with the neighbouring country has caused quiet an unrest in these areas and scarred the beauty of this land. Jammu and Kashmir is suffering under territorial disputes since the independence of India and three major wars have been fought while countless minor disputes erupted since then.

The known history of Jammu and Kashmir dates back to the post Ice age that is when they say the 140 km valley of Kashmir which was a lake back then was drained by an earthquake. In 3rd Century BC Emperor Ashoka transformed this Hindu kingdom to a major Buddist learning Center. Islam arrived into this region in the 13th and 14th century AD. 

The population of southern Kashmir is mainly Hindu and Sikh and its are visited by floods of piligrims. Zanskar is famed for its splendid isolation, the greatest attraction of this majestically mountain-hemmed, rugged Ladakhi-Buddhist valley is the week-long trek in or out. Indeed, when snow blocks Zanskar's one precarious road from Kargil, the only access is on foot along the frozen Zanskar River. Be prepared for cold nights even in summer.

The population of southern Kashmir is mainly Hindu and Sikh and its are visited by floods of piligrims.

FactsPopulation 10.1 million
Area 222,236 sq km
Capitals Srinagar(Summer), Jammu (Winter), Leh (Ladakh)
Main Languages Kashmiri, Urdu, Ladakhi, Hindi, Purig, Balti, Dogri, Punjabi and Pahari.

When to visit May to October(Srinagar), July to early September(Ladakh), December to March (skiing at Gulmarg)

NOTE: Before arriving read a wide range of sources to get a feel of the Situation. The problem is situations could esculate within hours with the intercommunal tempers ever raw, so caution must be maintained. Beware travel insurance policies might be voided if your home governament has issued specific advice against travel here.

 - Murmur meditative mantras in the mural decked gompas of the Indus valley

 - Ladakh's capital Leh is an escape from the daily humdrum of urban life. A peaceful and tranquil place to be.

 - Experience the stark magnificence of Ladakh or Zanskar on an unforgettable high-altitude trek.

 - The relaxed stay in the boat house over the silver sheeted Dal Lake in Kashmir.

 - Gasp at the unbelivebly beautiful valleies of Pangong Tso and the splendid Nubra Valley.

Festivals exclusive to Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu Festival (April, Jammu) three days of eating, drinking and dancing
Sri Amarnath Ji Yatra (Jul-Sep; Amarnath)  Especially in the eve of new moon when thousands of devotees come to venerate the Lord
Vaishno Devi Yatra (early OCt;) Hindu piligrim numbers swarming towards Vaishno Devi reach a climax in early October.

Festivals exclusive to Ladhak & Zanskar

Losar (Dec) Ladhaki New Year, celebrated in Buddhist homes  and gompas with feasts, rituals and dances.
Gu-Stor Rituals and masked dances celebrating the victory of good over evil are celebrated in gompas, including those at the following:
  • Spituk
  • Karsha
  • Korzok
  • Thiksey
Dosmoche (wide spread from feb to march) Buddist New year, masked dances, effigies representing the old year are burnt and cast into the desert.
Guru Tse-Chu (feb - mar) Masked dances and predictions of the future by oracles.
Matho Nagrang (Matho) Celebrated by monastry oracles performing blindfolded acrobatics and ritual mutilations.
Yuru Kabgyat (Lamayuru) Monastic masked dances.
Tse- Chu (Hemis) Birthday of the Padmasambhava celebrated for three days. Includes masked dances and the unfurling of Hemis famous three - storey, pearl encrusted painting on cloth called the Thangka.
Phyang Tsedup (jul-aug; Phyang Gompa) Ritual masked chaam dances celebrate the victory of good over evil and of Buddism over preexisting religions. Phyang's gaint thangka is unfurled every third year.
Ladakh Festival (1-15 sep) Unrepentingly touristy but entertaining cycle of events starting with a colourful, carnivalesque parade through Leh, then a repeating program of buddhist dances, polo, archery and music.
Chemrey Thekchhok Festival (nov; Chemrey Thekchhok Gompa) Masked dances and mystic rituals.

Trekking in Zanskar
Trekking is the area's top recreational activity. The area is filled with splendid scenery with its tiny hamlets surrounded by nature. Tents and essential provisions must be carried with you.
Summer Routes- Zanskar to Darcha
- Zanskar to Lamayuru
Winter Route- Chadar Trek

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