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State of India - Jammu and Kashmir
QUICK FACTS Climate (Degree C.): Summer Max: 35. Min: 28. Winter Max: 20 Min: | Best Season: April to October | Languages Spoken: Pahari, Hindi and English | Winter Capital: Jammu | Summer Capital: Srinagar

The Mughal king Jehangir, moved to such an ecstasy by the beauty of Kashmir that he exclaimed, "If there is a Paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here". Unlike the other Himalayan regions, Kashmir has been a tourist's paradise and holiday resort for a long time, probably one of the oldest on the earth. They say a visit to Kashmir can divide your life into two halves- before and after Kashmir. Indeed, after a trip to this unforgettable land, you are never quite the same again.

Geography of Jammu and Kashmir:
Jammu and Kashmir is the northern-most state of India, lying mostly in the Himalayan Mountains. Jammu and Kashmir shares a border with Himachal Pradesh to the south, Pakistan to the west and People's Republic of China to the north and the east. Jammu and Kashmir consists of three divisions: Jammu, the Vale of Kashmir and Ladakh.

History of Jammu and Kashmir:
In the ancient times a large part of trade between China and Central Asia, was routed from Kashmir. Kashmir was also one of the major centres of Sanskrit scholars. According to Mahabharata, the Kambojas ruled Kashmir during the epic period following a Republican system of government. The Mughal had a deep influence on this land and introduced various reforms during their reign. The two areas of Kashmir and Jammu were integrated into a single political unit during the reign of Maharaja Gulab Singh of the Dogra dynasty. The capital of the present day Kashmir can be easily attributed to King Ashoka. Buddhism spread during his time with monks settling in the valleys of Kashmir. The religion eventually spread to the North i.e. Ladakh, Tibet, Central Asia and China. Kashmir became home to varied religious and cultural groups. Religions like Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims co existed in Kashmir.

Tourist Places of Jammu and Kashmir:
Jammu and Kashmir offers tourists wonderful locations and destinations that can be explored. The state has been typically divided into 3 parts as per its topography, geography and places of attractions. Jammu is the Duggar land with grand ancient temples, and beautiful palaces nestling in the foothills of the Himalayas. Jammu attracts tens of thousands of Hindu and Muslim pilgrims every year. Set like a jewelled crown on the map of India, Kashmir valley is like a many faceted diamond, changing character with the seasons - always extravagantly beautiful. Three Himalayan ranges, Karakoram, Zanaskar and Pir Panjal - snow capped, majestic, frame the landscape from northwest to northeast. Ladakh also known as "Little Tibet" is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture which was established as early as the 2nd century. For centuries it has been nicknamed the 'land of passes' (La-pass; Dakh-land).

Fairs and Festivals of Kashmir:
Major festivals of India like Holi, Diwali and Id are celebrated with great enthusiasm and fanfare in Kashmir as well. The main regions of the state, Kashmir Valley, Jammu Valley and Ladakh add their own local flavour while celebrating these festivals. But the idea behind each festival is always the same; to spread joy and love amongst the people. Lohri celebrated on the 13th January and Baisakhi celebrated on 13th April are also very popular festivals of Kashmir. Some of the fairs that one can attend during their tour to Kashmir are Jhiri Mela, Jammu Crafts Mela (April), Bahu Mela. In the Ladakh region, Losar, Ladakah Festival and Hemis Festival are quite famous and attract number of tourists from all over the world.

Cuisine in Kashmir:
Traditional Kashmiri form of cooking is known as Wazhawan. This royal cuisine dates back to the last years of the 14th Century and has been significantly influenced by Iranian, Afghan and Central Asian styles of cooking. What sets Kashmir Cuisine apart is the detailing involved in the meal preparation and presentation as well as the use of special ingredients. This cuisine generally consists of non-vegetarian dishes with a rich and creamy texture of the curry. This is due to the considerable amount of curd and dry fruits like Walnuts, almonds and raisins used in the dish. Asafoetida (Hing), Saunf (aniseed), dry ginger, and the local saffron are other basic ingredients that signify a Kashimiri dish. Some of the dishes worth trying out are Vakhni, Tabaq Naat, Dum Aloo, Rogan Josh, Gaustaba, Haleem.

Shopping in Jammu and Kashmir:
Kashmir can be truly termed as a shopper's paradise. Jammu and Kashmir is particularly rich in traditional handicrafts items made by the locals here. Kashmiri handicrafts are known for their uniqueness and intricate work. Some of the speciality items of Kashmir are the handmade carpets, Papier-mâché items, Shawls, Silk and Tweeds, Crewel Furnishings, Woodwork, Pherans, Brass, Copper and Silverware, Wicker baskets, Naqqashi work, Chain Stitch Embroidery, Saris Cricket Bats, Namdas etc. The shopping places in Kashmir consist of privately owned as well as the government emporium. The prices at the private shops are generally quite high, where as the government emporium is a safe choice. Most of the shops are located in the big cities of Jammu, Srinagar and Leh. Lal Chowk, Badshah Chowk etc. in Srinagar and Vir Marg, Raghunath Bazaar, Hari Market in Jammu are preferred shopping markets areas.