One of the largest states
of the India, Jammu and Kashmir covers an area of 2,22,236 sq km. This
includes 78,114 sq km under illegal occupation of Pakistan, 5180 sq km
handed over by Pakistan to China, and 37,555 sq km under occupation of
China. The state lies between 32o 17' to 36o 58' North latitude and
73o 26' to 80o 30' East longitude. From North to South, it extends
over 640 km and from East to West, 480 km. It occupies the North-West
niche of India, bounded on the South by Himachal Pradesh and the
Punjab, on the South West and West by Pakistan, on the North by
Chinese Turkistan and a little of Russian Turkistan, and on the East
by Chinese Tibet - thus strategically bordering the territories of
three countries - Russia, China, and Pakistan. The State ranks 6th in
area and 17th in population among the States and Union Territories of
India. The State consists of 14 districts, 59 tehsils, 119 blocks, 3
municipalities, 54 towns and notified area committee, 6477 inhabited
villages and 281 uninhabited villages. The State of Jammu and Kashmir
is the northern most state of India comprising three distinct Climatic
regions viz. Arctic cold desert areas of Ladakh, temperate Kashmir
valley and sub-tropical region of Jammu. There is a sharp rise of
altitude from 1000 feet to 28250 feet above the sea level within
State's four degree of latitude. A major portion of J&K State consists
of the western Himalayas, which besides many lofty mountain ranges
with varying heights of 3000 to 6000 metres and above, also abound in
rivers, lakes, passes, glaciers, plateaus and plains. The number of
streams, brooks, hill torrents and rivers is also fairly large. The
most important rivers are the Indus, Chenab, Jehlum and Ravi.
The climate varies from tropical in Jammu plains to semi-arctic cold
in Ladakh with Kashmir and Jammu mountainous tracts having temperate
climatic conditions. The annual rainfall also varies from region to
region with 92.6 mm in Leh, 650.5 mm in Srinagar and 1115.9 mm in
Jammu. A large part of the State forms part of the Himalayan
mountains. The State is geologically constituted of rocks varying from
the oldest period of the earth's history to the youngest present day
river and lake deposits.
Flora & Fauna
The State is rich in flora and fauna.
In Jammu, the flora ranges from the thorn bush type of the arid plain
to the temperate and alpine flora of the higher altitudes. Of the
broad leaf trees there are maple, horse chest nuts, silver fir etc. At
the higher altitudes there are birch, rhododendron, Berbers and a
large number of herbal plants.
In the hilly regions of Doda, Udhampur, Poonch and Rajouri there is a
large and varied fauna including leopard, cheetah and deer, wild
sheep, bear, brown musk shrew, musk rat. Varieties of snakes, bats,
lizards and frogs are also found in the region. The game birds in
Jammu include chakor, snow partridge, pheasants, peacock.
Kashmir abounds in rich flora. The Valley which has been described as
the 'Paradise' on Earth is full of many hues of wood and game. The
most magnificent of the Kashmir trees is the Chinar found throughout
the valley. It grows to giant size and girth. The trees presents
itself in various enchanting colours through the cycle of the seasons
among which its autumnal look is breath-taking. Mountain ranges in the
Valley have dense deodar, pine and fir. Walnut, willow, almond and
cider also add to the rich flora of Kashmir.
The dense forests of Kashmir are a delight to the sport-lovers and
adventures for whom there are Ibex, Snow Leopard, Musk deer, wolf,
Markhor, Red bear, Black bear and Leopard. The winged game include
ducks, goose, partridge, chakor, pheasant, wagtails, herons, water
pigeons, warblers, and doves.In otherwise arid desert of Ladakh some
240 species of local and migratory birds have been identified
including black-necked crane.
The Ladakh fauna includes yak, Himalayan Ibex, Tibetan antelope, snow
leopard, wild ass, red bear and gazelle.
On the Panchal range, there are a few remarkable peaks viz., the three
peaks round the Konsar Nag (12, 800 ft.), Tratakoti (15,524 ft), the
highest on this range, and Romesh thong also named as Sun-set peak by
Dr. Arthur Neve when he climbed it. A feature of this mountain range
is the luxuriant growth of wild flowers. Also an alpine plant called
Saussurea Sacra grows here in abundance. From Pir Panchal range
further North, the open grassy highlands of Tosa Maidan (14,000 ft.
high) catch the eye. The Pastures of this vast highland are the
regular haunts of the cheerful, homely shepherds who bring up their
flocks for grazing. Further Northwest is the Kazi Nag range - the home
of the Markhor. It stands 12,125 feet high and is snow-covered with
slopes coated with dense forests. The towering peak of Nanga Parbat
(26, 620 ft. high) stands as a sentinel guarding, as it were, the
Valley on this side. It is an imposing sight. Far away from here are
seen the Karakoram ranges also known as Mustagh, with some of its
peaks rising over 25,000 ft and among them the World-famous K2 (over
28,000 ft.), the second highest in the world, stands out boldly in its
mountain glory. To the east of the valley stands the noble, snow-clad
peak of Haramukh (16,903 ft.) overlooking it.
The famous Gangabal lake of Haramukh is regarded as sacred by Kashmiri
Hindus to the same extent as Haridwar is held in India. Here also
Saussurea Sacra grows in plenty. Another remarkable peak in the east
seen all over the city is Mahadev (13,000 ft.). in Summer pilgrims
climb this peak. On the lower sides of this mountain, one comes across
a herb Macrotomia Benthami in wild profusion. This herb is well known
as Kah zaban or Gaw Zaban. It is frequently prescribed by the local
physicians to ailing persons.
On the South of the Valley, the peaks of Amar Nath and Kolahoi
springing from the same massif are found prominent. Amar Nath stands
17, 321 feet high and Kolahoi 17,800 feet. Kolahoi is also known as
Gwash Brari. At dawn the radiant rays of the sun fall on this
cone-like peak and the lurid glare of the dazzling snows is a sight.
Here and there on this range, one is attracted by wild graceful
flowers, wild roses, poppies, anemones and hosts of other unknown
floral varieties. Shri Amar Nath is a famous ancient shrine.
Lakes and Glaciers
For its fresh-water lakes and tarns, Kashmir is known all the world
over. Those lying in the valley against the charming mountain
background are : the Wular Lake, the Dal Lake and the Manasbal lake.
The Wular is the largest fresh-water lake in India and according to
some, perhaps in Asia too. It is 121 miles long and 5 miles broad. It
lies to the north-cast of the valley with mountains overlooking it.
The Dal Lake lies on the suburbs of Srinagar in the east. It is at the
foot of the mountain range. The lake is 4 miles long and 11 miles
broad. Against the mountain background which is reflected in its calm
expanse and enclosed by trees the lake looks superb. In summer, it is
a paradise for visitors who glide over its waters in shikaras and
houseboats. The Manasbal lake is the deepest lake in the country. Its
greenish-blue waters are wondrous and beautiful.
Besides these lakes, which are fed by the melting snows from the
mountains, there are hosts of mountain tarns form-glared by the
glacial action and other phenomenal activities of range nature. There
are several glaciers on Haramoukh. On the South side they only descend
to about 13,500 ft., but alter the North 1,500 ft lower. They are fed
by the large snow fields on the summit, which are of great thickness.
The snow cliffs on the middle peak show a vertical thickness of nearly
200 feet. In there seen all the surrounding valleys. There are
lakelets varying in size from mere ponds to sheets of water a mile or
so in length and quarter a mile broad., most of these occur at a
height of 11,500 feet. There can be no doubt that they are all due in
some way to glacial action , and that they are not of very remote age.
Tydall points out that a glacier 900 feet deep would produce a
vertical pressure of 486, 000 lbs. upon every square inch of its bed.
But the small glacier on the shoulders gone, of such mountains as
Haramoukh or Tutakuthi would not exceed 200 feet in thickness, and
would not be capable of excavating hard rocks beneath. So the numerous
tarns and lakes may be own regarded as due chiefly to the formation of
embankments across line of drainage. Sometimes such embankments may
have been caused by the deposit of avalanche debris from a slideslope
or by the advance of a side glacier with its lateral moraines. The
lakes and lakelets found in upper valleys around Haramukh mountain are
Gangabal, Lool Gool and Sarbal. They are at an elevation of
nearly12,000 feet above sea level. The shimmering waters lend glory to
the Gangabal Lake, which stands at an elevation of 11,800 feet. To the
South cast of the Pir Panchal range lies the lake Konsar Nag (12,800
feet) surrounded by three peaks. Its is fed by glaciers. It is said to
be a source of the Jhelum. In the spring and summer, the water is some
40-ft higher than in winter. In the spring, its surface is said to be
covered with icebergs, which are driven about by the wind. In the
Liddar Valley, large glaciers are observed. On the mountain range of
this Valley, the glaciers are found in Kolahoi. From here to the cast
on the way to Amar Nath cave lies the famous Shesh Nag at an elevation
of 14,000 feet. Glaciers are prominent in this area.
Coming into the Valley proper, we find the frozen lake of Alapathar or
Apharwat, well over Khilanmarg. Flowers of rainbow colors are found in
wild profusion here. The mountain tarn stands at the height of about
12,500 feet. It is said to be 500 yards long and 150 yards wide. The
surroundings are austere and wild. It is popular haunt of tourists.
The nearest tarn to the city is that of Harwan on the slopes of
Mahadev Mountain about a mile and a half further away from the Moghul
garden -Shalimar. The source of its fresh water is Tarsar, a lake on
the Amar Nath Mountain. Harwan looks beautiful in its sylvan
surroundings. This tarn is the chief source of water supply to the
Besides the above enumerated lakes and lakelets, there are scores of
tarns and glaciers found in the mountain ranges around the Gurais
valley, Ladakh and Karakorams.
Heli-Skiing & Rafting
The introduction of new adventure sport, called Heli-skiing, in
1987-88, added a new dimension to the winter tourism of the state.
Heli-skiing consists of being dropped by a helicopter on the summit of
a high, snow- covered peak and then skiing down the slopes. The
helicopter transports skiers from the base (Gulmarg) to heights of
over 4,500 m landing on a different peak every day, whether it is
Apharwat, Yusmarg or the Kolahai glacier. In Kashmir there is already
a well - organised central Gulmarg Ski institute conducting ski
courses and competitions - became the second place in the world, after
Canada, to offer large scale heli- skiing. The construction of a 7.5Km
long gondola cable car ropeway from Gulmarg to Apharwat, which began
in April 1988, has also contributed to Kashmir becoming a year-round
The Zanskar and the Indus rivers in the Ladakh region offers rafting
expeditions for the experienced rafters as well as the novice. Zanskar
river expeditions in summer is the ultimate for a rafter which takes
one through the one of the most breathtaking gorges in Asia.
Indus river is one of the most scenic white water runs anywhere in the
Himalayas. The view is breathtaking which takes one through the
Canyons in the Ladakh and Zanskar ranges with various monasteries or
Gompas along the river bank. The icy cold and clear river have rapids
generally of I and II grades and at some places, has grade III rapids.