The State of Jammu and Kashmir falls in the great north-western, complex of the Himalayan ranges with marked relief variation, snow- capped summits, antecedent drainage, complex geological structure and rich temperate flora and fauna.
Kashmir or the Jhelum Valley is situated between the Pir Panjal range and the Zanskar range and has an area of 15220 sq kms. It is bounded on all sides by mountains. The river Jhelum, which flows out from the spring at Verinag in Anantnag district, passes through this Valley at a very slow speedand ultimately flows out through a narrow gorge at Baramulla. Districts of Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Kupwara and Pulwama lie in this valley. Average height of the valley is 1850 metres above sea level but the surrounding mountains, which are always snow-clad, rise from three to four thousand metres above sea level. The surface of the valley is plain and abounds with springs, lakes and health resorts.
Rice is the main crop and fruits like apples, pears, apricots, almonds, walnuts, peaches and cherries grow in abundance. The valley is also rich in forests. Mulberry trees grow in abundance and are the mainstay of silk industry in the Valley.
Summer is pleasant but winter is cold and there is snowfall. It rains from the middle of March to the middle of May in the valley with an annual rainfall of about 75 cms.
Road transport is common in the valley but the river Jhelum still serves as one of the means of transportation. There is also Air Service from Delhi and Jammu to Srinagar and Ladakh.
Kashmir is the home of handicrafts like wood carving, papier-mache, carpet, gabba and shawl making and embroidery on clothes. Natural scenery of the valley attracts thousands of visitors every year from abroad. People generally speak Kashmiri and their common dress is phiran, shalwar and a turban or a Kashmiri cap.
There are also some small valleys in this region. On the north of Baramulla is Lolab valley which is 6 Kms long and 4.4 Kms wide. It has many meadows and grovesof walnut trees. Forests are so thick that they hide villages in them.
Nullah Sind is the largest tributory of the river Jhelum. The Nullah Sind valley is 100 Kms long upwards and its scenery is diversified. At the head of the valley is the Zojilla pass which leads to Ladakh.
Towards Pehlgam lies the Lidar Valley. Its length is 64 Kms. It has small glaciers, grassy meadows, huge rock walls and gorges in its upper mountains. The path to the holy Amarnath cave passethrough this valley. The Kolohai and Sheshnag streams join at Pahalgam to form the Lidar river.
Mountains and their Passes
Mountains have a special geographical importance to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir valley is enclosed by high mountain-chains on all sides except for certain passes and a narrow gorge at Baramulla. There are Siwalik hills towards the south and very lofty mountains in the north, the peaks of which always remain covered with snow. There are volcanic mountains too in the State. They have caused havoc in Kashmir in the past.
Some of the famous mountains and their passes are:
1. Karakoram (8615.17 M) and Kyunlun Ranges:
Both these mountains lie to the north and north-east of the State and separate it from Russian Turkistan and Tibet. In the north west, Hindukush range continues towards Karakoram range, where K2 peak, the second highest peak of the world, is situated. Two lofty peaks of Gashorbram (8570 metres) and Masharbram (7827 metres) also lie there. People of Ladakh pass through Karakoram pass (5352 metres) and Nubra pass (5800 metres) while going to Chinese Turkistan and Khattan. One can reach Tibet from Ladakh via Kharudangala pass (5557 metres) and Changla pass (5609 metres).
2. Zanskar Range:
It is about 600 metres above sea level and separates Indus Valley from the valley of Kashmir; it prevents south-west cold winds from reaching Kashmir. Ladakh region terminates at Zojila pass (3529 metres) from where begins the valley of Kashmir. Poat pass (5716 metres) of this range is also a famous pass in this range.
3. Nun Kun Range:
It lies between Ladakh and kashmir border. It is 7055.1 metres above sea level. To its south-east is situated Kulu and to its north-west is situated Kargil tehsil of Ladakh . One has to pass through Bawalocha pass (4891 metres) to reach Leh (Ladakh) from Kulu. In 1947, when Kargil was attacked by Pakistan, Indian forces, arms and ammunition were sent to Ladakh by the Indian Union through this pass.
4. Nanga Parbat Range:
This range spreads in Gilgit. Its height is 8107.68 metres above sea level and is utterly devoid of vegetation. It was conquered by the Italian mountaineers in 1954. This is now under the unlawful possession of Pakistan.
5. Harmukh Mountain:
This is a range of the Himalayas and is situated at a height of 5141.3 metres above sea level towards Bandipore between the rivers Jhelum and Kishan Ganga valley.
6. Burzil Mountain:
It bifurcates Kashmir and Ladakh on which Burzil pass is situated at a height of 3200 metres above sea level.
7. Amarnath Mountain:
This is famous for its holy Amarnath Cave, at a height of 5372 metresabove sea level, which thousands of pilgrims visit every year on Rakshabandan. They have to pass Mahagunas pass (1475 metres) on their way to Shri Amarnathji. Gwasharan (5450 metres) is situated in the Lidar valley towards Pahalgam; on it lies the famous glacier Kolahi. Sheeshnag Mountain also spreads in this valley. It is called Sheshnag as its peaks resemble the heads of seven big snakes.
Toshmaindan (4270 metres) and Kajinag (3700 metres) mountains lie in the Inner Himalayas. They remain clad with snow throughout the year, but during summer when the snow melts, the water flows down into the Jhelum river.
This mountain spreads through the Gulmarg valley. The famous spring Alpathar lies on its peak, from which Nullah Nagal comes out and flows down into the Wullar lake.
10. Pirpanjal Range:
It separates Kashmir valley from the outer Himalayas and is about 2621 Kms. in length and 50 Kms. in breadth. Famous Banihal pass (2832 metres) lies in the shape of a tunnel on its peak; it remains covered with snow during winter making it impassable. Now at a height of 2200 metres above sea level a new tunnel 'Jawahar Tunnel' has been constructed. The tunnel is 2825 metres long and it was opened for traffic on 22nd Dec. 1956. On the other end of this range lie Baramula pass (1582 metres) and Hajipir pass(2750 metres). Hajipir joins Poonch and Uri. During 1965 Indo-Pak war, the Indian army had occupied this pass. Later on it was handed over to Pakistan.
11. Siwalik Range:
These hills extend from the north of the outer plains to middle mountains of the State reaching heights varying from 600 metres to 1500 metres above sea level.
12. Volcanic mountains:
One volcanic peak, 'Soyamji' (1860 metres) is situated in North Machhipura (Handwara) and the other 'Kharewa' peak lies in Tehsil Pehalgam, which is dead so far; the former, however, continued eruption of lava for about l3 months during 1934.
There is a temple on this peak and many sulphur springs are found at the foot of the hill.These volcanic mountains are the cause of earthquakes in Kashamir. So far twelve devastating earthquakes have occured in Kashmir. Of these the earthquake of 1885 was the most devastating. Hundreds of houses collapsed, thousands of people died and there were cracks in the earth as a result of this earthquake.