Nestled amongst the
Pir Panjal range
of the Himalayas
, the Valley of Kashmir is a unique oval plain spread over an area of 134 x 40 sq km. Perched at an average altitude of 1800 meters above sea level, the valley is nestled amidst snow capped mountains, with the navigable river Jhelum
traversing throughout its length.
It is thought that the Kashmir Valley was a vast lake, a fact later confirmed by geological observations. The river was drained by the widening of the Baramulla gorge as a result of the slow process of erosion that occurred over many geological years. According to a legend, the drainer of the river was Kashyap, after whom the valley had been named as Kashyap-mar, which with the passage of time became Kashmir. The Kashmiris call this place as Koshur or Kashur.
Kashmir has a topography marked by a predominantly hilly terrain. The valley is bounded by peaks of varying altitude, form and color. Harmukh, the dreadful peak guarding the valley of Sindh, is sited on the eastern side of the Kashmir valley. The lofty ranges of Gwasha Brari, Amarnath peak and Mahadev are on the southern side. The Pir Panjal range is situated on the south-west of this valley. Further on the north are the ranges of
Karakoram and giant Himalayas, dominated by the Nanga Parbat.
The valley is in the shape of an elliptical saucer, with numerous plateaus locally known as ‘karewas’ standing isolated in the middle. The floor of the valley is made up of small consolidated lake beds and alluvial soil. The climate is characterized by four clear cut seasons - spring, summer, autumn, and winter. It is comparable to the climate of Switzerland till the end of May. In spring, the valley becomes the most wonderful of the natural gardens, while in winter the trees wear a bare look and the landscapes hide in a blanket of snow.
Main occupation of the people is agriculture, which contributes to 37 percent of the total income of Jammu and Kashmir. Due to its hilly terrain, complex machinery cannot be deployed in agricultural operations. Hence the agricultural holdings are small and most of the areas are sown with a single crop. Rice, wheat, barley, bajra, and jowar are the main crops cultivated. Beside this, the farmers also raise livestock for income.
Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, is nestled in the midst of the valley. Also called the ‘Venice of the East’, it is the most populated city in the state. Other prominent towns in the valley are Anantnag, Baramulla, and Sopore.