Jammu and Kashmir, India's fascinating northernmost state consists of three regions differing in topography and
culture. Jammu was the stronghold of Hindu Dogra kings and abounds with popular temples and secluded forest retreats. Kashmir's capital city, Srinagar offers delightful holidays on the lakes with their shikaras and houseboats. Ladakh is the northern most province of the state, with a bleak terrain of barren mountains. Hilltop monasteries and a colorful way of life, completely at one with the surroundings, make Ladakh one of the best living traditions of Tibetan Buddhism in the world today. This rich diversity enhances the mystery of remote mountain valleys and flavors the cultural complexities of busy urban centers.
222,236 Sq. Km
Urdu, Kashmiri, Dogri and Ladakhi
People Per Sq. km: 99
Festivals of Jammu
Lohri January 13
This festival heralds the onset of spring. The whole of Jammu region wears a festive look on this day. Thousands take a dip in the holy rivers. 'Havan Yagnas' light up nearly every house and temple in Jammu. In the rural areas, custom requires boys to go around asking for gifts from newly weds and new parents.
Chajja Dance Of Lohri
A special dance called the 'Chajja' dance is held on the occasion of Lohri. It makes a striking picture to see boys along with their 'Chajjas' elaborately decorated with colored paper and flowers move on the street in a dancing procession. The whole atmosphere comes alive with the pulsating drumbeats.
Baisakhi April 13
Every year, on the first day of "Vaishakh", the people of Jammu like the rest of northern India- celebrate Baisakhi. Baisakhi is also known as the harvest festival and is considered auspicious especially for marriages. Rivers, canals and ponds are thronged by devotees who unfailingly take a ritual dip every year. Many people go to the Nagbani temple to witness a grand New Year celebration.
Festivals of Kashmir
The 13th day of dark fortnight in Phagan is celebrated as Shiv Ratri. During this time house cleaning is done. Money and fish are sent to married daughters. On the 13th day the head of the family performs the puja of Shiva on night following a feast on the 14th day.
A basket of unhusked rice, with a bread, a rupee, a pen-case, a cup of curds, a few walnuts, a crumb of cooked rice and some flowers, are kept overnight and seen the first thing in the morning by the inmates of the house just on opening their eyes from sleep. Each picks up one or two walnuts which are dropped in the river after bathing.
A fair is held at Vichar Nag, a northern suburb of Srinagar on the 15th day of dark fortnight of Chet.
A fair is held at Khir Bhawani (Tula Mulah) on the 8th day of the bright fortnight of Chet.
A fair is held at Hari Parbat and at Raghu Nath Temple on the 9th day of bright fortnight of Chet.
A fair is held at the different shrines of Vetals in Srinagar on the 6th day of dark fortnight in Baisakh.
A fair is held at Kothar, a village in Tehsil Anantnag on the 3rd day of bright fortnight of Baisakh.
A fair is held at the Ganesh Ghat in Srinagar on the 14th day of bright fortnight of Baisakh.
Three immense figures, stuffed with gun-powder, are made to represent Ravana, Kumbakarna and Meghanada and these are placed at the proper time in the center of a large open space without the city. To represent Rama, Sita and lakhshman, three little boys are splendidly dressed and carried in a palanquin to the same place. Crowds of people gather there and the Maharaja sends all the troops with the guns, etc. Of course at this moment the three monsters, ravana, Kumbakarna and Meghanada explode with a tremendous noise and then the guns rattle and the cannon roar and the people applause.
Art and Handicraft
The art of weaving carpets first came from Samarkand in central Asia and was later modified by artisans from Iran. The King Zain Ul Abidin brought the art to Kashmir.
The carpets are woven in various sizes and designs, they are either made of pur wool, wool with minoe percentage of silk, silk on cotton base and silk on silk. These carpets are used for the purpose of flooring or wall hanging. These carpets are knotted around four hundred knots or more per square inch and are priced according knots and the quality of material.
Plenty of willow grows in marshes and lakes of Kashmir, which are used to make charming objects, such as shopping baskets, lampshades, tables, chairs as well as number of other useable items. The main hub of this craft is Hazratbal in Srinagar.
These colorful floor coverings made from woolen and cotton fiber, pressed into shape manually with chain stitch embroided of various designs, make them very attractive. This handicraft is made and available everywhere in Kashmir valley, and is inexpensive comparing to carpet.
The basic papier-mâché article, made in a mould, is painted and polished in successive layers until the final intricate design is produced. Prices are generally dependent upon the complexity and quality of the painted design and on the amount of gold leaf used. The gold leaf is applied in tiny pieces to produce a leaf design or other pattern.
Papier-mâché is made into bowls, cups, containers, jewelry boxes, letters holders, tables, lamps, coasters, trays and so on.
Intricately carved designs are a hallmark of Kashmiri woodcraft. One can see the complex relief work on every houseboat. Look for tables, chests, boxes and screens. Woodcarving is relatively inexpensive and inlaid ivory is often incorporated into the design.
Walnut Wood Items
Walnut wood come from three parts of the tree: the branches, the trunk and the root. The branches have the palest color of wood, and the trunk the darkest. Branches have no veins; trunks have the strongest marked veins. Objects made out of the root will be the costliest because of the wood used.
As walnut is a soft wood, it takes carving very well. Chinar leaves, vine leaves and flowers can be either carved along borders or can fill entire surfaces. The artistry of the carving and its abundance dictates the cost. Trinket boxes and the larger jewelry boxes should have invisible seams. Other walnut wood objects are salad bowls, nut bowls, photo frames, trays and furniture that includes peg tables, rug boxes, bars, dining tables and chairs as well as number of other objects.
Shawl making has been a Kashmiri specialty for over 500 years. The word shawl was not used until 1533 when Nagz Beg of Khokand in central Asia came to Kashmir with his master, Mirza Haider Dughlat. Nagz Beg presented his master with a piece of Pashmina, and he asked Beg what it was. Beg replied a shawl, the name used by the people of Khokand for a blanket since then this type of weaving has been termed a shawl. The embroidered shawl or Amilkar was started by an artisan, Ala Baba, who covered up some footprints made by a fowl on his white material with colored thread.
Kashmiri shawls are noted for the extreme fineness of the cream colored goats wool known as Pashmina and for the intricate embroidery work. Pashmina is unmistakable for its softness. Pashmina yarn is spun from the hair of the ibex found at 14,000 ft above the sea level, although pure Pashmina is expensive, the cost is sometimes brought down by blending it with Rabbit fur or with wool.
There are three fibers from which the Kashmiri shawls are made- wool, Pashmina and Shahtoosh. The prices of three cannot be compared - woolen shawls being within the reach of the most modest budget, and Shahtoosh being an once-in-a-lifetime purchase.
Shatoosh - The Ring Shawl
Shahtoosh, the legendary 'ring shawl' is incredible for its lightness, softness and warmth. The astronomical price it commands in the market is due to the scarcity of raw material. High in the plateau of Tibet and the eastern part of Ladakh, at an altitude of above 5,000 meters, roam Pantholops Hodgosoni or Tibetan Antelope. During grazing, a few strands of the downy hair from the throat are shed and it is these, which are painstakingly collected until there are enough for a shawl.