Kashmir, if literally translated, means land desiccated from water: “Ka” (the water) and shimeera (to desiccate). Tradition says that Kashmir was originally a lake that was drained by the great saint of ancient India Kashyap. It was included in the empire of Ashoka Maurya who is credited with the foundation of the city of Srinagar around the year 250 BC. During this period Buddhism spread in Kashmir and flourished under the Kushans. During the reign of Kanishka, the third Buddhist council took place in Kashmir which has been attested by the 7th century Chinese traveler Hien Tsang. But Hinduism held its sway in the region. The 7th Century AD witnessed the establishment of a dynasty called the Karkota whose foundation stone was laid by Durlabhavarrdhana.
The most famous ruler of this dynasty was Lalitaditya Muktapid who built the world famous sun temple (Martand) in Kashmir. The Karkotas were supplemented by the Utpalas in 855 AD. The most important ruler of this dynasty was Avanti-verman. He recovered Kashmir from utter political and economic disorder into which Kashmir had fallen during the rule of his predecessors. Didda, a Gupta widowed queen, ruled Kashmir until 1003 AD when the Lohara dynasty took over. The last Hindu ruler of Kashmir was Udyan Dev. His Chief Queen Kota Rani was the de-facto ruler of the kingdom. With her death in 1339 the Hindu rule in Kashmir came to an end and thus was established the Muslim rule in Kashmir under Sultan Shamas-ud-din-whose dynasty ruled the valley for 222 years. The greatest ruler of this dynasty was undoubtedly Sultan Zain-ul-Abdin. Under his rule, Kashmir was culturally and politically at its zenith. He was essentially a man of secular out-look and patronized all faiths and religions alike. He made Kashmir the centre of a great culture and worked hard to promote learning and to build up the economy of the people. Badshah was not anxious for the expansion of his dominion but was equally reluctant to part with the territories which belonged to Kashmir and were of a strategic importance.
The Chiefs of Ladakh and Baltistan who had acknowledged their allegiance to Shahab-ud-Din and Sikandar his predecessors had, however, declared themselves independent during the weak rule of Ali Shah. He, therefore, set out with his army and made a Bumlde IV, Raja of Ladakh, to recognize his sovereignty. The ruler of Baltistan also followed suit and surrendered. He next captured the town of Kulu which was till then in the possession of Ladakhis. After these achievements, Badhshah proceeded to subdue the ruler of Ohind who had also declared himself independent during the reign of Ali Shah. As before, the ruler of Ohind was defeated and agreed to acknowledge the sovereignty of the king of Kashmir. Badshah also exchanged embassies with various foreign countries. In particular, he deputed his envoys to Khurasan, Egypt, Mecca, Rukh, son of Timur, were most cordial. Budshah took a series of measures for development of Agriculture trade and Commerce. He constructed many irrigation canals.
As a result of these works and the reclamation of vast areas, Kashmir became self-sufficient in food. According to Moorcroft, Kashmir produced as much as 5.50 lakh tons of rice per year during the time of Badshah. The Kingdom was annexed into the Mughal Empire in 1586. In 1757 Kashmir came under the control of Ahmed Shah Durrani, the Afghan who invaded India many times. In 1819 Kashmir was annexed by Ranjit Singh and made a part of his Sikh empire. The two Anglo-Sikh wars fought between the Sikhs and Ranjit Singh resulted in the complete extinction of the Sikh sovereignty in Kashmir. The British gave away Kashmir to Ghulab Singh for the sum of 75 lakhs of rupees under the Treaty of Amritsar. He extended his territory by annexing Ladakh. Ghulab Singh died in 1857 and was replaced by Ranbir Singh (1857-1885).
Two other Marajahs, Partab Singh (1885-1925) and Hari Singh ruled in succession. Maharaja Sir Hari Singh ascended the throne in 1925. He continued to govern the state till 1950. In 1932 Kashmir’s first political party-all Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference was formed by Sheikh Abdullah. The party was later renamed the National Conference in 1939 and continues to be a major political party in Kashmir today. After Indian Independence in 1947, the ruler of the princely state of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, refused to accede to either India or Pakis
tan. When Pakistan invaded Kashmir in the following year, the ruler of Kashmir sought help from the Indian government and agreed to place Kashmir under the dominion of India. In 1956 Kashmir was integrated into the Indian Union under a new Constitution. However, PoK Kashmir continued to be under illegal occupation of Pakistan. Kashmir was a tourist’s paradise during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. However tourism in Kashmir declined during the late 1980’s and 1990’s, due to disturbances. The situation has improved and it is hoped that peace will return to Kashmir-followed by tourists, who remember its beautiful parks, Rolling Meadows, spectacular mountains and scenic destinations with nostalgia.