Cradled in the lap of the majestic Himalayas, Kashmir is the arguably most beautiful place in the world.
Kalhan, the greatest historian of India refers to Kashmir in the following words:
"It is a country where the sun shines mildly, being the place created by Rishi Kashyap, for his glory - big and lofty houses, learning, Saffron, icy cool water and grapes rare in Heaven are plentiful here - Kailash is the best place in the three worlds (Tri-lok), Himalayas the best place in Kailash, and Kashmir the best place in Himalayas".
The greatest Sanskrit poet Kalidasa writes about the valley:
"The place is more beautiful than the heaven and is the benefactor of supreme bliss and happiness. It seems to me that I am taking a bath in the lake of nectar here."
After reading these lines, no one should be left with any doubt about the fact that Kashmir is the most beautiful place in the world.
Kashmir is the only region of India to have a historical record of its distant past. Such is not the case with the other parts of India which led to the 11th century, the Islamic scholar Alberuni to remark that Indians lack a sense of history. Kashmir has also the distinction of producing historians of repute. Chief among them is Kalhan, the author of Rajatarangini. Bilhana was another Sanskrit historian who was born in Kashmir. The court poet at Kalyana in the South India, he authored Vikramankadeva-charita to celebrate the reign of Vikramaditya VI, the Chalukya king of Kalyana.
After Indian Independence in 1947, the ruler of the princely state of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, refused to accede to either India or Pakistan. 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. As a result India sent its troops to Kashmir to help the Maharaja. A UN cease-fire in 1949 saw the end of fighting and created the first Line-of-Control.
In 1956 Kashmir was, in effect, integrated into the Indian Union under a new Constitution. However, Azad Kashmir, the area which Pakistan gained during its campaign in 1948, continues to remain with Pakistan. The volatile situation was aggravated by the Chinese occupation of the Aksai Chin region, in Ladakh, in 1959. The situation came to head in 1963 when a Sino-Pak agreement defined the Chinese border with Pakistani Kashmir and ceded Indian-claimed territory to China.
India and Pakistan fought over Kashmir again in 1965. A UN cease-fire took effect in September, 1965. Prime Minister Lal Bhadur Shastri of India and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan signed the Tashkent agreement on 1st January 1966. They resolved to try to end the dispute by peaceful means.
Fighting erupted between India and Pakistan once again in the month of December 1971, after the leaders of the independence movement in East Pakistan sought India's help. Its leaders were aided by India in their struggle for independence. After the war, the province of East Pakistan emerged as an independent country called Bangladesh. A new cease-fire took effect and the Shimla Agreement was signed between the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Pakistani President Z. A. Bhutto. Both the countries agreed to sort out all issues bilaterally.
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 the terror perpetrated by separatist militants and self-styled freedom fighters. Victimized by Islamic fundamentalists and mercenaries, thousands of innocent Kashmiri lives have been lost due to terrorism. Today the situation has somewhat improved with both countries agreeing to come to the negotiating table and discuss all outstanding issues with an open mind. All this augurs well for the state of Jammu and Kashmir and hopefully, peace will return to Kashmir - followed by tourists, who remember its beautiful parks, rolling meadows, spectacular mountains and scenic destinations with nostalgia.