Kashmir, often called paradise on earth, Azad Jammu and Kashmir is the southern most political entity within the Pakistani controlled part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Azad Kashmir extends from the plains of Mirpur at the northern edge of the Punjab through the outlying foothills of the Himalayas, to the mountains in the north at 6,000 meters above sea level.
It borders the present-day Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir to the east (separated from it by the Line of Control), the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan to the west, the Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) to the north, and the Punjab Province of Pakistan to the south. With its capital at Muzaffarabad,
During the Mughal era, Kashmir was a relatively peaceful place as it was far from the central India. There are not many feats of Mughal construction found in Kashmir. However, the Kashmiri architecture could not free itself from the Mughal influence. This is a small, abandoned and not very much known fortress in Bhimber, Pakistani Administrated Kashmir. Looking closely at it will reveal its resemblances to the forts built by the Mughals. The central gate of the fortress is much like the gate of the Taj Mahal or the Badshahi Mosque. In Gulpur, Kotli, Azad Kashmir, an old Mughal era fort exists. If a fire is lit on top of that fortress, it could be seen in Rawalpindi, almost 200 kilometres from there. This was a way of communication and defence during the Mughal period.
At the time of independence of Pakistan, all Muslim majority areas were to become part of Pakistan. Kashmir, an 80% Muslim majority region did not become part of Pakistan. Currently, Pakistan administers 1/3 of Kashmir, also know as "Azad (Free) Kashmir."
Azad Kashmir has been considered politically, constitutionally and geographically as part of a separate state, i.e. Jammu & Kashmir. The said state is disputed territory and has been controlled by both Pakistan and India, since their independence, 14 / 15th August 1947, respectively. Azad Kashmir is under the indirect control of Pakistan and its area is known as Azad Jammu & Kashmir. Its defence, foreign policy and currency are the matters, which are under the direct control of Pakistan. Jammu and Areas of Kashmir valley are controlled by India.
The area of Azad Kashmir is 8214 square kilometers land strip in the shape of a crescent moon, 400 km in length with width varying from 15 to 60 km. The terrain is mostly rugged and mountainous with 15,000 feet high mountains in north-west touching the Punjab plains. The total length of roads in Azad Kashmir is 1170 km of metaled and 850 km of fair-weather roads in addition to 1330 km miles of link roads.
The area is crises-crossed with rivers and numerous nullahs. Roads are the only means of transport in Azad Kashmir and play a basic role in the development of the territory.
Pakistani administered Kashmir is nominally autonomous, with its own elected President, Prime Minister, Legislature, and High Court. The state is divided into two administrative divisions which in turn are composed of eight districts.
The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Council is a supreme body consisting of 11 members, six from the government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and five from the government of Pakistan. Its chairman/chief executive is the president of Pakistan. Other members of the council are the president and the prime minister of Azad Kashmir and a few other AJK ministers.
Consequently, the financial matter, i.e. budget and tax affairs have been dealt with Azad Jammu & Kashmir Council, instead of Central Board of Revenue.
Azad Kashmir has eight districts:
Muzaffarabad, Poonch, Bagh, Sudhanoti and Kotli districts fall into mountainous zone while Mirpur and Bhimber districts generally lie in foot-hills.These districts abound in natural beauty and rivers and streams flow throughout Azad Kashmir. All districts have lush green forests which provide cool breeze and foliage for the visitors. Roads are the only means of transport in Azad Kashmir and play a basic role in the development of the territory.
Azad Kashmir is cold and mountainous in the North whilst it has a hot and subtropical climate in the southern Mirpur regions. It also boasts some of Pakistan's most scenic mountains and river valleys. The region includes a significant part of the Himalayas, but does not include Nanga Parbat, the world's seventh highest mountain peak, which is in the "Northern Areas".
People and Culture:
Azad Jammu & Kashmir is a fascinating land of people, languages & culture. The texture of present population is composed of races claiming their descent from Semitic, Mongoloid, Aryans, Persians, Turks & Arabs. The people of districts Kotli, Mirpur & Bhimber, are sturdy, simple, truthful and deeply attached to their land. The culture of this area resembles to that of the adjoining area of Punjab. The people of districts Poonch, Bagh & Sudhanoti are militants and there are numerous anecdotes of their matchless valour as well as inspiring sacrifices for freedom. While district Muzaffarabad has its own distinctive culture. The people of the State are intelligent, ingenious, hardworking, mobile & skillful.
Kashmir, often called paradise on earth, is a rich green mountain region North of Pakistan. Physically scythe-shaped, The territory of Azad Kashmir is dotted with a vast chain of scenic and natural beauty spots amidst flowing streams, gushing springs and flowering plants. Azad Kashmir is rich in natural beauty. Its snow-covered peaks, forests, rivers, streams, valleys, velvet green plateaus and climate varying from arctic to tropical, join together to make it an excellent tourist attraction.
The valley rivals those of Kaghan and Swat in beauty and boasts of remarkable alpine scenery. It is bounded to the east by the line of control or (ceasefire line) with Indian held Kashmir.
Visit scenic valleys like Neelum, Jhelum, Leepa, Rawalakot,Tuli peer, Las dhana, Shairo Thara, Banjosa, Samahni, Baghser & Many more.
Azad Kashmir has varied mountainous landscape ranging from low hills to high mountains (2000 to 6000 m) which are suitable for adventure sports like climbing, trekking, mountaineering, summer camping and hiking. The mountain tops over the valley look like circular and rectangular caps. The panorama is really enchanting.
Azad Kashmir is drained by three major rivers, the Jhelum, the Neelam and the Poonch whose valleys are very beautiful. These Rivers & Streams are suitable for white water sports, especially rafting, canoing and kayaking.
It has a varied wildlife to see which includes Leopard, Himalayan Bear, Ibex, Grey Goral, Musk Deer, Kashmir Stag, Monal Pheasant, Western Tragopan, Snow Pheasant, Red-led Partridge, Black Koklas Pheasant, Peacock, Dusk Markhor etc.
Arts and Crafts:
Carving is a demonstration of the carver's skill; walnut being one of the strongest varieties of wood is eminently suitable for carving and is found in Kashmir. There are several varieties of carving. Deep carving, usually depicts dragon or lotus flower motif, two inch deep or more.
Kashmiri carpets are world famous for two things - they are hand made and knotted. Carpet weaving was not indigenous but is thought to have come from Persia. Designs are mostly Persian with local variations. The color schemes differentiate Kashmiri carpets from other carpets. The colors are subtle and muted. The knotting of a carpet is the most important aspect in carpet weaving. In addition to the design of the carpet, the knots per square inch determine the durability and the value of a carpet.
Stretched tightly on a frame is the warp of a carpet. The weft threads are passed through, the "talim" or design and color specifications are worked on this. A strand of yarn is looped through the warp and weft, knotted and then cut. The yarn used normally is silk, wool, or silk and wool. Woolen carpets always have a cotton base (warp & weft) and silk carpets usually have cotton base otherwise silk is used.
Far less expensive than carpets are these colorful floor coverings made from woollen and cotton fibres. The fibers are manually pressed into shape. Chain stitch embroidery in wool or cotton is worked on these rugs.
Chain stitch, be it in wool, silk or cotton is done by hook rather than a needle. The hook is referred as an "ari"; it covers a much larger area than needlework in the same amount of time and has the same quality. All the embroidery is executed on white cotton fabric, pre-shrunk by the manufactures. Tiny stitches are used to cover the entire area, the figures or motifs are worked in striking colors, the background in a single color comprising of series of coin sized concentric circles. These circles impart dynamism and a sense of movement to the design. This work is usually used for making wall hangings.
Crewelwork is similar to chain stitch, but here motifs are mainly stylized flowers which do not cover the entire area. Wool is invariably used in crewelwork and color is not as elaborate as chain stitch work. The fabric is available in bolts and makes good household furnishing.
Shawl There are two fibers from which Kashmiri shawls are made – wool and pashmina. Wool woven in Kashmir is known as "raffel" and is 100% pure wool. Many kinds of embroidery are worked on these shawls. First, "Sozni" is generally done in panels along the sides of the shawl. Motifs, usually abstract designs or stylized paisleys and flowers are worked in one or two, occasionally three colors. The stitch employed in not unlike stem stitch, only the outline of the design is embroidered. Sozni is often done so skillfully that the motif appears on both sides, each having different colors. Second, "Papier-Mache" is either done in broad panels on either side of the breadth of a shawl, or covers entire surface of a stole. Flowers and leaves are worked in satin stitch in different colors and each motif is outlined in black. Third, ari work is also done on shawls.
Pashmina is unmistakable for its softness. Pashmina yarn is spun from hair of Ibex found at 14,000 ft above sea level. It is on Pashmina shawls that Kashmir's most exquisite embroidery is worked, sometimes the entire surface, earning the name of "Jamawar." Not all pashmina shawls have such lavish work done on them; some are embroidered on a narrow panel bordering all four sides, others in narrow strips running diagonally through the shawl.
This garment is somewhere between coat and a cloak. It is eminently suited to the Kashmiri way of life, being loose enough to admit the inevitable brazier of live coals. Men's pherans are usually made of tweed or coarse wool, women's pherans are somewhat stylized, made from raffel with splashes of ari work around the edges.
A display of souvenirs made out of walnut wood:
Carving is a demonstration of the carver's skill; walnut being one of the strongest varieties of wood is eminently suitable for carving and is found in Kashmir. There are several varieties of carving. Deep carving, usually depicts dragon or lotus flower motif, two inch deep or more. Shallow carving, half an inch deep open to lattice work done all over the surface. Semi carving, a thin panel around the rim of the surface, with perhaps a center motif. The advantage of semi carving is that it allows the grain of the wood to be displayed
Walnut Wood The designs painted on the papier-mache objects are brightly colored and intricate. These vary in artistry and the choice of colors. Gold is used on most objects, either as the only color or as a highlight for certain motifs. Some of the objects with papier-mache designs are made up of cardboard and wood.
Willow rushes that grow plentifully in marshes and lakes in Kashmir are used to make charmingly quaint objects, ranging from shopping baskets and lampshades to table and chairs.
A replica of a Samovar (Used for brewing beverages and keeping them warm).
Copper and SilverWare:
The old city abounds with shops where objects of copper line the walls, the floor and even the ceiling, made generally for the local market. Craftsmen can often be seen engraving objects of household utility -- samovars, bowls, plates, and trays. Floral, stylized, geometric, leaf and sometimes caligraphic motifs are engraved or embossed on copper, and occasionally silver, to cover the entire surface with intricate designs which are then oxidized to stand out from the background. The work known as "naqash," determines the price of the object, as does the weight
Facts For The Visitors:
Tourists/Visitors from all parts of the State & Pakistan can visit Azad Jammu & Kashmir without any restriction. However, they are advised to keep their identity with them. Foreign tourists can visit Azad Kashmir except the areas situated 16 kilometers along the Line of Control (LoC). Foreigners before visiting Azad Kashmir should contact AJK Home Department at Muzaffarabad for issuance of NOC.
Azad Jammu & Kashmir is very rich in natural beauty. Its snow-covered peaks, dense forests, winding rivers, turbulent foaming streams, sweet-scented valleys, velvet green plateaus and climate varying from arctic to tropical, all join together to make it an excellent tourist resort. Valleys like Neelum, Jhelum, Leepa, Rawalakot, Banjosa, Samahni & Baghser unfold delightfull scenic beauty and provide a feast of pleasure to a discerning tourist's eyes.
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