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Srinagar

Srinagar () is the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is situated in the Kashmir Valley and lies on the banks of the Jhelum River, a tributary of the Indus.[1] The city is famous for its gardens, lakes and houseboats. It is also known for traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and dry fruits.

Contents


Origin of name

Etymologically Srinagar is composed of two Sanskrit words, r (venerable) and nagar, which means "city". One theory of the origin of the name is that a Pandava King Ashoka (not to be confused with the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka) built the city of Srinagari (Srinagar).[2] Another theory is that Mauryan Emperor Ashoka founded the original city of Srinagar, then situated on the site of the present village of Pandrathan, 5 km to the north of the existing capital.[3]

History

Srinagar has a long history, dating back at least to the 3rd century BC, and has been known by different names. The city was founded by the King Pravarasena II over 2,000 years ago, named it Parvasenpur. The city was then a part of the Maurya Empire, one of the largest empires of the Indian subcontinent. Ashoka introduced Buddhism to the Kashmir valley, and the adjoining regions around the city became a centre of Buddhism. In the 1st century, the region was under the control of Kushans and several rulers of this dynasty strengthened the Buddhist tradition. Vikramaditya (of Ujjain) and his successors probably ruled the regions just before the city fell to the control of the Huns in the 6th century, and Mihirkula was the most dreaded ruler of the city and the valley.

Srinagar became the capital of Kashmir around 960 CE.[4] Some of the notable independent rulers were Lalit Aditya, Avantiverman and Sangrama Deva. The independent Hindu and the Buddhist rule of Srinagar lasted until the 14th century when the Kashmir valley, including the city, came under the control of the several Muslim rulers, including the Mughals. It was also the capital during the reign of Yusuf Shah Chak, an Independent Kashmiri ruler who was tricked by Akbar when Akbar failed to conquer Kashmir by force. Yusuf Shah Chak remains buried in Bihar in India. Akbar established Mughal rule in Srinagar and Kashmir valley.

With the disintegration of the Mughal empire after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, infiltrations to the valley from the Pashtun tribes increased, and the Durrani Empire ruled the city for several decades. Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab province annexed a major part of the Kashmir Valley, including Srinagar, to his kingdom in the year 1814 and the city came under the influence of the Sikhs. In 1846, the Treaty of Lahore was signed between the Sikh rulers and the British in Lahore. The treaty inter alia provided British de-facto suzerainty over the Kashmir Valley and installed Gulab Singh as an independent and sovereign ruler of the region. Srinagar became part of his kingdom and remained until 1947 as one of several princely states in British India. The Maharajas choose Sher Garhi Palace as their main Srinagar residence.

Srinagar city and its vicinity in 1959
Srinagar city and its vicinity in 1959

After India and Pakistan's independence from Britain, certain Pashtun tribes such as Mehsud and Afridi from mountainous region of north west frontier province (NWFP) of Pakistan, at the instigation of Pakistan and with its collusion, entered the Kashmir valley to capture it.[5]

The Maharaja signed the instrument of accession on 26 October 1947 which was accepted by India the next day. The government of India immediately airlifted Indian troops to Srinagar, defended the city and drove away the invaders.

The city has suffered from severe political and terrorist unrest during the last decades. Kashmiri separatists have clashed with Indian army on some occasions. The city is heavily militarized.

Geography

Map of Kashmir showing disputed territory
Map of Kashmir showing disputed territory

  • Location:
  • Highest temperature: ; lowest [6]

The city is located on both the sides of the Jhelum River which is called Vyath in Kashmir. The river passes through the city and meanders through the valley, moving onward and deepening in the Wular Lake. The city is famous for its nine old bridges, connecting the two parts of the city.

Hokersar is a wetland situated near Srinagar. Thousands of migratory birds come to Hokersar from Siberia and other regions in the winter season. Migratory birds from Siberia and Central Asia use wetlands in Kashmir as their transitory camps between September and October and again around spring. These wetlands play a vital role in sustaining a large population of wintering, staging and breeding birds.

Hokersar is north of Srinagar, and is a world class wetland spread over including lake and marshy area. It is the most accessible and well-known of Kashmir's wetlands which include Hygam, Shalibug and Mirgund. A record number of migratory birds have visited Hokersar in recent years.season.

Birds found in Hokersar Migratory ducks and geese which include Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeon.

Climate

Srinagar has a humid subtropical climate (K ppen Cfa), with a climate much cooler than what is found in much of the rest of India, due to its moderately high elevation and northerly position. The valley is surrounded by Himalayas on all sides. Winters are cool, with a January daily mean of , and temperature remains below freezing at night. Moderate to heavy snowfall is expected in winters and the only road that connects Srinagar with the rest of India may get blocked a few days due to avalanche. Summers are warm with a July daily mean of . The average annual rainfall is around . Spring is the wettest season while autumn is the driest.

Economy

Market boats on Mal Canal in Srinagar.
Market boats on Mal Canal in Srinagar.
Srinagar is the pivotal centre of the economy of the Kashmir Valley, and it has remained a tourist destination for centuries. The valley has attracted rulers from the plains of India for a long time and they travelled to the valley and the city to avoid the hot summers of the Indo-Gangetic plains. The city remained on the itinerary of the Mughal ruling elite, and several Mughal emperors and their consorts had visited the city, and several Mughal gardens in and around the city indicate their close association with Srinagar.

The hinterland of Srinagar is the most populous part of the Kashmir valley, and crops like wheat and rice are cultivated for local consumption. Orchards produce a number of fruits, particularly apples. Another significant segment of the economy include handicrafts, weaving of woolen shawls and dress materials, and woodcarving. Srinagar and the surrounding areas serve as collecting points from where fruits and handicraft products are taken to several parts of the Indian subcontinent.

In November 2011, the City Mayors Foundation - an advocacy think tank  announced that Srinagar was the 92nd fastest growing urban areas in the world in terms of economic growth, based on actual data from 2006 onwards and projections to 2020.[7]

Tourism

Srinagar, Sunset on Dal Lake.
Srinagar, Sunset on Dal Lake.
Dal Lake, going from the Mughal Gardens side back to Srinagar.
Dal Lake, going from the Mughal Gardens side back to Srinagar.
Tourism is the most significant segment of the city's economy. Srinagar is a gateway to some of the most scenic and beautiful places of the Indian subcontinent. The hill station and skiing resort Gulmarg is 50 km from the city. For decades, tourism has been contributing massively to the economy of the city, but it has been adversely affected on account of insurgent activities by certain elements. The areas on the outskirts of Srinagar are also famous for their natural beauty. Also in this area lies the Muzaffarabad Cantonement, which is the main cantonement of the Indian Army in Srinagar District(the name of the Cantt. is often confused with Muzaffarabad city which is a separate city in Pakistan administered Kashmir)

Srinagar is well known for its lakes. Dal Lake is known for its houseboats. Nagin Lake is another famous lake in the city.

Houseboats were introduced accidentally to Kashmir: members of the Indian Civil Service of the British Raj serving in the plains who vacationed in Kashmir were not permitted to build permanent homes because of the then Maharaja's suspicion of a British presence in Srinagar. They thus chose to live in houseboats. The first such, named Victory, was designed by Mr MT Kenhard in 1888. There are now about five hundred on the Lake.

Srinagar has some Mughal gardens, forming a part of those laid by the Mughal emperors across the Indian subcontinent. Those of Srinagar and its close vicinity include Chashma Shahi (the royal fountains); Pari Mahal (the palace of the fairies); Nishat Bagh (the garden of spring); Shalimar Bagh; and the Naseem Bagh. The Tulip Gardens have been recently opened to public by Sonia Gandhi.

It has been called the "Venice of the East" or the "Kasmiri Venice"[8][9][10]

The Sher Garhi Palace houses administrative buildings from the state government. Another palace of the Maharajas, the Gulab Bhavan, has now become the Lalit Grand Palace hotel.

Government and politics

The city is run by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). The Srinagar district along with the adjoining Budgam district forms the Srinagar Parliamentary seat.

Stray dog controversy

Srinagar's city government attracted brief international attention in March 2008 when it announced a mass poisoning program aimed at eliminating the city's population of stray dogs.[11] Officials estimate that 100,000 stray dogs roam the streets of the city, which has a human population of just under 900,000. In a survey conducted by an NGO, it was found that some residents welcomed this program, saying the city was overrun by dogs, while critics contended that more humane methods could have been used to deal with the animals.

Demographics

As of 2011 census, Srinagar city's population was 1,192,792 and Srinagar urban agglomeration had 1,273,312 population.[12] The population density in the city is while the overall population density is . The languages spoken are mainly Kashmiri, Urdu and English. Muslims make up more than 97% of the population, Hindus 2% and Sikhs and others 1%.

Males constituted 53.0% and females 47.0% of the population. Sex ratio was just 888 females per 1,000 males compared to national average 940. Srinagar had an average literacy rate of 62.2%, lower than the national average of 64.3%. Male literacy was 67.9%, and female literacy was 55.7%. Children under six years of age numbered 148,178 and were 12.4% of the population in 2011.

Transport

Road

A dual lane road in Srinagar Srinagar International Airport A Passenger Train at Srinagar Railway Station

The city is served by many highways, including National Highway 1A and National Highway 1D

Air

Srinagar Airport (IATA code SXR) has regular domesitc flights to Leh, Jammu, Chandigarh and Delhi and occasional international flights. The International flights terminal was inaugurated on 14 February 2009 with an Air India flight from Dubai.

Rail

Srinagar is a station on the long Kashmir railway that started in October 2009 and connects Baramulla to Srinagar, Anantnag and Qazigund. The railway track will connect to Banihal across the Pir Panjal mountains through the newly constructed 11km long Banihal tunnel in 2012 and finally to Indian railway network after a few years.

Boat

Boats are often used for transport, as the city is situated on the Jhelum River and Dal Lake.

Culture

Like the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar too has a distinctive blend of cultural heritage. Holy places in and around the city depict the historical cultural and religious diversity of the city as well as the Kashmir valley.

Places of worship

Hazratbal Shrine built in around 1700 A.D.
Hazratbal Shrine built in around 1700 A.D.
The Shankaracharya temple built in around 200 B.C
The Shankaracharya temple built in around 200 B.C

There are many religious holy places in Srinagar. They include:

Performing arts

Performing arts of the city include:

  • Bhand Pather, a form of traditional folk theatre art form of play and dance, is performed by a group of about ten to fifteen artists. They depict in a satirical style social evils. Performance is accompanied by light music.
  • Chakri is a major and popular form of Kashmiri folk music.
  • Another form of Kashmiri genre of music called Sufiana music is also practiced in the city. It was introduced in the valley in the 15th century from Iran. Over centuries, it has assimilated a number of Indian Ragas, and has established itself as a classical music of the region. The instruments used in the music include Santoor, Sitar, Kashmiri Saz, Tabla, and Wasool.
  • Hafiz Nagma, a form of dance, is performed to the accompaniment of Sufiana music. The dancer is a female while males play different instruments used in Sufiana music.
  • Rouf is also an important foulk dance kashmiri women do in marriages or on the eve of IDD/EID. All women's hands on another women's shoulders moving to and fro.

Education

Media

Four FM frequencies are available in the city. However, only two bids were received by the government. Adlabs is the only FM radio operator in Srinagar (its bid was Rs. 61 lakh). The second bidder South Asia FM did not qualify because its bid was less than 25 per cent of the highest bidder, the minimum amount to be eligible for bidding.[13]

Sports

Adventure sports are popular among tourists. Dal Lake has potential for canoeing and water skiing. Water trekking is local name for three to four day trip along the Jhelum River to various lakes in a shikara with camping gear. Dachigam National Park () and Pahalgam () are popular destinations for hikers, trekkers and fishers. The city is home to the Sher-i-Kashmir Stadium, a stadium where international cricket matches have been played.

Sports like football and cricket are popular.

Srinagar has an outdoor stadium namely Bakshi Stadium for football named after the name of Bakshi ghulam Mohammed .

See also

References

  1. http://www.world-gazetteer.com/wg.php?x=&men=gcis&lng=en&dat=32&geo=-104&srt=npan&col=aohdq&pt=c&va=&srt=pnan
  2. http://www.stanford.edu/group/hsc/kashmir/History%20of%20Kashmir.pdf
  3. http://www.stanford.edu/group/hsc/kashmir/Brief%20history%20of%20Kashmir.pdf
  4. http://www.kashmir-information.com/KoshSam/Kashmir_Affairs.html The Story of Kashmir Affairs - A Peep into the Past
  5. BBC - Weather - Average Conditions have moved!
  6. The Sydney Morning Herald - Google News Archive Search
  7. MSNBC: Indian authorities to poison 100,000 stray dogs
  8. FM radio: Govt to garner Rs 84 cr

External links

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