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ABOUT SRINAGAR

Srinagar (pronounced Sree+nagar) (Dogri: श्रीनगर; Urdu: ÓÑیäÑ, Kashmiri: ÓöÑېäóóÑ श्रीनगर), is the summer capital of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir in India, and is situated in the valley of Kashmir. The city lies on both banks of the Jhelum River, a tributary of the Indus River. The city is famous for its lakes and houseboats floating on them. It is also known for traditional Kashmiri handicrafts and dry fruits. Srinagar is 876 kilometres (544 mi) north of Delhi. The headquarters of the Srinagar District are situated in the city.

HISTORY

The city was founded by the King Pravarasena II over 2,000 years ago, and the city of Srinagar has a long history, dating back at least to the 3rd century BC. 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.

The 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, a ruler who was tricked by Akbar when he failed to conquer Kashmir by force. Yusuf Shah Chak remains buried in Bihar in India. Akbar established Mughal rule in Srinagar and Kashmir valley.

When the disintegration of the Mughal Empire set forth 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. Raja Ranjit Singh in the year 1814 annexed a major part of the Kashmir Valley, including Srinagar, to his kingdom, 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 the several princely states of undivided India.


Srinagar city and its vicinity in 1959After, India’s independence, certain tribes, mostly Pashtun, actively supported by elements of the Pakistani forces, invaded the valley to wrest control, by armed force, of the city of Srinagar and the Valley. This was done in spite of the then ruler Maharaja Hari Singh having a solemn and sovereign assurance (of the British government) backed by the international law that all rulers of such states were free to remain as independent entities, or to choose to annex either to India or to Pakistan. In view of infiltration by armed forces and the possibility of his kingdom, including the city of Srinagar falling into the hands of the forces inimical to him, his kingdom and to the people of the valley, Hari Singh signed a covenant in late 1947 with the Government of India, which ensured integration of his kingdom into the newly formed Republic of India, conditioned on the requirement of having a plebiscite after any conflict had ended. Various historians, notably British historian Alaister Lamb, dispute the claim that the Maharaja signed any agreement at all.

The Government of India, in view of its obligation enjoined upon it subsequent to this covenant, immediately air-lifted Indian troops to Srinagar, and the city was flushed clean of the invading forces. In the meanwhile, the matter had been escalated to the United Nations, and a cease fire was imposed under its authority, resulting into certain parts of Hari Singh’s kingdom going out of his hands, which is now called Pakistan Occupied Kashmir by India and Azad Kashmir by Pakistan. The British Historian Alaister Lamb in his book claims that the troops were flown into Srinagar even before the alleged covenant was signed.

The city of Srinagar has thereafter remained administered by India. However, in a joint Indo-Pak poll it was revealed that 87% of the people of Srinigar want independence from India and Pakistan.

ECONOMY

Srinagar is the most 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 traveled 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.

With the colonization of India by the Europeans, particularly the British, the ruling elite as well as the rich Indians used to visit the city and the nearby locations during summers to avoid heat of the plains; and during winters to enjoy the snowfall.

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.

  • Intro Updated Jul 8, 2008
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