Iqbal Ahmad

The great travelogues have a mention of mine!

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Besides the physical evidences of the pristine glory and magnificence of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly Kashmir valley, this place has historically made it to the rich treasure of travelogues composed by the most famous and historically significant travelers across the globe. These are the historical accounts   put forth by the various travelers who visited Kashmir from the ancient times and the tradition continues till today. The foreign travelers during their respective visits made recordings of the lands and its people. These recording also served as the source to our history as some such attempts have also recorded the socio-political conditions of the people of this land.

The valley of Kashmir is enclosed by lofty mountains from all sides. It is a basin shaped valley. The broad outline of the mountain ranges of this most picturesque part of the land commences from Pir Panchal Range in the south and south west of the valley. These mountain ranges measure from 8000 ft to 15000 ft above sea level. The other most famous mountains are Nanga Purbat (26182 feet) to north and Harmukh (16903 feet) to east. The valley guarded by these mountain ranges is about 6000 ft. high from sea level and 84 miles approximately in length. Most of these statistics were recorded by the foreign travelers who made great attempts to visit the place across it length and breadth.

Buddhist Sutras mention it as the ‘land of blue forests fit for meditation’. From ancient times it attracted travelers from far off lands, the earliest mention is made in theaccounts of the Grecian geographers. Ptolemy’s Geography records mentions it as Kaspeiria. Another Greciantraveler,Hekataios, mentions it as a city of Gandharians. Herodotus (Historian) has also made a profound mention of this place in his accounts.

The Grecian travelers were succeeded by Chinese travelers. The most famous Chinese travelers who visited this land in 7th and 8th century respectively were Heun Tsang and Ou-Kong. They have given a more detailed description of this land.  AlBiruni, the Arabian traveler, who accompanied Mehmud of Ghazni, visited this land in 11th century AD. He has given a very good picture of Kashmiri’s political and geographical setup. In Mughal and later in British period, Kashmir served as a real holiday resort for Mughal and European travelers. These people made it as their summer residence as the north Indian plain during peak summers would experience scorching heat and Kashmir a state with a balanced, moderate climate offeredpleasant climate. Apart from its scenic beauty, travelers reaching here were also fascinated by the very culture of the people here and also the fine traditions of handicrafts and other artistic works.

Bernier, Stein, Priest, Forster, VigneMoorcraft, Hugel, Baron, Drew Lawrance, Cunnigham are a few among the most prominent European travelers who visited this land in 17th, 18th and 19th century AD. Their travel notes stand as the treasures of knowledge about Kashmir. Unfortunately this treasure is scattered and has neither been preserved nor printed for the masses to know these fascinating accounts of this land.  Efforts are needed to explore this treasure and not only preserve it but publish the same for people who could have a genuine glimpse of their past and heritage.







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