Geography and History of Kashmir

Interesting Facts About the Region

evening view of Kashmir
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Kashmir is a region located in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. It includes the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir as well as the Pakistani states of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. The Chinese regions of Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram are also included in Kashmir. Currently, the United Nations refers to this region as Jammu and Kashmir.

Until the 19th century, Kashmir geographically included the valley region from the Himalayas to the Pir Panjal mountain range. Today, however, it has been extended to include the aforementioned areas. Kashmir is significant to geographic studies because its status is disputed, which often causes conflict to develop in the region. Today, Kashmir is administered by India, Pakistan and China.

Historical Facts About Kashmir

Historical documents state that the region of present-day Kashmir was formerly a lake, thus its name is derived from several translations that deal with water. Kaashmir, a term used in the religious text Nilamata Purana, means for example "a land desiccated from water."

Kashmir's old capital, Shrinagari, was first founded by the Buddhist emperor Ashoka and the region served as a center of Buddhism. In the 9th century, Hinduism was introduced to the area and both religions thrived.

In the 14th century, the Mongol ruler, Dulucha invaded the Kashmir region. This ended the Hindu and Buddhist rule of the area and in 1339, Shah Mir Swati became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. Throughout the rest of the 14th century and into subsequent times, Muslim dynasties and empires successfully controlled the Kashmir region. By the 19th century, though, Kashmir was passed to the Sikh armies that were conquering the area.

Beginning in 1947 at the end of England's rule of India, the Kashmir region was given the choice to become a part of the new Union of India, the Dominion of Pakistan or to remain independent. Around this same time, however, both Pakistan and India attempted to gain control of the area and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 began which lasted until 1948 when the region was partitioned. Two more wars over Kashmir took place in 1965 and 1999.

Today's Geography of Kashmir

Today, Kashmir is divided among Pakistan, India and China. Pakistan controls the northwestern part, while India controls the central and southern portions and China controls its northeastern areas. India controls the largest portion of land at 39,127 square miles (101,338 sq km) while Pakistan controls an area of 33,145 square miles (85,846 sq km) and China 14,500 square miles (37,555 sq km).

The Kashmir region has a total area of about 86,772 square miles (224,739 sq km) and much of it is undeveloped and dominated by large mountain ranges such as the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges. The Vale of Kashmir is located between mountain ranges and there are also several large rivers in the region. The most populated areas are Jammu and Azad Kashmir. The main cities in Kashmir are Mirpur, Dadayal, Kotli, Bhimber Jammu, Muzaffrarabad and Rawalakot.

Kashmir's Climate

Kashmir has a varied climate but in its lower elevations, summers are hot, humid and dominated monsoonal weather patterns, while winters are cold and often wet. In the higher elevations, summers are cool and short, and winters are very long and very cold.


Kashmir's economy is mostly made up of agriculture that takes place in its fertile valley areas. Rice, corn, wheat, barley, fruits and vegetables are the main crops grown in Kashmir while lumber and the raising of livestock also play a role in its economy. In addition, small-scale handicrafts and tourism are important to the area.

Ethnic Groups in Kashmir

Most of Kashmir's population is Muslim. Hindus also live in the region and the main language of Kashmir is Kashmiri.


In the 19th century, Kashmir was a popular tourist destination because of its topography and climate. Many of Kashmir's tourists came from Europe and were interested in hunting and mountain climbing.

Resources and Further Reading

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Briney, Amanda. "Geography and History of Kashmir." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Briney, Amanda. (2020, August 27). Geography and History of Kashmir. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography and History of Kashmir." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2023).