People: The majority are Muslims living in the Kashmir
valley; culturally and ethnically, the closest links are with
peoples in the northwestern highlands of the Gilgit district in
the Pakistani sector. While Hindus dominate the Jammu region and
Ladakh is majorly influenced by the Trans-Himalayan Buddhism.
Kashmiri language is influenced by Sanskrit and belongs to the
Dardic branch of Indo-Aryan languages also spoken by the hill
tribes of Gilgit. The great majority of the population resides
in the lower reaches of the Vale. Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir is
the largest city located on the Jhelum River.
Srinagar, the capital, has a distinctly Central Asian look.
It stands on the Dal Lake ( most of the more modern houseboats
are located here) and the picturesque Jhelum River. Srinagar is
also considered to be a small-sized Lake District. The massive
Dal Lake, near the city and Nagin, the 'Jewel in the ring', a
smaller lake, to the north, is dotted with water lilies. The
lakes are mobile shops of moving shikaras. The old city has a
labyrinth of alleyways and mosques.
The ancient caves and temples of Kashmir, reveal a strong
link with Indian culture at the beginning of the Christian Era.
At one time the classical dances of the south are believed to
have been practiced. These arts survived only in folk forms and
were performed principally at marriage ceremonies. The popular
hafiza dance performed by Kashmiri women to the accompaniment of
sufiana kalam was later replaced by the bacha nagma, performed
by young boys dressed like women. The bhand jashna
("festival of clowns"), a 300- to 400-year-old genre
of Kashmiri folk theatre performed in village squares, satirizes
social situations through dance, music and clowning.
Srinagar possesses many specialized agricultural markets, retail
shopping centers, and associated industries. The industries have
developed from rural crafts and include handloom weaving of
local silk, cotton, and wool, carpet weaving, wood carving, and
leatherwork. Such industries, together with silverwork and
copperwork and jewellery, were stimulated by the presence of the
royal court and the tourist trade but also owe something to the
important position achieved by Srinagar in west Himalayan trade.