About > Valley of Kashmir

Kashmir, the Valley surrounded by the mountain range which touches the heavens, has been inhabited for over two millennia. Its beauty has enchanted the indigenous population, as well as cast its spell on visitors. Kashmiri arts, including literature and poetry, seemingly swoon in love for the Valley.

The Mughals who held a special place for the Valley declared it ‘paradise on earth’, and their adoration was reflected in the exquisite gardens they designed to complement the already serene landscape, as well as their many contributions to the Kashmiri handicrafts including paper mache and especially shawls.  To this day Nishat, Shalimar, Pari Mahal and other gardens stand as monuments of their affection for the land that captured their hearts. The Mughal ruler Jahangir, who visited Kashmir in 1589 with his father Akbar, stated he would rather loose all of the provinces in his formidable empire, than be denied the ability to visit his beloved Kashmir.

Early Europeans were taken aback by the inhabitants and natural splendor in Kashmir.  They described the environment amorously, and grasping for descriptions of the Valley that their countrymen could relate to, dubbed the Valley the ‘Switzerland of Asia’ (as a result of the mountainous beauty) and the ‘Venice of Asia’ (the Valley used to have waterways throughout the main cities, in fact traveling via boat was more common than car until relatively recently).

How wondrous and remarkable that this Valley has had such a robust impact in the arts and crafts and designs in the region and indeed the world. While the beauty of the Valley has remained, the present situation for the inhabitants cannot be described in such glowing terms. Let us now turn our attention to Kashmir, and learn more about this special place and the it’s present condition.

Where is Kashmir?
Before going further we should define the term ‘Kashmir’ itself, which can be a source of confusion since ’Kashmir’ is a term that describes both a region of the word, as well as the Valley of Kashmir.

The region of Kashmir is generally used to denote the borders of the princely state of Kashmir which, since the partition of the Indian sub-continent, now spans three countries, India, Pakistan and China. This ‘Greater’ Kashmir region is composed of several sub-regions, each with very different cultures. For example in India, the state of Jammu and Kashmir includes Ladakh in the east which is culturally very similar to Tibet, while in the south, Jammu is culturally closely aligned with northern India.  

When one speaks of Kashmiri culture, they are speaking not of the entire region, but specifically the Valley of Kashmir. It is in the Valley where the Kashmiri language is spoken, Kashmiri traditions exist, and the Kashmiri handicrafts have developed. The Valley has historically been recognized as possessing a cultural identity that is unique in South and Central Asia. it has also had a history quite separate from the rest of the sub-continent. 

It is in the Valley of Kashmir where Paisley Valley is focused on providing sustainable and significant support to established cooperatives who are working to improve lives there.


UN Map
Sattelite Map

Population and Area
The Valley, which is in the Indian administered area, is about 80 miles long and 35 miles wide (130 x 55 km) with a total area of about 6,155 square miles (15,948 square kilometers). As can be expected, since it is in the Himalayas, the elevation is quite high, with an average of 5,500 feet (1,675 m.). The population is approximately 5.5 million, and the largest city is the capital of Srinagar with about 1 million inhabitants.

Paisley Valley, as well as the cooperatives in Kashmir, are non-political entities, so we don't want to delve deeply into this subject; however it is important to recognize that the region is the center of one of the most intensely contested territorial disputes. Four wars have been fought in the past 50 years over this area (three between India and Pakistan, and one between India and China), and some consider the situation one of the most dangerous in the world since both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. As a result of the dispute, many have lost their lives, and economic development has lagged. Those who live in this region have suffered, both from a humanitarian and economic perspective.

Economic Situation
For 2004-2005 the nationwide per capita income in India was 23,222 rupees (~$517), which represented an increase of 9.8% from the previous year (as per the report from the Indian Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation). The state of Jammu and Kashmir had a per capita income of 16,190 rupees (~$360), which represented an increase of 5.7%.

Thus, Kashmir had a per capita income and percentage increase in the income that was approximately 30% and 42% lower than the national average of India respectively. Due to the relatively unstable security situation in Kashmir, especially in the past 20 years, there has been very little private industry and thus a high rate of unemployment.


Per Capita Income

Change vs. previous year

India Avg.

23,222 IR (~$517)



16,190 IR (~$360)


Kashmir vs. India Avg.



It is our hope that through our small efforts of promoting Fair Trade goods, we will be able to provide much needed economic assistance to the Valley in the form of ample and stable incomes. The cooperatives are fulfilling a critical role in the Valley; by empowering the producers (and in many cases providing social services) they are ensuring that lives are affected in a constructive and vital way.  One of the cornerstones of a stable society is economic development, and providing this in a fair manner is what we hope to achieve.

Below are some pictures of Kashmir, ranging from the landscape to people, we hope they will provide some perspective on the people and the land.

A shikara (traditional boat) on Dal Lake

Shikaras for hire

Dal Lake at night

View of famous houseboats on Dal lake

Mountains surrounding Dal Lake

Nishat Mughal Garden



Pari Mahal-Sunset

Pari Mahal-Solace

Pari Mahal view of Dal Lake

Tea Time at the gardens

Jamia in Srinagar


Jhelum River-Srinagar

Jamia in Srinagar

Chesmeshai Mughal Garden

Terraced Rice fields

Wazwan-wedding feast

Wedding Henna

Traditional Kashmiri architecture (note the pagoda style)

Wedding tent with crewel work curtains

Tesh Neur

House illuminated for a wedding

Wedding celebration

A welcoming Kashmiri

Honeybee Keeper

Kashmiri villagers

Milkman with delivery

Kashmiri Children in traditional Pheron (cloak)

Curious Kashmiri boy

Glacier fed rivers

Resting in Gulmarg

Horseback riding

Gypsy huts in Gulmarg

Scenery in Gulmarg

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