Geography Of Jammu And Kashmir, And Ladakh

Geography Of Jammu And Kashmir, And Ladakh


The Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh are situated within the Himalayan mountain system forming the northern most part of India. These Union Territories are blessed with lofty snow-clad peaks, deep gorges, glaciers, lush green meadows and beautiful valleys full of Chinar trees, fresh water lakes, plenty of flora and fauna. In this chapter, location, physiography, climate, natural vegetation and drainage have been discussed, which are important attributes of the geography of a place.

The Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir is the second Northernmost Union territory of India. It lies in the Himalayan mountains. It consists of Valleys, hills, Uplands and plains.

1. Location Of Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir lied between 32°17′ N and 36°58′ N latitudes and 73°26′ E and 80°30′ E longitudes. The state,earlier had an area of 222236 sq km (in 1947).

After its reorganisation in 2019, the area of the JK Union territory has shrunk to less than one fourth of the above area. Its area now is 42241 square kilometres. The Jammu division has an area of 26293 where as the Kashmir division has an area of 15948

2. Boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir

The UT of Jammu and Kashmir shares its borders with Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in the South, Pakistan in the West. The Jammu and Kashmir Union territory does not share its border with Afghanistan in the North, and with China in the North-East, as was the case earlier. Now, in the north-east of Jammu and Kashmir UT, there lies the Ladakh UT.

3. Physiography Of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh

The Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh have been divided into following six physical divisions:
I. The Outer Plains.
II. The Shiwaliks.
III. The Middle Himalayas.
IV. The Valley of Kashmir
V. The Greater Himalayas.
VI. The Ladakh Region.

I. The Outer Plains:-

The Outer Plains are part of the Northern Plains of India and they were formed by the eroded material brought down by the rivers like Chenab, Ravi, Ujh, Basantar etc.

These plains stretch from River Ravi to the River Chenab for a distance of 110 km, with an elevation of 330m to 360m above mean sea level; covering parts of Jammu region like Akhnoor, Ranbir Singh Pura, Samba and Kathua.

These plains are highly fertile and are known for the cultivation of rice and wheat.

They are locally known as “Anderwah” or “Bajwat”. They are traversed by seasonal hill torrents called “Khad”.

II. The Shiwaliks:-

Towards north of the Outer Plains lies the youngest mountains of the sub-continent called Shiwalik Hills.

They are also known as foothills of Himalays and are made up of younger tertiary rocks.

These mountains are 20-50 kms wide and 600-1220 meters above the mean sea level.

Jammu- the City of Temples and the two famous lakes Mansar and Surinsar lie in the vicinity of these mountains. The rolling slopes between Ravi and Chenab Rivers are called Kandi.

III. The Middle Himalayas:-

They are also known as Lesser Himalays.

The Middle Himalayas are located between River Ravi in the East and Poonch in the West. It comprises of two important ranges namely Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges. These ranges are known as “pahar” in Jammu region. The range houses Trikuta mountain, in which the world famous Vaishno Devi cave is situated.The elevation of this physiographic division is between 1820 to 3600 meters above mean sea level with width of about 10 to 60 kms across.They are covered by forests of Deodar, Pine and Fir. Jammu-Srinagar National Highway passes through these mountains at Patnitop. Some of the important towns of this region are Banihal, Ramban, Kishtwar, Doda, Batote and Rajouri.

IV. The Valley of Kashmir:-

The deep asymmetrical bowl-shaped Valley of Kashmir situated in the north-western part of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is situated between Pir-Panjal and Great Himalays.

The valley is around 130 Kms long and 40 Kms wide. River Jhelum is the main river of the valley. 

This region contains extensive elevated plateaus locally known as Karewas. They are of alluvial and lacustrine (lake deposits) deposits.

Within the Valley of Kashmir, there are some important side valleys like Lidder Valley, Sind Valley and Lolab Valley.

Politically, it is divided into 10 districts. They are Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam, Srinagar, Pulwama, Kupwara, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Kulgam and Shopian.

V. The Greater Himalayas:-

The Greater Himalayas lie to the north of the Pir panjal and Dhauladhar ranges. They form the northern flank of the valley with an average elevation of 4500 to 6000 meters above mean sea level.

Nanga Parbat is the highest mountain peak of this region in Greater Himalayas. Zojila and Razdan Pass are the important passes connecting valley with Ladakh and Gurez respectively.

The famous Amarnath cave is also situated in this range.

The Greater Himalayas prevent the cold winds of Central Asia from entering the India.

VI. The Ladakh Region:

The Ladakh region is the cold desert having very low rainfall (less than 25 cm per annum) and scanty vegetation.

River Indus is the main river of this region. Leh town is situated in its vicinity at about 3500 meters above mean sea level.

Summers are short and warm, winters are long and extremely cold.

The coldest place Drass, where the temperature during the winters falls below-400C is located in this region. Sindh valley, Drass, Kargil, Zanskar region, Nubra valley and Chanthang region are important divisions of Ladakh plateau.

4. Famous Mountains In Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir is a mountainous state and mountains have a great importnace for the state. Some of the famous mountains are discussed below:

1. Amarnath

This mountain is located in Ganderbal district of Jammu Kashmir UT and has an elevation of 5186m. It is famous for Amarnath cave, where god is worshipped in a lingashaped ice block. This cave is visited by pilgrims on the full moon day of the month of Sawan (july-August), every year.

It is situated in the south of Zojila pass and west of Machoi glacier. It can be reached either through Pahalgam route or Sonamarg route (Baltal). The Sonamarg route is shorter than the Pahalgam route by 20km.

The melt water flowing down this mountain on Sonamarg side forms Sind river.

The mountain houses Lidder valley, where Gwasharan is located towards pahalgam. This mountain houses Kolhai Glacier and Sheeshnag Peak. Sheeshnag peak is named so, as its head resembles the heads of seven big snakes. On the foothills of Sheshnag peak, there is a Sheshnag lake.

2. Afarwat

This mountain spreads across the Gulmarg valley. This mountain houses Alpathar spring, from which Nullah Nagal flows down to join Wular lake.

3. Burzil

This mountain separates Kashmir from Ladakh and it can be crossed through Burzil pass, which is an ancient and caravan route in Pakistan. This pass connects Srinagar with Gilgit.

4. Nanga Parbat

The Nanga Parbat (8126 m) is an important range which is in The Zaskar Range. This mountain lies in Gilgit. It is locally known as Diamir which means “king of mountains” or “huge mountain”. It has also earned a nickname of “Killer Mountain”

It is the westernmost peak of Himalayas.

5. Harmukh Mountain

It is situated in Ganderbal district of Jammu Kashmir and has an altitude of 5142m above the sea level. It has Nallah Sind on its southern side and Neelum river on its northern side.

It is a sacred place for hindus, and is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva. It is famously known as “Kailash of kashmir“. Lake Gangabal is located on its foothills.


The water from the lake Gangabal outflows to a nearby Nundkol Lake and then ultimately to Sind River via Wangath Nallah.

This mountain can be climbed from Ganderbal via Naranag, and from Sonamarg via Vishansar Lake and 3 mountain passes named Nichnai pass, Gadsar Pass and Zajibal pass.

6. Nun Kun Mountain

NunKun mountain pear is situated between Ladakh and Kashmir border and has an altitude of 7135 m above the sea level. This pair is in Kargil District.

It is comprised of two peaks Nun (7135m) and Kun (7077m) . The Nun mountain is the highest peak in the Himalayan range on the Indian side of the Line of Control in JK.

 The Nun mountain was first climbed in 1953 by a team led by Bernard Pierre and Pierre Vittoz.

7. Tosmaidan and Kazinag

These two mountains are a part of inner Himalayas.

Tosmaidan is located in Budgam district of Jammu Kashmir. Tosamaidan route connected Kashmir valley with Poonch and Rajouri through Tosamaidan pass, also known as Chinamarg Gali. Mahmoud Ghaznavi and Ranjit Singh tried to invade Kashmir through this Tosamaidan route.


Tosamaidan moutain overlooks a vast and lush green meadow, which was leased to Indian army in 1964 for a period of 50 years. It is now a tourist destination.

Kazinag mountain extends in twin districts of Baramulla and Kupwara. Its elevation is 4574m above the sea level. It forms part of LOC between India and Pakistan and is a part of Kazinag national park.

8. Volcanic Mountains

There are two volcanic mountain peaks in Jammu and Kasmir. One is Soyamji in Handwara and another is Kharewa in Pahalgam.

The Soyamji peak erupted in 1934 for 13 months and is now in a dormant stage. The volcanic mountain of Pahalgam is dead now.

4. Climate Of Jammu Kashmir, And Ladakh

The climate of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh varies considerably with its topography. The Southern parts of Jammu reflect a humid Sub-tropical (Monsoon type) climate. June is the hottest month with a temperature ranging upto 45 degree centigrade. Hot and dry winds locally known as ‘Loo’ blow in the afternoon during summer. January is the coldest month in the plains of Jammu with temperature ranging between 5-100C.

The Valley of Kashmir along with some hilly areas of Jammu experience modified temperate type of climate. July is the hottest month and January is the coldest month which is locally known as period of ‘Chille-Kalan’ and temperature during this period can dip down to -10 to -200C (40 days of intense cold from 21 December to 31 January).

Ladakh experiences a very dry climate. Cold desert conditions prevail in this region. Ladakh receives a very little amount of precipitation throughout the year. Precipitation is mainly in the form of snowfall. January is the coldest month in Ladakh, Here the lowest temperature goes deep below freezing point upto – 400C at Drass .

5. Flora And Fauna Of Jammu Kashmir, And Ladakh

The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is well endowed with the natural vegetation. Its natural vegetation has great diversity in flora, ranging from the lush green margs (Alpine Pastures) to evergreen conifers on gentle slopes of high altitudes. Scrub forest cover southern slopes of Shiwalik foot hills and deciduous forest are found on the southern slopes of Shiwalik and Pir-Pinjal range. The high- altitude desert land of Ladakh owing to low rainfall is largely dominated by Xerophytic vegetation. The natural tree elements are largely absent except for the more humid regions of Nubra valley and all river valleys present in Ladakh. The main types of forests found in the Union Territories are:
a. Sub –tropical dry deciduous forests
b. Sub-tropical pine forests
c. Himalayan moist temperate forests
d. Himalayan dry temperate forests
e. Alpine forests

The common types of trees found in Jammu region are Kikar (Acacia), Ber, Shisham, Pipal, Banyan, Mango and Palm. Chir, Deodar, Spruce, Maple Oak, Walnut and Poplar are found in Kashmir. Junipers, Firs and Rhododendron grow at higher altitudes of Ladakh.

The willow, mulberry and walnut trees provide raw materials required for the development of sports goods, furniture and wood artefacts. Many people earn their livelihood from these forest-based industries. Forests also provide turpentine and a variety of resins, used in several chemical industries. Resin is collected from the pine trees.

6. Major Rivers Of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh

The Major rivers flowing through these Union Territories are – The Indus in Ladakh, the Chenab in Jammu region and the Jhelum in Kashmir Valley.

7. Languages Spoken In Jammu Kashmir, And Ladakh

Prominent languages spoken in these Union Territories are Kashmiri, Urdu, Dogri, Punjabi, Pahari, Bhoti, Balti, Gojri, Shina, Siraji, Dardi, Pashto etc.

8. Wildlife In jammu Kashmir, And Ladakh

Wild life in the entire region is colourful and diverse. Black-necked Crane, Peacock, Ducks, Parakeets, Cranes and Pigeons are some birds inhabiting the forests and wet lands of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. The Union Territory of Ladakh is the home of yak, the shaggy horned wild ox weighing around one tonne, the Tibetan antelope, and the Kiang (Tibetan wild ass). Furthermore, the Ibex, Bear, Snow leopard and very rare Red panda are found in certain pockets. “Dachigam National Park” in Srinagar is abode of Hangul. It is a rare and unique species of Deer not found anywhere in the world.


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