Cashmere, Or Kashmir, a kingdom in the N. W. part of India, almost enclosed by ranges of the Karakorum and Himalaya, which separate it from Chinese Tartary, Thibet, and the British districts of Lahoul and Spiti and the Punjaub; area estimated at 75,000 sq. m.; pop. at 750,-000. It extends from lat. 32° 17' to 30° N., and from lon. 73° 20' to 79° 40' E., and includes the famous vale of Cashmere, the provinces of Ja-moo, Balti, Ladakh, Chamba, and some others. - The valley of Cashmere is of irregular oval form, shut in by lofty mountains, the summits of some of which are covered with perpetual snow. It is from 5,500 to 6,000 ft. above the sea, and the alluvial plain which forms its bottom is 70 m. long, 40 m. wide, and about 2,000 sq. m. in area, that of the whole valley being 4,500 sq. m. It is entered by many passes, 11 of which are practicable for horses. The highest, including that of the Pir Panjal, have an elevation of about 12,000 ft. The principal river is the Jhylum, a tributary of the Indus, which receives numerous tributaries from the mountains, and flows through the Baramula pass into the Punjaub. Several small lakes are scattered through the valley.
Thus abundantly irrigated, and fertilized by rains which, unlike those of most parts of India, are light, the soil attains an extraordinary fertility, yielding returns of from 30 to 60 fold of the principal crops. Pice, the common food of the inhabitants, is the staple; wheat, barley, buckwheat, maize, and tobacco are cultivated to some extent; cotton is found to flourish; esculent vegetables, kitchen herbs, and saffron are abundant; and the lakes supply the poorer classes with a nutritious though insipid article of food in the singhara or water nut, the seed of the trapa Mspinosa, which is ground into flour, roasted, boiled, or eaten raw. About 60,000 tons of this nut are annually taken from the Wullur lake. Among the fruits are the apple, pear, peach, plum, apricot, cherry, pomegranate, and grape. Flowers of rare beauty, particularly the rose, which is highly cultivated, abound in the valley. Many of the forest trees attain a vast size; among them are the Himalayan cedar, the chunar, the poplar, the lime, and the wild chestnut. The willow, maple, birch, alder, pine, and white thorn are common. Every village has its grove of chu-nars and poplars, planted centuries ago by order of the Mogul emperors, and now forming one of the richest ornaments of the valley.
Bears, both brown and black, are very numerous. The other wild animals are leopards, jackals, foxes, stags, gazelles, and wild goats. Birds of prey are numerous, including a species of vulture of great size. Game birds are very plentiful. Venomous reptiles are rare. The native horses are small and hardy. Cattle, sheep, and goats are numerous. - The most valuable minerals are iron and limestone, both of which are abundant; copper, plumbago, and lead are also known to exist. The climate is salubrious, and milder than in many parts of India, but the stillness of the midsummer air gives the heat an oppressiveness scarcely to be expected from the range of the thermometer (80° to 85° at noon in the shade), and the winter is sometimes severely cold. Snow falls abundantly. The bulk of the inhabitants are Mohammedans, speaking a Sanskrit dialect, with a large admixture of Persian, in which latter tongue the records and correspondence of the government are written. They are divided in sect into Sun-nis and Shiahs, the former being the more numerous and regarded as orthodox. The Cash-merians are preeminent among Indian nations by their physical perfections. The men are tall, robust, well formed, and industrious; the women famous for their beauty and fine complexions.
They are a gay people, fond of pleasure, literature, and poetry, but are represented by many travellers as peerless in cunning and avarice, and notoriously addicted to lying. They appear to be of Hindoo origin. At the beginning of the present century the population of the valley was 800,000, which has been reduced by pestilence, famine, and earthquakes to 200,000. In 1828 an earthquake destroyed 1,200 persons; two months later the cholera carried off 100,000 in 40 days; and in 1833 famine, and pestilence committed still more frightful ravages. The chief towns are Serinagur or Cashmere, the capital (see Serinagur), Islamabad, Shupeyon, Pampur, and Sopur. The principal manufactures are the celebrated Cashmere shawls, gun and pistol barrels, paper, lacquered ware, and attar of roses. - The country was conquered by the Mogul emperor Akbar in 1587, by the Afghans in 1752, and by the Sikhs in 1819. It was included in the territory transferred by the latter to the British under the treaty of Lahore in 1846, and was immediately sold by its new owners to Gholab Sing for the sum of £750,000; but by the compact between the maharajah and the British government, the rajah is to be assisted in defending himself against his enemies, and British supremacy is acknowledged. - See Vigne's "Travels in Kashmir" (2 vols., London, 1842); "Travels m India and Kashmir," by E. Schonberg(2 vols., London, 1853); and "Diary of a Pedestrian in Cashmere and Thibet," by Captain Knight (London, 1863).