The Kashmir region enjoys significant ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. The region has historically been an important centre for Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam was introduced in the medieval centuries, and Sikhism also spread to the region under the rule of the Sikh Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. Kashmir has a significant place in the mythology and history of all four religions. The region derives its name from the Kashmiri Pandit ancestor, named Rishi Kashyapa and is believed to have been the abode of the celestial beings. The region is home to many legendary Hindu and Buddhist monuments and institutions. The Hazratbal shrine houses a relic that is believed to be the hair of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. In his journeys seeking religious enlightenment, Guru Nanak travelled to Kashmir. Kashmiriyat is believed to have developed under the rule of Muslim governor Zain ul Abedin and the Mughal emperor Akbar, both of whom gave equal protection, importance and patronage to Kashmir's different religious communities.
Kashmir's existence is characterised by its insular Himalayan geography, harsh winter climate and isolation in economic and political terms. The region has also seen political turmoil and foreign invasions. Kashmiriyat is believed to be an expression of solidarity, resilience and patriotism regardless of religious differences. It is believed to embody an ethos of harmony and a determination of survival of the people and their heritage. To many Kashmiris, Kashmiriyat demanded religious and social harmony and brotherhood. It has been strongly influenced by Kashmir Shaivism, Buddhism and Sufism, carrying a long-standing conviction that any and every religion will lead to the same divine goal.
Kashmir was also influenced by the Mughal emperor Akbar's genesis of a syncretic philosophy of Din-i-Illahi, which emphasized the blending of Hindu and Muslim ideals and values. Works in the Kashmiri language, art, culture and literature strongly expound and emphasize Kashmiriyat as a way of life. However, the impact and importance of Kashmiriyat has been concentrated in the Vale of Kashmir only, which is the real historical Kashmir. The farther regions of Gilgit, Baltistan, Jammu and Ladakh have not been influenced by this philosophy, as these regions are not Kashmiri in terms of culture, language or ethnicity.
The culture and ethos of Kashmiriyat was greatly eroded at the onset of the Kashmir conflict, when the region was claimed by Pakistan and India and its territory divided during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. In the political debate on sovereignty over Kashmir, many interpret Kashmiriyat as nationalism and an expression for political independence from both Pakistan and India. The onset of militancy in Kashmir from 1989 has led to the exodus of almost all Hindus from Kashmir and violent attacks against the remaining communities of Hindus and Sikhs, further eroding the fabric of Kashmiriyat. Amidst the wider dispute between India and Pakistan, there are also political demands for the separation of the territories of Ladakh and Jammu from the Kashmir valley. Conscious efforts to revive Kashmiriyat have been made by various communities of Muslims and Hindus through united opposition to violence in the state. Efforts to promote Kashmiriyat through cultural activities, social programmes and literature have increased throughout Jammu and Kashmir and amongst expatriate Kashmiri communities.