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For other uses, see Kashmiri (disambiguation).
کٲشُر لُکھ
कॉशुर लुख
Regions with significant populations
 India 5,527,698 (2001)*[1]
 Pakistan 132,450 (1998)*[2]
Hindi, Urdu, also spoken widely as second language[3]
Related ethnic groups
Other Dard people

*The population figures are only for the number of speakers of the Kashmiri language. May not include ethnic Kashmiris who no longer speak Kashmiri language.
Political Map: the Kashmir region districts, showing the Pir Panjal range and the Kashmir Valley.

The Kashmiris (Kashmiri: کٲشُر لُکھ / कॉशुर लुख) are a Indo-Aryan Dardic ethnic group[4] living in or originating from the Kashmir Valley, located in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The bulk of Kashmiri people predominantly live in the Kashmir Valley and also form a majority of the population in the Chenab region's Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar districts. There are also ethnic Kashmiri populations inhabiting Neelam Valley and Leepa Valley of Azad Kashmir.[5] Smaller populations of Kashmiris also live in the remaining districts of the Jammu and Kashmir state. Since 1947, many ethnic Kashmiris and their descendants are also found in Pakistan.[5] Most Kashmiris today are Sunni Muslim[6] but a sizable Hindu community also exists.

Other ethnic groups living in the Jammu and Kashmir state include Gujjars, [7] Dogras,[8] Paharis and Ladakhis.[9] It should be noted that most residents of Azad Kashmir are not ethnically Kashmiri, although some residents of that region call themselves 'Kashmiri'.[10]


The archaeological and scientific evidence of life in Kashmir goes back to the Neolithic and the Pre-Historic times. The most important piece of evidence for this is the Burzahom archaeological site located on a 'karewa' between the banks of the Dal Lake and the Zabarvan hills, about five kilometers from the famous Mughal garden of Shalimar. After the discovery and excavation of Burzahom, other Neolithic sites were discovered in Kashmir at places such as Begagund, Brah, Gofkral, Hariparigom, etc. all located on karewas mainly in the south-east parts of the Kashmir valley. Burzahom translates as 'place [hom] of birch [burza]' in Kashmiri. Burnt birch found in the excavations showed that birch trees must have been common in the area in the Stone Age. Plentiful food from the forests on the Himalayan foothills, an abundant water supply from the lake, and a raised location protected from seasonal inundation ensured that the Burzahom plateau remained continuously settled from the New Stone Age to the Early Historical period.[11]


Religion and migration[edit]

Further information: Kashmiri Pandit and Kashmiri Muslim

Islam arrived to Kashmir starting with the conversion in 1323 of Rinchan, at the hands of the saint, Bulbul Sha.[12] After conversion to Islam he called himself Malik Sadur-ud-Din and was the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. He was subsequently killed by the Kashmiris. Since the arrival of invaders and the start of religious conflicts, before the Partition of India, many Kashmir Hindus and Buddhists migrated to other regions.[13][14][15]

Sikh Empire[edit]

In 1819 Kashmir came under Maharajah Ranjit Singh's Sikh Empire and Sikh rule over Kashmir lasted for 27 years till 1846. These 27 years of Sikh rule saw 10 Governors in Kashmir. Of these 10 Governors five were Hindus, three were Sikhs and two were Muslims. Scholar Christopher Snedden states that the Sikhs exploited Kashmiris regardless of religion. The Sikhs enacted a number of anti-Muslim policies, subjecting the Muslim majority population of the Valley to a number of hardships in the practice of their religion. The central mosque, Jama Masjid, was closed for 20 years and Muslims were prohibited from issuing the azan (call to prayer). If a Sikh murdered a Hindu the compensation amount allowed was four rupees. However, if a Sikh murdered a Muslim the compensation amount allowed was only two rupees. Kashmiris remember the period of Sikh rule as a dark era of oppression. The Sikhs lost their independence with the Battle of Subraon. In 1846 Kashmir came under the rule of Gulab Singh, a Hindu Dogra Maharajah under the British suzerainty.[16][clarification needed][17]

Dogra Regime[edit]

The 100 year Dogra regime turned out to be a disaster for the Muslim peasantry of Kashmir Valley.[18] Walter Lawrence described the conditions of the Valley's peasantry as being 'desperate' and noted that the Valley's peasantry attributed their miseries to the Maharajah's deputies rather than the rulers themselves. The state officials apparently kept the rulers from knowing the conditions of the Muslim peasantry in the Valley.[18] Lawrence in particular criticised the state officials who belonged to the Kashmiri Pandit community.[18] Scholar Ayesha Jalal states that the Maharajahs nurtured ties with Kashmiri Pandits and their Dogra kinsfolk in Jammu to trample on the rights of their subjects.[19] Christopher Snedden also states that the Kashmiri Muslims were often exploited by the Kashmiri Pandit officials.[20]

Gawasha Nath Kaul described the poor conditions of the Valley's Muslim population in his book Kashmir Then And Now and in it he wrote that 90 percent of Muslim households were mortgaged to Hindu moneylenders.[21] Muslims were non-existent in the State's civil administration and were barred from officer positions in the military.[21]

Prem Nath Bazaz, one of the few Kashmiri Pandits who joined the movement for change, described the poor conditions of the Valley's Muslim population as such:[21]

The poverty of the Muslim masses is appalling. Dressed in rags and barefoot, a Muslim peasant presents the appearance of a starved beggar...Most are landless laborers, working as serfs for absentee landlords.

A large number of Muslim Kashmiris migrated from the Kashmir Valley[21] to the Punjab in the late 19th century because they faced natural disasters and oppression by the Dogra Hindu rulers of Kashmir.[22] According to the 1911 Census there were 177,549 Kashmiri Muslims in the Punjab. With the inclusion of Kashmiri settlements in NWFP this figure rose to 206,180.[19] Common Kashmiri krams (surnames) found amongst the Kashmiris in Kashmir Valley and amongst the Kashmiri emigres in Punjab include Butt/Bhat, Dar, Lone, Wani/Wain, Mir and Shaikh.[23]


Kashmiri cuisine and culture has been greatly influenced by Central Asian and Persian culture. Kashmiri culture is defined in terms of religious values, Kashmiri language, literature, cuisine and traditional values of mutual respect. The overwhelming majority of Kashmiris are Muslims and Islamic identity plays a very important role in the daily lives of people. Kashmiris across the religious divide have for centuries shared cordial and friendly ties. Kashmir has been noted for its fine arts for centuries, including poetry and handicrafts.[citation needed] Shikaras, traditional small wooden boats, and houseboats are a common feature in various lakes and rivers across the Valley.


Kashmiri cuisine holds a unique place among different world cuisines. Rice is the staple food of Kashmiris and has been so since ancient times.[24] Meat, along with rice, is the most popular food item in Kashmir.[25] Kashmiris consume meat voraciously.[26] Salted tea or Noon Chai is the traditional drink and is cooked in a samavar, a Kashmiri tea-pot. Kehwa, traditional green tea with spices and almond, is served on special occasions and festivals. Kashmiri weddings are regarded incomplete[citation needed] without the Kashmiri traditional food known as wazwan, which is typically spicy food cooked by the traditional cooks (waz). Wazwan is a multi-course meal in which almost all the dishes are meat-based.


Further information: Kashmiri language

Kashmiri (/kæʃˈmɪəri/)[6] (कॉशुर, کأشُر), or Koshur, is spoken primarily in the Kashmir Valley and Chenab regions of Jammu and Kashmir. According to many linguists, the Kashmiri language is a northwestern Dardic language of the Indo-Aryan family, descending from Middle Indo-Aryan languages. The label "Dardic" indicates a geographical label for the languages spoken in the northwester mountain regions, not a linguistic label.[4] UCLA estimates the number of speakers as being around 4.4 million, with a preponderance in the Kashmir Valley,[27] whereas the 2001 census of India records over 5.5 million speakers.[1] According to the 1998 Census there were 132,450 Kashmiri speakers in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan.[28] According to Professor Khawaja Abdul Rehman the Kashmiri language is on the verge of dying out in the Neelum Valley.[29]

Kashmiri is believed to be the only one among the Dardic languages that has a written literature.[4] Kashmiri literature dates back to over 750 years, comparable to that of most modern languages.[30] Kashmiri poets and writers like Mehjoor, Abdul Ahad Azad, etc. enriched the literature with their poetry.[31]


Physical features[edit]

According to French traveller Francois Bernier the Kashmiris are celebrated for their beauty. Kashmiris were considered 'well-made' like the Europeans and Kashmiri women in particular were known for their beauty.[32] Marco Polo observed that the beauty of Kashmiri women was superb.[33] Fair complexion and prominent noses are the hallmarks of Kashmirs.[34] The fair skin and long noses of Kashmiris suggest that they have a Semitic origin. One theory suggests that they are descended from the lost tribes of Israel however there is no actual evidence for this theory.[35][36] Bhandari remarks that one is usually struck by the marked ethnic differences between Kashmiris from other races in India and Pakistan.[37]

In 2011 a survey by Gilani Research Foundation/Gallup Pakistan found that 55 percent of Pakistanis considered Kashmiris and Pashtuns to be the best looking people in the country. 29 percent rated Kashmiris as the best looking people while 26 percent rated Pashtuns as the best looking people.[38]

Behavioural features[edit]

After Mughal rule, Kashmiris came to be regarded as a 'non-martial' race by outsiders.[39] However, Christopher Snedden also notes that "Kashmiris were well known for their fighting prowess" during Akbar's time. Kashmiris had resisted the Mughal invasions and tough and capable Kashmiri fighters protected the Valley from Mughals. Akbar succeeded in invading Kashmir because of internal Sunni-Shia sectarian divisions amongst the Kashmiris.[40]


Further information: Kashmiri diaspora

Notable members of the Kashmiri Muslim diaspora in Punjab include Muhammad Iqbal, whose poetry displayed a keen sense of belonging to Kashmir,[41] Pakistan's current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (paternal ancestry from Anantnag), Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and politician Khawaja Asif.[42] Since the 1990s approximately 35,000 Kashmiri Muslims from Indian administered Kashmir have fled to Azad Jammu and Kashmir.[43]

Kashmiri Pandits have also fled to India and to other parts of Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. A number of Kashmiri organisations have been existence for over half a century in Delhi, including Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, Panun Kashmir, Vyeth Television, and N. S. Kashmir Research Institute. Notable members of the Kashmiri Pandit diaspora in India include former Indian Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2000, Census of India, 2001
  2. ^ Mohsin Shakil, Languages of Erstwhile State of Jammu Kashmir (A Preliminary Study), Unpublished, 2012
  3. ^ a b "Kashmiri: A language of India". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  4. ^ a b c Munshi, S. (2010), "Kashmiri", Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World, Elsevier, pp. 582–, ISBN 978-0-08-087775-4 
  5. ^ a b Snedden, Christopher (2015). Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9781849046220. 
  6. ^ Snedden, Christopher (2015). Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. Oxford University Press. p. 7. ISBN 9781849046220. As in Pakistan, Sunni Muslims comprise the majority population of Kashmir, whereas they are a minority in Jammu, while almost all Muslims in Ladakh are Shias. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Minahan.J.B., (2012), Dogras, Ethnic Groups of South Asia and the Pacific: An Encyclopedia
  9. ^
  10. ^ Snedden, Christopher (2015). Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9781849046220. 
  11. ^ Renfrew, Colin. The Cambridge World Prehistory. Cambridge University Press. pp. 872–876. ISBN 1107647754. 
  12. ^ Troll, C. (1982). Mahmud of Ghori never entered Kashmir he was defeated soundly by Hindu Kashmir. Islam in india: Studies and commentaries. Stosius Inc/Advent Books Division.
  13. ^ Gottschalk, P. (2012). Religion, science, and empire: Classifying hinduism and islam in british india. (pp. 400, 234-354). USA: Oxford University Press.
  14. ^ Hees, P. (2002). Indian religions: A historical reader of spiritual expression and experience. NYU Press
  15. ^ Bayly, S. (2001). Caste, society and politics in india from the eighteenth century to the modern age (The New Cambridge History of India). (1st & 4th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  16. ^ Fahim, Farukh (2011). "Centuries' Subjugation Kicks off a Bitter Struggle". In Harsh Dobhal. Writings on Human Rights, Law, and Society in India: A Combat Law Anthology : Selections from Combat Law, 2002-2010. Socio Legal Information Cent. p. 259. ISBN 9788189479787. 
  17. ^ Snedden, Christopher (2015). Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9781849046220. 
  18. ^ a b c Bose, Sumantra (2013). Transforming India. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674728202. 
  19. ^ a b Jalal, Ayesha (2002). Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam Since 1850. Routledge. p. 352. ISBN 9781134599387. 
  20. ^ Snedden, Christopher (2015). Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. Oxford University Press. p. 29. ISBN 9781849043427. Incongruously, "Kashmiriness" did not deter rivalry and antipathy between Hindu Pandits, who were influential in government for long periods, and Muslim artisan and peasants, who invariably were poorer, iliterate and often exploited by Pandit officials. 
  21. ^ a b c d Bose, Sumantra (2013). Transforming India. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674728202. 
  22. ^ Bahl, Arvin (2007). From Jinnah to Jihad: Pakistan's Kashmir Quest and the Limits of Realism. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 76. ISBN 9788126907212. 
  23. ^ A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Nirmal Publishers and Distributors. Retrieved 25 March 2007. 
  24. ^ Bamzai, Prithivi Nath Kaul (1994). Culture and Political History of Kashmir. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. p. 243. ISBN 9788185880310. Rice was, as now, the staple food of Kashmiris in ancient times. 
  25. ^ Kaw, M.K. (2004). Kashmir and It's People: Studies in the Evolution of Kashmiri Society. APH Publishing. p. 98. ISBN 9788176485371. 
  26. ^ Press, Epilogue. Epilogue, Vol 3, issue 9. Epilogue -Jammu Kashmir. 
  27. ^ "UCLA Languages Project: Kashmiri". UCLA International Institute. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  28. ^ Shakil, Mohsin (2012). "Languages of Erstwhile State of Jammu Kashmir (A Preliminary Study)". 
  29. ^ "Up north: Call for exploration of archaeological sites". June 5, 2015. 
  30. ^ Ghulam Rasool Malik, Kashmiri Literature, Muse India, June 2006.
  31. ^ Poetry and renaissance: Kumaran Asan birth centenary volume. Sameeksha. Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  32. ^ Drace-Francis, Alex (2013). European Identity: A Historical Reader. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 57. ISBN 9781137368195. 
  33. ^ Bakshi, S.R. (1997). Kashmir Through Ages. Sarup & Sons. p. 102. ISBN 9788185431710. 
  34. ^ Durrani, Huma (2015). Wrapped in Blue. Partridge Publishing. ISBN 9781482856255. 
  35. ^ Bhandari, Mohan C (2006). Solving Kashmir. Lancer Publishers. p. 107. ISBN 9788170621256. 
  36. ^ Oberoi, Surinder Singh. "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists". 52 (2). 
  37. ^ Bhandari, Mohan C. (2006). Solving Kashmir. Lancer Publishers. p. 107. ISBN 9788170621256. 
  38. ^ Ali, Zunair (23 March 2011). "55% Pakistanis believe Pathans, Kashmiris best looking". 
  39. ^ Korbel, Josef (1966) [first published 1954], Danger in Kashmir (second ed.), Princeton University Press, pp. 9–11 
  40. ^ Snedden, Christopher (2015). Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9781849046220. 
  41. ^ Jalal, Ayesha (2002), Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam Since 1850, Routledge, p. 352, ISBN 978-1-134-59937-0 
  42. ^ Jaleel, Muzamil (2013). "As Nawaz Sharif becomes PM, Kashmir gets voice in Pakistan power circuit". 
  43. ^ Ahmed, Issam (October 13, 2010). "Thousands fled India-controlled Kashmir. Are they better off in Pakistan?". 

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