The Kashmiri live in Kashmir State in northwestern India. Kashmir is a breathtaking region located in the western Himalayan Mountains. Unfortunately, this is a highly disputed area. It has been a battleground between India, Pakistan, and China since the partition of the India and Pakistan in 1947.
When India and Pakistan were divided, Kashmir was given the choice of siding with either of the two countries. Since the ruling class was Hindu, they sided with India. However, most of the people were Muslims and felt more alliance to Pakistan. Today, parts of Kashmir are controlled by India, parts by Pakistan, and parts by China; and fierce fighting continues among the three.
More than ninety percent of Kashmir is mountainous. It includes the Karakorum Range, which contains K2, the second highest peak in the world. Most of the region is under snow and glaciers all year due to its extreme elevation.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Kashmiri primarily live in rural regions; only about one-fifth live in cities. They are descendants of Indo-Aryan immigrants and are generally tall, fair skinned, and have features like the people of Central Asia.
Most of the Kashmiri are peasant farmers. They raise rice, wheat, maize, barley, lentils, and fruits such as apples, peaches, and apricots. The lakes of Kashmir supply many fish and water chestnuts. Sheep, goats, and yaks are raised at higher elevations. These flocks produce cashmere, a rich wool that is also very popular in the West. The men primarily tend to the farms, and the women usually stay home and tend to the household chores.
Because most Kashmiri villages lie in such remote areas, festival celebrations and pilgrimages to shrines are times for uniting the communities. The villagers enjoy gathering around a fire and sharing folk tales or ballads. They also enjoy music and dancing. Cricket and soccer have become some of their favorite sports.
Extended families commonly live together. Their house styles vary with the elevation. In mountainous areas where there is much snow, the roofs are triangular and steep. Houses in the rural valley regions often have storage areas for grain, fodder, fuel, wood, leaves, charcoal, and dried dung. All of these materials are necessary when winter conditions become severe. The homes are usually built out of stone, brick, thatch, and timber.
The Kashmiri are very hospitable people and enjoy entertaining guests over tea. Their diet is similar to that of other Indians. Wood, dung, and kerosene are the main sources of fuel for cooking.
In addition to farming, many of the Kashmiri are skilled crafters of wood furniture, wool carpets, and sweaters. Industrial development is limited in Kashmir, but the large number of timber forests and rivers are used for producing hydro-electric power. Tourism is also an important industry, although it has declined in recent years because of the violence in the region.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Most of the Kashmiri are devout Sunni Muslims, who follow a strict code of conduct. Their civilization has been heavily influenced by Muslim mystics and Persian culture. Only a small minority are Hindus.
The Kashmiri Muslims are convinced that the Bible is wrong because it contradicts the Koran. Those who convert to Christianity are viewed as immoral, degenerate people; Christians in this region are often persecuted. Many Kashmiri have heard of Jesus Christ, but view him merely as a prophet and teacher.
What Are Their Needs?
Today, there are less than 1,000 known Kashmiri believers. The Islamic stronghold over them will only be broken down through prayer. These precious people who live in a highly volatile area of the world need to meet the Prince of Peace.