Poonam Chaudhary// It is a well-known fact that cultural and commercial intercourse existed between India and China since ancient times. It may however be noted here that Kashmir, the northernmost state of India played a major role in this commercial intercourse.
We also know that for external trade Kashmir was connected to central Asia via the silk route. The commodities like saffron, kutha (herb used for medicinal purposes), etc were in great demand in China . We have ample of refrences to prove that saffron was exported from Kashmir to China during third century B.C. and that Chinese monks used large quantities of saffron in the rituals connected with their daily worship.
Similar demand existed for Kutha also.trade with China was thus to some extent responsible for the flourishing economy of ancient Kashmir. However, the intercourse between China and Kashmir was not only commercial but cultural influences too flowed via the silk route.
Hieun tsang , the celebrated Chinese pilgrim is said to have visited the valley in 633A.D.to study Buddhism .Later Fahien and Itsing , the Chinese pilgrims came to India to know more about Buddhism. Hence, the importance of this study cannot be underestimated.
The trade and salt routes played an important role in stabilizing the economy of Jammu and kasmir state since ancient times. The routes acted not only as the channels for trade and commerce but also contributed in te promotion of culture and learning. Kashmir, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir evolved as a cultural and intellectual center from ancient times and continued to be so at least till after the Mughal era, and it’s an atmosphere, which still pervades today. Jammu, the winter capital of the state too basked in the same atmosphere.
It would not be wrong to mention here that the state of Jammu and Kashmir in ancient times comprised not only the provinces of present day Jammu and Kashmir but also the regions like Bimber, Sialkot, Mirpur, Kotli, Muzzafrabad, etc, which are now under POK jurisdiction It may also be noted here that the region was so located that through out its history it remained strategically as well as economically very important, as through the region passed the main routes of cultural and commercial intercourse.
Due to this Kashmir since ancient times had flourishing trade based economy and hence was very well connected for external as well as internal trade. For external trade Kashmir was connected to Central Asia via the Silk route and with the western world through sea/ riverine routes.
Similarly for internal trade Kashmir was connected with the rest of Indian sub- continent through various land routes, which passed through different areas of the State, thereby enhancing the trade potentials of these areas.
Entire trade of the area was possible only because of the network of routes and which resulted in an expansion of commercial and cultural exchanges between Kashmir, China, Tibet, etc on one hand and on the other with rest of India. It was because of the lucrative trade that the entire region, comprising the modern state of Jammu and Kashmir, flourished.
These routes, which traversed the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir, acted as channels for transporting not only commercial commodities but also religious and cultural influences of the neighbouring areas into the region.
Looking at the population of the state on can easily have the glimpse of the cultural fusion, which took place in the areas along theses routes. One important example of this is the concentration of the Sikh community along these trade routes in the area of Poonch.
Similarly we have people who call themselves Mughals and trace their descent from them. A study of the cultural fusion which took place on these routes is an important part of the intangible heritage and is an interesting study.
An abstract from a conference Paper.
Poonam, Chaudhary l(2005) A study of cultural routes of Jammu Region. In: 15th ICOMOS General Assembly and International Symposium: ‘Monuments and sites in their setting – conserving cultural heritage in changing townscapes and landscapes’, 17 – 21 oct 2005, Xi’an, China.