Kashmir, if literally translated, means land desiccated from water: “ka” (the water) and shimeera (to desiccate). Tradition says that Kashmir was originally a lake that was drained by the great saint of ancient India Kashyap. It was included in the empire of Ashoka Maurya who is credited with the foundation of the city of Srinagar around the year 250 BC.
During this period Buddhism spread in Kashmir and flourished under the Kushans. During the reign of Kanishka, the third Buddhist council took place in Kashmir which has been attested by the 7th century Chinese traveler Hien Tsang. But Hinduism held its sway in the region. The 7th Century AD witnessed the establishment of a dynasty called the Karkota whose foundation stone was laid by Durlabhavarrdhana. The most famous ruler of this dynasty was Lalitaditya Muktapid who built the world famous sun temple (Martand) in kashmir. The Karkotas were supplanted by the Utpalas in 855 AD. The most important ruler of this dynasty was Avanti-verman. He recovered Kashmir from utter political and economic disorder into which Kashmir had fallen during the rule of his predecessors. Didda, a Gupta widowed queen, ruled Kashmir until 1003 AD when the Lohara dynasty took over. Didda was a very unscrupulous and willful lady and led a very immoral life. But in spite of these drawbacks, she ruled the valley with firm hands.
The last Hindu ruler of Kashmir was Udyan Dev. His chief Queen Kota Rani was the de facto ruler of the kingdom. She was a very brave lady, shrewd and an able ruler. With her death in 1339 the Hindu rule in Kashmir came to an end and thus was established the Muslim rule in Kashmir under Sultan Shamas-ud-din whose dynasty ruled the valley for 222 years. The greatest ruler of this dynasty was undoubtedly Sultan Zain-ul-Abdin. Under his rule Kashmir was culturally and politically at its zenith. The kingdom was annexed into the Mughal Empire in 1586 and thus was extinguished the freedom of Kashmir.
In 1757 Kashmir came under the control of Ahmed Shah Durrani, the Afghan who invaded India many times. In 1819 Kashmir was annexed by Ranjit Singh and made a part of his Sikh empire. The two Anglo-Sikh wars fought between the Sikhs and Ranjit Singh resulted in the complete extinction of the Sikh sovereignty in Kashmir. The British gave away Kashmir to Ghulab Singh for the sum of 75 lakhs of rupees under the Treaty of Amritsar. This entitled Ghulab Singh to have his complete sway over the dominion. He extended his territory by annexing Ladakh. Ghulab Singh died in 1857 and was replaced by Rambir Singh (1857-1885). Two other Marajahs, Partab Singh (1885-1925) and Hari Singh ruled in succession. Maharaja Sir Hari Singh ascended the throne in 1925. He continued to govern the state till 1950. In 1932 Kashmir‘s first political party – All Jammu & Kashmir Muslim Conference was formed by Sheik Abdullah The party was later renamed the National Conference in 1939 and continues to be a major political party in Kashmir today.