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Kashmir (Kashmiri: کٔشِیر; Urdu: کشمیر‎) is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. Then the name was used for the larger area of a princely state centered on the valley. Today, that area is divided between India, Pakistan, and China. Kashmir's total land area is 225,000 km 2 (87,000 mi 2 ), larger than 87 member countries of the United Nations and all but ten states in the US; it is only slightly smaller than the UK (243,000 km 2 ).
In the first half of the first millennium, the Kashmir region became an important centre of Hinduism and later of Buddhism. Nature has lavishly endowed Kashmir with certain distinctive features that are paralleled by few alpine regions in the world. It is a land of snow clad mountains known for its extravagant natural beauty and contained major caravan routes in ancient times.