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Three Weeks in a Houseboat.


My Dunga — Entrance.



Three Weeks in a Houseboat.




With Twenty-'five Plates.






Bradley & Son, Ltd., Printers. Little Crown Yard, Mill Lane.

This little book does not pretend in any way to
he a guide to Cashmere, hut just what its name implies,
and a trihute to it for the very pleasant, if hurried,
time I spent there ; and if anyone, who like myself
had no time to spare in finding out when at Srinagar
what to do and where to go, finds my experience in
any way useful, this hook will have more than served
its purpose.

The photographs, though far from doing justice to
the country, may perhaps induce some who think
Cashmere too far away — and heing inaccessihle hy rail
therefore without modern comforts — to take a trip they
will never regret.

A. P.
I March, 1920.




Description of Dunga and Houseboat, and necessary
Staff 3


Journey from Bombay to Srinagar — Town of Srinagar
AND Places of Interest in it ii


Lake Dal — Nishat Bagh — Fete at Hasrat Bal — Nasim
Bagh — Shalimar Bagh — Pari Mahal 27


To Islamabad — Avantipur Bejbehara — Archival Martand
Vernag — Return to Srinagar 43


Shopping in Srinagar — Journey to Baramula by River,
VIA SuMBAL. Lake Wular and Sopor — Visit to Gulmarg 65

Return by Tonga to Murree and thence to Pindi 79

Customs and Costumes 83

Memos 86

Plate To face page

I. My Dunga — Entrance Frontispiece.

II. Ox-Carts Resting for the Evening.


III. Srinagar, Maharajah's Palace.

„ View from lower spur of Takht-i-

Suleiman 20

IV. Takht-i-Suleiman.

Hari Parbat. The Gate 23

V. Fort Hari Parbat.

Same from above 25

VI. Lake Dal. On Trek.

Reflections 27

VII. Hasrat Bal. The Ghat.

,, ,, Same during the Fete 29

VIII. Ranwar. The Mosque.

Hasrat Bal. Arriving for the Fete 30

IX. NiSHAT Bagh from Lake 32

X. NiSHAT Bagh. Looking up.

„ „ „ down towards Lake... 3$

XI. Nishat Bagh. View from Garden.

„ „ View through Garden House... 34

XII. Shalimar Bagh. Upper Pavilion.

„ ,, Lower Pavilion 36

XIII. Hasrat Bal. The Mosque.

„ „ The Fete 40

XIV. Pari Mahal. Dome on Highest Terrace.

„ „ Two lowest Terraces 42


Plate To face page

XV. Pandrathan.

AvANTiPUR. Carved Capital 44

XVI. AvANTiPUR. Ruined Temple.

Martand. ,, ,, 48

XVII. Bejbehara. The Bagh and my Boats.

,, RiceMilling 50

XVIII. Archibal.

Vernag. The approach 53

XIX. Vernag. Ruined Palace.

On the Road to Harwan 54

XX. Vernag. The Tank.

Archival. View from Garden House 59

XXI. Bejbehara. Loghouses, &c.

Pampur. My Boatman's "Youngest" 63

XXII. The Jhelum, above Kadabal.

Srinagar, above the first Bridge 65

XXIII. Srinagar, In the Chenar Bagh.

,, from the seventh Bridge 69

XXIV. Gulmarg, On road to.

„ View from 76

XXV. Posting Station.

Cash mere Goats 80


Srinagar and District ) At end

I of volume.
Map to Illustrate Journey i

Three Weeks in a Houseboat.


IN calling this little book "Three Weeks in a
Houseboat " I have made a mis-statement,
for it was not a houseboat, properly so-called,
but a " dunga " which was my home for three weeks
in Cashmere.

There are houseboats in Cashmere which would
dare to compare very favourably with the best on
the Thames ; also very simple houseboats, dunga
houseboats and the modest dunga.

A dunga is a very large decked-in punt, about
70 feet long and 6 to 8 feet wide, tapering very
considerably at either end ; on this there is a structure
of a light wooden frame covered, roof and sides,
with thick reed matting. I will describe my own in
detail and hope thereby to convey an idea of a
dunga with its comforts and discomforts, for though
dungas vary somewhat in their internal arrange-
ments, they are, on the whole, built on similar lines.

In appearance it looks like a very long hayrick
on a punt or an elongated Noah's ark made of reeds.
The body is divided up into compartments by
partitions of wood and matting, and each opens into
the next, curtains taking the place of doors : windows

4 Three Weeks in a Houseboat.

there are none, but the mats which cover the sides
roll and tie up if desired, and there are trim white
mushn curtains running on cords top and bottom,
which when drawn prevent outsiders from looking
in ; so that one can open up and air the whole dunga
in the morning or close the sun out, as desired, or
even, alas ! the rain — for it does rain hard at times.

The matting makes the dunga very cool ; but in
windy weather the mats blow about, sometimes
very unpleasantly as their lower ends are not

My dunga had seven compartments with a free
space of 12 feet in the bows and about 6 feet in the
stern : the first compartment was a porch about
7 feet long in which were three or four easy chairs ;
the second was 3 feet long and had cupboards on
either side for crockery, stores, &c.;then came the
living room, 8 feet by 6 feet, on a slightly lower
level, the furniture consisting of a small table, four
chairs, two bracket shelves and a tiny rush table
for books, &c. The fourth room, a bedroom with a
charpoy — or wood-framed bed with six legs with
straps of cloth laced across it — a small table and a
chair ; the fifth like it but a little smaller with a
very weak four-legged charpoy ; beyond this was
the bathroom and lavatory — the bath a zinc one
about 3 feet long — and beyond that a little empty
compartment about 4 feet long.

The sitting room and bedrooms had carpets or
rugs on the floor, and there were visible attempts
at making the rooms look comfortable.

Three Weeks in a Houseboat. 5

Native dungas, i.e. dungas used by natives, have
usually only two or three large compartments, and
their occupants, usually very numerous, recline or
sleep on mats on the floor.

The simplest houseboat is built somewhat on the
same plan as the dunga, except that it is entirely
of wood, and that the roof over the porch is flat and
has a low rail round it, and on this one can sit, access
to it being given by a light stairs.

The dunga has two great advantages over the
houseboat : first, it is very much lighter and can be
poled or towed with much less labour and can go
in shallower water, often a great advantage ; also,
owing to the mats on its roof and sides, it is very
much cooler, for when the sun strikes the sides of
the houseboat the temperature inside soon rises :
against this in cold, wet, or very windy weather
the houseboat is much more comfortable, most being
fitted with a stove, some also with glass, and wire
fly-proof windows.

It it also not hard for the evil disposed to rob a
dunga at night, as they can approach quite noise-
lessly by land or water, lift up the mats and help
themselves. This, however, I believe rarely happens.

A dunga houseboat is built just like a dunga
only of wood instead of mats, or rather it is like a
houseboat except that it has no second storey or
roof platform.

With a dunga or houseboat there is a cook-house-
boat : like the dunga but only two-thirds its size,
without partitions or with only one partition to shut

6 Three Weeks in a Houseboat.

off the kitchen. In this the cooking is done and the
personnel sleep, except such as may sleep at either
end of the dunga for its safety.

Also to complete the outfit one has a very small
punt built on the same lines, pointed at either end
for getting about quickly when the dunga is made
fast. This small punt is called a shikara.

When you hire a dunga the usual charge for which
is from Rs. 30 per month furnished, you get thrown
into the bargain the owner or lessee and his family
under the heading of " boatmen." His sons of
any age, wife and daughters according to the rules
of the game being boatmen. The youngest " boat-
man " on my dunga was a cheery tot of four to
five years.

If you have not a hearer you can engage a Cashmiri
for Rs. 15 a month, with an extra allowance for food
of 2 annas per day when away from Srinagar. It
is advisable to come to an understanding about this
when engaging the bearer.

From what I have seen of the jealousy of Cashmiri,
who are mostly Mohammedan, towards Indian
bearers, very often Hindus, I should recommend you
to get a Cashmiri, even if you have brought a Hindu
bearer with you, for though they may not be such
good servants, besides their own language they
usually speak English and Hindostani, and knowing
the country very well can act as guides.

Then you want a cook and Khansamah. You can
hire one for Rs. 18 per month ; and for a stipulated
sum, varying from R. i to R. 18 per day, he provides

Three Weeks in a Houseboat.

all local produce, as milk, butter, bread, eggs, vege-
tables, meat, poultry, &c., while you furnish the
groceries, i.e. tea, sugar, jams, oatmeal, flour, oil,
&c., &c.

If there are several in the party the Khansamah
ought to feed you for less than a rupee per day,
but that will depend on what you want supplying.
Cook and Khansamah, usually one and the same,
are only too pleased to buy your groceries for you,
unless your Cashmiri bearer has already shown you
he can do so better, for there are considerable
pickings to be made from that undertaking.

From my own experience I would advise that the
cook or boy be made to initial an account of any
money advanced towards pay or purchase of stores,
and to make them produce the tradesman's account
of their purchases, for some are arrant thieves and
most of them liars.

A sweeper at Rs. 8 per month is absolutely
necessary, and a bhisti for Rs. 5 per month complete
the establishment.

Thus the total expenses for a dunga complete for
a month would be : —

Hire of Dunga . . . . . . say Rs. 35

,, Cook-boat . . . . . . ,, ,,15

,, Shikara . . . . . . ,, ,, 5

Staff : Boatmen and Crew . . ,, ,, o

Bearer . . . . . . . . ,, ,,15

Cook . . . . . . . . . . ,, ,, 18

Sweeper . . . . . . . . ,, ,, 8

Bhisti „ „ 5

Rs. loi

8 Three Weeks in a Houseboat.

The dunga is or should be fitted up ready for
occupation, with all necessary furniture, crockery
and cooking utensils, not of course with bedding,
towels, &c.

Before starting on my trip I will give a short
description of my household, which consisted of the
boatman, his wife and family of six, the khansamah,
or cook and purveyor, the sweeper and bhisti, and
my servant or boy.

The boatman was a nice looking, tall man of
about 36 to 40 ; his eldest son, a quiet tall boy of 16,
always very obliging ; the second son, about 14 years
old, a rather surly youth ; and the third, a bright
cheery boy of 12, who looked upon his work as a
great joke and was always eager to take me out in
the shikara.

The boatman's wife — his second — and mother only
of the girls, was a nice-looking woman, and though
brought in under the head of boatman, chiefly
confined herself to household duties, but did help
to paddle the cookhouse when necessary.

The eldest daughter, a bright hard-working girl
of 10, besides helping her mother in her work and
tending her two younger sisters, did real hard track-
ing and paddling for the cook boat.

The next, a little tot of about 4, a very pretty
little thing, was the life of the boat, always laughing
and smiling, hopping and dancing about and tr3dng
to help either when tracking or rice-pounding, or
in any other way, even to looking after her baby
sister of 8 or 9 months, the last of the family.

Three Weeks in a Houseboat. 9

It was a very happy family, the boys being devoted
to their half-sisters, especially the two smallest.
The little girl's usual costume, besides the head-dress
cap and large ear-rings, necklace, anklets, &c., was
a short gown to the knees, except when we got near
fashionable centres when the little mite had to wear
bloomers as well.

The cook, a middle-aged, ugly, one-eyed man,
confined his energies solely to purveying and cooking
for me, which he did very well, making scones
when fresh bread ran out which would have delighted
a Scot, but he never did any other kind of work that
was outside his contract, or what he considered
beneath him. His kitchen was at one end of the
cook-boat on which were fixed mud ovens, &c.,
and there he reigned supreme.

The Bhisti existed in theory, that is to say, his pay
was drawn and his work was done, but he did not
materialise : so there was less crowding in the

Next the Sweeper, very necessary and rather
difficult to obtain, as his work is not everybody's
choice. The young man who filled the billet for
me, got my hot bath, &c., and was always most
willing to lend a hand tracking or paddling, and
his pay was certainly not excessive.

Last and least in my estimation, at any rate,
was my Bearer or Boy ; he had an ugly olive brown
face and apparently his sole object in coming was to
get as much out of me by barefaced lying and
thieving as he possibly could. He succeeded to a

10 Three Weeks in a Houseboat.

certain extent, but not as much as he thought he
would. His duties were to act as valet and wait
at table, &c.; of the first of these he had not the
faintest idea, but had fairly civilised manners, kept
clean, outwardly at least, and knew the country
well, so served his purpose.

My boatman was the owner of the whole outfit,
but my bearer, who owned one houseboat and was
building another, said the boatmen were not generally
the owners, but men put in by them or men who
had rented the boats.

Three Weeks in a Hotiseboat. ii


AS a kind and grateful Government had given
us mortals, worn out with twelve months
in a parched flat plain with little vegetation,
a clear month in India in 1917, conveying us to
any place we chose to go to free of charge, I decided
to pass my leave in Cashmere, and, after spending a
couple of days in Bombay to refit, got the 2.25 p.m.
train on the 15th May for Rawal Pindi.

Though the weather was hot and the carriages
crowded the ride was not unpleasant, and though we
lost an hour or two during the second day, we steamed
into Rawal Pindi after our 50 hours' run exactly on
time at 4.50 p.m.

A motor, for which I had wired from Bombay,
was awaiting us, and, after a visit to Danjebhoy's
Ofhce (the owner of the car) to settle up, we sped
away at 5.30 p.m. for Murree, over 39 miles distant
and up some 5,000 feet — Pindi itself being 1,790 feet
above sea-level. For the first 16 miles or so the road
flat, broad and good and very straight, bordered
by shady trees, and we certainly exceeded any
speed limit that might exist, for we had a powerful
machine and needed it for the long steep climb to
come ; then we climbed over the foothills, sank
again and then started to rise in earnest, each
turn gave us new and beautiful extensive views
down and over the cultivated valley ; the vegetation


Three Weeks in a Houseboat.

changed as we rose, deciduous trees giving place
to deodars and pines and the air was beautifully
scent-laden and cool. With the dark at 7.30 we
reached our destination, and were pleased to have
taken coats with us as it was quite cold on the ride.

We spent the night at Sunnybank Hotel and after
two days and two nights in a train appreciated the
comforts, including the fire, of the Hotel.

Next morning we were off by 8, for our run of
159 miles to Srinagar : —
Rawal Pindi

to Murree

to Kohala




Srinagar . .
Murree to Srinagar






miles — 37 miles.

— 62 miles.

— 63 miles.

— 34 ,,
159 miles.

After a short rise we topped the ridge and started
our long descent to the River Jhelum. The view
on this side was very grand, for straight over the
valley North and East were the gigantic snow-
capped Himalayas with some of its loftiest peaks
standing out ; though the country close around and the
valley at our feet, through which the Jhelum rushed,
were not as pretty as the view West from Murree.


Doinel, from the suspension bridge.


V>c -


lit- w.iitiiiL' li ir till i\ ■ lull

Three Weeks in a Houseboat. 13

We soon left the pine belt behind for shrubs and
small trees, passing through several villages where
post horses were kept for those going by tonga,
also long lines of laden carts, whose large white
oxen were lying sleepily chewing their cud or feeding.
It struck one as strange that these oxen should always
be resting, as also the few herds of camels, till one
learned that so as not to impede the fast traffic on
the roads, horse-drawn light vehicles and motors,
and to avoid accidents the slow traffic was only
permitted to move at night.

At Kohala we were down almost at river level and
crossed the Jhelum over a fine bridge and were in
Cashmere. Here were the Customs, and after making
sundry statements as required in several books,
as the Medical Officers are very particular, and
paying divers fees we were allowed to proceed.

This — the signing in a book — was our first experi-
ence of one of the institutions of the country of
which we were to see so much during our stay.

From Kohala our road, rising and falling, lay
alongside the river, a boiling torrent, a hundred
yards or so in width, down which the deodar logs
were being hustled and tossed about from miles
up above ; some having found their way into back-
waters were floating lazily, others spinning round
in quiet eddies, while many were piled up in heaps
in the shallows.

After a run of 21 miles from its boundary, or 51
from Murree, we stopped for a short time at Domel
(2,200 feet), a very pretty village, where the Jhelum

14 Three Weeks in a Houseboat.

forms a right angle, coming down now from the East
and joined here by the Kishenganga from the North.
A fine suspension bridge spans the Jhelum and the
view from it over towards the old Sikh fort, which
controlled the junction of the two rivers, was very

After more book-signing and further fees we were
off again, following up the river, rising and falling
and rising again along a fine road, kept continually
in repair, often cut out of the rock of the cliff and
sometimes tunnelled through it. Vegetation was
dense even here ; where streams flowed out of the
hill side along the road, or trickled down the rocks
on the shady side, maidenhair ferns grew in profusion.
The whole ride was a continuous source of pleasure.
About noon we stopped at Garhi, 62 miles from
Murree, and had lunch at the Dak Bungalow which
was stood covered with roses in its pretty garden,
where roses, hollyhocks, and other familiar friends
flourished. The Bungalow faced the wild bare
hills across the torrent, here spanned by a very
frail suspension bridge. The river is narrower
here, a torrent all the way through the gorge from
below Rampur. Near Chenari we passed by a
pretty waterfall which came down on our right
and, soon after, the picturesque village of Uri with its
old fort, high above the road. Nearing Rampur
the hills receded and the slopes were covered with
deodars as was the level glade beyond, through
which we crossed, passing a ruined temple and the
large electric power works, whose overhead cables

Three Weeks in a Houseboat. 15

accompanied one a long way on one's journey.
The power is obtained from an artificial fall of water
brought several miles in a large wooden flume, which
followed the road on one's right.

The whole road up to Baramula, 63 miles from
Garhi, was very interesting and pretty ; we skirted
round that town, past some very busy stableyards
and Khans, and then entered into a splendid motor-
road to Srinagar, bordered nearly the whole length
of 35 miles by very tall white barked poplars, rather
too closely planted to let one get good views. The
land was mostly cultivated with or being prepared
for rice, any uncultivated ground being covered
with a small iris, while here and there were big
clumps of a large white, mauve or purple kind.

Before us, to the South, we got occasional glimpses
of snow caps, and as we neared our destination
a view through the trunks of the lofty poplars of
a small hill rising out of the plain, crowned with a
picturesque fort, which commanded Sringar and the
flat country at its feet.

About 6 o'clock we ran through a part of the old
town, and wandered about through the beautiful
and open European quarter to find the Office of the
Motamid-Darbar, whose head clerk kindly got
us a dunga with its complement of servants complete.
We were lucky in securing the dunga as Cashmere,
being in favour this year, there were few to be had.
As it was now dark we made hurried arrangements
for food, &c., and were poled from the river into a
canal in the Chenar Bagh. The dunga looked nice

i6 Three Weeks in a Houseboat.

and comfortable and as the cook was quite good we
felt in luck.

Srinagar is 5,250 feet above the sea, so the nights
were cold, as were the few days it rained, and we
were very thankful we had brought warm clothing
and thick coats.

The Motamid-Darbar, an official of the Maharajah,
at whose office in Srinagar all visitors should register
their arrival and departure, has a sort of information
and advice bureau which I advise the visitor in his
own interest to consult fully on any subject for which
he requires information or help. Licences for fishing
and shooting, and information about the best
districts where these can be obtained, and guides
and shikaris are all supplied if desired.

The great advantage of getting servants, boatmen,
&c., from the Motamid-Darbar is that, in case things
turn out unsatisfactorily, a complaint soon brings
redress, and also that the servants, &c., obtained
from him knowing this and fearing to lose further
jobs or recommendation, are more careful and as
honest as they must be.

It is best to wire or write in advance to the
Motamid-Darbar or to some responsible merchant
to secure the dunga or houseboat beforehand, as
when one arrives just before dark, the usual time of
arrival, there is little time to get things done com-
fortably, and much confusion, should you even
have the luck to get a houseboat at all. There is
only one hotel in Srinagar, a very good one I believe,
but that is usually full, as are its grounds, with

Three Weeks in a Houseboat. 17

guests under canvas, and the prospects of getting
into it without previous notice are extremely small.

If you get a houseboat through a merchant, agent
or banker, as he may style himself, he generally
hangs on to you and tries to supply you with all
you want, and a great deal more you don't and
can never have any use for, whereas by going to the
Motamid-Darbar you are free to patronise whom
you will.

On my arrival I had a little trouble with one
merchant, whose reputation was not above suspicion,
and on suggesting that the affair be referred to the
Motamid-Darbar was troubled no more in the

Once in your boat, though you arrive after dark
the attack will be postponed till dawn, you are
besieged and all your stay in Srinagar you will be
stormed by traders of every kind and description,
both from land and water ; some are only small
pedlars, others touts of the large houses and even
the heads of these themselves.

" I don't want anything," " Get out of here,"
" Go away," and much stronger expressions are
met with a humble, " You need not buy only just
look," &c., &c. Then you usually fall, and if you do
not buy a few small articles from the pedlar's boat,
you accept the kindly offer of the tout to row you
down to his larger store " just to show you." (It
is worth noting on arrival that the merchant's
or tout's boatmen expect you to tip them for rowing
you : so go in your own shikara and you can then

i8 Three Weeks in a Houseboat.

also visit other shops) . Then you fall is much more
serious, for the heads of the larger houses are the
most skilful and persuasive salesmen I have ever
met, and the articles they have for sale are very
tempting. Often the surrender is unconditional,
not even limited by one's bank-balance, for our
conquerors are bankers and will negotiate post-dated
cheques, &c., &c.

To show their extensive custom the usual ever-

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