George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

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THE K A F I H S



or



THE H O D U - K U 8 H



BY



SIR GEORGE SCOTT ROBERTSON, K.C.S.I.

BRITISH AGENT, GILGIT



II.LUSTHATED BV



A. D. MCCORMICK



Xh'lV KD/T/oX




LONDON
LAWRENCE ^ B U L L E N, Ltd.

IC) IIENKIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN
1900






DEDICATED



TO



MT WIFE



955ini



PEEFACE



Since the first edition of this book was published
in 1897, the Amir of Kabul has consolidated his con-
quest of the whole of Kafiristan. This has not been
done without strong measures ; but also by the use of
a statesmanlike moderation which has surprised those
who have studied his relentless will and his terrible
methods of rule. A massacre of missionary Moslem
priests gave sufficient justification, in the eyes of an
Afghan, for those sickening cruelties which Abdur
Rahman practises on the ground, it is said, that a few
barbarous executions, bv their influence on the general
imagination, are more deterrent to the violent and the
predatory than the endless hangings and life imprison-
ments which characterise our system of government in
India. But no Kafirs were tortured. Women and girls
have been let alone. Men, though forced to accept
Islam, do not seem to be worried into exasperation by
fervid bigots. Plastic boys, taken to Kabul in large
numbers, are being moulded, by Muhammedan teachers
and by the influences of tlie capital, into zealous followers
of the Prophet of Arabia. In less than a generation the
Kafirs will produce many fanatics ; the fervour of a
proselyte is limitless.

When K;itirist;in is next entered by an European,
much will have changed. Compiled from copious diaries,
this volume is the record of a past. There is little
doubt that whatever the future of the country may be, it
will remain true to its changed faith, to that wonderful



viii PREFACE

religion which is so attractive to Orientals, especially to
those in a low state of civilisation.

The Kafirs of the Hindu-Kiish are no longer Kdfirs,
but Sheikhs. Islam grants high dignity to its converts.
The old pagan gods must quit the land, except such
as are able to change with the times. Imra may be-
come Allah, and Moni may be altered into Muhammed ;
but the people must learn to pronounce the letter H
in order to sound the new name correctly. Dizani
is by this time the Lady Fatima. Fairies and malicious
spirits will linger in forests and rivers. When crops
are poor or the snowfall scanty, old heathen sacrifices
will be offered in secret to the supernatural powers.
But Gish, the war god, is dead. It was his worship
which kept Ktifiristan free for so many generations.
His blood-saturated shrines are demolished ; the mosque
of the orthodox Sunni has replaced the temples of all
fantastic gods. The high falsetto shout of " Allah Akbar "
(God is great) will call to prayers, and the twirling,
stamping, shuffling throng will never again sing the
praises of Imra or Gish in prideful dance before admir-
ing neighbours.

Wine-presses will stand idle. Austerity will be
cultivated. The wild, frank gestures of the elders will
be curbed to disciplined and decorous movements.
Self-righteousness and spiritual pride will supplant
picturesque ceremonial and good-humoured tolerance.
One sighs to think of the change and then wonders
if it is right to sigh.

" Tlie moving finger writes ; and having writ,
proves on ; nor all your piety nor wit
Shall call it back to cancel half a line,
Xor all your tears wipe out a word of it."'



CONTENTS



CHAPTER I

PAGE

The narrative — Second visit to Chitnil — Permission of the Government
of India to visit Kafiristan — Plan of preliminary visit — Village of
Utzun— Azii the headman — Warning as to making presents — Torag
Merak — His demands — D:in Malik — Delay in starting from Utzun
— March to Gourdesh — Toi-ag Merak's desertion — Troublesome
baggage-carriers — Ditticult march — Torag Merak's Musalmiin son —
Cam]) at tSiirat bridge — Cheerfulness and vivacity of Kafirs —
Return journey — Trouble with baggage-porters again — Gourdesh
to Kamdesh — Memorial gateway at mouth of Kamu Valley — ^ler-
grom — A Ki'ifir city of refuge ........ i

CHAPTER II

The narrative continued — Kamdesh — Shrines to Gish and Moni — Dan
Malik's hospitality — Inquisitiveness of the lower classes — The
headmen — Utah the priest — Chandlu Astan — Their suspicion of
me— Subsequent friendliness — Their proposals — Volunteers for
visit to India — Shermalik — Return to Chitnd — Raiding band of
MAdugal Kiltirs — I'ahdur, their chief — Utzun again — Adopt Sher-
malik as my "son" — The ceremony — A quarrel — Start for India —
Sayed Shah 19

CHAPTER III

The narrative continued — Arrival in India — Visit to England— Pre-
paration for second visit to Katiristan — Return to India— Com-
pleting my e([uipment in Srinagar — Mian Gul — His plan to exploit
me — Final subjection — Engaged as my servant — Leave Srinagar
for Gilgit—My Balti coolies— Their faithfulness and devution —
Catastrophe at Bunji — Gilgit — Start for Chitnil ■■ • ■ 33

CHAPTER IV

The narrative continued — Leave Chitrsil — Change of route — Rumour
about Dir fanatics — Shah Baba, the Midla of Dir — Hostile inten-
tions — The Mehtar's opposition — Kinal stipulation — Distrust of



CONTENTS



PAGE



my ol)jects — His suspicion of the Government of India — His dread
of Afghanistan — His l^.iitisli-Kaslimir subsidy — His endeavours to
defeat my plans — His indecision . 42

CHAPTER V

The narrative continued — Start from Chitral — Ghulam Dustgir — Aiiin
— Bomboret — The l^omboret River — Bridges — Kalash dance —
Tong Chandlu— The Parpit Pass— The Pittigul Valley— Troubles
— Dismissal of the Chitri'd Piince— Village of Pittigul — Trouble
with Toi'ag Merak and (Jhandlu — Shermalik's Indian presents —
Blackmailing — The Bashgul Valley — Bridges — Kamu — Pleasure of
chief men at my visit — Restrained curiosity — Kamu to Bintiram
— Kamdesh — Welcome from headmen — Their anxiety for me to
take a wife 48

CHAPTER VI

Geographical position of Kafiristan — Boundaries — Rivers — Imra's sacred
stone — Village of Tsaru — Shaikhs — Isolation of tribes in winter
— Passes — Altitude — Ravines — Trees — Fish — Game-birds — Climate
— Rainfall 62



CHAPTER Yll

The differentia of religion — The Siah-Posh and the Safed-Posh —
Classification of Kafirs — Tribes of the Siah-Posh — The Presun —
The Wai and the Ashkun — Origin of slaves — Bashgul tribes — The
Kam — Inter-tribal enmities — The tribe an aggregate of clans —
Government of the clans . . 72

CHAPTER VIII

The narrative resumed — Kamdesh — The villagers — Interest in photo-
graphs — The electric battery — House-hunting — Sumri, a remark-
able old woman — She entertains me — The feast — The verandah —
Independence of Kafir babies — The slaves — Their social position —
Their treatment— The "Jast Bar i"— The Urir— Slave traffic . . 89

CHAPTER IX

The narrative continued — Universal opposition to my travelling about
the country — Settling down — Appearance of Kafirs — Kafirs in
their own country — Anxiety about my safety at night — Necessity
for caution— Small swindles and thefts — Torag ^lerak's threat to
expel me from the valley — Difficulty in getting supplies — Adverse
and friendly parties — The Mehtar's infiuence against me — My



CONTENTS xi



argiiments and assurances — Perpetual sacrifices to Imni and Gish
■ — Plans to obtain solitude — Efforts to learn the Basligul language
— Torag Merak's recipe to that end — Visit of Presungulis— Their
amazement at my abode — Presungul national dance and music —
Visit of Ramgulis —Their attire — Their departure — Their temerity
— Rumours of fighting— Raids — Kafir stealthy revenge and cold-
blooded murder — Observances upon the return of successful braves 104



CHAPTER X

The narrative continued— Opposition to my leaving Kamdesh — I deter-
mine to visit the Dungul Valley — Start without escort — Sher-
malik's indignation — The Arakon range — Kashtiin men on a
shooting expedition — Their attire— Chani and the Kashtsins — Sup-
posed murder — Cause of the quarrel — Shermalik's love affairs —
Camp in the Dungul Valley — Cause of feud between the Kashtiin
and the Asmar people — The Kashtiins are suspicious of my j^arty
— An anxious time — "Pshal" at Azharbai — War party of wild
Kafirs — Utah's arrival — Descrijition of Utah — A little story —
Await return of raiders — Conversation — Shtaluk, the sick Kafir —
News of ancient rock inscriptions — Description of Azharbai— Pre-
cautions — The shout of victory — K;ifirs on the war-path — Home-
ward journey — Warrior's song of triumjih — Return of main body
of Kafirs — Their arms— Intei-est in my sporting rifle — Kfeu dejoie . 1 24



CHAPTER XI

Observations about the Kafirs — Probable early history — Alioriginal
races — Native tradition — Estimate of the evidences of Kiifir origin
— The physical characteristics of the people — Gracefulness — Agility
— The Kafir in repose — Kafirs on the march — Kilfir faces and com-
plexion — Hair — Characteristics of the Kiifir women — Diseases —
General estimate — "Locality" — Power of sleeping . . . -157



CHAPTER XII

Kafir character — Intrigue — Intellect of Kafirs — Inijuisitiveness —
Jealousy and cupidity — Inter-tribal hatreds — Blackmailing —
Lying — Love of admiration and credit — Love of freedom — Per-
sonal dignity — Politeness — Reception of visitors — Hospitality —
Family affection — Kindness to children and animals — K.4firs not
cruel — Bravery — Loyalty and self-sacrifice — Quarrelsomeness —
Peace-making — Religious tolerance — Sociability and humour —
Thievish instincts — Murder — The Kafir ideal of a "good" man . 177



CONTENTS



CHAPTKII XIII

The narrative continued— Utah takes me to see the rock-markings — Our
journey there — A l)ad bi'idge — The Kum frontier village of Urmir
— Difficult pathways— A nerve-trying bridge — Village of Bagal-
grora — Cottins— -Etfiuies — Stone sacred to the god Bagisht — An
isolated Kafir - Markhor hunt — The marks in the rock — The sick,
the maimed, and the blind at Bagalgrom — EmbarJ'assing attentions
of the people — Difficult return journey — Conversation — Lame
Astan — Visit to the Kaiiui Valley — Unpleasant exj^eriences . . 198

CHAPTER XIV

The narrative continued — Return from Kamu — I adopt Torag Merak
as my "brother" — The ceremony — Utah takes umbrage, and is
also adopted as my brother — Chief reason for this custom amongst
the Ktifi 1 s — Three days' dancing in connection with erecting
effigies to the dead — My attire on such special occasions — The
male etfigy — Description of the jjerformers, dances, costumes, cere-
monies, &c. - The band — The old men dancers— Addresses to the
effigies — The choir leader — The female etfigy — Declamation by old
Astan — Dancing and feasting for the female effigy — Place mix
dames — November troubles — Growing discontent — Jealousy of
Shermalik — Utah's enmity — Squabbling all round by everybody
^Bachik's high-handedness — More quarrelling — Kamdesh again —
Advantages of not knowing too much of a language — Dinner en
/a7?ii7Ze with Torag Merak — Incidents . . . . . .213

CHAPTER XV

The narrative continued — Present at an exclusive .last ceremony — The
Kafirs' friendly bearing towards me — Small-pox and influenza —
Inoculation — Carelessness of infection — Interest in vaccination —
Pitiless weather — A white woman — Gazab Shah — Shahru the
"pshur" — He sees a spirit — A kindly J'oung brave's homicides —
The youthful Chandlu Torag — Dinner with Utah— A considerate
host — A suffering household — Epidemic of influenza — Rusala's
treachery — Matters assume a dangerous complexion — A sorry
triumph — I leave Kamdesh for a time 238

CHAPTER XVI

The narrative continued — O^jposition to my journey — I am boycotted —
Halt at Mergrom — Send for Gul Muhammad Khan — Shooting in
the Charadgul Valley — The Kam beg me to return to Kamdesh —
Zanr Malik — Run out of supplies — Lost — Shelter in the ''pshal " —
Hospitable reception — A lively bearskin couch — Hidden position



CONTENTS



PACE



of camp — A marklior liiint — Valley swatining with game — March
from the Charadgul Valley — "Cabars;" — Birkot — Personal apiieai-
ance of the Gabar — The Gabar women — Arandu — An easy lope-
bridge — A quarrel — The Kiitirs «;ive trouble — Bad behaviour of
the people of Nari — Hostility of the Malik — Nari — Return journey
to Kamdesh — Smallpox in Mergrom — Night in a cow-stable— Reach
Kamdesh — Want of cordiality in the jieople — Renewed intrigues
of the Mehtar of Chitnil — His change of front — The K:im deliate
the advisability of detaining me a prisoner — Question satisfactorily
arranged — Mii'in (iul as an intriguer — His attempt at blackmailing
— Shermalik implores me to leave the valley — Boycotted again —
Summoned to appear before the headmen — Arguments and threats
— Torag ^lerak waxes abusive — Victory rests with me — Mi;in Gul
a perpetual thorn in my side — Sojourn in Agatsi .... 256



CHAPTER XVII

The narrative continued — Ditttculty to obtain service of Kafirs — Lutkiir
— Road to Agatsi — Bridge — Cool reception at Agatsi — Misery of life
in a "pshal" — Lutkiir's love story — Utah's apotheosis as one of the
Jast — Improving relations with the Kafirs — Sayed Shah's defection
— His departure for India — Kila Drosh — Shah-i-Mulk's ]>roposed
fort at Narsut — Straits for food — Second visit to the Kunar Valley
— Chitrali escort — Riot at Arandu — The " Idoodshed "' season —
Umni Khan of Jandul — Kafir discontent with the Mehtar of
Chitnil — Schemes of Mir Jiin — Disputes between the Chitnilis and
the Kafirs reach an acute stage — The Mehtars \iltimatum — My
journey to Lutdeh — Pleasant welcome ...... 286



CHAPTER XVIII

The narrative continued — The village of l^ragamatal — The Manangul
torrent — The old village — Its destruction — The Jannahd;iri Clan —
Kiin Mara — Fort- villages peculiar to this part of the Bashgul
Valley — The story of Karlah Jannah — His stronghold in Badawan
— Kiifir etiquette — Conversation upon religion — Karlah Jannah's
surprise at Franks' ignorance of Gish — His own ignoraiu'e about
Gisli — Attem]it to prevent my crossing the Mandal I'ass — Karlah
Jannah's pertinacity — The customary change of tactics — Strange
behaviour of Shermalik — A difficult climb — Descent to the Minjiin
Valley — Cam])— A day of trouble — The masterful Mersi — Peip —
The Minjtinis — The women — The Mandiil Pass— The village of
Palul- Return march — Reach I'ragamatiil — Letter from the Mehtar
of C'hitral — Unsatisfactory news from Kamdesh — Return to Kam-
desh- — Friendly relations— Journey to the Presun ]>lanned — False
rumour.s — Umni Khan's messengers — Calm befoie storm . . 303



xiv CONTENTS



CHAPTER XIX

The narrative continued — Mersi again — Widiug Chandhi in disgrace —
Mir Jan's efforts for Uiuni Khan — The question of building a
house for me— Quarrel between the three divisions of the village —
The issue — General distui'ljance in tlie upper village — From bad to
worse — Testing my friendship — Impossible demands — I am dis-
missed from Kamdesh— Utah escorts me out of the valley — Arrival
at Lutdeli — The tribe absent raiding — The women dancing to
Gish— General ill-fortune — March up the valley — Pshowar — Un-
pleasant experiences — Karlah Jannah receives me kindly — We
become brothers — He escorts me up the Skorigul — Return to
Lutdeh — Ten weary days there — Eesolve to go to the Mtldugal
tribe — Shermalik joins me at Chiibu with good news . . . 328



CHAPTER XX

The narrative continued — Reach Bagalgrom — L. C. Merak and Bahdur
combine against me — Gokal Chand — Critical position — Opportune
arrival of two Kam headmen — The 5th of September ; an exciting
day — Extracts from diary — The successful coup— The 6th of Sep-
tember — Chandlu Astan's miracle — A day of woe— Biblical form
of grief — An impossible request — The Mehtar of Chitral's envoy —
The Meh tar's price for Kam assistance— Flight of the Mehtai'"s
envoy — Revolt of the young " braves " against the Jast — Changes
in tribal opinion — Hurried start for Presungul — Malkan's ulti-
matum — My opponents form my escort — Cross the Kungani . . 343



CHAPTER XXI

The narrative continued — My escort behave abominably — Utah's tact —
My illness— Temporary desertion of escort — A crisis— Shtevgrom —
^ly tent rushed— I am declared a prisoner — My escape — Manage to
get clear of Shtevgrom — A perfect hiding-place — Return to Kam-
desh — Hardships on the road — I get the whip-hand — Desire of the
Kam to enter into an alliance with Unird Khan — Invite gi;ests to
accompany me to India — Crowds of volunteers — Jealousy amongst
the clans — Leave Kafiristan — Decision of the Jast — Halt in Chitral
en route to Gilgit . . . 358



CHAPTER XXII

The narrative concluded — Reach Gilgit— The Hunza-Nagar expedition
— I officiate as Bi'itish Agent at Gilgit — Give up the idea of return-
ing to Kafiristan — Conclusions 372



CONTENTS



CHAPTER XXIII

The Kiifir Pantheon — Difficulty of investigation — Scepticism — Bashsulis
and Presnns contrasted — Theology — List of the chief deities — Story
of Bagislit — Legends of Imra — Inini's sacrifices and temples —
Imrd's handwriting — The mysterious hole — Imra's iron bar — Other
places sacred to Imra — Gods groujjed for worship — Sacred stones
outside temples — Moni — Other deities — Dizane — Nirmali —
Krumai 376

CHAPTER XXIV

Fairies — Yush and the demons — Ancestor- worship — Fire-worshi]) —
Religious functionaries — The high-priest — The Debilala — The
Psliur — Temporary priests — Conversation with the gods — Wise
w'oinen — Divination by arrows — Sacrifices — Miracles — Cheating the
gods — ^liscellaneous superstitions . . . . . . .412

CHAPTER XXV

A Kiifir tribe a theoretic democracy — The inner council — The orators —
A Kafir parliament — The Urir — The Urir Jast — An Urir election —
Influence of tradition and custom — Tyranny of majorities — Punish-
ments for various offences — Disobedience to the Jast — Theft —
Murder — "Cities of refuge" — Atonement in kind — Vengeance —
Assault — Adultery — Minor offences — Oaths — Debt — Inheritance . 434

CHAPTER XXVI

The Jast — Compulsory feasts in connection with becoming Jast — The
Mezhom — The Sanowkun — Wheat-growing by the Kaneash — Minor
ceremonies — The Duban festival — The Munzilo festival — Tlie Mirs
— The Urir Jast — Poor freemen — Recapitulation — The family —
Authority of the father — Succession to the headship — Family
quarrels — Polygamy — A typical Kafir family 449

CHAPTER XXVII

^Kdfir villages — Women's quarters — The fort village — Villages built
upon defensive jiositions — Populous villages — Walled villages —
Undefended villages — The one-room house — Centre pillars — The
roof — The smoke-hole — Houses of the better class — Katir houses —
Houses of the Presun Kafirs — A Kiifir tower — The dancing-j)lace or
" gromma" — The Nirmali house — Pshals — Cooking utensils — Store
vessels — Kdfir fire-irons — Fixed furniture — Tlie l)edsteivd — Tallies
and stools — The " Sheni " — Cupboards and other receptacles . . 47S



CONTEN^rS



CHAPTER XXVIII

Kafir clothing in general — Dress of the Sii'ih-Posh — The goatskin — The
"Budzun" — Sewing— Women's cotton clothes — The horned head-
dress — Gaiters of the women — Kafir boots — Hunting-boots — Im-
ported dress — Scarcity of clothing — Dress of theslaves — Siiih-Posh
blankets — Winter clothing — Dress of the Kashtan — Toilette of a
Kashmir " masher" — Di'ess of the Presuns — Dress of the Wai — A
Jast hat — Dancing-turbans — Dancing-boots — Dancing ornaments of
women — Two strange figures 505

CHAPTER XXIX

The position of women — Marriage — Polygamy — Exogamy of clan —

Divorce — Family life 530

CHAPTER XXX

■^ External trade — Exports — Measures and currency — Miscellaneous trades
— Versatility of the craftsmen — Croi^s — Ploughing— Harrowing
and sowing — Weeding and miinuring— Irrigation — Threshing and
winnowing — Terraced fields — Cattle — Wine-making — Dried grape
cakes ............ 540

CHAPTER XXXI

Tribal feuds — Blood for blood — The murder at Nari fort — The avenging
of Diin Malik — Beginning of war — Casus belli — Inter-tribal jealousy
— Foreign foes — Musalnian hatred of the Kafirs — Peace-making —
Foreign alliances— Methods of warfare — Guerilla warfare — Pro-
visions — Celebrating a triumph — Weapons — The Kafir dagger —
Bows and arrows — Spears — Matchlocks — Shields and swords — The
cannon of the Kam . .561

CHAPTER XXXII

The Bashgul Kdfir festivals — The seasons — Various dates of festivals — •
The Agar — Festivals beginning in the evening — Giche — Veron —
Taska — The throwing of the Shil — Marnma — Duban — Azhindra —
Diran — Gerdiilow — Patilo — Dizanedu — Munzilo — Nilu . . . 578

CHAPTER XXXIII

Childbirth^ — Naming of children — Kafir names — Babies — Puberty —
Children's games — Men's games— Archery — Boiling walnuts — Aluts
— Miscellaneous sports — Stone-bowpractice — Swimming — Occasions



CONTENTS xvii



of dancing — The dances of the Jast to the gods — Music — The
Pshur — -The Deljih'ila — Women dancers— Outdoor dances — Dances
to the illustrious dead — The homicides' thanksgiving dance to
(jish — The women's dance to the gods when the men are raiding —
Dancing in private houses — Wai dances — Music and singing . 596

CHAPTER XXXIV

Funeral ceremonies — Young children — Torag Merak's wife — S\niia ami
Nilira — Basti- At the Shenitdn — Mourning — ^Ft'iihirs — A duhiftns
structure — Little effigies — Gateways .'..... 630

CHAPTER XXXV

Sjjort in Katiristiin — Partridges — Pheasants — Bears — Markhor — The
commonest diseases — Small -pox — Ulcerative disease — Cioitre-
Medical acquirements of Kafirs — Astronomy ..... 652



LIST OF ILLUSTIUTIONS



TORAG MeRAK

Dan Mauk .

Sacrificing Goats : Firing

Memorial Gateway .

Kamdesh

Troublesome Visitors

Utah's Children

A Quarrelsome Kafih

Shlrmalik .

Accident at Bgnji

Tor AG Merak

A Kafir Bridge

Kafir Landscape

Presun or Viron Men

SuMRi's Feast

GtsH's (the War God) Shrine

Shermalik instructing me in the K

Chara and the Kashtan

Pacifying the Raiders

Utah's House ....

The Story of Utah .

Shermalik and Utah on Guard

Song of Triumph

Kafir Warfare

Kafir Woman with Conical Baske

The Trader and the Girls

Kafir Carving .

Descent of the Jvock

Brotherhood Ceremony w

A Dance with Effigies

Flight of Shermalik

ToRAG Mkrak escorts me

Shahrd sees a Spirit

Shahrd

RusALA turns Thief

In the Pshal

The Pathan and the Malik

Baltis in the Snow



off the Blood-Stainei



ith Tokag Mk



Ho.M i;



7'o /(((■(' p(iye 6

pit'l'' 12

Arrow ,, 15

„ '7
„ 20

Tn face page 22
parje 25

'I'll fao- paije 29

- 39
■• 55
• 59
'I'll jKce 2>":h' 68
paf/f 78
To face page 94
. page 1 1 4
Language Tofacepage 116
128

134

■ pagt 139
To face pane 143

148
152
162

173
194
page 202
To fan' page 204
213
216
229

-\i7

■ /'«