George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

. (page 19 of 38)
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of Chitral, some fled to the western valleys, while the



A CHEERY VILLAGE 305

Mehtar received sixty as prisoners to be sold as slaves.
At the dancing-place in the east village, beside the altar
to Imra, constructed of two rough stones, there is a pole
surmounted by an iron trophy which looks like a small
iron four-cornered hat. It commemorates a victory of
the Bashgul Katirs over the Pomora or Minjiin people
" many years ago."

Bragamatal is a cheery village owing to the fact that
traders and travellers from Badakhshan, Minjan, and
Chitral make it their destination. The inhabitants boast
that traders come to their very door, while the poor Ktim
folk have to travel all the way to Chitral or Narsut for
any small articles they may require. There are many
shrines just above the village on both banks.

,^n the Katir country, although there are many clans,
there is only one of real importance, namely, the Jannah-
dari. Kan Mara, Kan Jannah, and four or five other
brothers, as well as Mara's former great rival, Ghazab
Shah, all belong to this family. So also does Karlah
Jannah, of whom more hereafter. Kan Mani is not only
the hereditary priest, but appears to be the undisputed
chief of the tribe, a place he has obtained mainly through
the aid of the Mehtar of Chitral, Aman-ul-Mnlk. who was
also his son-in-law.

With the help of this ally, eight or nine years ago,
he defeated the Ghazab Shah faction and caused its
chief to flee from the country. Peace now prevails,
but the two households are not yet on visiting terms.
Kan Mara has very few other enemies; he has killed
them all.

After resting a day or two at Bragamatiil, we marched
leisurely up the valley, being warmly welcomed and



3o6 Till': K'AFIJiS OF THE HINDU-KUSH

liospitably entertained at the fort-villages, which are
peculiar to this part of the Bashgul Valley.

Just beyond the Skorigul we met Karlah Jannah, who
is a kind of outlaw amongst the Katir tribe. He has a
house at Bragamatal, but he may not venture there,
partly from fear of Kan Mani and of Iiis own brother
Ghazab Shah, but chiefly because to do so would be a
great lowering of his dignity. His story is somewhat
curious. Some years ago he was so rich and influential
that he posed as a rival of Kan Mara. To declare his
wealth and become famous for ever, he announced his
intention of bestowing a cow upon every family in
Bragamatal. Kan Marc4, startled at this determination,
sent round to each intended recipient of Karlah Jannah's
favour, and, by threats and promises combined, induced
them all to refuse the proflfered gifts. This was a dire
insult ; so Karlah Jannah left his home and tribe, and
established himself at Ahmad Diwana, where he hoped
to be able to induce the Afghans to invade the Bashgul
Valley from Minjan.

Karlah Jannah was most gorgeously attired in Badakh-
shani silk, and wore a most striking chappan. His
whiskers were newly dyed the fashionable scarlet colour.
He met me just above the bridge, mounted on a stout
pony, on to which I was immediately transferred, and in
this unusual manner — on horseback — I reached Jannah's
stronghold at Badawan.

This was a delightful country, pleasantly cool ; indeed
the snow bridges remained at many places spanning the
river. Badawan is a considerable tract of country, three
miles or so in extent, with a tower at each extremity, and
Jannah's house in the middle. He possesses two towers



A KAFIK STRONGHOLD 307

overlooking his cow-sheds and goat-pens, while on the




KAKl.AII JANNAII s M Ki IM .111 )1.1 )



lower ground to the west there is snfticient cuhivable
ground. In his service were two or three Minjani



3o8 TIIK KAFIRS OF THE HINDU-KUSH

refugees from the alleged tyranny of the Amir of Kabul,
as were many other people we had met in this part of
the Bashgul Valley. ]\Iost of these people had asked for
permission to return to their former holdings, but had been
informed by the Amir's officials that their places were
already filled up, and that as they had chosen to go away
of their own accord, they must now stop away altogether.

My picturesque host entertained me in a most lavish
manner ; a goat was killed in honour of my arrival, and
also a sheep for my special eating ; while food of all
kinds was pressed on my servants and followers. A
bed covered with a carpet was carefully placed in the
shade for my use, and it was easy to tell from the style
of my reception that Jannah had spent a good deal of
his time at Chitral. His little sons, unlike other Kafir
boys, were dressed up in gaudy Badakhshani silk robes
of extraordinary patterns.

We had arrived just before midday, and all the after-
noon the Kafirs played at stone quoits (aluts). As the
evening set in the cows came home to be safely housed
for the night, while my host conducted me to the
upper room of the smaller of the towers, where he, his
friends and retainers, visited me in relays, lest solitude
should make me feel dull. This is Kafir etiquette. AVe
talked about religion, and Jannah was astounded at the
information that Franks knew nothing of the god Gish.
Nevertheless, he seemed to have very little to relate him-
self about the famous war-god. He knew that he had
fought with and killed " Hazrat Ali," and had cut off the
saint's head, and he also knew that eventually the god
went to London, while his servants settled in Kc4firistan.
There his knowledge ended.



DANGER PREDICTED 309

Next Diorning it Nvas evident that Karlah Jainiali had
been won over by my Kam friends. He did everything
he could think of to prevent my going beyond Badawan.
The Kcim men the previous morning had gone the length
of trying to lead me by false assurances up the Skorigul
Valley, which debouches into the main Bashgul Valley
a short distance above the village of Pshui or Pshowar,
and had become furious when I could not help laughing
at this puerile device.

All manner of terrible things were now predicted.
Four xlfghan officials had been living in Pomaru (Minjan)
all the winter, and were there still, waiting for us just
the other side of the pass ; the snow was so deep no one
could cross ; the Minjanis would be enraged at seeing us,
and would not only refuse us supplies, but would drive us
back. At last, at Imra s shrine, where there is a bridge
over the river, Widing Chandlu, the Kam Jast, had an
inspiration of genius. He brought an old Minjani, who
with tears in his eyes begged me not to enter his country,
for if the Amir heard of it he would make my visit an
excuse for oppressing the people. For the moment I
was on the point of retracing my steps, and should have
done so had it not been that the night before I had sent
forward a man secretly, to waylay and cross-examine any
party of Minjanis who might be travelling down the
valley. As it was, I determined to merely go as far as the
top of the pass, and then to return at once if there were
any real danger of the Minjan people having to suller for
allowing me to enter their valley. This resolve, however,
seemed to give even less satisfaction than my ffirmer
arrangement, so I determined to press on.

A\'iding Chandlu, declaring he could not face the snow



310 TJIK kAfIRS of the HINDU-KUSH

on the pass, took leave of me at Imra s shrine ; but his
pernicious influence was preserved in the person of Mersi,
the man he sent as his substitute. Mersi was an ex-
tremely intelligent but wild Kafir, who knew little or
nothing about me, and whose ideas of influencing any
one were confined to bullying. He was a Kam orator,
and so possessed great influence over his companions.
He was, moreover, much admired for his astuteness and
business capacity, which he had many opportunities of
showing ; for he was the man usually entrusted by the
Kam with any arrangements which had to be made with
the AVai ; he was also a kind of agent of the latter people
for selling their little girls as slaves. Karlah Jannah, with
Kafir pertinacity, kept reiterating all his arguments against
my crossing the Mandal, but he was kept at bay by my
urging on the pony he had lent me, by which means he
was reduced to breathlessness, and also left behind.

At a place where we made a short halt he caught me
up, and began his expostulations all over again. All the
Kafirs present took their cue from him, and solemnly
assured me, guides and all, that they had been deceiving
me, and that no one present knew the road over the pass.
In the end Jannah had to be politely told by me to mind
his own business, upon which he at once mounted the
pony and rode off in high dudgeon. For the rest, I
began ceremoniously to shake hands and say farewell, and
expressed a hope that we should all meet again in a few
days on my return journey. My real authority only
extended to my three Baltis. Ordering them to follow
me, and waving my hand in friendly gesture, we started
away from the Kafirs ; but we had not gone more than a
mile or so when they all came trooping after us, and



A FEIGNED QUARREL 311

declared their intention of accompanying me. They were
not in the least abashed at having to gainsay their former
statements, but laughed cheerfully at the false stories they
had related. At a spot by a mountain tarn, where the
slope begins to grow steep, we halted, and spent the
rest of the day in preparations for the morrow. We
cooked all the flour we had, collected wood to carry up
to our sleeping-camp, and plaited rings of birch twigs to
pull over the soft leather j:)«66?



Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 19 of 38)