George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

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every one looking down the hole saw^ the nether world
and died forthwith. An old Kafir once assured me
that he had seen with his ow'n eyes a man killed in
this way. Occasionally, not more than once in many
years, a horse is obtained and sacrificed at this spot.
The officiating priest moves backwards, not daring to
look behind him, and cautiously removes a few of the
stones which encircle the orifice. Then, taking some
of the horse's blood, he throws it backwards over his
shoulder, and after replacing the stones, quickly moves

Close by the temple, in a house in the village, there
is a miraculous iron bar placed in its present position
by Inn;i himself Its guardians conducted me with
some reluctance into the apartment where the bar was
said to be buried under a heap of juniper-cedar branches.
The proprietor of the house, a great and holy man.


seemed greatly relieved on finding that I listened to
all he had to say about this iron pillar, and yet showed
no inclination to verify his statements by searching the
heap of branches.

Besides the great temple at Kstigigrom, there are
other temples to Imni in pro])ably every village in
Kafiristiin ; also at particular places, such as Ahmad
Diwana, below Furstam, on the left bank of the Bashgul
river, and many other spots. These temples or shrines
are small, and have no peculiarity to distinguish them
from those of the other gods. They are about five feet
square and perhaps six feet high.^ The lower two-thirds
or three-fourths are made of rubble masonry, built be-
tween wooden frames of squared timbers. The top
part is often entirely of wood with a door or window
in front, through which the idol, or the sacred stone
which does duty for the idol, may be seen. In some
cases poles are placed at the corners of the wooden
roof. The poles are sometimes surmounted by frag-
ments of iron, such as tongueless bells, iron skull-pieces,
and other similar objects, placed there to commemorate
some successful raid during which they were obtained
and brought back as trophies.

Imra almost always has a shrine to himself. So also
have Gish and Moni, although not invariably. The other
gods are often associated ; three, four, or even five
being worshipped in one idol-house, the breadth of which

' The dimensions of these shrines are given troni memory only. The
references in my diaries generally run : " Imra's shrine usual size and shape ; "
" Iniru's house ordinnry pattern," and ^o on. These objects were so com-
monly seen that I must have imagined they had been described over and
over again in my different diaries, but no actual measurements are any^vhere


is then proportionately enlarged, and each idol appears
at its own particular window, xlt Kamdesh, near tlie
east part of the village, is a very sacred spot with a
temple to Gish fitted with a door, wliich is removed
for a limited period each year. At three of the corners
poles project upwards, two of which are crowned with
caps, one of iron, the other of mail, brought back from
some successful foray ; the third is hung round with
a bunch of tongueless, roughly-made iron bells, which
are carried about and clashed together at a particular
festival. Immediately facing Gish's shrine is a similar
but smaller structure, dedicated to Moni. It is occupied
by three stones in a row, the middle and largest being
worshipped as Moni. At Imra's shrine at the top of
the village, a conventionally carved face appears at the
little door; but the popular place for sacrificing to liim
is at the foot of the village, where, as before mentioned,
there is a simple block of stone under a mulberry tree,
which has been already referred to. Near it also there
is a sacred muddy pool, dug out of the hillside and
protected by a door,

To tile north of the east part of the village of liraga-
matal there is a shrine on the hillside which is hung
about with juniper-cedar all along the front. It has five
windows, from four of which idols look out into tlie
world. To begin from the right, there are Dizane, Shuniai
or Krumai. Saranji, and Satartim. Dizane's idol has a
round face with white stones for eyes, and an irregular
white quartz fragment for a mouth. Slie has a cheerful,
and even comical appearance, wliile tlie others, liaving
the usual extensive fiat surface for the lower part of the
face and no mouths, either because time has removed


them, or because the shadows conceal the short lines
intended to represent teeth and lips, look extraordinarily

In Presunsul the idol-lionses are much more carved
and ornamented than in the Bashgul Valley, while the
god is often shown seated under a wedge-shaped roof,
and sometimes engaged in playing a musical instrument.
At Deogrom there is a Monitan (Moni place, i.e., shrine)
where the "prophet" is made of an extraordinary shape.
He is furnished with large circular eyes with a dot in the
middle ; he has cat-like moustaches, and appears to be hold-
ing his head in his hands, the face peering out between
the points of long horns, which, starting from below,
cross and recross each other till they reach the god's chin.
Occasionally the shrine is placed on the top of a village
tower in Presungul, a plan I have seen in no other district.

The only really elaborate shrine with which I am ac-
quainted in the Bashgul Valley is Dizane's at Kamdesh.
It was built by men brought from Presungul for the
purpose. It is covered with carving, and has the wedge-
shaped roof so common in Presungul, and practically
never seen in the Bashgul Valley except at this place.
Along both sides of the base of the sloping roof poles
are fixed, and support wooden images of birds, said to be
pigeons. This is really a very pretty little temple. Some
of the shrines, however, are allowed to fall into a dilapi-
dated state, as, for instance, at Ahmad Diwana ; but
they are not necessarily unpopular on that account. It
seems to be no one's business to repair isolated shrines,
and in the Bashgul Valley no Kafir is fervid enough or
sufficiently public-spirited to do the work. In Presungul
they are always in good repair.


To face page 396.


Besides the idols or sacred stones in the idul-houses
there are a large number of other sacred stones set up in
different places to which sacrifices are regularly made.
Some are said to be of divine or supernatural origin ;
some have been placed in their present position to be
worshipped ; others have been erected to the memory of
ancestors. It is the first two varieties only which are
referred to at present. Besides the Imra stone at Kam-
desh, there is another famous stone at the meeting of
the Kti and Presun rivers, which is said to have been
placed there by Imra himself, and there are many others
all over Ktifiristan. Bagisht has a popular place of
w^orship at the mouth of the Skorigul. Duzhi and
Bagisht have sacred stones near Urmir village, and
numerous other instances might be cited. Sometimes
a sacrifice is made to one of these stones from a long
distance, as, for instance, from the top of Kamdesh vil-
lage to Bagisht's shrine at the mouth of the Skorigul.

It w^ould seem that Moni, called emphatically " the '
prophet, ought to be ranked next to Imni. He is
worshipped with more respect than enthusiasm, especi-
ally at Kcimdesh and Bragamatdl. In Presungul he
retains his rightful position in the K;ifir Pantheon.
Traditionally, lie is the god always selected by Imr;i
to carry out his orders to exterminate demons, and so
forth, and there are few stories related of him in any
other connection. In spite of the popularity of Gish-
worship, Moni appears to be the chief of the inferior
deities. In almost every village he has a shrine. At
Kamu his little temple is more ornate than that of anv
other god, but at all places he is occasionally sacrificed
to by pious persons, when he indicates, in a way else-


Avlierc (Icscribod, tliat he is desirous of ti sacrifice. In
JVesungul, at the upper part of the valley, there are
two small patches of glacier several miles apart and
opposite to one another. They are called Moni's marks,
and are affirmed to be the places where the god stands
to play the game of aluts. At the village of Diogrom
1 was shown a block of stone of no great size, an
isolated fragment of gneiss. Its presence in the village
was accounted for in the following way. Once upon a
time, for some reason not stated, Moni foand himself
in Zozuk (hell). He wished to get out, but could
not. An eagle at length offered to carry the prophet
up to the earth, but Moni doubted the bird's ability to
perform such a feat. The eagle, however, made good
its words, and placing the prophet on one wing, and
the stone on the other as a counterpoise, flew up
through the earth and emerged at Diogrom, where he
deposited the prophet and the stone, which remains to
this day to testify to the truth of the narrative. At
the religious dances Moni is honoured equally with the
other gods by being given three rounds, but there is
nothing peculiar about the ceremony.

Gish, or Great Gish, as he is always called, is by far
the most popular god of the Bashgul Kafirs. Every
village has one or more shrines dedicated to his worship.
He is the war-god, and however sceptical the Bashgul
youths may be on some points, they are all fervid in
their admiration for, and devotion to Gish. In order
to compliment a Kafir and to make his eyes glisten,
it is only needful to compare him to Gish ; and it is
impossible to say a more acceptable thing to a Kafir
woman than to call her "Gish Istri"; that is, Gish's


wife. Gish in the Kafir idea was not born of a woman.
His life was deriv^ed direct from Imni ; by a word he
was created. He lived on this earth as a man. He
was first and foremost a warrior, a man of iron nerves,
fierce and sudden in his terrible onslaughts. He spent
his life in fighting, and died as a hero should. In his
furious lightning-like attacks and in his desperate enter-
[)rises he was successful above all others. He is the
Kafir type of a true man, and can never be sufficiently
honoured. Fabulous numbers of enemies felt the weight
of his fateful hand. He killed Hazrat AH ; he killed
Hasan and Husain ; in short, he killed nearly every
famous Musalman the Kafirs ever heard of. After
killing Hazrat Ali, he struck the head about with a
polo stick, just as the Chitrali princes play polo at the
present day. Some say Gish's earthly name was Yazid.
Several villages pride themselves on possessing two idol-
houses dedicated to Gish. At Kamdesh there is onlv
one, but an extraordinary number of bulls and male
goats must be sacrificed before it every year. The front
of the shrine is black with blood. Dozens of goats are
killed there at a time, and the temple is drenched with
the ladlefuls of blood cast upon it. The initiatory sacri-
fices for the Jast ceremonies are performed at Gisli's
shrine. That grimy little temple must have looked
upon many other ghastly ceremonies, the worst of which
perhaps is when a wretched Musalm;in prisoner is brought
there for a regular service, in which probably nearly the
whole of the village participates, and is then taken to the
coffin-box of some dead warrior and there slain to appease
the indignant ghost of the deceased. For the last eleven
days of April, and during the first four days of May 1891.


every nioniing iiiul iiit^lit for a full hour slaves beat drums
in honour of Ciish. During the same period, and for four
additional days, the " inspired " priest, Shahru, having
taken the tongueless iron hells already referred to from
Gish's shrine, went about the village clanging them
against one another. He carried them on three iron
rings six inches in diameter, three bells on each ring,
and occasionally dusted them with a small branch of
juniper-cedar.' At night he deposited them in any house
he chose, when the delighted householder at once sacri-
ficed a male goat and made merry with his friends.
During his wanderings about the village, Shahru was
followed by troops of little boys, to whom he occasion-
ally threw handfuls of walnuts, and then chased them
with pretended ferocity. If he overtook one of them,
he gave him a slight bang with the bells. The children
all the time imitated the bleating of a goat. On May i,
1 89 1, Shahru was more than usually inspired. He came
towards my house early in the morning, his face w'hitened
with flour plastered on with ghee. He was rushing about
in the maddest way, clashing the bells and brandishing
his dancing-axe. The muscular exertion he underwent
was remarkable. He threw himself about like an un-
tiring acrobat, while his voice was prodigious. He was
followed by the high-priest, all the Kaneash of the
year, a small ordinary crowd, and groups of little boys.
The great men spoke soothingly to the " possessed "
Shahru, and recited at intervals religious responses to
the glory of Gish. My dogs rushed at Shahru with
open mouth and loud outcry. I hurried to the rescue
with whip and whistle, for dogs are impure in Kafiristan,
but Utah and the others had driven them ofi' before


To face page 402.


Shahru hnrlcd his bells at them, missing them inten-
tionally, I am sure. This wild impostor, as he un-
doubtedly was, was an excellent fellow at bottom and

Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 24 of 38)