Great Britain. India Office.

Imperial gazetteer of India .. (Volume 15) online

. (page 11 of 50)
Online LibraryGreat Britain. India OfficeImperial gazetteer of India .. (Volume 15) → online text (page 11 of 50)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of from 15 to 20 miles. It forms the watershed between the Jhelum
on the south and its important tributary the Kishanganga on the north.
After reaching 74 15' E. the ridge gradually curves round to the south,
until it reaches the Jhelum abreast of the western end of the Panjal
range. The valley thus enclosed has a length, measured from ridge
to ridge, of about 115 miles with a width varying from 45 to 70 miles,
and is drained throughout by the Jhelum with its various tributaries.
The flat portion is much restricted, owing to the spurs given off by
the great central range, which run down into the plain, forming the
well-known Sind and Liddar valleys. On the southern side the spurs
from the Panjal range project 10 to 16 miles into the plain.

The north-eastern section is comprised between the great central
chain on the south and the Karakoram range and its continuation on
the north. It is drained by the Indus and its great tributaries, the
Shyok, the Zaskar, the Sum, and the Gilgit rivers. The chief charac-
teristic of this region, more especially of the eastern portion, is the
great altitude of the valleys and plains. The junction of the Gilgit
and Indus rivers is 4,300 feet above sea-level. Proceeding upstream,
80 miles farther east at the confluence of the Shyok and Indus, the
level of the latter is 7,700 feet; opposite Leh, 130 miles farther up
the river, its height is 10,600 feet, while near the Kashmir-Tibet
boundary in the Kokzhung district the river runs at the great height
of 13,800 feet above sea-level.

Between the various streams which drain the country rise ranges
of mountains, those in the central portions attaining an elevation of
16,000 to 20,000 feet, while the mighty flanking masses of the Kara-
koram culminate in the great peak Godwin Austen (28,265 feet)- The
difference of the level in the valleys between the eastern and western
tracts has its natural effect on the scenery. In the east, as in the
Rupshu district of Ladakh, the lowest ground is 13,500 feet above
the sea, while the mountains run very evenly to a height of 20, coo or
21,000 feet. The result is a series of long open valleys, bounded by
comparatively low hills having very little of the characteristics of what
is generally termed a mountainous country. To the west as the valleys
deepen, while the bordering mountains keep at much the same eleva-
tion, the character of the country changes, and assumes the more
familiar Himalayan character of massive ridges and spurs falling steeply
into the deep valleys between.

The central chain commences in the west at the great mountain
mass rising directly above the Indus, of which the culminating peak
is Nanga Parbat. From this point it runs in a south-easterly direction,
forming the watershed between the Indus and the Kishanganga. It
quickly falls to an altitude of 14,000 to 15,000 feet, at which it con-


tinues for 50 or 60 miles. It is crossed by several passes, the best
known of which are the Burzil on the road from Kashmir to Gilgit,
and the Zoji La of 11,300 feet, over which runs the road from Srinagar
to Dras and Leh. From the Zoji La the mountains rapidly rise in
elevation, the peaks attaining an altitude of 18,000 to 20,000 feet,
culminating in the Nun Kun peaks which rise to a height of over
23,000 feet. Owing to their altitude these mountains are under per-
petual snow, and glaciers form in every valley. The range keeps this
character throughout Kashmir territory for a distance of 150 miles to
the Bara Lacha (pass), where it passes into Spiti.

The Karakoram range is of a far more complicated character.
Broadly speaking, it is a continuation of the Hindu Kush, and forms
the watershed between the Central Asian drainage and the streams
flowing into the Indian Ocean. From its main ridge lofty spurs extend
into Kashmir, separating the various tributaries of the Indus, the result
being a stupendous mountain mass 220 miles long, with a width on the
south side of the watershed of 30 to 60 miles, with peaks averaging
from 21,000 to 23,000 feet, culminating on the west in the well-known
Rakaposhi mountain, north of Gilgit, over 25,500 feet high, and in the
mighty group of peaks round the head of the Baltoro glacier dominated
by the second highest mountain in the world, Godwin Austen, whose
summit is 28,265 f eet above the sea. The head of every valley is the
birthplace of a glacier. Many of these are of immense size, such as
the Baltoro, the Biafo, and Hispar glaciers, the two latter forming an
unbroken stretch of ice over 50 miles long. This great mountain
barrier is broken through at one point by the Hunza stream, a tributary
of the Gilgit river, the watershed at the head of which has the com-
paratively low elevation of about 15,500 feet. The next well-known
pass lies 150 miles to the east, where the road from Leh to Yarkand
leads over the Karakoram pass at an altitude of about 18,300 feet.

A description of this mountainous region would be incomplete with-
out a reference to the vast elevated plains of Lingzhithang, which lie
at the extreme north-eastern limit of Kashmir territory. These plains
are geographically allied to the great Tibetan plateau. The ground-
level is from 16,000 to 17,000 feet above the sea, and such rain as falls
drains into a series of salt lakes. Of vegetation there is little or none,
the country being a desolate expanse of earth and rock. The northern
border of this plateau is formed by the Kuenlun mountains, the
northern face of which slopes down into the plains of Khotan.

An account of the geology will be found in the memoir by Mr. R.
Lydekker, The Geology of tlie Kashmir and Chamha Territories and
the British District of Khagan. Mr. Lydekker differs from Mr. Drew,
also an expert in geology, who held that some of the gravels at
Baramula were of glacial origin, indicating the existence of glaciers in



the valley at a level of 5,000 feet ; but he has no doubts as to their
existence on the Plr Panjal range and in the neighbourhood of the
various margs or mountain meadows which surround the valley. The
question of the glaciation and the evidences of relative changes of level
within a geologically recent period is fully discussed for the Sind valley
by Mr. R. I). Oldham in Eecords, Geological Survey of India, vol. xxxii,
part ii.

There is abundant evidence that igneous or volcanic agencies were
actively at work, as is proved by the outpouring of vast quantities
of volcanic rocks ; but these are not known to have been erupted
since the eocene period. Subterraneous thermal action is, however,
indicated by the prevalence of numerous hot springs. The burning
fields at Soiyam, of which an account is given by Sir W. Lawrence,
Valley of Kas/t/m?; pp. 42-3, point to the same conclusion, and th^
frequency of earthquakes suggests subterranean instability in this area.

The following table of geological systems in descending order is
given by Mr. Lydekker for the whole State: —

Alluvial system :

Low-level alluvia, &c. ......

High-level alluvia, glacial, lacustrine, and karciva series

Tertiary system :

Siwalik series J , .....

t Murree group .

Sirmfir series ■! Sabathu group )

( Indus Tertiaries \

Zaskar system :

Chikkim series ........

Supra-Kuling series .......

Killing series ........

Panjal system :

Not generally subdivided ......

MetamoTphic system :

Metamorphosed Panjals, &c. .....

Central gneiss ........




Jura and Trias.


$ Silurian.
( Cambrian.

Palaeozoic and

Under the first of these systems, Mr. Lydekker has discussed the
interesting question, whether Kashmir was once covered by a great
lake. In this discussion the karewas already described play an impor-
tant part, and the only explanation of the upper karewas is that
Kashmir was formerly occupied by a vast lake of which the existing
lakes are remnants. Mr. Drew estimated that at one period this lake


must have reached a level of nearly 2,000 feet above the present
height of the valley, but this estimate is considered far too high by
Mr. Lydekker. No very satisfactory conclusions can be drawn at
present as to the barrier which dammed the old lake, or as to the
relative period of its existence.

A full account of the flora of Kashmir is given by Lawrence, Valley
of Kashmir, chap. iv. The valley has an enormous variety of plants,
and the Kashmiri finds a use for most of them. Among condiments
the most important is the zlra siyah (Canon sp.), or carraway. Under
drugs, Cannabis saliva, the hemp plant, and Artemisia or telivan may
be mentioned. Asafoetida is found in the Astor tahsil. Numerous
plants yield dyes and tans, of which Datisca cannabina, Rubia
cordifolia, and Geranium nepalense are the most familiar. Kashmir
is rich in fibres, and the people make great use of them. The two
best are the Abutilon Avicennae and the Cannabis saliva. Burza
(Betula i/tilis), the paper birch, is a most important tree to the natives.
The bark is employed for various purposes, such as roofs of houses,
writing paper, and packing paper. Many of the ancient manuscripts
are written on birch bark. The Kashmiri neglects nothing which can
be eaten as fodder. The willow, the Indian chestnut, the cotoneaster,
the hawthorn, and the poplar are always lopped to provide fodder for
cattle and sheep in the winter.

Excellent grasses abound, and the swamps yield most nutritious
reeds and other plants. There is an abundance of food-plants, too
numerous to be enumerated here. Eitryale ferox, JVymp/iaea steliata,
JV. alba, Xelumbium speciosum, the exquisite pink water-lily, Acorns
Calamus, and Typha sp., the reed mace, all contribute to the Kashmiri's
sustenance. Wild fruits are in profusion, and many fungi are eaten by
the people. The mushroom is common, and the morel (Morchella sp.)
abounds in the mountains and forms an important export to India.
There are plants that are useful for hair-washes, and the herbs with
medicinal properties are almost innumerable. Macrotomia Benthami
is one of these peculiarly esteemed by the Kashmiris as a remedy for
heart-affections. Among the scents may be noted Gogal dhup (Jurinea
macrocephala), which is largely exported to India, where it is used by
Hindus. The most important of the aromatic plants is the Saussurea
Lappa. This grows at high elevations from 8,000 to 9,000 feet.
The root has a scent like orris with a blend of violet. It is largely
exported to China, where it is used as incense in the joss houses.
It has many valuable properties, and is a source of considerable
revenue to the State. There is a great variety of trees, but the oak,
the holly, and the Himalayan rhododendron are unknown. Among
the long list of trees may be noticed the deodar, the blue pine, the
spruce, the silver fir, the yew, the walnut, and the Indian horse-chestnut.


In the valley itself the exquisite plane-tree, the mulberry, the apricot,

and the willow are perhaps the most familiar.

Kashmir offers great attraction to the sportsman, and for its size the
valley and the surrounding mountains possess a large and varied animal
kingdom. A full account of the animals and birds will be found in
The J'li/ley of Kashmir, chap. v. Since that book was written game
preservation has made great strides, and has prevented the extinction
of the bdrasingha [Cervus duvauceli) and the hangal or Kashmir stag
(C. cashmirianui). Among the Cervidae, the musk deer {Moschus
moschiferus) is common and its pod is valuable. Of the family Ursidae,
the black bear, or bomba hapat (Ursus torquatus), is very common,
being a great pest to the crops and a danger to the people. The
brown bear, or lal hapat ( Ursus arctus or isabellinus), is still far from
rare. It is partly herbivorous and partly carnivorous. Of the family
Bovidae, the markhor (Capra falconeri) and the ibex (C. sibiricd) are
still to be met with. The Kashmir markhor has from one to two com-
plete turns in the spirals of its horns. The tahr or jagla (Hemitragus)
is found on the Plr Panjal, and the serow or rami/ {Nemorhaedus
bubalinus) is fairly common. The goral (Cemas gora/) also occurs.

There is a considerable variety of birds. The blue heron {Ardea
cinerea) is very common, and fine heronries exist at several places.
The heron's feathers are much valued, and the right to collect the
feathers is farmed out. Among game-birds may be noticed the snow
partridge {Lenva lerzva), the Himalayan snow cock {Tetraogal/its
himalayensis), the chikor partridge (Caccabis chukar), the large grey
quail (Cofurm'x), the monal pheasant (Lophophon/s refu/gens), the Simla
horned pheasant (Tragopau melanocephalum) % and the Kashmir Pucras
pheasant {Pucrasin biddulphi). The large sand-grouse (Pteroc/es aren-
arius) is occasionally seen. Pigeons, turtle-doves, rails, grebes, gulls,
plovers, snipe, cranes, are common, and storks are sometimes seen.
Geese are found in vast flocks on the Wular Lake in the winter, and
there are at least thirteen kinds of duck. The goosander and smew
are also found on the Wular Lake. There are six species of eagles,
four of falcons, and four of owls. Kingfishers, hoopoes, bee-eaters,
night-jars, swifts, cuckoos, woodpeckers, parrots, crows in great variety,
choughs, starlings, orioles, finches (12 species), buntings, larks, wag-
tails, creepers, tits, shrikes, warblers (14 species), thrushes (20 species),
dippers, wrens, babbling thrushes, bulbuls, fly-catchers, and swallows
are all familiar birds.

Among the reptiles there are two poisonous snakes, the gunas and
ihe pohio; the bite of which is often fatal.

Fish forms an important item in the food of the Kashmiris. Yigne
noticed only six different kinds, but Lawrence enumerated thirteen.

As the elevation varies from 1,200 feet at Jammu and 3,000 in the


Indus valley at Bunji and Chilas to 25,000 and 26,000 feet on the
highest mountain peaks, the State presents an extraordinary variety of
climatic conditions. The local variations of temperature depend chiefly
upon situation (i.e. whether in a valley or on the crest of a mountain
range), elevation, and the amount of the winter snowfall and the period
and depth of the snow accumulation. The effect of position in a valley
or a mountain crest is shown by comparing the temperatures of Murree
and Srinagar. The Murree observatory is about 1,200 feet higher than
the Srinagar observatory. The mean maximum day temperature in
January at Murree is 7 higher than at Srinagar, and the mean minimum
night temperature 9 higher. On the other hand, in the hottest month
(June) the maximum day temperature is i° lower at Murree than at
Srinagar, while the minimum night temperatures are almost identical.
The diurnal range is 2° less in January, 7 less in June, and 14 less in
October at Murree than at Srinagar. The slow movement of the air
from the higher elevations into valleys more or less completely shut in
by mountains tends to depress temperature at valley stations both by
day and night considerably below that at similar elevations on the crest
of the Outer Himalayas, and to increase the diurnal range most largely
in the dry clear months of October and November, when the sinking
down of the air from the adjacent mountains has its greatest effect, and
is supplemented by rapid radiation from the ground. The effect of
snow accumulation in valleys in reducing temperature is very marked.
At Dras and Sonamarg, where the accumulation is usually large, the
solar heat on clear fine days in winter is utilized in melting the snow
and hence exercises no influence on the air temperature. At Leh,
where the ground is only occasionally concealed under a thin covering
of snow, the sun even in winter usually warms the ground surface
directly and thence the air. The cooling influence of snow accumula-
tion at Dras and Sonamarg is largely increased by the rapid radiation
from the surface. The mean daily temperature is lowest in January
and highest in June or July. At Srinagar the mean temperature of
January is 33- 1°. The mean temperature of the hottest month (July)
at Srinagar is 74-6°. The mean temperature in January and August
ranges from 25-3° to 75 at Skardu, from 3-4° to 64-5° at Dras, from
17-7° to 61. 8° at Leh, and from 36-6° to 85° (in July) at Gilgit. The
most noteworthy features of the annual variation are the very rapid
increase in March or April at the end of the winter, and an equally
rapid decrease in October, when the skies clear after the south-west
monsoon. The diurnal range is least at Gilgit (IO-8 ) and Srinagar
(22-4°) on the mean of the year, and greatest at Dras (31-4°) and
Leh (26-3°).

The precipitation is received during two periods, the cold season
from December to April, and the south-west monsoon period from June


to September. The rainfall in October and November is small in
amount, and November is usually the driest month of the year. The
cold-season precipitation from December to March is chiefly due to
storms which advance from Persia and Baluchistan across Northern
India. These disturbances occasionally give very stormy weather in
Kashmir, with violent winds on the higher elevations and much snow.
The fall is large on the Pir Panjal range, being heaviest in January or
February. In the valley and the mountain ranges to the north and
east this is the chief precipitation of the year, and is very heavy on the
first line of permanent snow, but decreases rapidly eastwards to the
Karakoram range. The largest amount is received at Srinagar, Dras,
and Anantnag in January. In the Karakoram region and the Tibetan
plateau the winter fall is much later than on the outer ranges of the
Himalayas, namely from March to May, and the maximum is received
in April. The average depth of the snowfall at Srinagar in an ordinary
winter is about 8 feet. The snowfall at Sonamarg in 1902 measured
13 feet and in 1903 about 30 feet. In April and May thunderstorms
are of occasional occurrence in the valley and surrounding hills, giving
light to moderate showers of rain. This hot-season rainfall is of con-
siderable importance for cultivation in the valley. From June to
November heavy rain falls on the Pir Panjal range, and in Jammu
chiefly in the months of July, August, and September. The rainfall at
Jammu and Punch is comparable with that of the submontane Districts
of the Punjab. It is more moderate in amount in the valley, which
receives a total of 9-4 inches, as compared with 35-7 inches at Punch
and 26-8 inches at Domel. The precipitation is very light to the east
of the first line of the snows bordering the valley on the east, and is
about 2 inches in total amount at Gilgit, Skardu, Kargil, and Leh.
Thus the south-west monsoon is the predominant feature in Jammu
and Kishtwar, while in Ladakh, Gilgit, and the higher ranges the cold-
season precipitation is more important. Tables I and II on p. 144
show the average temperature and rainfall at Srinagar and Leh for
a series of years ending with 1905.

Earthquakes are not uncommon, and eleven accompanied by loss of
life have been recorded since the fifteenth century. In 1885 shocks
were felt from the end of May till the middle of August, and about
3,500 people were killed ; fissures opened in the earth, and landslips
occurred. Floods are also frequently mentioned in the histories of
the country, the greatest following the obstruction of the Jhelum by
the fall of a mountain in a.d. 879. The great flood of 1841 in the
Indus caused much loss of life and damage to property. In 1893 very
serious floods took place in the Jhelum owing to continuous rain for
52 hours, and much damage was done to Srinagar. An inundation of
a yet more serious character occurred in 1903.


The early history of Kashmir has been preserved in the celebrated
Rajatanvigini, by the poet Kalhana, who began to write in 1148. He
. gives a connected account of the history of the valley,

which may be accepted as a trustworthy record from
the middle of the ninth century onwards. Kalhana's work was con-
tinued by Jonaraja, who brought the history through the troubled times
of the last Hindu dynasties, and the first Muhammadan rulers, to the
time of the great Zain-ul-abidin, who ascended the throne in 1420.
Another Sanskrit chronicler, Srivara, carries on the narrative to the
accession of Fateh Shah in i486 ; and the last of the chronicles, the
Rajavalipataka, brings the record down to 1586, when the valley was
conquered by Akbar.

The current legend in Kashmir relates that the valley was once
covered by the waters of a mighty lake, on which the goddess Parvati
sailed in a pleasure-boat from Haramukh mountain in the north to the
Konsanag lake in the south. In her honour the lake was known as
the Satisar, or ' lake of the virtuous woman.' The country-side was
harassed by a demon popularly known as Jaldeo, a corruption of
Jalodbhava. Kasyapa, the grandson of Brahma, came to the rescue,
but for some time the amphibious demon eluded him, hiding under the
water. Vishnu then intervened and struck the mountains at Baramula
with his trident. The waters of the lake rushed out, but the demon
took refuge in the low ground near where Srinagar now stands, and
baffled pursuit. Then Parvati cast a mountain on him, and so de-
stroyed the wicked Jaldeo. The mountain is known as Hara Parbat,
and from ancient times the goddess has been worshipped on its slopes.
When the demons had been routed, men visited the valley in the
summer ; and as the climate became milder they remained for the
winter. Little kingdoms sprang up and the little kings quarrelled
among themselves, with the usual result that a bigger king was called
in to rule the country.

The Rajataranginl opens with the name of the glorious king of
Kashmir, Gonanda, ' worshipped by the region which Kailasa lights up,
and which the tossing Ganga clothes with a soft garment.' Nothing is
known of the founder of the dynasty, though the genealogists of Jammu
trace a direct descent from Gonanda to the present ruler. Mention is
made of the pious Asoka and of his town, Srinagar, with its ninety-six
lakhs of houses resplendent with wealth. This town probably stood in
the neighbourhood of the Takht-i-Sulaiman. Next come the three
kings, Hushka, Jushka, and Kanishka, to be identified with Huvishka,
Vasudeva, and Kanishka, the Kushan rulers of Northern India at
the beginning of the Christian era. According to the chronicles, in
the days of these kings Kashmir was in the possession of the Buddhists,
and Buddhist tradition asserts that the third great council held by


Kanishka took place in Kashmir. The Buddhist creed and the Brah-
manical cult seem to have existed peaceably side by side ; but five
hundred years later Hiuen Tsiang found the mass of the people Hindu,
and the monasteries few and partly deserted. There is good reason
to believe that the Kashmiris were, from the earliest period, chiefly

About a.d. 528, Mihirakula, the king 'cruel as death,' ruled over
Kashmir. He was the leader of the White Huns or Ephthalites. The
people still point to a ridge on the Plr Panjal range, Hastlvanj, where
the king, to amuse himself, drove one hundred elephants over the
precipice, enjoying their cries of agony. King Gopaditya was a
pleasing contrast to the cruel king, and did much to raise the Brah-
mans, and to advance their interests.

Pravarasena II reigned in the sixth century and, returning from his
victorious campaigns abroad, built a magnificent city on the site of the
present capital of Kashmir. The city was known as Pravarapura, and
is mentioned by Hiuen Tsiang at the time of his visit (a.d. 631) as the
' new city.' The site chosen has many advantages, strategic and com-
mercial, but it is liable to floods. Many subsequent rulers endeavoured
to move the site of the capital, but their efforts failed. Among these
was the celebrated Lalitaditya, who ruled in the middle of the eighth
century, and received an investiture from the emperor of China. A
great and victorious soldier, he subdued the kings of India and invaded
Central Asia. After twelve years of successful campaigning he returned
to Kashmir, enriched with spoil and accompanied by artisans from
various countries, and built a magnificent city, Paraspur (Parihasapura).
To give this new town pre-eminence, he burnt down Pravarapura.
Lalitaditya also built the splendid temple of Martand. Before leaving
for further conquests in Central Asia, from which he never returned,

Online LibraryGreat Britain. India OfficeImperial gazetteer of India .. (Volume 15) → online text (page 11 of 50)