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sary, and it is common to find that the water is from 70 to 100 feet
below the surface. The cultivators are not as a rule sufficiently well-to-
do to undertake the expenditure necessary to sink such wells, and risk
the failure of finding water. Since the introduction of the regular
settlement, the Darbar has done much to encourage the sinking of
wells by the grant of advances on easy terms.

In this tract, however, are found the only considerable areas pro-
tected by irrigation. The natural difficulties to be overcome are great,
as the lie of the land makes projects costly and difficult to execute.
The lines of irrigation have to cross the drainage of the country, and
it is not easy to secure the channels against damage from the kadhs
when in flood. Owing to this difficulty, the more ambitious projects
of former days — the Kashmir canal taking off from the Ravi above the
Madhopur weir, the Shahi Nahr taking off from the left bank of
the Chenab opposite Akhnur, and the Katobandi or Dalpat Nahr
taking off from the Chenab on the right bank — failed to render


permanent help to the country. Something has recently been done
to remedy the apathy displayed in the past. Two old irrigation works
taking off from the Tawi in the Jammu tahsil — the Jogi Darwaza canal
irrigating the land immediately below Jammu city, and the Satwari
canal irrigating the villages round Satwari cantonment — have been
realigned and put in order ; and the Dalpat canal, taking off from
the right bank of the Chenab and irrigating a large portion of the
Akhnur tahsil immediately north of the Bhajwath Andar, has been

Under agreement with the Government of the Punjab the right of
the State to take water from the Ravi, above the Madhopur weir, for
the irrigation of spring crops in the Kathua tahsil has been surrendered
in consideration of an annual payment of Rs. 5,000. The restoration
of the old Kashmir canal, which takes off above the weir, is thus not
financially attractive. Probably the low-lying portion of the Mirpur
tahsil, known as the Khari ilaka, could be irrigated from the Jhelum ;
but this source of irrigation has not been tapped.

There are many drawbacks to agriculture. The administration in
the past was bad and shortsighted. There are practically no roads,
and in the kandi tract even drinking-water is obtained with difficulty.
Much damage is done by nilgai, hog, and monkeys, the first-named
animal, though an antelope, being regarded as sacred like the cow.
Cattle turned loose, either as likely to die and of no further use, or
devoted to the deity, have become quite wild and do much damage to

Above the first limestone range lies a country of wide valleys and
high hills, consisting of Basoli, Ramnagar, Udhampur, Naoshera, and
part of Riasi. This has a more temperate climate than the tract just
described. The supply of water from perennial streams is constant, but
the stream beds are deep and irrigation is not easily effected. Being
nearer the Himalayan range, rainfall is usually heavy and fairly
regular, so that the people do not trouble themselves much about irri-
gation, except where this can be contrived at little expense. The crops
are much the same as in the plains, but bajra gives way to maize, and
sugar-cane and turmeric disappear. The seasons are shorter. The
areas of prati land, where the limestone bed penetrates or approaches
the surface of the soil, are considerable. Communications are back-
ward and prices generally rule low. Trade is carried on by Telis, who
keep droves of pack-bullocks or ponies. Grazing is good and the tract
is frequented by Gujars, goatherds, and shepherds. A considerable
export of ghi takes place. Wild hog and monkeys do damage, but no
antelope are found. Autumnal fevers are very rare.

The higher uplands, including Bhadrawar, Kishtwar, Ramban, part
of Riasi, and Rampur Rajaori, have a really cold climate, and in the



winter snow falls. The cultivators are a different class from those in
the plains and lower hills, and Kashmiri settlers are found. Here the
mango-tree gives place to the apple ; and the pear, the Oriental plane
{chindr), and the deodar are found. The climate approximates to that
of the valley of Kashmir, and cultivation is on much the same lines.
The specialities are saffron in Kishtwar, and poppy in Dodar, Kishtwar,
and Bhadrawar. This tract is healthy, and only in the more shut-in
valleys do fevers trouble the people. Irrigation is general and the
rainfall heavy. Grazing lands are plentiful and Gujars numerous.
Early snowfall and cold winds from the mountains affect the crops in
the parts adjoining the Himalayan range, and prevent these coming to
maturity in certain years. Bears, hog, and monkeys do some damage.

Owing to its system of rivers, Kashmir proper possesses a large area
of alluvial soil, which may be divided into two classes : the new alluvium,
found in the bays and deltas of the mountain rivers ; and the old allu-
vium, lying above the banks of the Jhelum and extending as far as the
karewas. The first is of great fertility, and every year is renewed and
enriched by silt from the mountain streams. Up to the present, in
spite of the lax system of forest conservancy, the silt of the mountain
streams is rich and of dark colour ; but the Sind river brings down an
increasing amount of sandy deposit, which is partly due to the reckless
felling of trees in its valley.

The Kashmiris, so far, have considered no crop worthy of attention
save rice ; by irrigation and manuring an artificial mould has been ob-
tained for the rice-fields, and it is rare to hear anything said about the
original soil. But they recognize four classes which require peculiar
treatment when under rice cultivation. These are known as grittfi,
bahil, sekil, and dazanlad. Grutu soil contains a large proportion of
clay. It holds water, and in years of scanty rainfall is the safest land
for rice. But if the rains be heavy, the soil cakes and the out-turn of
rice is poor. Bahil is a rich loam of great natural strength ; and there
is always a danger that by over-manuring the soil will be too strong,
and the plant will run to blade. Sekil is a light loam with a sandy
subsoil ; and if there be sufficient irrigation and good rains, the out-turn
of rice is always large. Dazanlad soil is chiefly found in low-lying
ground near the swamps, but it sometimes occurs in the higher villages.
Special precautions are taken to run off irrigation water when the rice
plant shows signs of a too rapid growth ; and if these are taken in time,
the out-turn in dazanlad land is sometimes very heavy. A peculiarity
of this soil is that the irrigation water turns red in colour. Near
the banks of the Jhelum, and in the vicinity of the Wular Lake,
is found a rich, peaty soil (nambal), which in years of fair rainfall
yields enormous crops of rapeseed and maize. This will not pro-
duce rice and requires no manure. It is, however, the custom to


burn standing weeds and the stubble of the last year's crop before

The curious plateaux known as karewas, which form so striking a
feature in the scenery, are for the most part of grutu soil, with varieties
distinguished by colour. The most fertile is the dark blackish soil
known as surhzamhi, the red grutu is the next best, while yellow soil
is considered the worst of all. Other classes are recognized, and there
are many local names.

The Kashmiris are fortunate in possessing ample manure for their
fields, and are not compelled, like the natives of India, to use the
greater part of the cattle-dung for fuel. The rule is that all dung,
whether of sheep, cattle, or horses, dropped in the winter, when the
animals are in the houses, is reserved for agriculture, while the summer
dung is dried, and after being mixed with chinar leaves and willow twigs
is kept for fuel. But the ashes are carefully stored and the fires are
chiefly fed with wood, the dung aiding and regulating combustion.
The dung-heaps which one sees in early spring show that the Kashmiri
wastes nothing that is useful in agriculture ; but he has other resources.
When the flocks commence to move towards the mountains, the sheep
are folded on the fields, and the Kashmiri considers turf clods to be
a far more effectual renovator of rice-fields than farmyard manure.
These are cut from the sides of watercourses and are rich in silt ; and
a dressing of clods will strengthen a field for three years, whereas farm-
yard manure must be applied every year. The strongest farmyard
manure is that of poultry, and this is reserved for onions. The next
best is the manure of sheep, which is always kept for the rice nurseries.
Next comes cattle-dung, and last of all horse-dung. The value of night-
soil is thoroughly understood. Near Srlnagar and the larger villages
the garden cultivation is excellent, and the only manure used is pou-
drette, or night-soil mixed with the dust of the city alleys and pulverized
by the action of the sun.

Agriculture in the valley practically depends on irrigation. Thanks
to the formation of the country, this is easy and in ordinary years abun-
dant. If normal snows fall in the winter and the great mountains are
well covered, the water-supply for the rice will be sufficient. The snows
melt into various mountain streams, which rush down to the Jhelum.
From both sides of the river the country rises to the mountains in bold
terraces, and the water passes quickly from one village to another in
years of good snowfall. At convenient points on the mountain streams
temporary weirs or projecting spurs are constructed ; and the water is
taken off in main channels, which pass into a network of small ducts
and eventually empty themselves into the Jhelum, or into the large
swamps which lie along its banks. Lower down, where the streams
flow gently, dams are erected. All villages which depend for their


irrigation on a certain weir are obliged to assist in its construction
and repair. The weir consists of wooden stakes and stones, with
grasses and willow branches twisted in between the stakes, the best
grass for this purpose being the fikal. The channel often has to be
taken over ravines and around the edges of the karewa cliffs, and
irrigation then becomes very difficult. In former days, when the State
took a share of the crop, it was to the interest of the Darbar to look
after irrigation and to assist in repairs. But since 1880, when an
attempt was made to introduce a fixed assessment, the villagers have
had to attend to repairs themselves, and where the channel passes
through difficult ground the irrigation has become very uncertain. If
a ravine has to be crossed, a flat-bottomed boat, similar to those in
ordinary use, is erected on high trestles, and the water flows over in a
quaint-looking aqueduct. When a karewa has to be passed or skirted,
a tunnel will sometimes be made ; but as a rule the channel is cut along
the face of the cliff, and great loss is caused by the frequent breaches.
In old clays over every main channel there was a mlrab — one of the
villagers — whose duty was to see to repairs and to call out labour.
The mirabs had not received pay for years, and the channels had fallen
into great disorder ; but the office has now been revived. The system
of distribution is rough and simple ; but it has the advantage that quar-
rels between villages rarely arise, and disputes between cultivators of
the same village are unknown. Besides the irrigation derived from the
mountain streams, an important auxiliary supply is obtained from nume-
rous springs. Some of these afford excellent irrigation, but they have
two drawbacks. Spring water is always cold, and it does not carry with
it the fertilizing silt brought down by the mountain streams, but bears
a scum which is considered bad for rice. The Jhelum in its long,
gentle course through the valley gives no irrigation at present, but as
the population increases water will probably be lifted by the Persian
wheel. The only lift-irrigation at present takes the form of the simple
and inexpensive pot and lever {d/ienkli), and in Srlnagar and the small
towns some splendid garden cultivation depends wholly on this system.
On some of the karewas the spring-level is not very deep; and when all
the land commanded by flow-irrigation has been taken up, it is hoped
that wells may be sunk. The bucket and rope will be found more
suitable than the Persian wheel, as the spring-level is more than 18 feet
in depth. In the north-west of the valley there are a few tanks, and
tank-irrigation might be introduced into many parts.

The agricultural implements are few and simple. The plough is of
necessity light, as the cattle are small, and is made of various woods,
the mulberry, the ash, and the apple being perhaps the most suitable
materials. The ploughshare is tipped with iron. For clod-breaking
a wooden mallet is used and the work is done in gangs. Sometimes


a log of wood is drawn over the furrows by bullocks, the driver standing
on the log. But as a rule, frost, snow, water, and the process known as
khushaba are considered a sufficient agency for the disintegration of
clods. The spade is made of wood, has a narrow face, and is tipped
with iron. It is chiefly employed by the cultivator for digging out turf
clods and for arranging his fields for irrigation. For maize and cotton,
a small hand hoe is used to extract weeds and to loosen the soil. The
pestle and mortar for husking rice and pounding maize must also be
mentioned. The mortar is made of a hollowed-out bole of wood. The
pestle is of light, hard wood, and the best and hardest of woods for the
purpose is the hawthorn.

Agricultural operations are carefully timed so as to fall within
a certain period before or after the nauroz, the spring day of the
Musalmans, and the mezan, or commencement of autumn. If the
period is exceeded there will be a certain failure in the crop, which
is calculated in a most precise manner. The circumstance which
interferes with punctuality in ploughing and sowing is the absence
of irrigation water at the right time ; and in the spring there is great
excitement among the villages if water is stopped by some natural
cause, such as the late melting of snow, or by other reasons, such as
the greediness of some privileged person who defies the local official
and takes more than his just share of water. Up to recent times,
the cultivator was often seized for forced labour and could not plough
or sow at the proper time. And though there is no doubt that rice
ought to be sown within forty days after the nauroz, sowing often
continues up to the middle of June.

In March the rice-fields, which have remained undisturbed since the
last crop was cut, are hard and stiff. The soil has perhaps been worked
by the frosts and snow ; but if, as is sometimes the case, no snow has
fallen, it will be difficult work for the plough-bullocks, thin and poor
after the long winter, to break up the soil. If rain does not fall, a special
watering must be given and ploughing then commences. In certain
villages the soil is so damp that ploughing has to be done perforce
while the soil is wet, and the out-turn is always poorer than from fields
where the soil is ploughed in a dry condition. All the litter of the
village and the farmyard manure is carried out to the fields by women
and ploughed in, or is heaped in a place through which the irrigation
duct passes and so reaches the fields as liquid manure. Sometimes
manure is placed in heaps on the fields, and when the field is covered
with water it is scattered about by hand. Later on in April, as the
weather opens, turf clods are cut from the banks of streams and irri-
gation channels, and flung broadcast over the wet fields. When four
ploughings have been given and the clods have been crumbled with
mallets, the soil is watered and sowing can commence in April. The


rice seed, which has been carefully selected at threshing-time and has
been stored away in grass bags, is again examined and tested by win-
nowing. It is then put back into the grass bags and immersed in
water until germination commences. Sometimes the seed is placed
in earthen vessels through which water is passed. Rice is grown up
to an altitude of 7,000 feet ; and in the higher villages it is convenient
to sow earlier than in the lower villages, as the cold season comes on
quicker and it is essential to harvest the crop before snow falls. In
certain lower villages also, where it is the custom to sow rice earlier
than ordinary, the out-turn is always heavy. The ploughing for maize
and the autumn millets is not so careful as for rice, and two or three
ploughings are considered ample. A watering is sometimes given to
maize-fields to start the seed, but no manure is put in. Cotton alone
receives manure in the form of ashes mixed with the seed. All Kash-
miris recognize that the greater the number of ploughings the greater
will be the out-turn of the crop, but holdings are large and the cattle
are small and weak.

In June and July barley and wheat are cut and threshed. The ears
are trodden out by cattle or sometimes beaten by sticks, and when
there is no wind a blanket is flapped to winnow the grain. Anything
is good enough for the spring crops, which are regarded by the Kash-
miris as a kind of lottery in which they generally lose their stakes. At
the same time comes the real labour of rice weeding, the khushaba,
a word for which there is no English equivalent. It involves putting
the rice plants in their right places, and pressing the soft mud gently
around the green seedling. No novice can do the work, as only an
expert can detect the counterfeit grasses which pretend to be rice, and
k/u/shaba must be learnt young. The operation is best performed by
hand, but it may be done by the feet (/at), or, in a fashion, by cattle
splashing up and down the wet fields of mud (gufian nind). Sometimes
when the rice is two feet high the whole crop is ploughed up (se/e).
When rice has bloomed and the grain has begun to form, the water is
run off the fields, and a short time before harvest a final watering is
given which swells the ears. Often, while the rice is standing, rapeseed
is cast into the water. No ploughing is given, and a crop of rape is
thus easily obtained. • Before the harvest of the autumn crops com-
mences, about the first half of September, rain may fall and it is very
beneficial. It improves the rice crop, and it also enables the cultivator
to plough and sow for the spring crops. Such rain is known as kambar
kd, and there is great rejoicing when these timely showers occur. Before
September, if rain has fallen, a large area of land will be ploughed up
and sown with rapeseed; and both this and the early sowings for barley
and wheat are of importance, as they come at a time when the culti-
vator and his cattle have some leisure, for then the khushaba is over


and harvest has not commenced. There are no carts in the valley,
save in the flat plain around the Wular Lake, where a primitive trolly
is used ; and as the Kashmiris will not use plough-bullocks for carriage,
the sheaves of rice and of other crops are slowly and laboriously carried
by men to the threshing-floor. When the ricks are thoroughly dry,
threshing commences. Seizing a bundle of rice plants in his two
hands, the cultivator beats them over a log of wood and detaches the
ears from the stalk. The straw is carefully stored, as it is considered
the best fodder and the best thatching straw of all.

When the weather is favourable, from October to December, the
cultivator is busy ploughing ' dry ' land for wheat and barley ; but
by the end of December ploughing must cease, and the Kashmiris
occupy themselves with threshing and husking the rice and other crops
and with domestic work, such as the tending of sheep and cattle and
the weaving of blankets. It is difficult in mid-winter to tempt a Kash-
miri out of his reeking house. The ploughings for wheat and barley
are very few and very slovenly. For wheat three at the most, for
barley two, are considered sufficient. No labour is spent in weeding
or manuring, and the standing crops of wheat and barley would shock
a Punjabi farmer. The fields are choked with weeds, and it is wonder-
ful that there should be any crop at all. Two years of barley or wheat
would ruin any land, and the Kashmiris have the sense to follow a
spring crop by an autumn crop. Some day more attention may be
paid to their barley and wheat, but two facts prevent either of these
crops being largely produced in the valley. The rainfall is scanty and
very uncertain, and if irrigation were attempted the water in the spring-
time would prove too cold for plant growth.

The principal crops are rice, maize, cotton, saffron, tobacco, hops,
millets, amaranth, buckwheat, pulses, and sesamum in the autumn ;
and wheat, barley, poppy, rape, flax, peas, and beans in the spring.

The most important staple is rice, and the cultivator devotes all his
energy to this crop. The soil is porous, and water must be kept
running over the fields from sowing time almost to harvest ; for if once
the land becomes hard and caked, the stalks are pinched and the plant
suffers, while the work of khushaba is rendered impossible. It is
dangerous to leave the fields dry for more than seven days, and the
cultivator should always be present to watch the water. The growth
of weeds is very rapid : and once they get ahead of the rice, it is
extremely difficult to repair the injury caused and to eradicate the
grasses, which none but an expert can distinguish from the rice. There
are two systems of cultivation. Under the first the rice is sown broad-
cast ; under the second it is first sown in a nursery and then planted
out. The broadcast system gives the best out-turn per acre, but the
labour entailed is far heavier than that required in the nursery system.


Two khushdbas are sufficient for the latter, while four khushdbas are
essential in broadcast sowings. Provided the soil is good and irrigation
is fairly abundant, the cultivator will choose the broadcast system, but
in certain circumstances he will adopt the nursery method. If water
comes late, rice can be kept alive in the nursery plots, and the young
seedling need not be planted out till forty days after sowing.

Just as there are two methods of sowing the rice, so there are two
methods of preparing the soil. The one is known as tao, the other
as kenalu. An old proverb says that for rice cultivation the land
should be absolutely wet or absolutely dry. In tao cultivation the soil
is ploughed dry ; and when the clods are perfectly free from moisture
and do not lose weight when placed over the fireplace at night, irriga-
tion is given and the seed is sown. In kenalu cultivation the soil is
ploughed wet ; and when three ploughings are made and the soil
is half water and half mud, the out-turn of kenalu is sometimes equal
to that of tao. But as a rule the tao system gives the better results and
kenalu involves the heavier labour.

The rices are infinite in variety. In one tahsil fifty-three varieties
have been counted. They may be roughly divided into two classes,
the white and the red. As a food the white rice is the more esteemed,
and the best of the white rices are bdsmati and kanyun. These germi-
nate very quickly and ripen more rapidly than any other. But they
are very delicate plants and cannot stand exposure to cold winds.
They give a small crop and require very careful husking. The white
rice, though esteemed as a food, is from a cultivator's point of view
less popular than the red rice, which is more hardy, gives a larger
out-turn, can be grown at higher elevations, and is less liable to
damage from wild animals.

For a good rice harvest the following conditions are necessary :
heavy snows on the mountains in the winter to fill the streams in the
summer ; good rains in March and the beginning of April ; clear,
bright, warm days and cool nights in May, June, July, and August,
with an occasional shower and fine cold weather in September. All
Kashmiris assert that sirddna, or full grains, depend on cold dew
penetrating the outer husk and swelling and hardening the forming

Next in importance comes maize. The best soil is reclaimed swamp,
and enormous crops are raised in good years from the black peaty
land which lies under the banks of the Jhelum. In the high villages
occupied by the Gujar graziers very fine crops of maize are grown,

Online LibraryGreat Britain. India OfficeImperial gazetteer of India .. (Volume 15) → online text (page 14 of 50)