1902 Encyclopedia > Gilgit

Gilgit




GILGIT (Ghilghit, &c), properly a secluded valley-state on a tributary of the Upper Indus, but also applied to the tributary river and the whole of its basin, which is one of great interest in many respects, though as yet but imperfectly known. Captain J. Biddulph has for some time past been employed in Gilgit on the part of the Government of India, but no part of the information communicated by him has yet been made available. We shall describe the whole basin so far as materials allow.

About 10 miles below the elbow formed by the Indus (74° 42' long., 35° 50' lat.) in suddenly changing its course from a general direction north-west to a general direction south-west, in the vicinity of some of the highest mountains and vastest glaciers in the world, the Gilgit river enters it on the right bank, and with a general direction from the north-west. Thus the axis of the Gilgit valley is in fact a prolongation of that of the Indus valley in the direction maintained by the latter for some 300 miles above the elbow just mentioned. The length of the basin, so far as we know, on a line nearly west to east, is 120 miles; and its greatest width from north to south is about 75. The south limit of the basin is formed by the lofty watershed which divides the west-to-east Gilgit basin from the meridional basins of the (Lower) Indus, the Swat, and the Panjkora. At its intersection with the Indus-Swat watershed this limit rises to a peak of 19,400 feet, and at its intersection with the Panjkora-Chitral watershed to peaks of 18,490 and 19,440 feet. The western limit of the basin is the lofty watershed dividing it from the Mastiij valley on the upper waters of the Chitral river. This limit runs from the inter-section last mentioned north-north-east and then north-east, till it joins the great mountain node in which the ranges of Hindu-Kush and the Muztagh (or Karakoram), accord-ing to our usual nomenclature, coalesce on the margin of the Pamir plateau. The northern limit of the basin is formed by the Muztagh itself, with peaks of 23,330 feet, 22,740 feet, 22,590 feet, 25,370 feet, 25,050 feet, and the basin is closed on the east by an offshoot of the Muztagh which, over the Indus elbow, forms that other great congeries of peaks and glaciers, of which the culminating point (Raki-piishi) rises to 25,550 feet, whilst seven others exceed 19,000 feet. South of the gorge through which the Gilgit waters force their way to the Indus this eastern barrier continues with summits rising to 14,000 and 15,000 feet, and joins the southern limit already described. This last-mentioned part of the barrier is known as the Niludar Hills, and lias to be passed by the traveller who enters Gilgit from Kashmir, i.e., from India. The remotest source of the Gilgit waters is in a lake called Shundar, close above Mastiij, and by which one of the chief passes leads from Gilgit and Yassin to Mastiij and Chitral. The Ghizar river runs out of this, and, after a course of 60 miles, is joined by the river of Yassin, coming from the north. These two may be considered to form the Gilgit river. The Yassin river itself is formed by two streams joining 6 or 8 miles above the village of Yassin, by each of which leads a pass. From the north-west comes the Tui or Moshabbar stream, by which lies the Moshabbar pass, probably at least 16,000 feet in height, and traversing a deep crevassed glacier for 8 miles. From where the road reaches the upper stream of Mastiij one path leads down the latter to Mastiij, and another up-stream, crossing by the Baroghil pass (12,000 feet), over the prolongation of Hindu-Kush watershed, into Wakhan and the basin of the Upper Oxus. By the other stream, called the War-chagam river, coming from the north, a path leads over the Darkot pass to the very source of the Mastiij river, and so also to the Baroghil pass. Another im-portant stream, the Karambar, joins the Gilgit river from the north, about 21 miles below the confluence of the Ghizar

Chart ot Gilgit.

and Yassin river. This flows through the Ishkaman valley, rising in a lake called the Karambar Sar, said to have been formed in recent years by glaciers damming up the stream, and by this runs the most easterly pass of those that lead from the Gilgit basin direct to Wakhan. It is believed to be very lofty and difficult, but it has not been explored. About 36 miles below the Ghizar-Yassin confluence, and 25 miles above the confluence with the Indus, on the right bank, stand the fort and village of Gilgit. Five miles below this the river is joined by the last important confluent, called the Nagar river. Recent information suggests that this stream has a very lengthened course, flowing, in fact, from the northern side of the Muztagh in the vicinity of the Karambar lake; and, if this be so, a large addition must be made to the Gilgit basin as a whole. But of this we have no defined knowledge.
The states occupying the basin of Gilgit are, or till lately were, the following :—
1. Yassin.—This embraces all the upper or western part of the basin, including the Ishkaman valley. For some generations, at least, the relations of this state with Gilgit were hostile, whilst it was in intimate or dependent connexion with the kings of Chitral, and held by a member of the same family. Indeed it was regarded and named as a subdivision of Upper Chitral. We have no present information as to the population or even the number of villages in this lofty district; but the route surveys show about thirty. The height of the chief place, Yassin, is 7770 feet. The country was visited twice in 1870 by a very gallant but not prudent traveller, Mr George Hayward, and on the second visit in July of that year he was murdered by the agents of the chief Mir Wali, whilst on his way to the Darkot pass, in hope of penetrating to Wakhan and the exploration of Pamir. It is believed that Yassin has recently been annexed by the troops of Kashmir.

2. Next below Yassin is the small state of Punidl or Punyd, long held by separate rajas, and held by them now in dependence on Kashmir. It occupies the narrow valley of the river for a length of 25 miles, and contains nine villages, varying in height from 7000 feet down to 5500 feet. The villages are all within little forts, so that (as in Khorasan, and in Marco Polo's narrative) villages and forts are synonymous. At evening, the people who have been occupied in their fields come within the wall, and the gates are closed. Sentries guard the towers all night, and at dawn an armed patrol goes forth and makes the round of all places that might harbour an enemy, before the people issue to their avoca-tions. In this part of the valley there are frequent mauvais pas on the road, where passage is difficult, and where a few men might stop a host. These are called by the old Persian name of darband (porta clausa), like the famous Iron Gate on the Caspian. The upper village of Punial, called Gakuj, was till recently the furthest point to which the power of Kashmir, and therefore the influence of the British Government, extended. It stands 6940 feet above the sea. Between Gakiij and Yassin the road passes through a natural gate of rock. The ruler of Punial is, or was in 1873, Baja 'Isa Bagdur, an old man who, in his little kingdom of nine villages, displayed some of the best characteristics of a king,— feared by his enemies, liked and implicitly obeyed by his people. On meeting him they go up and kiss his hand.
Gilgit occupies the remainder of the main valley down to the Indus, but we shall first speak of Hunza and Nagar, lying in the eastmost part of the basin, on the Nagar river.

3 and 4. Nagar lies on the left bank of the river, Hunza opposite, and the two '' capitals," so to call them, lie just over against one another. They are distinct states under distinct princes, and their people of distinct Mussulman sects. Yv'hilst Nagar sends a small complimentary tribute to the maharaja of Kashmir, Hunza (also called Kanjud), a more warlike country, has often been at active enmity with him, coming down upon his villages in Gilgit, sweeping off the inhabitants, and selling them into slavery. Though the people of both states seem to speak the same language, Dr Leitner says the Nagar people are shorter, stouter, and fairer than the Hunza folk, whom he calls " tall skeletons " and desperate robbers. He says he met a man of Nagar whose yellow moustache and general appearance made him believe almost that, he had seen a Russian. The Kanjudis are the terror of the Kirghiz on the upper waters of the Yarkand, and of the traders from Ladak to that territory.

5. Gilgit occupies all the lower part of the main valley to the Indus. If we take the whole length of the river, from the source in the Shundar lake to the Indus, at 135 miles (which, like the other distances here, is taken with a 5-mile opening of the com-pass, omitting minor windings), Yassin will occupy 75 miles of this, Punial 25, and Gilgit 35. The lower part of Gilgit is a valley from 1 to 3 miles wide, bounded on each side by steep rocky mountains. The valley contains stony alluvial plateaus of various forms and at various levels above the river, which flows between cliffs worn in these. The greater part of this space is barren, but as usual in those high regions there is in front of each lateral ravine a cultivated sjmee watered by the tributary stream, and on that a collection of houses. The village of Gilgit is 4800 feet above the sea, and stands on a flat plain of the river alluvium, forming a terrace 30 or 40 feet above the water. The cultivation here covers a square mile or thereabouts, irrigated from the nearest lateral stream. The houses are flat-roofed, scattered o\er the plain in twos and threes, among groups of fruit-trees. The destruction was great in the wars to which Gilgit has been subject in the last half-century, and it will take long before the village recovers the former abundance of fruit-trees. The fort of Gilgit is the chief stronghold of the maharaja of Kashmir in Dardistan.

There is very little snow-fall at Gilgit. The vegetable products are wheat, barley, naked barley, rice (at Gilgit village only), maize, millet, buckwheat, various pulses, rape, and cotton; and of fruits, mulberries, peaches, apricots, grapes, apples, quinces, pears, greengages, figs (poor), wal-nuts, pomegranates, and elceagnus, besides musk and water-melons. Silk is grown in very small quantity. There are three fabrics from it,—one half-wool, much worn by those above the common peasant, one half-cotton, and the third all silk, strong though loosely woven, and prized for girdles. Gold is washed from the river-gravels as in many other parts of the Indus basin. The vine is much cultivated in some parts of the valley. In Punial it is grown in small vineyards, the vines being often old trees; the whole vine-yard is covered with a horizontal framework of sticks, 2 to 4 feet above the ground, and over this the vines are trained.

The people of the basin are all reckoned to be Dards, though there is this perplexing fact, that (setting aside dialects) two languages are spoken among them, which are entirely and radically different,—the Khajuna language, which is spoken in Hunza, Nagar, and Yassin, being one of which no relation has yet been traced to any other tongue, whilst the Shina, spoken in the rest of the basin, is clearly Aryan, and kindred to the Sanskritic languages of India. Now there seems to be no doubt entertained that the Yassin people at least have all the characters of undisputed Dards. It is worth while to exhibit the numerals from these two languages.

== TABLE ==

The Dards not only occupy the Gilgit basin, but also extend down the Indus basin, in which they form a number of small republican communities (whilst the states of the Gilgit basin are all, so to speak, monarchical), reach-ing to Batera, where the Pushto-speaking tribes who are of Afghan blood, or at least Afghanized, commence. The Dards are described as decidedly Aryan in features, broad-shouldered, well-proportioned, active, and enduring. The hair is usually black but sometimes brown, the eyes brown or hazel, the skin sometimes fair enough to show a ruddy complexion ; the voice and manner of speech are harsh. In bearing they are cheerful, bold, and independent, not dis-obliging when rightly handled, and as a race decidedly clever. They do not care much for human life, but still are not blood-thirsty. They are, says Mr Drew, "a people who will meet one on even terms, without sycophancy or fear, and without impertinent self-assertion." The women are not pretty in Gilgit, but those of Yassin have a better repute, and indeed Hayward says : " The women have a more English cast of countenance than any I have yet seen in Asia, light-brown locks prevailing." The dress is entirely woollen, trousers, choga (long robe like a dressing-gown), and girdle. The cap is most characteristic; it is a long woollen bag rolled up at the edge till it fits close to the head. The feet are wrapt in scraps of leather, with a long strip as a binder. There is a distinct separation into castes, of which Drew counts five, others only four. The lowest caste is Dum, the name of a low caste found all over India to the extreme Deccan,—a notable circumstance. The middle castes, Shin and Yashkun, form the body of the Dard people. The pure Shin looks more like a European than any high-caste Brahman of India. A Shin man may marry a Yashkun woman, but a Yashkun man may not marry a Shin woman. The Yashkuns predominate in Gilgit basin; the Shins in Haramosh (up the Indus valley) and Astor (east of Gilgit), and in the states of the Indus basin below Gilgit. It is a notable circumstance that the Dards abhor the cow, much as the Mussulmans abhor swine. They will not drink cow's milk, nor make or eat butter. In this last point the Indo-Chinese nations generally and the Chinese resemble them, but not in the dislike to the animal. The Dards will not burn cow-dung nor touch the cow if they can help it.
All the Dards of the Gilgit basin are Mahometans, and of three different sects, Snnnis, Shiahs, and Molais (Mullahis the last being a Shiah offshoot and modifi-cation. The last two drink wine, the Sunnis do not. Gilgit proper is half Surnii, half Shiah ; Punial, MolAi; Hunza, Molái—these are great wine drinkers, Nagar, Shiah; Ishkaman, Molái; Yassin, Molái and Sunni, with-out any Shiahs. Till lately they were very loose Mahome-tans. Some of the Moslem officers_in the Sikh and Dogra garrisons have spread greater rigidity. The wine is put in large earthenware jars, which are then buried for a time. The people do not understand clarifying the wine. Dr Leitner tasted some which was very palatable, but looked more like mutton-broth than wine. A kind of beer is also made. Polo is a favourite game throughout Dardistán, as in Balti, which is its home, or one of its homes, and it ex-tends to the Chitral country. Wherever Baltis or Dards live, the polo-ground may be looked for. Target archery with firearms is also a favourite amusement; they use stones for bullets, with a thin coating of lead. They are excellent shots. The Jew's harp is played; and the invention is ascribed to King David.

History.—The Dards are located by Ptolemy with surprising accuracy (Daradm) on the west of the Upper Indus, beyond the head-waters of the Swat river (Soastus), and north of the Gandarce, i.e., the Gandháras, who occupied Peshawar and the country north of it. The Bardas and Chinas also appear in many of the old Pauranie lists of peoples, the latter probably representing the Shin branch of the Dards. This region was traversed by two of the Chinese pilgrims of the early centuries of our era, who have left records of their journeys, viz., Fahian, coming from the north, c. 400, and Hwen-thsang, ascending from Swat, c. 631. The latter says: " Perilous were the roads, and dark the gorges. Sometimes the pilgrim had to pass by loose cords, sometimes by light stretched iron chains. Here there were ledges hanging in mid-air; there flying bridges across abysses ; elsewhere paths cut with the chisel, or footings to climb by." Yet even in these inaccessible regions were found great convents, and miraculous images of Buddha. How old the name of Gilgit is we do not know, but it occurs in the writings of the great Mahometan savant Al-Birúni, in his notices of Indian geography. Speaking of Kashmir, he says: '' When thou hast passed the denle which forms the entrance and hast penetrated into the plain, thou hast to thy left the mountains of Balaur and Shamilau. Two days' journey distant are the Turks called Bhatáuiarián, whose king takes the name of Bhatsháh. The country which these Turks occupy is called Kilkit (or Gilgit), Asora, and Shaltds. Their tongue is Turk; the people of Kashmir' have tc suffer much from their raids "—(Keinaud, " Extraits," in Journal Asiatique, ser. iv. torn. iv.). There are difficult matters for discussion here. It is impossible to say what ground the writer had for calling the people Turks. But it is curious that the Shins say they are all of the same race as the Moghuls of India, whatever they may mean by that. Gilgit, as far back as tradition goes, was ruled by rajas of a family called Trakane. When this family became extinct the valley was desolated by successive invasions of neighbouring rajas, and in the 20 or 30 years ending with 1842 there had been five dynastic revolutions. The most prominent character in the history was a certain Gaur Rahman or Gauhar Aman, chief of Yassin, a cruel savage and man-seller, of whom many evil deeds are told. Being remonstrated with for selling a mullah, he said, "Why not? the Koran, the word of God, is sold; why not sell the expounder thereof?" The Sikhs entered Gilgit about 1842, and kept a garrison there. When Kashmir was made over to Maharaja Gúláb Singh of Jámú in 1846, by Lord Hardinge, the Gilgit claims were transferred with it. And when a commission was sent to lay down boundaries of the tracts made over, Mr Vans Agnew (afterwards murdered at Multan) and Lieut. Ralph Young of the Engineers visited Gilgit, the first Englishmen who did so. The Dogras (Gúláb Singh's race) had much ado to hold their ground, and in 1852 a catastrophe occurred, parallel on a smaller scale to that of the English troops at Cabul. Nearly 2000 men of theirs were exterminated by Gaur Rahman and a combination of the Dards ; only one person, a soldier's wife, escaped, and the Dogras were driven away for eight years. Gúláb Singh would not again cross the Indus, but after his death (in 1857) the present Maharaja Ranbir Singh longed to recover lost prestige. In 1860 he sent a force into Gilgit. Gaur Rahman just then died, and there was little resistance. -The Dogras have twice since then taken Yassin, but did not hold it. Now, recently, it is believed, they have not only occupied Yassin, but have invaded Chitrál also. They also, in 1866, invaded Darel, one of the most secluded Dard states, to the south of the Gilgit basin, but with-drew again.

The chief source of the information in this article is an excellent work by Mr Frederick Drew, who was long in the employment of the maharaja, The Juinmoo and Kashmir Territories, a Geographical Account, 1875. Use has also been made of Dr Leitnei's uncompleted work, Results of Tour in Dardistan, &c, of Mr Hayward's letters (Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc, yol. xv., and Journ, Roy. Geog. Soc., vol. xli.); and of Col. Walker's Report on the Survey Dept. for 1877-78. The narrative of " the mullah," who performed the remarkable journeys noticed briefly in tnat report, has been for the present withheld from publication by the Indian Government, but the map corrected by bis surveys Is of extreme interest and value. By and by we may hope for the publication of Captain Biddulph's observations, which will doubtless throw much new light on this secluded and Interesting region. (H. Y.)








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