1902 Encyclopedia > Oxus

Oxus




OXUS. This river rises in the lofty table-lands which are intercepted between the two great mountain ranges of central Asia, the Thian Shan and the Hindu Rush, in the region where they approach each other most closely. It flows westwards through a broad valley, receiving numerous affluents from the mountain ranges on either side; then bending to the north-west it traverses the arid deserts of western Turkestan on the borders of Bokhara, descends into and fertilizes the rich oasis of Khiva, and finally disembogues at the southern extremity of the Sea of Aral. Its course is roughly parallel to that of its sister river the Jaxartes, which rises to the north of the Thian Shan water-parting, and disembogues at the northern extremity of the Sea of Aral.

The name Oxus is that by which the river is mentioned in the writings of the ancient Greek historians. In the older traditions of the Parsi books it is named the Veh-riid, in some form of which originates the classical name which we find it most convenient to use, and also it may be presumed the names of various territories on the banks of its upper waters, such as Wakhan, Wakhsh, and Washgird, which are no doubt identical in formation, if not in application, with the classical Oxiani, Oxii, and Oxi-Petra. The classical names have long ceased to be known to the inhabitants of the country. In early Mohammedan history the river was usually styled Al-Nahr, whence the title Ma wara- '1 Nahr, or " beyond the river," which came to be bestowed on a province of Persia lying to the north of the Oxus, and which in modern use has been rendered Transoxiana. In subsequent Mohammedan writings Al-Nahr gives place to Jaihiin, corresponding to the Gihon of the Mosaic garden of Eden. And now the river is known by Asiatics as the Amu Daria, a name of which the origin is uncertain.
In the most remote ages to which written history carries us, the regions on both sides of the Oxus were subject to the Persian monarchy. Of their populations Herodotus mentions the Bactrians, Chorasmians, Sogdians, and Sacae as contributing their contingents to the armies of the great King Darius. The Oxus figures in Persian romantic history as the limit between Iran and Turan, but the substratum of settled population to the north as well as the south was probably of Iranian lineage. The valley is connected with many early Magian traditions, according to which Zoroaster dwelt at Balkh, where, in the 7th

Sketch Map of the Oxus.

century B.C., his proselytizing efforts first came into operation. Buddhism eventually spread widely over the Oxus countries, and almost entirely displaced the religion of Zoroaster in its very cradle. The Chinese traveller Hwen Tsang, who passed through the country in 630-644 A.n., found Termedh, Khulm, Balkh, and above all Bamian, amply provided with monasteries, stirpas, and colossal images, which are the striking characteristics of prevalent Buddhism ; even the Pamir highlands had their monasteries.

Christianity penetrated to Khorasan and Bactria at an early date ; episcopal sees are said to have existed at Merv and Samarkand in the 4th and 5th centuries, and Cosmas (e. 545) testifies to the spread of Christianity among the Bactrians and Huns.

Bactria was long a province of the empire which Alexander the Great left to his successors, but the Greek historians give very little information of the Oxus basin and its inhabitants. About 250 B.C. Theodotus, the " governor of the thousand cities of Bactria," declared himself king, simultaneously with the revolt of Arsaces which laid the foundation of the Parthian monarchy. The Grseco-Bactrian dominion was overwhelmed entirely about 126 B.C. by the Yuechi, a numerous people of Tibet who had been driven westwards from their settlements on the borders of China by the Hiongnu, the Huns of Deguignes. From the Yuechi arose, about the Christian era, the great Indo-Scythian dominion which extended across the Hindri Kiish southwards, over Afghanistan and Sind. The history of the next five centuries is a blank. In 571 the Haiathalah of the Oxus, who are supposed to be descendants of the Yuechi, were shattered by an invasion of the Turkish khakan; and in the following century the Chinese pilgrim Hwen Tsang found the former empire of the Haiathalah broken up into a great number of small states, all acknowledging the supremacy of the Turkish khakan, and several having names identical with those which still exist. The whole group of states he calls Tukhara, by which name in the form Tokharistan, or by that of Haiathalah, the country continued for centuries to be known to the Mohammedans. At the time of his pilgrimage Chinese influence had passed into Tokharistan and Transoxiana. Yezdegird, the last of the Sasanian kings of Bokhara, who died in 651, when defeated and hard pressed by the Saracens, invoked the aid of China ; the Chinese emperor, Taitsung, issued an edict organizing the whole country from Ferghana to the borders of Persia into three Chinese administra-tive districts, with 126 military cantonments, an organization which, however, probably only existed on paper.

In 711-12 Mohammedan troops were conducted by Kotaiba, the governor of Khorasan, into the province of Khwarizm (Khiva), after subjugating which they advanced on Bokhara and Samarkand, the ancient Sogdiana, and are said to have even reached Ferghana and Kashgar, but no occuption then ensued. In 1016-25 the govern-ment of Khwarizm was bestowed by Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni upon Altuntash, one of his most distinguished generals.

Tokharistan in general formed a part successively of the empires of the Sasanian dynasty of Bokhara (terminated 999 A.D.), of the Ghaznavi dynasty, of the Seljukian princes of Persia and of Khorasan, of the Ghori or Shansabanya kings, and of the sultans of Khwarizm. The last dynasty ended with Sultan Jalal-ud-din, during whose reign (1221-31) a division of the Moghul army of Jenghiz Khan first invaded Khwarizm, while the khan himself was besieging Bamian; Jalal-ud-din, deserted by most of his troops, retired to Ghazni, where he was pursued by Jenghiz Khan, and again retreating towards Hindustan was overtaken and driven across the Indus.

The commencement of the 16th century was marked by the rise of the Uzbek rule in Turkestan. The Uzbeks were no one race, but an aggregation of fragments from Turks, Mongols, and all the great tribes constituting the hosts of Jenghiz and Batu. They held Kiinduz, Balkh, Khwarizm, and Khorasan, and for a time Badakhshan also ; but Badakhshan was soon won by the emperor Baber, and in 1529 was bestowed on his cousin Suliman, who by 1555 had established his rule over much of the region between the Oxus and the Hindri Kiish. The Moghul emperors of India occasionally interfered in these provinces, notably Shah Jehan in 1646; but, finding the difficulty of maintaining so distant a frontier, they abandoned it to the Uzbek princes. About 1765 the wazir of Ahmed Shah Abdali of Cabul invaded Badakhshan, and from that time until now the domination of the countries on the south bank of the Oxus from Wakhan to Balkh has been a matter of frequent struggles between Afghans and Uzbeks.

The Uzbek rule in Turkestan has during the last twenty years been rapidly dwindling before the growth of Russian power. In 1863 Russia invaded the Khokand territory, taking in rapid succes-sion the cities of Turkestan, Ghemkend and Tashkend. In 1866 Khojend was taken, the power of Khokand was completely crushed, a portion was incorporated in the new Russian province of Turkestan, while the remainder was left to be administered by a native chief almost as a Russian feudatory; the same year the Bokharians were defeated at Irdjar. In 1867 an army assembled by the amir of Bokhara was attacked and dispersed by the Russians, who in 1868 entered Samarkand, and became virtually rulers of Bokhara. In 1873 Khiva was invaded, and as much of the khanate as lay on the right bank of the Oxus was incorporated into the Russian empire, a portion being afterwards made over to Bokhara. Russia acquired the right of the free navigation of the Oxus throughout its entire course, on the borders of both Khiva and Bokhara. The administration of the whole of the states on the right bank of the Oxus, down to the Russian boundary line at Ichka Yar, is now in the hands of Bokhara, including Karategin—which the Russians have transferred to it from Khokand—and Darwáz at the entrance to the Pamir highlands. At the present time the states on the left bank of the Oxus, from its sources in the Panjah river down to the town and ferry of Khwája Saleh, are mainly subject to Afghanistan ; from Khwája Saleh to the frontiers of Khiva and Russia at Ichka Yar the left bank of the Oxus is subject to Bokhara; from the same point the Afghan boundary is supposed to stretch across the Dasht-i-chul plains of the Turkomans, above Maimána, to Sarakhs, where it meets the Persian frontier.

The regions in which the Oxus takes its birth, and through which it passes until it becomes lost in the Sea of Aral, may be divided into upper, middle, and lower: the upper is constituted by the highlands between the Thián Shan and the Hindú Kúsh ranges, and the middle by the plains and uplands which are situated in the broad valley between the western prolongations of the same ranges; the lower lies in the plains of western Turkestan. Descrip-tions of the chief provinces and states in the middle and lower regions will be found under AFGHAN TURKESTAN (vol. i. p. 241), including the eastern khanates of Kúndúz, Khúlm, Balkh, and Akcha, and the Chahár Wiláyat, or Four Domains, viz., the western khanates of Sir-i-púl, Shibrghán, Andkhúi, and Maimána; also under BADAKH-SHÁN, KARATEGIN, HISSAR, BOKHARA, and KHIVA; accounts have also been already given of BACTRIA, BALKH, and BAMIAN. Here we shall only treat of the highland regions of the Oxus, and the river itself in its downward course to the Sea of Aral, postponing all other matter to the article TURKESTAN (see also the map of Turkestan).

For a right understanding of the highland region, notice must be taken of its position relatively to the two great longitudinal systems of mountains, the Thián Shan and the Indian Caucasus, and their respective prolongations east and west, which form such a prominent feature in the physical geography of the continent of Asia. These mountain systems include between them a belt of table-lands of varying breadth, and generally of considerable altitude. The forces of nature by which both the mountains and the intermediate table-lands were primarily evolved from the earth's crust appear to have acted concurrently over the entire region, but with greatest elevat-ing effect along the northern edge of the Caucasus; for, though the highest peaks of the Hindú Kúsh and the Himalayan ranges are more frequently met with on spurs some distance to the south than on the northern water-parting, the elevated masses are here of greatest magni-tude ; here there are mountains whose peaks rise to great altitudes above the sea-level, but which are comparatively insignificant differentially, the visible height above the surrounding table-lands being rarely more than a third, and often less than a tenth, of the height above the sea; and here there are passes across great ranges of which the level is barely distinguishable from that of the surrounding table-lands, so that the traveller may cross a great water-parting without being aware of it, a tussock of grass decid-ing the course of the waters, whether towards the frontiers of China or of Europe or towards the Indian Ocean.





The elevated mass which forms a bridge between the Thián Shan and the Hindu Caucasus, in the quarter where they approach each other most closely, constitutes the governing geograpl|ical and political feature of these regions, and gives birth to all the principal sources of the Oxus. A happy instinct has led the inhabitants to call it the Bam-i-dunia, or Roof of the World ; modern European geographers have called it the "heart of Asia," the "central boss of Asia." It is the Tsungling of Chinese writers, the northern Imaus of Ptolemy, the Mountain Parnassus of Aristotle, " the greatest of all that exist toward the winter sunrise." The geographical indications of the Puranas, considered in any but a fabulous light, point to it as Me>u, the scene of the primeval Aryan paradise. Old Parsi traditions point to it as the origin and nucleus of the Aryan migrations. And it is here that the Mohammedan invaders are shown, by their iden-tification of the great rivers with the Gihon and Pison of the Mosaic narrative, to have believed that the terres-trial paradise, the cradle of the human race, was situated.

Few regions can present claims to interest and just curiosity so strong and various as this one. Its past history is interwoven with that of all the great Asiatic conquerors, and its position on the rapidly narrowing borderland between the British and the Russian dominions gives it additional interest at the present time. But its geography is most intricate and complicated, and has long been a fruitful subject of controversy. The region is intersected with mountain ridges and depressed river beds which are alike difficult to cross; its altitude is unfavour-able for the growth of cereals, and it mostly lies buried in snow for half the year; it is, moreover, sparsely inhabited, and does not produce sufficient food for the requirements of the inhabitants. It interposes a formidable barrier between eastern and western Turkestan across the ancient highway from Europe to China; and, though this barrier has been repeatedly crossed, the extant narratives of the journeys and descriptions of the routes present only occasional glimmerings of truth amidst a mass of error and confusion, and are at times barely available for sober inquiry; genuine facts of observation have been so mixed up with erroneous information that it has become impossible to reconcile conflicting statements or separate the true from the false. Thus within the last quarter of a century maps have been published by eminent geographers in England and Germany in which the great cities of eastern Turkestan are placed 3° to 4", or over 200 miles, too far to the west, and the limits of the " heart of Asia" are materially narrowed.

The interest attaching to the region has even led to the fabrication of spurious documents which have darkened the mist already enveloping it, and have betrayed eminent geographers into error and confusion.

While geography remained under the spell of these mis-chievous fictions, research was impeded, and an insurmount-able obstacle placed in the way of the true delineation of the region; doubt was even thrown on the accuracy of the work of genuine explorers. But within the last decade the mist in which the " Roof of the World " had so long been enveloped has been largely dispelled by the labours of Russian and British officers, and also by natives of India trained to geographical exploration and employed in con-nexion with the operations of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India. In some parts there is still much doubt and uncertainty, but enough is now known to furnish the geographical student with a fairly accurate idea of the general course of the rivers and configuration of the table-lands and mountains.

Two systems of rivers give birth to the sources of the Oxus, one to the north rising in and around the Alai plateau, the other to the south rising in the Pamir pla-teaus, of which there are several. The two systems are divided by a great chain of mountains known locally as the Kizil-yart range, but called by Fedchenko (looking from the north) the Trans-Alai range, and by recent Russian surveyors the Peter the Great range; it lies from east to west on the southern border of the Alai plateau, and throws out spurs westwards to Darwaz; its medium height above the sea-level is 18,000 or 19,000 feet, with occasional peaks rising to 25,000 feet. Of the Oxianian affluents to its north and west the principal are the Wakhsh or Siirkh-ab ( = the Kizil-su = the Red River), rising in the Alai, and the Muksii and Khing-ab rivers, which join the Wakhsh in the district of Karategin.

The system of southern affluents is, however, the most important of the two politically as well as geographically, comprising as it does the water-partings which define the boundaries between China, Afghanistan, and Bokhara, and all the rivers of what is generally known as the Pamir region. The name Pamir is suggested by Bournouf to have been derived from Upa-Meru, meaning the lands " beyond the mountain of Meru"; a later and more probable sugges-tion, by Major Trotter, is that it is the Khirgiz equivalent of B&m-i-dunia. It means simply an elevated steppe or plateau. By the people of the country it is not applied, as European geographers apply it, to the entire region, which is one of mountains as well as table-lands, but to each of the plateaus with the addition of a distinctive designation. Thus there is the Pamir-Kalan (great), the Pamir-Khurd (little), the Pamir-Alichur, the Pamir-Khargoshi (of the hare), the Pamir-Sarez (of the water-parting), and the Pamir-Rangkul, on which the Rangkiil lake is situated. There is also another, the Pamir-i-Shiva, which, though only recently brought prominently to the notice of European geographers, is of considerable magnitude, elevation, and importance; it lies in that part of Badakhshan which is enclosed to the north and east by the Panjah river, and to the south and west by a spur from the Hindii Rush range. This spur is an offshoot from the vicinity of the Tirfch Mir peak (25,400 feet) north of Chitral; it lies between Faizabad and Ishkashim, sinks to 10,900 feet at the Zebak pass, and then again, ascending to higher altitudes, trends to the north-west, and strikes the western spurs of the Kizil-yart range in the DarwAz district; it forms the water-parting between the Kokcha river of southern Badakhshin and the Panjah river. Though a spur from the main range, it is of itself an important range, and has some claim to be regarded as the western boundary of the Pamir table-lands, as it lies immediately over the Shiva Pamir ; if the claim be admitted, the breadth of the elevated barrier between the plains of eastern and western Turkestan will be found to be about 250 miles, whereas geographers have hitherto accorded to the Pamir plateau a breadth of only 100 miles. The Panjah river flows downwards through the region where the spurs of this western bounding range meet those of the Kizil-yart range, passing between narrow and precipitous gorges which form a natural gateway to the highlands, though one which in many parts is barely accessible, or has to be quitted altogether for the easier mountain passes on either hand.

The most elevated portion of the highlands occurs on the north-east border, above the plains of Kashgar and Yarkand. Here a chain of mountains, interwoven with the Thian Shan and the Kizil-yart ranges, trends to the east and south-east, and throws up peaks of great height, culminating in Tagharma (25,500 feet); viewed from the plains to the east, it seems to form part of a great chain— the Belut Tagh of Humboldt—which connects the Thian Shin range with the Hindu Kush; but it is broken through by rivers, and terminates over the plains of the Sarikol district. The line of water-parting which con-stitutes the real connexion between the Thidn Shin and the Hindu Kush lies more to the west, in hills which, emanating from the Kizil-yart range, pass between the Rangkiil Pamir and the Kizil-yart plain, and then bending southwards strike an angle of the Hindii Kush range on the borders of the Sarikol and Kanjiit districts ; they are probably nowhere of any great altitude above the general level of the table-lands; but they are of importance in that they may be regarded as the natural boundary between the states of eastern Turkestan now subject to China, and those of western Turkestan subject to Afghan-istan and Bokhara.





The best known river of the Pamir plateaus is the Panjah, which receives all the other rivers of this region before it enters the plains; above Kila Panjah it has two important affluents, one from the east rising in Kanjiit, and probably about 120 miles long, the other from the north-east rising in the lake of the Great Pamir (Wood's Lake Victoria), and about 80 miles long. From the point of junction to Kila-Bar-Panjah is 140 miles; here the united waters of the SochAn and Shakhdara rivers from the east are received; 33 miles lower down, near Kila Wamar, the Bartang river, also from the east, is received. The upper source of the Bartang is the Ak-sii (white water) river, which rises in the Oikiil or Gazkiil lake of Little Pamir, and, winding round the highlands, passes through the Sarez Pamir, where its name changes to the Murghabi (water fowl), which lower down becomes Bartang (narrow passage). The Aksii-Bartang is probably the longest of the Pamir rivers; its length exceeds 330 miles, while that of the Panjah from the source of its longest affluent down to the Bartang junction is probably under 300 miles; thus it has been claimed as constituting, rather than the Panjah, the proper boundary line between Afghanistan and Bokhara. About 120 miles below Kila Wimar the Panjah debouches into the plains after receiving the Wanjab river of Darwaz on its right bank, and the Kof (Kufau) river coming from the Shiva Pamir on its left bank. Fifty miles farther on it receives on its right bank the Yakhsii river conveying the waters of a system of valleys lying between the Panjah and the Wakhsh rivers, the courses of which are here nearly parallel; 18 miles onwards it receives (left bank) the Kokcha river of southern Badakhshan, and at this point it loses its individuality and becomes the Amii river; 80 miles to the west the Amii receives the Wakhsh or Siirkh-ab river, when the whole of the waters of the Oxianian highlands are brought together into one channel.

Returning to the highlands, we briefly notice the princi-pal lakes. Chief of all is the Great Karakul—the Dragon Lake of Chinese writers; it stands in the Khargoshi Pamir, has an area of about 120 square miles, and an altitude of 12,800 feet; it was long regarded as the source of the Oxus, but has recently been found to have no out-let. The Little Karakul and the Bulankiil lakes, areas 15 and 8 square miles, on the Kizil-yart plateau, are probably over 13,000 feet. The Rangkiil lake, area 15 square miles, is 12,800 feet. Wood's Victoria, the lake of the Great Pamir, height 13,900 feet, has an area of 25 square miles. The Yashil-Kul, area 16 square miles, height 12,550 feet, is in the Alichur Pamir, where in 1759 the Chinese troops surprised and defeated the Khwajas of Badakshan. The great Shiva-Kul, lately visited by Dr Kegel, has, according to him, an area ex-ceeding 100 square miles, and an altitude of 11,800 feet, and Wood alludes to it as of considerable magnitude. There are numerous small lakes, of which the most im-portant is the Oikul (13,100 feet), the source of the Ak-sii river, in the Little Pamir.

Hill ranges crop up out of the table-lands in various quarters; their general direction is from north-east to south-west; they form the boundaries between the several Pamirs and the principal water-partings between the valleys. The portion of the Hindu Kush range which lies immediately to the south of this region is of very varying altitude, sinking at the Baroghil pass .to 12,000 feet, or only 1000 feet above the adjoining table-lands, but rising to heights of 22,600 to 25,400 in peaks to the west of that pass.

In 1872 the Panjah river was adopted by the British and the Russian Governments as the line of boundary between Bokhara and Afghanistan. But rivers which are readily crossed, and pass through valleys both sides of which have much of life in common, rarely serve as bound-aries between the people residing on the opposite banks. The Panjah river has been found to divide no less than four states, Wakhau, Shighnan, Roshan, and Darwaz, into two parts each; the first three of these are claimed by Afghanistan and the fourth by Bokhara, by whom they are administered—or at least are attempted to be admin-istered—without regard to the conventional boundary line of the Panjah; presumably, therefore, this line will have to be abandoned for the lines of water-parting along the hill ranges which form the natural boundaries of the several states.

The Pamir plateaus are generally covered with a rich soil which affords very sweet and nourishing grasses, though at too great an altitude for husbandry; there is an unlimited extent of summer pasture lands for the Khirgiz and other nomad tribes and the herdsmen of the surrounding districts. But for the plentiful supply of food for cattle which these regions afford during several months of the year, they could never have been crossed by the great armies and hordes which are said to have passed over them. The culturable areas are small, and are usually restricted to narrow ledges on the margins of the rivers, which, however, when well cultivated and manured yield rich returns ; food stuffs have to be largely obtained from the plains below; mulberry trees thrive well and are much prized, because their unripened berries are ground to flour and form a serviceable article of food.

Wakhan contains some twenty-five scattered villages with about as many houses in each, and a population estimated at 3000 souls. Shighnan and Roshan may at present be regarded as one state, as they are governed by one ruler; the valleys of Sochan-o-Giind and Shakhdara belong to the former, and that of Bartang to the latter (villages, 234; houses, 4477; souls, 22,000). Darw&z is famous for its difficult roads, called "averings," which are carried along the faces of perpendicular precipices, on planks resting on iron bolts driven into the rock; the roads are, however, said to be much improved since the state came under Bokhara. Darwaz extends over the valley of the Khingab river to the north as well as over the valley of the lower Panjah. It has three amlakdarates on the Khingab—Upper Wakhia, Lower Wakhia, and Khulas— and one, Sagridasht, on an affluent of the Khingab, containing 84 villages with 2458 habitations; it has also three subdivisions on the Panjah—south-eastern or upper Darwaz terminating at Kila Khum, south-western Darwaz terminating at Zigor, and lower Darwaz—which contain 31 villages with 896 habitations on the right bank, including those of the Wanjab affluent, and 45 villages with 1379 habitations on the left bank, including those of the Kufau river, which comes from the Shiva Pamir.

Russian officers have found that at the point where the Panjah enters the plains the level is about 1800 feet above the mean sea, or 12,100 feet below the sources of the river in Lake Victoria; 50 miles lower down, at the junction with the Kokcha, where the Panjah merges into the Amii Daria, the height is given as 1000 feet; at Kilif (214 miles) it is 730 feet; and at Chaharjvii (203 miles), 510 feet,—thence the length of the course of the river to the Sea of Aral is somewhat over 500 miles. The Aral is 158 feet above the mean sea-level. Thus the average slope of the Amii is about 14 inches in the mile above and 8 inches below Chaharjui. The river has been reported to be navigable for steamers up to the junction with the Wakhsh or Surkhab; and in 1878 a Russian steamer ascended it up to Khwaja Saleh, at the junction of the boundaries of Bokhara and Afghanistan.

The testimony of antiquity is almost unanimous in representing the Oxus as having once flowed into the Caspian Sea. Herodotus asserts that in his day the Jaxartes also entered the Caspian, but this statement is so highly improbable that it throws much doubt on his geographical accuracy as regards these regions. Greek historians also mention a river Ochus to the south of the Oxus, flowing towards the Caspian, into which it is supposed to have fallen either directly or after joining a branch of the Oxus; Strabo says that both this river and the Oxus were crossed by Alexander in marching from Samarkand to Merv. Maps recently published by both English and Russian geographers show the supposed ancient beds of the two rivers in the Turkomani deserts, the Oxus flowing southwards from the province of Khiva and joining the Caspian below the Balkhan Bay, the Ochus flowing from east to west in a lower latitude, and possibly striking the Oxus before it turns towards the Caspian. The first is called the old Oxus in English and the Uzboi in Russian maps; the second is called the Ongiiz in Russian and the Chaharjvii in English maps, and is some-times drawn as if it had been a bifurcation from the Oxus at some point near Chaharjiii. But the recent explorations of the Bussian engineer Lessar have shown that what hitherto has been taken for the dry bed of the Ochus is not the bed of a river, but merely a natural furrow between sand-hills, that it cannot be the continuation either of a river from the east bifurcating from the upper Oxus or of the Tejend river from the south as has been supposed, and also that it does not join the Uzboi, but ceases at a distance of fully 60 miles from the ancient bed of that river. Thus the bed of the Ochus has still to be discovered.

As regards the Oxus, some eminent geographers are of opinion that it has disembogued into the Aral Sea from time immemorial as at this day; other geographers of equal weight have asserted that the Aral has fluctuated at different periods of history between the condition of a great inland sea and. that of a reedy marsh, according to the varying course of its two feeders the Jaxartes and the Oxus. Now the position and height of the head of the delta of the Oxus relatively to the Aral and the Caspian Seas are such that comparatively slight changes in the relations of the river to its banks and bed would readily divert its course from one sea to the other. Khwaja-ili, at the head of the delta, is 217 feet above the mean sea; the Aral is 158 feet above and the Caspian 85 feet below the mean sea. The length of channel from Khwaja-ili to the Aral is 110 miles, with a fall of 59 feet, or about 6 inches in the mile; the length of channel from the town of TJrganj near Khwaja-ili to the Caspian is about 600 miles, with a fall of (say) 300 feet, or also about 6 inches to the mile. Thus the degree of slope is much the same in both directions, and consequently the blocking of the channel towards one sea—either naturally as by an accidental deposit of silt, or artificially by the construction of dams for the diversion of the river—would most probably be soon followed by a flow of water towards the other sea. The writings of Strabo, Pliny, and Ptolemy indicate that from 500 B.C. to 600 A.D. the Oxus flowed into the Caspian. About 605 a great change is said to have taken place, which turned the full stream of the Oxus into the Aral. In subsequent years dams were constructed for irrigation jmrposes which prevented the stream from reverting to the Caspian. In 1221, during the siege of Urganj by the Turks, the dams were purposely broken down, and the stream was allowed to find its way back to the TJzboi, which had been deserted for several centuries. But by 1643 the Oxus is said to have been again debouching into the Aral, as at the present time.

Authorities.—Colonel Yule's " Essay" in "Wood's Oxus, 2d ed.; Id., " Papers connected with the Upper Oxus Regions," in Jour. Roy. Geog. Soe., xlii.; Sir Henry Rawlinson, England and Russia in the East; Id., Review of Yule's " Marco Polo," in Edin. Rev., January 1872; Id., "Monograph on the Oxus," in Jour. Roy. Geog. Soe., xlii.; Id., "Notes on the Ochus," in Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc., xx.; Id., "Road to Merv," in Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc, March 1879; Price, Mahomedan History ; Lenz, Ancient Course of the Amu- Daria, translated from German by C. G.; Arendarenko, Darwdz and Karateghin, translated from Russian Military Journal by R. M.; General Walker, Map of Turkestan, 6th ed., 1883 ; "The Russian Pamir Expedition," in Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc, March 1884. (J: T. W.)

Footnotes

101
Natives of western India hold that it implies " mother " of rivers, in correlation with Abi-san or "father of rivers," a title which is frequently giveu to its great southern neighbour, the river Indus.
Natives of western India hold that it implies " mother " of rivers, in correlation with Abi-san or "father of rivers," a title which is frequently giveu to its great southern neighbour, the river Indus.
102
Thus early in the present century certain papers were lodged in the secret archives of the Russian Foreign Office which purported to give an account of two unpublished records of exploration in this
obscure region, one by a German traveller, Georg Ludwig von -,
said to have been an employe of the Anglo-Indian Government, the other by a Chinese traveller. They were brought to light in 1861, and excited the curiosity of all who were interested in the geography of this region. A few years afterwards it was discovered that a parallel mass of papers, embodying much of the same peculiar geography and nomenclature, but purporting to be the report of a Russian expedition sent through Central Asia to the frontiers of India, existed in the London Foreign Office. All three documents bear indubitable traces of having been fabricated for sale to the British and the Russian Governments by an acute geographer who, while availing himself of such genuine data as were actually within his reach, did not scruple to draw on his own imagination for the filling up of all blanks

103
The name Panjah is conjectured to be derived from a confluence of five rivers; but more probably it is taken from the "well-known fort of the same name, which is situated a little below the junction of the two upper affluents of the river. The fort derives its name either from the circumstance of its being built on five mounds, or from a sacred edifice in the vicinity erected over a stone bearing the supposed impress of the palm and fingers (panjah) of Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed; lower down the river, in Shiglman, there is a fort built over a similar mark, and called the Kila-Bar-Panjah (" the fort over the panjah ").



The above article was written by: Lieut.-General Walker, R.E., C.B.



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