By Francis Younghusband, K.C.S.I., K.C.I.E.
A country of such striking natural beauty must, surely, at some period of history have produced a refined and noble noble people! Amid these glorious mountains, breathing their free and bracing air, ad brightened by the constant sunshine, there must have sprung a strong virile and yet aesthetic race. The beautiful Greece, with its purple hills and varied contour, its dancing seas and clear blue sky, produced the gracefull Greeks. But Kashmiri is more beautiful than Greece. It has the same blue sky and brilliant sunshine, but its purple hills are on a far grander scale, and if it has no sea, it has lake and rivers, and the still more impressive snowy mountains. It has, too, greater variety of natural scenery of fields and forests, of rugged mountains and open valley. And to me who have seen both the countries. Kashmir seems much the more likely to impress a reace by its natural beauty. Has it ever made any such impression?
The shawls for which the country is noted are some indication that its inhabitants have a sense of form and colour, and some delicay and refinedmet. But great people would have produced soemthing more impressive than shawls. Are there no remians of building, roads, aqueducts, canals, statues, or any other such mark by which a people leaves its impress on a country? And is there any literature or history?
Certainly there are the remains of building all over the Kashmir Valley, remarkable for their almost Egyptian solidity , simplicity, and durability, as well as for what Cunningham describes as the graceful elegance of their outlines, the massive boldness of their parts, and the happy propriety of their outlines. The ancient Kashmirian architecture, with its noble fluted pillars, its vast colonnades, its lofty pedimens, and its elegant trefoiled arches, is entitled to be classed as a distinct style; and we may take it as implying the existence of just such a people as this mountain country might be expected to produce.
Three miles beond Uri, on the road into Kashmir, are the ruins of temple of extremely pleasing exeution. Near Buniar, just beyod Rampur, is another right on the road. At Patan, 13 miles before reaching Srinagar, are two more ruined temples of massive construction. Two and a half miles southwest of Shadipur, the present junction of the Sind River with the Jhelum, are the remains of a town, the extent and nature of which show conclusively that it must once have been a large and improtant centre. On the summit of the hill, rising above the European quarter in Srinagar, is a dome-shaped temple erroneously known as the Takhi-i-Suliman. At Pandrathan, three miles from Srinagar, is a graceful little temple and the remains of a statue of Buddha, and of a column of immense strength and size.
At Pampur and Avantipur, on the road to Islamabad at Payech, on the southern side of the Valley, where there is the best preserved specimen temple, and at many other places in the main valley, and in the Sind and Lidar Valleys there are remains of temples of much the same style. But it is at Martand that there is the finest, and as it is not only typical of Kashmir architecture at its best, but is built on the most sublime site occupied by any building in the world – finer far that the site of the Parthenon or the Taj, or of St. Peters, or of the Escurial – we may take it as the representativ, or rather the culmination of all the rest, and by it we must judge the people of Kashmir at their best.
About the author
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Edward Younghusband, KCSI, KCIE (31 May 1863 – 31 July 1942) was a British Army officer, explorer, and spiritual writer. He is remembered for his travels in the Far East and Central Asia; especially the 1904 British expedition to Tibet, led by him, and for his writings on Asia and foreign policy. Younghusband held positions including British commissioner to Tibet and President of the Royal Geographical Society.
During his service in Kashmir, he wrote a book called ‘Kashmir’ at the request of Edward Molyneux. Younghusband’s descriptions went hand in hand with his paintings of the Valley by Molyneux. In the book, Younghusband declared his immense admiration of the natural beauty of Kashmir and its history.
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