By Francis Younghusband, K.C.S.I., K.C.I.E.
This reign was, too remarkable for the execution of an engineering scheme to prevent floods and drain the valley, a precisely similar idea to that on which Major de Lothibinere worked out under the direction of the present Maharaja. The Kashmiri engineer Suyya, after whom is named the present town of Sopur, saw more than thousand years ago what modern engineers have also observed, that floods in the valley are due to the wates of the Jhelum not being able to get with sufficient rapidity through the gorge three miles below Baramula. The constricted passage gets blocked with boulders, and both Suyya and our present engineers saw that this obstruction must be removed. But a while Major de Lothiniere imported electrically-worked dredgers from America and a dredging engineer from Canada, Suyya adopted a much simpler method: he three money in the river where the obstruction lay. His contemporaries, as perhaps we also would have, looked upon him as a madman. But there was method in his madness, for the report had no sooner got about that there was money at the bottom of the river that men dashed in to find it, and rooted up all the obstructing boulders in their search. So at least say the legend. In any case the obstruction was removed by Suyya, and the result was regulation of the course of the river, a large increase of land available for cultivation, and increased protection against disastrous floods. May the modern Suyya be equally successful!
The sucessor of Avantivarman, after defeating a cousin and other rivals to the throne, started on a round of foreign expeditions, in the historian’s words. “to revive the tradition of the conquest of the world.” The practical result does not appear to have been much more than an invasion of Hazara, an attack on Kangra and the subjugation of what is now the town of Gujrat in the Punjab, since remarkable as the spot where we finally overthrew the power of the Sikhs. Bit the record is of interest, as showing that the conquering tendency was still from Kashmir outwards, and not from the Punjab not Kashmir.
But this was the last outward effort, and from this reign onward the record is one long succession of struggles between the rulers and usurping uncles, cousins, brothers, ministers, nobles, and soldiers. The immediate successor was child whose regent mother was under the influence of her paramour the Minister. After two years he was murdered by the Minister. Another boy succeeded who only lived ten days. Then the regent-mother herself ruled for a couple of years, but a military faction overruled her councils, and by open rebellion obtained the throne for a nominee of their own, and the land became oppressed by exactions of the soldiery backed by unscrupulous ministers. The Queen was captured and executed, and a disastrous flood and terrible famine increased the general misery. After two years’s reign the soldiers’ nominee was deposed and a child put in his place. Then there was a fresh revolution and still another nominee, who, as he could not pay a sufficient bribe to the soldiery, was deposed and the crown sold to the Minister.
And now another power makes itself felt, the influence of the feudal landlords, whose interest had suffered from the prolonged predominance of the military party. They marched upon Srinagar, defeated the soldiers, threw out the usurping Minister, and restored the legitimate king, who, however, showed little gratitude, but abandoned himself to vile cruelties and excesses, till the feudal landlords became so exasperated that they treacherously murdered him at night within the arms of one of his low-caste queens. The successor was no better. He surpassed his predecessor in acts of senseless cruelty and wanton licence and was encouraged by his ambitious minister (who was scheming to secure the throne for himself) to destroy his own relatives. Some were murdered, and other captured and allowed to starve to death. He himself died after a reign of only two years, and his successor had to flee after occupying the throne for a few years. The Commander-in-Chief tried to seize it, but on placing the election in the hands of an assembly of Brahmins, they chose one of their own number, who for nine years, by a wise and mild rule, gained a respite from the constant troubles of previous reigns. Only a short respite, however, for on his death the aforementioned scheming minister, after first putting his rivals out of the way, forced an entrance to the palace, killed the successor of the Brahmin, and threw him into the Jhelum. He grossly oppressed the land for a year and a half, and then died of dropsy, to be succeeded by a youth grossly sensual and addicted to many vices, who married a princess of the house of Punch. This lady happened to have considerable force of character, and when her son succeeded as a child, exercised as his guardian full royal power. She ruthlessly put down all rival parties, executed captured rebels, and exterminated their families. She even, on her son’s death, murdered two of her own grandsons that she might herself retain power. Finally, she fell in love with a letter-carrier who had begun life as a herdsman; she appointed him her Minister, and he retained undisputed predominance over her for her reign of twenty-three years, his valour supplementing her cunning diplomacy in overcoming all opposition.
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 Presidhttp://thecherrytree.in/wp-admin/media-upload.php?post_id=2113&type=image&TB_iframe=1ent 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.