The Valley Of Kashmir | Sir Walter Roper Lawrence | Part 10

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Every hundred feet of elevation brings some new phase of climate and of vegetation, and in a short ride of thirty miles one can pass from overpowering heat to a climate delightfully cool, or can escape from wearisome wet weather to a dry and sunny atmosphere.

Though this report on Kashmir is written for the State administration with the object of recording the statistics and resources of the valley, it may not be out of place in this chapter to touch briefly on certain points which possess an interest for Europeans as well as for the rulers of Kashmir.

I allude to these facts with less hesitation, firstly because the country benefits to some extent by the visits of Europeans, and secondly because it has long been the ambition of the Maharajas of Kashmir to accord hospitality and assistance to all who travel in their dependencies. In no country in the world are the officials more courteous and helpful than in Kashmir, and the old saying of Maharaja Gulab Singh to the effect that the British subaltern was in his eyes equal to a king is still remembered and acted on.

From an English point of view, the valley contains nearly everything which should make life enjoyable. There is sport varied and excellent, there is scenery for the artist and layman, mountains for the mountaineer, flowers for the botanist, a vast field for the geologist, and magnificent ruins for the archaeologist. The epicure will find dainty fruits and vegetables cheaper here than perhaps in any part of the world, while the lounger can pass delightful days of dolce far nice in the mat houseboats moored under the shady chinar tree. And last, but not least, the invalid must find somewhere in the varied climate of Kashmir the change of ‘air and water’ which will restore him to the health of which the heat of the Indian plains have robbed him.

Some authorities say that the valley is good for consumptive people. There are sulphur springs at Wean, within easy reach of Srinagar, and I imagine that the day will come when Kashmir will be a health resort not only of Anglo-Indians but also of people from all parts of the world. Neither the natural beauty nor the delicious climate of the valley has been exaggerated in the books which I have read, and every year’s residence in the valley discloses some new charm and new interest.

The mountains which surround Kashmir are never monotonous. Infinitely varied in form and colour, they are such as an artist might picture in his dreams. Looking to the north one sees a veritable sea of mountains, broken into white crested waves, hastening in wild confusion to the great promontory of Nanga Parbat (26,620 feet).

To the east stands Haramukh (16,903 feet), the grim mountain which guards the valley of the Sind. On it the legend says the snow only ceases to fall for one week in July, and men believe that the gleam from the vein of green emerald in the summit of the mountain renders all poisonous snakes harmless. Further south is Mahadeo, very sacred to the Hindus, which seems to almost look down on Srinagar, and south again are the lofty range of Gwash Brari (17,800 feet), and the peak of Amarnath (17,331 feet), the mountain of the pilgrim, very beautiful in the evening sun. On the south-west is the Panjal range with peaks of 15,000 feet, well-known to travellers from the Panjab—further north the great rolling downs of the Tosh Maidan (14,000 feet) over which men pass to the Poonch country, and in the north-west corner rises the snowy Kazi Nag (12,1 2,5 feet) the home of the Markhor.

Every mile reveals some exquisite peak, around which cling curious legends of battles, demigods, and elephants. As the time draws on for the harvesting of the rice, the pir or pants, as it is called in the Kashmir language, possesses a painful interest for the cultivators, since early snows on the mountain tops carry a chill air to the valley which will do considerable injury to their crops.

On the west, and wherever the mountain sides are sheltered from the hot breezes of the Panjab plains, which blow across mountains fifty to seventy miles in breadth, there are grand forests of pines and firs.

Down through these forests dash mountain streams – white with foam, passing in their course through pools of the purest cobalt. When the great dark forests cease, and the brighter woodland begins, the banks of the streams are ablaze with clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine and wild roses, which remind one of azaleas. The green smooth turf of the woodland glades is like a well-kept lawn dotted with clumps of hawthorn and other beautiful trees and bushes. It would be difficult to describe the colours which are seen on the Kashmfr mountains.

In early morning they are often a delicate semi-transparent violet relieved against a saffron sky, and with light vapours clinging round their crests. Then the rising sun deepens shadows, and produces sharp outlines and strong passages of purple and indigo in the deep ravines.

Later on it is nearly all blue and lavender, with white snow peaks and ridges under a vertical sun, and as the afternoon wears on these become richer violet and pale bronze, gradually changing to rose and pink with yellow or orange snow, till the last rays of the sun have gone, leaving the mountains dyed a ruddy crimson with the snows showing a pale creamy green by contrast. Looking downward from the mountains the valley in the sunshine has the hues of the opal, the pale reds of the karewa, the vivid light greens of the young rice, and the darker shades of the groves of trees relieved by sunlit sheets, gleams of water, and soft blue haze give a combination of tints reminding one irresistibly of the changing hues of that gem.


About the Author

Sir Walter Roper Lawrence (9th February 1857 – 25th May, 1940) was a member of the British Council of India and an English author who served in the Indian Civil Service in British India and wrote travelogues based on his experiences of travelling around the Indian Subcontinent.

He was appointed as the Settlement Commissioner for Jammu and Kashmir between 1889–1894, during the rule of Maharaja Pratap Singh. While travelling in Kashmir, he recorded and produced a brief history on account of the geography, the culture of the people and the Dogra rule over Kashmir.

Over the course of his travels, he developed a close affinity with the Indianand Kashmiri people, who figure prominently in his work. His best-known books are ‘The Valley Kashmir‘ (1895) and ‘The India we Served’ (1929).

Book Details : London Henery Frowade, Oxford University Press Warehouse, AMEN Corner, E.C

Print Date: 1895