The Valley Of Kashmir | Sir Walter Roper Lawrence | Part 9
If one looks at the map of the territories of His Highness the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir one sees a white footprint set in a mass of black mountains. This is the valley of Kashmir, known to its inhabitants as Kashiir.
Perched securely among the Himalayas at an average height of about 6,000 feet above the sea, it is approximately eighty-four miles in length, and twenty to twenty-five miles in breadth. North, east, and west, range after range of mountains guard the valley from the outer world, while on the south it is cut off from the Panjab by rocky barriers fifty to seventy-five miles in width.
The valley is a resting-place for adventurous traders who seek the distant markets of Yarkand and Central Asia, and it furnishes a base where military operations have been in recent years directed against the wild and turbulent tribes of the Shinaki country to the north and north-east.
More to the east lie the peaceful valleys of Baltistan or Little Thibet, where the gentle Baltis lead their harmless lives in a high, dry climate. Between Kashmir and Skardu (8.873 feet), the chief stronghold of the Baltis, are the great mountain plains of Devsai (13.400 feet), and to the east lies the high valley of Dras, through which runs the road to Leh and Yarkand. A journey of a few days from Kashmir carries one into countries of new languages, customs, and religions, and the ethnologist and philologist would find much of interest in the primitive Shins, who live along the spurs of the mighty Nanga Parbat, in the Mongolian Baltis of Little Thibet, and in the simple Ladakhis, Buddhists and polyandrists. South of the valley of Kashmir amidst the great mountains, the ethnologist would find the pleasant pastoral Gaddis, and might, if native historians are to be believed, discover in the customs of the old-fashioned Hindus of Kishtwar the ancient manners and usages of the Kashmiris as they were before the dwellers of the valley were converted to Islam.
The mountain ranges rising to a height of 18,000 feet on the northeast, dip down to something over 9,000 feet in the south, where the Banihal pass affords an exit from the valley. Up to the end of May and sometimes by the beginning of October, there is a continuous ring of snow around the Valley. The winter snows disappear in summer, and with the spring and ” summer rains drain into the Jhelum river which rises within Kashmir. The catchment area of the valley has been calculated to be 116 miles long, with a width that varies from forty to seventy-five miles. So that the great artery of Kashmir receives rainfall of some 3,900 square miles.
The only outlet for this from the valley is the narrow gorge at Baramula where the placid river leaves the smooth grassy banks, and hurries headlong down its rocky course to the plains of the Panjab.
It has been the custom to describe the valley as an oval plain girt with a chain of mountains. But no figure can give a true idea of the splendid variety in the trend of the ranges, in the midst of which lie other vales rivalling in beauty the main valley of Kashmir^. Much has been written by Europeans on the subject of this beautiful country since Bernier told the world of ‘ Cachemire, the Paradise of the Indies-,’ and even the languid Orientals, supposed by some to be incapable of appreciating the beauty of the scenery, are moved to admiration when they see Kashmir.
In their language, the valley is an emerald set in pearls, a land of lakes, clear streams, green turf, magnificent trees and mighty mountains—where the air is cool and the water sweet, where men are strong and women vie with the soil in fruitfulness. In the words of the Kashmiris the valley was a rock-bound prison from which in past times escape was difficult.
The great snow mountains suggested nothing to them beyond the hopelessness of flight from tyranny. In the brief delineation of the valley, which I shall attempt, a comparison of Kashmir with other well-known countries would have been of great assistance. But its high elevation, its dry climate and curious flora, in which east blends with the west, render this impossible. In latitude Kashmir corresponds with Peshawar, Baghdad, and Damascus in Asia : with Fez in Morocco, and South Carolina in America, but it presents none of the characteristics of those countries.
Persons have likened the climate of the valley to that of Switzerland until the end of May, and of Southern France in July and August. But as I shall explain, it is impossible to speak of Kashmir as possessing any one climate or group of characteristics. Every hundred feet of elevation brings some new phase of climate and of vegetation, and in a short ride of thirty miles
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