MM Munshi

MM Munshi

MM Munshi

MM Munshi

MM Munshi is a renowned researcher on the historiography of Holy Amarnath Cave. He has remained a senior official of Geological Survey of India and is a keen Researcher.


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Power Rivalry in Indian Ocean

By  M.M. Munshi

The dramatically growing two Asian economies in the world namely China and India likely to surpass the developed countries of the west are dependant for their energy needs from outside their borders Global energy needs are likely to increase by about 40-50 percent by about 2030 and about half of the demand will come from India and China. China’s demand for crude oil doubled between 1995 and 2005 and is likely to double again by 2020.. China is expected to import about half of Saudi Arabia’s planned output. More than eighty five percent of oil and oil products cross the Indian Ocean Strait of Malacca . India has almost become the world’s fourth largest energy consumer after the US , China, and Japan . India is dependent for oil approximately one thirds of its energy needs on oil ,sixty five percent of which is imported . ninety percent of India’s oil imports of crude come from Persian Gulf. In addition to its, via own resources India imports coal from far off Mozambique, South Africa, Australia and Indonesia.

More ever large quantities of liquefied natural gas from gulf countries via Strait of Hormuz, southern Africa in addition to Indonesia and Malaysia . Since the northern part of Indian Ocean stretching from the east African coast Strait of Hormuz to South East Asia will become an area of great energy trade , India as well as China are seeking to increase their influences .China has build the port of Gadwar in the Makran coast of Pakistan, India has reciprocated by building the port of Cha Bahar—- in Iran.

The Indian ocean is dominated by two sizable bays , the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal near the tips of which are world’s two most unstable countries namely Pakistan and Myanmar (Burma) . State collapse or regime change in Pakistan would effect its neighbors. The Baluchi and Sindhi separatists seeking closer links with Iran and India respectively. Likewise the unsuitability in Myanmar where competition between India and China over energy and mineral resources looms large. A more liberal regime in Myanmar than the present military junta could undermine China’s dominant position and increase India’s influence. While as the dynamic economic growth of China and India have been noted ,equally dynamic military ramifications have seem not .India’s and China’s quests for energy resources and global power have shifted gazes .of both countries from land to sea. According to James Holmes and Toshi Yosihara of US Naval war college “ the fact they are focusing on their sea power indicates how much more self confident they are on Land”. The skirmishes on Indo Tibet border may be diversionary tactics by the Chinese. See power that is deployment of navies somewhat looks less threatening than occupation of land by armies..Needless to say that there will be tension between the two navies as the gap between their relative strength and area decreases . To understand this situation one must look at the region maritime angle. Even today’s jet and information age ninety percent of global commerce and 65% of oil travel by sea.

Indian ocean accounts for more than half of marine traffic in th4e world. About seventy percent of oil and oil products pass through the Indian Ocean from the Middle East to Atlantic or Pacific oceans. The ships laden with these products have to pass through world’s oil shipping lanes including the strait of Hormuz gulf of Aden and Oman, Strait of Malacca and other choke points . Both countries are trying their utmost to increase their zones of influence from Middle East to south east Asia. Chinese navy has already made its appearance at the Burmese island of Coco north of Andaman Islands. Gwadar on the Baluchistan coast and elsewhere . China is also negotiating for construction of a Panama type of canal across Thailand to reduce the distance as well as threat to its shipping. As India’s economy continues to grow, so will its trade with Iran and Iraq once that country recovers. Iran like Afghanistan has become a strategic rear base for India against Pakistan, and is poised to become an important energy partner. A few years back Iran has signed an agreement with Iran for supply of 7.5 million tons of LNG annually for period of 25 years since 2009.

India is also expanding its military and economic ties with Myanmar because the latter is rich in oil, gas, other mineral resources and timber. India has also started enlarging its navy, with its 160 warships Indian navy is one of the world’s largest and has planned to add three aircraft carriers and numerous nuclear powered submarines destroyers and frigates to its arsenal by 1915. Indeed as India is extending its influence from Middle East and South East Asia at sea China is desperately trying its best to integrate Taiwan into its dominion so that it can divert its navy southwards into Indian Ocean . India on the other hand is concerned about its oil imports from middle east passing close to Makran coast where China is building deep water ports at Gwadr and which are likely to become Chinese naval bases. China is also planning to built a canal on the pattern of Panama Canal across the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand. Zaho Nanqi formerly of Chinese Liberation Army has stated that China can no longer accept India’s dominance in Indian Ocean. India on its part is also building the port of Karwar and Cha Bahar on its western coast and Persian gulf respectively. Besides maintaining its naval, Air and land forces in Andaman Nicobar islands. Chinese are worried that about 244 Indian islands of Andamans and Nicobar could be used for blocking the western approaches to the strait of Malacca on which China is very much dependent, needless to add that China has recognized India as a major sea power.. The United Sates besides a number of problems in Asia faces the major challenge of growing naval forces of China and India in the Indian Ocean. China like Iran is/may not be an enemy of US ,but a keen competitor and India is a new ally. Indian navy which is on the rise on the rise in the Indian Ocean will function as an antidote to China’s naval/military expansion.

Like the British Navy at the end of 19th century began to reduce its strength worldwide to leverage its power to US and Japanese navies , US Navy is also declining its presence by leveraging the growing sea power to its allies like India and Japan to balance against China.. India has willingly and without directions from US tried to balance against Chinese since the latter’s occupation of Tibet..Indo Chinese rivalry is likely to take dimensions of a great game.. The Indians and Chinese will indulge in a great power rivalry with their
economic interests for which the only superpower in the world may serve as a stabilizing one.


Who discovered Amarnath ?

By  M.M. Munshi

It has been clearly documented in history that Amar Nath Shrine has been visited by pilgrims since ancient times including a ruler of Kashmir between 34 BC and 17AD . (Kalhana’s Rajtarangini Book II . Verses 130-141).

Narrative of Amarnath Mahatmyas and other related composite Mahatmyas in BhrngiSamita (translated by Dr.Amar Nath Shastri on pages (156 to 225) proves beyond doubt that Amarnath Shrine was an important pilgrimage during 2nd and third AD century.  Mention of Amreshvara (Amarnath) in Nilamata Parana along with other tirthas of Kashmir also proves that Amarnath ji Shrine was well known during 5th - 6th century AD.

Kalhana while referring to the legend of Sushram Naga (Sheeshnag) states that (Sheeshnag) and Zamtirnag are seen to this day by pilgrims proceeding to Amreshvara (Amarnathji) i.e. 1148-49 A.D. (the period of compilation to Kalhana’s Rajtarangini (Taranga I verse 267).

Muslim rule was established in Kashmir in 1339 and conversions to Islam started by the end of 14th century AD during the rule of Sikandar butshikan. How on earth Muslim shepherds/ Maliks could have discovered Amarnathji Shrine which was visited by pilgrims in early historic, if not prehistoric times.

It is believed that Sikandar Butshikan after desecrating, damaging and destroying most of the Hindu temples of Kashmir valley was proceeding to Amarnath ji cave for the same purpose but turned back from Ganeshbal (Lidau Valley) and after reaching Vijesvara (Bijbhera) repented his deeds.

The fact that Zain-ul-abdin (1420-1470), pious Muslim ruler of Kashmir visited Amarnathji has been documented by his chronicler Jonaraja (Jona’s Rajtarangini Bombay Edition).

Ali Mardan Khan the Mughul governor of Kashmir during the rule Emperor Shahjahan (1635-58 AD) has derisively commented on the so called madness and religious eccentricism of the streams of the faithfulls barefooted, illclad winding their way in rain and snow through slush and tracheous routes to behold what was not a god in a cave. However, he dreamed of Mahesevara (Shiva) and changed from sceptic to a firm believer and compiled beautiful persian couplets in praise of Shiva.

The French physician Francis Bernier who visited Kashmir in the company of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1663 after visiting number of interesting places in Kashmir was about two days march from some place in Sind Valley to a grotta (Cave) full of wonderful congeliations (frozen things) apparently Amarnathji Cave was recalled by the emperor. Smith who has edited the 2nd edition of Bernier’s book has identified the cave as that of Amarnathji (Travels in Moghul Empire) by Francis Bernier.

Vigne in his book “Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh and Iskardu”, 1842 says “The ceremony of the cave of Amarnath takes place on 15th of the Hindu month of Sawan.... Not only Hindus of Kashmir but those from Hindustan of every rank and caste can be seen collecting together and traveling up the valley of Lidar towards the celebrated cave which from his description must have been the place which Bernier intended to visit but was prevented. Vigne himself tried to visit Amarnath ji cave in late season of 1840 during the rule of Sikh Maharaja Sher Singh but was forced to return from Vawjan due to bad weather. From his narrative we can easily conclude that pilgrimage was in vogue before 1840 - 41 and pilgrims from the plains outside Kashmir Valley visited Amarnathji in great numbers.

It has baffled the Kashmiri Pandits, to be told that this Yatra, holy cave was lost for quite a long time, some theorists like Pervez Dewan have gone on to claim that Amarnathji Yatra had been lost for thousands of years, others have been saying  few hundreds of years, historically both look fantastic. There is no mention of Yatra having been banned. It is not possible to opine that Zain-ul-Din or Akbar or their descendents could have done that. Afghans took over from Mughals in 1753, they ruled Kashmir for 66 years. It is here that whole story of lost and found is hinged.

None of the lost theorists is committal about the time the Yatra and hoiy cave got lost, about rediscovery of the Shrine they have given conflicting dates. Accordingly to ON Chrungoo the Amarnathji Cave was rediscovered about 1600 AD and Yatra again remained in abeyance during the Afghan rule 1753 - 1819. Yatra was resumed only during the reign of Maharaja Gulab Singh (Pilgrimage to Amarnath Daily Excelsior 06.08.2000). Parvez Dewan in his article “Discovery of Lord Shiva’s temple” Daily Excelsior says that Amarnathji cave was rediscovered some time between 1750 - 1775. Maliks themselves claim to have rediscovered the cave by 1775 i.e. Afghan rule which is constrained by the adversity of that time as Afghans who ruledKashmir between 1753 - 1819 persecuted Kashmiris in general and Hindus in particular, would not have taken kindly to Maliks or anybody else for discovering or rediscovering a Hindu or a Buddhist Shrine. Moreover theorists of lost and found have given contradictory names of the Muslim shepherd who rediscovered the shrine as Adam Malik, Buta Malik and Akram Malik.

As the claims about timing names etc. are contradictory these cannot be accepted as factual. We have positive evidence from Vigne that pilgrimage was in full swing before Gulab Singh appeared on the scene. We have only few gaps of non-mention of the Yatra for few decades in the otherwise continuous Yatra. No community loses its collective memory in matter of few decades.

It could have been a low key affair during political upheavals or after natural calamities or catastrophes but lost never.

The concept of Shrine having been discovered / rediscovered by Maliks / Muslim Shepherds has to be understood taking into account the History and background of Maliks and not to be confused with that of Kashmiri Shepherds who were and are still known as Pohuls or Choupans. According to Baron Von Hugel  (1840) and R.K. Parimoo (History of Muslim Rule in Kashmir). Malik is a title of honour and distinction given to successors of Davarpatis, Margesas (Later called Magres) holding charge of watch-cum-military stations on feudal basis on the important routes and passes, entering and leaving Kashmir, by the independent Sultans of Kashmir and also to other clans like Chaks, Rainas, Dars for latter’s loyal service. After the annexation of Kashmir by Mughals in 1586 A.D. most of the Maliks, Rainas, Magreys and Chak clans etc. who had fought against the former were hunted, killed and banished from Kashmir, some of them escaped to remote and inaccessible hills and valleys to avoid persecution. But those who later submitted themselves before Akbar and took the oath of loyalty were allowed to resume the duty of guarding the routes, administration and even judiciary. All routes except the Baramulla - Muzaffarabad route remained closed during the Afghan rule.

With the advent of Dogra rule in 1846, opening up of all the routes and gradual establishment of regular police posts at vulnerable places, the ancestral occupation of Maliks came to an end. Since the latter part of 19th century the Maliks had to content themselves with guiding and escorting the pilgrims to Amarnath Ji, Harmukh, probably to Sharda in Kishenganga valley and other places of Pilgrimage. The allotment of a part of offering , at the Amarnath shrine, could have been in lieu of these services.

Lawrence in Valley of Kashmir mentions that pilgrims to Amarnath were joined by Brahmins at Mattan and further up at Batkot the Maliks used to take charge of the pilgrimage. According to Lawrence Valley of Kashmir (1895) the Maliks were supposed to keep the track in order, guide and escort the pilgrims and carry sick ones and ensure that nothing was stolen, and received one third of the offerings at the Amarnath Ji Shrine. The other two shares used to go to Pandits of Mattan and Giri mahants of Amritsar who used to and still lead the pilgrimage with Chari Mubarak. Lawrence does not mention any where that share of offerings to Maliks was in lieu of their having ‘discovered/rediscovered’ the cave. There is no mention of receipt of rasum rahdari from pilgrims nor grants from the State Govt. for the services rendered by Maliks. Apparently the share seems to have been received by Maliks for the services rendered. Neither Lawrence, Vigne, Montogmery nor others have mentioned that Amarnath ji Cave was lost from memory or was discovered-rediscovered by Maliks / Muslims Shepherds . The lost theory is a wild conjecture that does not stand any test. The history of Amarnathji pilgrimage to be depicted on the plaque at the war to be built in front of the Shrine should be based on actual historical research from authetic documents and not on hearsay for petty reasons. It may amount to distortion of history and suppression of facts , to presume that Amarnathji Shrine was discovered by Maliks/Muslim shepherds. It is prayed that distortion of history of the Amarnathji Shrine should not be depicted on the Dewar or any other structure to be built at or on way to the Shrine.

Maliks of Kashmir

By M.M. Munshi

None of the features of Kashmir have so directly influenced its history as the mountain ranges which enclose it. For centuries the mountain ranges guaranteed its relative safety against foreign invasions in comparison to plains of the sub continent. The only vulnerable points were the mountain passes and Pakhla route along the Jhelum valley.

Throughout the history special care was taken by the rulers of Kashmir to keep a strong hold on the route entering and leaving the valley and ingress was very strictly controlled. It was probably for this reason that muslim rule in Kashmir was established about more than three centuries later than the adjoining Punjab and other northern parts of the sub continent that too not by conquest. Mohmud Gaznavi twice failed to penetrate Kashmir via Toshmaidan Pass in 1015 and 1021 AD due to skilful deployment of defending forces by Kashmiris in the narrow glen of Lohara present Lorarin.

Kalhana mentions these entrances into the valley as Dvars Darangas. The names still survive to this day in Biru and Hirpur areas of Kashmir valley. During the muslim rule the dvars came to be known as Kartals or simplyDarras (passes).

The establishments of dvars comprising watch cum military stations each of which was organised on a feudal basis under an official called as Dvarpati orDavarpida who maintained a contingent of militia the size of which depended on the importance of the route, capable of holding the dvars till arrival of reinforcements. In subsequent chronicles, Srivara referred the dvarpatis asmargapati and marghesa. In due course of time the Sanskrit term margesawas distorted to Magrey both words signifying profession. All the descendants of Magres could not have been employed for guarding the routes/passes but they continued to use the title even after adopting other professions.

Those who continued to guard the routes /passes were bestowed by independent Sultans of Kashmir the title of honor and distinction "Malik". However at different times besides the guardians of passes/routes leaders of influential groups like Chaks, Rainas, Dars and others were also bestowed with title of Malik for their loyal services. After the annexation of Kashmir by Mughals in 1586 most of the Chaks,

Magres and other Maliks were hunted, killed and banished from the valley for having fought against them. But those who latter submitted themselves before Emperor Akbar and took the oath of loyalty were allowed to assume the duties of maintaining and guarding the routes/watch stations, administration as well as judiciary on receipt of fresh grants of land.

During the Afghan rule 1753-1918 all the routes leading to Punjab and other places except the Pakhli route [which they needed for communication with Kabul ] were closed for travelers as well as trade for security reasons .

Guarding of certain routes was taken up by Afghan army. After Sikhs annexed Kashmir in 1819 all the routes were reopened and institution of Maliks was revived but with reduced grant of lands. Some of the Maliks to supplement their reduced grants of land started charging very exorbitant tax of rasum rahdari from traders and others for which they were severely punished by Sikhs.

With the advent of Dogra rule in 1846 opening of the most of the routes and gradual establishment of regular police posts at vulnerable places and reasonable distances the ancestral occupation of Maliks came to an end. During the later half of nineteenth century the maliks had to contend themselves by escorting the pilgrims to Amarnathji cave, Harmukh Gangabal and probably to Sharda in Kishenganga valley and other places of pilgrimage for which they received a fixed percentage of the offerings at the shrine rather than for rediscovering or retracing the route to the holy places like Amarnathji Cave.

Impact of Amarnath Yatra on Environment, Ecology and Biodiversity of the area

By M.M. Munshi

Environmentalism is a broad hypothesis, ideology and social moment regarding concerns for environmental conservation and necessary improvement. For these reasons concepts such as land ethics, environmental ethics, ecology, biodiversity and biophilla hypothesis figure prominently. Earth sciences usually recognize four spheres namely (i) Lithospheres, (II) Hydrosphere, (III) Atmosphere and (iv) Biosphere - corresponding to rocks and soil, water, air and life. Some scientists also include as part of the spheres “Crysophere” corresponding to ice.

Basically environment is an attempt to balance relations between humans and various natural systems on which they depend in such a way that all the components are accorded a proper degree of respect. Environment is viewed today a setting aside of natural resources to prevent the damage caused by humans or human activity such as deforestation, mining, hunting, fishing, and over grazing by domestic livestock and replace them with them with human activities. Ecology is the scientific study of relationships living organisms have with each other and with the natural environment, and at the same time it must be clearly understood synonymous with environment. Biodiversity is the degree of the variation of life forms within a specific species eco system, biome of the planet.

Let us examine without any bias how far the Amarnath Yatra which has been going on for about two millenniums, but in recent years the number of pilgrims has increased from few thousand to about six lacks for one season how that has effected environment, ecology or bio diversity. It is an established fact that too and fro moment of Pilgrims on foot, ponies or dandisis restricted strictly to tracks from the road heads of Chandanwari and Baltal to the Amarnath cave shrine Not a single pilgrim is allowed to move beyond the width of the either tracks and as such the blame of their degradation on pilgrims is biased and unfounded.

Same is true of the Vashio Devi shrine which is visited by about eighty to ninety lack people annually with practically no damage to its environment or ecology, in spite of the fact that the track has been considerably widened.

The truth is that degradation of environment mainly is effected by shepherds i.e. Bakarwals, Kashmiri shepherds (Pahels), Gujars and others some of whom carry firearms who freely roam anywhere they like, fell trees illegally, create forest fires by carelessness overgraze the pastures by their herds of sheep, goats and buffalos with the result that the herbivorous wild life like Kashmir Stag (Hangul), Ibex (Kail), Markhor, Baral etc. in upper reaches of Sind and Lidar valleys have been doomed to extinction. The scarcity of herbivorous wildlife has also reduced the number of carnivorous wild animals like Brown Bear (Bam Haput). Panther (Sha) Snow Leopard, Lynx etc. have become the endangered species as the latter preyed on the former. Besides the shepherds the muleteers/pony wallas also degrade the environment by letting loose their ponies/mules at night who pollute the clear waterways with dung and water becomes unsafe for drinking. If a road or a Gulmarg-Khilanmarg- Alpathar type of ropeway is built between the road heads and the shrine cave the environmental degradation and pollution caused by ponies and pony wallas will come down to negligible. The civil society, and the concerned authorities of the govt. and shrine board turn a blind eye to these activities.

A lot of hue and cry has been raised by self-appointed experts namely members of civil society, politicians, bureaucrats and officers of other state govt. departments and the shrine board about the cryosphere that Glaciers are getting degraded and the melt water polluted by increased number of pilgrims to Amarnath cave. As already stated that moment of pilgrims is restricted to the tracks how on earth can they degrade the glaciers and pollute the melt water. There are five major glaciers around Amarnath namely Nehnar, Mushran and Thajwas in the Sind valley and Koenjar (Shushram) above the Zamtir nag and Gashbrar Kolahi in the Lidar valley but none of these glaciers are traversed by the Baltal, Chandanwari or Gulol Gali tracks. However a very small glacier between Vayurjana (Vowjan) pass andPanjtarangini (Panjtarni) runs parallel to the track but does not cross it. It is doubted that if any of these self styled experts can differentiate between a real glacier and snow accumulated in depressions, narrow glens by drift, avalanches and creep. Many of these snow beds and snow bridges have been confused with glaciers even in places like Chandanwari and along the Baltal route. A glacier is not a seasonal feature like an avalanche or snow creep but a large persistent body of ice formed by gradual expulsion of air from huge thickness of snow for several decades, under its own weight where accumulation exceeds ablation [melting] above the firn line and moves down the slopes at a velocity of one to three feet a day. I doubt if the civil society and other self styled experts can state the local Kashmiri name for a glacier. If they had consulted an experienced glaciologist/geologist this confusion would not have resulted.

How far the members of the civil society politicians (including separatists), bureaucrats and other officials of the state govt and shrine board are environmental conscious is a million dollar question. Motorable Mughal route across the Pir Panjal range between Rajouri and Shupian was built at an enormous cost after cutting innumerable Deodar and other valuable trees through the only sanctuary for Markhor [a highly endangered species of goat] on our side of the LOC thus eliminating its chance of survival. The road from Tangmarg to Gulmarg and aerial ropeway from Gulmarg to Alapathar are not regarded as an environmental hazards but a road or a ropeway. upto Amarnath cave which besides totally preventing any degradation of environment, ecology etc can sustain yatra for a longer period as clearance of snow will not be necessary is also considered as an environmental hazard. A 14 km long road from Baltal upto Amarnath Shrine cave may be costly to maintain but how it will prove disastrous when the road from Sumbal to Zojila which runs all along the Sind River eastwards of Ganderbal and the upper and lower Sind projects for power generations have not caused any environmental degradation A pilot flying frequently over Kashmir valley requesting anonymity informed that forests extend at the most for about 150-200 meters on either sides of the highways rest of the hill slopes are bare even below the tree line. Another reason for opposing the construction of road or ropeway is that Anantnag District through which runs the Pahalgam Chandanwari is stronghold of one political party and Ganderbal District through which runs the Baltal track is the stronghold of another rival party none of them wants to loose of their vote banks of Pony wallas and porters. The call of the so called Civil society and others calling for a rethink on SC order is nothing short of hypocrisy.

The author is the retired Director in Charge, Operations Jammu and Kashmir, Geological Survey of India, was Director, Environmental Geology, Central Region, Geological Survey of India, has also carried out the Study of Glacier in Western Himalayas During the international Geophysical year and is Fellow of the British Glaciological Society.

The Forgotten Tirtha of Gangodbheda

Where Saraswati appeared as Rajhansi

By M.M. Munshi

According to Kalhana in the three worlds the jewel producing earth is so extolled in the region of Kubera where the Kasyapa’s land (Kasmira) is enclosed by the father of Gauri - the Himal parbat. Where out of respect for Kasyapa the sun does not burn fiercelyduring the summer as if the dwellers of the latter’s land ought not to be tormented. To protect the Nagas who are afraid of Garuda to seek shelter from the latter, janurdana stretched his arms high enough in the guise of mountain walls.

Its rivers are free from aquatic monsters and furnished with comfortable embankments for descending into water, provided with warm bath houses for winter. The Country abounds with lofty houses, saffron fields, crystal clear icy water, grapes and things which even in Heaven are difficult to find. Filled with rows of rice fields fully thriving and endowed with good fruits, inhabited by people who perform Yagnas and are engaged in self study and contemplation. Virtuous sages well versed in Vedas. It is bedecked with temples of Gods and all the holy places which exist on earth are here. Country where Kesva (Vishnu and Isana (Shiva) adorn as Chakrabrat andVijaysea as well as in other forms. There is not a space larger than a grain of sesame without a tirthas.                                                     

Here the Goddess Saraswati is seen in the form of a Swan in a lake situated on summit of Bhedagiri which is sanctioned as the source of Ganga.

According to Niimat Purana by bathing in Gangodbheda (Bhedagiri) a man obtains merit of bathing in Ganga and is honoured in heaven.

Gangodbheda Mahatmaya States that Rishi Pulasthya while performing a long penance in the land of Sati made Ganga gush forth from Himavat for his worship. When the Rishi Pulasthya wanted to discharge the Ganga water after completing his worship, he was stopped by the divine voice of Saraswati from the sky that Ganga had issued from a mountain in Bheda forest and there wiii rise the holy Tirtha of Gangodbheda. On top of the hill where level ground extends for only ten Dhanus a great pond will be formed without a settu (dam) removed from the water of Torments. At its eastern foot a stream called Abhaya (Purifier from all sins) will issue and will maintain a uniform flow. Sarasvati’s voice further informed the sage that holy Ganga will manifest herself in this place for one third of every month and rest two thirds in heaven and hell. Sage Pulasthya prayed that the Ganga may rest for eons in Bheda. His wish was granted and Tirtha of GangodBheda came into being in order to obtain a glimpse of Goddess Saraswati the sage under took another hard and long penance and Saraswati appeared before him in the form of a Rajhansij (Swan).

The sage of Pulasthya worshipped the Saraswati on ashtami and naumi ofShakul Pakash/Chaitra, as Bheda (Yada Sadbehobhinnasi tada Bhedasi Bhamini) and again worshipped her as Hamsavagisvani -Bheda on theChaudshi and Poornima of the same Paksh. Ever since the Goddess has received worship on these four days till it faded from memory of the devout by the end of the nineteenth Century.

A number of Smaller tirthas intended to be visited with Gangodbheda pilgrimage include Ramusha, Ashvama, Vaitrani etc. Gangodbheda Mahatmaya also mentions that no snow ever falls over it for a distance of about 125 hastas. Neither the Nilmat Purana, nor Gangodbheda Mahatamya or Rajtarangini give any indication about the location of the Tirtha. Abu-UI-Fazal in the Mirabillia of Kashmir in Ain-I-Akbari states that near Sukhroh is a low hill, on the summit of which is a fountain, which flows throughout the year and is a pilgrimage for the devout. Snow does not fall on this Spur.”

Closeness of the Tirtha with Ramusha, modern Ramuh (Kakpura Kol), identical observations of the Gangodbheda Mahatmaya and Abu-ul-Fazal’s account about snow not falling on the spur together with Shrivara’s account of the defeat of Masud Khan of Rajouri at the hands of Mohamed Shah, a descendant of   Zain-ul-abdin in 1484-86 near Drabhagrama present Dranghom and Mahsud’s retreat to Rajouri via Bhedavanapat (Forests of Bheda) enabled M.A. Stein, historian, geographer and archaeologist and translator of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini to locate the Tirtha of Gangodbheda with pin point accuracy at Budbrar.

The Tirtha of Gangodbheda also known as Bhedadevi and Bhedagiri comprising a stone lined tank with stone steps for getting into water and remains of the surrounding wall, is situated on a flattened portion of a North - Easterly radiating spur of Pir Panjal Range about 60 feet above the bed of Birnai Streams a tributary of Romchu or Kakpura kol, flowing in a north easterly direction at present called Budbrar by Kashmiris and Bijabrari by Gujjars. It is about 20 kms south-west of the hamlet of Drabgom and one kilometre north of Pudan hill 9387 feet in Sukru Area of Kashmir. The Shrine is approachable from Drabgom via hill villages of Mospur and Kilar.

The tank is about 7 sq. meters in area with its four corners corresponding to the cardinal points with a bubbling spring in its northern corner. According to Stein” there is an opening on the north­eastern side marked by two carved stone pillars. Originally marking the door step and still showing the holes for the pivots on the slopes of the hillock just below the door, and at a point corresponding to the level of water in the tank is a spring which evidently is a natural outflow of the tank and serves to drain its surplus water. Stein further adds that near the ruined doorway on a huge boulder two lingas of about 20cms in height, and 30cms high figure of an undraped lady carrying water pitchers have been carved in relief. A figure of a male also carved in relief on detached boulder was seen by him.

On the south-east side of the tank about 30 metres above the tank in the middle of widely separated summer huts of Gujjars heaps of bricks and rough stones from a linear mound which also according to Stein may have been the living quarters for purohitas attending the Shrine or a dharamsala for pilgrims.

That the pilgrimage to Behdadevi must have been in vogue during the sixteenth and seventeenth century is evident from the observations of Abu-UI-Fazal. Pilgrimage to the Shrine seems to have declined during eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The Tirtha was forgotten even by the devout, by the end of nineteenth century, is evident from the fact that the Kashmiri Pandits of nearby villages of Zainapura, Shupian, Drabgram, Ramuh, and Hal-Moghulpura by 1895 were completely unaware of the Tirtha of Gangodbheda.

An aged Gujjar camping at Budbrar for summer grazing of his buffaloes had told Stein in 1895 that he had seen Kashmiri Pandits visiting the Shrine during 1850’s - 60’s for worship and Shrada but later such visits had become very rare and since 1890-91 none had visited the Shrine.

It is very difficult to imagine as to how a Tirtha so popular and frequently visited by pilgrims was abandoned and ultimately faded from memory by the end of the 19th Century. Possibly persecution of Hindus and destruction of their places of worship during the Afghan rule 1753-1819 and hardships of the journey to an altitude of about 8500 feet in early Spring i,e Chaitra Shakul. Pakash must have resulted in decline of pilgrimage to the ancient shrine at Budbrar in favour of an easily accessible makeshift place of worship at Hal-Moghulpur.

Even after the rediscovery of the ancient Shrine at Budbrar in 1895 by Stein no effort seems to have been made by the then Dogra rulers of Kashmir, Dharmarth Trust or the Kashmiri Pandits of the nearby villages to revive the pilgrimage.

I had an opportunity to see the site of this ancient Tirtha in 1970 while trekking along Rajouri- Drabgram route via Dobjan. I found that nothing much had changed since rediscovery of the shrine by Stein in 1895 except that (1) considerable number of bricks seemed to have been used by Gujjars in constructing their summer huts and (2) carving of the male figure in relief on the detached boulder was not to be found. Gujjars were still there but none of them had seen pilgrims visiting the shrine.

The identical observation recorded in Gangodbheda Mahatmaya and Ain-I-Akbari by Abu-Ul-Fazal (1) no snow falls on the hill and nor (2) the popular Kashmiri belief that spring water is warm during winter and cold in summer is scientifically feasible. The tragedy of science has been that beautiful hypothesis have been replaced by ugly facts. In this case the fact is that water of deep seated springs like that of Gangodbheda maintain a constant temperature throughout the year which is higher in summer and lower in winter than the atmospheric temperatures. During the winter, the relative warmer temperature of the water of the Gangodbheda spring does not allow the snow falling on the surface of the water and its immediate vicinity to accumulate.

Nothing is known to me about the present status of the shrine as I did not get another chance to visit the site after 1970 nor have I had the opportunity to meet any person who had visited the place after 1970.

Kalhana, Sarswat Brahmins

By  M.M. Munshi

I must congratulate you for bringing out the special September issue of your esteemed journal. Most of the articles are very interesting as well as informative. Further this letter has reference to two articles of the said issue “Dr. B.N. Sharga -the living Kalhan” by Kuldip Raina and “Saraswat Brahmins”. “With the spirit of let Truth prevail” I beg to point out that parts of the said articles are not factual.

PtKalhana son of Campaka the illustrious minister of Harsa and other Kings of Kashmir) was the first indigenous historian of the Indian sub -continent to record history with true perspective. Prof. R.C. Majumdar formerly (i) Head of the Department of ancient history and culture, Nagpur University, (ii) Vice Chancellor and Prof. of History Dacca University, (iii) Honurary Head of the department of history, Bhartia Vidya Bhawan and general editor and part author of “History and culture of Indian People” has paid a glowing tribute to Kalhana for having set the tradition of art of compiling history in real perspective.

Kalhana has compiled the history of Kashmir in eight Tarangas (cantos) in Raj Tarangini (River of Kings) from the time of King Gonanda I regarded as  contemporary of Kurus and Pandvas to the almost of middle of 12th century A.D., a period of several thousand years.    Besides history his work reflects the culture, geography and other aspects of ancient Kashmir.

On the other hand Dr B.N. Sharga has compiled detailed family histories of well-known mostly Hindi-speaking Kashmiri Pandits whose ancestors had migrated from Kashmir to Indian Plains of Punjab, U.P. Rajasthan etc in eighteenth century. His painstaking researches revealed more than what their present day defendants knew themselves. But whenever Dr. Sharga has written political history of Kashmir ancient or of recent past, his writings betray the fact that he has mostly relied on heresay and not on authentic and trustworthy documents. His article “Trifurcation of J&K State” is one of the examples. The comments for the same have also been documented in your special issue of September 05 with the title “Distortion of Kashmir History”. Dr. Sharga about two years back advocated that Kashmiri Muslim families with surname DAR are converts to Islam from Kashmiri Pandits with the surname of DHAR. No historian of Kashmir or Kashmiri Pandits have accepted the idea to be factual. DARS are not converts from DHARS but Damars the feudal lords during the Hindu Rule.

Equating Dr. Sharga with Kalhana is like comparing Emperor Ashoka with a ruler of pre-independence princely state of Indian sub-continent.

In the same article it has been mentioned that certain Kashmiri Shia families settled in Lucknow trace their ancestry to Shah Hamdan (Syed Ali Hamdani) which seems to be their wish full thinking as Syed Ali Hamdani who started converting Hindus to Islam by persuasion was a Sunni and not a Shia. He lived in Kashmir for about 6 years and left Kashmir via Hazara but died onthe way to Iran in 1384. His son Mohammad Ali Hamdani arrived in Kashmir in 1393 and spent 12 years in desecrating destroying, and damaging Hindu places of worship beyond repair tectonic  persecuting, converting Hindus to Islam by force in collaboration with Sikandar Butishikan before he departed from Kashmir in 1405. Shia sect was introduced into Kashmir by about 1484 by Shamas-ud-Din Iraqi and others.

According to the other article “Saraswat Brahmins” - editor Sarwat Brahmins are original inhabitants of Saraswati Valley in Kashmir does not stand scrutiny. Neither Saraswati flowed through Kashmir nor the area through which Sarawati River flowed formed part at any time of the domain of Kashmirian Kings. It has been proved beyond any doubt by historical, archaeological, geomorphological as well as geological evidences that River Sarasvati flowed through present day southern Punjab, Haryana, Bhawalpur (Pakistan), western Rajasthan, Eastern Sind (Pakistan), independent of Indus system and Gujrat before falling into Rann of Cutch which used to be an even inland sea about 1500 years back.

It drieded up in stages as its main feeders (i) Yamuna got diverted due to tectonic movements along NE extremity of Aravali axis occupying a tributary of Chambal joining the ganges system in Mahanbarata times and (ii) Satadru (Sutluj) also got diverted due to no moments and joined Vipasa (Beas) after invasions of Indus system of North India by Alexender.

The Saraswat Brahmins who derived their clan name from the mightly river by virtue of living along its banks migrated to other places like Kashmir, Punch, North west of undivided Punjab; Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharastra, Karnataka as far Kerala after the river dried up. It is highly improbable to believe that all the Saraswat Brahmins in the first instance migrated fromSaraswati Valley enblock to Kashmir and subsequently spread to other parts of the Country.

However it is possible that Sarasvat Brahmins from Kashmir Valley migrated to other parts of the Country during late 14th and early 15th century when they were ruthless by perseueted by Sikander But Shikan, Syed Mohammad Hamdani and others.

It may not be out of place to mention here that in POK a tributary ofKishenganga River known as Sargan / Kankotri originating from hills near Chilas meets the Lattar slightly upstream opposite the confluence of Madhumati Stream near Sharda Temple has been referred in scriptures as Sarasvati. But the course of its valley is too narrow and steep to have supported a sizable settlement.

The Lost River Sarasvati

By M.M. Munshi

Ambitame, Devitame,

Naditame Sarasvati

O best of mothers,

O best of Goddesses ,

O best of rivers.

Sarasvati do not kick us away,

do not let us go away from you to distant lands

was eulogised in the Rig Veda. The impetuous Sarasvati is rich for magnificent cows, excellent horses, good chariots, beautiful garments and abundance of gold. Such was the prominence in which Sarasvati river was held during the vedic times even greater than that of Ganga (Ganges and Sindu (lndus) and other rivers. The mythology and history of Sarasvati is very interesting. The withdrawal of waters of Yamuna sometimes between Vedic times and epic of Mahabarta and (ii) Satadru (Satluj) sometimes during the eleventh century dried up Sarasvati which was once a mighty river flowing from Himalayas to Rann of Kutch quite independent of the Indus and Ganges river systems was reduced to a legend. Today it is still believed by many that Sarasvati follows an underground course and joins Ganges along with Yamuna at Triveni. The quest for the lost river began about a hundred years back when a British engineer C.F Oldham while riding across the broad dry bed of a small stream called Ghaggar visualised that a 3 km wide river bed could not have been made by a puny seasonal stream like Ghaggar but must have been the course of a bigger river in the past.

In the area between Indus and Ganges river systems or to be precise between the present courses of Yamuna and Satluj couple of seasonal dry channels flowing in westerly and southwesterly directions along very broad dry river beds namely Ghaggar and Sirsa met at Rasula near Patiala and further downstream near Bathnair near Bikaner in Rajasthan are joined by another dry seasonal channel called Chitrang which can be traced upstream eastwards up to Yamuna is most likely the old abandoned course of Yamuna Upstream of Bhatnair and downstream of Karnal the Ghaggar is joined by another buried channel (dry river course) known at present as Wah, Sirhind or Wahind which can be traced upstream as far as Ropar where Satluj emerges from the from the hills after traversing the Himalayas. This was the original course of the Satluj before it changed its course to join the Bipasa (Beas ) of the Indus system.

A few more dried up channels north of Sirhind Channel called nahiwals have also been traced up to Ropar. In Bikaner and further downstream for a length of about 150 km the course of the channel is known as Sotur or Hakra where it has attained a widith of about 5 to 8 km. At places the course of the river is still called Sarasvati by the locals. Further downstream the river course can be easily traced around Mirgarh, Dilawar in Bhawalpur and eastern Sind in Pakistan ,southern Rajasthan into Rann of Kutch through Gujarat quite distinct from the abandoned eastern channels of Indus delta.

Along the course of this buried channel 175 of pre and early historic archeological sites have been excavated and confirmed by archeologists while only 85 of similar sites have been located along Indus in Pakistan. These sites have revealed dwelling sites, potsheds and other Mohonjodaro and Harrapan types of objects /artifacts. Recent excavations at Dholsvaria and other places have revealed figures of ocean going vessels providing clues to the navigability of the dried up river. lt has been universally accepted that earliest settlements in the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere the major river valleys and not along dry river beds/abandoned river courses or uplands. How pre or early historic settlements especially with riverine culture could have come up on the sides of buried channels , unless major rivers flowing along in the past.

On the basis of these findings some experts have argued that the Indus valley civilization should be renamed as Sarasvati Civilisation Historical evidences also suggest Bhawalpur in Pakistan, and Bikaner in Rajasthan continued to be well watered at the time of Alexander’s invasion in 3rd century BC and even as late in 9th century AD. The Rann of Kutch was a fairly deep inland sea and ships and dhows of Arabs moved along the then existing river to Sind. Todd in his book“Annals of Rajasthan" has stated that Hakra in Bikaner became dry in 11th Century AD.

Historical sources of Greeks and Arabs indicate that Satluj was not a Punjab river till 11th century after which it abandoned its course and joined the Beas.. Below its present confluence with Satluj it is still called Beas though Satluj is larger of the two rivers. The existence of a 1600 km. long dry river bed/buried channel / paleo channel varying in width from 3 to 12 km extending from Sirmoor Hills in Himachal Pradesh to Rann of Kutch has been confirmed by the study of both black and white and coloured satellite imageries by experts including Bimal Ghosh, Amal Kar, and scientists of Central Arid Zone Research Institute, P.S. Thakkar of ISRO and others that Paleo Channels extending from the present trijunction of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana through Patiala, Karnal, Bhawalpur, Bikaner, south Rajasthan. Sind to Rann of Kutch in Gujarat is the dried course of once mighty Sarasvati River quite distinct from the Indus river system.

Sarasvati River deprived of its water by diversion of Yamuna to Ganges System sometime between Vedic age and epic of Mahabharta and Satluj to Indus System much later due to neotectonic moments along the axis of Aravali range was reduced to a dry river bed of several km in width. Having lost its snow fed sources the mighty Sarasvati river disappeared and only legend remained in the folklore.

The inhabitants from its banks migrated to far off places like Kashmir, western Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and even as far south as Kerala along the west coast some of whom still call themselves as Saraswat Brahmans or simply Saraswatas. In mythology the prominence of Sarasvati was taken over by Ganga A Kashmiri Pandit writer in one of his articles “Kashmiriyat: An Evolving concept” published in July 2004 issue of Koshur Samachar has surmised that River Sarasvati was fed mainly by the outflow of water from the southeastern corner of Satisar (Pleistocene lake covering the entire valley). Due to development of a cleft on Baramula side Satisar was practically drained of its waters deprived Sarasvati of its feeder which ultimately resulted in drying up of the mighty river. The said concept is not feasible as waters of Satisar could not have flowed underneath across four major rivers namely, Chandar Bhaga ( Chenab), Irvati (Rawi), Bipasa (Beas)and Satadru (Satluj) before meeting Sarasvati. Secondly the desiccation of Satisar and drying of Saraswati were not simultaneous events but as already indicated separated by a period about 10 to 12 millenniums.

Buddhist Relics Of Swat Going Bamiyan Way

By M.M. Munshi

THE valley of Swat

In North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, once a centre of Buddhist culture, has many ancient relics including 1,300 year old seated Buddha carved into a cliff face above the town of Jahanabad.

The valley of Swat, known for its isolation and scenic beauty, has been described as a little paradise. The Buddhist called it Udyana, meaning a garden, and it is because of its remoteness, behind the barrier of Malakand that Buddhism survived here far longer than it did elsewhere in areas comprising today Pakistan and Afghanistan, not giving an early way to Islam. As a result many relics of Buddhist culture remain.

The most substantial of these are found just over a kilometer from Saidu Sharif, the administrative headquarters of Swat. The excavations carried out in late 1970s yielded a rich collection of carvings, statues, decorated columns and jewellery. The outlines of the central stupa and 200 smaller stupas surrounding it were clear till a decade back.

In the upper part of the valley Shringdar stupa also was in a better state of preservation. It is believed by many that Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang visited this stupa also during his travel in the subcontinent and mentioned that it was built by Uttarasena, an ancient king of Swat, as a shrine for some relic of Buddah that he had in his possession. But for the most imposing and beautiful monument Buddhists have left in Swat is a carving of Buddha in sitting posture on a rock cliff above the village of Jehanabad, about 16 kilometers from north of Saidu Sharif.

The carving though visible from the main road is approachable by a foot track which runs by the side of an unexcavated stupa. It is also believed that Buddha himself visited Swat and gave many sermons telling people the lessons he had learnt in earlier lives.

Before October 8, 2007

Since October 8, 2007

Rock carving of seated Buddhas at Swat in Pakistan.

The news that the head, shoulders and feet of the carving have already been destroyed by fundamentalists and they are planning to reduce it to rubble while the ruler of Pakistan is looking to the other side. He is either unable to check this vandalism though he did appeal to Mulla Omar to save the Buddha's statues of Bamiyan from destruction or he is busy with other priorities. The face of the matchless carving with a half smile and half closed eyes looking towards the setting sun over a peaceful valley and green terraced hillsides, with its calm untroubled gaze is probably lost for ever. 

Source: The Kashmir Times, Jammu, Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ceremonies and rituals observed by Kashmiri Pandits with the childbirth in the recent past

By  M.M. Munshi

The ceremonies pertaining to child birth in Kashmiri Pandit are of two kinds Dharmick or Sanskritic and non-Dharmic or non?Sanskritic. Non-Dharamic ceremonies/rituals are distinguished from the Dharmic by the fact that the priest and mantras have no place in the former and women of the family and neighborhood play the major role. A Sanskritic tradition stipulates the performance of a ritual a few days before the marriage of a girl to ensure she becomes fertile. There is also an non-Dharmic ceremony in the seventh month of pregnancy Dud Duin. This ceremony used to become a pretext for the pregnant woman to visit Natal House (Malun) for a few weeks rest before returning to her conjugal House (Variv) with gifts of clothes, cash last but not the leastZamud Dud (curds),which is regarded highly auspicious. Besides rest the visit to natal house also provided opportunity to spend some time with her parents and siblings to feel less tense and nervous than she would feel with her in-laws with whom she might have spent hardly a year or two. The ceremony was usually held before the delivery of the first child rarely before the delivery of second child but never after the delivery of the second child.

The ceremony of Dud Duin was an occasion for rejoicing in KP families as woman’s first conception was regarded biggest event in her life. When a daughter?in?law delivered her first child they would say that she has proved her worth (Athi Aye).

A KP child was ushered on a soft straw mattress of Darbgass which was rendered holy by incense and recitation of mantras. The mid wife who assisted in the childbirth was always a Muslim woman. The family astrologer or head of the family used to note the exact time and date of the birth for casting the Horoscope (Zatuk). The bed on which woman used to deliver the child was known as Hurru and near the hurru was placed an earthen pot called Hurrileg. As part of the ritual generally uncooked rice was sprinkled around the bed. The mother (Losa) was given little food for first three days after the delivery and on fourth day was served meals in earthen or bronze vessel and same day mother's parents used to send gifts of mutton preparations and bread.

Non-Sanskritic rituals used to follow on third, fifth and sixth days after the childbirth. The ceremony on sixth day Shran?Sondur included first both for the child and mother also if she was well. After bathing food was offered to seven deities in earthen and bronze vessels. In some families the sister of the father of the child and in other families the Muslim mid wife used to light a torch of birch bark and wave around the head of the mother and child and woman used to say in chorus Shokh ta Panzun meaning congratulations and may you have more children.

On 11th/12th day the mother and child were given ceremonial baths. The first Dharmic function Kahnethar on the same day or soon after was performed which nowadays is much delayed and performed with a thread ceremony or a marriage or positively before the last rites of a deceased member of the family.

In KP society childbirth causes ritual pollution Hontsh to the woman who gives birth to a child and near male relations and their wives of her husband not necessarily by physical touch but also mystical extension, and last for about 10 days. Even if a woman has delivered a child in her natal house, the member of that family do not suffer pollutions for long. Only those who assist at the time of childbirth are polluted they could be restored to normal state of purity by a luxurious bath.

The River That Disappeared

By  M.M. Munshi

The rivers have played a prominent part in the hymns of Rigveda and subsequently in early vedic religion. Seven rivers have often referred in the Rig Veda The Avesta’s Hafta Hindu are equated with the vedic Safta Sindhuor Sindhavatha, and Sarasvati has been referred as a she meaning a feminine one with seven sisters. It is still confusing as to how the seven sisters [rivers] were intended to be enumerated These have been often described in the north western part of India and Pakistan. Even if Sarasvati is included as one of the seven rivers and five rivers of Punjab namely Satudri(Satluj) Vipasa (Beas),Parushni or Iravati (Ravi), Aksini or Chandar Bhaga (Chenab), Vitasta or Biloda (Jhelum) at present part of the Sindhu(Indus) System one river still remains elusive as Sindhu itself likeBhramputra is a special case as having been declared as a masculine andnot a feminine gender and not invoked as a goddesses.

The most prominent river of the early Rigveda is Sarasvati losing its prominence to Sindu in the late Rigveda. This has been ascribed to the migration of Vedic Aryans from Gandhara (Eastern Afghanistan and Present day western Pakistan) to Indus valley and beyond. Most probably the drying up of Sarasvati resulted in loss of its prominence to Sindhu. The Nadustut[hymn in praise of rivers] 10.75 of Rig Veda places the Sarasvati between the Yanuna in the east and Satluj in the west. Latter texts have mentioned that Sarasvati started drying up and ended in a desert. The Goddess Sarasvati was originally personification of this river, and later developed as an independent identity. Most of the scholars agree to the hypothesis that a number of references to the Sarasvati in the Rig Veda point to the dry bed of Ghaggar Hakra river while few believe that Helmend River in Afghanistan as the locus of the early Rig Veda river. Whether such transfer of name from Helmand to Ghaggar or vice versa is yet to be resolved.

The name Sarasvati has descended from Proto Indo Iranian saras-win(seles-wnt-in-th) meaning - “she with many pools”, saras in Sanskrit means “Pool Pond” the sarasi means large or swampy pool cognate with swamp. The way the crane Grus Antigone derives its Indian name Saras fromSar(pool) the same way river Sarasvati also derived its name from pool/pond which was gradually personified as a river GoddessThe Rig Veda refers Sarasvati mostly to stagnant waters. Mention of Sarasvati has been made in almost all the chapters of Rig Veda as already stated it has figured as chief of Safta Sindhu.The seven rivers of early Rig Veda. And listed in the geographical list of the ten rivers in the Nadistuti Sakuta of the late Rig Veda. Sarasvati has been described as best of all the rivers” the seventh mother of floods Sarasvati Saptath Sindumata - “ ambitame the best of the mothers, naditambe the best of rivers and devitambe the best of Goddesses” expresses the reverences vedic poets paid to Sarasvati River. When Sarasvati started drying up some unknown poet further expressed “Sarasvati do not kick us ,do not let us go away from you. Another reference to the Sarasvati is in the geographical enumeration of the late Rig Veda Nadastuti Sukta which includes all the important rivers from Ganga in the east up to Sindhu and beyond in the west in a strict Geographical order as Ganga,Yamuna and Sarasvati Sarasvati has been placed between Yamuna and Satluj corresponding with the Ghaggar identification. * It is no doubt that even if Sarasvati has lost much of its former prominence it remained a personified river goddess throughout the Rig Veda Several Puranas describe the Sarasvati river and also record that flowed through several lakes.

“The impetuous Sarasvati is rich for ,magnificent cows ,excellent horses ,good chariots beautiful garments and abundance of gold “ Such was the prominence in which Sarasvati river was held during the vedic period even greater than that of Ganga (Ganges), Sindhu (Indus) and other rivers. The mythology and history of Sarasvati River is interesting. The diversion of the waters of (1) Yamuna to Ganges system sometime during the vedic times and epic of Mahabharta and (2) Satadri (Sutluj) to Indus system much latter dried up the Sarasvati which was once a mighty river flowing from Himalayas in to Rann of Kutch independent of Indus and Ganges river systems was reduced to a legend.. Even today it is believed by many that Sarasvati river flows underground and joins Ganges system at latter’s confluence with Yamuna..The quest for the legendry river about a century back when a British engineer C.F.Oldham while riding across wide dry river bed visualized that a three kilometer river bed could have been made by a puny seasonal stream like Ghaggar but by a the course of a bigger river in the past.

The area between the present day limits of Indus and Ganges river systems or to be precise between the present day courses of Satluj and Yamuna a couple of seasonal water channels flowing in a west to south west directions along very broad dry river beds namely Ghaggar and Sirsa meet at Rasula near Patiala and further downstream at Batnair near Bikaner in Rajasthan or joined by another seasonal water channel Chitrang which can be traced upstream to Yamuna is the old and abandoned course of Yamuna. Upstream of Bathnair and downstream of Karnal the Ghaggar is joined from the north by another dry seasonal channel known at present as Wah, Sirhind orWahind which traceable upstream as far as Ropar where Satluj emerges from the foot hills after traversing Himalayas This was the original course ofSatudri (Satlujbefore it changed its course to join Bipasa  (Beas) of the Indus system. Below the conflunce of Satluj and Beas the river is not known as Satluj but Beas to the natives in Pakistan though the former is larger of the two.. In Bikaner and further downstream for a length of about 150 Kms.the dry river Channel where it has attained a width of 8 to 10 Kms. is known by the name of Hakra or Sotur and at places as Sarasvati.. The former river course in scientific/geological language as Paleo channel has been traced around Mirgarh, Dhilawar in Bhawalpur and eastern Sind in Pakistan western Rajasthan and Gujarat into Rann of Kutch quite distinct from Nara the abandoned eastern channels of Indus delta.   

Along the course of this paleo channel about 175 pre and early historic sites have been excavated and confirmed by archeologists while only 85 of similar sites have been located along the Indus in Pakistan dwelling places, pot sheds and other types of Harapan and Mohonjodaro objects /artifacts. Recent excavations at Dholvaria in Gujarat and other places have revealed figures of ocean of going vessels providing clues to the navigability of the former river. Based on these findings some scholars have argued that Indus Valley civilization should be renamed as Sarasvati Valley Civilization. It has been universally accepted that earliest settlements in the Indian Sub-Continent and elsewhere came up along the river valleys and not along dry arid regions or uplands. How the pre historic settlements with riverine culture could have come up along abandoned river courses unless major rivers were flowing in the pre/early historic times along these Paleo Channels.

Historical evidences also suggest that Bhawalpur in Pakistan and Bikaner in Rajasthan ere fairly well watered about third century BC and even as late as 9th century. The Rann of Kutch was fairly a deep inland sea and ships anddows of Arabs used to travel along the river to Sind. Todd in his book “Annals of Rajasthan” has stated that Hakra became dry in 11th century AD. Historical records of Arabs also indicate that Satluj was not considered as a Punjab River.As already stated Satluj had abandoned its original Course near Ropar and joined the Beas. Satluj below the conflunce with Beas is still known as Beas., though it is larger of the two.

The existence of a 1680 kms. long dry river bed /buried channel. /paleo channel existing from the trijunction of present Himachal Pradesh, Utrakhand, and Haryana through Patiala, Karnal ,Bikaner, Bhawalpur, eastern Sind and south Rajasthan to Rann of Kutch in Gujarat has been confirmed by study of black and white as well as coloured satellite imageries by experts including Amal Kar, Bimal Gosh and scientists of Central Arid Zone Research Institute P.S. Thakar of ISRO and others is the dried course of once mighty Sarasvati River with its dried up tributaries quite distinct from the Indus system This is corroborated by some verses of Rig Veda which indicate that Saraswati originated in Giris (mountains) where she burst with stronger waves against the ridges of the hills and spread in the plains as a swollen river (Pinnavamna) by other rivers apparently Yamuna and Satluj.

Sasrasvati River deprived of its waters, by diversion of Yamuna to Ganges system during the vedic age and Satluj to Indus System much latter due to neo tectonic moments along the Aravli Axis was reduced to a dry river bed of several kilometers in width.. Having lost its snow and glacier fed sources disappeared and only a legend remained in the folklore The inhabitants on its banks migrated gradually and in stages westwards to far of places like Kashmir, West Punjab, Rajasthan, Konkan in Maharashtra, Karnataka as far south as northern borders of Kerala. Most of whom still call themselvesSarawatas or Saraswat Brahmans. In mythology and scriptures the prominence of Sarasvati was taken by Ganga.

A prominent Kashmiri Pandit writer residing in Jammu has stated that in one of the community magazines that River Sarasvati was fed mainly by the out flow from the south eastern corner of the Satisar  (Pliestocene Lake covering the Kashmir Valley) and due to development of a cleft on the western side, the said lake was drained of its water resulting in depriving the Sarasvati river of its source of water. This concept is not feasible as water from Kashmir valley even if it flowed eastwards could have joined Chenab in Kishtwar area instead of Jang Sarar in Pakistan but under any circumstances would not have flown underneath four major rivers namely Chenab, Ravi. Beas and Satluj and surfaced like a siphon to feed Sarasvati. Secondly the desiccation of the Kashmir lake and disappearance of Sarasvati river is separated by a time gap several millenniums. For similar reasons the theory that Sarasvati flows underground and joins the Ganga near Allahabad is also not feasible.

Copyrights M.M.Munshi 2012

The Siachen Conflict

By M.M. Munshi

“Siachen” is  more well known as the highest battleground on earth  rather than place of wild roses, i.e , what it means in the Balti dialect,  where India and Pakistan have fought intermittently since  April 1984. Both countries maintain permanent armed forces in the region at a height of about 6,000 meters. More than 3, 500 soldiers have died in the inhospitable terrain mostly due to extreme weather sub zero temperatures, blizzards, avalanches  and ailments associated with extreme cold and rarity of air rather than actual fighting. Siachen  is the second longest  glacier outside the polar regions after  the 77 kilometer long Fedchenko  glacier of the Pamirs in Tajkistan  It is 70 Kilometers long  and is  located  on the southern flank of the Eastern part of Karakoram Range flanked on the west by Saltoro ridge  and in the east by main Karakoram Range, immediately south of the  great watershed that separates Indian Sub continent  from Eastern Turkistan- Sinkiang  the modern Xinjiang autonomous province of China, in the extensively glaciated region and sometimes called the third pole. The Karakoram is itself a misnomer used earlier by  western geographers after the Turki word meaningblack gravel. and not be confused with Qara Qorum the capital of Gengis Khan in Mongolia. The crest of the  Saltoro ridge  varying  in altitude between 7,722 meters (25,330 ft) and  5,451 meters (17,880 ft.) bifurcates from the main Karakorum Range slightly north of Sia Kangri Peak, extends in a south and southeasterly  direction The main passes on this ridge from north to south are Sia La 5,590 meters (18,336 ft.) Bilafond La 5,451 meters (17,880 ft.) and Gyong La 5,690 meters (18,665 ft.) The average winter snow fall is about  12 metesr (40 ft.)  and temperature falls to about minus  55 degrees C. The  catchment area of the Siachen glacier system including its feeding tributaries covers about  720 sq kilometers (275 Sq. miles)  The glacier descends from  the head of its  accumulation  zone at an altitude of about 6,000 meters (20,000 ft) to its snout at the end of its zone of ablation  3,621 meters (11,875 ft) much below the perpetual snow line in the area. The  firn line  traverses the glacier at about  5,121 meters (15,800 ft.)

The roots of the conflict over the Siachen  lie in the non-demarcation  of the cease fire line northwards of point NJ9842. In the Karachi agreement 1948-49 it was surmised   by both  India and Pakistan. that  it was not feasible for human habitation to survive north  of point NJ 9842. The UN Officials presumed that there would be no dispute between India and Pakistan  over such a cold and bleak area . In 1972 Simla agreement  also did not clearly mention as to who actually controlled the glacier ,merely stating that from the point NJ0842 the LOC would run northwards.

Today the two sides have about 150 pickets with about  3000 troops on either side ..Official figures for maintaining  these pickets are $300 and $200 million for India and Pakistan respectively. India has constructed the world’s highest helipad  at Point Sonam at  6,402 meter(21,000 ft) to ferry and supply  the troops. The problem of reinforcing and evacuating  from this ridge line  led to India’s  development of  it’s indigenous  Dhruv Mk IIHelicopter , powered by the Shakti engine  which was flight tested  to land and lift personal and stores from the Sonam point  the highest permanently manned helipad in the world.. India also installed at Siachen the world’s highest telephone booth in the world

In 1957 a British  expedition under Eric Shipton  with the permission of Pakistani authorities approached Siachen Glacier  via  Bilaford La  and carried out reconnaissance of  Saltoro  Kangri In 1962  two Japanese and one Pakistani  climber scaled the  Saltoro Kangri.  By about 1967 the United States Defense Mapping Agency [At present Geospatial –Intelligence Agency] without any legal or historical justification  or any documentation pertaining to boundary started showing on their Tactical Charts available to Public and pilots as proceeding northwards from  NJ9842 east northeast to Karakoram  Pass* on the China border on Pakistan’s side of the Cease Fire Line.  Numerous government and private  cartographers  and publishers of atlases  followed suit. This was further  followed by United StatesCartographically  “awarding “ the entire 4,880sq. kms (1,900Sq miles ) of the Siachen –Saltoro area to Pakistan. In 1970s and early 1980s Pakistan permitted a number of mountaineering expeditions to climb the high peaks  in the Siachen area due in part to United States Defense Mapping Agency. And Teram Kangri  I and Teram Kangri II were climbed by a Japanese Expedition  led by Katayama  which approached Siachen via Bilafond La.. This was done to reinforce the idea that Siachen Glacier was under the control of Pakistan .In 1978 Indian government having taken notice of this and as a counter measure Army mounted a mountaineering expedition led by Col.N.Kumar  [then commanding officer of Indian Army’s High Altitude Warfare School ]  to  Teram Kangri Peaks.and actually climbed Teram Kangri II the news and photographs of which  were given wide publicity

The first public mention of a possible clash in Siachen area appeared as an article ”High Politics in Karakoram “ in the Telegraph news paper of Calcutta in 1982 which was  subsequently reprinted in the Alpine journal London under the title “Oropolitics”  in 1984.

With specific intelligence of a Pakistani operation India launched operationMeghdooot [named after the divine cloud messenger in a Sanskrit play by Kalidasa] on 13th April 1984. When about 300 men of the  Kumaon Regiment  supported by Indian Air Force entered Siachen area and quickly took control of the Sia La and  Bilafond La on the Saltoro ridge a week earlier before  the arrival of Pakistanis  Pakistanis finally  found three hundred Indian soldiers firmly dug on the highest  mountain tops. The contiguous area is about 1000 sq miles (2600 Sq Kilometers). According to  a  now retired Pakistani  Colonel Pakistani  authorities committed an intelligence blunder “by ordering Arctic weather gear from a London based firm which also supplied to Indians Once the Indians got wind of it they ordered 300 outfits –twice  as many as Pakistanis had and rushed their men to Siachen.”

After 1984 Pakistanis launched several attacks to dislodge Indians from their positions but without any success. The most determined attack came in 1987 with newly raised  elite SSG  commando led by Pervez Mushraf [latter Army Chief and President of Pakistan]  with the aim of capturing Bilaford La but after bitter fighting including hand to hand combat, with troops of J & K light Infantry Pakistanis were thrown back and position remained unchanged. In this action  Niab  Subedar Banna Singh of the JAK Light Infantry now retired Subedar Major and Honorary Captain  was awarded the Param Vir Chakra –India’s highest military decoration awarded for highest degree of valor in presence of the enemy Pakistan made repeated attempts  in 1990,1995, 19996 and even early 1999. In 1995 the attack by the Pakistani SSG  was significant as it resulted in high  casualties among the  Pakistani commandos.

The Indian troops dominate  the entire 70 Kilometers  length of the Siachen Glacier and all its tributary glaciers  as well as the main passes of Saltoro Ridge immediately west of the glacier – Sia La, Bilafond La  and Gyong La  thus holding the tactical advantage of the high ground while Pakistanis control the glacial valley five kilometers  south-west of  Gyong La. The Pakistanis despite their best efforts  have been unable to get up to the crest of Saltoro  ridge while Indians  cannot afford to  withdraw from their high posts  by coming down the line where Indian and Pakistani  troops are holding on to their posts is.

After the army personal of both sides having suffered more from extreme cold, bad weather amd other factors at high altitudes  in the past both countries had  desired to disengage from the costly  military confrontation of the highest battlefield in the world i.e  Siachen  and negotiations were held but resulted in failure  as Pakistan was and is not  willing to give official recognition to the present status.

One of the factors behind the Kargil War of 1999 when Pakistan sent their regular troops mostly from their Northern Light Infantry in the garb of Mujahids  across the LOC to occupy the Indian posts vacated for the winter with the belief that India would be forced to withdraw from Siachen in exchange for a Pakistani withdrawal  from Kargil heights. Though a cease fire is in force since  2003 ,but after the Kargil War India decided tomaintain its military outposts on the glacier wary of Pakistani intrusions into Jammu & Kashmir if they vacate from the glacier  without an official recognition of the present status from Pakistan. for which the latter is not prepared. Since September 2007 India has opened up  the area for mountaineering and trekking expeditions. The first group included cadets from Chail Military School, National Defense Academy , National Cadet Corps , Indian Military Academy, Rastriya Indian Military College , followed by civilian trekking parties.. These expeditions prove that Indian Troops hold almost all the dominating heights  on the key Saltoro Ridge  and Pakistani Troops are not within  15 kms.  of the main Siachen GlacierIgnoring protests from Pakistan  in October 2008 trek was undertaken to send a message that every civilian can visit this part of the country A senior Indian Officer explained “The civilian treks started  despite  vehement protests from Pakistan which termed it India’s tourism" in disputed territory. India maintains that it does not need anybody’s approval for sending expeditions/trekking parties in its own territory President Zardari of Pakistan during his recent visit to India raked up the need for a solution for Siachen Issue. Pakistani Army Chief Gen, Kiyani  also expressed a desire for demilitarization  of Siachen after an avalanche hit a Pakistani camp and buried 120 Pakistani soldiers and 10 civilians  on 12th April 2012. But latter Foreign minister of Pakistan again claimed  Siachen as Pakistani territory.  It seems that fresh negotiations on the issue  are bound to fail as Pakistan is likely to insist  on demilitarization  first and demarcation of the status latter. While India is going to insist  on official recognition first and withdrawal latter. After all what is the guarantee  that a Pakistani Army Chief / General or President will not occupy  Siachen in future with so called freedom fighters / Mujahids?

Copyright M.M. Munshi  2012

Instrument of Accession Could Have Come Earlier

By  M.M. Munshi  

Apropos the article “Kashmir Problem was created by Nehru ,Abdulla”  by Maharaj Koul in the June and July 2011 issues of your esteemed magazine. The author deserves to be congratulated for analyzing the real causes of the problem namely Nehru’s idealism ,Abdullah’s dreams and role of Mountbatten and senior British officers serving with the armed forces of India and Pakistan in 1947-48. I would like to supplement  the background of the integration of the princely states including Kashmir  in a  slightly greater detail.

A difficult and delicate problem that faced India at the advent of Independence was the transfer of power  of a large number of princely states covering an area of about 1,880 thousand square kilometers with a population of about 9.5 crores.  The British Govt. probably with the intention of weakening the newly created dominions refused to transfer the paramountcy of princely states  to Indian government. These states did not form a contiguous geographical block but were scattered all over India.  With the exception of few the attitude of most princes was hostile towards the Indian Union. As Coupland said India without these states would have remained incoherent. The task of integration of these states fell on the shoulders of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel who was a member of the Interim Government in charge of the States department. Mountbatten  preferred the task to be carried out by Patel rather than by Nehru. 

Majority of these states resolved  to confront the congress and remain Independent. For example the Dewan of Travancore Cochin in south declared that his state was an independent entity and would be free to deal with any government in the world. It was rumored that Tarvancore, Cochin, Mysore and few other states in the south might form an  independent federation. The Nizam of Hyderabad who had been pampered  by the British with the title of “His exalted Highness” considered himself much above the others ,put forward fantastic claims of sovereignty depending on his henchmen like Laik Ali, Kasm Rizvi and the militant Razakars and claimed support of Muslims of India and Pakistan On 1st June 1848 Jinnah declared that Nizam’s dominion was an independent state and not only muslims of Pakistan but the muslims of whole world sympathized with the him. Maharaja of Jodhpur tried to negotiate with Jinnah for passage through Pakistan up to Karachi. Even smaller states like Junagarh ,Bhopal etc started dreaming about independence .Sardar Patel put pressure on most on  the states  which acceded to the Indian Union only Junagarh, Hyderabad and Kashmir held out. Most probably Junagarh also would have acceded to Indian Union but yielded to Jinnah’s exhortation to remain out of Indian Union under ‘ any circumstances untuill August 15 when he would send Pakistani reserve constabulary to help  the Nawab to get rid of Hindu majority in his state.. Indian Leaders especially Sardar Patel raised a lot of hue and cry as to how a Hindu majority state could  to  accede to Pakistan. Indian police entered Junagarh , the Nawab escaped to Karachi and his dewan Sha Nawaz Bhutoo (grand father of Benazir Bhutoo)requested govt. of India to take over the administration. Futile negotiations continued with Nizam  who created a war like situation with his state forces and razakars Indian cabinet lost its patience and under the operation “ Hyderabad Police Action “ Indian Army marched into Hyderabad Nizam surrendered and acceded to Indian Union in September 1948.  

The Kashmir problem has a history of its own. Abdullah organized Quit Kashmir moment against the Maharaja Hari Singh in 1946. He was arrested and when tried in court he expressed that he was agitating only for responsible Government by elected representatives of the people. Neverthless he was sentenced. Nehru tried to intervene but was banned from entering the state and arrested at Kohala . Nehru was released only when the then congress president Maulana Azad called him back. Some bitterness developed between Hari Singh and Nehru . Mountbatten visited Srinagar in June 1947 and conveyed the message from Sardar Patel to Hari Singh that if the latter choose to join Pakistan ,India would not protest and it was also conveyed to Jinnah and others through Mountbatten that India would not force the accession of Kashmir with India, Like rulers of other states Hari Singh  also was toying with the idea of remaining independent with friendly relations with Pakistan under the advice of  his  hindu prime minister . Some how for what reasons not clear Hari Singh sacked his  hindu prime minister on 11th August 1947 and after some time appointed Mehar Chand Majhajan as PM. Hari Singh could not decide on the issue and entered into a standstill agreement with Pakistan. India refused to have any standstill agreement unless Hari Singh gave responsible govt. in the state. In the meantime Pakistani Tribals from NWFP intruded along the southern and south western borders of the state and state forces which were thinly deployed along the lengthy border were not effective  in preventing the intrusions, moreover  Mirpuri and Poonchi muslim troops  comprising about 40 %  of the state forces deserted and went over to Pakistan. Situation became when about 4500 tribal Lashkar from NWFP led by Pakistani officers were joined by two companies of Mirpuri and Punchi muslims of  4 J&K infantry  crossed the Kohala bridge annihilated the Dogra component of the battalion including the commanding officer The acting chief of staff of J&K state forces rushed with about two hundred men to Uri could only delay and not stop the advance of the tribal force . In the meantime Sardar Patel  was pressuring the unwilling princes to accede to India through V.P.Menon and others but ignored Kashmir till Srinagar was threatened by Pakistani led tribal force. He along with Sir Teg Bahadur Sapru an ex member of Viceroy’s executive council suggested that Non Muslims from Kashmir should be  pulled out.  Nehru was shouting horace that military help must be sent to save Kashmir, Mountbatten insisted troops could not be sent to Kashmir as it had not acceded to India, British commanders of army were pointing to difficulties in sending and maintaining troops in Kashmir as the winter was aproching . It was only on 25th Oct  1947 V.P Menon accompanied by then Col.Manikshaw  (latter Field Marshal Manikshaw ) in an air force plane piloted by Wing Commander Dewan to Srinagar who obtained Hari Singh’s signature on the instrument of accession and flew back to Delhi in the wee hours of 26th Oct . Hari singh travelled the same night from Srinagar to Jammu  by road with his bag and baggage. This is corroborated by the statement of Manikshaw himself The rest is history. Had Sardar Patel attanged to obtain Hari Singh’s signature on the instrument of accession with whom he was close a month earlier, history would have been  probably different . Nehru’s biggest mistakes pertaining to Kashmir was accepting Mountbatten as first Governor General of free India and referring the Kashmir issue to United Nations. Besides others Sardar Patel has also to share the blame. 

Will Kashmir Issue Hamper India's Progress?

By  M.M. Munshi

The relations between India and Pakistan have been bogged down over the Kashmir issue  since the  division of British India   in 1947.Neither diplomatic negotiations  nor  three wars i.e 1947-48 , 1965 and 1999 have brought the  two countries closer to any agreement. After the defeat of Pakistan  in 1971 war  which was not triggered  by Kashmir but reluctance of West Pakistanis to accept a  government  lead  by East Pakistanis  (Bengalis).The war resulted in  disembarkation of Pakistan , emergence of independent Bangla Desh and surrender of about 95,000 Pakistani  army and paramilitary personal  to Indian Army  in a 12 days war. For about two decades after the humiliating defeat  Pakistanis licked their wounds and  offered only lip service to Kashmir issue . After realizing the superiority of Indian   Armed Forces in conventional warfare   the Pakistanis secretly  initiated   by fair and fowl means work on manufacture of nuclear weapons with substantial help from the Republic of China . In order to forestall any opposition from democratic forces within the country to his autocratic rule  General Zia Ul Haq  the 2 nd Military Dictator of Pakistan transformed the moderate  Islamic state  of Pakistan  into a fundamentalist one which encouraged  the Mullas to rule the roost and dominate it’s politics. To show progress on Kashmir issue the so called unfinished  agenda of the partition of British India , General Zia planned the proxy war  in the  Indian administrated state of Jammu & Kashmir which started immediately after his death.

Pakistan is mainly  interested   in  complete control of  three rivers namely Indus ,Jhelum and Chenab flowing through the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistanis have a fear that at  some  latter stage India may not scrap the Indus Water treaty  and divert the waters of these rivers in full are part for its own use .Another factor that worries Pakistan about is that  its  North Western part  including Islamabad is well within striking distance from western  and south western borders of  Jammu and Kashmir .Whenever there was a war Pakistan  fought with courage of despair  in Chamb sector to forestall any major offensive by an Indian strike force  into central Pakistan , Annexing the Muslim majority state of Jammu & Kashmir , in reality is of  lesser importance  than fears of  diversion of  river waters and a possible Indian attack.

Pakistan transformed the local uprising by Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front[ which was also initially  sponsored by Pakistan ) as its  larges by involving Islamist terrorist organizations  like Lashkar-e- Toiba  and Jaish-e-Mohamad   replacing the former(JKLF) completely.. The terrorist organizations lost popular support  because of  their harassing and terrorizing  the locals   by extortions, killings and at times rapping of  the women folk. In due course of time the Indian  police and security forces  substantially   contained the insurgency  and Govt. of India also  responded by holding three elections in the state in 1996,2002 and 2008 which independent observers and journalists reported as free and fair.

Immediately after the bus journey by then prime minister Atal Bihari Bajpayee  from Amritsar to Wagah  border and Lahore declaration  In 1999 Pakistan sent regular troops in the garb of  locals into Kargil area across the line of actual control  and occupied  remote but strategically important  positions with the intention of disrupting moment of traffic on  vital Srinagar  Leh Highway and insulating Ladakh from the rest of the country.  At first the BJP led Indian Govt. down played the incident. but soon afterwards  to everybody’s surprise  Indian Army  vigorously counter attacked uphill across the  sub vertical hill slopes and dislodged the Pakistani intruders . Moreover the International community including  United States condemned the Pakistani aggression  and strongly supported India. The  Pakistanis were forced to withdraw by  the  vigorous Indian counter attack  and political pressure from US President Bill Clinton.

In the recent past India’s economic growth ,diplomatic influence and overall prestige have considerably increased The new international profile of the country has added a different dimension to its on going confrontation with Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. It is unlikely that the two countries despite the repeated renewal of talks and peace process will reach a settlement in near future..Twice  (1999 and 2001-2) the two countries were about to resort to  use of nuclear  weapons. India approximately administers about two thirds of the original State of Jammu & Kashmir while Pakistan holds most of the remainder. China grabbed the Aksai Chin  plateau while India stuck to  the  out dated theory of British imperialists that no country would be interested in a bleak area like Aksai Chin. To appease China and for getting their support for Kashmir  and other issues, Pakistan ceded the area of Raksam valley to the former in1963.

After the Pakistani  sponsored  blasts in  on Diwali festival at Delhi and subsequent attacks on Indian Parliament in December 2001 both countries resumed talks  but no tangible results were achieved except the cease fire along the Line of actual control  , bus services between Srinagar and Muzafrabad and Punch (J&K) and Rawlakot(POK) and trade also across the LOC. Relations between the two countries  were hardly normal when Pakistani sponsored militants of Jais-e-Mohamad  struck Mumbai in 2008 taking the sea route and killed about 164 people including foreign nationals  and wounding about 300 in Taj  Palace Hotel, Oberai Trident Hotel, Nariman Bhawan  and Chatarpati  Shivaji terminus, Cama hospital and other places . When questioned about it Pakistan at first flatly refused to take the responsibility   terrorist attack had originated from tits soil, latter due to international pressure however admitted that it was carried out by non state actors though India gave them enough evidence  which proves otherwise. .Pakistanis with one pretext or other has avoided / refused to stop aiding the terrorist organizations and consider them as their allies against India.

More ever Pakistan Government is under pressure from the fundamentalist clergy , their allies in Parliament  and its army to annex Kashmir by fair and fowl means , accordingly Pakistani Government continues to aid the terrorist organizations. But what the Pakistani authorities whosoever they are fail to understand that  India’s  patience with Pakistani Sponsored terrorism  in Kashmir or elsewhere in India  is nearly at an end . It is now clear that that forbearance of the past on the part of Indian Government may not survive another Pakistani sponsored  state or non state terrorist attack. To day the Indian army is well prepared to under take swift surgical and decisive action by retaliating against targets of its own choosing in Pakistan.

Neither the Kashmir dispute  nor the insurgency had  any significant effect on India’s rise to international prominence  During 19 60s and 70s theorists of repute predicted  that  uncontrollable increase in  population ,slow economic progress  ,  Naxalite/ Moist    movements,  tensions along religious, caste and ethnic lines  will result in  India’s doom. But on the contrary India has exhibited a remarkable recovery except for a brief period of from June 1975 to March 1977 it has managed the crises without abandoning the  path of democracy. India has achieved tremendous economic growth  bid farewell to its policy of non alignment  and improved its relations with western powers including United States. All these achievements have materialize in spite of the naxal problems in  Central  and Eastern India, occasional flares in North East and continued Pakistani sponsored  terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of the country. There is   least chance of India  not being able to maintain  its domestic stability and improve its economic growth even if Kashmir issue remains unresolved. Kashmir issue may not be immaterial to the peace  and may remain a flash point  for another Indo Pakistani conflict but it is not going to block India’s progress and its diplomatic relations with most nations of the world including a number of Islamic  countries. It  has become fashionable  for world leaders  to advise India  that it should settle the Kashmir and other issues   with Pakistan as early as possible which is well said than done. Scores of solutions have been  suggested  but hardly any one of these is  politically feasible. An accord should balance needs of Justice and power for all residents of J&K state Muslims  [both Sunni’s and Shias], Kashmiri Pandits, Dogras,Sikhs and Buddhists .Even a plebiscite would fail to address the needs of the states minorities Hardly any Shia, Dogra,Kashmiri Pandit , Buddhist or Sikh would like to join a Sunni dominated Independent State of Jammu and Kashmir. The sad and dismal plight of minorities in Pakistan ,Iraq , Bahrin , Afghanistan  etc need not be repeated here. The ideal solution for Kashmir’s minorities would be to continue as part of multi ethnic multi religious multi lingual secular State of India where  Muslim population  exceeds that of Pakistan.. But that may not satisfy Pakistanis who  want to integrate the state as a whole with Pakistan failing which they would prefer to see Kashmir as an independent Muslim dominated Kashmir  friendly/sympathetic  to itself. But that will not be acceptable not only to India  but also China , the latter has made it clear that it won’t tolerate  an Independent Kashmir. India has repeatedly made it clear  that it will not agree to any territorial adjustments in Kashmir .India is facing a number of secessionists movements and is fully aware  as to what  effect  an independent Kashmir  will have .China has also opposed Independent Kashmir  for the same reason as they are facing problems in Xinjiang and Tibet. Most of the ruling regimes of Pakistan have been in the past as well as today  unrepresentative  rather autocratic and dictatorial   East Pakistan now Bangla Desh seceded  from Pakistan as its Bengali population was ill treated  The  Baluchistan  was and is being discriminated so are the Shias even in its Punjab province. Pakistan  the most loud mouthed champions of Muslims of Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir state has exercised  utter disregard  for democratic  practices and institutions  under its own control in Jammu  and Kashmir especially in the so called  Northern areas comprising Gilgit agency and Baltistan area  since 1947.It is a million dollar question how an independent Kashmir  could function or survive.

Pakistan has very frequently relied on the assistance of foreign  powers especially United States China  and Islamic countries to boost its claim for Kashmir and despite its persistent efforts , it is not closer to dislodging India from Kashmir than it was in 1947-48 More specifically  since the end of cold war  most of the nations have lost interest in Pakistan’s drum beating about Kashmir As India’s trade expands  its military might grows  the world will care even less.  Clinton categorically  stated in 1999  that “borders cannot be redrawn in blood .Pakistan cannot continue its policy of limited cooperation  with US against  al Qaeda while sponsoring terrorism against India. The principal  terrorist organizations operating in Kashmir neither command loyalty nor believe in democracy. No government in Delhi will grant any concession  without an end to terrorist  violence in Kashmir. Memories of Pakistan’s misdeeds against India  in Kashmir and elsewhere being overlooked by US are fresh in the minds of Indian policy makers and still cast doubts  on US friendship. The main cause of persistent  authoritarian rule in Pakistan   is mainly due to constant support financial or otherwise   to autocratic  regimes by the US in the name of expediency  which practically destroyed the democratic fabric in the country and enabled the armed forces mainly the army to  have an effective veto even when civilian regimes were at the helm of affairs. The economic defense and political   disparities between India and Pakistan are significant, the size of Indian middle class has been estimated to be  about 300 million and despite rising oil prices  India has registered its heigh GDP growth . Pakistan’s economy despite by substantial expatriate remittances and US aid is much below that of India’s growth rate. India’s robust democratic institutions  despite some drawbacks stand in marked contrast to that of Pakistan’s autocratic  military rule even with its  civilian façade. Pakistan’s policy makers  mainly  its military establishment   have been keeping the pursuit of “a thousand cuts against India “. But their strategy has failed as India’s economic, military and political rise will sap its resolve or resources. The country’s growing prosperity will enable it to withstand the cost of sustaining and improving its defense equipment and training.

Finally Pakistan would have to move towards making the Line of control a permanent   international border while allowing contact between communities across the divide failing which the  confrontation  between the two countries  is otherwise also likely to  end up not by war or negotiations  but by Pakistan’s exhaustion.

Mongols, Central Asian Rivalry and Kashmir

By M.M. Munshi

This has a reference to letters of Bilhan Koul and B.N.Sharga in June 06 and September 06 respectively issues of your magazine in which it has been said that ancestors of B N Sharga of Mongolian origin entered Kashmir in eight century raised families after marrying Kashmiri Women were Brahaminised and settled in Rainawari.

In the first instance we must try to understand as to who were these Mongols ? They belonged to Hun race and inhabited a bleak and barren mountain plateau between China and Siberia. They are short of stature, and thickset compact in their bodies broad headed yellow skinned, straight haired with an epicanthic fold in their eyes. Extreme climate, the barrenness of their habitat and lack of agriculture turned them into wanderers, Shepherds, seasoned horsemen and at the same time a warlike, savage and ferocious people. It brought them into conflict with other people, conquered distant lands. In the first century BC they turned towards west and by second century AD they practically threatened Roman empire under their leader Atilla “The Scourge of God”. In the east tribes of Dun-hu and Miung-nu advanced to invade China and the Chinese emperors endeavored to check them by building the “Great Wall”. Subsequently the infighting among the Mongolians weakened them, they were pushed back from their conquered territories and Mongolia itself was divided into small principalities.

In Central Asia China, and for a time India also witnessed the culmination of integrated drives during the sixth and seventh centuries to weld together new empires from petty kingdoms that had emerged from the ruins of Old empires. The Sui dynasty [ 581-618] reunited most of China proper under a centralized administration, providing a sound foundation for their successors the T’ang dynasty [618-907] who consolidated north West China. By 630 the armies eastern Turkistan were completely routed by the Chinese and in the ensuing decades even petty chiefdoms of Turkistan (Sinkiang) modern Xinjiang made their submission to Chinese emperors.

The struggle to dominate Central Asia was not however restricted to China and Turkistan.

But directly involved Tibet, Baltistan, Ladakh, Kashmir and to a lesser extentNorthern India and Nepal. In Tibet a dynastic line who’s influence to seventh Century was restricted to a smaller area east of Mayum Pass and south of Tsangpo [Bhramputra ] River began a rapid expansion of its domains. The most famous of its kings Song-Tseng–Gam-Po of the area made Tibet a dominant military power and was able to demand and receive princess in marriage from Nepal and China.

A new facet was added to these complexities with the advance of the Islamic Arabian empire into Central Asia via Iran and Iraq in late seventh century and with the fall of Sind to Arabs in 712.

The bitter struggle between Tibet and China was resumed in 660 and lasted for three centuries involving at one time or other directly or indirectly most of the neighboring states. The contest was waged in three principle areas (1) Szechun lying directly east of Tibet,(2) KoKo Nor (Tsinghi) and Kansu in the north east and (3) Turkistan ( the four garrisons i.e. Kashgar, Khotan, Kucha and Karashahr.. If the Chinese dominance of Turkistan was to be effectively challenged the primary requisites would be the control of western Tibet and passes for the passage in Baltistan and Ladakh. West Tibet was accordingly brought under Tibetian hegemony and after several years of fluctuating war the territory of the four garrisons was conquered in 670, and held for more than twenty years before a huge Chinese force taking advantage of dissension in Tibet recovered Turkistan for T’sang empire.

Soon afterwards Baltistan and Ladakh became the chief arena fighting between Tibet and China into which Kashmir was actively drawn and conflict became wider with increasing Arab pressure both against China and Kashmir, which brought both together in an alliance of some sort against the Arabs on one side and Tibetians on the other. Chinese records state that at least three Indian embassies visited Chinese court between 713-14 to ask for military aid against the Arabs {Ma-twan –lin, “Thien-chu-India “Trans.James Burgess, Indian Antiquity IX (1880) It is known that at least one of these was sent by King Tchen-ko-lo-pi-li who has been identified as Chandrapida Vajradantia [ U.N.Mukerjee "Chronology of Karkota Naga Dynasty of Kashmir" Uttara Bharati, IV No 3 Mar. 1958]

There was hardly any period during the eight century that was free of active hostilities. Much of the fighting centered on the Baltistan-Turkistan area. In 722 a Chinese force of about four thousand coming to the aid of Baltistan was able to prevent the Tibetian domination of the passes into Turkistan. About ten years later the great Kashmiri Monarch Laltaditya Mukhpida not only turned a Tibetian invasion of Baltistan but also advanced into north west part of Tibet . In 737 Tibetians launched another attack aimed at exclusion of Kashmiri influence from the crucial pas-ses. This time Chinese extended aid by a divers-ionary attack on Koko Nor which did not have the desired affect. Once Again in747 a large Chinese force acting in conjugation with Kashmiris successfully crossed the passes and reestablished T’ang influence in Baltistan. Chinese garrisons were placed as far west as Gilgit in an effort to counter an Arab advance.. But the Chinese success was temporary and Arabs ousted them in751 and also surrendered much of the western Turkistan to Abbasid Caliphate [ Pandit Daya Ram Sahni,,” References to the Bhotas or Bhauttas in the Rajtarangini of Kashmir” (Notes from Tibetan sources by A.S.Francke), Indian antiquity,XXXVII ( July 1908) ].

The Chinese disaster enabled the Tibetian King Tri-di-tsuk-tsen to regain control over Baltistan and his successor Tri-song-de-tsen carried the Tibetian empire to what was to be its maximum expansion conquering Turkistan, most of Kansu, a large portion of Szechuan. In 763 Tibetian forces even captured Changan the western capital of China. King Laltaditya’s glorious achievements did not survive after his death.Tibetian power reached its new heights with a  series of decisive victories over the Chinese between 760 to 780 culminated in a peace treaty

In 783 the terms of which were favorable to Tibet, but events became unfavourable for Tibet when their alliances broke down with the Shans of Yunnan in the east and Arabs to the west as Shans were competing not with T’angs (Chinese) but Tibetians in the upper Yangtse valley. Similarly with their success in Turkistan it became clear that it was Tibet which stood in the way of Arabs in latter’s expansion . Caliphate of Baghdad joined hands with Chinese against the Tibetians in Turkistan which resulted in weakening of Tibetian position in Central Asia and elsewhere. In due course of time process of decay set in much of the areas over which Chinese and Tibetians had fought so bitterly reverted to petty chief tens and other conquerers.Turkistan fell to Uighurs, West Tibet and Ladakh gradually emerged as petty independent principalities

Neither the Chinese Annals, Chronicles of Tibet or Ladakh or Kashmiri or Turki sources mention anything about involvement of Mongolians of the struggle in Central Asia between third and twelfth Century. The concept of a Hindi speaking Kashmiri Pandit at present residing at Lucknow that his ancestors of Mongolian Origin entered Kashmir in 8th century and eventual settled in Rainawari is based on wishful thinking and not on historical

Research. King Tra-shi-gon (1200-1230 ) was ruling Ladakh when Gengis Khan was consolidating his Great Mongol empire. There is no mention of Ladakh having been subjugated by Gengis Khan not even mention of the Mongol conqueror in Ladakhi Chronicles. Thus the concept of Mongols having reached Delhi via Kashmir is also ruled out.

As far as northern India was concerned the aggression started in the time of Gengis Khan who defeated Jalaluddin Mangbarni son of Sultan Said Khan of Khwarizm on the west bank of Indus in 1221. Although he never crossed the Indus himself, yet some of his followers penetrated in pursuit of Jalaluddin After they began to hover over the north western plains of India. Lahore fell to them in 1241 and they harried Multan, northern Sind and Punjab.Balban punished and routed them. 1n 1290 Jalaluddin Khilji repelled their intrusion, then he appeased them and made them settle at Mongolpuri at present informally called Mangalpuri. It is this Mongolpuri B.N.Sharga refers in support of his claim that Mongols reached Delhi via Kashmir.That of course did not guarantee peace they repeated pillaging and disaster and led fresh aggression in 1297 under their leader Qutlugh during the rule of Allauddin Khilji and threatened northern India but were somehow repulsed.. They again appeared in 1303,devastated Punjab and laid siege to Delhi Then they suddenly withdrew presumably they were recalled by grandsons of Gengis Khan who were in Afganistan-Turkemaenstan. area. In all probability some of them found their way into Kashmir. Kashmir was not unknown to them and had been included by Ogatay the third son of Gengis Khan and latter by Halakhu [Tabakat Nasiri Raverty’s trans.) History of Mongols III ] But then it had escaped.The earliest Mongol invasion of Kashmir in historic times took place in the early summer of 1320 during the rule of King Sahadeva Infact Mongols penetrated Kashmir from the plains of north India and not the plains of north India or Delhi from Kashmir as envisaged by B.N.Sharga. The invasion was led by Mongol chief Dulacha who entered Kashmir via Baramula route with about seventeen thousand horses and foot. Raja Sahadeva and his government were paralyzed by fright and tried to save off ruin by offering gratifications to Dulacha, but he spurned the offer and moved with a passion of wholesale annihilation destruction and devastation of the valley. It appears that he came to know Delhi was suddenly taken in the grip of a civil war. Sultan Mubarak Shah was assassinated and Khusrav Khan had ascended a precarious throne and wanted to take advantage of the situation and decided to proceed to Delhi via the shortest possible Banihal route carrying with huge booty of men women as slaves, animals and whatever fell into his hands . But as soon as they were crossing Banihal pass they were suddenly caught in a blizzard in which all of them perished.

After the death of Rinchan Shah the Ladakhi prince in 1323 Udyanadeva a cousin of Sahadeva was installed as the king who also married Rinchan’s widow Kota Rani a second Mongol invasion of Kashmir led by Achala took place. At the approach of the enemy King Udyanadeva like a coward fled to Ladakh leaving behind his family and subjects to their fate.

But Kota Rani like a woman rose to the occasion, she enthused her subjects and also enlisted the help of Kotarajas (feudal lords) and Shahmir a muslim refugee of Iranian origin and offered battle to the invaders.

By offering united opposition to the enemy they trumpeted and saved their country. After the death of Udyanadeva in 1339 Shahmir proclaimed himself as Sultan and muslim rule was established in Kashmir, his descendants ruledKashmir till middle of sixteenth century.

In 1530 Humayun ceded Punjab and Indian frontier to his brother Kamran in addition to Kabul and Kandhar which were already in latter’s possession. He dispatched a sizable force to annex Kashmir which reached Srinagar without facing any serious opposition but combined forces of various Kashmiri factions inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mogul forces near Athwajan [Baharistan Shah Tariq-i-Haidar Malik].

The country had hardly two years when it was invaded for the first time in historic times via the Zojilla route by armies of Sultan Said Khan of Kashghar. Having completed subjugation of Baltistan and Ladakh dispatched under Mirza Haider Dughlat and Sikandar Khan who were Turks and not Mongols four thousand horsemen reinforced by many axillaries provided by defeated Balti and Ladakhi chiefs [Tariq-i-Rashidi] Kashghari army entered Kashmir via Zojilla pass in 1533, met very feeble resistance at Drun Nar, a narrow and dangerous defile below Sonamarg and proceeded up to Nowshahar. After resting for a few days at Nowshahar they advanced southwards pillaging and destroying whatever came their way.

Kashmiri forces mostly foot soldiers offered them battle near Mattan but proved no match for Kashghari horsemen.Kashmiris retreated to steep hills and narrow glens where Kashgharis could not attack them. After suffering a series of defeats Kashmiris by getting fresh reinforcements and courage of despair finally succeeded in defeating the Kashgharis somewhere south of Srinagar. Mirza Haidar wanted to stay in Kashmir and subdue the country but was forced to quit due to discontent, spread in his troops by his subordinate commanders.

After reaching Ladakh he was reinforced with fresh troops from Kashghar with the object of capturing Tibet but the mission failed due to long supply line and aid extended to Tibetians by Raja of Jumla [A.H.Francke “Antiquities of Indian Tibet” Archeological Survey of India 1065]. After the death of Kashghar ruler his successor Rashid Khan was not kindly disposed towards Mirza Haider and withdrew most of the forces to Turkistan. Mirza Haider was forced to flee Ladakh, made his way upto Yarkand valley through Tagbundash, formidable Pamir passes and Badakshan to Kabul and finally Punjab.

Humayun who was still toying with the idea of annexing Kashmir gave assistance to Mirza Haider Dughlat who was poised to invade valley at the invitation of one of the warring Kashmiri factions. King Ibrahim Shah was disposed and Mirza Haider placed a puppet of his own on the Kashmir throne and himself ruled himself for about decade when he was killed by Shia rebels for his pro-Sunni policies. Kashmir again passed into the hands of weak and ineffectual kings of Chak clan till it was annexed by Akbar in 1586.


A preview of the above leaves no doubt, that except for intrusions of Dulacha and Alacha during the rules of King Sahadeva (1301-1320) and Udayanadeva (1323-39) who entered Kashmir via Baramula and Hirapur routes in 1313 and 1324 respectively no other Mongol invaded or penetrated Kashmir during known historic times. Mongolia remained divided into small tribal kingdoms for about a millennium till it was unified into an empire by Genghis Khan (1611-1227), expanded by his successors and held for about a century. In between the power rivalry in central Asia was restricted to China, Kashmir etc on one side and Tibet,the Abassid Califate (Arabs) and Turkistan on the other side. As such Mongolians having penetrated Punjab or Delhi via Kashmir especially during the eight century as stated by B N Sharga and others is far from the truth and nothing short of distortion of history.

Rinchan was a Ladakhi prince, a descendant of Nyi-ma-gon of Tibetian origin and not of the Hun race of Mongolia and entered Kashmir as a refugee in early 14th century with a handful of followers was given shelter by Ram Chandra minister and commander in chief of king Sahadeva. Since he was not accompanied by any army the question of his generals marrying Kashmiri Women and raising families has also to be ruled out.Most of the invasions of Kashmir from Prehistoric times to 1819 were from west, north west and south i.e. Baramula-Kishenganga side and western passes on the Pir Panjal range. The only exceptions are the invasion via Zojilla Pass by armies of the Kashghar ruler in 1533 and minor skirmishes from across the Saribal range from Kishtwar which was used as a hideout and sanctuary by disposed Kashmiri Kings and rebels from time to time.

Puranic Concept of Mountains of Kashmir

By  M.M. Munshi

Puranas cover a period  of more than a millennium starting from about the time of the coming   into power in India of the Shunga Dynasty to the time of invasion of North India by Gaznavi. It was a chequered period of our history; great warriors, powerful monarchs , brilliant outputs in art and literature, but unfortunately combined with unhealthy growth of blind superstitions and the decay and death of spirit of adventure in science ,thought as well as in practical life. In spite of modern researches , we have yet to learn about the essential facts of those days and among these facts are many which are related to geography. Indias’s association and communication of those days was not confined to the narrow parochial limits of the subcontinent, but extended to at least to a superficial knowledge of a large part of the then known world as in the reference to Nile river and its source in one of the Puranas The orthodox Pandits who usually swear by Puranas or Shastras know very little about their contents or meanings. Their rhetorical knowledge does not enable them to identify the most of the rivers or mountains or other features to which these words refer.

Vayu and Nilamata puranas form the basis of this write up together with Ksemndra’s Samayasmidrika, Bilhana's  Vikramankodevarosa and Stein's interpretation of Ancient geography of Kashmir based on Kalhana;sRajtarangini. Vayu Purana contains the geographical data described in all thePuranas and in certain cases gives more details including those on Kashmir,Nilamata purana which deals primarily with Kashmir and other texts were selected as those give information not contained in the puranas. Approching Jammu & Kashmir from the plains of Punjab we come to the lesserHimalayas referred as Bahirgiri in Nilamata and literature include Pir Panjal Range, and its south westerly spurs ,west ward extensions of Dhauladhar, namely

Jugdhar, Ladadhar, Trisuldhar, Mundidhar Trikuta hills etc and foothills including Siwalik Range which has been mentioned as Upagiri in MahabhartaChula Himavanta in Pali and Astadhyayi. Usiraka in Dharva(hilly area between Vitasta (Jhelum) and Chandrabhaga. (Chenab) is most probably Kalidhar and its eastward extension . Usiradhavaja of Vinaya texts, Usiragiriof Divyavadana  and Usinaragiri of the Kathasaritsagara have been identified as designations of the same hills i.e Siwaliks in Darva and Madra (area east of Chandrabhaga) by B.C.Lal There is no specific or direct mention of Pirpanjal Range which forms watershed between Kasmira in the north andDarva and Madra in the south in Nitamatha.But peaks of Bahmasakli or Brahmasaki of the Pir panjal Range where Visnu, Brhama and Maheshvara took their positions and Kramasaras (Konsarnag) have been mentioned in the legend pertaining to draining of Satisar and killing of the demon Jalodbava.Mention has also been made of the westernmost peak Naubandana.At the end of the Manvantara Mashevara (Shiva) transforms himself into water and turns the whole world into an ocean, Parvati assumes the form of a boat and the future Manu puts all the seeds in that boat. After assuming the form of a fish Vishnu pushes the boat and ties it to the high peak  protruding above the water and hence the name Naubandana. However Pantsaladharamentioned by Ksemndra has been identified as Pir Panjal Range.

The northern limit of the Kashmir valley is marked by the Great Himalaya Range refered in puranas as Antargiri and in the Pali literature as Maha Hemavanta. A number of southerly and southwesterly ridges/ spurs radiate from the central range giving rise to a number of side valleys .The most prominent ridge Saskach (Sasakot) bifurcates from the great Himalaya range near Mushran upstream of Amarnathji cave shrine forms a water parting between Sind and and Lidar rivers. The Saskach follows a south-west north-east trend and at Drunnar or Hangsatu immediately below Sonamarg is traversed by the Sind river forming a narrow gorge beyond which it was known as Bharatagiri (north Kashmir or Sogput Range) isolating the Krshna(Kishenganga) valley from Sind and main Kashmir valley. Part of the same spur forming a triangular mass of mountains bound on the north and east bySindu (Sind )valiey and south and west by Lidari (Lidar) valley and the main Kashmir valley extends as far west as Bastavalika or Jeyarudasaras (Dai lake) and Ganderbal has no modern name but was known in Puranic times asMahadevagiri and at a latter date as Dudvana. Lakes of Manasaras (Marsar) and Tarasaras(Tarsar) and shrines of Hareshvara (Hareshor) and Mahadevaare located on the triangular mass. The southern flanks of Dadvana are capped by peaks of Dhanada and Vasrvana (Vastarvan.)A minor spur ofMahadevagiri immediately south of Dal lake and north of Jhelum and west of Zabarwan known at present as Shankracharia hill was known asJyesthatudraparvata or Gopadri. The original temple is believed to have been built by Jaluka son of Ashoka. The isolated hill of Hariparbat was known by the name of Harparvata and Sarikaparvata.

To the east of Dudukant Pass and north of Lar pargana on the north Kashmirrange rising to about 16,000 feet stands the Harmukuta Shiva's diade popularly known as Harmukh. The lake which is at the foot of the glacier at an elevation of about 13,000 ft. is the glacier fed Kashmir Ganga, Utragangaor Utrasaras at present called as Gangabal.

According to Matsya Purana Aruna mountains lie to west of Kailasa, andaccording to Vayupurana on the other side of Kailasa and contains hundreds of peaks and is dominated on the south by Dhumralohita -the king of mountains. Lake Silodaya lies at its foot from which a river rises and flows west. The mountain to west of Kailasa with hundreds of peaks is apparently Ladakh Range This is the Aruna range of puranas. And Dhumralohita which lies south of and near Aruna is the Nanga Parbat and its significance as king of mountains can be visualized by the fact that summit of Nanga Parbat is 26,620 ft above msl with its base at the side of Indus is 3500 ft. exposing a fall of 23,120 ft. to an observer at its foot on the riverbed or on one of the passes connecting Kishenganga valley with that of Indus valley.The un paralled view is much more impressive than that of Namchebarwa Peak and bed of Tsangpo (Brahamputra) in eastern Tibet. Lake Sailodaya appears to be Mahapadamsaras (Wular Lake) which once covered whole of Kasmira (Kashmir Valley) as Satisar and river Siloda which still flows through it is the Vitasta (Jhelum).The fall of more than 23,000 ft exposed to the gaze of observers during the Purana Times led to the belief that Dhumralohita (Nanga Parbat) was the highest peak in the world.


By  M.M. Munshi

According to Nilmata Purana it was Sati, daughter of Himalparvata consort of Shiva who was called uma in Vaisvara Anatra is the same goddess as Vitasta and the same is Kasmira. The Goddess Vitasta is verily the holy river, remover of all sins. People who offer their bodies to, or die with its water in their bellies reach heaven without any hindrance. Those persons who take bath in Vitasta do not see even in dreams tortures of hell. Vitasta gives protection with her hands to the evil doing sinners falling into the Hell. Fire of the hell for the sinners is pacified with the cool outpourings of water drops sent from the waves of Vitasta carried by the wind. A person by merely listening to the glory of Vitasta goes free from sins. The only thing that Ganga has more than that of Vitasta are the heaps of bones of human beings, all others things are equal.

The river draining the entire Kashmir Valley called by the Kashmiri as “Vyath” is the direct derivative of the original Sanskrit name Vitasta. The Intermediary Prakrit form Vidasta was altered by Greeks to Hydaspes. Vitasta is also mentioned in the river names of Rigveda. In Vayupurana Vitasta has been referred as Biloda and the Wular lake as Bilodia situated south of Dharma Lohita (Nanga Parbat) - the King of mountains. The modern name of the river Jhelum has been adopted from the city of Jhelum besides which it flows in Pakistan. The name was brought to Kashmir by European travelers and found its way into official usage, otherwise the river is still known to the natives as Vyath.

The River Vitasta can be considered to have formed at the confluence of (i) Harsptha (Arapat) from the north east, (ii) Bringha (Bring) and (iii) Sandran [older name not known] from the south east meet each other near Anantnag. But the old holy scriptures have traced the origin of Vitasta to a more specific source. As already stated in Nilmatapurana, Harcar-itacintamani and subsequently quoted in historical books Vitasta is a manifestation of Goddess Parvati.

After Satisar [Parvati’s lake] Kasmira was drained of its waters and demon Jalodbhava destroyed by Vishnu, Brahma and Mahesvara. At the request of Sage Kasyapa (Kashap Rishi), Mahesvara persuaded Parvati to show herself in Kasmira in the form of river to purify the humans from the unholy contact of Pisachas. The Goddess assumed the form of an underground river and asked Shiva to make an opening by which it could come to the surface. This was done by Shiva by striking the ground with his Trisul on 13th of Bhadra Shakula Paksha from which the river gushed forth receiving the name Vitasta after the measure of the ditch of one Vitastati. Since then the birthday of Vitasta is celebrated on 13th of Bhadra Shukla Pakash every year. The spring from the where the goddess flowed in river form became known by several names Nilanaga [abode of Nila], Nilakunda, Sulaghata (Trishul Thrust) or simply Vitasta. The name of Var or Verinag seems to have been adapted- at a later date probably after the administrative unit of Var Pargana.

It is said that Vitasta disappeared from fear of defilement from the contact of sinful-men but reappeared second time by the prayer of Kasyapa at Panchasta (Panzath) in Devsar. Vitasta disappeared again and reappeared at Narasima. The Goddess was finally induced to stay permanently when Kasyapa had secured her the company of Lakshmi in the form of Visoka (Vesheu) and Ganga in the form of Sindu (Sind river) {not to be confused with Indus}. Sachi consort of Indra as Haraspatha (Arpath), Aditi the mother of Gods as Trikothi, (Probably Sandran?) and Ditti mother of Daityas as Chandravati (Probably Bring?) According to another legend Vitasta made her second appearance at Vitastatra (Vethvutur) close to Verinag. Clear mention of Nilanaga as the birthplace of Vitasta by Kalhana about its source leaves no doubt about the tradition prevailing in his time. The Bringa (Bring) rivulet is fed by springs of Trisandya, Ardanarisvsra, Kaptesvara (Kother). Akasvala (Achibal) feed the Harspatha (Arapath) rivulet. Lidari (Lidar) which derives its waters from the glaciers of Koenjnar and Gashbrar (Kolahi), lakes of Shushramnaga (Sheshnag), and Tarsar, springs of Nil ganga, Mamleshwar, Machbawan (Matan) and other streams joins the Vitasta a few kilometers downstream of Anantnag.

Vitasta becomes navigable at Anantnag and flows in a single channel except in the city of Srinagar. In its north-westerly course between Anantnag and Baramulla a direct distance of about 90 Kms the river bed falls slightly less than 75 meters in elevation. Islands if any are sandy and temporary except the one at the present Vitastasindhusamgama near Shadipur which has been artificially built. The most conspicuous meander of the river is located immediately south of Gopadri (Shankracharya hill) round the flood prone locality of Shivpura.

The course of Vitasta during the historic times has not changed except at the Vitastasindusamgama where it was altered by Suyya, able engineer of King Avantivarman, between Mahapadamsaras (Wular Lake) and Huskapara (Uskar) Vitasta flows in a south westerly direction and beyond Uskar in a generally westerly direction upto Muzafrabad Kohala area. At Wular and Muzafrabad Vitasta abruptly makes southerly bends due to the syntaxial bend of the western Himalayas in common with other rivers of the region.

Downstream of Anantnag on the banks of Vitasta is located Vijayaksetra (modern Vijbror) one of the holiest sites where temples of Shiva Vajesvara, Vishnuchakradara, Ashoksvara and numerous viharas and agarharas and a university of learning, [where students - scholars from countries beyond Kasmira used to come for the study of Shastras, astronomy, astrology and other subjects] once flourished.

United waters of Visoka (Vesheu) issuing from Kramasaras (Konsar Nag) also known as  Vishnupad near the tirtha of Naubandana where Vishnu, Brahma and Mahesevera took positions to destroy the demon Jalodbava and (ii) Ramantavi (Rembyar) originating from Bagh and Nandan Sars join the Vitasta along the left bank as Gambhira (deep) (Sardari Nala) at Gambirasamgama (sangam) below Vijbror, where King Chandrapida built a Vishnu temple of Gamirasvamin of which no trace is left at present. About few kilometers downstream of Gambirasamgama King Avantivarman founded his capital on the right bank of Vitasta at Avantipura during the 9th century and built two temples, Avantisvamin and Avantisvara dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva respectively. Both of these like other temples in the Valley were vandalized by Sikandar Buthshikan in the 14th century, the ruins even at present are testimony to their former glory. Carved stones from these temples have been used in the foundations of nearby muslim ziarats. Further downstream Vitasta is joined along the left , bank by Ramshu (Ramu or Kakpor Kol) [rising in the Pantsal mountains by the side of the forgotten Tritha of Gangodbheda or Bhedagari (Badbrar) one of the few Sarasvati’s temples of Kashmir] near the present village of Kakpor with ruins of old Hindu temples. The ruins are believed by some authorities of the time of King Khagendra the founder of Khagendrapura (Kakpor) by others as remains of utplasvamin a Vishnu Temple built by Utpla an uncle of King Cippatajayapida. In case the former identification is correct remains can be one of the oldest in Kashmir, if the latter is correct these can be of 9th century AD. Just opposite of Kakpor on the right bank of Vitasta stands the Saffron Karewah and town of Lalitpur (Letpur) is said to have been founded by the architect of Laltaditya. The Vishnu temple of Pandanasvamin was built by Padma another uncle of King Cippatajayapida at Padmapura (Pampore) is now in ruins. Another temple on the left bank of Vitasta opposite Panduchak a temple of Samaravasmin was built by Samara a minister of King Avantivarman of which no trace is seen now. Close to Panduchak is the Tritha of Tsakanga near Jeyyavana (Zewan) which is visited by devotees even today.

Further downstream at Pandrethan along the right ban of Vitasta aa temple of Merudasvamin built by Merudana a minister of King Partha. It is believed that Srinagari capital of Kasmira was founded by Ashoka at Pandrethan and present cantonment of Badamibagh. When Pravarasena II shifted the capital to Pravapura [the high ground between Harparvata (Hariprabat) and Kusurikabla the old capital near Pandrethan was subsequently called Purandisthana. The ruins of other hindu temples around Pandrethan were seen till the beginning of the 20th Century.

About two kilometers north of Puranadisthana, is the hill of Gopadri also known as Jyestherudrakhyaparvata (Shankracharya Hill) on which standas the temple of Jeyastherudra (Shankracharya Temple) believed to have been originally built by Jaluka of which now the only outer plinth remains. King Gopaditya rebuilt the temple at a latter date and viharas at Guphara (Gupkar). The temple was repaired again during the region of Zainulabdin the pious muslim king of Kashmir in 15th century and also by the Dogra rulers during early 20th century. It is believed that the said temple was connected by stone steps with Shurayar. The stone steps were removed and built into Pathar masjid near Mujahid Manzil on the left bank of Vitasta by Noor Jehan. River Vitasta is joined along its right bank by Mart or Mahasirat (Tsuntkol) [Issuing from the Jeyarudrasaras (Dal Lake)] at Marisamgama which was considered a holy Tirtha in ancient limes. The Island formed between Vitasta, Tsuntkol and by latter’s southerly flowing branch was known by the name of Maksiavamin and had a Vishnu Temple of the same name of which no trace is left today.

Opposite the Marisamgama Kippitiska or Kutkulia (Kutkol) leaves the Vitasta and after flowing in a northwesterly direction bifurcates into two, the easterly branch falls back into Vitasta above Safakadal and the westerly branch joins Duddhaganga (Dudganga or Chats Kol) which also falls into Vitasta near Chatabal. It is not clear if Katkulia is a natural channel or a manmade one.

Below Marisamgama the present Malyar ghat stood the temple of Vardamanesa of which nothing is left today, a linga serving as a lamp post in a nearby mosque believed to be from the original Vardmanesa temple was removed and installed in the present Malyar temple in 1888.

Immediately below the Habakadal on the right bank of Vitasta is the Somyar temple, site of the ancient Somatirtha. Similarly situated on the left bank of the river is Purushyar the site of ancient temple of Sadashiva. Between Haba and Fateh kadals at the locality of Narparistan near Malikangan stood the temple of Narisheri which was converted into a ziarat during the muslim rule. Further downstream between Fatehkadal and Ziankadal the temple of Kalishiri which was destroyed by Sikandar Buthushikan and rebuilt into a  Ziarat  between Zaina and Ali Kadals is the tomb of Queen of Sikandar Buthshikan and burial place of other muslim rulers of Kashmir known as Mazar’ salatin which due to its foundations from riverside and the use of carved stones in the surrounding wall betrays it to be the site of an ancient Hindu Temple. Again on the right bank almost touching the Alikadal bridge is that ziarat of Wyusi Sahaib which also due to its foundations embankments on the riverside and entrance appears to be site of an ancient temple. Nothing is known at present about the antiquity of these two temple / shrine sites.

Near Chatabal locality confluence of Dudhaganga (Dudgangaor Chatkol) [issuing from Pantsal mountains) with Vitasta was the site of tirtha known as Dudhagangasangma is now completely forgotten. The other shrines/ temples along the banks of Vitasta within the city of Srinagar city like Hanumanmandir, Gadadhar, Kharyar, Malyar, Raghunath Temple, Batyar etc., are of recent construction during the Sikh and Dogra Rule. However it is possible that some of these temples like Ganpatyar were rebuilt at ancient temple sites. Between Srinagar  and Shadipur the Vitasta is not joined by any major tributary except the Sukhnag along the left bank. The Sindhu (Sind River) [rising from the Great Himalaya Range south east of Amreshvara (Amarnathji Cave) joined by glacier fed streams of Panjtarangini (Panjtarni) Amurveth (Amravat) Nehnar etc., Outflows of the lakes of Utrasaras or Utraganga (Gangabal) Koladuka (Nandkul), springs of Sodara (Narannag) uniting into Kanakavahini (Krenknadi) stream flowing in Nandeksetra by the sides of Holy Harmukata (Haramukh) Butheshvara, Jyethrudra, Ciramokana , at Kankanpura (Kangan) used to meet Vitasta at Vitastasindhusagama till the 9th century immediately west of the gap of BadrikhEL Nala between the Vudars (Karewas) of Parihaspura (Paraspur) and Trigami (Trigom) close to former temples of Viushnusvamin and Vinayaswamin about 5 kms southwesT of the present confluence at Sundribhavana (Naranbagh) near Shadipur.

Parihaspura (paraspur) was founded by Laltaditya Mukhpida as his capital which according to Kalhana exelled the heaven. Laltaditya whom Kalhana has called “Indra of the earth built numerous other temples Parihaskesva with the image of Vishnu in silver and pearls, Mukhtakesva with golden image of Vishnu, Mahavara with Vishnus image in golden armour and silver image of Goverdandhara, Brhadbuddha numereous Viharas and Agarharas and palaces.Even hisqueen Kamalavati built Kamalahatta with silver image of Kamalakesva. One of Laltaditya’s ministers Mitrasarman an installed the Shivlinga of Mitresvara. Needless to say that the site of the capital Parihaspura and numerous temples was apparently chosen for its proximity to Vitasta-Sindu-Samgama the former being regarded as manifestation of Jamuna and latter that of Ganga.

Suyya the able engineer of King Avantivarman by his skill shifted the position of Vitastasindisamama from Parihaspura to its present location in the vicinity of Sundribhavana by forcing the course of Vitasta north eastwards by construction of embankments to reclaim cultivable land from flood prone areas and nambals (marshes). A Vishnu Temple by the name of Yogavasmin was also built by Suyya at Sundribhavana at the instance of King Avantivarman. The ruins of the said temple seemed to have been used to built the solid masonary island [referred as Prayaga in the Vitasta mahatmaya] at the present Vitastasindusamgama at a later date. Beyond the samgama, Vitasta continues to flow northwestwards by the side of Vaskur village (Rupbhwani’s shrine}, receives the outflow of Manasaras(Manasbal) at Sumbal and after passing Jayapura (Indrkot) enters the Mahapadamsaras (Wular Lake). The ruins of ancient temples and buildings town of Jayapura founded by King Jayapida on an island like raised ground among the Nambals (marshes) north of Sumbal were seen upto middle of 20th century. King Jayapida also built the castle of Bayakota on the peninsula like ridge Davarvati with three images of Buddha, a vihara and shrine of Jayadevi, According to Kalhana the castle of inner town excelled heaven in beauty. Vitasta after entering the Maha Padamsaras from the east leaves it from its southwestern corner near Suyyapura    (Sopore).    The    site    of Mahapadamsaras was originally occupied by a wicked naga Sadangula who was exiled by the naga king Nila to Darvisara. The site left dry   was   occupied   by   a   city   called Chandrapura ruled by king Visvagavas, Mahapadmanaga is disguise of a Brahman approached Visvagavas to reside in the city with his family. After securing permission he showed himself in his true form with the result king and his subjects had to migrate westwards to the new town of Visvagasvapurata. A glance from high mound will show that a peninsula like ridge projects into Mahapadma lake due to continuous disposition of silt of Vitasta, in the long run well result in shallowing and shrinkage of the area of lake. Similar silting though on a relatively small scale is going on the north side of the lake due to Madumati stream (Bandipur nala). It can also be surmised from the facts that the waters of Vitasta are muddy at its enterance into the lake and clear at its outflow from the lake. It is also corroborated from the evidence available from historical sources that man made island of Jainalanka (Zainnlank) which according to Jonaraja was surrounded by waters and at present is surrounded by marshes and land, the silting in Wular is not checked the great and biggest lake in Kashmir will be reduced to a marsh [similar to like those of Anchar, Hokarsar or Pambsar] with Vitasta slowly meandering through it. In case the Wular has to be preserved for future generations an alternative channel for Vitasta by passing the lake say between Sumbal and Baramulla through which the waters, of Vitasta will have to be regulated by a barrage/vier during floods, heavy rains or whenever the waters of Vitasta turn muddy. The site from Madhumati (Bandipurnala) can be checked from entering Wular Lake by a cofferdam and silts from which can be removed from time to time for building purposes. Downstream of Suyyapura (Sopore) Vitasta receives in Kashmir its last tributary of considerable size the Prahaa (Pohru) draining the north western corner of the valley being of steeper gradient and faster current deposits silts in the Vitastabed resulting in rise of the level of the Wular Lake. However from time to time the silt at the confluence of Vitasta with Phara has been removed by dredging. Vitasta after passing the last major town of the valley Baramula enters its. mountainous course near Huskapura (Uskur) beyond which it is unsuitable for navigation. The name Varahramula (Varmul or Baramula) has been derived from the ancient Tirtha of Vishnu-Adi-Varaha where Vishnu was worshipped since time immemorial as a medival boar. On the western extremity of the town near Kothitirtha till very recently a number of ruins were seen but not much is known about their antiquity.

Between Uskur and Uri Vitasta flows in a south westerly direction and beyond in a somewhat in north westerly direction upto Muzafrabad-Kohala [where it is joined by Mahasindu or Krasna (Kishenganga) and Kunar or Kahgan rivers follows a southerly course upto Mangla near Jhelum forming the boundary between State of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab Province of Pakistan. From Mangla onwards it flows in a south westerly trend before joining Chandrabhaga (Chenab) near Jhang-Sadar in Pakistan.  

Battle of Shalteng

How Srinagar was saved in 1947

By M. M. Munshi

The division of the British administrated provinces as it eventually took place was on the basis of political considerations. Certain areas i. e Eastern part of Bengal, and western part of Punjab which were predominantly Muslim populated were allotted to Pakistan, Sind and Baluchistan were allotted in Toto to Pakistan. A referendum was held in NWF Province, which opted for Pakistan. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his followers boycotting the referendum as they like the congress party stood for secular democracy and would have preferred to exercise the third option of Independence which was not given to them in the referendum. On the transfer of power by British Paramountcy was retroceded from the king emperor to the 565 princely ruled states who had never exercised external affairs, defense and communications during the British rule. The biggest of the states exercised absolute, the intermediaries wide but not absolute powers, the rest were estates rather than states. Each of the 565 rulers was expected to accede to one of the dominions according to his choice and not on the basis of religious beliefs of the people of his state. Almost all the states acceded to either of the dominions some with apparent reluctance except Junagarh,Hyderabad and Jammu & Kashmir. The stories of the accessions of Junagarh and Hyderabad otherwise well known are beyond the scope of this article.

Lacking support from any but a small section of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan brought pressure on the Maharaja, cut off all supplies of food, petrol, salt and other commodities on the import of which the State was dependant.  In order to exert further pressure a series of several raids were made on the outposts of state forces in south western border of the state. Far from heeding Maharaja’s protests Pakistan sent a tribal force from NWFP led by regular Pakistani army officers proceeded towards Kashmir valley.  On 22nd Oct 1947 it was joined by Mirpuri-Punchi deserters of the 4 J&K infantry at Domel, the town of Muzzafrabad was ransacked and the tribal force advanced towards Uri- Baramula.  

The Maharaja finally realizing the situation evacuated Srinagar on the night of 25.10.47 reaching Jammu on the morning of 26th and signed the instrument of accession and Indian troops were flown from Delhi to Srinagar the first batch of 3 rifle companies and battalion HQs of the 1st Sikhs under Col.  D. R. Rai landed at Srinagar on 27th morning at 9. 30 AM, further sub units of the 1st Sikh followed. With almost whole of his whole battalion available for operations by afternoon Col Rai after leaving a detachment of his command for the defense of the airfield he moved with his main force towards Baramula in transport provided by civil authorities and state forces head quarters.  He thought that if he could reach Baramula before the enemy he could deploy his unit on the hills south of Baramula he could prevent the enemy from entering Baramula and proceeding eastward into the Valley.  After reaching outskirts of Baramula  with one of his platoon which he was leading from the front, his party was engaged by a medium machine gun manned by deserters of 4 J&K Inf.  His jeep was hit and he had to beat a hasty retreat on foot along with the wounded when he was hit by medium machine gun fire in the face and was killed along with the platoon commander.  1 Sikh now left without a commander retreated to Srinagar Airfield where they were met by Major Sampuran Bachan Singh 2nd in command of the battalion who took over command and led the battalion back to Patan. After taking a  defensive position and awaited the promised arrival of the enemy.  But nothing like that happened for probably the Pakistani commander of the tribal force was unsure of what lay behind Patan defenses and avoided a frontal assault..   After a few days the enemy started bypassing the Patan defences by fanning out in all directions all over the valley.  In the meantime it was decided to raise the strength of the troops to a brigade level and as such the airlift of troops to Srinagar was continuing unabated. The brigade was designated as 161 Infantry Brigade and Brig.  J. C. Katoch [Later Maj-Gen and GOC Madras Area ] was appointed as its commander who left for Srinagar by air on 29th Oct 47 along with then Col L. P. Sen D. S. O, Dy. Director of Military Intelligence Army Hqs(Later Lt. Gen.  and GOC Eastern Command    who had commanded 16 Battalion of the Baluch Regiment with distinction as part of All India Brigade under Brigadier K. S. Thimayya (later Chief of Staff, Indian Army ) during the 2nd World war inBurma.

Brig Katoch was wounded and evacuated and L. P. Sen was appointed as the new commander of 161 Brigade. He had at his disposal (i) 1 Sikh [ reinforced by additional Sikh companies detached from Infantry regiments and gunners of a mountain battery allotted to Pakistan.  The latter were organized as a rifle company ]. It was a very strong battalion of about 1200 men commanded by Lt. Col.  Sampuran Bachan Singh, (ii) 1st Bn Kumaon Regt.  A parachute battalion 650 in strength,commanded by Lt. Col.  Pritam Singh (Later Brigadier Pritam Singh-Hero of Punch }This unit and two rifle companies of 4 Kumaon battalion were managing the defense of the airfield.  Brig.  Sen made 1 Kumaon responsible alone for the defence of the airfield and companies of 4 Kumaon were brought inside the perimeter of the airfield as reserve.  1st Bn Punjab Regiment also a parachute battalion was under-strength comprising about 450 men commanded by Lt. Col G. S. Khullar who were deployed on the left flank of the 1st Sikh on Magam road.  Major P. N. Kak of the state forces who was assigned as liasion  officer with 161 Brigade was instructed to find out deployment availability of the State Forces particularly the infantry at and around Srinagar.  As per information collected by Maj.  Kak there were no troops of the state forces available except about 100 troopers of the Maharaja’s bodyguard which was infact a ceremonial unit and had hardly any fighting value.  The troopers of the bodyguard were ordered to report to 161 Bde Hqs.  located near the airport which they promptly did.  They were given a reconnaissance role to proceed on trot in a westerly direction direction for three quarters of an hour and then to retrace its steps with strict instructions to withdraw to the airfield if enemy was encountered, and not to get involved in any fighting.  Immediately after the bodyguard left the Bde Commander moved with a small escort to a Karewah hill to watch from a vantage point how the body guards operated. He was surprised to see a mountain battery of Patiala State forces entrenched in a gap between two Karewahs invisible from the main road.  They had been ordered by the J&K State forces Hqs to deploy themselves near the airfield, they had and could not register any targets as the entire battery was without dial sights.  Infact at the request of Maharaja of J&K one infantry battalion and one mountaian battery of the Patiala state forces been and an infantry battalion had been to Kashmir valley ND jammu respectively by 12th Oct. The authorities at Patiala had told their gunners that dial sights would be provided by J&K State forces,and J&K state forces had expressed their inability to do so.  In the meantime the troopers of the bodyguard returned without encountering the enemy.  They were ordered to return to Srinagar and proceed next morning to Ganderbal and keep watch on the northern approaches to Srinagar.  With the object of patrolling the western approaches of the airfield two rifle companies from 4l Kumaon under Maj.  Somnath Sharma moved towards Budgam and secured a base one rifle company from 1 Kumaon   under Capt.  Wood moved west wards and after making contact with !st Punjab [Now 1st Guards ] at Magam returned to airfield via Srinagar without enncountering the enemy by 1. 00 pm without meeting the enemy.  Out of the two companies of 4 Kumaon one withdrew by 2. 00 pm the other company was heavily fired upon by the enemy from inside of houses and attacked by a very strong force appearing from a depression between two karewas.  Kumanis put up a devastating fire and fought gallantly but being heavily outnumbered fell back suffering many fatal casualties including Maj.  Sharma, the enemy was apparently making for the airfield and probably also wanted to enter Srinagar from the south.  The situation was saved by making air strikes on the enemy at Budgam and shifting 1st Punjab from Magam to Hamhom to block the approach to airfield as well as Budgam Srinagar road.  Maj Somnath Sharma was awarded 1st Param Vir Chakra the highest gallantry award of the Indian Armed forces posthumously.

The enemy was avoiding a frontal assault on 1st Sikh at Patan but were on the move spreading in all directions in the valley.  On 4th November situation looked very grim with the limited troops i.e. less than three battalions available with the 161 brigade it would have been very difficult to tackle small parties of enemy infiltrating into Srinagar from many direction.  Reinforcements in the shape of two full strength infantry battalions, a squadron of armoured cars, a battery of field artillery together with other supporting troops was expected to reach Srinagar by road on the evening of 7th Nov.  After giving due consideration to all pros and cons the Brigade Commander decided to withdraw 1 Sikh from Patan to Srinagar and shifting of 1st Punjab from Magam to Humhom to give the impression to the enemy that after the action near Budgam on 3rd Nov.  the brigade had taken a crippling knock and was pulling its horns that would entice the tribal force to assemble,regroup and rush in their motor transport towards Srinagar.

The gamble worked after the withdrawl of 1 Sikh on by 5th November small partys of the enemy disappeared from the brigade front and reports poured in that all parties of tribal raiders big and small were heading for Baramula.  It was planned that after the arrival of reinforcement s on 7th Nov.  a wide encircling maneuver by two infantry, battalions from airfield via Magam  to Patan and sandwich the enemy between Patan and Srinagar, subject the tribal force to attacks from the front and rear and annihilate it.  It was expected that enemy attack on Srinagar defenses would materialize by 8th or latter, On  6th evening Major Inder Singh Rikhe [Later Maj. Gen.  and Commander of UN Force at Cyprus] of the 7th light Cavalry with a troop of 4 armored cars and one rifle troop arrived at the brigade headquarters as an advanced party of the reinforcement convoy and was very much welcomed..   It was decided that out of the four cars a patrol of two cars and the rifle troop under Lieut.  Noel David would proceed as a reconnaissance patrol via Ganderbal- Safapur road to Bandipur next day i. e 7th Nov.  by first light and after collecting all possible information from the local police stations Maharaja's bodyguard and others return to airfield by the evening.

Of the two battalions 1st Sikh was positioned west of Srinagar at the flood channel at Shalteng and 1st Kumaon in the rifle range (Chandmari) area.  After David with his armored cars and rifle troop left brigade headquarters Commanding Officer of 1st Sikh informed Brigade headquarters on wireless that his forward companies were heavily engaged by automatic fire including that from medium machine guns.  An immediate reconnaissance by air revealed that a force of several thousand was present across the flood channel, about 150 vehicles were parked on the road in the rear, but there was no moment on the road.  The situation which was planned for 10th presented itself to 161 Brigade on the morning of 7th.  Lieut.  David’s patrol of armored cars and rifle troop was diverted from Ganderbal via Krahom to Sumbal and ordered to proceed towards junction of  roads bifurcating for Baramula and Sumbal near Shalteng, and appear in the rear of the enemy as if it was part of the enemy forces.  It took about 20 minutes for the armored cars to cross a rickety wooden culvert near Karhom which at first seemed to  be impossible.  After David reached the road junction roads at Shalteng, 1st Sikh opened up with rapid fire,Davids armored cars and rifle troop engaged the enemy from the rear 1st Kumaon burst on their right flank with a bayonet charge. The stunned enemy was wondering as to what was happening, there was complete confusion in its ranks.  The tribal force with two companies of deserters of 4th J&K infantry in order to escape the fire which was hitting them from front, rear and right flank, rushed in all directions bumping into one another turned and fled westwards.  1st Sikh was ordered to attack, the armored cars and rifle troop in turn switched their fire west wards.  The fleeing enemy was harried with telling effect by strafing from air, which had The battle of Shalteng was fought and won in less than half an hour and Srinagar was saved from death and destruction that had befallen the towns of Muzzafrabad and Baramula earlier.  About 500 of the enemy were killed and another 150 lay dead   between Shalteng and Baramula.  Patan was occupied same day by eight in the evening and Baramula next day in the morningIt may not be out of place to mention here that no sound of the firing was heard in the uptown and airfield area probably due to thick mist and air currents blowing from east to west.  In spite of the fact that sounds of automatic fire and bursting of mortar shells was clearly heard in the downtown area beyond the fifth bridge from wee hours of the morning, the residents of Srinagar were unaware that enemy was at their doorstep.  Infact marriages were solemnized on the intervening night of 6/7 Nov.  in Srinagar and in some houses mehandirat functions were going on.  I as a resident of downtown very vividly remember hearing the sound of firing of automatics, bursting of shells and Chakri simultaneously.  Some people who woke up at night were assured by National Conference volunteers patrolling the city streets that firing was from Indian army only to scare away any tribal forces which may have reached outskirts of Srinagar.  It was only after air force started strafing the fleeing enemy that people climbed to upper storeys and roofs of their houses to watch the tiny Howard and Spitfire fighters in action.

While paying homage to the brave officers and men of the 1st battalions of Sikh and Kumaon Regiments together with two rifle companies of 4th Kumoan Regiment  troop of 7th Light Cavalry let us not forget their local civilian Kashmiri drivers, guides, and informers especially those who along with the soldiers sacrificed their lives and saved the day.

*(The author is a noted Researcher)   

Saviors of Leh

By M.M. Munshi

When Soviet Russia took virtual control of Sinkiang (Xinjiang) in 1935 the British Indian administration came to an agreement with the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir under which a sixty year lease of GILGIT (which formed part of Jammu & Kashmir State) was executed. The sole responsibility of defense and administration of Gilgit became the responsibility of the British who raised an irregular force “Gilgit Scouts” recruited from Hunza and Nagar and adjoining parts of NWFP officered exclusively by British.. With the announcement of Mountbatten Plan on June 3rd 19 47 Gilgit was handed back to the Maharaja of J&K amidst much jubilations and funfair in July and Gilgit Scouts became part of the state forces. The Maharaja dispatched a senior officer of the State Forces Brigadier Gansara Singh as Governor who was accompanied by the Chief of Staff of the State Forces Maj.Gen. H.L.Scot. The Governor and Maj. Gen. Scot were informed by the officers of the Gilgit Scouts that all of them had opted to serve Pakistan. Scot returned to make a report to Maharaja while the Governor stayed on in Gilgit. Neither the British officers were segregated from the Gilgit Scouts nor the force was disbanded which proved to be unpardonable mistake. After the Pakistani tribal invasion of Kashmir valley took place the Gilgit Scouts placed the Governor under house arrest and provisional government was installed. Major Brown the British commandant of the scouts ceremoniously hoisted the Pakistani flag. An official fromPakistan arrived and established himself as Political Agent. An under strength battalion of State forces 6th J&K Infantry composed half of Mirpuri -Punchi Muslims and half of Sikhs under Lt. Col. Abdul Majid Khan was located at Bunji. On hearing about invasion of Kashmir and revolt of Gilgit scouts the Mirpuri-Punchi Muslims revolted and along with Gilgit Scouts attacked the Sikh troops and routed them. Col. Abdul Majid Khan who remained loyal to the Maharaja was taken prisoner.  

East of Gilgit Skardu in Baltistan was garrisoned by a weak battalion under a Gurkha Commander Lt.Col. Sherjang Thapa and a smaller detachment of State Forces was also at Kargil. East of Kargil and at Leh no troops were deployed anywhere. After the fall of Gilgit Operation sledge was planned at Pakistan’s army headquarters and launched from Gilgit in Feb. 48 and obvious target being Leh the capital of Ladakh The enemy force to implement the operation was composed of a strong element of Gilgit Scouts, Mirpuri and Punchi deserters of J&K State Forces from Bunji and tribals from NWFP of Pakistan. It was an ambitious plan involving a foot march of about 500 Kms. over rugged but not unfrequented terrain all that might have been encountered would have been minor resistance at Skardu by the weak battalion of J&K State forces and a small detachment of the state forces at Kargil.The blatant act of aggression was more for the odious for the fact that people of Ladakh were most peace loving and totally unarmed in consequence were incapable of offering any resistance other than verbal protests. The timing chosen by the enemy for the Operation Sledge was ideal for them and its success was assured, as no help could be sent from Kashmir to Ladakh, because Zoji La Pass remained blocked with snow till May nor there was any airstrip at Leh or any other place in Ladakh. For the enemy the door to Leh was open and success was almost certain.

The commander of State Forces garrison at Skardu being under heavy pressure from enemy and had no choice but to concentrate his force inside the fort and placed the troops as well as civilians including women and children on minimum ration scale. Attacks against the fort were delivered at periodic intervals but a steady fire ,firm defense and the casualties inflicted upon the enemy repulsed the latter. The next alternative for the enemy would be to lay siege of the Skardu Fort and force it’s surrender by starvation. The Gurkha commander at Skardu envisaged that with the stock of food gradually dwindling would adversely effect the physical condition of his disciplined troops. It was under these circumstances that the commander planned to send of small batches of women and children with escort parties at night to escape detection and when these parties were away from Skardu he would withdraw his main force and fight a rearguard action up to Kargil where together with the Kargil detachment he would hold the enemy advance towards Zojila and eastwards.  There was no other alternative to this withdrawal plan. It was not the request of a coward but a brave and capable soldier, but in spite of the strong recommendation of 161 infantry brigade his position was not unfortunately appreciated by the HQs JAK Force and he was ordered to fight to the last man and last round. The inevitable happened. The Skardu Garrison held on with no sign of relief of troops or supplies and was forced to surrender by September 1948 after exhausting its ammunition and food stocks.

On March 3rd 1948 after a few days the Skardu fort was encircled by the enemy, its commander signaled to 161 Inf. Bde in Kashmir Valley that about 500 armed men and about 200 porters had arrived from the direction of Gilgit and after halting at the outskirts of the fort proceeded in an easterly direction presumably towards Kargil. The information was also confirmed by a wireless intercept and was passed to the State Govt and it was resolved during a meeting that something would have to be done to save Leh from being attacked as Ladakhis were completely unarmed and any attack on Leh would have repercussions from the Buddhist World. But to do what remained unresolved, as to get to Ladakh from the Kashmir Valley at that time of the year was considered to be an impossibility

Lt.Col. G.G. Bewoor Later General and Chief of Staff, Indian Army who had taken over command of 2nd Dogras from. Lt.Col. U.C.Dubey (later Maj. Gen. and GOC 25th Infantry Division Rajouri mentioned that 2nd Dogras during its service as a territorial battalion had enlisted a number of Lahaulis and men from upper reaches of then Punjab Hill states were still serving with the battalion including two officers Captains Prithi Chand (later Brigadier Prithi Chand) and Khushal Chand (later Col. Khushal Chand a very popular figure from Lahaul who subsequently died in an air crash in Vietnam in early fifties.). Col. Bewoor suggested that since Lahaul was situated contiguous to Ladakh it would be worthwhile to ask these officers if they would go with their men to Ladakh and organize its defenses. In his talk Lt.Col Bewoor did not use persuasion nor did he try to minimize the difficulties or dangers that would have to be faced and only available route was via the Zojila Pass over the Great Himalaya Range which was covered over by 30 to 40 feet of Snow.He asked the young officers to consider the matter carefully and also assured them that no adverse opinion would be held against them if they expressed their inability to undertake the task.

Within a few moments Prithi Chand and Khushal Chand appeared before the Brigade and Battalion Commanders and announced that they would go to Leh. Immediately volunteers were called from 2nd Dogras. In addition to all the Lahaulis many Dogras also volunteered. After a careful medical examination and aptitude tests about 50 men were selected and given possible training about loading and unloading of ponies step cutting etc.  Requirements and transport limitations of the volunteer force were very carefully scrutinized and nothing was left to chance. Besides the arms carried by officers and men about 150 additional rifles and their ammunition meant for equipping the Ladakhis was added to the baggage. The party later designated as Leh detachment assembled at Baramula and equipped with items like Gilgit boots, snow goggles ,Gloves Fur lined jackets etc which were available in Srinagarmarkets provisions etc were transported to Sonamarg by motor transport. Local ponies which had been procured with difficulty joined the detachment marched with it to Baltal.

After establishing camp at Baltal avalanches were created by beating of drums and bursting of crackers in the stillness of night for three days after which Prithi Chand signaled to Barmula that it was ready make the attempt to cross Zoji La. After about 48 hours another signal was received that the crossing of Zoji La was accomplished without a casualty and the column was setting out for Kargil on way to Leh.From Kargil they were accompanied by the state forces detachment on their march to Leh Prithi Chand and his men reached Leh without encountering the enemy. The rifles and ammunition were distributed among suitable young men who were given a hasty training Defensive positions were prepared near a bridge east of Leh and when the enemy duly arrived met with serious reverses due to determined resistance, refrained from attacking Leh.

In the meantime two companies 2/4 Gurkha Rifles accompanied by Sherpa mountaineers including the famous Tenzing Norkay who had been dispatched from Manali by the Western Command of Army joined Prithi Chand and his gallant men after crossing the Passes of Rohtang, Bara Lacha and Tanglang La ranging in heights from 13,500 to 17,300 Ft. Thus Leh was saved it was the outcome of a great deed which have few equals in military history. It called for unbound determination, courage and stamina and these qualities and more were amply demonstrated by the defenders who took the first shock of the attack , the two gallant officers and men of the 2nd Dogras.

But Leh remained isolated from Kashmir Valley by occupation of Kargil andZojila Pass by Pakistanis. An attempt was made in late May 1948 to relieve/ reinforce Skardu Garrison but the State Forces troops which moved out under the command of Fakir Singh made very little progress against determined enemy resistance and withdrew. As already stated Skardu Garrison was forced to surrender after exhausting its food stocks and ammunition by September 48. The Pakistanis had pushed up stream from Gilgit-Skardu south eastwards and were only a few miles north of Leh. They had also occupied Kargil as well as Zojila Pass. The enemy forces from Kargil Zojilla area could be withdrawn when the winter snows closed the passes and together with reinforcements from Gilgit could be used to bring pressure on and possibly liquidate the limited troops defending Leh. Pakistanis had deployed a couple of mountain guns on commanding heights at the Zojila pass against which infantry assaults proved failures and resulted in heavy casualties.

Maj.Gen K.S.Thimaya who had taken command of the newly formed Shri Div (later designated as 19th Infantry Division) had only about few weeks before the winter snows blocked the pass. Field guns of the artillery were not effective due to limitation of their elevation angles. The divisional commander decided to use tanks to neutralize the mountain guns and concentrated first in improving the road leading from Baltal towards the pass. The road was improved and completed in about 1 months time by Madras Sappers and Miners. In the meantime seven Honey Staurt tanks of the7th Light Cavalry were dismantled at Jammu transported to in camouflaged trucks reassembled at Sonamarg. Simultaneously 77th Infantry Brigade comprising a battalion of Patiala State forces , 1/5 Gurkha Rifles and 1st Battalion of Rajput Regiment under Brig. K.L.Atal was also assembled at Sonamarg. The D Day was fixed for 4th Nov 1948 but early morning of that day it started snowing and to many it looked that operation would not materialize. But since Cease fire under the auspices of United Nations was round the corner Gen. Thimayya decided to go ahead with the attack the tanks moved slowly uphill and places were virtually pushed by Infantry and towed by powerful weapon carries and out of seven only two tanks reached the pass and silenced the mountain guns in less than half an hour Rajputs stormed the pass and Gurkhas mopped up the slopes.

The enemy was taken completely by surprise and when they reported to their senior that they were attacked by tanks, the seniors disbelieved them. Without pausing the leading troops reached Kargil. The Leh Garrison also moved towards Kargil, the enemy was completely beaten and retreated north westwards to Skardu. The road / bridle path from Kashmir to Leh was secured.

*(The author has remained a Geologist of repute and is based in Jammu).

Power Rivalry in Central Asia

by M.M. Munshi

Central Asia has a long history as a centre of chronic turbulence from which violent explosions have erupted periodically and spread disaster and destruction over great distances either directly or by chain reaction over the centuries. China despite the great wall was the principal sufferer, Indian sub continent despite the mountain barriers of Himalayas, Karakorams did not entirely escape. The cities as far as Moscow, Rome also felt the sting of conquest which has not been forgotten even now.

During the last few centuries the process was for the most part reversed. Pressure from the more developed civilizations succeeded in diminishing the area of turbulence . Three expanding empires, Soviet Russia, China and British India as they gradually grew closer subduing and reducing the areas of turbulence, and by common consent autonomous territories were left until very recently as buffers between the major powers to minimize the mutual fears and border incidents.

Very recently the near elimination of the old buffer system tightening of China’s control over Sinkiang (Xinjiang), conquest of Tibet, emergence of Independent countries like India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh. In attempting to crush Tibetan revolt and at the same time denying it Chinese used methods which brought China and India into sharp conflict, China and India during the 7 -9 centuries witnessed in Central Asia the elimination of the integrated drive to form new empires from petty chiefdoms which had emerged from the ruins of the older empires. The struggle to dominate Central Asia was not restricted to Russia, China and Turkestan alone but also involved Tibet, Ladakh Baltistan and probably Nepal.

During the 6 -8 Centuries in Tibet a dynastic line who’s ancestral influence was restricted along a narrow east-west strip south of Tsangpo (Brahamputra) river made a rapid expansion of its dominions covering whole of Tibet and one of its rulers named Tsen-Gan-Po made Tibet a dominant military power and was able to demand and receive royal princesses in marriage from China as well as Nepal. In Kashmir the Karkota dynasty was established more or less contemporaneously to Harsh Vardana of Kanauj who brought much of Northern India under his sway. The period between 640 to 660 AD witnessed extensive contacts between India, China , Nepal and Kashmir.

A new facet was added to these complexities with the advance of Islamic Arabian Empire into Central Asia , via Iran and Iraq and fall of Sind to Arabs in the Indian Sub continent.

Kashmir at that time was an important Buddhist centre and one of the main channels through which Buddhism spread to Ladakh, Baltistan ,Central Asia and parts of China. As being the main line of communication to central Asia through Ladakh, Nubra via Karakoram and Sugat Passes.. Struggle between China and Tibet commenced in early 7th century and lasted for about three centuries involving at times few and at times most of the neighboring principalities The confrontation between China and Tibet took place around six places i.e. Kashgar, Khotan, Kuchia and Kararshu in Turkestan and Szechuan, Tsingai, Kansu east and northeast of Lhasa . It was the war over Turkestan which involved Western Tibet, Ladakh, Baltistan and Kashmir. If the Chinese domination for the four places in Turkestan was to be challenged it was necessary for Tibet to have control of western Tibet west of Mayum Pass and approaches to passes leading to Turkestan through Ladakh and Baltistan. Accordingly western Tibet was brought under control during Tsong Tsengmopo’s rule .After several years of struggle Tibet succeeded in conquering the Chinese’s garrisons in Turkestan in 670 AD and held it for twenty years. Until 690 AD when Chinese forces recovered eastern Turkestan for Tsang Dynasty.

Soon after Ladakh and Baltistan became the chief arena for struggle between China and Tibet for the control the passes leading to Turkestan into which Kashmir was also actively drawn. The Conflict became wider with increased pressure from Arab invaders on areas north of Kashmir and embassies visited China China which brought the two kingdoms together into some sort of an alliance against the advancing Arabs on one hand and Tibetans on the other. Chinese records state that at least three Embassies visited Chinese Court to ask for aid against Arabs and Tibetans .It is corroborated that at least one of the embassies was sent by Then-Ko-Chi-Pen King of Kashmir identified asChandrapidata Vajradetya.

Much of the fighting took place in Baltistan and Turkestan. It is easy to understand alliances of China and Kashmir on one side, and Arabs and Tibetans on the other side. The latter finding allies from time to time from Turkestan chiefs and Shan states near present India-China- Myanmar trijunction.

In 722 AD Chinese force of about 4,000 came to the aid of Baltistan and prevented the Tibetans the control of passes About ten years latter the great Monarch of Kashmir Laltaditya Mukhtapida not only turned back a Tibetan invasion of Baltistan but also advanced into north western Tibet.

In 737 AD Tibetans again attacked Baltistan but were driven back again by Laltaditya . Chinese helping Baltistan and Tibet by launching a diversionary attack on eastern Tibet.

In 777 AD large Chinese Expeditionary force acting in conjugation with Baltis and Kashmiris after successfully crossing the passes drove the Tibetans out and placed their garrisons as far west as Gilgit in an effort to counter Arab advance from that direction. But Arabs inflicted a revenge defeat and forced them to withdraw from Gilgit and surrender part of western Turkestan to Abbasid Caliphate. King Laltaditya's achievement did not last after his death in 760 AD. The Chinese disaster enabled the Tibetan king to bring Baltistan, Ladakh also under its control., carried the Tibetan empire to its zenith by conquering most of the Turkestan, Kansu, and Szechuan, in 763 AD Tibetan forces even captured Chang-a an the western Capital of China and held it for about 15 days.

And became the most dominating power in Central Asia.

Tibetan power reached new heights with a number of defeats they inflicted on Chinese between 760 AD to 780 AD And resulted in a peace treaty in 783 which was short lived. Tibetans shortly resumed their conquests especially in Turkestan and annexed areas as far as Tuvo ( modern Rumchi).

But by 790 AD fortunes of war turned against Tibetians mainly because of collapse of itsalliances with Arabs in the west and Shanin the east ..Shans who were earlier advancing into the territory of Tsang emperors of China by 990 AD were competing against the Tibetans in Yangtsee valley .Shans found it convenient to forge a peace treaty with China and turn against its formal ally Tibet Similarly the Tibetan success in Central Asia had a parallel effect on Arabs .The substitution of Tibetan to Chinese rule in Turkestan meant that it was the Tibet which stood in the way of Arabs advancing to Central Asia.

The Califa of Bagdad Harun Rashid abandoned the alliance with the Tibetians and sent his emissary to Chinese court to arrange a joint attack on Turkestan which Tibetans in the first instance withstood,However Harun Rashid returned to the attack in 808 AD but due to his death and war of succession the attack was given up giving the Tibetans another brief span in Turkestan.

The Chinese for their own part were unable to exploit the situation to their advantage due to internal disorders in their empire.

After years of desultory warfare during which neighboring powers extracted concessions from both a peace treaty was concluded between China and Tibet. In 822 AD process of decay set in and the areas for which Tibet and China had fought so bitterly fell to local rulers and other conquerors.

Turkistan fell to Ughirs, Western Tibet, Baltistan and Ladakh broke into smaller principalities.

Trans-Asiatic Harrdt Cintrogen Expedition, 1931-32

By  M.M. Munshi

The first car nears the summit of Burzil Pass - A half track at Burzil Pass 13,857 ft. on Great Himalaya Range between Gurais and Gilgit.

 By M.M.Munshi

It was and is still believed by most of us that earliest record of motor transport having surmounted the Great Himalaya Range  was made by a couple of Honey Staurt tanks and few weapon carriers of the 7th Light  Cavalry supporting the Infantry in storming of the 11,500 high Zojila Pass in relief of the Leh operation on 4th November 1948.

In reality the earliest record of motor transport of having not onlysurmounting but also having crossed the great Himalaya Range was made by half tracks of the Trans Asiatic Harrdt-Cintrogen Expedition in crossing the  14,000 ft high Burzil and other passes between Srinagar and Gilgit and beyond in 1931.

In an era of glorious expeditions  there was hardly any more splendid expedition undertaken than the  1931-32  Trans Asiatic Harrdt Cintrogen Expedition sponsored by National Geographic and undertaken by Harrdt with his French team. During early 1920s Harrdt had traversed the Sahara  in his half track vehicles designed by Andre Citrogen . On April 4th 1931 with seven specially designed cintrogen half tracks Harrdt set off from Beirut in Lebanon in an attempt to reach yellow sea by roughly following the route of Marco Polo’s journey seven centuries earlier.  
 The expedition was supposed to cross the Asia from Beirut toBeijing,avoiding the Pamirs through Soviet Turkish republics in one  set of half tracks,but Soviet refusal to permit the expedition through their territory the expedition had to be divided ; one set of seven half tracks assembled on east coast of China and moved westwards and another set of seven half tracks moved from Mediterranean through Lebanon,Syria, Iraq,Iran, Afghanistan to Srinagar in India covering a distance of 5,580 kms  from Beirut to Srinagar in 81 days  between April  4th April to 31st June 1931

The half tracks performed very well in deserts as well as river crossings on their own power . Despite expert opinion at Srinagar that the expedition with its half-tracks will never be able to make up to Gilgit, the expedition left Srinagar  on Trans Himalayan journey on 12th July 1931 with only two of its half tracks supp lemented by ponies,/mules and porters for transportation of equipment, including spares for vehicles, fuel, supplies and other things. Going was very smooth for the half tracks between Srinagar toGurez ,but beyond Gurez  lot of difficulties were met with in ascending theBurzil Pass in waist deep snow and in talus and scree covered slopes on the north face of the Himalayas; especially between Godoi and Bunji  where fresh landslides and rock falls had had eliminated the track. At places the half tracks were hauled with ropes to prevent side slipping. At places the half tracks were dismantled and carried in parts on porters over small bridges and badly damaged portions of the tracks. One of the cars near Astor was got stranded on its front wheels and right track while the road under the left track collapsed was retrieved almost by a miracle. BeyondGilgit between Nomal and Chalt , with the  time left at the disposal of the expedition and limit of having reached the limit of motor-able tracks the half tracks were abandoned and expedition proceeded with ponies, mules the only means of practicable transport  after crossing the Karakorom Range. The expedition  used 60 double humped camels,80 ponies/mules and in due course of time reached Kashgar (Kasi) in Sinkiang(modern Xinjiang) on 19th September 1931.The journey eastwards was continued in half tracks of the China group which met them on 24th October and reached Beijing on 12th Feb 1932.. The expedition eventually traveled to Vietnam unfortunately losing its leader George Harrdt at Hong kong  due to pneumonia.  


Arun Fotedar-A Tribute

By M.M. Munshi

A gem and a brilliant scientist of our community Dr. Arun Fotedarpassed away due to liver failure at UCSD Medical Centre, Hillcrest California on 9th July 2007. His disease surfaced in less than two months before his death, and doctors were unable to determine its origin .”His death is a tragedy not only for his relatives and friends but to the world because he was positioned to develop a whole new line of cancer drugs”, stated Dr. Albert Deisseroth, President and Chief executive of Sydney Kimmel Centre.

Dr. Fotedar was born at Srinagar, Kashmir on 12th May 1953 . He studied at C.M.S Biscoe Memorial High School and S.P. College Srinagar before passing his B.Sc. Though he wanted to pursue scientific research as a career but at the insistence of his parents he completed his MBBS degree from Srinagar Medical College in 1977. In 1983 He was awarded Ph.D in immunology by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. He later did postgraduate work at the University of Alberta, Edmonton in Canada and taught there before joining the faculty of the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology in 1991. In 1992 he moved as Professor and Director at Cancer Cell Biology Program, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Centre , San Diego Centre California and assembled an international team of scientists to design the drugs that approached cancer from a new angle.

According to Dr. Albert Deisseroth Dr. Fotedar explored cell cycles as a way of interrupting the development of cancer cells before they were allowed to spread, he wanted to block things at that stage. Dr. Deisseroth added that Dr. Fotedar's strategy was an innovative way fighting cancer cell development “.We are zeroing on the bull’s eye, as opposed to a broader target and this means more effective drugs with fewer side effects “stated Dr. Fotedar in a seminar in 2005. He was an extremely intelligent and great scientist, one of his colleagues at Sidney Kimmel Cancer centre said. He always wanted to get to the bottom of things. It wasn’t enough for him to accomplish one task, he always wanted to look miles ahead and remained at the forefront of the quest of battling and local fund raising for cancer till his death. He was an internationally sought after speaker for symposiums and his work was published in the top peer reviewed scientific journals . His profile and publication can be seen at



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He also became a member of the American National Institute Health’s Tumor Cell Biology Peer Review Group. His friend Bob Margolis described Dr. Fotedar as a very fulfilling person to have deep discussions with on any subject like religion, art, history, physics, astronomy or other subjects.

Dr. Arun Fotedar is survived by his parents Lakshmi and Prof. D.N. Fotedar formerly head of Zoology Deptt and Dean of Science Faculty Kashmir University, his younger brother Avinash Fotedar, Bhabi Rinu Fotedar and nephew Adhtya and other relations and friends who are inconsolable.

*(The author is Maternal uncle of Dr. Arun Fotedar).


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