Karnah Valley

Karnah Valley

By Shid Shujaat

On 75 kms long difficult mountain range to the north-east of Kupwara at a height of 10 thousand feet is situated Nastachhin Pass generally known to the locals as Sadhna Gali. After crossing the pass, there lies the small valley of Karnah (Karnav) situated on the foot of Shams Bari and Kranii mountains. Before partition this Valley comprised the valleys of Drav, Lipa and Karnah. Its borders reached ahead of Farkiyan to the east upto Damaar Gali and to nullah Qazi Nag to the west extending upto the confluence of Kishan Ganga and nullah Kaji nag at Jaradah. To the north it extended beyond Sharda to Talel.

During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, it was given the status of a tehsil with headquarter at Tithwal. Karnah valley suffered the most as a result of partition of state in the attack of 1947. Its fertile areas Drav, Sharda, Mirpur, Falakaan in the north and Lipa, Ashkot, Kaji Nag to the South were separated from the tehsil and are now known as Landi Patti meaning narrow strip. Thereafter the Keran valley was detached from it and finally Karnah valley shrunk to an area of just 11 sq miles comprising the Valley of Tithwal and Gabrah.

There are indications of human settlements in Karnah valley going back to 3000 years of history. Among the habitats of the Valley, the more known are Sharada, Shahkot, Phugi Raja, Helwaat, Ashkot, Falakan, and Mirpur. Excavations near Dildar village yielded lance, mace, sword and pick-axe which shows the local people were warriors.

All these weapons are made of stone. The ancient people of the locality are reported to be the sun-worshippers. About the people of Sharada, tradition has it that through a miracle they could raise a thick cloud behind which the sun would hid. These people were also reported to be the snake-worshippers.

Like the Sati Sar, Karnah valley is also said to be a large lake of water. The present day villages of Nichian, Kandi, Tangdar, Dildar and Khaworpara and many more villages adjoining these all remained submerged under water. In olden days Karnah valley was given the name of BOR. Among its areas, ZARLA was of much importance. Previously it was called Pathankot, situated at the foot of Sadhna Gali. As it was a vast lake, early human habitation took place along the mountain heights. Even today, excavation enterprise in the heights yields icons, stone statues, stone mill, stone weapons and utensils. A Raja named Karan dwelt on the mountain Karano located in the middle of Karnah valley, his palaces with its ruins still remaining. This mountain was 7500 feet above sea level.

Local people call the ruins as "Raja Karan Diyan Shaheriyan". Some water tanks were built on these heights reportedly with inside leather coating so that rain water could be preserved for longer duration in them. Some remains of these tanks are still visible. Again it is reported that Raja Karan had ordered a breach in the mountain at Ari Dal. So that the Valley of Karnah was desiccated. Ari Dal gradually degenerated into Hari Dal. A mere look at the aperture, shows as if the opening has been made with a carpenter's saw. Nullah Batamaej passes through this site today. Along the Batmaej nullah there still exists a rock with some inscription that has not been deciphered so far. Perhaps it dates back to the days of Sharada University or it could be an edifice related to Buddhism.

Karnah, therefore, assumes its name from the same Raja Karan and the mountain is called Karnav. Keran also derives its name from Raja Karan. Between Keran and Karnah lies a tract called Rangwor, a part of Karnah valley. In the middle of a large ground, an idol was installed under the orders of Raja Karan. Its delicate ruins are still visible. People called it "Mehandi Walla But" meaning the statue with heena-colour. As this is situated on some height the Raja might have used it as a signal tower in his own days. Although Raja. Karan's royal palace stood on the top of Krano mountain, Still his blood relations had settled royal household at the eastern foothill of Krano mountain. They were called "geubr" which meant fire-worshippers. Raja himself was a fire-worshipper. This is the reason why the area was given the name 'Gabra'.

To the north of the Valley of Drav, was situated the famous Sharda University. This place is situated at a height of 6500 feet above sea level. Today it is called Mai Sharada (Mother Sharada). A fort had been built close to this University which later on became a seat for the propagation of Buddhism. Its ruins and the statues of Buddha are still to be found at this site. These excavations invite the attention of the scholars.

Sharada University was rated one among the best and top universities of the country at this point of time, and this became the seat of Buddhist learning, scholars and students of Buddhist philosophy flocked to the place from various parts of the country (India). Thus owing to Sharada as the famous seat of learning, Karnah valley became known to scholars. After acquiring deep knowledge in Buddhism, scholars proceeded over mountains and through passes to adjoining lands carrying the message of Buddha.

Two routes used to be adopted, that continue to exist today. One route lay along the banks of Kishen Ganga through the Drav valley, passing by Sharada, and entered Tilel valley. The second route passed through Leepa valley and going along Nakot Hattian reached Uri and then to Baramulla and Kashmir valley. For these interacting routes Karnah valley remained a seat of different cultures-infact a melting pot of these cultures. Many scholars, after completing education and training at Sharada Univesity proceeded along these routes and chose to settle down at various destinations. This is the reason why the place names of many villages in Karnah valley go after different saints, for example Sadhupura (Sudh Poor), Bhat Pora, Kaltha (Kalath') Prada (Pradha') Dhani, Kahasala, Shilai, Gomal, Tud (Taad'). In most of these areas, Buddha statues have been excavated besides some plates. Only a few years ago a number of Buddhas small statues were found while digging for the compound wall of Tangdhar mini-secretariat.

We have also available to us traces of the arrival of Pandavas in Karnah valley in mythological times. On the nullah Kaji Nag, stands a bridge called Pandavpul (Pandav Bridge) connecting village Tad with Prada. The Pandavas had cut the stonebeam for use in building this bridge from Moji forests. But for some unknown reason, these beams could not be put to use and these still remain at Moji jungle. It is believed that during their stay in the Karnah valley, the Pandavas had made some arable land in the Pradah forest. These lands are still maintaining their Sanskrit names such as Awarav, Nadri, Thakri, Shakhri etc. It is also said that Lord Krishna visited this Valley once as he wanted to see the Pandavas. The place where he met with them is called Helmat. The river Kishen Ganga got its name thereafter. It as also believed that Ramchandra Ji also visited this place once. Along the Keran route, there is a place called "Raja Ramun Diyan Lariyan (Raja Ram's houses/buildings). There are some big and small caves and the legend goes that during this exile, Lord Rama spent some years in these caves.

The footpath connecting Kashmir valley to Karnah via Chowkibal, passes through the middle on Sadhana Gali. The legend says that two witches had taken their abode on Sadhna Gali (Pass) called "ANHI and DORI". Anhi means the blend, and Dori means the deaf. Both of them were carnivorous. Therefore people generally moved along this pass in large caravans. The fear continues in the mind of the people of Karnah upto this day. There is another legend related to these witches. It is said that Baba Abdullah Ghazi, accompanied by 370 of his disciples, crossed through this pass. One of the witches caught hold of the last person to cross the pass and devoured him. A loud cry was raised and the news was brought to Baba Abdullah Ghazi. He pierced the belly of the witch with his staff and bodily extracted the disciple out of it. His curse turned the witches into two boulders that can still be seen in Shamsbari mountains. Likewise according to another legend, this Baba Ghazi once stopped a raging flood that had engulfed Gabra village saving a part of it now called Kohneh Gabra (Old Gabra) and the new habitat that came up is called Navan Gabra.

For a long time Karnah valley was ruled by the Bamba Rajas. Raja Nasir Ali Khan, Raja Mansur Khan and Raja Sher Ahmed Khan were prominent among them. Their seat was in Karnav mountain foot in village Gabra. Their jagirsatrapy extended to the north upto Drava and Sharada, to the South upto Leepa Nakot upto Totmar Gali. To the east, it extended from Shamsbari mountain to Tithwal and Chelhena areas were included in it. First Hasan Khuihami and then Munshi Hargopal in Guldastae Kashmir have said that Sher Khan's relations with the Maharaja of Kashmir got strained and Raja Sher Khan fled towards Karnah. Raja Sher Ahmad Khan was reported to be sharp, bold and a self respecting person. He loved justice and order. So much so that he had allocated 10 kanals of land in his jagir to the crows. It produced corn that was boiled and served to the rooks. Even today, the rooks from different parts gather over this piece of land in the evening and raise noise. Thus it is called Kagan Bari a Garden of crows.

(Source Urdu Journal SHAMS BARI Aug. 2000. Translated by Dr. K.N. Pandita)

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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