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Akcha was before the Afghan conquest also a petty Khanate, but has now fallen under the rule of the conqueror of the provinces mentioned, the greater number of whom are only partially dependent, and most probably by this time have again shaken off the loose yoke of the Ameer of Cabul’s lieutenants.



These do not, however, include all the petty States or chieftainships which lie in the secluded valleys of the Hindoo Koosh and neighbouring ranges. But it would be an unfruitful task to simply enumerate the others, none of them being, either singly or combined, of any importance whatever. Wakhsh, Khotl, Darwaz, Roshan, Shignan, and the valley of the Wardodj are all minor sovereignties, which maintain, as they have maintained for ages, a or less complete autonomy. The latter valley excited the admiration of Captain Wood as he returned from the Black Pamir Steppe. “Everything wore the gorgeous air of spring. The change was delightful. When we passed up, snow lay everywhere. Now the plough was in the field; wild Howers were sparkling among the withered herbage of the bygone year; and around the edges of the stones tufts of young grass were everywhere to be seen. The sheep, let loose from their sheds, were remunerating themselves for the dry and scanty fare of their winter quarters. The streams were all unlocked, and we encamped in the open air. The raven, the jay, the lark, the bulbul, or Badakshan nightingale, were all on the wing: Numerous insects, too, aroused from their long sleep, began to show themselves. Among them were butterflies, and a most beautiful painted species of gadily.” To finish this idyllic picture, “the fine sward was enamelled with crocuses, daffodils, and snowdrops.” This attractive description of one valley of the Hindoo Koosh in spring will apply to most of them. They are, however, often oases in a desert, and at best sheltered glens surrounded by mountains frequently bleak and forbidding in the extreme.

Among the southern spurs of the Hindoo Koosh also live the peculiar people known as Kaffirs (that is, infidels) and Siâh poosh, against whom the Mohammedans repeatedly make slave-hunting raids. They are perhaps survivors of the old Aryans, the stock from whom the Hindoos and the majority of civilised nations are sprung, and may be akin to the people on the Cashmere frontier, whom Major Biddulph, who has been recently examining them, pronounces also to be Aryans. Dr. Bellew considered some of the tribes south-west of Dardistan, though akin to the Dards, also of the same race, though, unlike that people, they have not embraced Mohammedanism. They are usually fair-haired and blueeyed.* Chitral, in the upper valley of the Beilam or Kunar River, is an even lessknown kingdom. The country is independent, and the people, Dards and Dungars, tall, athletic, but cowardly, and the women said to be coarse and immodest. Chitral and Yassin

“Races of Mankind,” Vol. III., pp. 276-286; Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, November 4th, 1859 ; “Notes on Kaffirstan,” by Captain Raverty; “Church Missionary Intelligence," 1865 ; “Church Missionary Gleaner,” 1865; also, for an account of the Dards, Drew: “The Northern Barrier of India" (1877), and “ The Jummo and Kashmir Territories ” (1875); and Bellew : “Kashmir and Kashgar" (1878).

have from time immemorial been under the rule of chiefs who claim descent from Alexander the Great, through the Kings of Khorassan. These rulers, like their people, are bigoted and fanatical to a degree which can only be equalled in Swat. But while

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the Swatees recognise their Akhond simply as a spiritual authority, the inhabitants of Chitral and Yassin are as much subject to their rulers as if they were serfs. Gilgit was also, up to about the year 1858, a part of the Yassin territory. But at that date the Maharajah of Cashmere began that series of ruthless, unprovoked hostilities, which



he continued until the valley was almost desolate and his power was established in the Fort, where a British Resident now resides. Yassin has also been devastated by the foulest raids, the inhabitants massacred with incredulous atrocity, and thousands carried off into slavery, without the British Government evidently being aware that all this was being done by their ally, now an honorary general in our army. Gilgit is about 4,800 feet above the sea, and is one of the three independent States which once lay along the valley of the river of the same name. But Punial is now governed by a Rajah dependent on Cashmere, and Gilgit is directly administered by the Maharajah's officers.

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Yassin is still independent, and for some time past its ruthless enemy has abstained from troubling it. It is well watered, and yields good crops of the products of mildly temperate countries,* and even some of the precious metals. In the Chitral country the gallant young explorer, George Hayward, was basely murdered in July, 1870, at the instigation of Mir Wali, on whose friendship he had relied, and whose interests he had endeavoured to advance. In Asia every little valley usually teems with inhabitants, and in the wide regions into which the reader has been introduced almost every glen has its own petty nationality, ruled by its own sovereign, or in some cases even governed on the republican principles so strange to the Asiatic ideas of the relations between man and Baltistan is the name, for example, applied to the

# Drew: “The Northern Barrier of India," p. 159.


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mountainous and little-known region which extends for sixty miles by thirty-six in the upper valley of the Indus. The chief town is Skardo, and for a time the country was called Bolor, though, owing to Humboldt and Ritter having transferred the name to an imaginary range of mountains, supposed to be the meridional range of Asia, the name has got inextricably into confusion in geographical nomenclature. The valleys of the Gilgit, Mastûj, and Chitral are governed on the principles of pure despotism, untempered by even a pretence of recognising the rights of the ruled. But in the valleys which lead to the Indus, Mr. Drew tells us that there are republics, free and democratic. Most of them are, indeed, exceedingly petty, that probably being one of the reasons why they have not been thought worth disturbing. Thalîcha, for example, may be characterised as the smallest independent State in the world, for it is simply a little village of seven houses autonomously governed. The Siga, or village parliament, is the legislative assembly which arranges the affairs of these valley republics, and so thoroughly democratic are they, that if even man of any consequence objects to a particular line of policy his scruples are respected and the assembly adjourns, to meet after the opposition bas been overruled, or the proposal so modified as to meet with his approval. If the valley is large then there is usually a parliament for every village, while what is called the Federal or Executive Council of the State consists of the combined Joshteros, dignitaries elected at intervals the grounds of their reputed wisdom or known wealtb. Finally, if the policy is of high moment, there is a “mass meeting" of all the people called, and the policy of the “nation” is decided in accordance with their votes. Mr. Drew thinks that in the republican valleys of the Himalayan spurs there are fewer foreigu wars but less internal security; "in the republics personal independence and liberty of action are so much the rule that no one interferes to prevent even violence.”

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Crossing the Panja, we reach the village of Langar-Kaish, 10,800 feet above the sea, and stand on the great Pamir table-land. In this region we find a knotted mass of mountains, the converging point of the Thian Shan and of the Karakoram and Kuen Len chains of the Himalayan range. This mountain-land, between the upper Osus valley and the basin of Eastern Turkestan is, perhaps, even yet, one of the least known parts of the world, in spite of the many efforts made of late years by Russian and English officers to explore it.*

It is as bleak and cheerless a region as Marco Polo described it, and his descriptions have in all material points been confirmed by Captain Wood, General Gordon, and MM. Severtsoff and Oshanin. It is the spot whence the gathering waters of several rivers How to different parts of Asia, and where lonely lakes gather the drainage and rainfall which are to fertilise the cases hundreds of miles distant from the sources of the river which supply the water to the irrigating canals. The plateau is about 180 miles long and 100 in breadth from east to west.

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Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society (1879), pp. 125, 299, 455, &c.; Gordon : World” (1870).

• The Roof of the

sists,” writes Colonel Yule, “chiefly of stretches of tolerably level steppe, broken and divided by low rounded bills, much of it covered with saline exudations, and interspersed with patches of willows and thorny shrubs, and in summer with extensive tracts of grass two or three feet in height, the fattening properties of which have been extolled by travellers, from Marco Polo to Faiz Buksh. Many lakes are scattered over the surface of the plateau, from which streams flow. Wild fowl abound upon the lakes in summer to an extraordinary degree; and in the vicinity water deer of some kind are very numerous, and the great sheep (Ovis Poli) apparently all over the plateau. In 1869 a murrain among these latter is said to have killed them off in multitudes. A goat called Rang, affording a fine shawl-wool, is found on the steppe; also a kind of lynx, whose fur is valued. Foxes and wolves frequent Pamir; bears and tigers are occasional visitors. The wild yak, according to Faiz Buksh, is also found there; if this be true, Pamir is its west and north limit. Pamir was at one time the summer baunt of a large nomad population of Kirghiz, with their numerous flocks; but the depredations of the Shighnis (regarded also with horror by the Kirghiz as Shiah heretics), and other kidnapping neighbours, are said to have driven them to the eastern valleys, or to the Kokan territory, and the only summer visitors now are about one thousand families, who frequent the shores of Rangkul in Little Pamir.” In Moorcroft's time some of these Kirghiz pastured on these lofty grazing lands 30,000 sheep and goats, 500 yaks, and 200 camels. The great height of the plateau renders the air so rarefied as to make respiration difficult. Even this trouble is experienced by the natives, who use dried fruits, garlic, and leeks as antidotes. The plateau is broken by spurs and peaks. But so little is known that it is still a geographical problem whether there is or is not a meriodonal range on its eastern confines. MM. Severtsoff and Mushketoft—the Russian explorersare inclined to consider them as extensive highlands covered with a somewhat complicated system of mountain ranges. Mr. Hayward considered that they form a continuous north and south range, while Professor Fedchenko was of opinion that the so-called mountains were only the bluff escarpment of a table-land. Among the lakes, Siri-Kul, Sikandari Kul, or Victoria (p. 285), is one of the largest. It is fourteen miles long and about a mile in breadth, and is bordered on all sides by high hills and even lofty mountains. It is 15,500 feet above the sea, and the source of one of the branches of the Osus, the other having been traced by the “Mirza”-one of Colonel Montgomerie's native geographical spies—to Pamir Kul, at a height of 13,300 feet. The air is so rarefied that when Captain Wood attempted to break the ice on the lake a few strokes of the pickaxe produced such exhaustion that he and his companions had to lie down to recruit their strength. A musket loaded with blank cartridge sounded as if the charge had been poured into the barrel and neither wads nor ramrod used. Even when ball was introduced, the report, though louder, wanted that sharpness which marks similar discharges in denser atmospheres. Many of the party were dizzy with headache; any sort of muscular exertion soon became very distressing. Conversation it was impossible to keep up, and a run at full speed produced pain in the lungs and prostration that lasted for some hours. The line of perpetual snow is in the Pamir something over 17,000 feet, but by the end of June the ice is broken up, the lakes

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