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0097 Innermost Asia : vol.1
Innermost Asia : vol.1 / Page 97 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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to south direction of the valley, whereby all the land obtains sufficient sunshine and a shorter season of severe cold, adds greatly to the favourable character of its climate. The scantiness of the present population is ascribed by Colonel Biddulph, no doubt quite correctly, to oppression and misgovernment,14 and that this has been long continued is sufficiently clear from what we know of the history of Khushwaqt rule during the last two centuries."

The fact that the constant ` wars of the Yasin rulers since the beginning of the century have ', as Colonel Biddulph has rightly observed,16 ` been the most powerful agent in depopulating the country ', supplies an additional reason for drawing attention here to a geographical factor of interest. I believe that this warlike activity of the Y5..sin rulers is itself largely explained by geographical conditions. A look at the map shows that the peculiar position of the Yasin valley makes it a favourable base for aggression in the direction both of Chitral and of the main valley of the Gilgit river, access to the upper portion of which it completely commands. On the other hand Yasin itself is easily defended both on the north and south, as already pointed out, and its remoteness alone tends to make it secure from local attack by tribal communities or petty chief-ships. It is only when command of the direct route connecting Indus and Oxus by way of Yasin and the passes of Darkôt and Baraghil becomes an important object for distant but powerful neighbours, that the seclusion of Yasin fails to protect it. It was thus when Tibetans and Chinese in turn were striving for a hold upon Little P`o-lü, and again in our own days when political developments between two big Asiatic powers affected remote Yasin in a curiously similar manner."

This relative remoteness and seclusion of Yasin are reflected in an interesting ethnological and linguistic fact. The language spoken in Yasin by the bulk of the population is Burushaski, locally known as Wurishki, a tongue wholly distinct from the Dardic languages of the Hindukush region and without any known relationship. The name of the tongue is derived from the designation Wurish which the Yasin people apply to themselves, and this appears again in the name Wurshigûm or Warshi gum, by which Yasin proper is still known locally.l'a Outside Yasin Burushaski is now spoken only in Hunza and Nagar, both of them territories that in position exactly correspond to Yasin and are even better protected by natural difficulties of access. But there is plentiful linguistic evidence that in earlier times the area where this strange language was spoken extended much farther to the south. Traces of its influence have been found in almost all Dardic languages, however far removed from the valleys where Burushaski (Wurishki) still survives.'8

It has been long recognized that the present restriction of Burushaski to the most remote valleys south of the main Hindukush range and to a very small portion of the total population of the whole mountain region points to a gradual withdrawal and absorption of the race that originally spoke it, due to a wave of `Aryan ' invasion represented by the tribes speaking Dardic

of Yasin.

Burushaski spoken in Yasin.

Recession of Burushaski speech.

14 See Hindoo Koosh, p. 56.

15 The effects of this misrule, as far as number of the population is concerned, have been made, no doubt, still more lasting by the devastation and wholesale slaughter accompanying the two Dbgra invasions of 186o and 1863 which followed constant attacks and intrigues of the Yasin chiefs against Gilgit ; cf. Drew, Jummoo and Kashmir, PP. 444, 446 ; Leitner, Dardistàn, p. 66, where harrowing details are recorded from the mouth of native witnesses.

18 See Hindoo Koosh, p. 33.

17 It is well known that it was the strategic importance of the routes leading from the uppermost Oxus and the Pamirs across the Baroghil saddle towards the valleys of

the Indus and Kabul river that forced the Indian Government after 1885, in view of the Russian menace, to extend an increasingly effective control over Yasin and Chitral—territories which the Dôgras, in spite of their troubles in connexion with Gilgit, had been quite content to leave in virtual independence.

17a Cf. Biddulph, Hindoo Koosh, p. 38. Mughul Bég's survey made about 1789-90 records the name as lVarshigum ; see Raverty, Notes on Afghanistan, p. 189, where a remarkably accurate account of Yasin based on Mughul Bég's report is given. The form Warshguyn is also found on the Survey of India Maps.

18 Cf. Grierson, Linguistic Survey, vIII. ii. pp. 6, 186.