866 IN THE REGION OF THE UPPER OXUS [Chap. XXVI
information and the condition of their interior. In front of the lower caves a walled space had served as shelter for cattle, and the headman of Warang remembered how in his youth the people of the village used to place their cattle, as well as their womenfolk, here for the night when raids of Afghan soldiers or Kirghiz were expected. There was nothing to indicate the age of these humble cave shelters, nor to justify their being dignified with the name of ` cave fortress
Captain While proceeding the same day to Yamchin, 6 miles lower down, I had on the way opportunities
Wood's visit for two interesting observations. At the hamlet of Wenukut I was able to pay a visit to I hsan
Karim `Ali Shah, the chief ` Pir ' of the Ismailias of Wakhan, who was staying there to perform faith-healing on a sick ` Murad ' or devotee. The old man, worshipped as a great saint, claimed an age of well over a hundred years, and his bodily state seemed to support this. Yet his mental faculties were not impaired, and to my surprise he furnished exact data which left no doubt about his having at his home been the host of Captain Wood, when in the winter of 1838 he was on his way to the Pamirs. He had clear recollections, too, of the tyrannical rule of Sultan Murad of Kunduz, often named in Wood's classic narrative.
On nearing Yamchin a good view was obtained of Khandût, on the opposite bank of the Ab-iPanja, situated on a fertile alluvial fan. With its so to 6o houses it is considered the largest village of Wakhan. In former times it may have been larger still ; for two abandoned canals could be seen above that now in use, and there is plenty of additional cultivable land commanded by them.
The identity of Khandût with Hun-t`o-to r which Hsüan-tsang mentions as the capital
of Wakhan, is not subject to any doubt 11 The pilgrim describes a Buddhist convent in the centre of the town ` built by the first king of the country ', and the miracle observed in the great Vihâra of this convent about a canopy of gilt copper suspended above a stone statue of Buddha. It was therefore of special interest to me to learn that Khandût possesses a famous Ziarat, visited as the resting-place of a saint, Shaikh Beg, and marked by an old mosque. The shrine was not visible from across the river, being hidden in a grove near the western edge of the fan. But the conspicuous domed tombs close to it suggested a sanctuary of importance, such as tenacity of local worship might lead us to expect in the place of the Buddhist Vihâra.12
A day's stay at the pretty hamlet of Yamchin was devoted to a survey of the large hill stronghold known as Zamr-i-âtishparast near by. It was duly noted by Captain Wood, and a sketchy account of it is found in Captain Olufsen's book.13 Its remains are remarkable enough in extent and construction to warrant a detailed description. As the sketch-plan in Pl. 47 shows, the fortifications ascend a height of about 1,000 feet on the extremity of the steep spur which flanks the debouchure of the Yamchin stream from the north-west. A peculiar bifurcation of the Vichkut stream, which descends in a gorge farther west, has cut off the lower end of the spur from the rest and given it the shape of a triangle, the base of which faces S E. The foot of the spur is reached beyond the scrub-covered mouth of the Yamchin stream at a distance of about a mile from the hamlet. About 40o feet higher up on the bare rocky slope the outermost line of the defences is
Khandüt, Hsüantsang's Hun-t`o-to.
Ruins of Zanzr-iatislz-parast.
10 See Olufsen, Unknown Pamirs, pp. 89 sqq. The ` ramparts ' of an ` upper fortress ' there referred to are in reality the walls supporting terraced fields, now abandoned, on the plateau above the cliffs, to which a jaubâr or canal, since washed away, once carried water.
On p. 92 the frequent occurrence of small caves, natural or artificial, still used as dwellings by poor people in Wakhan, is correctly mentioned.
11 Cf. Julien, Mémoires, ii. p. 201 ; «tatters, Yuan Chwang, ii. p. 279 ; Serindia, i. p. 63.
12 I may note here that at Yamchin I was told that at a Ziârat of the village of Inif, almost opposite on the left bank, there is to be seen a stone slab with the footprints of a holy man. These may well have received worship before as padukas of some Buddha or Arhat. Another stone was said to represent a sheep petrified by the same holy man's curse.
Both Khandut and Inif, being on the Afghan side of the river, were inaccessible to me and also to Afràz-gul.
13 See Wood, Source of the Oxus2, p. 218 ; Olufsen, Unknown Pamirs, pp. 183 sqq.