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0030 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 30 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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Passes of Trâg`bal and Dudtkhut.

Northern Gate' of Kashmir.


throughout its upper course in an extremely confined valley. To the west, some twenty miles below the junction of the Burzil stream, this valley for a considerable distance becomes an uninhabited and almost inaccessible gorge ; it cannot be crossed nor is it reached there by any route from Kashmir. Eastwards again the great massif of the hoary Haramukh (Skr. Haramukutâ) peaks, and the glacier-crowned range continuing it towards the head of the Sind Valley, raise an effective barrier between Kashmir and the Kisanganga. It is crossed only by a few difficult mountain tracks, over which even the hardy Dard hillmen cannot take their ponies, except during brief periods in particularly favourable seasons and then unladen.

The geographical facts here briefly indicated make it quite certain that in ancient times the line of communication between Kashmir and the Dard territories must have led through Guréz, and over that part of the watershed which separates Guréz from the north shore of the Volur Lake. Starting from a point due south of the main village of Guréz, the summit ridge for about twenty miles westward shows a height of from 12,000 to 13,000 feet above the sea. The route which is followed by the present ` Gilgit Transport Road ', and which has been in general use for military purposes since Sikh times, crosses the range by the Trâgabal or Razdiangan Pass, at an elevation of close on 12,000 feet. Another route which leads over the Dudakhut Pass, about eight miles further to the east, is distinctly referred to in the Râjaiarangini in connexion with an invasion of the Dards from the Kisangangâ. Valley towards the close of the eleventh century A. D. In my comments on this, and in some other references, I have shown that the position of the hill fort of Dugdhaghata, which the Dards had occupied and which King Harsa of Kashmir vainly attempted to recover, in order to close the route to their inroads, can still be traced on the summit of the Dudakhut Pass to which it has left its name 2. Though somewhat less exposed than the Trâgabal route, and evidently preferred in ancient times on this account and as being more direct, the Dudakhut Pass is equally liable to heavy and early snowfall. Like the corresponding portion of the present ` Gilgit Road', it can scarcely have been kept open for regular use by laden animals or large bodies of men during more than four months of the year.

Both the Trâgabal and Dudakhut routes ascend the southern slopes of the range from the stream of the Bandapbr Nullah, which flows into the Volur Lake from the north, and which, among the Brahman population of Kashmir, is still known by its ancient name of Madhumati. Close to the point in the valley where the two routes diverge lies the village of Bandaki3th, once the site of a castle (kolh, Skr. kotla) occupied by the ` Malik ' or feudal chief who in Muhammadan times watched over the passes giving approach to Kashmir from the Kisanganga. It is very probable that in the same neighbourhood there also existed one of those fortified frontier watch-stations which in the time of the Hindu rulers closed all routes leading into the Kashmir Valley, and which, under the designations of dvara, ` gate', or dranga, figure so prominently in the Sanskrit Chronicles of Kashmir 3.

It is true that the watch-station of this particular locality is not specifically mentioned by either Kalhana or the later Sanskrit Chronicles. But there can be no doubt that it was known to the Chinese pilgrim Wu-kung, who visited Kashmir from Gandhara, the present Peshawar District, and stayed there during the years 759-763 A. D. The topographical data

2 Compare note on Raja/. vii. I171.

3 The character and historical importance of these ancient watch-stations or ` Gates' of Kashmir have been demonstrated by me in my Memoir on the Ancient Geography of Kashmir, § 40 (Riijat., I1. pp. 391 sqq.); see also notes

Raja/. i. 122 ; iii. 227, &C.; J.A.S.B., 1895, Part I, pp. 382 sqq. The system of rirhdâri maintained in connexion with these watch-stations, by which persons leaving or entering the Valley were required to produce special permits or passes, survived almost to our own days.