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0083 Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.1 / Page 83 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000183
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In the midst of the kaleidoscopic usurpations and upheavals which make the modern political Castle of

history of this mountain-state like a tangled web of intrigue, murder, and treachery, security was for Chitral.

the ruler himself a primary consideration at all times. The castle of the Mehtars, with its high and massive square towers, built near the centre of the cluster of large embowered villages which make up the capital of Chitral, clearly bears the impress of the conditions.2 Old as it undoubtedly is in its foundations and main features, this great pile of rubble and timber had undergone too many alterations and additions to permit even of the incidents of so recent an event as the memorable siege of 1895 to be always clearly located. But plenty of quaint old wood-carving, perhaps centuries old, still survived at the time of my visit, both in the mosque and the picturesque open galleries which enclose the outer court of the castle. Manifest signs of great age appeared also on its high iron-plated gate, through which successful pretenders had so often forced their way to the blood-stained ` Takht ' of Kashkar.

Apart from this hereditary seat of the Mehtars, of which local considerations permitted only a very cursory inspection, the Chitral capital offered several other points of antiquarian interest. The remains of an old fort, said to be of the time of the ` Ra'is ' and marked by the ruins of some towers close to the Agency, displayed, it is true, in their rubble-built walls no distinct criterion of their age. Nor was it possible for me to deduce any definite chronological indication from the architecture of the fine old mosque, known as ` Bazar Masjid ' and believed to be the earliest structure of its kind in Chitral (Fig. 10). The style of its wooden columns and arches was plainly late Saracenic as found throughout Iran.

But the old Chitral' house which had been adapted for the Political Agent's residence before Chitral

the upheaval of 1895, and which now hospitably received me, had already on my arrival acquainted wood-

me with characteristic features of genuine local architecture. In all its main rooms—from their size carving.

they might almost be called halls—beautifully carved pillars of Deodar disposed in a quadrangle supported the roof. The light-and-air holes of the usual Chitral" type, to the interesting and ancient constructive features of which I shall have occasion to refer hereafter, had been surmounted by modern skylights. But the ornamental wood-carving of the pillars had suffered no adaptation or change, and here I was struck at once by the prevalence of motifs which seemed strangely familiar to me. Several of them, like the four-petalled clematis-like flower and the eight-petalled lotus within a circle, looked exactly as though copied from the pieces of ancient architectural wood-carving and decorated furniture which my excavations of 1901 had brought to light at the Niya Site of the Taklamakan,3 and all plainly suggested the influence of the decorative style of Gandhara. Had this influence penetrated hither direct from Swat and the Kabul Valley, or had it asserted itself, with other forms of imported culture, from the side of Badakhshan and ancient Bactria ? Whatever the channel, it seemed clear that the art influence thus transplanted had found a safe place wherein to maintain itself in these far-off valleys.

When proceeding on May 7 to the examination of remains reported near J ughôr, on the left Old' Kafir'

bank of the river, I took occasion to visit at Dawawish an old house declared to date back to the house at


` Kafir-daur' or pre-Muhammadan period. Among the modern dwellings of the village, all ensconced under luxuriant groves of fruit-trees, the house, by its gloomy aspect and massive construction, would at once have attracted attention. Outside it looked at first like a large heap of stones. But closer inspection showed walls far more solid than usual in these parts, built of uncut but well-set slabs of stone. The most striking feature inside was a large central room or hall, showing elaborate carving on its massive pillars and along one wall decorative panelling in

2 See Fig. 14 in Ruins of Desert Cathay.   3 Cf. for specimens of such motifs Ancient Kholan, ii.

Pl. LXVIII, LXIX; also below, Pl. XVIII, XIX.

F 2