KASHMIR ITS HISTORY AND PEOPLE
A Journey of Discovery
Thirty Years in Kashmir by Arthur Neve
Daradas are the modern Dards. Their location which does not seem to have changed since the times of Herodotus, extend from Citral and Yasin, across the Indus regions of Gilghit, Cilas, and Bunji to the Kishanganga Valley to the immediate north of Kashmir. The tribes inhabiting the later valley are meant in most of the passages in which the chronicles mentions the Darads'.
The Kishenganga Valley is transitional between Kashmir and Dardistan in scenery and in race, and at Gurais, where the valley opens out and there are lovely flowery meadows and fields of buckwheat around the quaint and huddled log hamlets, we get to be among Dards', modified by rare intermarriage with Kashmiris-a very coarse featured type, which reminds one of faces seen in many out-of-the way mountain villages of Kashmir, writes Neve.
From the Rajtarangani, the Sanskrit chronicles of ancient Kashmir, it appears that, however wide the dominions of Kashmiri rulers to the south and east, they seldom maintained their hold for long over these hardy hill men, and many a fierce fight took place on the passes leading to Kashmir.
Visnu Cakradhara had an ancient shrine on the alluvial plateau of Udar, which lies on the west bank of the Vitasta, one mile below the town on Vij bror. Archeological finds of a sophisticated Dard civilization is evidenced there. The plateau bears to this day the name Tsakdar Udar. Kalhan mentions frequently the temple and hill Cakradhara, which also served in times of trouble as a fortified position. One of the trouble spot for Kashmir's kings was the north west portion of Kramarajya which included a pocket of Chak habitation in the village of Trahgam. Baharistan-Trahgam with Trigumma in Lolab Valley. Lolab means 'sweet spring water', the name given to the spring of drinking water of the purest quality in that location giving the Valley its name. Its an ancient spring preserved for countless centuries until it neglect in the last 2 decades.
The former Nawabs of Gurais were
tributary to the Rajahs of Astor, and during the Sikh conquest Malik Dilawar, a
Dard chief having been invited to Srinagar, was treacherously thrown into prison
from which he only managed to escape after 3 years; and though for a time he was
able to collect the tribesman and hold his own in the wild ravines north of the
Kishenganga, the Sikhs built and held forts at Gurais and Shardi, and when they
also occupied Astor his position became untenable, and he fled to Gilghit, where
he was eventually murdered.
Their villages had log huts closely clustered together, human beings and cattle in the same building surrounded by manure heaps and mud. The proximity of animals is used to warm the indoor space. Though naturally no darker than the Kashmiri's, yet these smoke-begrimed folk, with their dark woolen garments, are far less attractive in appearance. The women wear a loose dark brown bag upon the head, which can be pulled down to protect neck and cheeks from the wind and snow. Some of the valleys were also exposed to raids from Chilas, so the huts were huddled together for protection and in many places arranged like a small square fort.
The Tilel district lies along the eastern tributary. The people there are mostly allied with the Kashmiri's, a connection which apparently dates back to the period of the Dogra conquest, early last century. Plundering bands of Dogras burnt many of the villages, and the inhabitants fled across the passes to the nearer valleys on the Kashmir side. Later on a reverse current set in, and peasants from the Lar district of Kashmir migrated to Tilel to avoid the grinding taxation and the forced labour. During several decades of the last century Dogra and Sikh armies were conquering the mountains of Ladak, Baltistan and Gilgit. Each expedition involved the forced levy of thousands of Kashmiri porters by summary process of driving most of the men out of all the villages at the mouth of the valleys leading up to the passes. From such oppression some fled to find a peaceful haven in the secluded valleys of Tilel. There they intermarried, and at the present time the people are bilingual, speaking almost as much Kashmiri as Dardi.
The Rajatarangini in recording the rule of Ananta (1028-1063 A.D.) describes a Dard king Achalamangala who was approached by Brahmaraja to defeat Ananta. Consequently Kashmir was invaded by Dards. Kalhan says the 7 Mleccha princes also helped. Mlechha was a term usually used for those who were not Hindu and in these times represented Tibetan rulers or those who were Muslim. But, Bilhana describes then as Saka. These forces were opposed by the Kashmiri army led by Rudrapala Sai at the village of Ksirapristha (Kharot). The Kashmiri army made a surprise attack after sun down when all hostilities were expected to stop in battle norms. King Achalamangla was killed in this attack.
It chronicles in the battles of
Vijayamalla his seeking refuge with the Dard king. "After remounting his steed,
the brave Vijayamalla disappeared from the view of the enemies, and proceeded
towards the country of the Dards by the route of Lahara. By the upper
valley of the Krishanganga is meant modern Gurez, which is to this day inhabited
by Dards. It can be reached by several mountain tracks from the Sindh Valley
i.e. Lahara. By crossing the Vitasta at its confluence with the Sindhu
(opposite Shadpor), Vijayamalla avoids the necessity of crossing subsequently
the later river on his way to the Dard country. Though Kandarpa, the deity of
the Gate, had closed everywhere the routes, Vijaymalla crossed the mountains and
reached the town of the Darads (Daratpur) hidden in the mountains. By the town
of Darads, perhaps is meant the modern Gurez, the chief place of Upper
Kishanganga Valley. The epithet girigupta, ‘hidden in the mountain,’ would
well apply to that place. Gurez lies in a valley whose ground is nowhere
more than about one mile broad. All around rise high mountain ranges. There he
was hospitably received by the illustrious Vidhyadhara Sahi, the Dard
ruler, and was joined, as time went on, by some of his own followers. The
title Shah has been borne for centuries back by the Dard rulers of Citral and
Yasin. When King Harsha heard that Damaras and others were taking up the feud,
he felt terrified, and day by day employed fresh strategies. These failed.
After passing the winter in the town of the Dards, he Vijaymalla precipitately
started on an expedition in the month of Caitra, having received messages from
the Damaras. This proud prince after escaping from his danger, lost his
life accidentally by an avalanche, while stopping in a tent on the road."
“Kafir” refers to a group of tribes in
western Dardistan known by that name.
The whole of Torwal forms part of the
extensive but very sparsely inhabited mountainous area usually designated as the
Swat Kohistan which is drained by the head waters of the Swat river. The
hill tribes inhabiting it from the high glacier-crowned range towards Chitral in
the north down to the open river valley below Churrai in the south represent the
remnant of that ancient Dardic-speaking race which before the Pathan conquest
may be assumed to have formed the main stock also of the population throughout
the great and fertile territory now known as Upper and Lower Swat.