Sunday, June 23, 2019





'JAMMU  OF 1905'

Reading ..'Thirty Years In  Kashmir 'by Dr Arthur Neve...Published in 1915...

 Dr Arthur Neve  writes about ' JAMMU OF  1905 ' .as he saw it .....I quote from his book..

“Jammu became capital of a kingdom larger than England , with tributary  peoples speaking  a dozen distinct languages and dialects, and at the Darbaar in the olden days ,one might have seen not only Dogra princes and Sikh generals. Punjabi officials ,and kashmiri Dewans and Brahmins ,with bold Rajput veterans of many fiercely  contested mountain campaigns , and  those who had been subjugated ,  Tibetan chiefs from Shigar ,Dard chiefs from Astor or Gilgit ,with their picturesque and truculent followers ,all clad in most diverse costumes. Many of these petty Rajas were often treated with the utmost contempt by the court menials.

 In 1905 Lord Curzon held a Darbaar and declared that Maharaja of J&K shall be invested with full powers . Till then , the state was administered by a council of which , several members were appointed by the British Government . A few months after this , King George , the then prince of Wales  visited jammu. The city was decked in the height of oriental splendor . A beautiful camp was laid around the new Residency at Satwari .It was estimated that 40000 British Pounds were spent by the  Maharaja in connection with the regal display by  the state that was always short of money , and which is terribly backward in such important matters such as roads and sanitation.

Basant or the first day of spring  is a great festival in the city . New Year’s day or Nauroz is also observed by a special Darbaar . Perhaps the most popular is the Dussehra held in Autumn .

In former days , all Europeans visiting Jammu were received as  guests of the Maharaja .The courtesy of princely welcome was not limited to gracious reception and polite phrases , but extended to lavishly furnished guest houses with all kinds of supplies . One could order any kind of  tinned provisions like  oyster , salmon and anything except beef  in any shape and form. Wine too would be unstinted

Those days there was no road in jammu  fit for driving in .The chief roads consisted of badly laid paving stones interspersed with cobbles. Narrow stony paths led steep   down the cliff to the river , and at all hours , strings of women with  water pots and water carriers with Mashaqs ( water skins ) might be seen scrambling up and down  the town. There were  quiet  deep water  pools ( Talabs )  where I could enjoy an undisturbed bath and narrow paths where pretty wild flowers grew .

It was interesting to see people fording rapids ( river and streams  )  where the water was nearly waist deep . Few seemed to trouble about their wet garments , which would soon dry in the  warm sun: their chief care was for the loads balanced cleverly upon their heads .

There were other attractions such as Ajaib Ghar literally meaning ‘ wonder House .’  I was provided with an elephant as i was a state’s  guest . Next day ,  i decided to meet the Maharaja .  I mounted the elephant that had a silver howdah and a small staircase  and we swayed  up slowly through the Bazaar   that had steep stone paved road and finally under the archway into the Palace.

After a few days of stay at jammu , I began my journey to kashmir via Banihal pass through a path  that was just a pony  track .When it became dark , there was a danger of getting off the route into some side valley merely leading to some mountain villages. Sometimes at night mail runner bells were heard , and one appeared carrying a torch to keep off any panthers , with which the dense thickets of these outer hills were infested . These Dak runners lived in thick straw sheds built near the path at an interval of four or five miles , and had to be ready at any hour of the day or night to start on to the next stage with Dak.  They were sturdy , unkempt fellows , who could keep a steady jog trot for the entire stage  and repeat it after a short rest. These young Dakwallas were surprised to see an Englishman on the path but cheerfully consented to pilot me ‘ Follow the torch lights’ . I was handed over to the guidance of another torch bearer , and so traveled till past midnight .
It was at times very weird to see the shadows of  the hills outlined against the starry sky , and the fantastic shapes of  many of the old trees . One could hear the splash of a water fall , a distant hoot of an owl, or dogs in some far off village. At a camping ground , i found many traveler resting , and was glad to get some little   grass  for my pony, whose reins i looped to my ankle , and then flung myself down on the bare ground with my saddle bags as my pillow , and was soon fast asleep.’

I would like to conclude this mini post  on ' Jammu of 1905  ' with Firaq Gorakhpuri's poetry selected from his collection 'Gul e Nagma'.

Ishq thhaa ek din daastaan dastaan..
Aaj kyon hai vohee be zubaan be zubaan..
Aaj sangam saraasar juve ishq hai,
Ek daryaa e gham be karaan be karaan..
Doondtay doondtay doond leingay tujhe ,
Go nishaan hai tera be nishaan be Nishaan..
Mere daar Ul amaan aey Hareem e nigaar,
Hum phirein kya Yuun hi be amaan be amaan..

( Avtar Mota )

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