Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 12,
Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 12,240 240
(Felis uncia), and occasionally the wild dog (Cyon rutilans). The red
bear ( Ursus isabellinus), the snow-cock (Tetraogallus hinzalayanus), and
the grey partridge are common; and many of the migratory birds of
India-wild geese, duck, and quail-pass up and down in the autumn
and spring. Below the forest on the lower and more barren hills, nume-
rous flocks of wild sheep (Ovis vzgnei and O. nahura) are met with.
The climate is healthy and dry. At Gilgit itself it is never very cold
and snow seldom lies for more than a few hours. In the summer
it is hot owing to the radiation from the rocky mountains, but it
is cool compared with the climate of Northern India. The rainfall is
The remains of ancient stone buildings and Buddhist carvings
suggest that Gilgit was once the seat of a Hindu kingdom, or a
Buddhist dynasty, while traces of abandoned cultivation point to the
fact that the population in early times was far larger than it is at
present. For many centuries the inhabitants of Gilgit have been
Muhammadans, and nothing definite is now known of their Hindu
predecessors. Tradition relates that the last of the Hindu Ras, Sri
Badat, known as Adam-Khor, the `man-eater,' was killed by a Muham-
madan adventurer, who founded a new dynasty known as Trakhane.
Sri Badat's rule is said to have extended to Chitral, and the intro-
duction of Islam seems to have split up the kingdom into a number
of small states carrying on a fratricidal warfare and incessant slave-
raiding. The Trakhane dynasty is now extinct, though it is claimed
that the present titular Rd of Gilgit has a slight stain of Trakhane
blood. In the early part of the nineteenth century we find Yasin
giving a Rd to Gilgit. He was killed by the ruler of Punial, who in
turn was killed by Tair Shah, chief of Nagar. Tair Shah was succeeded
by his son, who was killed by Gauhar Aman, ruler of Yasin. For the
subsequent history of Gilgit see KASHMIR. The history of Astor, or,
as the Dogras call it, Hasora, is intimately connected with that of
Skardu. More than 300 years ago Ghazi Mukhpun, a Persian adven-
turer, is said to have married a princess of the Skardu reigning family.
The four sons born of this union became Ras of Skardu, Astor, Rondu,
and Kharmang respectively, and from them are descended the families
of the present chiefs of those places. The independence of Astor
ceased at the Dogra conquest. The present titular Rd of Astor is the
lineal descendant of Ghazi Mukhpun. The Dogra rule has secured
peace to the country, but it will be long before the country recovers
entirely from the desolating slave-raids of Childs.
The wazdrat contains 264 villages, with a population, according to
the Census of r90r, of 6o,885. The pressure on the cultivated area is
great, the density being 1,295 per square mile. The people of Astor
and Gilgit would be surprised if they were told that they were Dards
living in Dardistan, and their neighbours of Hunza-Nagar and Yasin
would be equally astonished. If consulted, they would probably
describe their country as Shinaka, or the land of the Shins, where
Shina is the spoken language. They are an Aryan people, stoutly
built, cheery, honest, frugal, and sober. They are devoted to polo,
and are fond of dancing. The inhabitants of Astor wear a peculiar
head-dress, a bag of woollen cloth, half a yard long, which is rolled
up outwards at the edges until it gets to the size to fit comfortably
to the head, round which the roll makes a protection from cold or from
sun nearly as good as a turban. Their houses are small, with very
small doors, and are usually built out from the mountain-side. Warmth
is the one consideration. The Astoris have some very peculiar
customs. Drew notices that they hold the cow in abhorrence. They
will not drink cow's milk, nor will they burn cow-dung, the universal
fuel of the East, and in a pure Shin village no one will eat fowls or
touch them. They practise inoculation for small-pox, their one
epidemic. The people of Astor``are Musalmans, two-thirds being of
the Sunni persuasion, and the rest being either Shiahs or Maulais.
There is no religious intolerance among them.
Drew mentions the following caste divisions: Ronu, Shins, Yashkun,
hremins, and Dums. As regards the Ronu caste, he says that there
are a small number of families in Gilgit. Biddulph, in his Tribes
of the Hindu Poosh, says that it forms 6 per cent. of the Gilgit popula-
tion, and that it is the most honoured caste of all, ranking next to
Mukhpuns or the Raja caste of Dardistan.
The majority of the Astoris belong to the Yashkun caste, and the
Shins are few in number, under 3,ooo. They are more numerous in
Gilgit, the total number of Shins being, according to the last Census,
7,733. The Shins are regarded with great respect by the Yashkuns
and the other castes. The Yashkuns claim the Shins as their fore-
fathers. The Shins give their daughters to Ronus and to Saiyids,
but take wives from the Yashkuns. Far away in Central Ladakh in the Hann valley live other Dards
of the Buddhist religion. They have retained the Aryan type of the
country whence they came, and its Shina dialect, but they wear the
pigtail and the Ladakhi cap. It is said that, though Buddhist by name,
they really worship local spirits and demons. They practise polyandry,
but they will not eat with Tibetan Buddhists, and, like the Shins in
Dardistan, they hold the cow in abhorrence.
In Gilgit, as in Astor, there are few social subdivisions, for the
people are forced to depend on themselves for most wants of life. The
language spoken is Shina, though only a small percentage of the
population is Shin. The religion is Muhammadan, Shiahs prepon-
derating. There is an entire absence of fanaticism. The national
character is mild, and the men are unwarlike. The Gilgiti is attached to his home and his family, and is an industrious cultivator. Both men and women are strongly built, of a fairer complexion than the people of India. The women paint their faces with a kind of thin paste, to keep the skin soft and to prevent sun-burn. They are fond of flowers, and decorate their caps with irises and roses. The cultivation is of a high character. The fields are carefully tilled, heavily manured, and amply irrigated. In Gilgit itself good rice is grown, and crops of wheat, barley, maize, millet, buckwheat, pulses, rape-seed, and cotton are raised, while fruit is plentiful. There is very little grazing land, and cattle are scarce. Lucerne grass is largely cultivated for fodder.
In the cold dry climate of Astor cultivation is carried on up to an elevation of 9,ooo feet. It depends entirely on irrigation by little channels known as kul. The chief crops are wheat, barley, peas, maize, millet, and buckwheat. The people pay great attention to fodder and cultivate lucerne grass. Cultivation is precarious in Astor, as the crops frequently do not ripen owing to the cold, and there are several vegetable pests in the shape of worms.
Many of the streams are rich in gold, especially those which flow from Hunza and Nagar and from the Indus above Chilas. Gold-washing is carried on in the winter chiefly by the poorer members of the population, though the work is often remunerative. At Chilas entire families live by the work. The gold is of fair quality, the best being twenty carats. The Bagrot valley is celebrated for gold-washing, and contains many signs of mineral wealth.
The only manufacture is the weaving of woollen cloth (pallu), but this is for home use, and not for sale. Trade does not flourish. The local wants are few, and the only chance of Gilgit becoming an impor- tant commercial centre lies in the opening of a trade route to Yarkand. The chief staple of trade is salt. Russian chintz is brought down from Yarkand, and is said to be more durable than the English article. The most important roads are those leading to India. The ten-foot road over the Burzil and Raj Diangan passes is described in the article on KASHMIR. By that route Gilgit lies at a distance Of 390 miles from the present railway base at Rawalpindi. An alternative line has been opened over the Babusar pass, which brings Gilgit within 250 miles of the railway at Hasan Abdal. This line, besides being shorter, has the advantage of only crossing one snow pass, instead of two, or practically three, if the winter snow at Murree is taken into con- sideration. The routes to the north are mere tracks when the military roads connecting Gilgit with the outposts at Gupis and Hunza have been passed.
There is a daily postal service with India by the Burzil pass and
Kashmir, and the telegraph line follows the same route. Both services work well in spite of heavy snow and destructive avalanches, and are maintained by the Government of India. There is a weekly postal service from Gilgit to Chilas and Gupis, and a fortnightly post be- tween Gilgit and Kashghar, via the Kilik pass in the summer, and the Mintaka in the winter.
The Gilgit wazdrat is in charge of a Wazir Wazarat. Crime is slight; there is no jail and no police organization. Police duties are carried .out by the levies and a few soldiers of the Kashmir regular troops. There is little litigation, and the chief preoccupation of the Wazir is the question of supplies to the garrison at Gilgit, provided by an excellent system of transport from Kashmir. In 1891-2, at the time of the Hunza-Nagar expedition, the garrison had a force of 2,451 ; in 1895, when the Chitral disturbances broke out, it consisted of 3,373 troops; and the present garrison numbers 1,887, including a mountain battery and two infantry regiments, and sappers and miners. A school is maintained at Gilgit.
A land revenue settlement of Astor and Gilgit has been made. It was impossible to introduce a purely cash assessment owing to the State's requirements in grain, but many inequalities and abuses were removed, and, on the whole, the condition of the villagers is satis- factory.
A British Political Agent resides at Gilgit. He exercises some degree of supervision over the Wazir of the Kashmir State, and is directly responsible to the Government of India for the administration of the outlying districts or petty States of Hunza, Nagar, Ashkuman, Yasin, and Ghizar, the little republic of Chilas, and also for relations with Tangir and Darel, over which valleys the Punial Ras and the Mehtarjaos of Yasin have partially acknowledged claims. These States acknowledge the suzerainty of Kashmir, but form no part of its terri tory. They pay an annual tribute to the Darbar : Hunza and Nagar in gold ; Chilas in cash (RS. 2,628) ; Askuman, Yasin, and Ghizar in grain, goats, and ahi. The relations of the Political Agent with the outlying States are eminently satisfactory. No undue interference takes place in the administrations, and the people are encouraged to maintain their customs and traditions intact. Besides the military garrison, furnished by the Kashmir State, there is a small but extremely efficient force of local levies armed with Snider carbines. They are drawn from Hunza, Nagar, Punial, Sai, and Chilas.