Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sven Hedin in Kashmir

Sven Hedin in Tibetean dress
Sven Hedin in Tibetean dress

From Pole to Pole:
A book for young people
By
Sven Hedin
Sven Anders Hedin (February 19, 1865 - November 26, 1952) was a Swedish explorer, geographer and geopolitician. His achievements include the production of the first detailed maps of vast parts of Pamir, the Taklamakan Desert, Tibet, the ancient Silk Road, and the Himalayas. He seems to have been the first discoverer to realise that the Himalayas are a single mountain range. The book From Pole to Pole has Seven’s account of his travels all around the world.
This extract from the book is about his visit to Kashmir and Ladak in around 1906


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Kashmir and Ladak

When I arrived at Rawalpindi the first thing I did was to order a tonga for the drive of 180 miles to Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. A tonga is a two-wheeled tilted cart drawn by two horses, which are changed every half hour, for as long as the pair are on the way they go at full speed. The road was excellent, and we left the hot suffocating steam of India below us as we ascended along the bank of the Jhelum River. Sometimes we dashed at headlong speed over stretches of open road bathed in sunlight; sometimes through dark cool tunnels where the driver blew a sonorous signal with his brass horn; and then again through rustling woods of pine-trees.
Old Photograph of bridge on Jehlum river, Srinagar, Kashmir

PLATE VIII. SRINAGAR AND THE JHELUM RIVER.

Srinagar is a beautiful city, intersected as it is by the rippling Jhelum River and winding canals (Plate VIII.). The houses on their banks rise up directly from the water, and long, narrow, graceful boats pass to and fro, propelled at a swift pace by broad-bladed oars in the hands of active and muscular white-clad Kashmiris.
Kashmir is one of the native states of our Indian Empire, and its inhabitants number about three millions. Many of them are artistic and dexterous craftsmen, who make fine boxes and caskets inlaid with ivory, mother-of-pearl, and ebony; beautifully chased weapons; tankards, bowls, and vases of beaten silver with panthers and elephants on the sides, chasing one another through the jungle. The saddlery and leather work of all kinds cannot be surpassed, but most famous of all the manufactures are the soft, dainty Kashmir shawls, so fine that they can be drawn through a finger ring.
Round about the Kashmir valley stand the ridges and snow-clad heights of the Himalayas, and among them lie innumerable valleys. Up one of these valleys toiled our caravan of thirty-six mules and a hundred horses, and after a journey of some 250 miles to the eastward we arrived again[Pg 88] at the banks of the Indus and crossed it by a swaying bridge of wood. Two days later the poplars of Leh stood in front of us.
This little town is nearly 11,500 feet above sea-level. It contains an open bazaar street, and a mound above the town is crowned by the old royal castle. Leh, as well as the whole of the district of Ladak, is subject to the Maharaja of Kashmir, but the people are mostly of Tibetan race and their religion is Lamaism.[Pg 89]


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