Saturday, March 28, 2009

View of the Valley and An Atmospherical Phenomena


Image: View of the Kashmir valley on way to Qazigund.
June 2008.

Qazigund of Anantnag district, is the first major a town and a major road stop on way to Kashmir. Hence, it is often called the "Gateway to Kashmir".

Karl Alexander A. Hügel (April 23, 1795 – June 2, 1870) born in Bavaria, Germany, was an Austrian army officer, a diplomat and a botanist. After experiencing rejection in love, he decided to roam around the world and became a explorer. He set out in 1831 and by the end of his journeys in 1836, he had visited lands as far and distant as Australasia, Far East, near East and much of Indian sun-continent including Punjab and Kashmir.

In late 1835, after visiting the plains of Punjab, Hugel traveled to Kashmir valley, entering it using the Muzaffarabad route - the then preferred route for Kashmir.

The account of his travel to Kashmir and Punjab can be found in 'Travels in Kashmir And The Panjab By Karl Alexander A. Hügel', Translated from German (Kaschmir und das Reich der Siek (Cashmere and the Realm of the Sikh), published 1841) by Thomas Best Jervis, published 1845.

On Tuesday, November 24th of year 1835, Karl Alexander A. Hügel was traveling in the area that is now known as Anantnag district and was on his way to a place that had already been renamed, only a couple of centuries ago in  seventeenth century by Aurangzeb, as Islamabad. With a small entourage of servants and guides, Hügel, riding on a horseback, arrived at the ancient town of  Bijbehara, a place whose ancient Sanskrit name, he thought, must have been 'Vidya Wihara', Temple of Wisdom. He rode across the ancient bridge built on the river Jehlum and noticed how "Large lime-trees overgrow the piers of this ancient bridge." At Bijbehara, he found no ancient great ruins, no signs of this place being an old capital of a Kingdom. Instead, he had to content himself by buying some old coins "of a date prior to the Mohammedan dynasties" from the local bazaar and thought "bazars are the chief attraction in every place throughout India." About half a mile up ahead from "Bijbahar", on the either side of the Jehlum river, Hügel noticed the 'Badsha Bagh' or the 'Garden of High King' - the ancient gardens built by Dara Shikoh, according to Hügel it was the "the residence of the luckless Dara, the brother of Aurungzib." and was told that in ancient times a bridge used to connect the two spacious gardens of both sides. From here he decided to proceed for Mattan and have a close look at Korau Pandau. But, it took him so much time trying to find a guide for this place that by the time he reached the ancient "caves", running late, he thought it best to leave immediately for Islamabad. Had he stayed longer at Mattan, maybe his guide would have mentioned that Kashmiris know these ancient structures as Pandav Lar'rey - Abode of Pandav and believed to have been built in around mid 8th century by King Lalitaditya (A.D. 693 to 729).

During this journey in Anantnag district, Hügel took note of an interesting atmospheric phenomena and made a very curious comment. He wrote:
I observed with much interest to day the optical illusions, at this season almost peculiar to Kashmir. There is so little transparency in the air, that places at a mile's distance only, appear to be removed to four times that distance, and mountains only four miles off seem to be at least fifteen or twenty. If the weather be tolerably clear, one can see to this last distance, but the twenty miles appear twice as much. To these peculiarities of the atmosphere, I attribute the exaggerated terms in which many travellers speak of the extent of this country. It was dark when we reached our halting place but every thing was in the best order and a supper of trout from the sacred tank of Anatnagh was a great relish after the day's journey.

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