Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kashmir by Pierre du Jarric, 1597

 "The kingdom of Caximir is one of the pleasantest and most beautiful countries to be found in the whole of India, we may even say in the East. It is completely surrounded by very high mountains which for the greater part of the year are covered with snow, and all the rest of the kingdom is a beautiful plain clothed in verdure, and well watered by springs and rivers: a very pleasant land for those who dwell therein. Owing to the mountains, the climate of the country is somewhat cold, though it is more temperate than that of the kingdom of Rebat, which joins Caximir on the east. In the month of May, great numbers of wild-duck come from the mountains of Rebat and settle in huge flocks on the streams which flow near to the town of Caximir, the capital of the kingdom, because of the warmer climate. About three leagues from town there is a lake of sweet water which, though not more than two leagues in circuit and half a league broad, is so deep that large vessels can float upon it. In the middle there is an artificial island on which the king has a palace, where he refreshes himself when he goes to shoot the duck which abound on this lake. On the banks of a river, the waters of which flow through the lake, there is a species of very large tree, the trunk and leaves of which resemble those of the chestnut, though it is quite a different tree. The wood is very dry, and has a grain like rippling water; it is much used for making small caskets and similar articles. the country abounds in wheat, rice and other food grains. They plant vines at the roots of the mulberry trees, so that grapes and mulberries are seen hanging from the same branches. People say that this kingdom was one of the most formidable in these parts, and that the Great Mogor[L] would never have been able to subdue it but for the factions which existed amongst the inhabitants. Knowing that it was a kingdom divided against itself, he invaded it with a large army, and easily made himsef master of it. Formerly all the people of this country were Gentiles; but about three hundred years ago they joined the sect of Mahomet, and the majority of them are now Saracens."

Pierre du Jarric.  (Akbar and the Jesuits, Page 75).

Pierre du Jarric, a 16th-17th centuries French priest of the Jesuit order and a professor of philosophy and theology at Bordeaux, travelled to Kashmir in 1596- 1597 as part of Mughal encampment and was first to introduce the western world to Kashmir when his travel letters were published in Antwerp in 1605. 

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I looked for this description for a long time and finally found it in a footnote to Kalahana's Rajatarangini by Ranjit Pandit. Interestingly the above passage also alludes to the Chinar trees of Kashmir.

Image: Found it in 'Letters from India and Kashmir' by J. Duguid, 1870. [The illustration is by MR. H. R. ROBERTSON, and engraved by MR. W. J. PALM KB, principally from the writer's Sketches.]

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