Page images

friends were all seated upon spikes--in fact, they were impaled ; so we may see it was not without good reason that Jehángír occasionally sought for secluded places of retirement. But these characteristics, taken alone, give an unfair idea of this great ruler. Though he never entirely shook off the dipsomaniac habits which he had formed at an early age, yet it may have been an acute sense of the inconvenience of them which made him so anxious to prevent any of his subjects from falling into the snare; he hints an opinion that though his own head might stand liquor without much damage, it by no means followed that other people's heads could do so; and the severe punishment of the adherents of a rebellious son was, in his time, almost necessary to secure the throne.

Jehángir did, in fact, love mercy as well as do justice, and was far from being a bad ruler. He was wont to say that he would rather lose all the rest of his empire than Kashmír; and it is likely that in this and similar gardens he enjoyed the most pleasure which his life afforded. His companion there was Mihrunnisa Khanam, better known as Núr Jahán, “the Light of the World.” + When a young prince he had seen and loved her, but they were separated by circumstances ; and it was not until after the death of her husband, Sher Afkan, and he had overcome her dread of marrying one whom she supposed to have been her husband's murderer, that Mihrunnisá became Jehángír's wife, and received the name of the Light of the World. A great

* Voyages de François Bernier, contenant la Description des Etats du Grand Mogol. Amsterdam, 1699.

+ She was also, for a time, called Nur Mahall, the Light of the Palace ; and under this name must be distinguished from the queen of Jehángir's son Shah Jabán, to whom was raised the wonderful Taj Mahal at Agra.


improvement in the emperor's government resulted from this union. The story is a curious illustration of the abiding power of love, and it goes far to redeem the character of this dissipated emperor, who would allow nobody to get drunk except himself. I daresay, if the truth were known, the Light of the World must have had a sad time of it with her amorous lord; but she was at least devoted to him, and seriously risked her life for him when the audacious Mahabat Khan unexpectedly made him a prisoner. The memory of these faithful lovers seems still to linger about the Nishat Bagh, and to have transferred itself into the imperial splendour of the plane-trees, the grateful shadow of the mountains, and the soft dreamy vista over the placid lake.





It is a pity that so beautiful a country as Kashmir should not have a finer population. At the entrances of the valleys, looking at the forests, the rich uncultivated lands, and the unused water-power, I could not but think of the scenes in England,

“Where lawns extend that scorn Arcadian pride,

And brighter streams than famed Hydaspes glide.” My mind reverted also to the flashing snows of the American Sierra Nevada, the dwarf oaks and rich fields of wheat, the chubby children, the comely, well-dressed women, and the strong stalwart men of California, For, though the châlets were picturesque enough at a little distance, they could not bear a close examination ; and there was not much satisfaction to be had in contemplating the half-starved, half-naked children, and the thin, worn-out-looking women. One could not help thinking of the comfortable homes which an AngloSaxon population would rear in such a land. It may

[ocr errors]

be seen from my map, what an enormous extent of territory is under the sway of the Maharaja of Kashmir; and though much of it is mountainous and sterile, a great part which might be fertile is lying waste.

Many hundred years ago the Chinese traveller FaHian spoke of the people of Kashmir as being of a peculiarly bad character. Ranjít Singh said to Sir Alexander Burnes, “ All the people I send into Kashmír turn out rascals (haramzada); there is too much pleasure and enjoyment in that country.” Moorcroft described them as “selfish, superstitious, ignorant, supple, intriguing, dishonest, and false.” A more recent traveller, Dr A. L. Adams the naturalist, says of them, “Everywhere in Cashmere you see the inhabitants indolent to a degree, filthy in their habits, mean, cowardly, shabby, irresolute, and indifferent to all ideas of reform or progress.” Their name has become a by-word throughout a great part of Asia. Even where there are so many deceitful nations they have obtained a bad pre-eminence. According to a wellknown Persian saying, “ you will never experience anything but sorrow and anxiety from the Kashmirí.” When these people got this bad name is lost in antiquity, and so is the period when they first passed into the unfortunate circumstances which have demoralised them. They are, however, not unattractive, being an intellectual people, and characterised by great ingenuity and sprightliness.

I cannot deny the truth of the accusations brought against them, yet I could not but pity them, and sympathise with them. I think also that they have the elements of what, in more fortunate circumstances, might be a very fine character; but dwelling in a fer

tile and beautiful valley, surrounded by hardy and warlike tribes, they have for ages been subject to that oppression which destroys national hope and virtue. Their population has hardly been large enough to afford effectual resistance to the opposing forces, though, unless there had been a large element of weakness in their character, they might surely have held their passes ; and, at the same time, they were too many in numbers to retire, for a time, before invaders, from their fertile lands into their mountain fastnesses. As it is, they are abominably used and they use each other abominably. It seemed to me that every common soldier of the Maharaja of Kashmir felt himself entitled to beat and plunder the country people; but I noticed that my boatmen tried to do the same when they thought they were unobserved by me. The Maharaja himself holds an open court on one day every week, at which the meanest peasant is nominally free to make his complaint, even if it be against the highest officials; but I was told, by very good authority, that this source of redress was practically inoperative, not because the Maharaja was unwilling to do justice, but because there was such a system of terrorism that the common people dared not come forward to complain. Great improvements have already been made under the present ruler of Kashmir; but he is one man among many, and when a corrupt and oppressive officialdom has existed in a country for ages, it cannot be rooted out in one reign.

The beauty of the Kashmír women has long been famous in the East, but if you want beautiful Kashmírí do not go to Kashmir to look for them. They have all fine eyes, and “the eyes of Kashmír” have

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »