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Title: Travels Into Bokhara (Volume 2 of 3)

Author: Sir Alexander Burnes

Release date: January 9, 2021 [eBook #64247]

Language: English

Credits: Henry Flower and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)



&c. &c.



Printed by A. Spottiswoode,





----“Per syrtes iter æstuosas,
... per inhospitalem
Caucasum, vel quæ loca fabulosus
Lambit Hydaspes.”






Journey to the Oxus.—Sand Hills.—Freezing of the Oxus.—Meanness of native Traders.—The Oxus.—Oxus of Alexander’s Historians.—Charjooee: its Bazar.—The Desert.—Slaves.—The Caravan.—Well of Balghooee.—Dangers of the Desert.—Seerab.—Camel’s Milk—An eastern Caravan.—Oochghooee and wandering Toorkmuns.—Ruins of Castles.—Moorghab.—Remarks on the Desert.—A Toorkmun Camp.—Orgunje Officers.—Precarious Situation 1-34
River of Merve.—Amusements.—Knights and Heroines of Merve.—Alarm.—Toorkmuns: their Laws of Plunder.—Training of the Horses.—Reflections.—Meeting[vi] of the Caravan.—Claims against us.—Continuation of the Desert.—Whirlwinds.—The High Lands of Persia.—Mirage.—Plants of the Desert.—Allamans.—Unsuccessful Party.—Arrival at Shurukhs.—Detention.—Alarms.—Dissipation of them.—Toorkmun Customs.—Fortitude of a Slave.—Toorkmun Song.—Toorkmun House.—Mode of Feasting.—Success of the Allamans.—Inconveniences.—Mad Camel.—Departure from Shurukhs.—Increased Caravan.—Entrance into Persia.—Moozderan or Durbund.—Approach to Meshid.—Tarantulla.—Adventure.—Ghoozkan Slaves.—Troubled Country 35-75
Arrival in Meshid.—Interview with Khoosrou Meerza.—Meshid described.—Shrine of Imam Ruza.—Grave of Nadir Shah.—Illumination.—Departure from Meshid.—Koochan.—Camp of the Prince.—European Officers.—Abbas Meerza.—Interview.—Acquaintances.—-Future Plans.—Separation from Dr. Gerard 76-99
Departure from Koochan.—Atruck River.—Boojnoord.—Toorkmun Discipline.—Travelling in Khorasan.—Tribe of Gireilee.—Toorkmun Acquaintance.—Running down Partridges.—Toorkmun Bard.—Goklan Toorkmuns.—Their Customs.—-Toorkmuns of the Caspian.—Toorkmun Patriarch.—Noble[vii] Scenery.—Toorkmun national Songs.—Quit the Country of the Toorkmuns.—Arrival at Astrabad.—Plague.—Arrival on the Caspian.—Adventures.—Gardens of Ushruff.—Fortunate Escape.—The Plague.—Quit the Caspian.—Mazenderan.—Peasantry 100-127
Quit Mazenderan.—Pass of Gudook.—Gudook the “Pylæ Caspiæ.”—Feerozkoh.—Cure for the Taste of Quinine.—A Koord.—Vexations of a Traveller.—Arrival at Tehran.—Presentation to the Shah.—Return to India.—Route to the Coast.—Quit Persia.—Conclusion 128-142



Notice regarding the Map of Central Asia 147
Limits and Extent.—Natural and political Divisions.—Physical Geography: Face of the Country.—Climate[viii] and Phenomena.—Rivers.—Mountains.—Mineral Productions.—Vegetable.—Necessaries of Life.—Fruits and Wines.—Domestic Animals.—Wild Animals.—Birds.—Silk Worms.—Diseases: Guinea Worm.—Cities and Towns.—Population of the Kingdom 153-185
Source and Course of the Oxus.—Sea of Aral.—Capabilities of the Oxus.—Depth, Current, and Slope.—Inundation.—Freezing.—Craft on the Oxus.—Mode of navigating them.—Wood of the Oxus.—Political and commercial Advantages of the River 186-199
Sketch of the Countries upon it.—Koondooz.—Budukhshan.—Ruby Mines.—Lapis Lazuli.—Mountain Districts North of Budukhshan.—Their Language.—Pamere.—Singular Animal, the Rass.—Chitral.—Gilgit.—Iskardo.—Their Language.—Kaffirs.—Their Descent from Alexander questioned.—Their Customs 200-213
Traditions regarding them.—Actual Condition of these reputed Descendants.—Examination of their Claims.—Conjectures 214-219[ix]
Interest attached to the Subject.—Received Opinions.—Their Error.—Description of the Shyook, the great Head of the Indus.—The Western Branch.—Country enclosed by both.—Name of Cashgar misapplied.—Errors pointed out 220-226
Chinese Province of Yarkund.—Sketch of its History.—Mode of governing it by the Chinese.—Singular Mode of communicating with Pekin.—Inhabitants.—Kalmuks, curious Customs.—Anecdote of the Chinese Police.—Country between Yarkund and Tibet.—Communications with Bokhara.—Notice of Kokan 227-237
Range so called.—Height.—General Features.—Productions.—Formation of the Rocks.—True Mountain of Hindoo Koosh 238-248
Toorkmania: Country so called.—Nature of it and the Toorkmuns.—Origin of the Toorkmuns.—Tribes.—Language.—Account[x] of Merve.—General Characteristics of the People of Toorkmania 249-261
Invasions of the Tatars sketched.—Sources from whence they sprung, investigated.—Exaggerated Numbers.—Probabilities of Success in modern Times.—Only two great tribes, Toorks and Mundshoors.—Appearance of Tatars.—Physiognomy.—Chaghtye and Uzbeks.—Kalmuks.—Kuzzaks and Kirgizzes.—Citizens of Toorkistan.—Tatar and Magi Religion.—Concluding Observations 262-270
Toorkmun Horse.—Tradition of its Lineage.—Mode of Feeding.—Varieties of the Toorkmun Horse.—Extent of the Trade.—Great Characteristics of this noble Animal 271-277




Limits of Runjeet Sing’s Power.—Its Rise.—State of the Government.—Its Decline.—Influence of the Chiefs.—The People.—Military Strength of the Country.—Revenues and Resources.—Foreign Policy.—General Character of the Government.—Its probable Termination 279-298
Introductory Remarks.—Shah Shooja deposed.—Elevation of his Brother Mahmood.—Capture of Cashmere.—League with the Seiks.—Loss of Attok.—Rupture with them.—Battle with the Persians.—Seizure of the Vizier.—His cruel Death.—Fall of Mahmood.—Recall of Shooja.—High-mindedness of his Queen.—Shooja’s Escape.—Elevation of his Brother Eyoob.—Loss of Cashmere.—Great Progress of the Seiks.—Total Dismemberment of the Cabool Monarchy 299-318
Extent of it.—Military and political Strength.—Political Relations.—Its Chief: his Government.—Productions.—Feasible[xii] Improvements.—Its Minerals.—Coal, &c.—Great Value of the Article 319-328
Its Boundaries.—Character of Dost Mahommed Khan.—His Relations.—Cabool: its Supplies 329-336
Chiefs of Candahar and Herat.—Their Government 337-340
Remarks on the Overthrow of the Dynasty.—Improbabilities of its Restoration.—Relative Power of Cabool and Persia 341-345
Extent of the Chiefship.—History of its Chief, Moorad Beg: his Policy and Power.—Revenues and Administration.—His Character 346-354[xiii]
Early History.—From the Age of Jengis Khan to that of the Uzbeks.—Reign of Nadir Shah.—King Hyder and the present Ruler 355-361
Importance of the Kingdom.—Power and Character of the King,—Koosh Begee, or Vizier.—Supremacy of the Church.—Administration.—Police.—Revenues.—Military Force and Spirit of the Uzbeks.—Detail of the Troops.—Foreign Policy of Bokhara: with China—Cabool—Persia—Turkey.—Connexion with Russia 362-381
Limits.—Khiva: its Rise—Power and military Strength.—Predatory Habits of the Khivans.—Affairs of Khiva and Russia 382-388
Power of Persia over these Tribes.—Koord and other Chiefs.—Weakness of the Persian Frontier 389-393




Favourable Position of the Punjab for Trade.—Extent and Variety of its Productions—Shawls of Cashmere.—Extent of the Manufacture.—Silks.—Cottons.—Minerals.—Vegetables.—Advantages of opening the Indus to the Punjab Trade.—Effects of it on the Towns of the Indus.—Articles brought into Demand by it.—Cotton.—Chintses.—Jewellery, Cutlery, &c.—Depôt for a Water Commerce.—Political Condition of the Country 395-412
Routes from India on Cabool.—Carriers of the Trade.—Imports.—Disposition of the Cabool Chiefs towards their Extension.—Remarks 413-421
Progress of Commerce between Europe and Asia.—Success of the Russians.—British Indian Trade.—Alteration of the Routes of Commerce.—Negotiations[xv] of Russia.—Exports from India and Russia to Bokhara.—Prices of Merchandize.—Chintses.—White Goods.—Broad Cloth.—Velvets.—Nankeens. Cochineal.—Indian Goods.—Muslins.—Shawls.—Indigo.—Sugar.—Trade with China.—Exports of Bokhara.—Silk.—Cotton.—Wool.—Skins.—Duties on Trade.—Abuses in the British Custom House.—General Review.—Russian and British Trade compared.—Opening for British Exports 422-444
State of Commerce in Persia.—Routes, and their relative Advantages.—Description of Goods.—Hints for improving the Trade.—Singular Instance of commercial Enterprise related 445-454
Observations on Lieutenant Burnes’s Collection of Bactrian and other Coins, by Mr. H. H. Wilson, Sanscrit Professor at Oxford; and Mr. James Prinsep, F.R.S., Secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 457




Journey to the Oxus.

At midday, on the 16th of August, we commenced our march on the Oxus, which was about twenty-seven miles distant. After journeying for ten miles, we halted in the evening at a small village, and set out at midnight for the river, under a bright moon. Sand hills. For a great part of the night our route led us among vast fields of soft sand, formed into ridges which exactly resembled, in colour and appearance, those on the verge of the ocean. The belt of these sand-hills, which lie between Bokhara and the Oxus, varies in breadth from twelve to fifteen miles. They were utterly destitute of vegetation. There was a remarkable uniformity in their formation; the whole of them preserved the shape and form of a horse-shoe, the outer rim presenting itself to the north, the direction from which the winds of this country blow. On this side the mounds sloped,[2] while the interior of the figure was invariably precipitous; but loose sand will ever take its position from the prevailing winds. None of the hills exceeded the height of fifteen or twenty feet, and they all rested on a hard base. The wind was high, and the particles of sand moved from one mound to another, wheeling in the eddy or interior of the semicircle, and having now and then, particularly under the rays of the sun, much the look of water; an appearance, I imagine, which has given rise to the opinion of moving sands in a desert. The thermometer, which had risen to 100°, fell at night to 70° among the sand-hills; and I have always observed that the vicissitudes of cold and heat are greatest among sand. About an hour after the sun had risen, we exchanged this dreary route for verdant fields, irrigated by the Oxus; and, after winding among them for about four miles, encamped on the verge of the river, where we hid ourselves from the sun’s rays under the panniers of our camels.

Freezing of the Oxus.

We had come down upon the Oxus at Betik, which is opposite to Charjooee, and one of the greatest ferries between Persia and Toorkistan. There was, therefore, every facility for crossing, and the beasts and baggage were thrown into boats, and soon transported to the opposite bank. The farmer of the customs killed his sheep, and[3] invited most of the merchants to partake of his fare. He enquired very particularly regarding us, and requested a sight of our passport. He then waited on us in person with a couple of melons and some cakes, which we sat down and enjoyed along with him and his party on the banks of the river, and, I believe, mutually amused each other. This individual mentioned, in the course of conversation, that the Oxus had been last year frozen over from shore to shore, and that the caravans passed it on the ice. This is rather an unfrequent occurrence, and gave rise to a grave point of discussion and decision for the Mahommedan doctors. The farmer had agreed to pay 100 tillas a month, as the rent of his ferry; but since the river was passable on the ice, his boats were useless, and he lost by the farm. He proceeded to Bokhara, and urged his case to the king, requesting at the same time his royal sanction to levy a tax on the travellers. “That is impossible,” said his majesty and his advisers, “unless the farmer consents to become answerable for the blood-money of any person who may fall through the ice and perish.” The learned reply of the king is applauded for its wisdom, and met with the approbation of every person but the farmer himself, who had to pay the full amount of his contract. I will observe, first,[4] that, as the contractor is not answerable for the lives of passengers in his boat, he could not be answerable for them on the ice. Secondly, that, since he contracted with the king for the twelve months, he should either have been relieved from payment during the time of the freezing of the river, or, at all events, allowed to levy a toll on the passengers. The law, however, is fruitful of interpretation in every country; and the King of Bokhara, while he protected his treasury from loss, had likewise the credit of appearing solicitous about the lives of the faithful.

Meanness of native traders.

As we were preparing to embark, I had an example of the meanness of native traders, of which I have had before and since many concurring proofs. Our boat had no horses to drag it across, and it was proposed that we should hire them; to which I gave a ready assent, saying, that we should be happy to contribute our share of the expense. The reply was unsatisfactory, since they wished we should bear it all; but this was peremptorily refused, and we embarked without the horses, though the share of each person would not have amounted to a quarter of a rupee, and one of the merchants possessed goods that were valued at 3000 tillas. From terror, they were not so sparing of the name of the Deity, while on the water, as, on[5] land, they had been of their money; but these invocations cost them nothing, and the horses would have reduced their profits. The merchants of this country have none of the liberal notions of the same class of people in Europe; and I am disposed to attribute it to their superintending in person the sale of their goods, and witnessing every outlay which is incurred on their account. We crossed the Oxus in safety, without horses; and I did not regret the opportunity that had presented itself; to show our fellow-voyagers that we were as poor in our purses as in our dress and condition. One individual, a Persian, actually sickened at the thought of crossing the Jihoon without horses, and transferred himself to another boat with oars, where he gave the sailors the bribe of a rupee to row him speedily across. He arrived, with a pale face, to receive our congratulations on his bravery; but this individual turned out, in the end, one of our best friends.

The Oxus.

We found the stream of the Oxus with a breadth of 650 yards, and in some places 25 and 29 feet deep; so that it was both narrower and deeper than at the point at which we had before crossed it. Its banks were much depressed, and completely overgrown with a rank weed, which chokes the aqueducts. Some fish of an enormous size, weighing from five to six hundred pounds,[6] are procured in this river, a kind of dog-fish, which are used as food by the Uzbeks. Across the Oxus, we found ourselves about six miles distant from the town of Charjooee, which was in sight. For the first time, this noble river was turned to the purposes of navigation, since there is a commercial communication kept up, by means of it, between that place and Orgunje.

Oxus of Alexander’s historians.

The Oxus is particularly mentioned under that name by the historians of Alexander, though it appears to have been ever unknown by such a title to the Asiatics, who call it Jihoon and Amoo. We learn from the ancient authors, that Alexander approached this river from Bactra, or Balkh, by a country “which exhaled the power of a summer sun, and torrefied the sands.” The distance between Bactra and the river is even correctly stated at 400 stadia, and we have no fables regarding the breadth of the river. Arrian, who follows Aristobulus, tells us that the Oxus was six furlongs broad, and in that part of its course we have described it with a magnitude of 828 yards. The very topography of the river’s bank may, I almost think, be traced in Curtius; for there are low and peaked hillocks near that pass of the Oxus; and we are told that Alexander caused fires to be lit on the high ground, “that the distressed[7] in the rear might perceive they were not far from camp.” There are no hillocks below Kilef. Curtius tells us that the Oxus was a muddy river, that bore much slime along with it; and I found that one fortieth of the stream is clay suspended in the water. What an approximation to the name of Maricanda in the modern city of Samarcand. It is described as being seventy stadia in circumference; and we have seen that modern Bokhara exceeds eight English miles, or about sixty-four of the Grecian stadia. What an outline have we not of the character of these nations in remote ages. “They exercised robbery, and lived by spoil.” These are the literal words of the historian; and they explain to us the genuine manners of the people, be they Hun, Scythian, Goth, Tatar, Toork, or Toorkmun. Lower down the river, we have the name of the country ruled by Pharsamanes, which is called Chorasmi, and in which the kingdom of Kharasm, subverted by Jengis, is easily recognised. Higher up, we have a description of Parætacæ, which was a mountainous region, as we learn from the mention of fir trees, and the formidable “rock of Chorienes.” This is the hill country of Karatageen, as we discover from the similarity of its name and position. In Zeriaspes, we have, I think, Shuhr Subz; and I could continue to multiply the coincidences,[8] but I doubt if the subject would excite general interest.


In the morning we moved up to Charjooee, which in all our maps is erroneously set down on the northern bank of the Oxus. The place is governed by a Kalmuk, and is pleasantly situated on the verge of culture and desolation, with a pretty fort that crowns a hillock, and overlooks the town. It is said to have resisted the arms of Timour; but its present condition would not impress one with any great notions of its strength, or that conqueror’s power. The people of Charjooee do not exceed 4000 or 5000 souls; but a great portion of its population wander up and down the Oxus during the hot months. We halted here for four days, since it was the last inhabited spot of civilisation between Bokhara and Persia. its bazar. The market day, or bazar, occurred during our stay; and I proceeded along with Ernuzzar, the Toorkmun, to see the assemblage, in which I passed quite unnoticed. I sauntered through the bazar, much more amused with the people than the wares they were selling, which were in every respect poor. There were knives, saddles and bridles, cloth, and horsecloths, of native manufacture: but the only articles of European fabric were a few beads, and chintz scullcaps, which latter were purchased very readily. There were also[9] lanterns, ewers, and copper pots, in considerable number; and the venders of many of these retailed their goods on horseback, and all the purchasers were mounted. No person ever attends the bazar in Toorkistan but on horseback; and on the present occasion there was not a female to be seen, veiled or unveiled. Most of the people were Toorkmuns of the Oxus, dressed in high sheepskin caps, like the natives of Orgunje. There were about 2000 or 3000 people in the bazar; but there was very little bustle and confusion, though there was much both of buying and selling. The custom of having market days is uncommon in India and Cabool, but of universal use in Toorkistan: it perhaps gives a stimulus to trade, and is most convenient; since all the people of the country, for miles round, assemble on the occasion. Every person seems to think it incumbent upon him to be present. The different articles are arranged in separate parts of the bazar, with as much regularity as in Bokhara itself: here you may buy grain, there fruit: here is meat, there is cloth, &c. The streets are so narrow, that the bazar is generally held at one end of the country towns; and such was the case at Charjooee: so that fruit, grain, or any thing which requires to be displayed, is spread out on the ground. The bazar lasts from[10] eleven to four o’clock, which is the hottest time of the day.

The desert.

The wants of all had been supplied during our stay at Charjooee; every one was ready to move, and every skin, pot, and pitcher was filled to the brim, from the canals of the Oxus. At noon on the 22d we commenced our march, and, before we had travelled a distance of two miles, entered upon the great desert which separates the kingdoms of Iran and Tooran. The mode of travelling in Toorkistan is to start at midday, and march till sunset; and, after a couple of hours’ rest and the indispensable cup of tea, to resume the task, and advance to the stage, which is usually reached at daylight. We made the usual evening halt, and then travelled till sunrise, when we reached Karoul, a well of brackish water, thirty feet under ground, and lined with branches of trees, at which we halted, a distance of twenty-two miles from Charjooee. The whole tract presented to our view was a dreary waste of sand-hills, but by no means so destitute of vegetation and underwood as on the northern bank of the Oxus. They, however, occurred in the same succession and formation as have been there described: they were quite soft, but the sand was not dusty, and the camels slid down them with their burthens. Here and there we came upon a[11] sheet of indurated clay, as if the sand-hills here also rested on a base of that kind. In these hollows, and on the brow of the hills, we found a shrub like tamarisk, called “kasura,” also a kind of grass, or bent, called “salun.” There were likewise two thorny shrubs, called “kuzzak” and “karaghan”[1], neither of them the common camel thorn, but on which the camels delighted to browse. There was no water throughout the whole march, and no signs of inhabitants but a ruined fort, that had once served as a look-out from the Oxus. The Indian deserts of Jaysulmeer and Parkur sank into insignificance before this vast ocean of sand. No sight is more imposing than a desert; and the eye rests with a deep interest on the long line of camels, as it winds its crooked course through the frightful waste. The simile of a ship in the ocean and a camel in the desert may be hackneyed, but it is just. The objects animate impart a strong interest to inanimate nature.


In the middle of our march through the desert, we met seven unfortunate Persians, who had been captured by the Toorkmuns, and were now on their road to Bokhara, where they would be sold. Five of them were chained together, and trod their way through the deep[12] sand. There was a general shout of compassion, as the caravan passed these miserable beings; and the sympathy did not fail to affect the poor creatures themselves. They cried, and gave a longing look, as the last camel of the caravan passed to their dear native country. The camel on which I rode happened to be in the rear, and I stayed to hear their tale of woe. They had been seized by the Toorkmuns at Ghaeen, near Meshid, a few weeks before, when the culture of their fields had led them beyond the threshold of their homes. They were weary and thirsty, and I gave them all I could,—a single melon; a civility, little as it was, which was received with gratitude. What a frightful notion must not these unfortunate beings have entertained of the country they were entering, after their travels in such a desert. The Toorkmuns evince but little compassion for their Persian slaves; and what other treatment is to be expected from men who pass their lives in selling human beings. They give them but a scanty supply of food and water, that they may waste their strength, and prevent their escape; but beyond this the Toorkmun inflicts no other ills. The tales which have been circulated of their cutting the sinew of the heel, and of their passing a cord round the collar bone, are at variance with truth, since[13] these blemishes would diminish the value of the slave. These unfortunate captives suffer a much heavier calamity,—they lose their liberty.

The caravan.

As we reached our halting-ground in the morning, we had now an opportunity of observing the number and composition of the caravan. There were upwards of eighty camels, and about 150 persons, several of them men of the first respectability, who accompanied their merchandise to the markets of Persia. Some travelled in panniers placed on camels; others rode, some on horses, many on donkeys; but every person, even the meanest, had some kind of conveyance. The horsemen preceded the camels; and, stretching themselves out on the sand with their bridles in their grasp, stole a few moments’ sleep, till the caravan overtook them. The scene was altogether curious and novel. Among the party there were eight or ten Persians, who had passed many years of slavery in Toorkistan, and, after purchasing their liberty, were now returning by stealth to their homes. These people were delighted with our enquiries; and, in the journey, many of them became attached to us. They would bring melons for us; kill a sheep; draw water; and were always at hand. Some of them had been no less than three times captured, and as often had they redeemed themselves; for the Uzbeks are readily[14] imposed upon and cheated by their slaves, who make money in service. I conversed with several of them; and it was equally painful to hear their past sufferings and present anxiety. Their influential countrymen in the caravan had put several of them in charge of a portion of their merchandise, that they might be the less noticed, and considered rather as traders than emancipated slaves; for a Persian merchant in a caravan is generally safe. In spite of all this arrangement, some hard-hearted wretches had told tales on the banks of the Oxus: one individual had been forced to return to Bokhara; and some of the others had crossed with difficulty. One single hint to the people of Orgunje would, in all probability, yet arrest their further progress; but every one had been well tutored. What must be the feelings of some of these men as they approach Persia. One of them told me that he had had a wife and a numerous family when sold into captivity, twenty-two years before; of whom he had not heard any account since that period. If any of them are alive, the parent will show himself among them as an apparition from the tomb. Another of these unfortunate individuals had a tale which was not less touching. He had been seized along with his family, and, indeed, all the inhabitants of his village, near Toorshish; and delivered up,[15] by one of the Khorasan chiefs, to the Toorkmuns, who drove, on this occasion, upwards of a hundred people to Bokhara. At Maimunu, which is on the road, they were disposed of to other Toorkmuns, and at Bokhara finally sold. There this unfortunate man saw his wife sold to one, his daughter and son to others, and himself to a different person. A humane man, hearing of his misfortunes, released him, since he believed it good in the sight of God; and the poor fellow lurked in Bokhara, like a bird near its nest that is robbed, in hopes of relieving the other members of his family. He had failed, and was now travelling into his own country, to excite the compassion and pity of those who had known him in his prosperity. It would harrow up a man’s heart, to listen to all the tales of the woe which is inflicted upon mankind by these plundering Toorkmuns.

Well of Balghooee.

In marching from Karoul, we quitted the high road of the caravans, which leads to Merve, and proceeded westward into the desert, by a way that is altogether unfrequented. We had no option in the selection of such a route, since the officer who commands the Orgunje army sent a messenger to direct our march upon his camp. We were thus thrown into the jaws of the lion, but were helpless; and the merchants appeared to regret it more than ourselves. After the[16] usual halt, we reached the well of Balghooee twenty-four miles distant, on the morning of the 23d. It was a small and single well, about four feet in diameter, as deep as that at Karoul; and the Toorkmuns only discovered it after a zigzag search of some hours. We soon emptied it (for the water was good), and had to wait a night till it again filled.

The desert.

In this march the desert was overgrown with brushwood, but the tract was entirely destitute of water; and a few rats, lizards, and beetles, with here and there a solitary bird, were its only inhabitants. Some of the sand-hills now attained the height of sixty feet: but at that elevation they are invariably bare of all vegetation; which, I suppose, cannot thrive in such an exposed situation. The highest hills were about a distance of eight miles from the halting-place, and named “sheer i shootr,” or “the camel’s milk,” from some allusion to that useful animal. There was nothing peculiar in the colour of the sand, which was quartzose. There was no turf, grass, or creeping plants; every shrub grew separately; and the grass, which I before mentioned, was only to be found in clumps. The heat of the sand rose to 150°: and that of the atmosphere exceeded 100°, but the wind blew steadily; nor do I believe it would be possible to traverse this tract in summer, if it ceased to[17] blow: the steady manner in which it comes from one direction is remarkable in this inland country. It is true, that in every direction except the north we have mountains, but they are too distant to impede the winds. Our caravan advanced at a firm and equal pace among the sand; nor can I discover that the progress of a camel is much impeded in the desert. They moved at the rate of two miles and one eighth in the hour (3740 yards); and I have since found, that the judicious Volney assigns the distance of 3600 yards as the hourly journey of a camel in the sands of Egypt and Syria.

Dangers of the desert.

We had before heard of the deserts south of the Oxus; and had now the means of forming a judgment from personal observation. We saw the skeletons of camels and horses now bleaching in the sun, which had perished from thirst. The nature of the roads or pathways admits of their easy obliteration; and, if the beaten track be once forsaken, the traveller and his jaded animal generally perish. A circumstance of this very nature occurred but a few days previous to our leaving Charjooee. A party of three persons travelling from the Orgunje camp lost the road, and their supply of water failed them. Two of their horses sank under the parching thirst; and the unfortunate men opened the vein of their surviving camel,[18] sucked its blood, and reached Charjooee from the nourishment which they thus derived. The camel died. These are facts of frequent occurrence. The Khan of Orgunje, in his late march into the desert, lost upwards of two thousand camels, that had been loaded with water and provisions for his men. He dug his wells as he advanced; but the supply of water was scanty. Camels are very patient under thirst: it is a vulgar error, however, to believe that they can live any length of time without water. They generally pine, and die on the fourth day, and, under great heat, will even sink sooner.


After a day’s detention to rest the camels, we marched at sunrise, and continued our progress, with a short halt, till the same time next day. We journied thirty-five miles, and alighted at a fetid well called Seerab; and from well to well we had no water. We appeared to have lost the great sand hills in our advance westward. The desert, though it had the same features as before, now presented an undulating and uneven country of sand, partially covered with shrubs. The soil was salt in some places; but the water of the well was good enough after it was some time drawn. Our Toorkmun Sirdar made his appearance shortly after our arrival, to claim his cup of tea; and never was a schoolboy more fond of sugar than this hoary-headed Toorkmun. I used to give it to him to have[19] the pleasure of seeing him grind it, though some of the merchants wondered at our wasting it on such a person. I always felt the happier in the company of this man, for I looked upon him as the only bond between us and the barbarians we were to encounter. He used also to tell us the news of the caravan, and all the particulars of the country, which he even knew that we noted down. Ernuzzer did not deceive us, and the tea and the sugar which he consumed, were but a small tax for his service. In return for these favours, he promised to give me a bonne bouche, Camel’s milk. when we reached the first camp of the Toorkmuns; and when I expected nothing else than “kimmiz” or “boozu,” mare’s milk or fermented liquor, he brought me camel’s milk, which is the only drink of the Toorkmuns. The milk is mixed with water, and the cream is then drawn off. It is called “chal,” and has a salt, bitter taste. The thinner part of the milk is considered a grateful draught by the people, but to me it tasted sour and acrid. I believed that the Uzbeks and Toorkmuns drank mare’s milk and fermented liquors; but these are unknown in Bokhara, and only peculiar to the Kuzzaks and Kirgizzes, between that city and Russia.

An Eastern caravan.

A caravan is a complete republic; but I do not believe that most republics are so orderly.[20] Of our eighty camels every three or four belonged to different individuals; and there were four Cafila-bashees. Still there was no disputing about the arrangement or order of the march; and it is a point of honour, that the one shall at all times wait for the other. If a single camel throws its load, the whole line halts till it is replaced; and one feels pleased at such universal sympathy. These feelings make it agreeable to travel in a caravan, for the detentions are much fewer than would really be imagined. The more I mingled with Asiatics in their own sphere, and judged them by their own standard, I imbibed more favourable impressions regarding them. One does not see in civilised Europe that generous feeling, which induces the natives of Asia, great and small, to share with each other every mouthful that they possess. Among Mahommedans we have no distinction of gentleman and villain,—at least, so far as hospitality is concerned. The khan fares as simply as the peasant; and never offers to raise a morsel to his lips till he has shared it with those near him. I myself frequently have been partaker of this bounty from rich and poor, for nothing is enjoyed without society. How different is the feeling that besets the sots of lower society in Britain! Nor is this good fellowship among the Asiatics confined to the[21] travelled merchant: it is to be found in the towns as well as the country. It is a pity that civilisation, with all its advantages, does not retain for us these virtues. Barbarians are hospitable, civilised men are polite; but hospitality added to politeness makes it more acceptable. A caravan is an interesting scene at all times; and the shifts of the pious to prevent its detention in the Toorkmun desert were not unworthy of notice. The line was too extended to sound a general halt for prayers; and at the appointed time, each individual was to be seen on the back of his camel or in his pannier, performing his orisons before the Deity, in the best manner which he could accomplish them. The laws of the Prophet admit of a true believer being cleansed by sand, where there is no water; and the back of a horse or a camel is as legitimate a position for prayer, as the most splendid mosque of a city. The busy scene on our reaching the halting-ground in the evening, was both lively and entertaining. The Uzbeks, like ourselves, do not water their horses when they are warm: in this journey, we had no sooner arrived than we again took our departure, the horses were therefore permitted to quench their thirst; and to prevent any evil effects from the water, the animal was immediately mounted and galloped at speed[22] over hill and dale, for miles. This brought the water, as the Uzbeks would tell you, to the heated temperature of the animal’s body. The easy carriage of some of the cavaliers, and the light saddles which they rode,—some of them little larger than racing saddles,—imparted an interest to these scampering freaks which was most exciting.

Oochghooee and the wandering Toorkmuns.

Our next march brought us at midnight to Oochghooee, or the Three Wells, which we had great difficulty in finding. We wandered to the right and to the left, and the Toorkmuns dismounted in the dark, and felt for the pathway with their hands among the sand. We had almost despaired of recovering it, and were preparing for our bivouac, when the bark of a dog, and a distant answer to our repeated calls dispelled our anxiety, and we were soon encamped at the well. We here found a few wandering Toorkmuns, the first we had seen since leaving the Oxus. The well was bitter; but these shepherds seem indifferent to the quality of the water. The country continued to change still further as we advanced, becoming more flat and free from sand, but still running in alternate ridges and hollows. In these we discovered some small red sharp-edged pebbles, not unlike iron pyrites; nor did the wells which were dug in them, yet exceed the depth of thirty feet: in[23] the Indian desert they are 300. The Toorkmuns rallied round us next morning, and we had the freest intercourse with them; for they were quite ignorant of our character, and the presence of one of their own tribe, our Toorkmun Ernuzzer, proved a sufficient attraction to these “children of the desert.” They spoke of the piercing cold of the winters in this country; and assured us that the snow sometimes lay a foot deep. We ourselves had experienced a depression of ten degrees in the temperature since leaving the Oxus.

Ruins of castles. Moorghab.

We were now informed that we were approaching the camp of the Khan of Orgunje, which, it appears, was on the banks of the Moorghab, or Merve river, considerably below the place of that name, and about thirty miles distant from us. We set out at noon, and by the time the sun had set, found ourselves among the ruins of forts and villages, now deserted, which rose in castellated groups over an extensive plain. I have observed that we had been gradually emerging from the sand-hills; and these marks of human industry, which we had now approached, were the ancient remnants of civilisation of the famous kingdom of Merve, or, as our historians have erroneously called it, Meroo. Before we had approached them, we had not wanted signs of our being delivered from the ocean of sand, since several flocks of[24] birds had passed over us. As the mariner is assured by such indications that he nears land, we had the satisfaction of knowing that we were approaching the water, after a journey of 150 miles through a sterile waste, where we had suffered considerable inconvenience from the want of it. We were not yet within the pale of habitations; but after a cool and pleasant march, over a perfectly flat and hard plain, every where interspersed with forts and ruins, we found ourselves, about nine in the following morning, at a large Toorkmun camp, (or, as it is called, an Oba,) near the banks of the Moorghab. The name of the place was Khwaju Abdoolla, and the whole colony sallied forth to meet the caravan. We took up a position on a hillock about two or three hundred yards distant; and the merchants instructed us to huddle together among themselves, and appear lowly and humble. We did so, and the Toorkmuns of the encampment soon crowded around us, begging for tobacco, for which they brought loads of the most luscious melons, that we cut up, and enjoyed in the company of camel drivers and slaves, braving the sun, though I cannot say to the detriment of our already sun-burned complexions. It now was discovered that the Orgunje camp lay on the other side of the river, which was not fordable but in certain places; and the merchants decided[25] that they themselves, with all the Cafila-bashees, should forthwith proceed in person to the spot, and use their utmost to conciliate the officer in charge, for the Khan had returned within these few days to Khiva. Their great object seemed to be to effect a discharge of the duties in the spot where they were now encamped, since no one relished trusting their property within reach of an Orgunje detachment. If the party prayed for success, I can add that we were equally fervent, and the deputation set out accordingly with the good wishes of every one. We were left among the “oi polloi” of the caravan; and when night came, stretched our felts under a clear and cloudless sky, and slept without fear or anxiety from our man-selling neighbours. This state of security among such people and countries is very remarkable; but a Toorkmun, though he can engage in a foray, and execute it with unexampled address, cannot commit a theft in a quiet way, which is not congenial to his nature.

Remarks on the desert.

I have now a little leisure to speak of the desert which we had traversed on our route to the Moorghab. In a military point of view, the scarcity of water is a great obstacle. In some places the wells were thirty-six miles apart; and, generally, the water was both bitter and scanty. The water which we had transported[26] with us from the Oxus was not less nauseous than that of the desert; for it must be carried in skins, and these must be oiled to preserve them from bursting. The grease mixes with the water, which latterly became so tainted that the horses even refused to drink it. There is nothing of which we feel the want so much as good water. In the march, several people of the caravan, particularly the camel-drivers, were attacked with inflammation of the eyes; I suppose, from the sand, glare, and dust. With such an enumeration of petty vexations and physical obstacles, it is dubious if an army could cross it at this point. The heavy sandy pathways, for there are no roads, might certainly be rendered passable to guns, by placing brushwood on the sand; but there is a great scarcity of grass for cattle, and the few horses which accompanied the caravan, were jaded and worn out before they reached the river. A horse which travels with a camel, has great injustice done to him; but an army could not outstrip the motions of a caravan, and fatigues would still fall heavily upon them. History tells us, that many armies have fought in and crossed this desert; but they consisted of hordes of light cavalry, that could move with rapidity. It is to be remembered, that we had not a foot-passenger in our party. Light horse might pass such a desert, by divi[27]sions, and separate routes; for besides the high road to Merve, there is a road both to the east and the west. It would, at all times, be a difficult task for a great body of men to pass from the Moorghab to the Oxus, since our caravan, of eighty camels, emptied the wells; and it would be easy to hide, or even fill up these scanty reservoirs. Where water lies within thirty feet of the surface, an energetic commander may remedy his wants, since we have an instance of it in the advance of the Orgunje Khan to the banks of the Moorghab. But after I have written, and, perhaps, diffusely, on the passage of such a desert, I may ask myself, who seeks to cross it, and in the line of what invader it lies? It is not in the route between India and Europe; and if the descendants of the Scythians and Parthians wish to invade and tyrannize over each other, they may do so without, perhaps, exciting even the notice of the “fierce Britons.”

A Toorkmun camp.

The Toorkmun camp, or “oba,” at which we halted, presented to us a scene of great novelty. It consisted of about 150 conical moveable huts, called “khirgahs,” which were perched on a rising ground. There was no order in the distribution, and they stood like so many gigantic beehives, which, if they had not had black roofs, might not be a bad comparison; and we might also take the children as the bees, for they were very[28] numerous. I wondered at the collection of so many rising plunderers. Seeing the Toorkmuns in a body, it may be certainly distinguished, that they have something Tatar in their appearance; their eyes are small, and the eyelids appear swollen. They are a handsome race of people. All of them were dressed in the “tilpak,” a square or conical black cap of sheep-skin, about a foot high, which is far more becoming than a turban, and gives to a party of Toorkmuns the appearance of a soldierlike and disciplined body. The Toorkmuns are remarkably fond of bright-coloured clothes, and choose the lightest shades of red, green, and yellow, as the patterns of their flowing “chupkuns,” or pelisses. They sauntered about their encampment in a great state of listlessness; and what have they to do but to live on the proceeds of their last foray? They have but few fields, and one or two individuals may tend their countless flocks at pasture. Their dogs, indeed, perform this office for them. These animals are very docile, but ferocious to a stranger: they are shaggy, appearing to be of the mastiff breed, and bear a high price even among these people. The martial habits of the Toorkmuns appeared in my eyes the more striking, as they had cleared the circle of their encampment of brushwood for about a mile round. It had, I believe, been cut for firewood;[29] but the resemblance to an esplanade, or a parade ground, was none the less on that account. In my notice of the Toorkmuns, I must not now forget the ladies, whose head-dress would do honour to the galaxy of an English ball-room. It consists of a lofty white turban, shaped like a military chako, but higher, over which a red or white scarf is thrown, that falls down to the waist. Some of these Toorkmun females were fair and handsome, adorning themselves with a variety of ornaments, that were attached to their hair, which hangs in tresses over their shoulders. Their head-dress is, perhaps, a little large, but they themselves are generally on a large scale, and as they never veil it becomes them. The other part of their costume is a long gown that reaches to the ancle, and hides both it and the waist, the very standard points of beauty in our country; but so it is, that nations remote from each other differ not more in language and laws than in taste and manners.

Orgunje officers.

The party which had proceeded to the Orgunje camp, returned next morning with the deputy of the Yooz-bashee, or the Commander of an Hundred, and his very appearance made the hearts of the merchants thrill with fear. No taxes had been collected before this, and every thing was uncertain. The deputy was an elderly man, with a large “tilpak” stuck on his head,[30] like a regimental cap. He was accompanied by a party of desert Toorkmuns, among whom was a chief, or “aksukal,” (literally, a white beard,) of the great tribe of Saruk. The merchants seated the deputation in the place of honour, addressed the deputy as he had been the Yooz-bashee himself, refreshed him with tea and tobacco (for they now smoked in public), and presented him with silks, cloths, raisins, and sugar, and then proceeded to display their merchandize. Every person made an offering, and we sent two handfuls of raisins and a bit of sugar as our homage. We sat at a short distance in our panniers, and witnessed the whole scene. The Yooz-bashee, as I also must call him, now spoke out to all the members of the caravan, and in the most candid language, said, that he had been directed to levy the lawful tax of one in forty, but that he would dispense with opening the bales. Truth, said he, had better be told; for, if I have reason to doubt any of you, I will then examine them, and you will experience the wrath of the Khan of Orgunje, my lord and master. This speech was listened to with terror; some, I believe, actually said that they had more goods than they really possessed; and, as far as I could judge, no one deviated from the truth. Pen and ink were called for, and the congress proceeded to make a list of the merchandize, which was no easy matter.


Precarious situation.

While the merchants were disputing about tillas, and flattering the Yooz-bashee, we had taken up a quiet position, and even pretended to be wrapped in sleep. I never was more awake in my life, and was near enough to hear and see every thing. There were several questions put regarding us, and the principal merchants spoke with earnestness and kindness. We had never instructed them, but they now chose to denominate us Hindoos from Cabool, who were proceeding on a pilgrimage to the flames of Bakoo, on the Caspian. We had been successively Englishmen, Afghans, Uzbeks, Armenians, and Jews, and they now denominated us Hindoos. These people are very simple; nor do they ever interrogate closely. Shortly after the subject of our character and objects had been discussed, the Toorkmun Aksukal rose from the party, and most unwelcomely seated himself by us. “Aksukal,” as I have said, means white beard, though this personage had a black enough plumage to his chin: he wore a splendid scarlet pelisse, and never did our national uniform appear to me more formidable than on his person; for he might have proved himself “a very Tartar” under his British colours. He spoke a little Persian, and said, “You are from Cabool?” to which I gave a nod of assent. The Doctor stretched himself back in his panier, and our[32] visitor addressed himself to an Afghan, one of our people, of which I was glad, since it would keep up the illusion. It is said that the natives of Orgunje are, of all the tribes in Toorkistan, most hostile to Europeans, as well from their vicinity to Russia, as their knowledge that the Persians, who threaten their country, are assisted by them. They of course know nothing of the different nations of Europe, and look upon all Europeans as their enemies. I was not sorry when the Toorkmun chief selected another group, and that this patriarchal “white beard” had made no discovery, even after seeing us, and entering into conversation. The whole scene appeared to me a perfect riddle, for we ourselves had mixed with the Toorkmuns of our party as Europeans; and our real character was known to every individual of the caravan. Fear may have prevented some of them from making a full disclosure, but it was very creditable; since I have reason to believe that the people of the Orgunje Khan would not have willingly extended their favour towards us. We, however, had one instance of bad feeling, in a quarter where we least of all looked for it, at the hands of our Cafila-bashee. He required money to pay the just taxes on goods, which he had at the outset hoped to smuggle, and though all settlement had been made between us, and he had[33] nearly received the full hire of his camels, he sent in the middle of the confusion to say, that the caravan would be detained on our account, if we did not lend him some tillas. What a moment, and what a trial for the temper. It was useless to complain of ungenerous treatment, and it would have been worse to show that we felt it. I considered a couple of tillas enough to give the wretch, though we had provided ourselves with some three hundred of them, which I knew might befriend us, where men are sold and bought like sheep. Evening advanced, and our transactions with the Orgunje Yooz-bashee drew to a close. The commander of a hundred carried off two hundred golden tillas, and all the merchants accompanied him to his horse, and saw him beyond the limits of our camp. Such is the dread of authority, and the power of the meanest man who wears it. In the dusk the merchants came to visit us, and to relate the affairs of the day over a cup of tea. We had to thank an Uzbek, named Ullahdad, and Abdool, a Persian; but we had to make some acknowledgment to all, for we had now become intimate with every body. Whenever the horsemen of the caravan passed us on the road, they would shout out to us, “Ah, Meerza! how are you?” with all the consecutive compliments of their language. Little did many of them know, that[34] the name of “Meerza Sikunder,” or the secretary Alexander, which they had given me, was so well merited; since I took every opportunity that I secretly could to use the pen and ink, and give a secretary’s account of all their proceedings. On this day I felt pleased with mankind, for we were now free to prosecute our journey. The Bokharees assured me that they were interested in our favour, from the commands of their minister the Koosh Begee; and the Persians, of whom there were many in the caravan, dreaded the friendship between Abbas Meerza and the English. Individually, I did not presume to believe that either of these great personages bestowed much care upon us, but it was pleasant to know that such were the opinions of our companions.



River of Merve.

On the morning of the 29th of August we moved at dawn, with buoyant spirits, and followed the course of the Moorghab, or river of Merve, for twelve miles before we could cross it. We found it about eighty yards wide and five feet deep, running within steep clayey banks, at the rate of five miles an hour. We crossed by an indifferent ford, over a clay bottom with many holes. There was no village; but the place is called Uleesha. This river rises on the mountains of Huzara, and was long believed to fall into the Oxus or the Caspian. Both opinions are erroneous, since it forms a lake, or loses itself in one, about fifty miles N.W. of Merve. This river was formerly dammed above Merve, which turned the principal part of its waters to that neighbourhood, and raised that city to the state of richness and opulence which it once enjoyed. The dam was thrown down about forty-five years ago, by Shah Moorad, a king of Bokhara, and the river only now irrigates the country in its immediate[36] vicinity, where it is covered with the tenements, or “obas,” of the Toorkmuns; for there are no fixed villages. These people cultivate by irrigation, and every thing grows in rich luxuriance. The Juwaree (holcus sorghum) has a stalk thicker than a walking-stick, and in the uncultivated parts there is the richest fodder for cattle and the finest thorny shrubs for the camel, an animal which is here found in vast herds. Above Merve the country is called Maroochak, and said to be unhealthy: there is a proverb, at least, which runs thus,—“Before God gets intelligence, the water of Maroochak has killed the man.”[2] This river is the Epardus of Arrian, a word which, I observe in one author, is said to mean irrigator,—nor is it here misapplied. The historian would even appear to have been acquainted with its course; for we are told that the Epardus “hides its streams in the sand, as did many other great rivers.”[3]


The transition which we had experienced, from a sandy desert to the verge of a running stream, was most gratifying; every one seemed delighted, and even the animals appeared to feel the change. Throughout the day the[37] banks presented a spectacle of merriment and joy; the Toorkmuns plunging into the water with their horses, and the greater part of the caravan sporting about in the stream. We hit upon a contrivance, which contributed not a little to our sport, and produced a “tunga,” or the third part of a rupee, which was to be the reward of the person who could first cross the river. The enormous sum was solemnly vested in a committee; I believe even the blessing was said; and sixteen competitors appeared on the occasion. It was won by a Toorkmun of Shurukhs, who had the art of running quickest in the deep water.

Knights and heroines of Merve.

We were now in the vicinity of Merve, and several members of the caravan, on their approach to the river, declared that they had a view of the elevated mound of its ruined castle. I sought in vain, but the other spectators were looking for their native city, and wished, perhaps, to persuade themselves that they beheld it. I listened to the tales of valour which these people related to me of one Bairam Khan and a chosen body of seven hundred, that long resisted the arms of the Uzbeks of Bokhara, till Shah Moorad finally subdued them by a stratagem in war, and forcibly transferred the whole population to his capital. Nor was I less gratified to hear the patriotic tale of the heroines of Merve, the[38] wives and daughters of the gallant band. It is recorded, and it is believed, that on one occasion, when the forces of Bokhara invaded the land of Merve, during the absence of Bairam Khan and his knights, these fair ones embodied and appeared in the field. The Uzbeks were intimidated at the sight of troops whom they believed they had surprised, and fled with precipitation, leaving the heroines of Merve their virtuous victors: nor is this a solitary instance of female triumph over man. The people of Merve, in their loss of country and liberty, retain the same reputation for valour which characterised their ancestors; and, to this day, when they quit the country, their valiant partners are held in Bokhara as a pledge of their fidelity, and may on no account cross the Oxus.


Some circumstances here came to our knowledge that called for prudence and caution, and which appeared to excite the justest alarm. As our party had arrived at the Orgunje camp, they found the chief in the act of despatching a body of 350 Toorkmuns on a foray to the frontiers of Persia. Our friends had arrived even in time to give these barbarians the usual “fatha;” for, whatever they felt, it was impossible to appear otherwise than pleased at their intentions. The Yooz-bashee in their presence charged the robbers to be of good cheer, and remember the[39] good work on which they were to be engaged, and the golden “tillas” to be reaped in the country of the Kuzzilbash. “Go,” exclaimed he, “and bring the Prince Royal of Persia, Abbas Meerza himself to the feet of the Khan Huzrut.” The Allamans mounted in a moment, and one of the merchants, who seemed to have had his senses about him, begged that the formidable band would spare our caravan. The Yooz-bashee gave instructions to that effect; but they now shook their heads, and seemed but little disposed to put the honesty of such men to a trial. They turned over all the bearings of the case in their minds, and looked very woful. As a member of the party, I could not help asking for information on the blessings which they had been called on gratuitously to bestow on such a horde. “Fatha,” said a Persian, “I did take the name of the holy Prophet, but it was that these man-selling scoundrels might never return.” Our conductor Ernuzzer himself said, that it was an abomination to have made such a use of the first sentence of the Koran; so easy is it to make the ritual of a faith correspond with the wishes. The doctor and myself, I believe, were the only members of the caravan who would have liked to have a peep at the ferocious Allamans; but I dare say it was fortunate that our curiosity was not[40] gratified. Since such a horde of plunderers was abroad, it was decided that we should march upon Shurukhs, a large Toorkmun settlement, and there await the result of their expedition, which the merchants of the caravan had more desire to hear of than witness. The party had been instructed to proceed by easy marches, as the Toorkmuns always do in their forays, and was expected to return on the tenth day.

Toorkmuns; their laws of plunder.

On the 30th of August we retraced the greater part of yesterday’s route, and travelled down the opposite bank of the river for about sixteen miles, when we again halted among the Toorkmuns in their native state, at an encampment called Kunjookoolan. We here mixed among them without hesitation, and gathered many particulars concerning them. The Toorkmuns are Toorks; but they differ from the Uzbeks, and are entirely devoted to a pastoral life. There are several great tribes of the race, all of whom claim a common origin; we had seen the Ersarees on the Oxus, and were now mingling with the tribe of Saruk, beyond which are the Salore. Towards the Caspian lie the Tuka, Goklan, and Yumood, all of them great tribes, and of which I shall speak as we advance. Among our Saruk acquaintances there was one individual who had passed his days in making in[41]cursions into Persia, and in his odious traffic had acquired a perfect knowledge of the language of that country, which enabled me to learn the genuine sentiments of a Toorkmun robber. His name was Noornyaz; and in his forays he had accompanied the largest and smallest parties: he had, indeed, only returned with three captives, that had been secured by the small number of six horsemen. He described the manner of approaching Persia by slow and short stages, and that, after reaching the frontiers, they frequently hovered for days in sight of a fort to watch for a favourable opportunity of capture. If none presents itself, they make a dash in upon the fields in the morning, as the shepherds and husbandmen pursue their occupations, and bear off with speed whoever they may seize. If hotly pursued, they relinquish a spare horse with which every two individuals is provided, and carry off the more valuable slave. In such a transient expedition every thing depends on the fleetness of their horses, and the Toorkmuns accordingly bestow the utmost care upon them. Training of the horses. My Toorkmun acquaintance said, that he was now preparing his horse for another foray, which consists in exercising him most severely after a long abstinence from food and water, which brings the animal to a matchless state of hardihood. They do not[42] permit them to taste green forage, but confine them to dry food, which they believe hardens the flesh. They sweat them till their fat entirely disappears, and of this they judge by the quantity of water which the horse drinks, since it is very small if his flesh has been properly reduced. The Toorkmun horse, with such a training, far surpasses in bottom those of Europe and Arabia; but he is a coarse-looking animal, and has neither the sleekness nor beauty of coat which we see in India or our own country. Since the life and fortune of the Toorkmun are identified with the goodness of his horse, we can account for the care and attention that he bestows upon him. The little food to which he is inured enables his rider to provide with ease for his own wants: he carries the grain for the horse and himself, as well as bread and flour: in his advance he sometimes buries these in a well-known place, till he shall return from the foray; and when the Toorkmun retreats into his native desert, he is thus supplied with provisions, though he may have been weeks from his camp, which he shares with the victims of his capture, whom he drags into miserable servitude.


In the catalogue of human miseries there are few more severely felt, and the consequences of which are more destructive to domestic hap[43]piness, than the cruel system of man-stealing. Great as are the miseries produced by this, the hordes who engage in it appear to derive none of the luxuries or enjoyment of human life from such an occupation, and live in rags and penury, seemingly without advantage from their devastations. The terror which the Toorkmuns inspire among the people of the neighbouring countries is fearful, nor is this surprising, since they evince such fortitude and persevering energy in their dangerous occupation. We cannot fail to admire their address, and acknowledge their valour, at the time that we deplore the lot of the unhappy country on which they display their prowess. The manners and customs of the Toorkmuns, in the odious practices which they pursue against their fellow man, sap the best principles of human nature, and we consequently find this people wanting in much of the honour which is often seen among half-civilised nations. “A Toorkmun,” the people will tell you, “is a dog, and will only be kept quiet with a bit of bread, like a dog: give it then, is the doctrine of the traveller, and pass on unmolested.” They have likewise the character of being perfidious and treacherous, nor is it altogether unmerited. The Persians have endeavoured, but without success, to put a stop to these reckless inroads of the Toorkmun, but he himself lives[44] in a desert where he is safe, and is encouraged by the ready sale which he finds for his captives in the favoured countries that lie beyond his own desolate region. In their expeditions into Persia, some Toorkmuns are occasionally captured, and an exorbitant ransom has been placed upon their heads, but yet they have been redeemed by their kinsmen. A Toorkmun passes his life either in a foray, or in preparing for one; and it is a disgraceful fact, that the chiefs of Khorasan have long and unnaturally leagued with these enemies of their religion and their country, to barter a still greater portion of unfortunate Persians into their hands, and eternal slavery. Avarice is the most baneful of our vices.

Meeting of the caravan. Claims against us.

Now that we were beyond the power of the Orgunje troops, the merchants of the caravan assembled in conclave to bemoan the loss of their money in a new tax, and to devise ways and means to recover it. It appeared to the majority, that the Firingees, that is, ourselves, should bear a portion of the burthen, and the assemblage waited on us in the evening to express their wishes, and request that we would bear one fourth of all the duties. Since the payment of the regular customs had induced the officer to forego the usual fee on each pair of panniers, we had certainly escaped every kind[45] of tax, and this was evidently owing to the wealth and size of the caravan with which we were travelling. The Orgunje officer, too, it was now stated, had been bribed to the amount of ten tillas. It appeared both reasonable and just that we should bear our share of this outlay, and I therefore offered the usual tax of a tilla on each of our camels, since it would tend to diminish the general expenditure of the caravan. It was a point that called for the exercise of discretion and judgment, since a total denial might have converted a friendly into a hostile party; and, on the other hand, it at all times behoved us to be most sparing in our expenses. In the present instance, I had the good fortune to conciliate by my concession the principal merchants of the party. There were several who still called on us to pay a fourth share of the tax; but as I ascertained that no additional expenses had been incurred on our account, and the duties would have been levied whether we had been present or absent, I declined compliance, and stated to them that we were travellers, and their guests, in a foreign land, and hoped for their forbearance and justice. The Toorkmun chief, our friend Ernuzzer, appeared at this stage of our conversation, to enter his protest against such an outrage to hospitality as the demand which had been made upon us; but I had already made up my mind, and passed my[46] word. The rights of the stranger are much respected among these people, and the cry of the many died away into the feeble vociferations of the poorer traders, whose scanty means made them feel more heavily the levy that had been made upon them. In one respect the character of an European in such countries is ill suited for a traveller; he is believed to possess boundless wealth, though he may be sunk in poverty; an Asiatic, in his expenses, has nothing in common with the opinions of an European.

Continuation of the Desert.

We now commenced our march in the desert westward of the Moorghab river, and made a progress of thirty-seven miles. The tract was entirely different from the opposite side, and about the middle of the journey the desert changed into a level, hard, flat surface, which it ever afterwards preserved. The camels moved up in four strings abreast of each other, and we continued to advance in that order. The tract put me much in mind of the Run of Cutch, though there were patches of bushes, which are not to be seen in that most singular region.[4] The country was destitute of water, but there were many remains of caravansarais and cisterns that had been built by the philanthropic Abdulla Khan of Bokhara. Whirlwinds. In this neighbourhood, and more particularly while on[47] the banks of the river, we witnessed a constant succession of whirlwinds, that raised the dust to a great height, and moved over the plain like water-spouts at sea. In India these phenomena are familiarly known by the name of devils, where they sometimes unroof a house; but I had not seen them in that country either of such size or frequency as now prevailed in the Toorkmun desert. They appeared to rise from gusts of wind, for the air itself was not disturbed but by the usual north wind that blows steadily in this desert.

The highlands of Persia.

As we halted in the morning of the 1st of September, at a ruin which bore the name of Kalournee, we descried the hills of Persian Khorasan. In the direction where they rose I had observed the atmosphere to be clouded since we reached the banks of the Moorghab, and we might have perhaps seen them sooner, though they still appeared in the haze of distance. Mirage. As we discovered these mountains at sunrise, a magnificent mirage shone in the same direction. One could trace a river, and its steep and opposite banks; but, as the sun ascended, the appearance vanished, and left the same flat and cheerless country in which we were now encamped. The high banks of the river had no existence, and the water was but vapour set in the rays of light.


Plants of the desert.

As we approached Shurukhs, we could distinguish a gradual, though almost imperceptible rise in the country. We exchanged the shrubs that I have before described, for the tamarisk and the camel’s thorn, which does not grow in the desert. The most singular of the plants which a new zone presented to us, was one called “gyk chenak” in the Toorkee language, which literally means, the deer’s cup. It grows like hemlock or assafœtida (and has as bad a smell), only that a leaf, shaped precisely like a cup, surrounds each knot or division of the plant’s stalk. In this natural bowl the rains of spring are collected, and supply the deer with water. Such is the popular belief, and such is the name. We afterwards saw a plant not unlike the deer’s cup among the hills eastward of Meshid. A gum, like tallow, exuded from it, and it shot up as an annual among the high lands.


We had been treading in our last marches on the very ground which had been disturbed by the hoofs of the Toorkmuns who were advancing on Persia. It was with no small delight that we at last lost our traces of the formidable band, which we could discover had branched off the high road towards Meshid. Had we encountered them, a second negotiation would have been necessary, and the demands of robbers might not have been easily satisfied. “Allamans” seldom[49] attack a caravan, but still there are authenticated instances of their having murdered a whole party in the very road we were travelling. Men with arms in their hands, and in power, are not to be restrained. After losing all traces of this band, we came suddenly upon a small party of Allamans, seven in number, who were returning from an unsuccessful expedition. Meet an unsuccessful party. They were young men, well mounted and caparisoned, in the Toorkmun manner; a lance and a sword formed their arms; they had no bows, and but one led horse. Their party had been discomfited, and four of them had fallen into the hands of the Persians. They told us of their disasters, and asked for bread, which some of our party gave them. I wish that all their expeditions would terminate like this.

Arrival at Shurukhs.

We reached Shurukhs at sun-rise on the 2d, after having performed a journey of seventy miles in forty-four hours, including every halt. During this period we had only marched for thirty-two hours, and the camels sometimes stepped out at the rate of two and a half miles an hour, which I had never before seen. All the camels were males, since they are believed to undergo fatigue better than females. Our caravan alighted round an old tomb, with a lofty dome, and it was unanimously decided, that so long as the Allamans were abroad, it would not be prudent to prose[50]cute our journey. It was therefore resolved to sleep in Shurukhs (to use a phrase of their own), the greatest haunt of the Toorkmun robbers; a paradox truly, since we were to settle among thieves to avoid the thieves abroad. We, however, possessed but humble influence in the party, and had only to meet the general wish. The merchandize was piled round the tomb, the people took up a position outside of it, and at night the camels and horses formed a triple barrier. Such were the arrangements for our protection, and, as will be seen, not more than were necessary. Detention. The Toorkmuns crowded among us during the day, and brought tunics of camel-cloth for sale, which were readily purchased; but there was not an individual of the caravan who trusted himself at a distance from it: and how could it be otherwise, when we hourly saw the “Allamans” passing and repassing in front of us, and knew that the chief subsistence of the people was derived from these “chupaos?”


The Toorkmun settlement of Shurukhs consists of a small and weak fort, almost in ruins, situated on a hillock, under cover of which most of the inhabitants have pitched their tenements. There are a few mud houses, which have been built by the Jews of Meshid, who trade with these people; but the Toorkmuns themselves live in the conical houses or khirgahs, peculiar[51] to their tribe. They are constructed of wood, surrounded by a mat of reeds, and covered in the roof with felts, that become black with soot. Shurukhs is the residence of the Salore Toorkmuns, the noblest of the race. Two thousand families are here domiciled, and an equal number of horses, of the finest blood, may be raised in case of need. If unable to cope with their enemies, these people flee to the deserts, which lie before them, and there await the termination of the storm. They pay a sparing and doubtful allegiance to Orgunje and Persia, but it is only an impending force that leads to their submission. When we were at Shurukhs they had a Persian ambassador in chains, and refused to grant a share of the transit duties to the Khan of Orgunje, which they had promised in the preceding month, when that chief was near them. These are commentaries on their allegiance. The Salore Toorkmuns are ruled by twelve aksukals, the heads of the different families; but they acknowledge no particular allegiance to any individual person. The country around Shurukhs is well watered by aqueducts from the rivulet of Tejend, which is a little brackish, but its waters are usefully employed in fertilising its fields. The soil is exceedingly rich, and possesses great aptness for agriculture; the seed is scattered, and vegetates almost without labour. The har[52]vest is rich, and they reap it, like true republicans, without a tax. The inhabitants repeat a tradition, that the first of men tilled in Shurukhs, which was his garden, while Serendib or Ceylon was his house! There is not a tree or a bush to enliven the landscape, for the Toorkmuns despise gardening. The crops of wheat and juwaree are here most abundant, and the melons are only inferior to those of Bokhara.


Two days after our arrival at Shurukhs, and when I venture to say we had often congratulated ourselves at the near prospect of successfully terminating our journey, we experienced an alarm that at least showed our congratulations were premature. One of the Toorkmun chiefs of the place appeared in our part of the encampment, and summoned the Hajee, one of our people, to attend him, near enough for me to overhear their conversation. He commenced a long list of interrogatories regarding us, and stated that he had heard from persons in the caravan that we possessed great wealth, and had travelled into the remotest parts of Toorkistan. Such being the case, continued he, it was impossible for him to grant us permission to prosecute our journey, until the commands of Ullah Koli, Khan of Orgunje, were received concerning us. This formidable announcement would even have appeared more frightful, had not the[53] Toorkmun added on his departure, that his fellow chiefs were ignorant of our presence in the caravan, and that we might perhaps consider his good wishes not unworthy of being purchased. The matter was however serious, since it discovered that there were persons in the caravan who were ill-disposed towards us, and it was certain that the Toorkmuns had the power of enforcing all which the person in question had threatened. Immediate measures were necessary, and I lost no time in adopting them. There were five or six merchants of respectability in the caravan, and I went to the two principal persons, whom I have before named, and related the affair to them with perfect candour. I should have gone to Ernuzzer the Toorkmun, but he had in former days lived at Shurukhs, and, in his change to the life of a citizen, had forfeited much of the influence he might be supposed to possess among his countrymen; nor did I even unfold to him the circumstances till we reached Meshid. I observed that the communication equally excited the uneasiness of the merchants, and once more discovered that these people were really concerned for our safety. They poured forth their wrath against the informer, and expressed in unequivocal language the fears which they entertained from the Vizier of Bokhara on one side, and the Prince Royal[54] of Persia on the other. One of the merchants advised that I should immediately produce the firman of the King of Bokhara; but in this I differed, and the opinion of the other was more in consonance with my own judgment. Abdool undertook to negotiate the feeding of the dog of a Toorkmun; but it may be imagined that there was little to cheer us under such circumstances. A cheerful countenance was, however, indispensable, that we might the better meet the difficulties, and, if possible, frustrate the hopes of the villain who had betrayed us.

Dissipation of them.

The first piece of intelligence which assailed us on the following morning was the loss of a beautiful little black pony, which had been stolen from his pickets during night. It is customary in this country to chain the horse’s leg to the iron pin, and then padlock it; but we had not adopted this precaution. I regretted this loss more than I might have done a more serious misfortune. The sturdy little creature had followed me from Poona in the centre of India, had borne me in many a weary journey, and I cannot tell how much it vexed me to leave him in such a country, and in such hands. The whole caravan assembled to express their regret at the theft, and assured me that I should either have the pony or his value; but they did not understand that in my estimation he stood above[55] all price. I was obliged to turn to other matters, and it was a more solid source of consolation to find that we had satisfied the demands, and silenced the threats of the Toorkmun chief at a most moderate sacrifice. He became master of our stock of tea, and we should have added the sugar, had it been worth presenting; and this peace offering, crowned with two gold tillas (each valued at about six and a half rupees), satisfied a chief who had us in his power. Doonmus, for so he was named, was the “Aksukal” of 300 families, and one of those who share in the plunder and taxation of Shurukhs. We were much indebted in this difficulty to Abdool, who happened to be an acquaintance of the Toorkmun, and whom we had brought over to us by some acts of civility. We might not have escaped so readily from the talons of any of the others; and it was curious that the fellow who had wished to profit by us was the friend of the merchant with whom we were most intimate.

Toorkmun customs.

This sunshine of our prosperity admitted of our entering with greater spirit into our enquiries regarding the Toorkmuns, and I gathered some characteristic incidents of the people. They are as romantic in their customs of marriage as in their habits of plunder. They do not enter[56] into the conjugal state with the simple forms of Mahommedans; for the communication between the sexes is unrestrained, and attachments are formed that ripen into love. But the daughter of a Toorkmun has a high price, and the swain, in despair of making a legitimate purchase, seizes his sweetheart, seats her behind him on the same horse, and gallops off to the nearest camp, where the parties are united, and separation is impossible. The parents and relatives pursue the lovers, and the matter is adjusted by an intermarriage with some female relation of the bridegroom, while he himself becomes bound to pay so many camels and horses as the price of his bride. If the person be rich, these are generally paid on the spot; but if, as more often happens, he is without property, he binds himself to discharge his debt, which is viewed as one of honour; and he proceeds on forays to Persia, till he has gained enough to fulfil his engagement. His success in these generally converts him into a robber for the rest of his days; and the capture of the Kuzzilbash has now become indispensable to settle in life the family of a Toorkmun. The young lady, after her Gretna Green union, returns to the house of her parents, and passes a year in preparing the carpets and clothes, which are necessary for a[57] Toorkmun tent; and, on the anniversary of her elopement, she is finally transferred to the arms and house of her gallant lover.

Fortitude of a slave.

A circumstance lately happened at Shurukhs, which was repeated to us by many of the people, and exhibits additional examples of the love of liberty, and the despair which is inspired by the loss of it. A Persian youth, who had been captured by the Toorkmuns, dragged out a miserable life of servitude in Shurukhs. He was resolved to be free, and chose the opportunity of his master being at an entertainment, to effect his object. He saddled the best horse of his stable, and on the very eve of departure was discovered by the daughter of his lord, who attempted to give the alarm. He drew his sword, and put the girl to death. Her cries alarmed the mother, whom he also slew; and as he was bidding his final farewell to Shurukhs, the master himself arrived. The speed of the horse, which had so often been employed in the capture of his countrymen, now availed this fugitive, who was pursued, but not overtaken; and thus, by an exertion of desperate boldness, did he regain his liberty, leaving his master to deplore the loss of his wife and his daughter, his horse and his slave.

Toorkmun customs.

I have mentioned that our camp at Shurukhs lay by the shrine of a Mahommedan saint. He[58] flourished 824 years since, under the name of Aboolfuzzul Hoosn, as appears by an inscription on the tomb, and he is yet revered by all the Toorkmuns. If one of them fall sick, he invokes the manes of the saint; if his horse or his camel suffer from disease, he circumambulates his tomb, in the hope and conviction of relief. The Toorkmuns have no mosques; they say their prayers in the tent or in the desert, without ablution, and without a carpet. They have few Moollahs or priests, for the church has little honour among them, and they are but poor followers of the prophet. They have no education to assuage the fiercer passions, which renders the men unsusceptible of pity, and the women indifferent to chastity. The men perform all the out-door employments, and the women work at home. The Toorkmuns are a race of people who court alternate activity and idleness. Abroad they evince the greatest spirit, and at home saunter about in idleness and indolence. They are fond of their horses, and of singing songs in honour of them. At night I have listened to the panegyrics on the feats of the “Chupraslee” and “Karooghlee” horses, the never-ending theme of praise. “Karooghlee” means a warrior as well as a horse, but it describes a famous breed now said to be extinct. “Chupraslee,” though it means but swift, is applied[59] to a particular horse of reputed speed. I longed to record some of these Toorkmun songs, but at Shurukhs we could gather only these few lines:—

A song.
“I keep an Arab horse for the day of battle,
I live on that day under his shade,
In the conflict I slay a hero,—
Keep an Arab horse, hold a shield of iron.
“In the day of battle I bend my bow of iron,
Erect on my horse, no one can dismount me.
I am an only child, I have no brother or sister,—
Keep an Arab horse, hold a shield of iron.
“If I breathe, the ice of the mountains melts,
The water of my eyes would turn a mill,
So said Jonas the Puree,—
Keep an Arab horse, hold a shield of iron.
A Toorkmun house.

After the alarm which we had already experienced in Shurukhs, it was not desirable that we should mingle much with the people; but I had great curiosity to see them, and our Toorkmun Ernuzzer said I was invited to a friend’s house, and I accompanied him without further consideration. I was very agreeably surprised to find these wandering people living here, at least, in luxury. The tent or khirgah was spacious, and had a diameter of about twenty-five feet. The sides were of lattice-work, and the roof was formed[60] of laths, which branched from a circular hoop, about three feet in diameter, through which the light is admitted. The floor was spread with felts and carpets, of the richest manufacture, which looked like velvet. Fringed carpets were also hung up round the tent, which gave it a great finish, and their beauty was no doubt enhanced by their being the work of wives and daughters. On one side of the tent was a small press, in which the females of the family kept their clothes, and above it were piled the quilts on which they slept. These are of variegated coloured cloth, both silk and cotton. From the circular aperture in the roof, three large tassels of silk were suspended, differing in colour, and neatly wrought by some fair young hand. Altogether, the apartment and its furniture bespoke any thing but an erratic people; yet the host explained to me that the whole house could be transported on one camel, and its furniture on another. On my return I expressed my surprise at such comfort, but my companions in the caravan bade me not wonder at such a display, since the Toorkmuns were man-eaters (adum khor), and got their food for nothing. Many a nation has been written down as cannibals on as slight grounds; but the people merely meant to tell me that they lived on the proceeds of man-selling. Before I quitted the[61] tent, the host produced bread and melons, according to their custom, of which we partook, with about fifteen other Toorkmuns, who had dropped in. They cut up a melon with great dexterity and neatness, separate the pulp from the skin, which is not thicker than that of an orange, by a single sweep of the knife, then dividing it into a dozen pieces. I listened for about half an hour to their conversation, the subject of which I could comprehend to be slaves and horses. They took me for a native of Cabool, from the loongee which I wore as a turban, nor did I undeceive them. They all got up as I left, and bade me good-bye with all the respect of a good Mahommedan. They might not have injured me had they known the truth, but they would have detained me with endless questions; and, as it was, I saw their customs without inconvenience. I was never so much struck with the Tatar features as in this assemblage. The Toorkmun has a skull like a Chinese, his face is flat, his cheek bones project, and his countenance tapers to the chin, which has a most scanty crop of hair. He is by no means ugly, and his body and features are alike manly. Their women are remarkably fair, and often handsome.

Toorkmun mode of feasting.

I might have followed up my acquaintance, and dined with the Toorkmuns in the evening;[62] but, since I did not do so, I shall describe their feast from Toorkmun authority. When they invite a stranger to dinner, they send to say they have killed a sheep. They are not very choice in their cookery. Their cakes are baked about two feet in diameter, and an inch thick, of the coarsest flour, and generally mixed up with slices of pumpkin. These are always eaten fresh. When the party assembles, the cloth is spread, and each person crumbles down the piece of cake which is laid before him. The meat is then brought, which consists of one entire sheep, boiled in a huge Russian pot. They separate the flesh from the bones, and tear it into as small pieces as the bread, with which it is mixed. They shred about a dozen of onions, and throw the whole mess into the pot where the meat has been boiled, and mix it up with the soup. It is then served out in wooden bowls, one of which is placed before every two persons. Their mode of eating is as singular as that of preparation; they fill their open hand, and commencing from the wrist, lick it up like dogs, holding the head over the bowl, which catches all that falls. Each of the two in his turn fills his hand, and holds his head over the bowl. Melons follow, and the repast concludes with a pipe of tobacco. The women do not eat with the men.

Success of the Allamans.

On the seventh day after our arrival at[63] Shurukhs, when every one was enquiring about the “Allamans,” or robbers, who had preceded us, they began to drop in upon us by twos and threes, with their horses lame and jaded, and by evening upwards of a hundred had arrived. They stopped by the caravan, and gave us a glowing account of their foray, congratulating themselves in boastful strains at their success. They had made their descent near Meshid four days previously, about ten in the morning, and rode up to the very walls of the city, driving men and animals before them. Not a soul appeared to arrest their progress; and when they numbered their spoil a few miles from the city, they found 115 human beings, 200 camels, and as many cattle. Since then they had returned without haste, and now skirted Shurukhs for refreshment. On the way they had already divided their booty. A fifth was given to the Khan of Orgunje, and the party had to congratulate themselves at the number of able-bodied men, and the few white-beards, old ones, among their prisoners. Returning through the hills, they encountered the videttes of a small party of horse, who are stationed to give information at Durbund, which lies between Shurukhs and Meshid. In the scuffle, one of the Toorkmuns was wounded, and they captured one of the videttes and fifteen horses. They put the unfortunate Persian to[64] death, as an offering to God for the success which attended them; since they pretend to consider the murder of a heretic Kuzzilbash as grateful to the Almighty; and they generally kill most of the old persons who fall into their hands, as a propitiatory offering to the Creator. The Toorkmuns, indeed, defend their capture of these unfortunate human beings, on the ground of their conversion to a true religion, and consequent salvation. Unhappily for mankind, the history of the world presents us with too many and similar instances of this mistaken and religious zeal. The Spaniards pursued their conquests in the New World under the specious pretence of disseminating Christianity; they sacked the empires of Mexico and Peru, and butchered their inoffending inhabitants; while their priests impiously blessed their inhuman outrages.[5] They, too, like the Toorkmuns, propitiated their king by a present of a fifth of their spoil. Human nature, under king or khan, is the same in all countries, whether we contemplate the frenzy and avarice of the Spaniards in America, or the roaming Toorkmun in the Scythian deserts.

The opportunity which was afforded us of seeing these robbers, inspired a good opinion of their courage, for many of them were indifferently armed. They all had swords, most had[65] light, long lances, quite different from those used by the Uzbeks, and a few had small matchlocks. Their horses looked quite done up, and walked as if on beds of gravel; but they had been thirteen days in motion, with scanty food and much work. While we admire the courage of these men, what shall we think of the Persians, who are encamped within two days’ journey of Meshid, under the heir-apparent of their throne, and numbering an army of twenty thousand men?


The return of the Orgunje Allamans should have now settled our movements, but some timid being spread a rumour that half of the robbers yet lay in wait for our caravan on the Persian frontier. Our departure was therefore still put off, and I cannot say that I felt comfortable in such quarters. We had no tent or shelter for ten days but the rotten walls of an old tomb, which were infested with reptiles. Though our bed had always been the ground, and we had long ceased to feel the aches which one experiences from an occasional bivouac in civilised life, we could not now spread a carpet, lest we should appear too rich among the Toorkmuns, who stated in upon us at all times, and frequently asked us questions. Our bread, too, had been ten times coarser than “bannocks of barley meal,” not half so palatable. We could with great difficulty read or write for a single hour during the day, and the[66] time passed as heavily as possible, exhausting our patience. Mad camel. During our detention, one of the camels was said to have gone mad, whether from ennui or some more cogent cause I knew not. The poor creature foamed at the mouth, groaned, and refused its food. The case was referred to us, as he was pronounced to be possessed of a devil; but of course without avail. At length they fell on the expedient of frightening the camel, by clashing a lighted torch before his eyes and body, and kindling reeds and furze under his nose. They also passed a red-hot iron over his head; and the animal assuredly improved under this rough treatment, of burning the devil who had lodged in so ugly a creature.

Departure from Shurukhs.

At length, on the 11th of September, after a detention of ten long days, we joyfully quitted Shurukhs at sunrise. The Toorkmuns maintained their character to the last. After giving us leave, and agreeing to tax us at the first stage, they waited till we had fairly started, and then sent orders to stop the caravan. They demanded a tilla and a half on every camel; which is the customary transit duty for an escort to the Persian frontier. The party came only a few miles, and then returned, tired of escorting; nor were we sorry to get so well rid of them. Our caravan had now been increased by the junction of two others, which[67] had come up during our stay, and formed a numerous body: but I fear there were more timid than fighting hearts among us. Increased caravan. There were men, women, and children; merchants, travellers, pilgrims, and emancipated slaves. There were Uzbeks, Arabs, Persians, Afghans, Hindoos, Jews, natives of Budukhshan and Cashmeer; Toorks and Toorkmuns; a Nogai Tatar, a wandering Kirghiz from Pameer, and ourselves, natives of Europe. Last, not least, was a young Persian girl, about fifteen years old, whom we had picked up at Shurukhs, and who was said to be of exquisite beauty. She had been captured by the Toorkmuns; and her loveliness overcoming their avarice, she had at first been detained by her captor. The arrival of our caravan and so many merchants, however, tempted his cupidity; and he offered his charge for sale. A merchant of Tehran purchased her for seventy-seven gold tillas; and the poor girl, who was walking about a few hours before, and saw and was seen by every one, was now literally packed up in a pannier. She had changed her character from slave to wife; for it signifies nought that she may have another husband, since she is surely born again who comes out of the hands of the Toorkmuns. This was a leap year; but a lady may be there allowed at all times to fall in love. The fair one of whom[68] I speak made a set at the first merchant who visited her; and stated, as an inducement to her purchase, that she would join any creed they liked. This Persian girl is not the first of her sex who has changed her doctrines with her name.

Entrance into Persia.

We halted in the afternoon at a cistern, eighteen miles distant from Shurukhs, the fort of which was yet visible; for we had travelled over level country, broken in some places by gravelly hillocks. At the third mile we crossed the dry and pebbly bed of the small river of Tejend, which rises in the neighbouring hills, and is lost in the sands. This is not the Herat river, nor is it the Ochus, for no such great river as appears in our maps has existence. Its pools were saline, and much of the soil was also salt. There were remnants of civilisation, but neither fields nor inhabitants. We again set out about eight at night with a full moon; and, after an advance of seven or eight miles, entered among defiles and hills, and found ourselves at Moozderan or Durbund, the frontier post in Persia, a little after sunrise, and forty-five miles from Shurukhs. The whole of the latter part of the route lay in a deep ravine, where there is imminent danger in travelling from the “Allamans” of the desert. We pushed on with great celerity and greater fear: every in[69]strument of war was in requisition, every match was lit, and the slightest sound brought the horsemen to a halt; for we hourly expected to encounter the Toorkmuns. After a night of such anxiety, we beheld with pleasure the look-out towers of Durbund, eleven of which crown the crest of the range, and command its passage. We here found a few irregular soldiers, the first subjects of the “Great King” whom we encountered. They were dispirited after the attack of the Toorkmuns, since this was the party which had lost their horses, and some of their fellow-soldiers.

Moozderan or Durbund.

After we had surmounted the pass of Durbund, our caravan alighted in the fields beyond the fort of Moozderan, which stands on an isolated spur of table-land, as you descend the pass. The place was once peopled; but the Khan of Orgunje some years since seized its inhabitants en masse, and razed their defences. In repair, it might protect the road into Persia; but a peasant cannot risk his life unless he receives the protection of his king. There is a beautiful fountain of tepid water, which springs up under Moozderan; and makes for itself, and some kindred streams, a channel down the valley, where the fruit trees and gardens of the exiled inhabitants may still be seen. It appeared a charming spot to us after so long a[70] sojourn among desolation. The men on the pass showed us a cave, of which they had many fabulous tales, describing it to be without a termination. It was lately the scene of great slaughter and distress, for the population retired into it when pressed by the Khan of Orgunje; and as they issued like bees from the hive, they were put to death or sent in perpetual exile across the desert.

Approach to Meshid.

Our arrival in Persia afforded the greatest source of joy to many of the persons in the caravan, who, though natives of Bokhara, were yet Shiahs. I thought that when we quitted that holy city, we should have done with such sanctified spots; but the capital which we were now approaching, Meshid i Mookuddus, the sacred Meshid, appeared, by every account, to be even more holy than Bokhara. When we should behold its gilded dome, I now heard that every one would fall down and pray. The Persians here began to speak boldly of their creed, which they had so long concealed; and the spirit of the place might now be discovered by the tale of a person in the caravan, who was by no means illiterate. A merchant, who had lately travelled to Meshid, overloaded one of his camels, which fled, immediately on its reaching the city, to the shrine of the holy Imam Ruza, and lowed out its complaints. The[71] animal was received, I presume, into the list of the faithful, since the priests of the shrine added him to their flock, adorned him with housings and bells, and gave him precedence of all other camels. The merchant confessed his cruelty, sued for forgiveness, and was pardoned at the sacrifice of his camel. To these and such tales an European must always listen and wonder; for though we have asserted, on the authority of the Koran itself, that the creed of the Mahommedan is not supported by miracles, its votaries admit no such doctrine; and enumerate the hundred thousand deviations from the laws of nature, which have happened for the benefit of the Mahommedan church. I had ventured among the Uzbeks to speak of the Koran and its contents, which I admitted I had read in translation. “Fool that you are,” was the reply; “how is it possible to transfer that holy book to another language, when every letter of every word has a distinct and individual meaning, that is only to be comprehended in the original?” I never afterwards paraded my biblical research; for while I found my knowledge of their Koran arraigned, I also heard, for the first time, that the Old and New Testament were nowhere to be found but as an incorporation with the Koran, since the copies of both Jews and Christians were vitiated forgeries![72] The arts of the priests of Islam bring to our remembrance the similar impositions of the Catholic church in by-gone ages. In Europe, however, the churchmen did really understand the learned language of the scriptures; but, among the Mahommedans, there are Moollahs who can only read, while they do not understand their version. There are of course many scholars, but there are distinct classes who do and do not understand; nor do they hesitate to speak of their learning or their ignorance, since the reading of the Koran is a sublime occupation, that covers the worst of sins.


We could not yet consider ourselves within the protection even of the holy Meshid, which was thirty-eight miles from Moozderan; we therefore moved at nightfall. In the bustle of departure I killed a huge reptile of a “tarantulla,” or an enormous spider, crawling on my carpet. Its claws looked like those of a scorpion, or small lobster, but the body was that of a spider. I was assured of its poisonous nature, and the natives insisted that it squirted its venom instead of stinging. We were soon on the wing, and wound our way up the valley of the Tejend, which was now a beautiful brook. Adventure. We commenced our journey in terror, and ere long met with an adventure that increased the rapidity of our march. About midnight the braying of a[73] donkey intimated to some palpitating hearts that we were in the neighbourhood of human beings, where none should exist. The shout of “Allaman, Allaman!” spread like lightning; and the caravan, in a moment, assumed the appearance of a regiment in open column, closing up in double march to form a square. The foremost camels squatted instantly, and the others formed behind them. Matches were lit on every side, swords were drawn, pistols loaded, and the unhappy merchants capered in front of their goods, half mad with fear and fury. The unarmed portion of the caravan took post among the camels, which really formed a tolerable square, increased as they were to the number of one hundred and twenty. The anxiety was intense, it was general; the slaves were more terrified than the rest, for they well knew the fate of capture by the Toorkmuns. After about a quarter of an hour’s detention, one of the party discovered that the Allamans, of whom we were standing in such awe, were a party of twenty poor wandering Eimauks, who had been gathering die (boozghoom) on the hills. They were more terrified than us, for their number made their fate inevitable had we been Toorkmuns. Immediately the mistake was discovered, a shout of delight raised the camels, and the caravan moved on at double its usual speed, with seven[74] or eight camels abreast; nor did it stop at the prescribed halting-ground, but pushed on some eight or ten miles farther when the day dawned. No sooner had we finished a scanty meal than it was again in motion, and a little after mid-day we reached Ghoozkan, the first inhabited village in Persia, and about fourteen miles from Meshid.

Ghoozkan slaves.

We halted a few hours at Ghoozkan, and had an opportunity of observing the supreme joy of the poor slaves, who had now reached their native land in safety. Many of the merchants gave them clothes and money to assist in their journey homewards, and it was with pleasure that we joined in the charitable feelings of the caravan. A few ducats purchased much happiness. Ghoozkan is peopled by Teimurees, a tribe of Eimaks, and has a population of about a thousand souls. They were a miserable looking set of beings, who used bandages as stockings, and covered their heads with brown sheep-skin caps. The whole of the inhabitants turned out to see us pass, and many of the poor creatures asked, in melancholy strains, of the different passengers, if we did not bring letters from their captive friends in Toorkistan. Troubled country. The Toorkmuns seldom spare Ghoozkan in their forays; and the last party had carried off six of their children, and put four of their[75] peasants to death. One wonders that human beings would consent to live in such a spot. The circle of the villages around Meshid gets more circumscribed yearly, and in the one which we first entered every field had its tower, built by the cultivator, as a defence to which he might fly on seeing the approach of a Toorkmun. What a state of society, that requires the ploughshare and the sword in the same field! We loaded the camels after a watch of night, and set out for Meshid, the gates of which we reached long before the sun had risen, not more to our own joy than that of the poor Persian slaves, who had performed every step of the journey with a palpitating breast.



Arrival in Meshid.

At dawn, on the morning of the 14th of September, we found our caravan waiting, in anxious expectation, under the walls of Meshid. At sunrise the keys of the gate were brought, which was at once thrown open to us. A new scene burst upon our view, with a rapidity which one only sees in theatrical representation. We had left a desert and the wandering Toorkmuns, and now advanced, in stately order, through a crowded city, arresting the notice of all the inhabitants. We had exchanged the broad face and broader turbans of the Toork and Tartar for the slim and long-faced Kuzzilbash, with a fur cap on his head, and his ringlets curling up behind, who now stood idly looking at us, with his hands in his pockets. The street which we entered was spacious and handsome; an aqueduct passed through it, and its banks were shaded by trees, while the splendid cupola and gilded minarets of the shrine of Imam Ruza terminated the perspective. A hundred and twenty camels passed up this avenue, and en[77]tered the spacious caravansarai of the Uzbeks. We followed in course, and seated ourselves on the balcony of the building, that we might the better observe the busy scene of the area beneath us. The inundation had, however, filled this extensive caravansarai, and we were necessitated to seek for an abode in a humbler place, which we found hard by.

The Prince Royal of Persia, Abbas Meerza, was now in the neighbourhood of Meshid; and though this country had been visited by few Europeans, we knew that there were British officers in his Royal Highness’s service. I lost no time, therefore, in despatching an express to the camp, which was about a hundred miles distant: but we were agreeably surprised to receive a polite message from Mrs. Shee, the lady of Captain Shee, who was then in Meshid; and it was equally pleasing to have it conveyed by a messenger who spoke our own language, one of the serjeants of the Prince’s army. During our stay in Meshid, we found ourselves more comfortable than since we had left India, and experienced many acts of civility and attention. We gladly changed the barbarous custom of eating with our hands; and, though our fair hostess was a Georgian, who only spoke Persian, we fancied ourselves once more among the society of our country.


Interview with Khoosrou Meerza.

I was soon astir to see the city of Meshid; and first visited the ark, or citadel, where I was suddenly surprised by the presence of Khoosrou Meerza, the son of the Prince, and the young man who had been deputed to St. Petersburg on the massacre of the Russian ambassador, now the acting governor of Meshid, while his father kept the field. He appeared to have profited by his journey to Europe, and conversed with me for an hour, asking much about our travels, and then jested on my beard and dress, which he assured me would be a great curiosity in my native land. He enquired whether I was a Catholic or a Protestant; and recurred with wonder to our having reached Persia in safety. He begged I would visit him on the following day, which I did not fail to do, being favourably impressed with this the first specimen of the royal house. I found the Prince next morning transacting business in the ark; and the ceremonial of approaching this scion of royalty was as formal as if he had been sovereign of the land. He is a most talkative person, and gave me an account of his journey to Russia, speaking with the highest encomiums of the education and polished manners of the ladies in that country. One of his suite, who appeared to be a privileged person, said, that his Highness could never be excused for having[79] returned to Persia without one of these angels. The Prince declared that it was impossible, and referred it to me, who was in duty bound to tell him, that a person of his rank might have married the most illustrious. Khoosrou Meerza appeared to be about twenty-three years of age. He has had, of course, great advantages over other Persians; but I liked his capacity and his remarks. He asked me if the ancient art of staining glass had been revived; if our progress in sculpture was yet thought to rival Greece; and if the unicorn had been found in any quarter of the world. He then enquired whether it was most difficult to introduce discipline among irregular troops, or a new system of laws and government in a country. “With Europeans,” he said, “every thing is based on history and experience; but in Persia there are no such guides. Persia, which held a supremacy before the age of Mahommed, has now sunk into a state of torpor and bigotry, and has no literature but the Koran. In Europe, there are those who study the Bible, as well as those who are devoted to science: but,” added he, “there is very little religion in Russia among the higher ranks with whom I associated.” I must confess that I was pleased to hear the youth talk so learnedly, since a knowledge of one’s ignorance is the first step to improvement.


Description of Meshid.

I lost no time in visiting the city of Meshid; but I need not present a diffuse or long account of it, since I find that there is both a minute and correct one in Mr. Fraser’s admirable work on Khorasan.[6] The holy city of Meshid surrounds the tomb of the Imam Ruza, the fifth in descent from Ali, and three streets branch out in different directions from the shrine. Two of them are wide and spacious, shaded by trees, and enlivened by running water. A chain, drawn across the streets, within a hundred yards of the shrine, encloses its bazar and the riches of Meshid, and keeps out cattle and animals from the sanctified spot. Here the hive has swarmed, for all other parts of Meshid are in ruins, though its walls enclose a circuit of about seven miles. I cannot rate its population at forty thousand souls. The greater portion of the enclosed space is devoted to the use of a cemetery, since it is believed that the dead may rest in peace near an Imam. There are also shady gardens to please the living. The inhabitants of Meshid seem to delight in burrowing in the ground; all the houses are entered by a descent; and it is said, that the earth so scooped out has been applied to the repairs and building of the house. The town is well supplied with water from aqueducts and spacious cisterns. The natives of Toorkis[81]tan will tell you, that the Imam Ruza removed to Meshid on account of the wickedness of the people and the necessity for his presence. The Uzbeks have a couplet, which states, “that if Meshid had not its cerulean dome, it would be the common sewer of the world.”[7] The Persians, on the other hand, describe it, in poetical language, as “the most enlightened spot on the face of the earth, for there are the rays of the Creator of the world.”[8] Who will judge between the parties? At Bokhara, a Shiah is a Soonee; at Meshid, a Soonee wishes to be thought a Shiah.

Shrine of Imam Ruza.

I paid an early visit to his holy shrine; for I experienced in my peregrinations through Meshid none of the bigotry or jealousy which seem so constantly to have beset Mr. Fraser. About the centre of the city the sepulchre rests under a gilded dome, which is rivalled by twin minarets of burnished gold, that shed resplendent light in the rays of the sun. A spacious mosque of azure blue rears a loftier dome and minarets close to the tomb, and was built by Gohur Shah, a descendant of the illustrious Timour. The pilgrim who visits this[82] shrine must first travel the bazar and cross the chain, when he enters a sanctuary, which no crime admits of being violated. He then proceeds under a lofty archway, and finds himself within a spacious quadrangle, the work of the great Abbas, which is a resting-place for the living and the dead. It is surrounded by small apartments, like a caravansary, which is a “madrissu,” or college, and the pavement is formed of tombstones, that cover the remains of those whose devotion and wishes have led to their being here interred. The arches and sides of the area are ornamented with a painted tile, not unlike enamel, which has a chaste and rich appearance. On the western side of the square lies the entrance to the shrine, which leads under a lofty Gothic arch, of the richest gilding. It is further adorned by mirrors let into the wall, and illuminated after sunset by tapers suspended from the roof. Beyond this threshold an infidel may not pass but in disguise, and my judgment conquered my curiosity. I might have escaped in the crowd; but I might have been discovered, though I learn that the beauties of the place deserve a risk. The richness increases the fervency of the pilgrim’s devotion, who enters it by a gate of silver; and the tomb is said to be shielded from the touch of the profane by railings of steel and brass,[83] on which plates of silver and wood, with blessings and prayers carved upon them, are suspended. Innumerable lamps of gold hang over the grave, which are lit upon the “eed” and the holidays of the saints, to honour the festival and enable the priests to display with advantage the riches and jewels that pious individuals have consecrated at this shrine. On the side opposite the entrance is the beautiful mosque of Gohur Shah; and here I walked without timidity. It is a fine specimen of architecture, and the arch, in which the “mihrab,” or niche towards Mecca, is placed, is superbly adorned and most chastely executed. It is beautified by lofty blue minarets on either side, which rise in rich effect and grandeur.

Grave of Nadir Shah.

Meshid has no buildings but its shrine. There are some colleges and a spacious and unfinished caravansary, with twenty-one others in different parts of the city; but still it is the burial-place of the great Nadir Shah. His grave, now dishonoured and marked by the ruins of the edifice that once sheltered it from the elements, is one of the most interesting sights to a traveller. What a field for rumination in such a spot! The fountains and flowers which encircled it have disappeared; the peach-tree, which put forth its blossom on the returning spring, has fallen under the axe, and[84] the willows and cypresses have been torn down. In their place a crop of turnips had been sown by some industrious citizen. Shade of Nadir, what a change is here! he who shook the kingdoms of the East, has been denied in death the small quadrangle of a garden, which the affection of sons had hallowed to the merit of a parent. This is the reward of him who delivered his country from a foreign usurper, and who studied his country’s good: but the well-being of a state does not necessarily comprehend the well-being of all its members. Nadir aimed the blows of despotism at the family which has succeeded to his empire, and he maimed the successful individual, who seized upon his kingdom and ejected his sons. Aga Mahommed Khan Khoju was mutilated in his youth by Nadir; but he retained the feelings of a man, and dug up the bones of the conqueror, in revenge for his disgrace. Report adds, that he sent them to Tehran, and placed them under the step which leads to the audience hall, that the courtiers and every one might trample upon them. We can readily comprehend the chagrin of a monarch who was not a man; and if his wrath excites our contempt, it enlists our sympathy. A eunuch himself, he spared his country from those banes of a palace. There are still some of Nadir’s descendants living in Meshid; but they are blind[85] and in destitute circumstances. My informant told me that they often applied to him for bread.


We soon received a reply to our communication from the Prince Royal’s camp, and were invited to pay our respects to Abbas Meerza, who had just captured the fortress of Koochan, which was said to be one of the strongest in Persia. The intelligence of its fall was received in Meshid with great enthusiasm, and followed by an illumination of three successive nights: for no monarch since the days of Nadir had ever subdued the chiefs of Khorasan. We dined à la Perse with Abdool, our old travelling friend, who is a merchant in Meshid, and then proceeded to view the illumination. Among the devices, I most admired the shop of a butcher, who had illuminated eight or ten sheep, by placing lights behind their fat and tallow, which he had cut into delicate stripes. I gave him credit for his ingenuity, if he kept his meat from roasting. In one street I saw an effigy dangling in the air, which I, of course, set down as the Koord chief who had been captured at Koochan; but this was no other person than the accursed Omar. It must have edified the Soonees to witness the holy caliph between earth and heaven; but I had none of my Bokhara acquaintances to give me their comments. Besides the effigy on the gibbet, we had a real exhibition of a[86] man suspended from a beam laid across the street, and that, too, in a blaze of light. How the contrivance was made I did not discover; for he had a rope round his neck, and kicked and acted to reality. As the crowd gazed on this curious exhibition, a wag fixed eight or ten tapers to the head of a butting ram, and let him loose among the assembly, where he forced his way as well by his horns as the lights that crowned him. Altogether the scene approached much nearer a genuine British illumination than I had ever expected to see in Asia.

We now prepared for our journey to camp, and took leave of all our Bokhara acquaintances and friends; visiting most of them at the caravansary, where we had a parting cup of tea. Many of the slaves came to see us, and we now hailed them as freemen. I was sorry to bid adieu to Ernuzzer the Toorkmun; but I gave him a letter to the Vizier of Bokhara; and, as it contained all the news of Khorasan, he seemed proud to be its bearer, and was anxious to set out on his return. We had now less fear of being thought rich; so we clothed our friend in a dress, and amply rewarded him for his services. I stuck a pistol in his girdle as he was leaving; and, though of the coarsest manufacture, it seemed a mighty gift to a Toorkmun. I had also to prepare a variety of letters to our[87] friends in Toorkistan, to whom I was pledged to write. I did not require such a pledge: for at a distance from them, and many more of our friends on this side the Indus, I remembered innumerable acts of kindness which had contributed to our comfort and happiness while living among them, which I could not now forget. In Meshid, perhaps, our feelings were more pleasing than in any part of the journey; for we had the prospect of soon seeing our countrymen, and the rest of our undertaking was, comparatively speaking, easy. We could now dress in respectable and clean clothes, without being called on to pay for our comforts.

Departure from Meshid.

After a week’s stay at Meshid, we quitted it on the 23d of September, and marched up the valley of the Meshid river to Ameerabad, a distance of forty miles. It was dark before we reached the stage, and we were benighted; we therefore spread our felts in a field, and bivouacked through the night. We espied the lights of some travellers near us, and they sold us wheat, with which we fed our ponies. About twelve miles from Meshid, we passed the ruins of Toose, which is the ancient capital of Khorasan; but the inhabitants have transferred themselves to Meshid. The valley of this river is rich; and it was pleasant to see extensive fields, in a dry country, watered by irrigation. Ameerabad,[88] which we did not see, is a strong fortress, and was captured by the Prince, about a month before we arrived, after a siege of five weeks. It is situated in the district of Chinaran.


We continued our progress up the valley for sixty miles, and reached Koochan on the third day of our leaving Meshid. This is said to be the coldest part of Khorasan; and it may well be believed, when the thermometer fell to 29° at sunrise in September. As water boiled at 206°, we were about 4000 feet above the sea. The valley varied in breadth from twelve to twenty miles, and there were some verdant spots under the hills, where the finest fruit is produced. Otherwise the country was bare and bleak. The hills have no wood, and are even destitute of brushwood. They rise to the height of 2000 or 3000 feet above the valley. We passed many villages by the way; but they were now deserted, on account of the war against the Koords. The roads were hard and excellent. We met many of the soldiers returning to their homes, since the campaign had terminated. They were a favourable specimen of the troops of Khorasan; for they were provided with arms that had serviceable flint locks, which I had not seen since leaving Cabool. The men were small, but they were merely the “Eeljaree,” or militia of the country.


Camp of the Prince.

We reached the camp of Abbas Meerza a little before noon, and found ourselves once more in European society. So complete was our disguise, that we had to make ourselves known, though we were expected. European officers. We sat down to breakfast with Captain Shee, Mr. Barowski, and Mr. Beek, who now compose the corps of officers in the Prince’s service. How delighted did we feel to hear our native language, and learn the news and events which had been passing in our protracted absence! We had arrived at an eventful moment, as the fortress had but a few days fallen, and we yet threaded our way among fascines and gabions, sap, mines, outworks, batteries, covert ways, and all the other works of a besieging army. Nothing could be more gloomy than the walls of the town. The parapet had been nearly dismantled; some of the towers had been blown up; all were battered; and the soldiery, now relieved from the dangers of the campaign, were filling up the ditch in listless idleness. This fosse was a barrier of a most formidable nature; for it was about thirty-five feet deep and twenty broad, though it narrowed towards the bottom. The Prince’s army had effected a lodgment across it; and a few more hours would have settled the fate of the fortress, when its chief surrendered at discretion. Koochan is a strong fortress, about a mile and a half in circumference, and[90] was defended by a garrison of 8000 men. The assault would have been attended with bloodshed, and its fall is entirely to be attributed to the European officers, whose science and skill had been grafted on the labour and exertion of the Persians.

Introduction to Abbas Meerza.

In the evening, we were introduced to the Prince Royal, by Captain Shee. His Royal Highness was proceeding to inspect his park of artillery, and we met him by the way. He received us in a most engaging and affable manner; offered us his congratulations at the great success of our journey through countries which he had not believed accessible to Europeans. He then assured us, that our troubles were at an end, since we had reached a land where our nation was respected. I thanked the Prince for his kindness, and then briefly replied to the various questions which he put regarding the countries we had visited. By this time we were standing in front of his artillery, while the whole of his court were about fifty yards in rear of us. The Prince gave a signal, and about six or eight persons advanced. He introduced two of them as his sons; another as Ruza Koli Khan, the conquered chief of the proud fortress. There was also another Koord chief; and Yar Mahommed Khan, the minister of Herat. What a sight did the great Koord chief present to us,[91] now standing in homage before his conqueror and the artillery which had subdued him. It appears that the parade had been ordered, to give him a sight of the park, and we had arrived at the opportune time to witness the spectacle. The Prince, turning towards me, said, “You must see my artillery;” and we then passed down the line with his Royal Highness, examining each gun as we approached it. Abbas Meerza took great pains to explain every thing concerning them; and the enquiries and looks of the unfortunate Ruza Koli Khan drew forth many a smiling remark. The chief appeared bewildered, and I thought he feigned insanity. He asked the Prince to give him a large mortar, which we were all admiring; Abbas Meerza told him not now to trouble himself about these things. The guns, which had fallen with the fortress, were drawn up in line, with the other artillery; they were Russian ordnance, cast in 1784, and had been captured from the present King of Persia. The Koord chief pretended not to recognise them; and, when he heard of their history, made a just enough remark, that they were good enough for Koochan. In the place of this chief, I should have considered it no dishonour to be subdued by a park of thirty-five guns, from four to 32-pounders, in the best state of efficiency. The[92] Prince then witnessed the exercise of the corps; bearing the amplest testimony to the merits of Captain Lindsay (now Sir Henry Bethune), the British officer who had organised it, and of whom he spoke with kindness. The ceremony then terminated, and we retired from the scene with much gratification at an interview with a Charles the Second in Persia. I was disappointed in Abbas Meerza’s appearance. He has been handsome, but is now haggard, and looks an old man; he has lost his erect carriage, his eye waters, and his cheek is wrinkled. He was plainly dressed, and walked with a stick in his hand. His eldest son, Mahommed Meerza, was present; but he has not the manners or dignity of his parent, though he is also an agreeable person.

Interview with Abbas Meerza.

On the following morning we paid our respects to the Prince Royal in his tents, and found him transacting business with his minister, the Kaim Mukam, and several other persons who were standing round him. There was no state or pomp to mark so great a personage. When the Prince had settled some matters on which he was engaged, he gave us a dose of politics, and talked of the incomparable advantages to England of upholding Persia, and begged I would explain in my own country his present situation; which, though at the head of a successful army, was most embarrassing, since he had no money[93] to pay it. I told the Prince that I regretted to hear such a detail of his difficulties, and I could only hope that he would surmount them all. I did not tell him, as I have ever felt, that I consider the payment of money to such a cabinet as derogatory to the name and honour of Britain; since it has tended more to lower our reputation in Asia than our most martial deeds in India have done to raise it. There was not, however, wanting a share of cant in the Prince’s oration; for he gravely assured me that he had now taken the field to suppress the sale and capture of his subjects as slaves by the Uzbeks. The motive was praiseworthy; but mark the conclusion:—“I am entitled, therefore, to the assistance of Britain: for if you expend annually thousands of pounds in suppressing the slave trade in Africa, I deserve your aid in this quarter, where the same motives exist for the exercise of your philanthropy.” I was pleased with the ingenuity and earnestness of the reasoning, which his Royal Highness had, no doubt, derived from some English newspaper or English friend. The Prince now turned to other matters, and asked regarding my education, and the notes which I had taken of the unknown country I had visited. “I am aware of your custom to do so,” said he; “and it is this general observance of it which has exalted your nation in[94] the scale of civilisation.” He enquired if I had met with any potatoes in my travels; and, on my replying in the negative, he produced a basketful of his own rearing, with evident satisfaction. They were a fair specimen, and do most decidedly entitle his Royal Highness to be elected an honorary member of a horticultural society. In the true spirit of a courtier, the Prince returned to the Uzbeks and the different countries of Toorkistan with which he thought me best acquainted. He asked, if I had met with any explanation of those passages in the History of Timour, where the undermining of a tower is described, and its then being destroyed by fire. I was not prepared for such a question, and mentioned the Greek fire used at the siege of Constantinople, and the circumstance of Timour’s vicinity to China, where it is believed that the art of making gunpowder was then known. I had not at this time heard that the undermined towers were supported by wooden frameworks, which, when set fire to, ceased to support the bastion, and it consequently fell. I next replied to the Prince’s queries regarding the customs of the Uzbeks. He smiled at their abomination of tobacco; since they sold it publicly, and mentioned that the servants of an envoy, whom he had lately received from Orgunje, caught the smoke as it came out of their master’s mouth. I[95] had not seen such barbarism in Bokhara. When I related to the Prince the spiritual notions of the Uzbeks, and some instances of their hearing witness against themselves, he related to us a similar occurrence in the life of Ali:—A female, who was enceinte, called for death, as an atonement for her sins. The Caliph desired her to appear when her offspring was born. She did so, and again accused herself; and he gave the command for her being stoned to death, but prohibited every one from lifting a stone who was in the least impure. The Caliph put the woman to death himself. I told his Royal Highness that I regretted I had not heard the tale, that I might have replied to the Uzbeks. The Prince then requested me to give him some notes on the resources of the country about Shurukhs, which he shortly intended to visit. I gave them without hesitation. Abbas Meerza, during this interview, spoke of geography and mathematics by these names, and evinced a tolerable proficiency in the first of these sciences. He spoke of New Holland; but he did not enlighten me on one of his favourite plans, by which he purposes to consign all his brothers and nephews to that country on his accession to the crown.[9] Never was any thing more visionary. I now intimated my wishes to prosecute my journey[96] among the Toorkmun tribes to the Caspian Sea; and the Prince, with great urbanity, assured me that I might visit any portion of the Persian dominions. He spoke of the danger of journeying among Toorkmuns; but desired his secretary to prepare a “rukum,” or order, which would ensure protection, and suggested our accompanying a Khan, who was proceeding in that quarter. He also offered a letter to his brother, the Prince of Mazanderan, and had it intimated to his son, who was then in his camp, that I would proceed in that quarter. We then took our leave of Abbas Meerza, much gratified by the interview. I cannot say that I was strongly impressed with his talents; but they evidently rise above mediocrity, and he is said to be swayed in his councils by others; he is, in every sense of the word, a perfect gentleman.


In the Persian camp we had many visiters, and found much to amuse us in the bustling scene. We found two of the Persian gentlemen, who had been in England, Meerza Baba, the Hukeem Bashee, and Meerza Jaffier, both of whom now sighed for the return of the days which they had passed in England. There, they were lions: here, they were among their countrymen. Meerza Baba is an intelligent and agreeable man; and, in an Asiatic, I have never seen a more perfect approach to an English gentleman, both in language and manners. I jested with him[97] about Hajee Baba; but that work has given great offence in Persia, and the Hukeem Bashee assured me that the English did not understand the Persians. I can hardly agree with him, for I afterwards saw a good deal of Hajee Babaism in the land.

Future plans. Separation from Dr. Gerard.

Since we had entered Khorasan my fellow-traveller, Dr. Gerard, had come to the resolution of turning down upon Herat, and Candahar, and thus retraceing his steps to Cabool, in preference to advancing upon the Caspian. The main object of our journey had been now nearly accomplished, and the route of Herat, which promised him some gratification, had been travelled in safety by Lieutenant Arthur Conolly[10], an enterprising officer of the Bengal Cavalry, and all the French officers of Runjeet Sing. We now, therefore, prepared to separate, after a weary pilgrimage of nine months which we had performed together. Our feelings on such an occasion may be imagined; but we parted with the knowledge, that we had almost brought the original design of our undertaking to a close, and that both to the east and west all serious dangers were at an end. At Koochan I also permitted the Hindoo lad to[98] return to India, along with Dr. Gerard; and, at his own request, I discharged my faithful Afghan servant, who had accompanied me from Lodiana. His name was Sooliman, a native of Peshawur. He was quite unlettered; but he had kept both my secrets and my money where there were many inducements to betray. He had proved himself worthy of my confidence; and the feelings with which I parted from him were those of unmingled approbation and regard. By the opportunity which presented itself I wrote to all our native friends in Cabool, and even to Runjeet Sing himself. It would be presumptuous to believe that the many titled personages I addressed were my friends, though their professions had been great: but, if the rulers and governors of countries and cities be set aside, there was yet a long list of good and worthy men as correspondents, whose good wishes, I do not hesitate to say, I desire. It will not be out of place to name the individuals I addressed on this occasion, since we experienced civilities and kindness from all.

Koosh Begee, of Bokhara.
Sirdar Dost Mahommed Khan, of Cabool.
Nuwab Jubbar Khan, of Cabool.
Sirwur Khan Lohanee, of Cabool, at Bokhara.
Sirdar Sooltan Mahommed Khan, of Peshawur.
Peer Mahommed Khan,his brothers.[99]
Saed Mahommed Khan,
Moorad Ali Khan Nazir, of Peshawar.
Ghoolam Kadir Khan,Sons of Cazee Moolah Hoosun.
Meer Alum,
Toghy Hosn Caboolee, of Lodiana.
Shere Mahommed Khan (his son), Bokhara.
Moollah Ruheem Shah Cashmeeree, Cabool.
Naib Mahommed Shureef, Cabool.
Mean Fuzil huq Sahibzadu, Peshawur.
Meean Sado Deen, Peshawur.
Maharaja Runjeet Sing, Lahore.
Sirdar Lenu Sing, Majeetia.
Sirdar Huree Singat, Attok.
Meerza Saeed ibn Yar Mahommed Balkhee, Bokhara.



Departure from Koochan.

On the 29th of September, I bade farewell to my fellow-traveller and the officers of the Prince’s service, and commenced a journey to the shores of the Caspian. I joined Humza Khan, who had been lately appointed Governor of the Toorkmuns east of that sea, and now proceeded with a party of about three hundred persons, composed of Koords, Persians, and Toorkmuns; but the alarms for personal safety, which had so often troubled me in days that were gone, had now, I may say, vanished, for I looked upon all those around me as friends. My costume led to many mistakes among the party; and, after I had satisfied the Khan that I was the “Firingee” recommended to his care by the Prince, I felt rather disposed to mix with the others as one of themselves, since a better opportunity would be afforded for judging of the people. We bivouacked, after a march of twenty-six miles, beyond Shirwan, a strong fortress, with a deep wet ditch, that was now being dismantled by orders of the[101] Prince. From the small number of labourers engaged on this work of spoliation, I suppose it will be soon abandoned, and that the place will rise in due time as one of the strong-holds of Khorasan.

Atruck River. Boojnoord.

We followed the course of the Atruck river, which rises near Koochan, till within ten miles of Boojnoord, when we left it running westward as a small rivulet, and crossed several mountain ridges. A march of thirty-eight miles brought us to Boojnoord, a rather large place, standing in a spacious valley, and the residence of one of the Koord chiefs, who prudently tendered his allegiance on the approach of the Prince, and now owed the possession of his fortress to his share of discretion. We here saw, for the first time, the wandering inhabitants, or Ilyats, of Khorasan, about a thousand of whose black tents were scattered around. They did not appear to differ from the Ghiljees of Cabool. On our march to Boojnoord we met the peasantry crowding in bodies to occupy their native villages. They had fled on the commencement of the war, and now returned on the success of the Prince: the poor creatures stopped to ask the particulars of the campaign; but the women and children could hardly believe us any other than plundering Koords. The year had passed away without a crop; but, if the country returns to a state of[102] peace, it may yet become prosperous and happy. War has desolating effects everywhere; but it is fearful to be befriended by a Persian army. The enemy who opposes it fares best, since he has no billets sent to him for grain and supplies; the pittance of the obedient subject is actually devoured.

Toorkmun discipline.

Four miles from Boojnoord, we left the valley in which it is situated, and entered among hills. It was difficult to trace any range either to our right or left, but those on the south were covered with pine trees. The climate was moist and pleasant, and there were many rich and beautiful spots of cultivation among the bare hills. The vineyards of Sarewan, which were in a deep glen, are quite enchanting. Though the country was mountainous, the road was excellent; and, after a march of thirty-six miles, we reached Kila Khan, in the district of Simulghan, which is richly watered from the hills. We were now upon the line of inroad of the Tuka Toorkmuns, who engage in constant forays between Meshid and Tehran; and the mountains and roads over which we trod must ever be crossed by them. Our own party, however, consisted of two hundred Toorkmuns of the Goklan and Yamood tribe, who had served in the Prince’s army, and were now discharged: such was their share of the glories of the Khorasan campaign. We had[103] had a specimen of their native propensities in our second march from the camp, where they met a party of villagers proceeding to sell their grapes. The poor peasants were mercilessly beaten, and the Toorkmuns pillaged the greater portion of the contents of their baskets. By the laws of an enlightened country, they might not have been blameable, if they were actually in want of food. The spoil was shared equally among them, and he who had knocked down fared no better than he who was in the rear: they even brought me a share of the captured property. It was in vain that the Khan endeavoured to discountenance these practices, for he possessed no authority over them. At length they received a salutary check at Sarewan, where the villagers turned out in a body, and knocked down a trespasser, which frightened his comrades. I secretly rejoiced at their discomfiture.

Travelling in Khorasan.

What a long Fursukh is that of Khorasan, says a traveller, who has toiled from sun-rise nearly to sun-set, and who can no longer cling to his jaded horse, but by the prong in front of his saddle. An European, who canters and gallops onwards, can form no just conception of the fatigue of a forty-mile stage in Khorasan, where every step must be walked, and there is no inn or refreshment at the end of it. “By the head of the Prophet!” said one of the party,[104] as we neared our halting ground, “this road is longer than the entrails of Omar, for my back and my knees have lost their feeling.” I had a hearty laugh at the quaint comparison, and also sympathized in his fatigue. “Pidr sokhtu!” (Burn his father!) continued the talkative Persian, “I never was so worn out.” In our party we had several lively fellow-travellers; and, on a few days’ acquaintance, the Persian appeared to me a better sort of being in his country than abroad, where his vanity is beyond endurance.

Tribe of Gireilee.

A march of thirty-eight miles brought us to the site of a village called Shahbaz; but we had now lost all traces of inhabitants, though the country was rich. The tribe of Gireilee had in former years tilled the soil, and tended their cattle: but human beings appear to be considered in these countries as much property as horse-flesh; and Aga Mahommed Khan had transferred the whole race to Mezenderan. The rich pastures of the country lay neglected: for what peasant would seek his abode near the Tuka Toorkmuns, whose tents lie but a few miles distant beyond the hills. In the society of two hundred of these people, we even did not feel ourselves altogether safe. In all our bivouacs, I had hitherto escaped the damp ground as a bed, but I rose in the morning stiff and benumbed by humidity and dews. The sun soon[105] dried my clothes, and good spirits (I do not mean brandy) prevented any evil consequences. We were now travelling among mountains, with alternate hill and dale, and over a wild and romantic country. There were a few stunted pine trees on the hills, but they were oftener bare of every thing but grass. All the people were kind and conversable; and man requires little else even in the arid regions of Khorasan.

A Toorkmun acquaintance.

A Toorkmun who had proffered his acquaintance, by the way asked me abruptly to tell him the news of Bokhara, recognising, I suppose, in my costume the dress of that country. He addressed me in Persian, which was no doubt as foreign a language to him as myself. “I am a Firingee,” said I; when the Toorkmun pulled up his horse, and said, “Come, do not think you can play the fool with me, for Firingees have no beards; and your shaved head and dress belie your assertion.” It was in vain that I continued to convince him of my real character. “Soonee, or Shiah, which are you?” said he. “Be it so,” replied I, “since you are determined to have me a Mahommedan;” and I repeated the names of the first four Caliphs, the watchword of the Soonees and Toorkmuns, who are all of that persuasion. “Bravo!” cried my new acquaintance; “I knew I was right;” and we journeyed together with great delight, I personating a cha[106]racter which had been forced upon me: nor was it sufficient that my creed was settled; the Toorkmun also fixed my country, which was Cabool. I did not allow the opportunity to pass which thus presented itself of improving my knowledge of the Toorkmuns, whose lands we were once more to enter.

Running down partridges.

My friend dashed off with great precipitation among a crowd of his countrymen, to run down a “kubk,” or partridge, which rose near us. This is an easier matter than would be at first imagined, as the number captured soon proved. These birds fly once or twice, seldom thrice, and are then picked up. The Toorkmuns were delighted with the sport, and I participated in their excitement, though I did not join in it. The long spears with which they were armed, their great activity, and the horsemanship which they displayed, gave what I imagined to be a just resemblance to their “chupao,” when in search of human beings. At a gallop, a Toorkmun cavalier leans forward on his saddle, which gives him an air of eagerness that is singularly interesting. The whole scene was worthy of the ancient Parthia, the very country that we now traversed.

A Toorkmun bard.

Among the Toorkmuns I noticed an individual loitering by the way, and humming some notes as he went, to which his leg and his arm[107] seemed to be keeping time, while an instrument like a “sitar,” or lute, served to convince me that I had at last got hold of a character for whom I had been searching—a bard of the Toorkmuns. “Sulam alaikoom,” said I to the bard; who returned it most graciously. But, alas! our conversation here ended, for he knew no language but Toorkee, and my acquaintance was but sufficient to tell him that I knew it not. Instinct set the bard to the task which I wished; and he struck up one of the airs of his tribe; but the paces of our horses did not admit of his using his instrument. Music is an expensive accomplishment in all countries; and the bard began to interrogate me as to his reward, hinting that he must not be wasting his arts in vain. An interpreter between us informed him that he should have a good pilao in the evening; but the Toorkmun gave a glance behind him, and asked who would cook the pilao for a man who had not even a servant. Here was a hint to travel in state. The bard dropped in the rear to ask who I might be; and I did have the pleasure in the evening of giving him a pilao, and removing his doubts of my solvency. For this I had a promise of introduction to the minstrels of his clan.

Goklan Toorkmuns.

Six miles from Shahbaz we took leave of the hill and dale which we had so long traversed, and[108] descended into a valley, which contained the source of the river of Goorgan. For about twenty miles we wound gradually through it, without the smallest marks of civilisation: but our day’s journey terminated among the tenements of the Toorkmuns, which I was delighted once more to behold. These people are of the tribe of Goklan, and amount to about nine thousand families. No scene could be more enchanting than that on which we had now entered: the hills were wooded to the summit, and the hue of the different trees was so varied and bright, as hardly to appear natural. A rivulet flowed through the dell; and almost every fruit grew in a state of nature. The fig, the vine, pomegranate, raspberry, black currant, and the hazel, shot up everywhere; and, as we approached the camp of the Toorkmuns, there were extensive plantations of the mulberry. The different groups of tents were pitched in grotesque order in the open lawn near the river; and our party halted at one of their settlements on a beautiful shelf of green turf, that lay at the base of a cloud-capped hill, clothed with the richest foliage. The Toorkmuns received their new Governor with every respect, and appropriated a certain number of their tents for his accommodation: one of these was kindly bestowed on me; and I now[109] found myself for the first time since leaving India (I except the camp of Abbas Meerza) under the shelter of a tent, and that too among the Toorkmuns. I also received buttered cakes and melons, as their guest, and fared sumptuously.

Customs of the Toorkmuns.

On winding through the valley, we had an opportunity of witnessing an interesting sight in the welcoming of a chief, or “Aksukal,” who had accompanied us from Koochan. We had only known him as a Wild Toorkmun; and, for my own part, I had scarcely noticed him: but here he was a noble, and, what is greater, a patriarch. He had been summoned by the Prince Royal, and now returned to his home. For miles before reaching the camp, the Toorkmuns crowded upon us to bid him welcome: all of them were on horseback—men, women, and children; and several of them cried, as they kissed his hand. At length, in a shady and picturesque part of the valley, a party, which appeared more respectable than the others, had dismounted and drawn up. This was the family of the chief: he leaped upon the ground with the enthusiasm of a youth, rushed forward, and kissed in succession four boys, who were his sons. The scene was pathetic; and the witty Persians, who had before been imitating some of the actions and exclamations of the[110] Toorkmuns, were silenced by this fervent flow of affection. Three of the boys were under ten years of age, yet they mounted their horses with spirit, and joined the cavalcade. There were no bells to ring the peals of joy which this day pervaded the Goklan Toorkmuns: nor were they required to give more certain indication of their delight. A party of their countrymen had returned in safety from battle; the clan had gathered from every quarter; and, as they took up their position in the rear, they gave to us, who were indifferent spectators, the cordial salutation of friends. The women said, “Koosh geldee” (You are welcome), and crossed their hands on their breasts, as we passed them, in token of sincerity: I never witnessed a scene of more universal joy. A horseman, more delighted than the rest, appeared with his horse sinking under a load of bread, which he distributed in cakes to every one he met, with this remark:—“Take this, it is good in the sight of God: take it, you are a guest and a stranger.” It was impossible to look on such scenes with an eye of indifference; and could I but give in more graphic language the scenes of this day among the Toorkmuns, it would excite the warmest emotion: and yet I speak of the lawless Toorkmuns, who plunder and desolate the land: so true is it, that the character[111] of mankind is made up of the most glaring inconsistencies and contradictions.

Toorkmuns of the Caspian.

The Khan whom I had accompanied, was now busily engaged in the duties of his new occupation. He was the harbinger of good news to the Toorkmuns: for they, who plunder every one, had been themselves plundered by the Mezenderan troops, who had proceeded to join the army through their territories. The Prince had ordered a register of their losses to be communicated; and our Khan moved from camp to camp as a welcome visiter. I continued with him for four days, which I passed in pleasing observation of Toorkmun habits and customs. No opportunity could have been more favourable to the purpose, since we were every where well received by them; and I appeared in the suite of a great man. The tribe of Goklan Toorkmuns is subject to Persia, which has asserted its supremacy for the last thirty-six years. Their allegiance is unwilling, but it is complete; for they have exchanged the habits of rapine for the peaceful vocation of agriculture. They want the affluence and comfort which I have described among the Toorkmuns of Shurukhs. The Yamood tribe, which lies between them and the Caspian, have been also subdued by Persia; but the greater number of that clan, which is said to amount to twenty[112] thousand families, enables them frequently to resist and rebel. The Goklans, however, have no political power. The Tuka Toorkmuns, which skirt, to the north, both these tribes that I have named, maintain their independence of Persia. The customs of the Toorkmuns do not differ from those about Bokhara, only that they more nearly resemble citizens. The women conceal the face below the mouth; though I cannot say that the personal charms of those whom I saw during our stay here would induce even a forward youth to sue for a kiss, or a sight of their ruby lips. Their dress more assimilates to that of Persia than those of the desert.

A Toorkmun patriarch.

In our travels from one tenement to another, I met a man of about sixty years of age, who first attracted my notice, by observing every one dismount as he advanced, and proceed to kiss his hand; for which he gave his blessing. This was a Syud of the Toorkmuns. A Persian, who had observed my watchful attention to what was passing, called out to the aged man that I was an European; and we were soon engaged in conversation. He held the unpromising name of Mahommed Ghilich, or the “Sword of Mahommed;” but the universal respect bestowed upon him had softened his manners; and age had mellowed his voice: his sentiments, too, were pleasing. He asked if all[113] Franks were Christians; and when I told him they were, he said, “It is well to follow our own creed: a Jew, a Christian, a Mahommedan, will be one in death.” Our conversation then turned upon the Toorkmuns; and he lamented their sale of human beings, since a difference of religion afforded no just grounds for such cruelty. “It was a propensity of their race,” said he; “for their dispositions were wicked, and they listened not to his advice. But am I speaking to a ‘Firingee?’” said the aged man, abruptly interrupting himself; “I have never before seen one; and how should I in so remote a country. Where is the country of the Franks; and where is the desert of the Toorkmuns? There must be something peculiar in our destiny,” continued he to muse aloud with himself, “which has brought you and me together. Our spirits (roh) must have had intercourse in another world, to meet in this;” which was a singular remark. After travelling together for about three miles, we stopped at a mound of earth which had a pole stuck in the centre, and several of which we had already seen. “What is this?” enquired I. “It is called a Yoozka; and marks the place where some one has died or been laid out as a corpse. The Toorkmuns say a blessing as they pass the spot, and hope for the favour of[114] the deceased. It is an old custom among us, and you will see many others as you advance.” They are not graves, but mounds or barrows raised in honour of the dead. I entertain an impression that the usage is Tatar; but I had no opportunity of further investigation. The venerable Syud was crossing to the top of a neighbouring hill, where was his home and six sons. He clasped my hand, blessed me, wished me a safe journey to my country; and consigning me to God, according to the custom of the people, we parted.

Noble scenery.

At length we cleared the valley of the Goorgan river, and debouched upon the plain eastward of the Caspian. The landscape was very imposing. To our left, the hills, now running in a range, rose up to a great height, clad to the summit with forest trees and foliage. To our right, the extensive plains, which are watered by the rivers Atruk and Goorgan, and richly verdant, were studded with innumerable encampments of Toorkmuns, and diversified by flocks and herds. In our front, at a distance, we descried the lofty mountains of Elboorz, that seemed to shut up an otherwise boundless plain. Such a scene would have delighted any one; much more a wanderer from the deserts of Scythia.

The Khan, before I took my departure,[115] gratified my curiosity on the subject of Toorkmun minstrelsy, by sending two “Bukhshees,” or Bards, to amuse me with their lyre and lays. The instrument was a rude two-stringed sitar, to which they sung the national airs in Toorkee. They first gave me an “Attack of the Tuka Toorkmuns on the Persians;” and the following literal translation will give some notion of a Toorkmun war song:—

Toorkmun national songs.


Lootf Ali Khan! Your greatness is gone, it is time to lead you away captive, Begler![11] It is time to marshal our forces at night, and prepare for a “chupao”[12] in the morning.
The dust of your fields shall blow away under the hoofs of the Toorkmuns.
The Tukas will bear off your daughters arrayed in velvet.
Thanks be to God, my name shall abound unto the skies.
If you know the year of the goat[13], know that I shall then plunder Meshid.
All your hopes in Khorasan shall be broken. You will now be obliged to flee to Tehran, Begler!
I have an hundred noble youths who watch you.
Nor do they lack attention; they will drag you to my presence, Begler!
Oh, Begler! I’ll bear off your guns to Khiva: your power is gone.
I’ll assemble my warriors on the plain.
If you have sense, remember my advice.
Send me a youth and a beautiful girl as a tribute.
Oh, Bhaee Mahomed![14] this is the time of my happiness.


The Koords, though a Persian tribe, are as much addicted to plunder as the Toorkmuns; and there is, perhaps, greater spirit in the following song in reply to the Tuka Toorkmuns:—


Begler! Give my respects to the Tukas. There is a place called Urkuj.[15]
You have long enough enjoyed it.
You have sat in Urkuj for many a year. It is now time, Begler! that you should decamp.
We shall now pitch our tents on the meadows of Nisaœ.[15]
We shall sound the trumpet of retreat as you flee.
Our horsemen will capture those who attempt to escape.
We shall trample under foot those who lag behind.
We shall gaze on your lovely daughters.
Our brave warriors, clad in their armour, shall gallop over your plains.
Our soldiers will charge beyond your fort, Begler!
The walls of Akkul[15] will tremble at the report of our artillery.
I shall bring a powerful army along with me.
I shall pass beyond the plains of Kipchak.[16]
My advanced guard will dismount in the field of Maimuna.
Your people will be annihilated in the sands of the desert.
When you are driven among the sand hills,
Your feet will blister, and your mouths will be parched.
Wherever you may be, my guides will ferret you out.
When they have marked you down, we shall seize you and your families.
Oh, Dooshkoon![17] I speak thus from myself:
That plain, now so beautiful, will shortly appear to you a bed of thorns.


Quit the country of the Toorkmuns.

With these national lays closed my acquaintance with the Toorkmuns. I passed down upon Astrabad by the plain; avoiding, as much as possible, all intercourse with the Yamoods, who were not described as so pacific as the Goklans. I met several parties of them, and they offered me no incivility, though I had now left the suite of the Khan, and was travelling alone. A journey of eighty miles brought us to the town of Astrabad, from which the view is very imposing. At the base of mountains, one of which is the craggy fortress of Humawuran, the scene of Persian romance, lay the vast plain of the Toorkmuns. The Caspian could be but faintly distinguished, for it is upwards of twenty miles distant. On our route from the country of the Goklans, we passed a lofty cupola, the Goombuz Kaoos, supposed to stand on the ruins of the ancient Goorgan. It is said to have been once connected with the Caspian by a boundary line of forts styled the “Lanut Nooma,” or the “curse shower;” since every person was accursed who presumed to cross into the country of the Toorkmuns. The natives spoke of the wars and battles of by-gone years, when the rivers Goorgan and Atruk were dyed with blood; but I hope, as I believe, only in the metaphors of the poet.

Arrival at Astrabad.

In Astrabad we alighted at a caravansary;[118] and passed two gloomy days in this “City of the Plague.” Plague. That scourge had last year devastated this town; and I sauntered without pleasure through its deserted streets. Half the shops and houses were shut, literally from want of masters; and the whole population did not exceed 4000 souls. The disease raged here with fearful violence; and from some families of ten or twelve, two or three only remained. In every instance that the tumours of the patient burst, life was spared; but not till it had left the most horrid scars as marks of its virulence: they looked like gunshot wounds. One would have almost imagined that these people had become familiarised to death, though the disease had now disappeared. The bier used for interment lay by the road-side; and I saw them washing a dead body by one of the wells in the public street, near some fruit-shops. I moved quickly away from the spectacle; and the sound of my horses’ hoofs echoed as I trod these lonely streets.


Astrabad is a place of no great note. A dry ditch, and a decayed mud wall about two miles in circumference, surround it; yet there are parts in the interior, which bear no resemblance to a city, and remind one of the country. It is the birthplace of the Kujurs, the reigning family of Persia. Hanway tells us, that in the[119] beginning of last century, it was a considerable mart for trade; but its prosperity has declined, since it has now only four caravansaries, and there are but twelve shops for the sale of cloth. Its position is favourable, being but twenty miles from the Caspian. The magnificent causeway of Shah Abbas, which still exists, also keeps open its communication with the provinces south of that sea. Its trade with Orgunje, or Khiva, is comparatively trifling; there being but one or two annual caravans of eighty or a hundred camels. The intervening country is very disturbed; goods may be conveyed there with greater safety, by passing them up the eastern bank of the Caspian, and landing in the latitude of Khiva. There is hardly any trade between Astrabad and Russia. The climate of Astrabad is humid and disagreeable. It rains so much that it is difficult to keep a mud wall standing, and a very ingenious plan has been devised to effect it. A mat of reeds is placed on the top of the wall, covered with earth, and planted with lilies, or fleur-de-lis, which grow up luxuriantly, and thus protect it from the rain. Though Astrabad be in the same parallel as Koochan, the thermometer, which there fell below the freezing point at sunrise, now stood at 60° in October. The difference of elevation[120] solves the problem. Astrabad produces oranges, figs, lemons, and the fruits of hot countries.

Arrival on the Caspian.

From Astrabad I proceeded to the banks of the Caspian at Nokunda, a straggling village about thirty miles distant. We might have come on it sooner, but I had an introduction to the Khan of that place, and preferred seeing the Causeway of the great Shah Abbas. It is yet in tolerable repair, and appears to have been about twelve feet broad, and formed of round stones. It runs through a thick forest, where figs, vines, and pomegranates grow spontaneously. This road will, in all probability, remain, like that of the Cæsars, as the most lasting memorial of the munificent Abbas. Without it, the province of Mazenderan would be quite impervious for many months. The Khan of Nokunda received me very kindly, and was a communicative man. He was a relation of the Khan with whom I had travelled among the Toorkmuns. He gave me a Persian dinner, and many Persian compliments; and I assured him, in return, that the guest of a night was the friend of a hundred years.

Adventures on the Caspian.

The forests of Mazenderan had yet hid the Caspian; nor did I see it till the following morning, and within half a mile of its beach. What a noble sight it at length presented, after we had been so long looking for it, and[121] travelled from Delhi to its shores. It now rolled before us like the ocean. Near us lay five or six small vessels, here called “gummee;” and the Khan and myself embarked in one of them, and sailed merrily out to sea, from which we viewed this beautiful coast. We boarded a small Russian vessel, and the whole voyage was repaid by the reception of the captain, who, on hearing I was a European, pulled off his fur cap, and had a bit of sturgeon broiled for my refreshment. I cannot say I relished it; but then, I had not had such a bow, and such society, for many a day. These vessels are all of Russian build; they carry two masts, and hoist square sails; their tackle is superior: but there were no vessels of any great tonnage then in the harbour. There is a prevalent belief, that the waters on the southern side of the Caspian have been receding; and during these twelve years they have retired about three hundred yards, of which I had ocular proof. Over the reef which forms the Bay of Astrabad, the natives informed me that the water of the Caspian is fresh, while in other places it is brackish; but as this is the embouchure of the rivers Atruk and Goorgan, it may be readily accounted for. I did not leave the Caspian without endeavouring to verify the opinions regarding its level, which is clearly[122] below that of the ocean. A thermometer, which boils at the sea at 212⅓°, here boiled at 213⅔°, which, according to Humboldt, would give a depression of 800 feet, which is much too great. I did not, however, use proper water for the experiment, and we shall rest satisfied simply with its being a corroboration of received opinions of the depression of this inland sea.

Gardens of Ushruff.

I took leave of the Khan of Nokundu, and proceeded to Ushruff, which is in Mazenderan, and one of the favoured seats of Shah Abbas and Nadir, and which Jonas Hanway has so graphically described some ninety years ago. All the fine buildings which he mentions have been destroyed, though their architecture is such that they might have stood for centuries. There is yet enough to leave a very favourable impression of the taste of the Persian monarch; since it is evident that they have been light and chaste, and in that keeping which ought to characterise garden-houses. A superb basin, and all the aqueducts, are yet perfect, and the cypress trees have attained a great height in their advanced age. The situation of these gardens is beautiful; they command a noble view of the Caspian.

Fortunate escape.

At Ushruf we met a party of pilgrims from Bokhara and Khiva, who joined us at the caravansary. We learned from them, that the[123] Russian caravan, which had proceeded to Mangusluk, had been plundered by the Kirgizzes, about ten days after leaving Khiva. But for the advice of the Vizier in Bokhara, we should have accompanied that caravan; and had we succeeded in passing through the town of Khiva, we should have met with the catastrophe to which I have alluded, between it and the Caspian. The pilgrims recounted the great hardships of their journey from Khiva to Astrabad, where they had experienced much oppression from the Toorkmun tribes. I had now to congratulate myself on having attended to the advice that had been given.

The plague.

After we had proceeded a mile beyond Ushruf, we found the great causeway barricaded, and a villager seated with a stick, to prevent a trespass. This was the board of health at Ushruf; for we now heard, for the first time, that the plague was raging at Saree, the capital of Mazenderan, and the town at which I had that day intended to halt. We prosecuted our journey; but rested at a village two miles from Saree, where our information of the existence of the disease was confirmed. I was now on my road to Balfurosh, and its port on the Caspian,—a place of some note, where I hoped to see more Russian vessels, and enlarge my acquaintance with this sea and that people; but I made[124] an immediate alteration in my plans, and prepared for a precipitate retreat from the shores of the Caspian and Mazenderan. Quit the Caspian. Next morning I took the high road to Tehran, and met with rather a staggering incident as we passed outside the walls of Saree. Our road brought us into a burying-ground, where two boys were digging a grave, as we passed, for two bodies that lay near them. Such a scene filled me with horror; for the people had died of the plague: but what was our astonishment to be addressed by the grave-diggers, and beseeched, as good Mahommedans, to assist in the usual ablutions of a corpse! “You shall have five ‘sahib kurans’ (about three rupees) for your trouble,” exclaimed they. There was a silence among us; no one gave an answer; and we soon found ourselves beyond Saree, having quickened the pace of our horses. This town suffered so severely from the plague in the preceding year, that there were not now more than three hundred people in it, and most of them were persons who had recovered from the disease; since the Persians bear an impression that the plague cannot be taken more than once. There were now too few people to admit of the disease spreading; but it no doubt lurked in Saree. They informed me that it had been introduced by Balfurosh from Astracan in the preceding year,[125] and all my curiosity to see that place vanished with the information.

Notice of the plague.

In our march we were joined by a native of Astrabad, who was proceeding to Tehran; and he gave me some account of the plague, which had raged last year. He had lost a son, and both he and his wife had caught the disease. She was nursing a child at the time; and though she continued to suckle it, the infant escaped. The disease did not reach its height till the tenth day, and was invariably attended with delirium. This person assured me, that he had the horror to see his own child dragged to the door by eight or ten cats, whom he with difficulty scared away; and affirmed it as his belief, that more people were killed by dogs and cats, or died from hunger, under the disease itself. None would approach an infected house, and no patient would even assist another. The plague and human nature are the same in all countries, and the affections and passions are never brought sooner to the test than in that devastating disorder.


Our stay in Mazenderan was now soon to close. It is a disagreeable country; and has so moist a climate, that the inhabitants are subject to fevers, agues, dropsies, palsies, and many other diseases. The people are sallow, and the children weak and rickety. It is a land of[126] snakes and frogs; but the snakes are not venomous, being of the water species. They are to be seen twisting and turning every where, and about the thickness of a good-sized whip. Almost at every pace your horse disturbs some frogs, who scramble in vain for concealment even in a country of bushes and shrubs. So great is the moisture, that the rice crops are not cut, as in other countries. They mow the grain down near the ear, and place it to dry on the stubble; for it would otherwise rot. Mazenderan is a rich province. The sugar cane thrives in it; but they do not appear to prepare it beyond the first stage, and sell it as molasses. Cotton also grows luxuriantly, and silkworms are educated every where. The fruit is good, and much of it grows wild. There are whole woods of pomegranate trees; and the people collect the fruit, and, after drying the seeds in the sun, export them as a rarity to other countries.


The peasantry, with a sickly, have yet a comfortable appearance. They tie folds of cloth round their legs and fix them with a low shoe, and lacing cords. They wade through their muddy roads with these, and tell you they are superior to boots, since they may be dried in the evening! The men wear dark clothes, and the women dress generally in red,—the two colours[127] which I suppose are easiest made. Many of the people wear caps of felt, instead of lambskin. The houses of the country are buried in vegetation; creepers, melons, and pumpkins are every where to be seen resting on the roofs. Every house has a garden, and is surrounded by a hedge of mulberries; most of them are elevated by wooden poles to a considerable height from the ground, to prevent the bad effects of moisture. The inhabitants pass the summer and autumnal months in the hills, where they cultivate rice. They live in huts, and call such a residence “yailak,” in distinction from “kishlak,” which they apply to their permanent habitations.



Quit Mazenderan.

At the village of Aliabad, which is twelve miles from Balfurosh, we quitted the Causeway of Shah Abbas, and proceeded south to the mountains, and entered the beautiful glen which is watered by the Tilar river. We had a sight of the lofty snow-clad mountain of Dumavend before leaving the low country. This valley extends for about sixty miles, and is the greatest of the passes into Mazenderan. Shah Abbas cut a road in the rock for about ten miles, which is yet passable, though it has not suited the policy of his successors to repair it. The horses frequently sunk girth deep into the mud; and if his present Majesty knew but half the curses and maledictions heaped upon his head and beard by the mule drivers, he would assuredly repair it for the peace of his own soul. The scenery of this valley is most romantic; the hills are covered with forest trees; and the rumbling noise of the water, which was many hundred feet below the road, had an effect that was most[129] pleasing. About half way up the valley, we crossed the rivulet by a bridge, called the “pool i sufued”, and left the rich foliage of Mazenderan.

Pass of Gudook.

We finally cleared the valley by the pass of Gudook, which leads up to the table land of Persia. The word “Gudook,” in Toorkee, means a pass. Our ascent from the dell was continued and gradual; and at Feerozkoh we were again six thousand feet above the sea. On either side, as we approached the pass, the precipices rose in grand abruptness, and the narrowness of the road had led to its being fortified in former years. This is a scene of romance, and the strains of Furdoosee, the Persian Homer. The cave of the “Dev i sufued,” or white demon, was pointed out to us, as well as the spot where he was slain by the valiant Roostum. Some fellow travellers, whom we had picked up by the way, spouted verses from the Shahnamu, and I was more than once amused with their ruminations. They did not dream of the lively imagination of a national poet, but were regretting the degeneracy of the present age, which had no giants and Roostums, as in times that had gone. The top of the pass was very cold; and in winter this is said to prove sometimes fatal to the traveller. Shah Abbas has here erected a bath and a caravansary, but they are both in ruins.


Gudook the “Pylæ Caspiæ.”

It appears to me that the pass of Gudook may be identified with the “Pylæ Caspiæ,” or the Caspian gates, through which Alexander the Great pursued Darius. Their distance from Rhages or Rei, which lies near the modern city of Tehran, is said to have been a two days’ march, and the journey is ninety miles. I have before observed that this is the greatest of the passes into Mazenderan; and we have seen that it is hallowed by Persia’s greatest muse. By this road Alexander reached Hecatompylos, from which he advanced into Parthia. On the way he attacked the Taburi; and it is a very extraordinary fact, that, in the modern coinage of Mazenderan, that province is yet denominated Taburistan.


From the pass of Gudook we journeyed in a cheerless valley pent in by bare hills; at the end of which stood the village of Feerozkoh, under a naked rock and fort about 300 feet high. This place put me in mind of Bameean, since many of the houses were excavated in the hills, where the inhabitants keep their flocks in winter. The climate is severe, and the snow lies for five months in the year. I observed a great change in the appearance of the inhabitants, who had now red and rosy cheeks. I know not whether our elevation from the lowlands of Mazenderan, might have an effect in the boiling of meat; but[131] it took twice the usual time to cook my pilao at Feerozkoh; nay, the water was boiled up before the meat was ready. The flesh might have been tough, and an old sheep of the flock had, perhaps, fallen under the knife of the butcher.

Cure for the taste of quinine.

It is said that the natives of Mazenderan are the most simple of all the Persians, and we had some amusement at the expense of one of our fellow-travellers, who applied for medicine to arrest an intermittent fever. I gave him quinine, and afterwards took occasion to ask him how he liked its bitter taste. “It has no taste,” replied he; for he had swallowed it along with the paper in which it was packed up.

A Koord.

We made three marches to Tehran, a distance of ninety miles, halting by the way at the hovels of caravansarais, which the traveller finds in this part of Persia, where he alights in the same room with his horse. The country was arid, bleak, and miserable, and the number of villages most limited. We had no signs of approaching the metropolis of a country. An incident occurred near Baumein, the last stage, which should not be omitted: one of my “yaboos,” or ponies, had sunk under his load, and I went into a village to hire another; I succeeded in my suit, and paid the price of the animal to a Koord with whom I made the bargain, and was about to resume my journey:—“Will you not[132] purchase my mule,” said he, “in exchange for your worn-out ‘yaboo,’ and give me the difference?” I entered into conversation, and found that the Koord took me for a native of Khorasan, and it was therefore useless to tell him I was an European. I certainly wished for his mule, and as I looked at it he said, with considerable solemnity,—“Now, as we are both good Mahommedans, let us conclude a bargain and not cheat each other.” I added, “Be it so,” and after a little conversation we settled all matters. His mule had, as I afterwards found, a broken back, and my yaboo had an incurable disease; but then it was as apparent to the Koord as it was to myself. Such was the settlement of a bargain between two good Mahommedans, who resolved to act fairly by each other; nor is Persia the only country where such arts are practised.

Vexations of a traveller.

On the 21st of October I was astir a little after midnight, to proceed with as little delay as possible to the capital of the King of kings, but what did my speed avail me? We had not got many yards from the caravansary before one of the loads tumbled from the mule, and while putting it right another was kicked off by a horse. We had repaired these disasters in a night as dark as Tartarus, and were about to advance, when it was discovered that one of the other ponies had strayed, and, what was more alarming, the very one, on which all my[133] notes, maps, and papers had been packed. My tongue clove to the roof of my mouth, at the announcement of such a piece of information, among thieving Koords, after all the difficulties of the journey had apparently terminated. A search of half an hour recovered the strayed animal, and I trotted on with all speed to the gate of Tehran, which I reached at noon. Arrival at Tehran. I proceeded to the mansion of the British mission and presented myself at the outer door, as a “Firingee.” I was soon met by Sir John Campbell, the envoy at this court, and spent with him and his agreeable family a few happy and pleasant days, marked by the utmost hospitality and kindness.

Presentation to the Shah.

After being introduced by the Envoy to the “pillars of the state” the cabinet ministers of Persia, I had the honour of being presented to his Majesty, on the 26th of October. Having seen the Great Mogul himself, and the monarchs of Cabool and Bokhara, with many other exalted personages, I was gratified to find myself in the court of Persia. The “kibleh alum,” or attraction of the world, (so the king is styled,) sat in a hall of mirrors, and when yet beyond the light of his countenance, we drew up and saluted. We then advanced, and again saluted; and his Majesty returned it by calling aloud, “Khoosh amudeed,” you are welcome. We[134] now ascended a few steps, and found ourselves in the presence of royalty. “Dumagh i shooma chak ust, are your brains clear?” exclaimed his Majesty with a sonorous voice; on this we drew up in a corner opposite to where the Shah sat, and returned the compliment by a salute. Sir John Campbell, Captain MʻDonald and myself composed the party, and the ministers stood on each side of us. The Shah sat at a distance of about forty feet, and a display of crystal, arranged with as little taste as in a shop, separated us from the King of kings. The chandeliers hung so thickly from the roof, that they completed the resemblance, and before any conversation had passed we were instructed to hold our swords, lest they might fracture the mirrors let into the wall behind us. “Does he understand Persian?” said his Majesty, to one of his ministers. “Bele, bele, yes, yes,” was the reply “he speaks Toorkee, Afghanee, Hindee, Persian, &c. &c.;” though I should have been soon at fault, had the Shah selected his dialect. “You have made a long and difficult journey,” commenced his Majesty; and such was the affability and engaging manner of this illustrious personage, that I felt myself at once free from embarrassment, and in the closest conversation with the “Asylum of the World.” He desired me to enumerate the cities which I had visited, and I ended the long list by saying, that the favour of God had at last brought me[135] to his august capital. He exclaimed in a tone of surprise, “Why, a Persian could not have done so much. But what led you to undergo the dangers and fatigues of such a journey?” I replied, that it had been curiosity. “Did you travel as an European?” I told him I did so. “It must have cost you much money;” but his Majesty had a hearty laugh when I told him that we owed our release among the Toorkmuns to two gold ducats and a little tea. “Have you taken notes of your journey?” said the Shah. “Yes,” replied I, “I have measured the mountains, examined the roads, and sounded the rivers.” “These people are lions,” exclaimed the astonished monarch. “Bele, bele,” echoed his ministers, “they are tigers, they are Roostums.” “Give me a sketch of the affairs of Cabool,” continued the King, “tell me the power of the chief and his brothers;”—with all of which I complied, adding, as a courtier, that the ruler owed his power to the Persians he retained in his interests. He made enquiries as to their tribe and number, on which points I satisfied his Majesty. The Shah then put like questions on the power of all the chiefs between India and Persia, questioned me about the road over the Hindoo Koosh, and particularly on the capability of the Oxus, which he called the Jihoon, and seemed to consider the greatest[136] river in the world: he mentioned the deserts which it passed, asking if they could be traversed by an army. His Majesty next spoke of the people of Bokhara, and asked if they were alarmed at the approach of Abbas Meerza to their frontiers. Need I give the answer: I told the King that they trembled. He smiled at my account of the Priests or Moollahs, and gave a look of contempt, as I mouthed the name of the King, the “Ameer ool Momineen,” the Commander of the faithful. “Did you try horse-flesh while among the Uzbeks?” was the next question. I replied that I did so, and it was not unpalatable. “But how got you from among the Toorkmuns?” said his Majesty once more. “I threw the dog a bit of meat, and escaped his jaws.”

After a little break in the conversation, the Shah, with some interest in what he said, enquired for the greatest wonder which I had seen in my travels. The opportunity was too favourable in so vain a court, and I replied in a loud voice, “Centre of the universe, what sight has equalled that which I now behold, the light of your Majesty’s countenance, O attraction of the world!” The Shah gave a nod of applause, which was taken up in a buzz of approbation by the pillars of the state, and evinced the royal and ministerial gratification. “But,” continued the[137] King, “what city did you most admire?” I required a precise answer after such adulation. I told him that Cabool was the paradise of our travels. He asked particularly for Balkh, and the modern condition of that “Am ool bulad,” or mother of cities.

“You were presented to the Prince-royal,” said the King; “And I received much condescension at his Royal Highness’s hands,” replied I; “he sent me with a Khan through the country of the Toorkmuns.” “Tell me what you say of Koochan;”—which gave me an opportunity of delighting the old monarch with the detail of his son’s success, heightened by the formidable account which I gave of the strength of the fallen fortress. “Will the ‘Naib Sultanut,’” so he called Abbas Meerza, “be able to take Shurukhs, and reduce the Toorkmuns in that neighbourhood?” “Certainly,” replied I, “they will fall at his feet.” “Will the place support his army?” I then enumerated its resources. One of the ministers, by way of adding to the information desiderated by his Majesty, stated that Shurukhs was the garden of Adam, who used to come from Ceylon (Serendib) and till it daily! I had heard the tradition, but it had not entered into my statistical details for his Majesty’s information. “What is your opinion of my son’s army,—is it[138] efficient?” I assured his Majesty that it was so. “But tell me your most candid opinion of its merits.” I added, that the clothes and accoutrements of the troops were worn out, but that no Asiatic power could in these days resist such an armament, and that they were now flushed with success. His Majesty again returned to my own affairs, and asked whither I was now proceeding. I told him, to India. He made no further enquiries into my objects for travelling. “How did you travel in Toorkistan?” asked the Shah. I told him that my conveyance was a camel, at which he smiled. After some desultory conversation and complimentary speeches between the Shah and the Envoy, we left the presence of the King of kings with the same bows and ceremonies that we had approached it.

Futtih Ali Shah has by no means the appearance of an old man, though his age must be upwards of seventy. His voice is full and sonorous, and he sits erect, with much dignity. His dress was remarkably plain, and of black cloth, which was not becoming, nor did it show off to advantage his beard, that wonder of the East. I should not be surprized that this monarch outlived his son Abbas.[18] It is said, that he has recourse to the essence of pearls and precious[139] stones, which he uses as tonics, to support his declining strength, and in which the Oriental faculty have great faith. The moderns apply these gems to other purposes; and the Shah of Persia deserves some credit as being one of the only persons I have heard of who turns them to a useful purpose.

Return to India.

I now found myself poised between Europe and Asia; and though I had informed his Majesty that I purposed returning to India, I had every inclination to prosecute my way to Constantinople, now distant but twenty days’ journey. Would that I had followed the bent of my inclinations; since I afterwards found that I had been summoned to Europe from that city. I felt, however, that the objects of the journey had been accomplished, and it only remained for me to return to India, and arrange the materials which I had gathered. I therefore quitted Tehran on the 1st of November, and freely admit that I did so with regret, after a ten days’ enjoyment of the friendly society which I had met.

Route to the coast.

On my way to the coast, I took the route of Isfahan and Shiraz to Bushire, and viewed by the way the tomb of Cyrus, and those imperishable remnants of antiquity, the ruins of Persepolis. This route and country have been too often described to require even a passing remark; nor[140] do I offer to present my views and picture of the inhabitants, after the inimitable sketches that have appeared in Hajee Baba, which, with a due deduction for the thread of the tale, appeared to me both just and correct. I have since perused Mr. Fraser’s Travels in this country, and venture to record, as far as I am able to judge, that they contain the most faithful account of Persia which has been published in modern times. Were the facts and opinions which have been recorded by that able and intelligent traveller more generally received, we should have ere this come to more correct notions of the weak state and tottering condition of this empire, and a juster appreciation of its weight and influence in the scale of nations.

Quit Persia.

At Bushire, I found that Mr. Blane, the resident in the Gulf of Persia, had kindly delayed the departure of the Honourable Company’s ship of war the Clive, till I arrived. I lost no time in embarkation, and finally quitted Persia on the 10th of December. Our voyage to India was pleasant, and Capt. Macdonald, the commander of the Clive, took every opportunity of making it varied and agreeable. If we found that “Oman’s dark blue sea,” and its barren shores, have been the theme of exaggerated praise in the imagination of the poet, we had yet gratification in a glimpse at the far-famed emporium of Ormuz,[141] and the rugged rocky coast of Arabia, with the romantic cove of Muscat and the dreary shores of Mekran. We anchored in the harbour of Bombay on the 18th of January, and passed the rest of that month in quarantine; after which I proceeded without delay to Calcutta, to lay the result of my travels before the Governor General, Lord William Bentinck.


I shall not pause to reflect on the feelings with which I again set foot in India after so long and weary a journey. In the outset, I saw every thing, both ancient and modern, to excite the interest and inflame the imagination,—Bactria, Transoxiana, Scythia, and Parthia, Kharasm, Khorasan, and Iran. We had now visited all these countries; we had retraced the greater part of the route of the Macedonians; trodden the kingdoms of Porus and Taxiles; sailed on the Hydaspes; crossed the Indian Caucasus, and resided in the celebrated city of Balkh, from which Greek monarchs, far removed from the academics of Corinth and Athens, had once disseminated among mankind a knowledge of the arts and sciences, of their own history, and the world. We had beheld the scenes, of Alexander’s wars, of the rude and savage inroads of Jengis and Timour, as well as of the campaigns and revelries of Baber, as given in the delightful and glowing language[142] of his commentaries. In the journey to the coast, we had marched on the very line of route by which Alexander had pursued Darius; while the voyage to India took us on the coast of Mekran and the track of his admiral Nearchus.




The Personal Narrative of the journey has closed, and I now proceed to describe the objects, both general and geographical, that appear to deserve notice. It will be seen that the line of route has traversed a portion of India, Cabool, Tartary (Toorkistan), and Persia; and I might appropriately follow the same arrangement in my descriptions. It is not, however, my intention to recapitulate the labours of others, not to dwell upon what is already before the world; I have therefore confined myself to that which is new and inviting. My maps will rectify many positions in these countries, and even remove various and vast ranges of hills; but the general account of each province in the kingdom of Cabool has been graphically given in Mr. Elphinstone’s valuable work on that country. My field lies in the untrodden paths beyond Hindoo Koosh, among roaming Tartars and deserts, cheered, as they certainly are, by many smiling[146] and fertile oäses. If my reader will place the maps of the journey before him, he will perceive that I only treat of countries which I have visited: there is an exception in the fifth and sixth chapters of the first Book, regarding the sources of the Indus and the foreign communications of China, which the interest of the subject will, I believe, justify. In the last two Books, I present the report, nearly in the same state that I submitted it to the Supreme Government of India. The form may not be best adapted to convey information to the public; but in such a shape the authenticity will, perhaps, entitle it to greater notice. For reasons, which it is not necessary to explain, I have had to abridge this and other portions of my work.



The results of my survey of the countries between India and the Caspian Sea are exhibited on the face of the map: the data on which these results rest require to be stated, that others may be enabled to judge of the authenticity of the document.

The instruments used were, a sextant, of nine inches radius, by Gilbert, and the patent surveying compass of Schmalcalder, divided into 360 degrees. With the sextant the parallels of latitude were determined, when practicable, either by a meridian altitude of the sun, or the elevation of the pole star; with the compass the bearings or angles of the country were observed. The time of travelling was noted on the spot, from a valuable chronometer watch by Arnold.

The rate of marching, after various trials by astronomical observation, was found to be as follows:—

1st. On horseback, over a level country, such as the Punjab, or regions eastward of the Caspian, without a caravan, 30 furlongs, or 3¾ miles per hour.

2d. On horseback, over a broken or mountainous country, such as lies between the Indus and Cabool, and accompanied by mules lightly laden, 3 miles per hour.


3d. On camels, over a flat country, such as Toorkistan, about 3800 yards, or 2 miles 300 yards per hour; protracting in every instance the great inflexions of the road, and correcting them by peaks or notable land-marks in front or rear.

The rate of a camel’s march requires some further notice, since I took much pains to ascertain it, and am not without a hope that it may prove useful to others. Twenty-two camels in “kittar,” or string, that is, following and tied to each other, cover a space of 115 paces of 2½ feet, or 94 yards. They march over this space in 90 seconds of time; that is to say, they travel at the rate of 76⅔ paces per minute, or 3833 yards per hour, thus:—

76⅔ paces a minute.
60 minutes.
4600 paces.
3)11,500 feet.
3833 yards.

Camels move quickest at night, or in the cool of the morning, and flag after a march of twenty-five miles. I have, therefore, taken the even number of 3800 yards as my standard of protraction. I cannot agree with Mr. Macartney, that camels move at the rate of 2½ or 2¾ miles an hour. Volney informs us that the Syrian camel travels at the rate of only 3600 yards, or even lower than the standard which I have assigned; and that great traveller cannot be far from the truth.[149] In a sandy country I used the following expedient to ascertain the rate of the camel, and the result presents a satisfactory approximation.

A string of 7 camels moves over its own ground in 26 seconds.
10 42
7 28
8 35
8 37
12 50
52 218

Each camel in string occupies about 13 feet; so that 52 camels cover 676 feet, which gives a rate of about 3700 yards an hour in soft ground; thus:—

sec. feet. sec.
If 218 : 676 : 3600. Ans. 3700.

That the rates of marching now recorded approximate closely to the truth, is undeniably established by my protraction to the city of Bokhara, which fell within 30 miles west of the meridian of 64° 55′ east longitude, the position assigned to it by the Russian mission. In Macartney’s map it stands in 69° 10′, and was altered by Mr. Elphinstone to 62° 45′; though that gentleman observes he was not satisfied with its position. The latitude of Bokhara I found to be 39° 43′ 41″ north; but its position, according to others, is somewhat different.

By Lt. Macartney 37° 45′ North.
By Mr. Elphinstone 39 27
By Major Rennell 39 25
By Anthony Jenkinson 39 10


I also found a remarkable coincidence with the correct longitude, in my protraction through the Toorkmun country, from Meshid to the Caspian Sea. Setting out also from Lodiana in India, which stands in 75° 54′ east longitude, and 30° 55′ 30″ north latitude, the protraction to Peshawar was nearly coincident with the position of that city as determined by the Cabool mission. They assigned to it the longitude of 71° 45′: I have placed it 71° 33′: it stands in 34° 9′ 30″ north latitude. The relative position of Cabool from Peshawur has been altered, as well as the ranges of the mountains; but it is unnecessary to detail the various changes which an inspection and comparison of the map will readily point out. With the assistance of Mr. John Arrowsmith, whose maps have already secured to him a just approbation[19], the materials of my survey have been incorporated with the latest geographical information: this will greatly enhance the value of the maps, which have been drawn by Mr. Arrowsmith himself, and carefully engraved under his own superintendence for this work; nor will it in any way conceal the later information, since my own line of route has been particularly marked and distinguished from that of other travellers.

The following original observations of latitude it seems advisable to record. The asterisk marks those which were observed at night.

Lodiana, on the Sutledge Lat. 30° 55′ 30″
Junction of the rivers Sutledge and Beas, at Huree 31 9 50
[151]City of Lahore (south gate) 31 34 52
Ramnugguron, the Chenab 32 19 33
Pind Dadun Khan, on the Jelum 32 34 53
Rotas, in the Punjab 32 58 2
Jane ka Sung, in the Punjab 33 41 8
Attok, on the Indus 33 54 46
Peshawur (of Macartney) 34 9 30
Cabool (south quarter) *34 24 5
Balkh (obs. 17 miles west) *36 48 0
Oxus, at Khoju Salu *37 27 45
Kurshee, in Toorkistan *38 51 50
Bokhara (centre and mean of 3 obs.) *39 43 41
Meerabad, near Karakool 39 21 51
Charjooee (south bank of the Oxus) 39 0 30
Bulghooee, in the desert *38 39 21
Khoju Abdoola, on the Moorghab *37 36 15
Shurukhs (by the sun) 36 31 0
Shurukhs (by the pole star) *36 32 10
Meshid (west quarter) 36 15 44
Camp among Goklan Toorkmuns 37 21 57
Koord mulla, on the Caspian 36 46 25
Tehran (capital of Persia) 35 40 0





Limits and extent of the kingdom.

Samarcand and Bokhara have afforded a theme for glowing description to the historians, and poets of all ages. The country in which they lie forms a portion of Toorkistan, or the land of the Toorks, and is so denominated by the people themselves. Bokhara is an isolated kingdom, of small extent, surrounded by a desert. It is an open champaign country, of unequal fertility. In the vicinity of its few rivers the soil is rich; beyond, barren and unproductive. It owes its importance to its central position, since it is placed between Europe and the richest regions of Asia. On the north, it is bounded by the Sea of Aral, the Sir or Jaxartes of the ancients, and[154] the country of Kokan or Ferghana. On the east, it extends to the mountains which branch from the high lands of Pamere. On the south it has the Oxus, which it however crosses on the south-eastern limit, and holds a supremacy over Balkh and the cantons of Andkho and Maimuna. On the west it is separated from Orgunje or Khiva by the desert of Kharasm, which commences within a march of the city of Bokhara. In this enumeration I have assigned the widest limits to the kingdom; for there are provinces within this boundary which owe but a doubtful allegiance. The great feature of the country is the Oxus, which bisects the desert, and renders it inhabitable. The river of Samarcand, in its lower course, flows at right angles to it, but expends its water before paying its tribute to the greater stream. Another rivulet below that of Samarcand shares a like fate, after it has watered the province of Kurshee. On the banks of these different streams lies the whole cultivable soil of the kingdom. The entire country is comprised between the parallels of 36° and 45° of north latitude, and the meridians of 61° and 67° east longitude. A very small portion of this extensive tract is peopled. From Eljeek on the Oxus, and on the western frontier, to Juzzak on the east, which is the line of cultivation across the country, the distance is 240 miles. From[155] Balkh to Bokhara it is but 260, almost altogether waste; and the desert commences about fifteen miles beyond the capital.

Natural and political divisions.

The natural and political divisions of the kingdom, according to the natives, are as follows:—1. Karakool; 2. Bokhara, and seven tomuns or districts around; 3. Kermina; 4. Meeankal, or Kutta Koorghan; 5. Samarcand, which has five tomuns; 6. Juzzak; 7. Kurshee; 8. Lubiab, or banks of the Oxus; and, 9. Balkh, and the provinces south of that river. The first six of these divisions occupy the valley of the river of Samarcand, known by the name of Kohik and Zurufshan, the gold-shedding river. This is the ancient valley of the Sogd, which has elicited the praises of all ages, from the time of Alexander. It was considered a paradise on earth by the Arabian conquerors; but much of its fame must be attributed to the surrounding desolation, its beauty captivating the eyes of those who had long travelled in oceans of sand. It is, however, a beautiful valley. Kurshee, which lies sixty miles to the south of Samarcand, is an oasis, formed by a river from the neighbouring province of Shuhr Subz, which exhausts itself in fertilising the district. The territory on the banks of the Oxus is also highly favoured by nature; but the strip of cultivation is narrow, and much of it lies neglected. Balkh,[156] and the countries south of the Oxus, likewise owe their fertility to the abundant supply of water, which was once divided among a multiplicity of villages; but rapine has desolated this fruitful land. These cantons, though considered tributary to Bokhara, render but nominal allegiance; which consists in sending a few horses yearly to the king. Their names are as follows:—Akchu, Shibbergaum, Andkhoee, Maimuna, and Sirepool; all, except the last, to the north of the mountains.

Physical geography.

The geological structure and general conformation of an extended plain is not less interesting than the features of a lofty range of mountains; but we have here fewer opportunities to observe and describe. The great plain of Toorkistan has an elevation of 2000 feet, and gradually declines westward from Balkh, as the slope and direction of the rivers testify, till it meets the Sea of Aral and the Caspian. With the country north of the Oxus, and from the base of the mountains to Bokhara, I am best acquainted. We have a succession of low rounded ridges of limestone, oolite, and gravel, thinly overgrown with verdure, alternating with vast and hardened plains of argillaceous clay, which offer in this dry climate the finest roads to the heaviest artillery. On these there occur some fields of sand-hills, of no great extent,[157] but sufficient to absorb the waters of all the rivulets flowing towards the Oxus. They seem to extend in a narrow line parallel to that river; and between it and Karakool have their greatest breadth, which is about twelve miles. Further to the eastward, they do not exceed half that width; and there are only a few scattered hillocks between Kurshee and the Oxus. Westward of Bokhara, the sand-hills increase in volume, and approach close on either side of the river of Kohik, leaving but a small space for cultivation; they then run north and west into the deserts of Kipchak and Kharasm. On their extent and continuance south of the Oxus I have spoken in my narrative, as well as in a subsequent chapter on Toorkmania. These sand-hills are based on the firmest land; and it can at once be discerned that they have been blown by the wind from some other soil. In the valleys there occasionally occur deposits of salt and saline rivulets; and nearly all the wells of this tract are either bitter or brackish. The depth of these never exceeds thirty-six feet, and many of them have water at half that distance from the surface. Between Bokhara and the Oxus the water exudes through sand, and in August had a temperature of 60°, while the air exceeded that of 100°. It was as grateful to the palate as if cooled in ice. In the cold season, these wells[158] are described as warm; so it is evident that they retain an equality of temperature during the year. The tract north of the Oxus is thinly peopled by pastoral tribes, and uncultivated; but the remains of aqueducts and buildings, in particular between Kurshee and Bokhara, denote a more prosperous age in these now neglected lands.

Climate and phenomena.

The climate of Bokhara is salubrious and pleasant; it is dry, and in the winter very cold, as is usual in sandy countries. Nothing proves this so satisfactorily as the freezing of the Oxus. In summer, the thermometer seldom rises much above 90°, and the nights are always cool. But this only applies to the city of Bokhara; for, in approaching it by the desert in June, the heat exceeded 100° of Fahrenheit. The exuberance of vegetation near the city must lower the temperature; and will account for the difference between the scorching heat around, and its milder climate. Bokhara has an elevation of about 1200 feet above the sea. There is a constant serenity in its atmosphere, and a clearness in the sky. The heavens are a bright azure blue, generally without a cloud. At night, the stars have uncommon lustre, and the milky way shines gloriously in the firmament. Even in moonlight, a star is visible on the verge of the horizon at an elevation of but three or four degrees.[159] There is also a never-ceasing display of the most brilliant meteors, which dart like rockets in the sky: ten or twelve of these are sometimes seen in an hour, assuming almost every colour; fiery red, blue, pale and faint. It is a noble country for astronomical science, and great must have been the advantages enjoyed by the famed observatory of Samarcand. In the middle of July, after some days of greater than usual heat, we experienced a violent tornado of dust, accompanied by a hot wind. It approached from the N.W., and could be seen advancing. It passed off in a few hours, and left the air clear and cool; nor did the heat again return. I encountered a similar phenomenon at Mooltan, on the Indus, about the same time in the preceding year. These clouds of dust appear only to occur near deserts; but then every strong breeze should raise a similar cloud, which it does not. In winter, the snow lies for three months at Bokhara; and the spring rains are often heavy, but the climate is arid. The evaporation of water is so rapid, that after rain the roads dry immediately. I should judge the climate to be congenial to the human frame, from the great age of many of the inhabitants. I have been now speaking of Bokhara and the countries north of the Oxus. In Balkh, the heat is oppressive; and the climate is very un[160]healthy, which is attributed to the bad quality of the water. It is of a whitish colour, mixed up with earth like pipe-clay: nor can it be the abundance of it which causes marshes, for most of the canals are choked; and the country, when dry, continues equally unhealthy. In Balkh, the harvest is about fifty days later than at Peshawur; the wheat is cut in the middle of June, and at Bokhara it is a fortnight later.


In Bokhara, the rivers possess the highest importance, since they render a portion of these inhospitable lands habitable to man. There are five of them in Bokhara; the Amoo or Oxus, the Sir or Jaxartes, the Kohik, and the rivers of Kurshee and Balkh. I have devoted the next chapter to a description of the Oxus. The river Sir is hardly to be included in the dominions of Bokhara: it rises in the same mountains as the Oxus; and passing through the country of Kokan and Khojend, and traversing a desert, falls into the Aral, about the 46th degree of north latitude. It is a much smaller river than the Oxus, but is said to be more rapid. In summer it is fordable; and in winter it is covered with ice, sometimes two yards thick, over which the caravans pass. Next in importance to the Sir is the Kohik, or Zurufshan. It rises in the high lands east of Samarcand, and passing north of that city and Bokhara, forms a[161] lake in the province of Karakool, instead of falling in the Oxus, as has been represented in our maps. In the upper parts of its course it fertilises the rich province of Samarcand; below that city, in Meeankal, its waters are diverted for the purposes of rice cultivation; for three or four months in the year, its bed is perfectly dry at Bokhara; and that city, and the country below it, suffer great inconvenience, since they depend on the river for a supply of water. It is a curious propensity in the people to raise in any portion of so dry a country a grain like rice, which requires such an exuberance of water. The lake into which the Kohik flows is familiarly known by the name of “Dengiz,” or sea, and is about twenty-five miles long, and surrounded on all sides by sand-hills. It is very deep; nor, from the accounts of the people, does it appear ever to decrease in size at any season of the year. When the snow melts in summer, the water flows as steadily into it, as it does in winter. Its water is salt, though its only feeder be a fresh river; but this is in accordance with the laws of nature, since it has no outlet of any kind. The next river is that of Kurshee, which rises in the same high lands as the Kohik, and passes through Shuhr Subz and Kurshee, below which it is lost in the desert. The blessings of water are most ap[162]parent in the neighbourhood of this river. The fields of Shuhr Subz yield rich crops of rice; and Kurshee is a sheet of gardens and orchards. For six miles on one side, and sixteen on the other, the waters of this rivulet are distributed by canals: when these cease, we have again a sterile desert to contrast with its green and beautiful herbage. The river of Kurshee is fed by the melted snow; and such is the command over its waters, that the chief of Shuhr Subz can at any time cut off the supply of the lower districts. In both this river and the Kohik it is usual to let the water run for a limited time in certain canals, which gives to each village the benefit of the stream once in ten days; such is the value of water, and such is the care of the husbandman in this country. The last river of the country is that of Balkh, which rises south of Hindoo Koosh, about twenty miles from Bameean, near the “Bund i Burbur,” a celebrated dam ascribed to a miracle of Ali, and which appears to be an avalanche of earth that has fallen in upon a ravine. The river then flows north among the mountains, and enters the plains of Toorkistan, about six miles south of Balkh. Here it is divided into numerous canals (which are said to be eighteen in number), and conducted to the city, as also to Mazar and Akhchu on either side. Akhchu is about fifty[163] miles from Balkh; but none of the other canals extend so far, though some of their water trickles half way to the Oxus, and affords that necessary of life to the roving Toorkmuns. It is impossible to give any delineation of the canals of Balkh, since they intersect the whole country, and traces of them meet the eye every where. The gentle slope of the land towards the Oxus affords great facilities for irrigating the lands of Balkh; the soil is rich and productive; which will account for the great population, and vast fertility that was once to be found in this country.


The mountains of Bokhara lie on its frontiers. On the east and south they form its boundaries; but the interior of the country is free from them, with the exception of some low-lying ridges near Shuhr Subz and Samarcand. The northern line of Hindoo Koosh, near Balkh, is incorrectly laid down; since that city stands on the plain six miles distant, and clear of the range which stretches to the westward, and never reaches so high a parallel. In our maps, Balkh stands upon it[20], and the range is even continued north-eastward to the Oxus. I have given a separate notice of[164] this great belt of mountains, of which those near Balkh are but outlyers. Snow is procured from the valleys about twenty miles from Balkh, in the middle of summer. On approaching Kurshee we descried a lofty range of snow-clad mountains, running apparently north and south. The natives called them the mountains of Baeetoon, from a village of that name; and assured me they were six days’ journey, or about a distance of 150 miles, from Kurshee. In June they were entirely enveloped in snow, which would assign to them an elevation of at least 18,000 feet, judging by Hindoo Koosh. There were no remarkable peaks in sight, and the mountains ran in connected chain like a trap formation. There were many lesser and outward ridges between them and our view; but they towered far above all others, and gave an impression of great altitude. We saw them again at sunrise, but lost the splendid prospect as we travelled westward of Kurshee. I am at a loss for the correct designation of this range: the Emperor Baber speaks of the Kara Tagh, or Black Mountains, in Karatageen; but that name is unknown in these days. They appear to terminate the highlands of Pameer. They run at right angles to Hindoo Koosh, and very nearly in the same meridian, giving cover to an opinion that they are but a branch of that range. North[165] of the Oxus, the mountains first rise in the independent province of Hissar, and these which I have described appear as a prolongation. In Hissar, however, they have no snow but in winter; and they have an elevation beyond what was to be looked for in this part of Asia. The country at their base is inhabited by the Kongrad Uzbeks.

Mineral productions.

When we speak of the mineral productions of Bokhara, our recollection is carried back to the ill-fated expeditions of Russia into these countries in quest of gold. The river of Bokhara, I have observed, has the designation of “Zurufshan,” or the gold-yielding stream. The result of Prince Bekevitch’s expedition is well known; he and his three thousand men perished. There are no gold mines in the kingdom of Bokhara, but that precious metal is found among the sands of the Oxus in greater abundance, perhaps, than in any of the other rivers which flow from Hindoo Koosh. From its source to the lake of Aral, the inhabitants wash the sand after the floods with great profit, and find grains or particles of gold larger than those in the Indus. A piece of virgin gold, about the size of a pigeon’s egg, was picked up last year on the banks of the Oxus, and is now in possession of a merchant in Khooloom. In the vicinity of Durwaz, the sands are most productive. The lapis lazuli cliffs,[166] which overhang the river in Budukhshan, are also said to be interveined with gold; but, from the specimens which I have seen, it appears to be mica. All the other metals, such as silver, iron, and copper, are imported from Russia. Sal ammoniac (nouchadur) is found in its native state among the hills near Juzzak. I know of no other mineral productions in the kingdom but the salt deposits. In Hissar, salt is found in hills, not unlike the formations in the salt range of the Punjab. On the plains it is dug out in masses, and, when washed, is ready for the market. There is a bed of salt, about five miles in circumference, called Khwaju Hunfee, two miles from the Oxus, below Charjooee, on the right bank of the river. The salt is imperfectly crystallised, black, and very inferior; a camel load of 500lbs. sells for a quarter of a tilla in Bokhara.[21]

Vegetable kingdom.

The vegetable productions of this country are more abundant. The different trees will be best known by the names of the fruit after noticed. The wood used for house-building is the poplar, which grows every where. The cotton plant is extensively cultivated, and exported both in a raw and manufactured state. Hemp is reared, but the people are ignorant of its use in manufactures. They extract oil from the seeds of the plant, as also the intoxi[167]cating drug called “bang,” and give the stalks to cattle. I have been informed that the tea plant thrives between Samarcand and Kokan; but I doubt the information, which was never properly confirmed. There is a small yellow flower, called “esbaruk,” growing in the low hills near Kurshee and Balkh, which is used as a dye, and produces a better colour than the rind of the pomegranate. Madder, called “bayak,” is also produced; its roots are permitted to remain eighteen months in the ground; but a dye equally good and serviceable is found in the creeping roots of the vine, which yield a colour that is dark red. Neither indigo nor sugar cane grow in Bokhara. They are the great imports from India, and might be acclimated. There is a curious and common substitute for sugar, called “turunjubeen.” It is a saccharine gum, which exudes from the well-known shrub called the camel’s thorn, or the “khari-shootur.” Towards the end of August, when this shrub is in flower, it may be seen in the morning covered with drops like dew, which are shaken into a cloth placed beneath the bush, and form what is called “turunjubeen.” Some hundred maunds are collected annually, and the whole sweetmeats and confections used in the country are prepared from it; it is also exported. Though the “khari-shootur” be a plant common[168] to most of the countries in Asia, it does not always, as in Bokhara, produce “turunjubeen.” The gum is unknown in India and Cabool, and not found westward of Bokhara, or near that capital; though in great plenty to the eastward, near Kurshee and Samarcand. It appears to be peculiar to certain soils; abounding in dry deserts; and is probably the rich sap of the shrub, which exudes and hardens into small grains. The inhabitants entertain an absurd opinion, that it is really dew; but I never heard that it was made by an insect, as has been asserted. It cannot be doubted that sugar could be manufactured from it,—a discovery that would be invaluable, since they now use syrup of grapes and mulberries on account of the expense of that article. Sugar might also be extracted from juwaree, beet root, and melons. There is another valuable jungle shrub, called “usl-soos,” and “achick booee,” by the Uzbeks, which appears to be a bastard indigo, and grows most luxuriantly on the banks of the Oxus and the other rivers of the country. The roots of this plant extend deep into the soil, and at certain seasons of the year have a small globular worm attached to them: this creature produces a purple dye, like that of cochineal (kirmiz), and some of the merchants applied for my advice regarding it: the insect, when exposed to the sun, comes to life; when[169] destroyed in an oven, it shrivels up, but still produces a dye, only inferior to cochineal. I compared it with American cochineal, and they appeared to me similar, only that the native preparation was softer. Should this insect yield cochineal, the discovery would be highly important in a silk country; nor is it to be doubted that its vivifying power might be destroyed by steam. An ingenious native of Cashmere had tried to bake it in bread, but without better success than when placed loose in the oven. The different grains of the country are rice, wheat, barley, juwaree, here called “jougan,” “sesamum,” “urjun,” Indian corn, gram, moong, and beans. It is an astonishing fact, that, in the provinces south of the Oxus, the wheat yields a crop for three successive years. When the harvest is finished, the cattle are turned in upon the stubble fields, and in the ensuing year the same stalks grow up and ear. The second crop is good, the next more scanty; but it is reaped a third time. In Bokhara Proper, the soil has not such fecundity, for the crops of Karakool do not yield more than sevenfold. Trefoil is cultivated, and may be out seven or eight times in the year. Lucerne requires too much water. The tobacco of Kurshee is superior. The wild rhubarb, or “rhuwash,” as found in Cabool, likewise grows in the hillocks of this district.[170] Vegetables abound; there are turnips, carrots, onions, radishes, brinjals, and a variety of greens, with most extensive fields of beet-root. The potatoe has not been introduced. Though Bokhara is so celebrated for its fertility, the necessaries of life bear a high price, which in the city itself may be attributed to the density of population. The following table will furnish more correct data on this subject:—

Fruits and wines.

The fruits of Bokhara have attained a great celebrity; but it is more from quantity than quality. They consist of the peach, plum, apricot, cherry, sour cherry, apple, pear, quince,[171] walnut, fig, pomegranate, mulberry, and grape; also the melon, pumpkin, and cucumber. Most of the stone fruit is inferior to that of Persia, only excepting the apricots of Balkh, which are highly flavoured, and nearly as large as apples. They are called “Bakur khanee;” and 2000 of them may be purchased for a rupee. There are many kinds of grapes; the best are the Sabibee and Hooseinee: the first is a purple grape, the other yellow, and of a long shape; and both have a flavour truly luscious. The vines are not pruned as in Europe. The raisins prepared from the Bokhara grapes stand unrivalled in size and flavour: the best are dipped in hot water, and then dried, from which they have the name of “ab-josh,” which means water boiled: they are soft and beautifully transparent. The wines of Bokhara are unpalatable to European taste, with little flavour; some of them might even be mistaken for beer. They cannot be preserved for more than a year; which evinces some defect in their manufacture. The mulberries are delicious: they are dried like raisins; and a syrup called “sheeru” is also extracted from them and grapes. The apples are indifferent. The plum of Bokhara, which is so well known in India, is not exported from the country itself, but grows at Ghuzni in Cabool: it is highly[172] esteemed. The melon is the choicest fruit of Bokhara. The Emperor Baber tells us that he shed tears over a melon of Toorkistan, which he cut up in India after his conquest: its flavour brought his native country and other dear associations to memory. There are two distinct species of melons, which the people class into hot and cold; the first ripens in June, and is the common musk or scented melon of India, and not superior in flavour; the other ripens in July, and is the true melon of Toorkistan; In appearance it is not unlike a water melon, and comes to maturity after being seven months in the ground. It is much larger than the common sort, and generally of an oval shape, exceeding two and three feet in circumference. Some are much larger; and those which ripen in the autumn have exceeded four feet. One has a notion that what is large cannot be delicate or high flavoured; but no fruit can be more luscious than the melon of Bokhara. I always looked upon the melon as an inferior fruit till I went to that country: nor do I believe their flavour will be credited by any one who has not tasted them. The melons of India, Cabool, and even Persia, bear no comparison with them: not even the celebrated fruit of Isfahan itself. The pulp is rather hard, about two inches thick, and is sweet to the[173] very skin; which, with the inhabitants, is the great proof of superiority. A kind of molasses is extracted from these melons, which might be easily converted into sugar. There are various kinds of melons: the best is named “Kokechu,” and has a green and yellow coloured skin; another is called “Ak nubat,” which means white sugar candy: it is yellow, and exceedingly rich. The winter melon is of a dark green colour, called “Kara koobuk,” and said to surpass all the others. Bokhara appears to be the native country of the melon, having a dry climate, sandy soil, and great facilities for irrigation. Melons may be purchased in Bokhara throughout the year, and are preserved by merely hanging them up apart from one another; for which those of the winter crop are best suited. The water melons of Bokhara are good, and attain also an enormous bulk: twenty people may partake of one; and two of them, it is said, form sometimes a load for donkey. The cucumbers are likewise superior.[22]

Domestic animals.

In the animal kingdom, the sheep and goats of Bokhara claim the first notice, since the one[174] yields the celebrated skins, and the other a description of shawl-wool, only inferior to that used in Cashmere. These flocks graze on furze and dry grass; and their flesh is sweet and well-flavoured. Sheep. All the sheep are of the doombu kind, with large tails; some of which yield in season so much as fifteen pounds of tallow. The animal looks deformed from its size; and straddles along with evident uneasiness. The description of sheep which produces the jet-black curly fleece, that is made into caps in Persia, and so much esteemed everywhere, is peculiar to Karakool, a small canton between Bokhara and the Oxus. The animal will thrive in no other place, and has been transported to Persia and other countries without success; when removed, it loses the peculiarity in its fleece, and becomes like any other sheep. The people attribute this curly fleece to the nature of the pasture; and assert that the grass called “boyak,” and by the Persians “ronass,” which is a long kind of bent, changes the nature of the animal. If a Karakool sheep even strays to the banks of the Oxus, where that plant grows, it ceases, it is said, to have the curly wool. The skins of the male lambs are most highly prized: they are killed five or six days after birth; never later than a fortnight; but the popular belief of their being cut out of the womb is[175] erroneous: a very few are procured from premature births in the ewes; and the skins of such are as fine as velvet, but not curled. These are called “kirpuk,” and exported to Constantinople, where they bear a very high price, as the supply is limited. The other kind is called “danudar,” or curled, and exported to Persia, Turkey, and China. They are of different fineness, according to the age at which the lambs are killed: some are exquisitely curled, others more coarse. Those which have the smallest curls are most prized; and in Persia, ten or fifteen skins will sometimes be cut up to make a single cap; which is the cause of their being so expensive. In Bokhara, a single skin never bears a higher price than three or four sicca rupees. The annual export of skins amounts to about two hundred thousand; the coarser ones being sent to Orgunje. Goats. They are cured by being rubbed with barley flour, and salt. The goats of Bokhara, which are to be found among the wandering Kirgizzes, yield the wool to which I have alluded: but these people were quite ignorant of its value till a late period; and yet manufacture it into ropes to bind their horses and cattle. For some years past it has been exported to Cabool and India. The stuffs prepared from it are good, but far surpassed by those of Cashmere, manufactured from the wool[176] of Tibet. This wool is of a grey colour, and produced next the skin of the animal, from which it is combed out; if not removed, it makes its appearance in clotted lumps among the hair. The goat is about the common size, of a dark colour, and differing from that of Tibet, which is a small and beautiful animal. I am not aware if the goats of every country yield wool; but, in this respect, there is a resemblance between those of Toorkistan and Tibet. I am assured that the dogs of the latter country even yield wool from which a few shawls are annually manufactured in Cashmere. The curs of Bokhara yield nothing so valuable. Camels. In a country, surrounded by deserts, the camel is an animal of the first importance: they are very numerous; and the whole traffic of Bokhara is carried on by means of them. They bear a high price; a good one cannot be purchased under sixty or seventy rupees. The condition and appearance of the camel here differ from what is seen in India and Cabool, where they are often covered with eruptions, and almost destitute of hair. At Bokhara, on the other hand, they have a sleek coat, as fine as that of a horse, and shed their hair in summer; from which a fine water-proof cloth of close and rather heavy texture is manufactured. It is called “oormuk,” and[177] retains the natural colour of the camel. I imagine that these camels owe their superiority to the climate, and the congenial thorny food, which is so abundant. This animal always thrives best in a dry country, and is very impatient under heat. They will travel with ease for fourteen successive hours; but their keepers never march during the day if it can be avoided. It is erroneous to believe that the camel can subsist for any great number of days without water. In summer they suffer much after the second day; and in winter they will only travel without it for double the time. The food of the camel is most cleanly; but nothing can be more offensive than the effluvia which proceeds from its stomach. The journeys performed, even with our caravan, bespeak the great hardihood of these animals. In one instance we travelled seventy miles in forty-four consecutive hours, including every halt. Our usual marches were thirty miles: and the camel scarcely ever travels more than two miles in the hour. The Bactrian camel, which has two humps, abounds in Toorkistan: they are bred by the Kuzzaks of the desert north of Bokhara. They have a fringe of long black hair under their neck, with a clump of it on both thighs, and are really pretty for a camel. In stature they are[178] lower than the common camel or dromedary, yet they bear greater burdens by 140 pounds: the one carrying 640, and the other but 500 pounds English. I am assured that a most strong and useful breed of camels is reared by a cross between the two. The issue of these have but one hump. I reserve my remarks on the horses of the country for a separate chapter. Among the domestic animals of Bokhara none are more useful than the ass: the breed is large and sturdy, and they are much used both for saddle and burden. There is no objection to riding them, as in India. There are no mules, from a religious prejudice against them. The horned cattle of Bokhara are well sized, though far inferior to those of England. There are no buffaloes.

Wild animals. Birds. Insects. Fishes.

The wild animals of the country are few. Tigers of a diminutive species are found in the valley of the Oxus; also wild hogs, herds of deer, antelope, and the wild ass, roam on the plains; there are also foxes, wolves, jackals, and cats. There are bears in the Eastern mountains; rats, tortoises, and lizards are found in the desert. The scorpion is common; but its sting has little of its usual virulence: I speak from experience. It is said that there are no snakes (and we certainly did not meet with any) north of the Oxus. Locusts sometimes infest the[179] country, particularly about Balkh. The eagle and hawk are found; all kinds of game are scarce. The plover and wild pigeon are common. Water fowl are numerous in certain seasons. The crane, or “lug lugu,” as it is called, builds its nest on the mosques of the cities: it is a bird of passage, and reckoned sacred. The fish of the Oxus do not differ from what are found in most Asiatic rivers. There is a species of the dog-fish called “lukha,” which has no scales, and is frequently caught of the weight of 600 lbs. English: the Uzbeks eat it. In the lake of Karakool the fish have as good a flavour as those of the sea. There are no monsters in the Oxus. We neither saw not heard of alligators. There are few insects in a dry country. I observed a peculiarity in the food of the bees and wasps which was new to me: they attacked a shoulder of mutton, and ate very large holes in it; in winter they are sometimes fed with flesh instead of sugar. The meat which I saw them devouring was fresh, not putrid. They also attacked dried fish.

Silk-worms. Silk.

The most valuable insect is the silk-worm, which is reared in all parts of the kingdom where there is water. Every stream or rivulet is lined with the mulberry; and the most extensive operations are carried on along the banks of the[180] Oxus, where the whole of the wandering tribes are engaged in rearing the insect. The silk of the “Lub i ab,” or banks of the river, as it is termed, is the most valuable, both from the softness and fineness of its thread. The trees put forth their leaves about the vernal equinox, when the worm is brought out, the whole stage of its existence has terminated with the month of June. The worm is killed in the cocoon by immersion in hot water; and the silk is then reeled off on a wheel by an end or thread being taken from a number of cocoons which lie clotted together. This silk is exported to India and Cabool, and, from its abundance, may be purchased at a very cheap rate. Silk is likewise produced in the neighbouring country of Kokan; but it is more abundant than good. The raw silk is dyed by cochineal and the productions already named, madder and “esbaruk.” A black colour is produced by mixing iron filings with water in which rice has been boiled, and allowing it to stand for a month.

Diseases. Guinea-worm.

Among the diseases of Bokhara, the most distressing is the guinea-worm, or Dracunculus, here called “rishtu:” it is confined to the city. The inhabitants believe that the disease arises from drinking the water of the cisterns in summer, when they become fetid and infested with animalculæ. Travellers suffer as much as the[181] inhabitants; but the disease does not show itself till the year following that on which they have drank the water. Many of the Afghans are attacked after returning to Cabool; and, whatever be the cause, it assuredly originates from something peculiar to Bokhara, since all other parts of the country are free from it. It is supposed that one fourth of the whole population of Bokhara are annually attacked with guinea-worm. This prevalence of the complaint has given the natives a dexterity of extracting them quite unknown in other countries. So soon as it is discovered that one has formed, and before any swelling has taken place, they pass a needle under the middle of the worm, and, rubbing the part, draw it out at once. They are generally successful; but if the worm breaks, the wound festers, the pain is excessive, and few recover under three months. If the animal be coiled in one place, the extraction is simple; if deep in the flesh, more difficult. If the swelling has commenced, they do not attempt the operation, but allow it to take its course, and endeavour to draw it out by degrees, as in India. These worms vary in length from three to four spans. It is said that guinea-worm is most common among people of a cold temperament; but it does not attack any particular class. The better orders of people, attributing it to the water, send[182] to the river for their supply, and never drink that of the cisterns till it is boiled. It is not to be supposed that I can give any solution of the cause of this disease: the doctors of Toorkistan believe it to be a worm generated from the causes above-mentioned. Nor can I credit its arising from the animalculæ of the water. Another disease of the country is the “mukkom,” or “kolee,” a kind of leprosy. Kolee, a kind of leprosy. Those afflicted with it are considered unclean: it does not cover the body with spots, as in common leprosy, but the skin becomes dry and shrivelled; the hair of the body falls off, the nails and teeth tumble out, and the whole body assumes a horrible and unseemly appearance. The disease is believed to be hereditary, and to originate from food: it is fearfully prevalent in the districts of Samarcand and Meeankal; also in the neighbouring states of Shuhr Subz and Hissar; all of which are rice countries. Some state it to be caused by the use of the intoxicating spirit called “boozu,” which is distilled from black barley; but that liquor and mares’ milk are not used in Bokhara. The disease affects the general health, and is incurable. The most humane people will tell you that it is a curse from God, and drive the unfortunate sufferer from them. A separate quarter of the city is assigned for the residence of those who are[183] afflicted, as was the case among the Jews. That scourge, the cholera morbus, has been felt in all these countries. Cholera. It appears to have taken the route of the caravans, and advanced from India step by step into eastern Europe. It raged for a year in Cabool; it then crossed Hindoo Koosh on the following season, and desolated Balkh and Koondooz. For a year it fluctuated between the valley of the Oxus and Herat; it then attacked Bokhara, Kokan, and the other Uzbek states; and, after devastating the country, passed on to Khiva, Orenburg, and Astrakhan. The faculty have discovered no remedy for the cholera morbus.

Other diseases.

The inhabitants of Toorkistan are subject to a constant dryness of the skin: many of them lose their eyelashes and eyebrows, and their skin becomes wrinkled and tawny. Whether the diet, or dryness of the climate, causes these appearances, I know not. The Uzbeks seldom eat horse-flesh; though it is believed that they live upon it. It is considered heating food, and is, besides, expensive. Mutton is preferred, and none but the lower orders eat beef. A sheep is killed, and the entire tail, however large and fat, is melted up with the meat, and cooked in a single boiler. They are fond of every thing oily, and also use much cheese and sour milk. Ophthalmia is a very common[184] complaint in Toorkistan. Fevers are rare; in Balkh rheumatism is prevalent. In the city of Bokhara rickets are common; and the children have generally a puny and unhealthy appearance, which is not observable in the grown-up people of the country. Among their medicines, I heard of an oil extracted from the dung of sheep; which is considered a specific for the sprains, bruises, and hurts of cattle: it is very pungent, and the flies shun the parts rubbed with it. I have been assured of the bone spavins of a horse being reduced by an application of this oil. They procure it by a distilling process.

Cities and towns. Population of the kingdom.

There are no large towns in the kingdom of Bokhara, but the capital. It contains a population of about 150,000 souls. The ancient cities of Samarcand and Balkh have long since dwindled into the obscurity of provincial towns: they are both surpassed by Kurshee, which has not a population of 10,000 souls. These are the only towns in the country. There are some large villages, such as Jizzak, Kermina, and Kutkoorghan; but none of them contain above 2500 people. The villages are also few, and widely separated from one another; they amount to about four hundred: nor can I estimate the whole population of the kingdom of Bokhara at a million of human beings: and[185] one half of this population is made up of the nomade tribes that wander in its deserts. The villages are fortified by mud walls, which are necessary for their protection. In the cultivated parts, single habitations, called “robats,” are scattered over the face of the country; and these are invariably surrounded by walls; I need not enter upon any farther account of the cities of Bokhara and Balkh, since they have been mentioned in the narrative.



Source and course of the Oxus.

The Oxus, or Amoo, is a river of considerable magnitude and classical celebrity. It was known to the Greeks under the designation of Oxus: the Asiatics call it Jihoon and Amoo. Jihoon means a flood, and is used in all the Turkish and Persian works that treat upon these countries: but the inhabitants on its banks now speak of the river under the name of Amoo, calling it “Durya-i-Amoo,” the River, or literally, the Sea of Amoo. I am not aware of any meaning that attaches to this title. The Oxus rises in the table-lands of Pamere, and is formed by a variety of rivulets which collect in that elevated region of Asia. According to the information which I have received, its source is a degree more northward and eastward than appears in Mr. Macartney’s map. It is stated that four rivers, which flow in opposite directions, issue from the vicinity of the lake Surikol: these are the Oxus, Sir or Jaxartes, one of the heads of the Indus, and a portion of the[187] waters of Tibet. The Oxus waters the rich valley of Budukhshan, where it receives the river of that name, the greatest of its tributaries, and is afterwards joined by a variety of smaller streams from Koondooz and Hissar, which have been described by Mr. Macartney. It winds among mountains, and, approaching within twenty miles of the town of Khoolloom, and much nearer than appears in our maps, passes about half a degree to the north of Balkh. There are no hills between it and that ancient city, as have been represented. It here enters upon the desert by a course nearly N.W., fertilizes a limited tract of about a mile on either side, till it reaches the territories of Orgunje or Khiva, the ancient Kharasm, where it is more widely spread by art, and is then lost in the sea of Aral. In the latter part of its course, so great is the body of water drawn for the purposes of irrigation, and so numerous are the divisions of its branches, that it forms a swampy delta, overgrown with reeds and aquatic plants, impervious to the husbandman, and incapable of being rendered useful to man, from its unvarying humidity. I will not permit the much-disputed subject of the Oxus having terminated, at a former period, in the Caspian instead of the Aral sea, to lead me into a digression on that curious point. I have only to state, after an[188] investigation of the subject, and the traditions related to me, as well as much enquiry among the people themselves, that I doubt the Oxus having ever had any other than its present course. There are physical obstacles to its entering the Caspian, south of Balkhan, and north of that point; its more natural receptacle is the lake of Aral. I conclude that the dry river beds between Astrabad and Khiva are the remains of some of the canals of the kingdom of Kharasm, and I am supported in this belief by the ruins near them, which have been deserted as the prosperity of that empire declined. We shall thus account for such appearances on obvious grounds, without calling in the aid of earthquakes and other commotions of nature.

The sea of Aral.

The Tartars inform you that the word “Aral” implies between, and that that sea or lake is so called from its lying between the Sir and the Amoo, the Jaxartes and the Oxus. It is a popular belief, that the waters of the Aral pass by a subterraneous course into the Caspian. At a spot called Kara Goombuz, between the seas, where the caravans halt, some assert that the water is to be heard rushing beneath. It is said to make a noise like the words “Kara doom,” which mean “I am thirsty;” but the clock strikes what the fool thinks. The necessity of some such subterraneous passage is obvious[189] in the eyes of the people, since the Aral has no outlet for two large rivers, but they do not think of evaporation, which is great beyond belief in this dry country[23], where there is also a perpetual wind. It is a curious fact, however, that at Kara Goombuz, before mentioned, which appears to be a sandy ridge, water is found close to the surface, while further south it is not to be had nearer than 100 fathoms. The water of the Aral is drinkable. It is seldom frozen in winter. In one of its many islands they relate some tales of a colony that passed over the ice with their herds and flocks, and has since had no opportunity of returning. The banks of the Aral are peopled by wandering tribes, who cultivate great quantities of wheat and other grain, which, with fish, that are caught in abundance, form their food. The neighbourhood of the Aral is not frequented by caravans.

Capabilities of the Oxus.

The Oxus is a navigable river throughout the greater portion of its course. Its channel is remarkably straight, and free from rocks, rapids, and whirlpools; nor is it much obstructed by sand-banks: were it not for the marshes which choke its embouchure, it might be ascended from the sea of Aral to near Koondooz, a dis[190]tance of 600 miles. If we deduct the extent of that delta, commencing some way below Orgunje, which does not exceed fifty miles, we have still an inland line of navigation of 550 miles. The volume of water which this river discharges appears great for the short extent of its course, but it is the only drain of a wide and mountainous country. It is never fordable after it has received the rivers of Koondooz and Talighan, which join it under the name of Aksurai, below Huzrut Imam; these rivers are fed by the melted snow on the northern side of the great Hindoo Koosh. It may then only be so passed below that place (Huzrut Imam) for six months during the year, when the ford is passable for artillery; which has been frequently verified by the ruler of Koondooz. On leaving the hilly ground below Kilef, about sixty miles north-west of Balkh, the channel of the Oxus does not exceed 350 yards; on the plain it is wider spread, and we crossed it at Khoja Salu, thirty miles below that point, with a channel of 823 yards, as determined by the sextant. At Charjooee, 200 miles lower down, within twenty leagues of Bokhara, it had a channel of 650 yards. A detailed account of the river at these points will furnish the best data for a determination of its capabilities in a military and commercial point of view.


Depth, current, and slope of the Oxus.

At Khojusalu, on the 17th of June, a month before the periodical swell had attained its greatest height, the Oxus was divided into three distinct branches, only separated from each other by sand-banks. The width of these arms respectively was 295, 113, and 415 yards; which gives the total breadth of 823 yards. The soundings were irregular, and at the deepest place did not amount to twenty feet. An enumeration of them follows:—6, 9, 12, 6 feet in the first branch; 6 feet throughout the second; and 6, 9, 15, 19, 6, in the third and last. The medium depth of this river will never, therefore, be less than nine feet, since that is the product of 828 yards, divided by 92, the sum total of all the feet in the different soundings. Nor can there be much incorrectness in the approximation, since on the 17th of August, which is precisely two months later, when the river had passed its greatest rise, we had much the same volume of water at Charjooee, near Bokhara. The breadth was less, but the soundings were greater, and five heaves of the lead gave 12, 18, 29, 20, and 18 feet. The Oxus flows with a velocity of 6000 yards, or nearly three and a-half miles an hour; and I discover from the boiling point of water at the two places (Khoja Salu and Charjooee), that there is a difference of one and one third of a degree between them, which[192] will give a slope of 800 feet in a distance of 200 miles. This is a great fall in such a river on so flat at country; and, since the boiling point of water is subject to slight variations even at the same place according to the state of the atmosphere, it must only be received as an approximation to the truth. The smallest change in so rude an instrument, for so nice an operation, produces a great error, but, after every allowance, I cannot rate this fall under 600 feet, or about a yard a mile: the course of the river is not tortuous, which always bespeaks a greater rapidity of descent.

Inundation of the Oxus.

The Oxus is subject to a periodical swell, as are all the great rivers which flow from the south of the same stupendous chain of mountains in which it has its rise. In both cases the causes are similar,—the melting of the snows in elevated regions. The inundation commences in May, and ceases in October; but it is also subject to a second and lesser flood during the rains of spring. It fluctuates in its rise and fall with the state of the weather, rising under the sun of a cloudless sky, and sinking with a denser atmosphere; while on its banks, in June, it subsided a foot and a half in thirty-six hours, and it had not then attained its height. The influence of the waters is rarely felt for half a mile beyond the channel of the river, though its inner banks are[193] low and depressed, but there is a second bank varying in distance from a mile and a half to two miles on either side, and in some places more distant. The valley thus formed is clothed with verdure and moistened, though seldom inundated by the swell. Here it is that the inhabitants cultivate the land, and water it by industry and art. In some instances the aqueducts extend inland for a distance of four miles, and the water must then be raised by the Persian wheel for irrigating the fields. On leaving this tract the scene changes to sterility and desolation: the valley itself is in many places overgrown with a bastard indigo, tamarisk, and rank weeds, and neglected by the inhabitants. In winter, when the river has retired to its bed, it is contracted to a space of 400 yards, but is never fordable. During the swell, the waters of the Oxus are tinged by the soil of the mountains, and assume a reddish hue. I ascertained that one fortieth of their body consisted of silt suspended in the stream; while under the influence of this snowy water, the river had a temperature of 73° at the summer solstice, when the thermometer rose to 103° in the air.

Freezing of the Oxus.

It would not have been suspected that so vast a river, in so low a parallel as 38° north latitude, should be frozen during winter, which[194] is no rare occurrence with the Oxus. The upper part of its course above Koondooz freezes annually, and passengers and beasts of burden cross it on the ice, on their route to Yarkund; but there it flows in an elevated region. In the desert, however, its waters are also congealed in a severe winter. Below Khiva it freezes annually; and at Charjooee, which is about seventy miles from Bokhara, it was frozen last year from bank to bank. The season was remarkably cold, and the caravans passed it on the ice. At Kirkee, half-way to Balkh, it was also frozen; but at the ferry of Kilef, opposite that city, there was a narrow channel in the middle of the stream, which prevented the passage of both boats and caravans for a month. A stone could be thrown from the ice of one bank to that of the other; and it is not doubted that the only hindrance to their junction in this narrow part of the Oxus arose from the rapidity of the current, that was hemmed in by a confined bank. It is an established fact, that the temperature of deserts is both colder and hotter than countries which are more favoured by nature. In the torrid deserts of Toorkistan, there is a cold bleakness during winter, which will account for the congelation of the Oxus; it is nevertheless a curious fact in physical geography, since the Danube, which flows parallel with the Oxus, and in a higher[195] latitude by seven degrees, is not subject to a like phenomenon. In winter, if the Oxus be not frozen, the passage of boats is sometimes endangered by the masses of ice which are floated down from the upper part of its course. These have been known to sink a boat, and require attention on the part of the ferrymen.


Craft on the Oxus. Their build and number, &c.

The boats which are used on the Oxus are of a superior description, though they have neither masts nor sails. They are built in the shape of a ship, with a prow at both ends, and are generally about fifty feet long and eighteen broad. They would carry about twenty tons English; they are flat-bottomed, and about four feet deep:[196] when afloat, the gunwale is about two and a half or three feet above the stream; for they do not draw much more than a foot of water when laden. They are constructed of squared logs of wood, each about six feet long, formed of a dwarf jungle-tree, called “pukee,” or “sheeshum,” which grows in great abundance throughout the banks of the river, and cannot be procured of greater dimensions. These trees are felled, their bark is peeled off, and they are chipped into a square shape, which makes them ready for the workmen. The logs are clamped with iron, and, though these boats have a rude appearance, there is a strength and solidity in their build that admirably fits them for the navigation of such a river. There are few boats in the higher part of the Oxus above Charjooee. From that place to where it becomes fordable, near Koondooz, there are about fifteen ferries, and as each is provided with two, we have only a tonnage of thirty vessels in a distance of three hundred miles. The reason is obvious, for the inhabitants make no use of the navigable facilities of the Oxus. Below Bokhara the supply increases, and there are about 150 boats between it and the Delta, chiefly belonging to Orgunje. Here they are not appropriated as ferry-boats, but used in the transport of merchandise to and from Bokhara. The embarkations take place at El[197]jeek, on the north bank of the river, about sixty-five miles from the city. Below the Delta there are no boats; and I am informed that the sea of Aral is without vessels of any other description than small canoes. In ascending, the boats are dragged against the stream; and in dropping down make for the middle, where the current is rapid, and float down with their broadsides to it. Neither rafts nor skins are used on the Oxus.

Mode of navigating the Oxus.

The manner of ferrying across is novel, and, I believe, peculiar to this river; the boats are dragged across by horses, as I have fully described in the narrative: nor should such a contrivance be lost sight of by those who may use the Oxus as a navigable river.

Wood of the Oxus.

Facilities in the navigation of a river rest much on the supplies of the country through which it flows; in particular, of the nature and quantity of wood which is there procurable. The number of boats on the Oxus is certainly small, since they do not amount to two hundred; but there is every facility for building a fleet, the supply of wood being abundant, and fortunately found in single trees along the valley of the river, and not growing in forests on any particular spot. There are no cedar or pine-trees brought down by the inundation, which I hold as conclusive proof that the mountains from which the Oxus[198] and its tributaries flow are destitute of that wood. The only other trees which I saw on the river were mulberry and the white poplar; which last is floated down in quantities from Hissar to Charjooee, and applied to purposes of house-building. In any increase of the tonnage on this river, the immediate resources of the neighbouring country must therefore be called into action; but these are highly important. The nature of the build in the boats of the river requires no skill in naval architecture; the wood is not sawed, and it does not require seasoning, so that the utmost despatch might be used at all times in forming a flotilla, whether it were desired to navigate, cross, or bridge it. I believe that 150 men might be embarked on a boat of the size which I have described. The river could only be bridged by boats, for the wood is too small for an application of it in any other way, and the furze and tamarisk which grow in its banks would supply the place of planks, and make it at once complete and practicable. A bridge of boats was thrown across the Oxus by both Timour and Nadir, and the remains of some temporary buildings erected by the latter conqueror are still shown at the ferry of Kilef, north of Balkh. The river there presents facilities for such an operation, since it has hillocks on both sides, is narrow, and[199] not always rapid. Passengers frequently swim across the river at this ferry. Below the mountains the Oxus has a firm and sandy bed, and boats may be anchored by branches of trees in all parts of its stream.

Political and commercial advantages of the Oxus.

The advantages of the Oxus, both in a political and commercial point of view, must, then, be regarded as very great: the many facilities which have been enumerated point it out either as the channel of merchandize, or the route of a military expedition; nor is it from the features of the river itself that we form such a conclusion. It is to be remembered that its banks are peopled and cultivated. It must therefore be viewed as a river which is navigable, and possessing great facilities for improving the extent of that navigation. This is a fact of great political and commercial importance, whether an hostile nation may turn it to the gratification of ambition, or a friendly power here seek for the extension and improvement of its trade. In either case, the Oxus presents many fair prospects, since it holds the most direct course, and connects, with the exception of a narrow desert, the nations of Europe with the remote regions of Central Asia.



Sketch of the countries to be described.

The countries north of Hindoo Koosh, which lie in the valley of the Oxus, and its tributary rivers, from Balkh upwards, have no general designation; eastward of that city lies Koondooz, under which all the smaller provinces may be classed, since the Meer, or chief of that state, has subdued them. Further to the eastward, we have the province of Budukhshan, also a dependency of Koondooz. To the north of this territory are the hill states of Wakhan, Shughnan, Durwaz, Koolab, and Hissar; which are remarkable, as containing a race of people that claim a descent from Alexander the Great. To the eastward of Budukhshan lies the plain of Pamere, inhabited by the Kirghizzes; and beyond the Beloot Tagh mountains we have Chitral, Gilgit, and Iskardo, that extend towards Cashmere, and are also inhabited by tribes who assert their Macedonian origin. South of Budukhshan is the[201] country of the Siahposh Kaffirs, a most singular people, who dwell among the mountains of Hindoo Koosh. These are the provinces which it is now proposed to describe; but we shall reserve any particular mention of the descendants of Alexander for the following chapter, and proceed, in the first place, to speak of the country and its productions.


Koondooz is situated in a valley among low hills, which extend from east to west for about thirty miles, and from north to south about forty, when it is bounded by the Oxus. It is watered by two rivers, which join north of Koondooz, and are not fordable during the melting of the snows in summer. The climate of this country is most insalubrious: the heat is excessive, yet the snow lies for three months during winter. The greater part of the valley is so marshy, that the roads across are constructed on piles of wood, which are fixed among noxious reeds and vegetation. Rice is reared in such places as are not entirely inundated, and in the drier ground there is wheat and barley. The fruit consists of apricots, plums, cherries, and mulberries, and it ripens at Balkh and Khooloom about a fortnight sooner than at Koondooz. The great mountain of Hindoo Koosh is in sight at Koondooz; but those hills which form the valley on either side do not rise to a height[202] of a thousand feet from the plain. They are long ridgy high-lands, covered with grass and flowers, but free from trees or brushwood, forming valuable pasture lands. The town of Koondooz cannot boast a population of 1500 souls; for it is deserted by the chief and the people. The neighbouring districts do not partake of the unhealthiness of Koondooz. Khooloom, Heibuk, Goree, Inderab, Talighan, and Huzrut Imam, are its subjected districts, and except the last, which lies in the Oxus, they possess a pleasant climate, and have a rich and prolific soil. These districts are watered by rivulets flowing into the Oxus, and the soil is valued by the facilities which it enjoys of being watered. Heibuk and Khooloom stand on the same rivulet, the water of which is dammed up on certain days, and allowed to run on others. The gardens on its banks are rich and beautiful; and among the fruit-trees, one again meets the fig, which does not grow in Cabool.


The countries that lie higher up the Oxus have none of the defects of climate which are peculiar to Koondooz, and both natives and foreigners speak in rapture of the vales of Budukhshan, its rivulets, romantic scenes and glens, its fruits, flowers, and nightingales. This district lies along the valley of the Oxus; but its capital is further to the south, and east[203]ward of Koondooz. It is sometimes called Fyzabad, but its more common and proper name is Budukhshan. This once celebrated country is now almost without inhabitants; it was overrun by the chief of Koondooz about twelve years ago: its ruler has been dethroned, and his substitute exists as a mere pageant; its peasants have been marched out of the country, and a rabble of lawless soldiery is now quartered in the different provinces. It also suffered from an earthquake in January, 1832, which destroyed many villages, and a great part of the population. The roads through many parts of the country were blocked up by the falling of stones, and the river of Budukhshan was hemmed in for five days, by a hill that tumbled in upon it. This great convulsion of nature occurred at midnight, and scarcely a family in the country but deplored the loss of some of its members. It was felt at Mooltan and Lahore, but the centre of its violence appears to have been the valley of the Oxus. The natives of Budukhshan are Tajiks; they are very fond of society, and such is their hospitality, that, it is said, bread is never sold in the country. Their language is Persian, which they speak with the broad pronunciation of a native of Iran. It is related that Budukhshan was peopled from the Persian city of Balkh, and most of the inhabit[204]ants are Shiahs. Neither the Uzbeks, nor any of the Toorkee families, have settled in the country, and the people have yet the manners and customs that obtained north of Hindoo Koosh before the invasion of the Tartars.

Ruby mines.

Budukhshan has acquired great celebrity for its ruby mines, which were well known in early times, and also to the emperors of Delhi. They are said to be situated on the verge of the Oxus, near Shughnan, at a place called Gharan; which may simply mean caves. They are dug in low hills; and one man assured me that the galleries passed under the Oxus; but I doubt the information. It is a mistake to believe that they are not worked, as the present chief of Koondooz has employed people in digging them since he conquered the country. These persons had been hereditarily engaged in that occupation; but, as the returns were small, the tyrant of Koondooz demanded their labour without pay; and on their refusing to work, he marched them to the unhealthy fens of Koondooz, where their race has almost become extinct. In the search of rubies, it is a popular belief that a pair of large ones will be always found together; and the workmen will often conceal a gem till its match can be found, or break a large ruby into two pieces.[205] The rubies are said to be embedded in limestone; and to be found like round pieces of pebble or flint, which exist in such deposits.

Lapis lazuli.

In the vicinity of the ruby mines, great masses of lapis lazuli are found on the verge of the Oxus. The mode of detaching it from the cliffs appeared to be ingenious, though I think I have heard of similar means being used to quarry stone in other quarters. A fire is lit over the block of lapis lazuli, and when the stone becomes sufficiently heated, cold water is dashed upon it, and the rock is thus fractured. The lapis lazuli of the Oxus was sent in former years to China; but the demand has lately decreased. I have seen many specimens of this stone, with veins, which were said to be gold; but I imagine they were mica. Lapis lazuli and rubies are only collected in winter.

Mountain districts north of Budukhshan.

North of Koondooz, and Budukhshan, and beyond the Oxus, we have the small hill states of Hissar, Koolab, Durwaz, Shoognan, and Wukhan: the whole of them are mountainous. Hissar is finely watered, and a rice country, independent of Bokhara and Koondooz. It is held by four Uzbek chiefs, who divided it among themselves on their father’s death; its capital stands on a hillock forty miles east of Dihnou. A range of hills called Kohitun, which are about 4000 feet high, traverses the[206] district from north to south. There is an extensive deposit of red rock salt in it, which is exported to other countries. The saddle used by the natives of Hissar differs from others in Toorkistan. The tree, or seat, is scooped out like a bowl, and is then covered with leather: it has a knob in front. The ferry of Tirmez on the Oxus, bounds Hissar on the west; and to the east it has Koolab, which is a small district,—sometimes called Bulgeewan. It has lately been seized by the chief of Koondooz, who forded the Oxus and conquered it. Durwaz is the next territory, and is ruled by a Tajik chief, who is independent. In his territories, the Oxus is most successfully washed for gold. The two next districts of Shughnan and Wukhan are tributary to Koondooz; but there are not more than three or four villages in each of them. Wukhan is the territory mentioned by Marco Polo; and the few specimens which I could collect of its language were as follows:—

Father Fait
Mother Nan
Son Kash
Daughter Poorchad
Fire Rekhnu
Water Yoobk.

The chief of Wukhan is named Meer Mahommed Ruheem Khan, and will allow none[207] of his progeny to leave the hills. The people of Shughnan differ also in their dialect. I give a specimen of three words:—

Bread Gurdu
Son Ghudyk
Daughter Ghuds.

The whole of the population is Mahommedan; and I did not hear of any trace of pristine superstition. They designate the Deity by the Persian word Khooda. I heard of a singular practice among the people of these districts, who shoe their horses with the antlers of the mountain deer. They form the horn into a suitable shape, and fix it on the hoof with horn pins, never renewing it till fairly worn out. It is said that the custom is borrowed from the Kirgizzes.

Plain of Pamere.

The high plain of Pamere lies between Budukhshan and Yarkund; and is inhabited by an erratic race, the Kirgizzes. The centre of this table-land is the lake of Surikool, from which the Jaxartes, the Oxus, and a branch of the Indus are said to rise. This elevated plain extends on every side of the lake for a journey of six days; and all the mountains are described as seen under the feet from this great elevation. It is a flat tract, intersected by shallow ravines, and covered with short but rich pasture: it is very cold; and the snow in summer does not[208] disappear from the hollows. The inhabitants robe their whole bodies, even their hands and faces, in sheepskins, from the severity of the cold. There is no grain in the country; for the Kirgizzes subsist on flesh and milk: they do not even know the use of flour; and, if it is given them, they mix it up with their soup, but never bake it into bread. They live on round khirgahs, like the Toorkmun tribes, and wander from one place to another.

Singular animal that inhabits Pamere.

I heard of an animal called “Rass” by the Kirgizzes, and “Kooshgar” by the natives of the low countries; which is described as peculiar to Pamere. It is larger than a cow, and less than a horse; of a white colour, with pendent hair under its chin, and crowned with horns of huge dimensions. These are described to be so large, that no one man can lift a pair of them; and, when left on the ground, the small foxes of the country bring forth their young inside them. The flesh of the “Rass” is much prized by the Kirgizzes, who hunt and shoot it with arrows. This animal is said to delight in the coldest climate; and would appear, from its beard, to be of the goat species, or, perhaps, the bison. A common-sized “Rass” will require two horses to bear its flesh from the field.

Countries of Chitral, Gilgit, and Iskardo.

The tract that lies beyond the Beloot moun[209]tains and Budukhshan, and between it and Cashmere, is filled up by the cantons of Chitral, Gilgit, and Iskardo, all of which are held by Shiah Mahommedans. There is another district to the north-east of Chitral, which is called “Gunjoot,” from the gold which is found in it. The countries of which I now speak have been designated by the general name of Kaushgar, by Mr. Elphinstone; and are separated from Budukhshan by the range of Beloot. Kaushgar itself is a small district near Deer, north of Peshawur; and I never heard a native of Budukhshan or Yarkund speak of the country under that general name. They had not even heard of any Kaushgar but that in the vicinity of Yarkund. Chitral is situated on a branch of the Cabool river, and is subject to the chief of Koondooz, who has at times entered the country; and new demands a yearly tribute of slaves, who are sent to Bokhara for sale. The chief has the title of Shah Kuttore, and boasts of his Macedonian lineage. The dialect of Chitral differs again from that of the neighbouring states; and I fortunately met a native who was acquainted with it: he gave me these specimens:—

Mother Nunan
Son Dirk
Daughter Jaor
Man Mach
[210]Woman Kumoor
Water Oogh
Fire Ungar
Above Acha
Below Aye
Mountain Koh
Fort Noghar
I go Booghdo
Where do you go? Koora roobas.

The next district is Gilgit, or Gilgitty, where the dialect also differs from Chitral: it is a strong country, and independent of Koondooz. The remaining division lies further eastward, bordering on Baltee or Little Tibet, and bears the name of Iskardo. The principal place of the same name is a large fort of irregular construction, which is built on the banks of the Indus, and is said to be but eight marches north-east of the City of Cashmere. The country is independent.

The Kaffirs.

On the south-eastern corner of Budukhshan, and on the mountains between it and Peshawur, we find that extraordinary people, the Siahposh Kaffirs, or Black-vested Infidels, as called by their Mahommedan neighbours, from their wearing black goat-skin dresses. This race is entirely confined to the mountains, and persecuted by all the surrounding nations, who seek to capture them as slaves. The chief of[211] Koondooz made an inroad into their country some years since, and lost half of his army in the campaign. I can offer no further addition to the notice of their religion and country, than is to be found in Mr. Elphinstone’s work, though I met the worthy and faithful man Moollah Nujeeb, who was sent into Kaffiristan for the purposes of enquiry. I had much conversation with people who had been brought into contact with them, and in Cabool was fortunate enough to see a Kaffir boy about ten years old, who had left his country for a period of two years; his complexion, hair, and features, differed from those of Asiatics: his eyes were of a bluish colour. The boy replied to many questions that were put to him about his country, and gave specimens of his language, which assimilated with the Indian dialects. The Kaffirs appear to be a most barbarous people, eaters of bears and monkies, and fighting with arrows, and scalping their enemies. The greatest intercourse which takes place between them and the Mahommedans is carried on from the country of Lughman, between Cabool and Peshawur, where a tribe of people reside who are called “Neemchu Moossulman,” or half Mahommedans. The Kaffir country is strong and mountainous. The people are much addicted to[212] wine. Gold is found in its native state among their mountains, and formed by them into vessels and ornaments. These circumstances, with their appearance and complexion, have given rise to an opinion, that they are the descendants of the Greeks. Their descent from Alexander doubted. Both Baber and Abool Fuzzil have made mention of this supposition; but they have confounded the claims of the chiefs on the Oxus to a Macedonian descent with the Kaffirs, who have no such tradition of their origin. The great elevation of the country which they inhabit, would appear to account satisfactorily for all their physical peculiarities; and I believe it will be found that this people are none other than the aborigines of the plains, who fled to their present abode on the conversion of the low countries to the religion of Mahommed: the Afghans, at least, tell you so, and the name of Kaffir, or Infidel, seems a strong corroboration of the opinion. The Kaffirs are a race of savages, and there is nothing either in their customs or religion which seems to be anywise remarkable among a people at their state of civilisation. The hill tribes in India have a religion which differs as much from Hindooism as that of the Kaffirs; and the reason is obvious: they inhabit remote regions, that were not accessible to the manners and alterations[213] which found their way into the more favoured plains. The Kaffir women do all the out-door work, and follow the plough: it is even said that they are sometimes yoked in it along with an ox.



Traditions of the descendants of Alexander the Great.

In speaking of the existence of Grecian colonies in the remote regions of Asia, and said to be descended from Alexander of Macedon, it is necessary to premise that I am not indulging in speculation, but asserting a lineage of various tribes of people, that is claimed by themselves, and meriting, therefore, our attention. Marco Polo is the first author who mentions the existence of such a tradition, and informs us that the Meer of Budukhshan laid claim to a Grecian origin. The emperor Baber corroborates the testimony; and Abool Fuzzul, the historian of his grandson, Acbar, points to the Kaffir country north of Peshawur as the seat of these Macedonians. Mr. Elphinstone has, I think, successfully refuted the supposition of this historian; for the Kaffirs are a savage and mountainous tribe, without a tradition on the subject, as has been noticed in the preceding chapter. Mr. Elphinstone, however, confirms the statements of[215] Marco Polo, by the information that the chief of Durwaz, in the valley of the Oxus, claimed a descent from Alexander, which was admitted by all his neighbours. Such was the extent of information with which I entered these countries, sufficient, it will be said, to excite the utmost curiosity; and it will be seen that I found ample encouragement in the investigation of such traditions while in the valley of the Oxus, and in the very seats of their existence.

Their actual condition.

If it was believed that the chiefs of Budukhshan and Durwaz alone laid claim to these hereditary honours, what was my surprise to find that there were six other personages established, to the satisfaction of the people, in like honours. The chiefs that extend eastward of Durwaz, and occupy the provinces of Koolab, Shughnan, and Wakhan, north of the Oxus, claim the same descent. The chief of Budukhshan received in modern times the same honours as have been ascribed to him by the Venetian traveller. He has the title of Shah and Malik, or King, and his children that of Shahzadu; but this ancient house has been subverted within these twelve years by the Meer of Koondooz, and Budukhshan is now held by a Toork family. To the eastward of Budukhshan, and extending to Cashmere, lie the hill states of Chitral, Gilgit, and Iskardo, where the claims to a Grecian descent[216] are likewise conceded to each of the princes. The first of these has the title of Shah Kuttore. The present ruler is of small stature, and, in these countries, has as great a celebrity for his long beard as the Shah of Persia. The chief of Iskardo occupies a singular fortress on the Indus, which he has the hardihood to assert was constructed in the days of Alexander himself. The country borders on Little Tibet, or Baltee. Nor is this the ultimate limit of the tradition, for the soldiers of the Toonganee tribe, who are sent from the western provinces of Chinese Tartary, and garrison Yarkund and the neighbouring cities, claim also a Grecian origin. They, however, seek, with greater modesty, a descent from the soldiers of Alexander’s army, and not from the conqueror himself.

Examination of these claims.

Such is a correct list of the reputed descendants of Alexander, and it is in some degree confirmatory of their claim, that the whole of these princes are Tajiks, who were the inhabitants of this country before it was overrun by Toorkee or Tartar tribes. But how shall we reconcile these accounts with the histories that have travelled down to our times, whence we learn that the son of Philip did not even leave an heir to inherit his gigantic conquests, much less a numerous list of colonies, which have[217] survived a lapse of more than 2000 years in a distant quarter of Asia? Whether their descent is viewed as true or fabulous, the people themselves acknowledge the hereditary dignity of the princes; and they, in their turn, claim every royal honour, and refuse to give their children in marriage to other tribes. These Tajiks being now converted to Islam, view Alexander as a prophet; and to the distinction which they derive from his warlike achievements, they add the honour of being related to one of the inspired messengers of the Deity. I have had opportunities of conversing with some members of the Budukhshan family, but there was nothing in form or feature which favoured their Grecian lineage. They are fair-complexioned, and not unlike the Persian of modern times; while there is the most decided contrast between them and the Toorks and Uzbeks.

Conjectures regarding them.

We learn from the historians of Alexander’s expedition, that he warred in the kingdom of Bactriana. The city of Balkh, which lies in the vicinity of these territories, is readily fixed upon as the Bactra of the Greek monarchs. Setting aside every local identity, the modern inhabitants state, that the country between Balkh and Cabool had the name of “Bakhtur Zumeen,” or the Bakhtur country, in which we recognise Bactria. The fact renders it by no[218] means improbable, that a Grecian colony had some time or other existed in the country. It may, therefore, be supposed, that the Grecian dynasty, which succeeded Alexander in his empire, ascended the valley of the Oxus, the fertility of which would attract them. They would have been conducted at Iskardo into Baltee, or Little Tibet, and the neighbourhood of Cashmere; and we may perhaps account for the early civilisation of that beautiful valley in such a migration of Grecian colonists. The introduction of the religion of Mahommed into every country seems to have been fatal to its historical annals; and I doubt not that any traces which here existed of the Macedonian inroad, or of the Seleucidæ, their successors, were effaced in that great revolution. I have already observed, that the countries on the upper course of the Oxus seem to have lain out of the channel of Tartar invasion, and I infer, from their language and connection with Persia, that they followed the destinies of that country, which would be favourable to their having been conquered by Alexander. If we cannot bring ourselves to concede to these moderns the illustrious lineage of Alexander of Macedon, we must yet receive their tradition as the most concurring proof of his having overrun these countries; and, till some well-grounded arguments can[219] be brought forward to the contrary, I cannot, for my own part, deny their title to the honours which they claim. I received the information from several natives of the country; and, as they entertained no doubt of its being genuine and authentic, I have contented myself with recording that which will enable others to enlarge and speculate upon it.



Interest attached to the sources of the Indus.

The sources of the different great rivers of the world have at all times excited the particular attention of mankind. Of none has our information been more conflicting and obscure than the upper course of the Indus. I record the following particulars relating to this most interesting geographical subject, the result of my intercourse with the people of the neighbouring countries. My enquiries have been materially assisted by the labours of Lieutenant Macartney, though a wide difference will be found between the heads of the Indus, as now described, and their delineation in that officer’s map. Great, however, is the aid which one derives from the records of a preceding enquirer. The papers of Mr. Moorcroft ought to furnish us with some information on this point; but they are still unpublished, and his journey, though it extended nearer to the scene than that of any other modern traveller, was yet distant from the source of the Indus.

Received opinions.

The following are our present and received[221] opinions regarding the source of the Indus. The river of Ladak, joined by the Shyook, falls into the Indus at Draus, and these united streams form the great river which runs north of Cashmere, and is joined by the Aboo Seen before passing Attok. The town of Leh, or Ladak, is placed above the parallel of 37° N. latitude, and Draus lies nearly half way between it and the city of Cashmere. Errors. This account differs materially from the information which I have received. The river of Ladak, and the Shyook, instead of existing as two minor tributaries of the Indus, form of themselves that great river; the one rising near the lake of Mansurour, and the other in the mountains of Karakorum. They unite N.W. of Ladak, and pass through the country of Little Tibet, or Baltee, and a snowy range separates them from Cashmere. Ladak lies nearly eastward of Cashmere, which places it three degrees of latitude below the parallel given to it by Mr. Macartney; and Draus is on the road to Ladak.[24] No such junction as is given in the map takes place at[222] Draus, and the rivulet that passes that village, instead of forming a portion of the waters of the Indus, runs among the mountains of Cashmere, and joins the Jelum, or Hydaspes, at Moozufferabad, as it leaves the valley. This fact is mentioned in a note in Mr. Elphinstone’s book, on the authority of a journal of Meer Izzut Oollah, which he received after his own account was written. It may have been owing to this last circumstance that he overlooked the inconsistency of Izzut Oollah’s statement with the existence of Mr. Macartney’s eastern branch of the Indus. Mr. Elphinstone, indeed, observes, that Izzut Oollah did not see the junction of that branch with the river of Ladak; but he accounts for it by supposing the confluence to lie to the south of the place called Draus in Izzut Oollah’s route. If that route be protracted, however, it will show that the river of Ladak could not well have passed to the south of Draus without falling into the course of the Kishun Gunga; and that, even if the junction had taken place to the south of Draus, both rivers must still have been crossed (either united or separately) by Izzut Oollah before he reached Draus.

It is evident, therefore, that the rivers do not meet at or to the south of Draus; and, as Izzut Oollah went from Draus to the river of[223] Ladak, and accompanied that river to the town from which it takes its name, without seeing the junction of any other river from the east, his account may be regarded as a confirmation of the fact which I have stated, that no such eastern branch exists. It is worthy of observation, that Mr. Macartney’s account of the eastern branch of the Indus appears to have been only communicated by one person.

Description of the two great branches which form the Indus.

That the river of Ladak has its source near the lake of Mansurour has been satisfactorily established by Moorcroft. The course of this branch of the Indus is, therefore, of great length; but the volume of water has been described to me as very small, though it receives several tributaries. The Shyook, on the other hand, is said to be a vast river, formed of many small ones, and discharges the water and melted snows of the Kara Korum mountains. Three days’ journey from Ladak, on the route to Yarkund, it is crossed at a breadth of 1000 yards in March; but widely spread and fordable. This is considered by the natives as the great trunk of the Indus, and its source, to the N.E. of Ladak, is, consequently, that of the Indus. The united streams of the river of Ladak and Shyook pass south of the territories of Iskardo, Gilgit, and Chitral. They are then joined by the Aboo Seen, as described by Mr. Elphin[224]stone, and at Attok, by the river of Cabool, here called the Lundee, which falls into the Indus, close upon the fortress, and not some miles higher up.

Western branch of the Indus.

The sources of this river, commonly called the River of Cabool, are nearly as remote as those to the eastward, which we have now described. The River of Cabool actually rises near Ghuzni; but, in its course eastward of Jullalabad, is joined by a great river that has been called the Kameh, though it is unknown to the natives by such a name. This river is traced to the same source as the Oxus; where it is said to spring from a glacier.[25] That it rises in the same neighbourhood as the Oxus, I have been also informed; but that river (as I have stated when speaking of it) flows from the plain of Pamere, near Lake Sirikol, and not from the ranges of mountains which support that elevated region. This great western branch of the Indus, therefore, rises under a much higher parallel of latitude than the Shyook.

Cashgar; erroneous opinions regarding it.

The country, which is enclosed by these different branches of the Indus, has been called Kashkaur, or Cashghar, in our late maps; which Mr. Elphinstone warns the reader not to confuse with Cashgar, near Yarkund. At Peshawur, I certainly heard of a small mountainous district, near Deer and Gunjoom, called Cashgar, and[225] which is well known for its coarse blankets; but the name has been applied to a far greater extent of country than is even known to the natives of Peshawur. North of Hindoo Koosh, in Koondooz, and the borders of Budukhshan, I could find no person who was acquainted with any country under the name of Cashgaur, but that of Yarkund. They spoke of Chitral and Gilgit, which form part of it, according to the modern nomenclature of our maps, but knew nothing of the southern Cashgar as a separate territory; doubtless from the smallness of the district and its remote position[26]. Since the whole of the[226] information contained in this chapter rests on the authority of others, the credence to which it is entitled must be well weighed. I have the information from people who had seen these rivers and countries, and I have given the facts, after due corroboration and enquiry.



Chinese provinces of Yarkund.

Yarkund is one of the frontier positions of the Chinese empire towards the west, and a five months’ journey of a caravan from the seat of government, Pekin. The productions of China are transmitted to this province, and sold to the natives of Bokhara and Tibet, who are permitted to frequent certain fixed markets; of which the greatest is Yarkund. No Chinese crosses the frontiers; and the trade into Bokhara is carried on by Mahommedans, who visit Yarkund for that purpose. The same vigilance to prevent the ingress of foreigners is here exhibited as upon the sea-coast. In my communications with the Uzbeks of Bokhara, I heard much of the Chinese peculiarities, and I had an opportunity of travelling with a tea caravan from Yarkund; which leads me to believe that a notice of this country, imperfect as it must be, will not be uninteresting.

Sketch of its history.

Yarkund, with the adjacent province of Cashgar, formed the principality of a Mahommedan[228] ruler, known by the name of the Khoju of Cashgar, a family of religious influence, who once exercised great authority. The people of these parts superstitiously believed its members to be invulnerable in battle, and able to use extraordinary means for the discomfiture of their enemies, and yet think it impossible for any one to prosper who injures a Khoju. Dissensions, however, arose in this family about eighty years since, and they called on the Chinese government, or the “Khitais,” (so they are here named,) as a mediator, which, as not unfrequently happens, acted the part of conqueror. Since that time, the Chinese have retained the whole of their lands; not, however, without many endeavours, both by war and conspiracy, on the part of the dethroned family, at restoration. The last of these attempts occurred about five years since, aided by the Uzbeks of Kokan; but the Chinese assembled an army from their most distant provinces, and, advancing into that country, captured the rebellious Khoju, and sent him in a cage, or covered cart, to Pekin. The Khan of Kokan, though he was defeated, has since arrogated to himself the title of “Ghazee,” from having warred with infidels. On the first overthrow of this family, some of the Khojus fled to Budukhshan, and the chief of that province put them to death: for which good office the Chinese[229] sent him a yearly present, till within these five or six years, when his country was seized by the Meer of Koondooz. The bigotted Mahommedans attribute the misfortunes of the Budukhshan family to the injuries offered to the Khoju of Cashgar. While such opinions prevail, the members of it must continue to be disagreeable neighbours to the Chinese.

Mode of government under the Chinese.

The period which has elapsed since the capture of Yarkund has no way diminished the precautions of the Chinese government. Yarkund is still considered but an outpost, and the communication between it and Pekin maintained in a most characteristic manner. The government of all the cities is left in the hands of Mahommedans, and there are not above 5000 Chinese in Yarkund. The garrisons are recruited from boys of fourteen and fifteen, who are sent back after about as long a period of service. These soldiers are drawn from the tribe of Toonganee, who claim relationship to the army of Alexander: they are Mahommedans, from the adjacent provinces, but dress as Chinese. They are never permitted to marry, or bring their families within fifteen marches of the country, and are regarded as troops on foreign employ. The natives of the country rule, under the superintendence of the Chinese officers. The governor of Yarkund, who has the title of Hakim Beg, is subject to[230] Cashgar; and he, again, is under the Junjoom of Eela, a large city, forty marches north of Yarkund. The principal places in these frontiers are, Eela, Yarkund, Cashgar, Aksoo, Karasoo, Yengi hissar, &c. Eela is said to have a population of 75,000 souls. Yarkund ranks next in importance, and has 50,000; while Cashgar is smaller than both. Yarkund stands on a river, in a fertile plain, which is rich in fruit and grain. It is surrounded on all sides but the east by hills, where the river flows. The climate is dry and agreeable; snow seldom falls, and even rain is scarce.

Communi­cation with Pekin.

The mode of communication with Pekin, or, as it is called, Bajeen, and their eastern provinces, is carried on with an arrangement and expedition purely Chinese. The usual journey exceeds the period of five months; but an express may be sent in thirty-five days. Under great emergency, it is conveyed in twenty, and even fifteen days. “Oortungs,” or stages, where there are relays of horses, are erected every eight or ten miles, and one messenger is not even permitted to exchange a word with another. At each of these stages there are piles of wood, which are directed to be set fire to on the intelligence of arising or invasion of the Mahommedans; and by this means intelligence has been sent from Yarkund to Pekin in six days. I have heard that fire-bal[231]loons are used instead of piles of wood; but I believe that in the latter we have the more simple and correct version of the tale. It was on this intimation that the last Chinese army was marched into Kokan; and it is said to have been assembled from all the cities of the empire, and amounted to 70,000 men. The military appearance of this body is said to have been truly singular. A great portion of the soldiers were armed with large matchlocks, each of which was borne by two persons.

People of Yarkund.

The Chinese of Yarkund interfere but little with the affairs of the country, and leaving it and its trade to the Mahommedan portion of the population, the authorities levy a duty of one in thirty; and their commercial regulations are just and equitable. The word of a Chinese is not doubted, nor does the tea ever differ in quality from the sample. The Mahommedans of Yarkund amount to about 12,000 families. They are Toorks, and speak a dialect of Toorkee that is perfectly intelligible to the natives of Bokhara. The country people are sometimes called Moghuls by those who live in cities; and from this may have originated our vague name of Mongolia. There are Calmuk Tartars settled around Eela and Yarkund, who have a singular custom to distinguish their chiefs and grandees, by fixing deer’s horns on their skull-caps. The[232] size and beauty of the antlers mark the dignity, and are the red ribbons of a Calmuk Tartar. The laxity of their females, I am assured, entitles them to the honour of wearing such an ornament. The Chinese employ Calmuks in the protection of their frontier. The Mahommedans of Yarkund appear to differ from their brethren elsewhere, for the fair sex have a power and influence not known in other places. They take the seat of honour in a room, associate freely with the men, and do not veil; they wear high-heeled boots, richly ornamented; their head-dress is described as very handsome, being a high tiara of cloth; the features of the fair ones themselves are said to be most beautiful. When a Bokhara merchant visits Yarkund, he marries one of these beauties during his sojourn in the city; and the pair separate, as they joined, quite as a matter of convenience, when he leaves the country. Their wives are as cheap as beautiful, and purchased at a premium of two or three tillas (twelve or eighteen rupees); and the merchants, long after leaving the country, sing the praises of the fair ones of Yarkund. I could not discover what had given rise to their appearing without veils and being invested with such influence; but I congratulate them on two such infringements of Mahommedan usage. Besides the native Chinese, who frequent Yarkund, I am[233] informed that Christian merchants, probably Armenians, also visit it from the eastward: they dress as Chinese.

Intercourse with Tibet.

The intercourse from Tibet and Bokhara is carried on by regulations that are truly energetic. The natives of these countries are not permitted to proceed beyond Yarkund and the neighbouring towns, and, as they enter the Chinese dominions, are placed under certain persons, who have a knowledge of the countries from which they come, and made responsible for their behaviour. So thoroughly organised is this system of police, that it is said to be impossible to elude its vigilance. A native who was suspected in these countries, and was afterwards in my service, remained in confinement for three months, and was at length dismissed by the route he had come, but not till a likeness of him had been first taken. Several copies of the picture were despatched to the frontier towns, with these instructions:—“If this man enters the country, his head is the Emperor’s, his property is yours.” I need not add, that he has never since sought to extend his acquaintance in the Chinese provinces of Yarkund.

Country between Yarkund and Tibet.

I had a most interesting account of the country lying between Yarkund and Ladak, in Tibet, from a native who had travelled there, and which will convey any but favourable notions of this[234] channel of commerce, frequented, as it appears partially to be. The traveller set out from Ladak in March, and reached Yarkund in sixty days, after encountering a series of disasters and difficulties from a storm that arose in passing the mountains of Kara Korum. The number of actual marches does not exceed twenty-eight, but seven whole days were occupied in crossing Kara Korum; which is described as a low ridge, at the eighth march. Such was the violence of the north wind, and the drifting of the snow, that for some days the party only made a progress of a hundred yards. Though Kara Korum is not a high range of mountains, it must be elevated, since a difficulty of breathing was experienced; also vomiting, giddiness, and loss of appetite. For all these tea was considered a specific. The storm abated, and enabled the travellers to proceed; but eight of their ponies had died, and the whole party must soon have perished, for the animals had ate up the straw of their saddles and cushions before regaining the inhabited country, which commenced at the eighteenth march from Ladak. There they met a few huts, inhabited by the Wakhanees, of whom I have before spoken. They carried every supply for themselves and their horses. At the seventeenth march the travellers encountered a defile among hills which extended for five or[235] six miles, and is called Yengi Dabban. The road led entirely over ice, which was notched into steps before they could proceed. On returning to Ladak in June, the ice had entirely disappeared: even Kara Korum was free from snow. This is singular, as it must be higher than Hindoo Koosh, which is covered by eternal snow. To the south of Kara Korum all the rivers join the Shyook; and it is evident, therefore, that that ridge, low as it actually appears, is the highest part of the range. North of it the water flows into the river of Yarkund, and the road follows these defiles, and, in one short distance, is said to cross a rivulet three hundred and sixty times. The last passage is called “Khilastan,” from being relieved of its further inconvenience. The greater part of this country is destitute of fixed inhabitants, but the wandering Kirghizzes frequent it with their flocks during summer; this road is then passed in twenty days. The number of horses which perish on this line of route is great; and it is not an unusual thing for an owner to pick up his goods next year on the spot where they were left. There are no robbers: the wild horse is the solitary inhabitant of this wilderness.

Communi­cations of Yarkund with Bokhara.

The intercourse between Bokhara and Yarkund is carried on by two routes, leading through the valleys of the Sir, or Jaxartes, and the Oxus.[236] Notice of Kokan. The first of these routes passes by Kokan, the ancient Ferghana, and is always passable but in the three summer months, when it is flooded by melted snow. There are two places on this route where the traveller experiences a difficulty of breathing. The disturbances with the exiled Khoju and the Uzbeks of Kokan have of late years closed this route to caravans; but it is the best line of communication between Yarkund and Toorkistan. The route by the plain of Pamere and the valley of the Oxus, through Budukhshan and Balkh, is more circuitous, and likewise less accessible. I have described both these lines of route, when speaking of the commerce of Bokhara; I have only, therefore, to make a brief mention of Kokan, which is the paternal kingdom of Baber. It is ruled by an Uzbek Khan, of the tribe of Yooz, who claims a lineage from that Emperor. It is a much smaller territory than Bokhara, and its power is now on the decline: it is celebrated for its silk. The capital of the country is Kokan, which is an open town on the Sir, about half the size of Bokhara, and the largest place in that neighbourhood. The ancient capital is Marghilan: Indejan is, however, a town of considerable note; and the Chinese of Yarkund denominate all natives who come from the west, Indejanees. The inhabitants of Kokan wear skull-caps in[237]stead of turbans. The Khan of Kokan keeps up an intercourse with Russia and Constantinople; but there is no friendly feeling towards the rulers of Yarkund.



Hindoo Koosh; range so called.

When the great range of the Himalaya, which forms the northern boundary of Hindoostan, crosses the Indus, it loses the designation by which it has been familiarly known from the frontiers of China. It also changes its course, and, running west, expends its greatest height in the lofty peak of Hindoo Koosh, from which it dwindles into comparative insignificance. The elevation of the peak appropriately affixes the name of Hindoo Koosh to this portion of the range; but this general term is unknown to the people. A road which leads across the shoulder of this mountain is also called the “pass of Hindoo Koosh.” The part which I am now about to describe lies between Cabool and Balkh, and is that which we traversed in our journey to Bokhara. In the plains of the Punjab we had had a magnificent view of the stupendous mountains which separate Cashmere from the plains; and it is to them that the natives affix the name of Himalaya, without confining it to the mountains beyond that celebrated valley.[239] On crossing the Indus, we found ourselves much nearer this great range, now termed Hindoo Koosh, than is represented in our maps. Errors regarding it. In the valley of the Cabool River, it seemed to overhang the road which we passed; an error which originates from the city of Cabool being placed in too low a parallel of latitude by fifteen minutes: nor was I prepared to find from these same maps that we had surmounted “the everlasting snows” of Hindoo Koosh before reaching Bameean, since, by every delineation, they were yet half a degree beyond us. Such, however, was the fact, since the rivulet of Bameean is a tributary of the Oxus, and the country there slopes towards the north. There are certainly mountains beyond Bameean; but we have no longer the towering tops of the Himalaya. One broad depressed belt extends to Balkh; and it is this belt that the Arabian geographers denominated the “Stony Girdle” of the earth. The only part of these mountains covered with perpetual snow, is the Koh-i-Baba, that lies between Cabool and Bameean; the range is afterwards lost in a maze of lower hills, towards Herat.

Height of the Hindoo Koosh.

We crossed this stupendous chain of mountains by six successive passes; and, after a journey of about 260 miles, and thirteen days, debouched, on the valley of the Oxus, at Khoolloom, which is forty miles eastward of the ancient[240] city of Balkh. The three first passes lie between Cabool and Bameean, and two of them were so deeply covered with snow in the end of May, that we could only travel in the morning, when it was frozen, and would bear our horses. The three remaining passes north of Bameean were of lesser altitude, and free from snow. We commenced our journey at an elevation of 6600 feet[27], which is the height of the city of Cabool from the sea. We then followed the river of Cabool, which falls at the rate of fifty feet a mile, and reached its source at an elevation of 8600 feet; where the snow was first encountered in the valley. We attained our greatest height at the passes called Hajeeguk and Kaloo, which were respectively 12,400 and 13,000 feet high, and covered with snow. None of the other passes exceed an altitude of 9000; and from the last of them, called Kara Koottul, we descended the bed of a river, at the rate of sixty feet a mile, till we reached the plains of Toorkistan, where, in Balkh, we had yet an elevation of 2000 feet above the level of the sea. As we issued from the mountains, we left them rising from the plain in a[241] bold and precipitous line, about 2500 feet high. Their sides, which were bare, black, and polished, had a most imposing appearance, though they had lost much of their sublimity and grandeur. They sank beneath the horizon long before we reached the banks of the Oxus. I am assured that the whole of these passes of Hindoo Koosh are free from snow before the end of June; and in our progress across them we had not, therefore, attained the height of perpetual congelation. I am aware of the interest which is attached to this point, and it is something towards a conclusion, that here, at least, it lies beyond an elevation of 13,000 feet. The peaks of Koh-i-Baba are covered with eternal snow for a considerable distance beneath their summits: nor can I estimate any of these (for it is only an estimate) at a greater altitude than 18,000 feet, judging from the height at which we viewed them. The climate of this elevated zone is variable: the thermometer in May stood below the freezing point at sunrise; while, at mid-day, the heat and reflection from the snow were insufferable. It is said that, at a certain degree of elevation, and in a low latitude, we may find the climate of more temperate countries: nor can the fact be for a moment doubted; still, in that elevation the rays of the sun are most powerful. At the height of 10,000[242] feet we found the inhabitants ploughing the ground as the snow left the face of the mountains; so rapid is vegetation, from the scorching heat, that they would reap in the beginning of October that which they sowed in the close of May.

General features of Hindoo Koosh.

This portion of Hindoo Koosh is entirely destitute of wood, and, in many places, of verdure; the range of Koh-i-Baba rises in peaks, but in all other places they present the appearance of rounded and naked mountains. In the defiles the road frequently passes at the base of a mural precipice, rising in a perpendicular height of 2000 and 3000 feet, and exhibits monuments of solemn grandeur, which it is difficult to describe. About seven years since, near Sarbagh, the shock of an earthquake precipitated a huge mass of rock into the valley, which blocked up the river for four days, and rendered the road for a long time impassable. The watercourses appear to have excavated for themselves a channel in the lapse of ages; and, to judge from the stratification of the rocks on either side, these have, at one time, formed the banks, from the top downwards, of rivulets now depressed some thousand feet. These walls have a resemblance to cut stone or brick, rising in horizontal layers above one another. So tortuous is the defile we traversed, that it forms, as it were, in every[243] half mile, distinct enclosures, which appear like so many fortified positions, the view being bounded on every side. One part of the valley, to which this remark more particularly applies, has the name of the “Dura-i-zundan,” or the Valley of the Dungeon; and in many parts the height was such as to exclude the sun at mid-day. I was unable to take an altitude of the pole star from Bameean to within thirty miles of the plains of Toorkistan.

Productions of Hindoo Koosh.

There are no cedars or pines to adorn Hindoo Koosh, and the only fuel of the inhabitants is a dry stunted furze, which tenaciously clings to the soil. Its thorns are disposed like the quills of a hedge-hog, and it is familiarly known to the people by the name of the Koollah-i-Huzara, or the Huzara Cap. At an elevation of 7000 feet we found the asafœtida plant flourishing in great luxuriance. It is an annual, and grows to the height of eight or ten feet, when it withers and decays. The milk which exudes is first white, and then turns yellow, and hardens; in which state it is put in hair bags, and exported. In the fresh state it has the same abominable smell; yet our fellow-travellers greedily devoured it. If the odour of the asafœtida be offensive, the inhabitants are amply compensated by the variety of aromatic plants which grow in these hills, and scent the air. The rocks are very bare, but the[244] few plants which protrude from between the stones are mostly fragrant. The pasture is peculiarly favourable to sheep from its aromatic qualities. We saw these animals browsing on the tender plants of asafœtida, which is believed to be highly nutritious. They rear a barley in this elevated country, which has no husk, and grows like wheat, but it is barley. The valleys in Hindoo Koosh are more favoured by nature, and stored with the finest fruit-trees. We sometimes passed for miles among orchards of apricots, a fruit which grows on the most elevated regions, and attains the highest perfection. On descending to Khooloom, we had the cherry, peach, fig, pomegranate, mulberry, pear, quince, and apple,—all of them on the brink of the rivulet; for the breadth of the defile never exceeded 200 yards, and was generally narrower. On the verge of this watercourse I frequently observed the blackberry bush, the sweet-briar, and the hawthorn. Grass is most abundant, and I could discover the peppermint and the hemlock among many other weeds.

Formation of Hindoo Koosh.

I shall endeavour to convey some notions of the formation of these vast mountains. The nature of the valleys is highly favourable to the researches of the geologist; but I have to claim much indulgence in treating on a subject of such interest, but (to me, at least) of con[245]siderable difficulty. I cannot introduce it to the notice of the reader better than in a detailed account of the defile under the pass of Kaloo, by which we descended to Bameean. It lies between the two great snowy passes that I have noted, and it is to be observed, runs at an elevation of 8000 feet. The section which was here laid open extended for about twenty miles, during which we descended 3000 feet. The highest hills between Cabool and Hajeeguk appeared to be gneiss, or granite; and, after we had wound over that pass, they became deeply impregnated with iron, even to their summits. These were succeeded by blue slate and quartz. The sides of the defile rose up in steep slanting precipices of this micaceous schist; but the summit presented a rugged outline of nodules. From the higher parts of these, huge blocks of green granite and other stones, said to be shivered by the cold and frost, had been hurled into the valley. Descending further, we came to conglomerate limestone, in which were mixed up a variety of other stones, not unlike gravel or shingle. About eight or ten springs of water, of the colour of deep rust, were exuding from various parts of this rock, and tinged its sides as they trickled down. The waters have a purgative effect, and a metallic taste, and run, I presume, over a deposit of iron. There[246] is a large spring of the same kind in the valley, leading to the pass of Hajeeguk. Then followed huge cliffs of clay of a reddish and purple colour, which were succeeded by ridges of indurated clay, mixed with harder stones, till we reached Bameean. It is in this ridge that the great idols and caves are excavated, for it is easily worked. The vicinity of Bameean is exceedingly rich in the mineral kingdom. At Fouladut, gold is found; also lapis lazuli; and in the hills of Istalif, north of Cabool. There are ten or twelve mines of lead in a defile close to Bameean, which are at present worked. There are also ores of copper, tin, and antimony; sulphate of copper (neeltota, moordarsung), and sulphur. Asbestos (sung i poom bu, or cotton stone,) is found at Judraun, north-east of Cabool; and iron exists in Bajour, north of Peshawur. Travelling north of Bameean, the same appearances continued till we descended from the first pass, where cliffs of granite, blackened by the elements, rose up in dusky, but majestic columns, not unlike basalt. The specimens which had fallen down proved them to be of the formation which I have named. The two last passes of Hindoo Koosh presented an entirely different appearance from what has been yet described: they consisted of a light brown limestone, I presume, of primary form[247]ation, and of great hardness, exhibiting, when fractured, the sharpest angles. This stone is so slippery, from the polish which it takes on, that one of the passes of which it is composed is called the “Tooth-breaker[28],” from this circumstance. It was in this formation that we met with those steep and lofty precipices which overhung the valley on our descent; but before we had reached the plains, they were succeeded by rocks of sandstone. In one of these, near Heibuk, I observed round and separate stones of pure flint, imbedded at regular intervals, and running in as distinct a line as if they had been fixed by art. The flint is extracted for military purposes. There is also an extensive deposit of sulphur between these last passes and Hindoo Koosh.

Mountain of Hindoo Koosh.

I have hitherto been describing the nature of the country which fell under my own observation; but I have not spoken of the true mountain of Hindoo Koosh, which lies about a degree eastward of this route. This great peak is visible from Cabool, and entirely enveloped in milk-white snow. I saw it also from Koondooz, on the north, at a distance of 150 miles. Its altitude must be considerable, for the travellers complain of the difficulty of breathing, and[248] carry sugar and mulberries with them, to ease their respiration; and the strongest of men suffer from giddiness and vomiting. Thousands of birds are also found dead on the snow, for it is believed that they are unable to fly from the violence of the winds; but it is more probable that they are prevented by the rarity of the atmosphere: yet birds are used to higher elevations than men and quadrupeds. They often attempt to walk across; and numbers of them are ensnared.[29] Beasts of burden suffer as much as man, and many sink and perish. The greatest silence is preserved in crossing Hindoo Koosh; and no one speaks loud, or fires a gun, lest the reverberation cause a fall of snow: such, at least, is the reason assigned; nor does it appear to be destitute of foundation. But the most singular phenomenon of nature on Hindoo Koosh appears to be the snow-worm, which is described to resemble the silk-worm in its mature state. This insect is only found in the regions of perpetual congelation, and dies on being removed from the snow. I do not suppose that the existence of the creature will be doubted, because I have not seen it, since I speak on the united testimony of many who have passed Hindoo Koosh.



Country so called.

In speaking of the Toorkmuns and their country, I shall adopt the term of Toorkmania, since it describes that people under a generic name which is not altogether unknown in Europe, and not likely to lead into mistakes. Toorkmania, then, is that country lying south of the Oxus or Toorkistan, stretching from Balkh to the shores of the Caspian, and filling up the space between that sea and the Aral. On the south it is bounded by hills, the continuation of Hindoo Koosh, and the Paropamisus of the ancients. A line drawn from Balkh to Astrabad on the Caspian,—which two places are nearly in the same parallel of latitude,—will separate the country of the Toorkmuns from that of the Afghans and Persians. On the south-eastern shore of the Caspian, where Toorkmania adjoins Persia, the country is mountainous, and watered by the rivers of Goorgan and Attruk, which fall into that sea. In all other places it is a flat and sandy desert,[250] scantily supplied with water. The streams that flow from the mountains are speedily absorbed by the sand, and never force their passage to the Oxus. The greatest of these is the Moorghab or Merve River, and the Tejend, which passes Shurukhs. This country is destitute of towns and villages; for the Toorkmuns are an erratic tribe, and wander from one well to another with their herds and flocks, taking their conical “khirgahs” or huts along with them, in search of water and pasture.

Its nature.

The desert of the Toorkmuns is a vast ocean of sand, flat in some places, and rising in others to mounds, such as are seen on the sea-shore. It increases in volume towards the Caspian; and in that vicinity the sand-hills attain a height of sixty and eighty feet. They appeared to rise from a hard caked surface of clay, which was observable in several places. There was little difficulty in crossing these sand-hills; and the wells, though few and far between, offer their supply of water at no great distance from the surface, seldom exceeding the depth of forty feet. People. Such is the desert of the Toorkmuns; and inhabited by a tribe of people who boast that they neither rest under the shade of a tree, nor a king. They do not exaggerate, since a garden is unknown among them; and their desert is not enlivened by a single tree: neither[251] do they live under a fixed or permanent ruler. They only acknowledge the patriarchal government of their “Aksukals” or elders; though now and then, and in limited parts, subjected to the power of the neighbouring nations. The life of a Toorkmun is passed in the most reckless plunder of property and human beings; and his children are brought up from their earliest years to the same demoralisation. A proverb among them boasts that a Toorkmun on horseback knows neither his father nor mother; and such a saying conveys by no means an imperfect view of their compassion, when engaged in a foray or “chupao.” The Toorkmuns have happily no ruler to guide or direct their united efforts, which lessens their power and the effects of their barbarity.

Origin of the Toorkmuns.

The Toorkmuns belong to the great family of the Toorkee or Tatar race: they differ from the Uzbeks, in being exclusively a nomade tribe. The name of Toorkmun is obscure. Toorkumæ, I am informed, means a wanderer; and I have been so assured by the Toorkmuns themselves. Toorkmun, it is also said, is “Toork-manind,” which in Persian means, like a Toork, from the mixture of races produced by the inhabitants of Toorkmania seizing on the neighbouring nations. Toork-mun, I am a Toork, may likewise be assigned as a derivation.[252] Turci and Comani, a mixed people, seem far-fetched, though nothing which has been here recorded may prove more satisfactory to some critics, for the mind wanders in etymology. We however deduce from these that the Toorkmuns are Toorks, though differing from Uzbeks, and many other tribes denominated Tartars by Europeans. For the seat of Toorkmun migration, we should certainly be disposed to look on the countries north-east of Bokhara, the abodes of Jengis, of Timour, and their Uzbek successors: but the Toorkmuns themselves believe that they came from Mangusluk, and the north-eastern shores of the Caspian, till they gradually overran the territories which our historians have given, in the time of the Roman world, to the valorous Parthians. I have, indeed, heard a vague and uncertain tradition among the Toorkmuns, which states them to be the descendants of garrisons, transplanted from other countries by Alexander the Great.


The whole Toorkmun race claim a common lineage, though divided into different tribes, and conceding to some a greater degree of honour than to others. The total number of families is rated at 140,000, which I shall class into the obvious division of eastern and western Toorkmuns, as follows:—



Salore (of Shurukhs) 2,000
Saruk (of Merve) 20,000
Ersaree (of the Upper Oxus) 40,000
Tuka (of the Tejend) 40,000
Sakar (of the Oxus) 2,000


Yamood (of Astrabad and Khiva) 20,000
Goklan (of the Goorgan) 9,000
Ata (of Balkhan) 1,000
Choudur (of Mangusluk) 6,000
Total of the race 140,000

The most illustrious of all the Toorkmuns is the tribe of Salore; and then follows the Ata, who are said to be the Syuds of the race, and descended from the Caliph Osman. The three great tribes, the Yumood, Goklan, and Tuka are said to have been descended from brothers; but the last, as sprung from a Persian slave, is considered inferior to the other two. It would be profitless to dilate[254] on a nameless list of the subdivisions of these tribes: I may merely instance that of Goklan, which is classed into nine divisions, that encamp apart from each other. These are their names:—

It is said, that the tribe at one time consisted of twenty-four divisions, to each of which there was a “yooz kyelee,” or commander of 500; but internal feuds, not yet, or ever likely to be removed, together with wars on Khiva and Persia, have thinned their number, and disturbed the patriarchal habits of all the Toorkmun race.


While the Toorkmuns themselves fail to trace their origin from a country more remote than the shores of the Caspian, they yet assert that they are the founders of the Ottoman empire. Their dialect appears to differ from the Osmanlee Turkish; but the following specimens, taken from the Toorkmuns themselves, may not only serve to[255] refute or confirm their fatherly claim on the second Rome, but assist investigations upon other points.

Specimen of the Dialect of the Toorkmuns.

Man Urkuts.
Woman Ailehee.
Daughter Kiz.
Son Ooglee.
Vizier Kooshbegee.
Bird Lööke.
Sea Durya.
Mountain Dugh.
Earth Yerr.
Wheat Booghdye.
Barley Arfa.
Melon Koon.
Water Soo.
Fire Ote.
Cold (adj.) Souts.
Hot Issee.
Sun Goon.
Moon Arje.
Star Yooldooz.
Sword Ghilich.
Musket Doofung.
Carpet Palus.
Father Ata.
Mother Cija.
[256]Brother Ceneeng.
Sister Ishig.
Eye Gooz.
Nose Boorun.
Teeth Deesh.
Mouth Ughz.
Beard Sukal.
Hair Such.
Foot Eyak.
Hand Ill.
Knee Deez.
White Ak.
Black Kara.
Red Saree.
Ice Booz.
Snow Kar.
Rain Yughish.
Thunder Gok gooburdee.
Heaven Gok.
Lightning Yeldrum.
Horse Al.
Camel Doya.
Cow Sughur.
Goat Guchee.
Sheep Koyaon.
Salt Tooz.
Sand Koom.
Mud Lace.
Milk Sood.
[257]Stone Dash.
Death Sukulat.
Marriage Toee.
I Oozoom.
You Sun.
Sleep Okhee.
Boat Gumee.
Silk Yepuk.
Good Yukhshee.
To lose Yettee.
To kill Oldee.
To swim Soo dooshelee.
To fly Yooz up kedelee.
Wool Yoon.
Cotton Puktu.
Sickness Khastu.
Near Yukeen.
Afar Oozak.
Hunger Ach.
Blood Kan.
Smell Ees.
One Bir.
Two Ikee.
Three Ooch.
Four Toort.
Five Bush.
Six Altee.
Seven Yedee.
Eight Sikkus.
[258]Nine Daghuz.
Ten Ool.
Twenty Eegurnee.
Fifty Illee.
Hundred Yooz.
Thousand Meeng.

Amid the sterile regions of Toorkmania, and between Bokhara and Persia, lies the once fertile land of Merve, the capital of which is said to have been built by Alexander. It is better known to European readers from a celebrated epitaph on one of its kings, often quoted by moral writers: “You have witnessed the grandeur of Alp Arslan exalted even to the skies; repair to Merve, and see it buried in the dust.” Sketch of its history. Historians are obscure regarding it. It is yet styled, “Merve Shah i Juhan,” or, Merve, the king of the world; and the natives point to the ruins of “Merve i mukan,” as the city built by the Greeks. They are better informed on the deeds of Sultan Sunjur, whose tomb yet remains, and who reigned upwards of 800 years since. Merve long continued a dependency of the Persian empire, and here Ismaeel Sefi, the Shah of Persia, defeated the founder of the Uzbeks, Sheibanee Khan, A.D. 1510. Under the Persians, Merve rose to a great and opulent country, and the waters of its river, which[259] before had wasted themselves in the desert, were distributed by canals and a judicious use of dams throughout the territory. The soil was enriched; the people were prosperous. From one maund reap a hundred, is a proverb which attests the fecundity of the earth, the prosperity of the people; a portion of a Persian couplet bids the members of the “faithful” rejoice to say their afternoon prayers in the dry and delightful climate of Merve.[30] Here, also, the wheat-fields furnished the astonishing phenomenon of three succeeding crops from the same seed, as has been described in the districts of Andkho and Meimuna. Such was the prosperous condition of Merve under a well-known chief named Beiram Khan, who was conquered in the year 1787, by Shah Moorad of Bokhara. That king demolished its castle and canals, and forcibly marched the greater portion of its inhabitants to people his capital, where they still exist as a separate community. At a later period the remnant of its population has been driven into Persia, and this flourishing land, which presented so beautiful a contrast to the rest of Toorkmania, now partakes of its sterility, while the Toorkmun hordes[260] have usurped the place of its once fixed population. From the ruins of the castle of Merve, the traveller may yet behold a depopulated circle of thirty miles, studded with deserted villages and decayed walls. The fields on the verge of the Moorghab alone are cultivated, and here the Toorkmuns yet rear the finest of wheat, juwaree, and excellent melons.

General features of the inhabitants.

We shall be excused for dwelling upon the beauties of Merve, since we are still in Toorkmania, and impart an interest to its dreary solitudes, by describing this once beautiful oasis. From the ancient city of Balkh to the shores of the Caspian, we have the people, as well as the country, almost in a state of nature. The Toorkmuns have neither science nor literature; they are even without mosques, though not altogether without religion; they are a warlike people, and their domestic habits fit them for the hour of battle. Their food is simple, consisting of the milk and flesh of their herds and flocks. Mares’ milk and “boozu” are unknown south of the Oxus, and the Toorkmuns are even ignorant of the art of extracting or distilling spirits. A few Jews from Meshid sometimes wander among them with intoxicating liquors, which are happily beyond the reach of the poor. The Toorkmuns drink the milk of the camel, which is a grateful[261] beverage. The inhabitants of Toorkmania are, perhaps, equal to the irregular cavalry of any nation, and their horses possess some matchless qualities. Great care is bestowed upon these noble animals. The subject is interesting, and we shall close this book with a notice on the horses of Toorkistan.



Sketch of the Tartar invasions. Their seats.

We have been treating of countries which have, in different ages of the world, sent forth successive hordes to overrun and occupy the fairest regions of Asia, and our curiosity now leads us to note the present state and condition of these various tribes of human beings. Attila and Alaric spread devastation in the empire of the Cæsars. Jengis and Timour have succeeded them in more modern but equally destructive inroads. Through these great revolutions we trace the ever-wandering spirit of the Tartar people; but ere the first of these destroyers inflicted his calamities on Rome, we could gather the evil propensities of the race from the histories of Semiramis, Cyrus, and Alexander. Subsequent to the age of Timour, we have another irruption from the Uzbek Tartars, though it wasted its strength at the base of Hindoo Koosh. From the days of Herodotus to the present time, we are presented with a state of[263] ceaseless change and fluctuation in the countries of Central Asia. For this great storehouse of emigration we have been referred to Khitai, the regions of Northern China; but authentic history fixes it in a site far less remote. Jengis and his bands issued from the pastoral lands beyond the Jaxartes, which is also the migration seat of his successors; and may be, therefore, safely fixed as the cradle of Scythian, Hun, and Tartar inroad.

Exaggerated numbers.

We shall not stop to speculate on the probabilities of a country so thinly peopled sending forth hordes which have been exaggerated by terror to thousands and hundreds of thousands. With greater reason shall we attribute the size of these armies to their increasing number, as they advanced to plunder and victory. A pastoral is but another name for a migratory nation, and its transfer to a near or distant country, generally depends upon the ambition or spirit of a few of its leaders. This state of society is not altered in the paternal seats of Jengis and Timour, and an invader might pursue, though with limited success, the same paths of conquest. The volcano may rest for a time in a quiescent state, but the Tartar, in his erratic life, will ever sigh for new scenes; but it depends on the Khan if that passion be gratified. Probabilities of success in modern times. The disciplined valour of Russia would now arrest him on the[264] west; and European prowess, engrafted on the legions of India, might there oppose the torrent; but in Turkey, Persia, Cabool, and China, a horde of Tartars would make the same impression as in former times. The Tartar inroads have ever been of the most transitory nature. Neither the empires of Jengis or Timour were consolidated, and the subjugation of India, afterwards effected by their successors, arose from fortuitous circumstances, over which their previous inroads had had little influence.

Tartar tribes.

The literary world has long dwelt with an attentive and scrutinizing eye on the history of the Tartars, exercising, as they ever have, so great an influence over the destinies of the world. Received opinions now present to us a vast nation in Northern Asia, classed into three grand divisions, under the generic name of Tartar. I shall, elsewhere, record the few facts, which I gathered in the country regarding this race, but the subject partakes too much of a dissertation to be here introduced. The intermixture of the Tartars with the more western nations has brought about many changes, and the Tartar is no longer disfigured by those unseemly features which inspired disgust. But a physiognomist will not deduce from the change, that the Toork of the Oxus differs from[265] his countrymen of Yarkund, the Moghul of modern writers, and far to the eastward. The Toorks intermarried with the Tajiks of Mawurool nuhr, much in the same manner as the Seljooks, who entered Persia, formed alliances in that country; but we cannot on that account reckon them a separate race, because of their beauty. The features of the Tartar have not altogether disappeared from the natives of Toorkistan; and may yet be traced in small eyes, flattened foreheads, and a scanty beard, though we see nought of the hideous visages which are described in the records of their inroads. The well-known couplet[31] of Hafiz, that paints the beautiful Toorkee girl of Shiraz, near Samarcand, has been celebrated; nor have the fair sex ever been destitute of charms in these regions, since we learn that Roxana, whom Alexander married in Transoxiana, was the most beautiful woman whom the Greeks had seen in Asia, after the wife of Darius. The inhabitant of the city, however, is more changed than the peasant; and on the mountains of Hindoo Koosh we had among the Huzaras a much closer resemblance to the Tartars. Among them there is a singular tribe, known by the[266] name of Tatar Huzaras, which amount to about a thousand families, and occupies the space between Hindoo Koosh and Bameean. Tradition states these people to be descendants of Jengis Khan’s army, but their name of Tatar deserves remark, since the only other tribe so denominated by the people themselves is the Nogai on the frontiers of Russia.

Uzbek tribes.

Such is the mutability of men and things in this circle of Tartar abode, that if you now ask for the race of Zagatye or Chaghtye, the illustrious descendants of Jengis and the conquerors of Hind, and find them at all, they exist in the most abject poverty. The kings of Bokhara did, however, claim a lineage and uninterrupted descent from it, till a profligate minister snapped the thread by assassination. The Uzbek ruler of Kokan, the second state in Transoxiana, still asserts his descent from Baber, whose paternal kingdom of Ferghana he now inherits. The Uzbeks distinguish themselves by thirty-two tribes, into which they are said to have been divided in their pastoral seats. The following list exhibits a few of the principal divisions of the Uzbek race.

Bokhara. Mungut.
Kokan. Yooz.
Hissar. ——
—— Lakay.
[267]Baeesoon. Kongrad.
Kuwadian. Doormun.
Koondooz. Kutghun.
Khooloom. Moeetun.
Heibuk. Kunglee.
Balkh. Kipchuh.
—— Yaboo.
Maimuna. Meeng.
Orjunje. Kongrad.
Kalmuks. Kirgizzes. Kuzzaks.

The roaming propensities of the Tartar occur in every page of his history, and the example of the Kalmuks, who returned, in our own age, from the Black Sea to their original seats on the frontiers of China, exhibits the wonderful facility with which erratic nations alter their places of abode. The event took place in the latter end of the last century, and is still remembered by many of the inhabitants of Toorkistan, who described it to me. The colony advanced with their herds and flocks; and occupied, it is said, in the breadth of its advancing column, a journey of no less than three days. It forced its way through all opposition to the “dusht i Kipchak,” north of the Jaxartes, and reached the primeval seat of their ancestors at Yarkund and Eela. The Kalmuks are not Mahommedans, and the “faithful” made war on them as they passed, and about 1500 Kalmuk slaves were added to the[268] population of Bokhara; but small was the impression that could be made on the hundred thousand families, the reputed number of the migrators. The Kalmuk and Uzbek are said to have sprung from one tribe[32], and this change of habitation has now mingled it with the Kuzzak[33], a great tribe that once lay to the eastward of it; and Kalmuks, Kuzzaks, and Kirgizzes are mingled together. The Kirgiz and Kuzzak appear to be much the same people, differing only in location. The Kirgizzes whom I met, had a flat countenance, and closely resembled the Toorkmun. They inhabit Pameer. The Kuzzaks pass the summer in the southern parts of Russia, and repair in winter to the neighbourhood of Bokhara, where they sell their sheep.

Citizens of Toorkistan.

We find as great a variety among the citizens of Toorkistan as in the subdivisions of the Tartars. The aborigines of the country are the Tajiks or Tats; sometimes, but erroneously, denominated Sart, which is a nickname given to them by the nomade tribes. The hostile Toorks[269] from the north subverted the power of this people, in a remote age; as different dynasties of the same hordes have overwhelmed each other. The Tajiks are addicted to commerce. Their language is Persian, which has long been that of the country; for Toorkistan fell under the dominion of Persia before the age of the Caliphs. In a Persian manuscript which I procured at Bokhara, I even find that this language was used by order of the Arabs themselves, in converting the people to Islam. The number of Persians in Toorkistan is great; since we hold the inhabitants of Merve in that light, as well as the slaves and their descendants. There are also Jews, Hindoos, and Armenians. Of the Toorkmuns I have already spoken; but there is yet another description of Tartars, the Nogais, who have migrated from Russia, and settled to the number of about a thousand families in the city of Bokhara.

Traces of Tartar religion. Speculations.

The people of Northern Asia worshipped the sun, fire, and the elements previous to the age of Mahommed; and we are informed, that in the earlier times of Islam, some of the priests or Magi of Persia fled from that country beyond the Oxus. I searched much for a trace of the original or imported worship; the Uzbeks assured me that there were fire worshippers in the ancient Tartar city of Cazan in Russia; but[270] the censer of the Greek Padre was probably mistaken for the altar of the Magi. But the similarity between the creed of the Tartar and the Persian was curious; and since we find such innumerable hordes issuing from beyond the Oxus in the ages of authentic history, may we not derive the creed of Zoroaster or Zeratusht from Scythia or Tartary?

How full of interest is every thing connected with races of man that have so often changed the destinies of the world. Could we but follow up that at which we have now glanced, we might gather from the traditions of the people much that would illustrate early history, and the secret of these irruptions upon nations both barbarous and civilised. How much, too, might be traced from the shades of resemblance between the original tree and the branches which it has shot forth to stimulate an enquiry that is eminently attractive. I dismiss it, deploring my own incompetency.



Toorkmun horse. Its origin.

The horse attains a noble perfection in Toorkistan and the countries north of Hindoo Koosh. The climate is favourable to its constitution, and the inhabitants exhibit the most patient solicitude in its breeding and food; so that its best qualities are fully developed. The Toorkman horse is a large and bony animal, more remarkable for strength and bottom than symmetry and beauty. Its crest is nobly erect, but the length of body detracts from its appearance in the eye of an European; nor is its head so small or its coat so sleek as the brood of Arabia. This want of ornament is amply compensated by its more substantial virtues, and its utility is its beauty. We are informed by the historians of Alexander, that the countries on the Oxus were celebrated for their horses; and their subsequent and close connexion with Arabia suggests to us the extreme probability of an intermixture with the blood of that country. Tradition confirms the belief. At Shibbergaum, near Balkh, the people will yet tell you that their horses are descended[272] from the famous Ruksh of Roostum, the steed of the Persian Hercules; from which we readily gather that they are of Persian descent. Timourlane introduced, from his conquests in China and India, Persia and Turkey, the finest horses of those distant countries to his capital of Samarcand and his native and adjacent city of Shuhr Subz. In this very neighbourhood, we now find, in the hands of the Uzbek tribe of Karabeer, the most matchless horses of the East. The great Nadir appears to have imitated Timour; and from India to the confines of Persia the introduction of many celebrated breeds of horses are referred to that conqueror. The most famous of these is found in Merve, though the animal be small. Another, met on the Oxus, known by the name of Aghubolak, is invariably marked by a dimple on some part of the body.

Toorkmun mode of rearing horses.

The peculiar manner in which a Toorkmun rears his horse arrests the attention, and will, perhaps, account for its stamina and superiority; since education, whether of the beast or the man, leaves the most permanent impression. The diet is of the simplest kind, and entirely free from the spices and sugar, the thirty-two and forty-two “mussalas” (condiments) of the Indians. Grass is given at stated periods in the forenoon, evening, and midnight; and, after feeding on it for an hour, the horse is reined up,[273] and never permitted to nibble and eat, as in Europe. Dry food is preferred at all times; and if green barley and juwaree[34] (here called jougan) are given in its stead, the animal then receives no grain. At other times, a horse has from eight to nine pounds of barley once a day. Clover and artificial grasses are cultivated in Bokhara and on the banks of the Oxus, and, when procurable, always used in a dry state. The stalk of the juwaree, which is as thick as a walking-stick and contains much saccharine juice, is a more favourite food. The long interval between the times of baiting inure these horses to great privation; the supply of water allowed them is also most scanty. Before a Toorkmun undertakes a foray, or chupao, he trains, or, to use his own expression, “cools his horse” with as much patience and care as the most experienced jockey of the turf, and the animal is sweated down with a nicety which is perhaps unknown to these characters. After long abstinence from food, the horse is smartly exercised, and then led to water. If he drinks freely, it is taken as a sign that his fat has not been sufficiently brought down, and he is starved and galloped about till he gives this required and indispensable proof. A Toorkmun waters his horse when heated, and then scampers about with speed, to[274] mix the water and raise it to the temperature of the animal’s body! Under this treatment, the flesh of their horses becomes firm, and their bottom is incredible; I have had authentic accounts of their performing a journey of six hundred miles in seven, and even in six days. Speed is at all times looked on as an inferior quality to bottom. At the marriage festivals, where horseraces form a part of the amusement, the Toorkmuns decide their matches, which are generally a few sheep, on a course of twenty or twenty-five miles. Youths of eight and ten years of age ride the horses; and the spirit with which these sports are carried on by the Toorkmuns is not surpassed in any country. The favourite horse afterwards moves throughout the neighbourhood as if the owner had the encouragement of a farming association in the deserts of Toorkmania.

Varieties of the Toorkmun horse. Extent of the trade.

I have pointed out the seat of the most celebrated horses of Toorkistan; but the animals which are sometimes sent to India under the name of Toorkmun horses, are reared about Balkh, and the eastern parts of Toorkmania, in the districts of Andkhoo and Maimuna, as also on the banks of the Oxus: they are considered inferior to the horses of Bokhara, Merve, as also Shurukhs. The price, too, is the best proof of this assertion; since the eastern horses seldom bring a[275] higher sum than 100 tillas (650 rupees), and more frequently average less than half. Among the western Toorkmuns, a horse often sells for 200 tillas, and there are some in the stables of the King of Bokhara for which 300 tillas have been paid. These horses differ much from the animals that are sent into India from Candahar and Cabool, which are of an inferior and distinct breed. They, too, are reared in Toorkistan, but only used as baggage horses or hacks. Very few of the genuine Toorkmun horses are ever sent across Hindoo Koosh, since there are no purchasers but the Afghan chiefs and the Court of Runjeet Sing. It is only the best description of horse that will yield a profit to the importer. They cannot be brought to the territories of British India for less than 1000 or 1200 rupees; and few of the European gentlemen will give such a price in addition to the small profit asked by the dealer. Such, at least, is the language of the horse merchants themselves; and it carries some conviction along with it; since the points of a Toorkmun horse have not much recommendation in the eyes of an European, whose taste would appear to be better suited by imports from the Persian Gulf. In speaking of the horses imported from Toorkistan, Mr. Elphinstone observed, in the year 1809, that if the studs in India should succeed, the trade would be annihilated; a pre[276]diction which has been fulfilled; as I learn that the whole remount of the Bengal cavalry is now furnished from the stud, with some few exceptions for the horse artillery. The undersized horses which are bred there are also bought up by officers and natives; and there are now no princes of sufficient consequence to induce horse merchants to speculate longer in a losing and foreign trade. The annual tax of fifty or sixty horses, which the ruler of Lahore imposes on the chief of Peshawur, is furnished from Toorkmun horses, since Runjeet Sing is fastidious in his choice. That the value of the Toorkmun horse has not been over-rated is most certain, since some of them, which were entered into the lists of the cavalry twenty years ago, are yet good and serviceable animals, and highly appreciated by cavalry officers. Were it ever contemplated to seek a further supply of these horses, they could be procured with every facility at Meshid in Persia, from Shurukhs, and Merve, or by means of an agent in Cabool. Afghans sent from that city could also purchase them.

Character­istics of the Toorkmun horse.

The breed of the Toorkmun horse is of the purest kind. When the animal is over-heated, or has performed any great work, nature bursts a vein for it in the neck,—which I did not at first credit till I had become an eye-witness of the fact. The Toorkmuns cut their horses; as it is[277] a popular belief among them that they are then more on the alert, and undergo greater fatigue, than stallions. The Toorkmuns believe their horses to be exceedingly nice in hearing; and will often trust to their steeds for the alarm of an approaching enemy. I was particularly struck with the fine crests of the Toorkmun horses; and I heard, though I could not authenticate its truth by observation, that they are often confined in a stable with no other aperture than a window in the roof, which teaches the animal to look up, and improves his carriage. The contrivance seems fitted for such an end. The finer horses of the Toorkmuns are seldom sold, for their owners may be truly said to have as much regard for them as their children. It must not, however, be imagined that all the horses of Toorkistan are equally renowned; for as almost every person beyond the Oxus has a mount of some kind, a great portion of them are very inferior animals. In Bokhara there are many Kuzzak horses, a sturdy and little animal, with a shaggy coat and very long mane and tail, much and deservedly admired. They are brought from the deserts between Bokhara and Russia.




Limits of the Punjab. Identity of the country as described by the Greeks.

There are few countries on the globe defined by limits both natural and political like the Punjab. Northward, it is terminated by the Hemilaya Mountains; westward, by the Indus or Sinde, which is also the boundary of Hindostan to the ocean; and on the east and south it has the river Sutlege, with four kindred streams, that water the country, and affix to it the name of Punjab.

The following are the accurate words of the historians of Alexander, who traversed this territory:—“The greater part of this country is level and champaign; which is occasioned[280] chiefly, as some suppose, by the rivers washing down quantities of mud during their overflowings, insomuch that many countries have borrowed their very names from the rivers which pass through them.” In the name of Punjab, or five rivers, by which this country is familiarly known in our own times, how strong is the verification! How much stronger is it, when we add, that three of the intervening tracts between these rivers have their designation in a compound word, that includes a syllable of the name in either river!

It is not necessary to dwell with minuteness on the physical peculiarities of this country, nor to mention in detail the various revolutions which have placed it under the dominion of one ruler. I shall endeavour to describe the existing condition of this kingdom, and its power as a state, together with the nature and character of its people, and its resources and strength; taking also a view of the moral and religious causes that have contributed to its rise, as well as the influence it exercises on the adjacent countries.

Rise of the Seik power.

It is well known that, about the middle of the fifteenth century, a Hindoo priest, named Baba Nanuk, desiring to wash away the corruptions of his faith, founded a sect named Seik, over[281] which his successors were prophesied to maintain a religious supremacy for ten generations. The pride of the tenth priest, named Govind Sing, raised a desire for temporal as well as spiritual power; and, since he could no longer perpetuate his name by a successor, he blended the cause of war with that of religion, and stirred up in his flock the ambition for worldly distinction. From that period we meet the Seiks, now called “Khalsa,” or “Sings,” as a fierce and formidable body, gradually rising in importance, till they at last resist the more hardy nations of the west. Yet, so late as the beginning of this century, we find them without a ruler, though in these days existing in the form of a settled monarchy. There is nothing very remarkable in this gradual developement of their power; but we cannot withhold our applause from the just predictions of an enterprising traveller (Mr. Forster), who thus expresses himself in the year 1783:—“Should any future cause call forth the combined efforts of the Sicques to maintain the existence of empire and religion, we may see some ambitious chief, led on by his genius and success, absorbing the power of his associates, display, from the ruins of their commonwealth, the standard of monarchy.” (Vol. I. p. 295.)[282] This passage was penned about the time of Runjeet Sing’s birth; and the exploits of that prince have amply verified the sagacity of the historian.

State of the government of the Punjab.

The dominions of Maharaja Runjeet Sing assumed a consolidated state at an early period, from a chain of circumstances over which he himself had little control, but by which he has not failed to profit. On the east and south, his encroachments were opposed by the British; on the west, he could subdue, but he could not maintain, the countries beyond the Indus. To the north, his passage was opposed by snowy mountains; and he has prudently contented himself by only seeking Cashmeer, and the other rich valleys which the lower hills inclose. In a territory thus compactly situated, he has applied himself to those improvements which spring only from great minds; and here we find despotism without its rigours, a despot without cruelty, and a system of government far beyond the native institutions of the East, though far from the civilisation of Europe. In a country which has been subdued by an irregular force, with a due mixture of artifice and courage in the commander, we have the conquest maintained by disciplined armies under European leaders, and a general distribution of property[283] among the chiefs, sufficient to uphold the national manners, without endangering the safety of the government.

Its decline.

It is too evident, however, that these improvements have taken no root in the minds of the people, and that the tone of them has its termination even in the precincts of the Court. Nor is it less true, that the disposition of the master mind to cherish these invaluable institutions declines with his advancing years, and that he bids fair to efface them with the transient glory of his reign. A well-stored treasury, with an army in arrears and clamouring for pay, increasing duties on the merchant and trader, exorbitant taxes on the husbandman, with embezzlement of the public revenues, and a general corruption in the higher officers of the state, are not symptoms favourable to the durability of a government. Yet the endurance of the people in an Asiatic kingdom, depends more on the power of the prince, than the inclinations of the community; and while the ruler wastes not his treasures in reckless extravagance, and is possessed of a mind beyond his age, we may safely reckon on the stability of the power during his natural life. It appears to me that Runjeet Sing, in his career, will have raised, formed, and destroyed a government.

Influence of the chiefs.

The influence of the Sirdars, or chiefs of the[284] Punjab, has decreased in proportion to the supremacy of the ruler. The power of most of the members of the original Seik confederacy has been subverted or neutralised; and the Maharaja has surrounded his person and filled their places by minions of his own, whose fortune, more than their merits, has led to their promotion. The Jemadar Khooshal Sing, and the three Rajas and brothers of Jummoo, Dihan, Ghoolab, and Soojait Sing, are strong instances in point. The first of these individuals once figured as a Hindoo, and in the humble capacity of a cook to a private soldier. He is now a Seik, and a great commander. The others, though of less obscure origin, are descended from a Rajpoot of some small patrimony in the Lower Hemilaya. These individuals now form a social band in the Court of Runjeet Sing, whose favours they have bountifully reaped. None of them possess talent; and, with one exception, they are ignorant of the first rudiments of education. It is not to be supposed that such men have any great influence with such a ruler; yet they have managed to instil that belief into the minds of the people; and make every use of their supposed influence, to fill their coffers, and nourish the arts of corruption. The elder brother, Ghoolab Sing (who can read), manages the[285] salt monopoly, and a large portion of the territory towards the Jelum. He is a cruel and tyrannical man. Dihan Sing exercises his arts in the Court; while his brother enacts his part abroad, but he is devoted to the interests of his master, and is said to be a good man. He is now fortifying his native home, in the vicinity of Bimbur, which he has strengthened by guns taken from Lahore,—a fact which no one discloses to the Maharaja. The favourite judiciously prepares for a future time, when the tenure of his possessions will be weakened with the loss of his patron. The son of Dihan Sing, a boy of nine years, is the only individual, besides a sons and two priests, who is permitted to sit on a chair in Runjeet Sing’s Durbar. It may be imagined, that such a long line of innovation has not been effected without exciting the jealousy, perhaps envy, of the old Seik chieftains.


From the Sirdars, our attention is naturally directed to the Seik people; and, if we find a hollowness and decay in the former, we have here a healthy and vigorous body. The inhabitants are a robust and athletic race, of sinewy limbs and tall stature. The genuine Khalsa, or Sing, knows no occupation but war and agriculture, and he more affects the one than the other. No race of people could have been better constituted to firmly uphold their go[286]vernment; and, with ambition and patriotism (if I can use the word) equal to their power, they are a sufficiently numerous body to defend it. Their ascendency as a nation continues to increase, the numerical strength of the tribe; and, actuated in the common cause by common principles, they are certainly a powerful people. It is not to be doubted that the head of the Seik church, the Bedee, or Sahib Sing, might yet frustrate the designs of any ruler, and, by a crusade in behalf of this religion, overthrow the best laid designs of an ambitious prince. Runjeet Sing is aware of this influence, and, with but little religion, takes care to enlist the church in his cause, by constantly receiving two of its priests with distinction and confidence. Yet the Seiks are a most tolerant nation, and evince a merciful consideration in the differences of religion, that forms a bright contrast to their Mahommedan neighbours. It is with distrust that I attempt an enumeration of the people subject to the Punjab; but I am informed that the Khalsa or Seik population does not exceed 500,000 souls, and the remainder is composed of Seiks, Mahommedans, and Hindoo Juts, who may amount to 3,000,000.

Military strength of the Punjab.

With such materials, it may be imagined that there is little difficulty in forming an efficient army; and that of Runjeet Sing amounts to[287] about 75,000 men. Of these, 25,000 consist of regular infantry, drilled as Europeans, fully equal to the troops of the Indian army. Their discipline might be improved by increasing the power of the native officers, and removing a just ground of discontent, which arises from giving different pay to individuals of the same rank, according to the caprice of the ruler. Without commissions, these men do not possess a respect for themselves, nor are they respected by their soldiers. The regular cavalry and artillery may be reckoned at 5000, with 150 guns; and the irregular troops, which are all cavalry, fall little short of 50,000. These are denominated “Ghorchuras,”—which simply means horsemen,—and are paid by assignments of land, in return for their military service. A regular muster of these forces is exacted, with a few favoured exceptions; and, as a native soldiery, they are an efficient, well-mounted, and serviceable body. Their superiority is said to consist in being easily rallied; while their neighbours, the Afghans, terminate a battle with the first discomfiture. The pay of the regular troops is superior to that of the Company’s army; they are clothed by the state; and the Seik portion live in messes, which are supplied by government, at a deduction of two rupees a month for each man. For some years past the[288] army has been irregularly paid, and their affections have been alienated from their prince; but the Seiks make good soldiers, and are inured to long marches and every fatigue. This inattention on the part of Runjeet Sing to his army is traced by the soldiers themselves, and perhaps with truth, to his growing friendship with the British Government; but may be yet explained by the increasing avarice of age. If some change for the better does not take place in this branch of his economy, we shall either find the regular force of the Punjab in a state of mutiny, or greatly diminished; nor do I hazard the opinion unadvisedly.

Revenues and resources.

The productions of the Punjab, together with the nature of its population, are favourable to its separate existence as a government. The nett revenue of the country amounts to about two and a half crores of rupees per annum. Of this sum, thirty-one lacs are derived from Cashmeer, exclusive of ten expended in its defence; but that province forms a kingdom of itself, and could yield double the amount. An individual, who lately held Cashmeer for three years, and paid his thirty-one lacs regularly, was found to have carried upwards of thirty lacs of rupees out of the country in goods and money, the whole of which have been confiscated; but his successors in office, some Cash[289]meer Pundits, are said to have rivalled in the following year this extensive peculator. The plains of the Punjab, which are diagonally intersected by so many rivers, might be successfully irrigated from canals; as is proved by the existence of some, and the remains of others, which are the work of the Emperors, in the eastern portion of the country. The land is not less fruitful in the munitions of war, than in corn and money. It abounds in horses, mules, and camels. The Dunnee horse, found between the Jelum (Hydaspes) and Indus, is well known, but no attention is paid to rearing it; and from the horses of Runjeet Sing’s regular cavalry, one could not imagine that his country produced that noble animal. The mules from the banks of the Jelum are strong, and capable of bearing great burdens; while the camels on the southern parts of the Punjab are equally serviceable. The cattle are small and ill-conditioned, but numerous. The rude structure of boats on the rivers of the Punjab does not indicate that it ever carried on an inland trade by water to any extent; but these rivers, though all of them be fordable (even the Indus) in the dry season, form so many lines of routes to commerce and an army. The craft on them are not numerous, and little wood is produced in the plain; but the rains yearly[290] wash down trees from the mountains to increase their number, or construct bridges across them. We can readily discover the capabilities of the Punjab, not only to support its own army, but that of another country; and an enemy, whether native or European, if defeated in the plains, might defy, in the valley of Cashmere, every attempt at subjection, since it could subsist without foreign aid, in a natural fortress, abounding in resource, that might be rendered impregnable.

Foreign policy of Runjeet Sing.

The influence of Runjeet Sing’s power is felt on all sides of his kingdom; and his policy seems to consist in exciting as much as possible the angry feelings of one neighbour towards another. As regards the British Government, he may be considered a most friendly ally, for his distrust has disappeared in the strict and continued preservation of our treaties. It is not to be doubted that he was long unable to appreciate the disposition of his formidable neighbours, and that his court formed a nucleus to the disaffected so late as the fall of Bhurtpore; but his better judgment always guided him, and, in later years, his experience has been aided by a few intelligent and enlightened French officers, who have schooled him in a knowledge of the European character and the British policy. The Maharaja is entitled to[291] every praise for the extreme prudence which has guided his actions. Nothing is more improbable than a violation of friendship on his part; and we may rest assured, that his acumen and intimate knowledge of mankind will retain him as our faithful friend and ally. The advantages which he has derived from the good understanding with the British Government are not inconsiderable: he has been able to remove his troops from that frontier, and reduce their number; and he now employs them, and the name of his all-powerful neighbours, in perfecting his other designs.

With the Khan of Bhawulpoor.

With his neighbour on the south, the Khan of Bhawulpoor, his demonstrations of hostility have been more evident; and the whole of the territories of that petty state lying north of the Sutledge have been this year (1832) seized by the Seiks. The territories south of that river would long ere this have shared a similar fate, did not such a step infringe the treaty with the British Government. It is but just to remark, that the Khan held these lands as a tributary to Lahore, and that his arrears had not been paid; yet he was secretly encouraged by the highest officers of Runjeet Sing’s government to withhold the amount from a French officer being sent to collect it. This chief has now forfeited his paternal estates, as well as the[292] farm of Dera Ghazee Khan, across the Indus, for both of which he paid about six lacs of rupees per annum. There is little cordiality between the Punjab and Sindian Governments; and if the Maharaja is prevented from attacking the Ameers of Sinde, it is more from this remote position than his want of inclination. It is certain that Runjeet Sing entertains designs against Shikarpoor, in which he has been encouraged by some chiefs on the right bank of the Indus; but it is very questionable if he will ever mature his plans. He has, however, succeeded in exciting suspicion, and raising dissension among the chiefs of Sinde; and it is a matter of little doubt that, if he assembled his army at Mooltan, the country about Shikarpoor would fall a prey to the disciplined valour of the Seiks in one campaign.

With the countries west of the Indus.

To the westward, Runjeet Sing has prudently bounded his territories by the Indus: his troops have frequently passed that grand barrier of Hindoostan; the city of Peshawur has been in their hands, and the Seiks might have marched to Cabool, but their ruler has contented himself with the forts on either side of the great ferry at Attok. Though the Afghan nation is without a head, that people are not without power; and such is their bigotry and hatred to the Seiks, that it would be impossible for them to[293] retain the country, which they have so often overrun, without a large armed force. Runjeet Sing derives a yearly tribute of some horses and rice from Peshawur and the surrounding districts, and he holds a son of the chief as a hostage at Lahore; yet that country is far from settled, and the allegiance is most unwillingly paid. He, however, works on the fears of the Dooranees, by keeping up negotiations with two of their ex-kings, one of whom is his pensioner at Lahore. The Seiks are deterred from pushing their conquests beyond the Indus by a prediction in their Holy Book, or “Grinth,” that foretells a bloody conflict in the neighbourhood of Ghuzni and Cabool. The territory of Dera Ghazee Khan, which lies lower down the Indus, forms an exception to this line of policy; but it has been farmed to a Mahommedan chief since its conquest; and now that it is held immediately subject to Lahore, five regiments of regular infantry are cantoned in the country. The cupidity of the Maharaja has been excited by the prospect of an increased revenue; and he may also rejoice in the means of employing so large a division of his army. He lately made a pretended offer of this farm to one of the Sinde Ameers, much to the displeasure of the other chiefs.

With the hill states.

There is no frontier of the Punjab that bears[294] the yoke of the Seiks so unwillingly as the hill states that form its northern boundary. They were formerly ruled by a tribe of Rajpoots, converted to Mahommedanism, who retained the Hindoo title of Raja. I have not visited that portion of the country, but am informed that the people entertain a respect for their former Rajas bordering on veneration. Most of these have been displaced: those of Rajour and Bimbur (two of the principal states) are now confined in chains at Lahore. The country of both, even to the verge of Cashmere, has been transferred to the trio of Rajpoot brothers, for whom it will become a safe resting-place on a revolution of the government. The whole line of hills from the Sutledge to the Indus has been subdued by the Seiks, and either pays tribute, or is held directly subject to their government. The strength of the fastnesses in such mountains is very great, and the people have a tradition, that the fortress of Kumla, in Mundee, has never been captured by an army: that of Kot Kangra, to the eastward, which is surrounded by the Beas on three sides, is also described as impregnable.

General character of Runjeet Sing’s government.

With many defects, Runjeet Sing’s government is most vigorous, and well consolidated for a native state. The failings in it partake of the country and its customs; but its virtues (and[295] it certainly has some) belong to a higher scale of civilisation. The greatest blemish in the character of the ruler himself may be found in his universal distrust of those around him; but he only shares this quality in common with his countrymen. To such an extent is this feeling carried, that none of the French officers are ever intrusted with a gun, and the different gates of Attok, and other important fortresses, are confided to separate individuals, who command independent of one another. Cunning is the chief weapon in the politics of Runjeet Sing, and he uses it at all times. Little addicted to speaking truth, and less given to the performance than the making of promises, he yet rules with an unprecedented moderation for an Indian prince. Few men, with such despotic power, have ever used it so mildly; and when we remember that he is without education, our estimate of his character must rise with the reflection, that he never sheds the blood of his subjects, and even spares the lives, (though not the persons,) of those who have perpetrated the blackest deeds. Runjeet Sing has now lost much of his personal activity; yet he manages all the concerns of his state, from matters of the highest importance to the merest trifle, without a minister, and without advice. With a frame enfeebled by age and premature decay, the plea[296]sures of the world have long since palled upon this man; and though he still retains the full exercise of his faculties, his ambitious views seem to have departed with the inability to command and conquer in person.

Its probable termination.

Since the demise of such a man is fraught with much political importance, and his infirmities and habits hold out but faint hopes of longevity, we turn, with increased interest, to speculate on the probable termination of this kingdom. Nature has implanted in the breast of man, and, perhaps, more strongly in that of a king, a desire of transmitting his patrimony and his power to his children; but the character of Kurruck Sing, Runjeet’s only son, who has attained his thirtieth year, can hold out no hope to the father of his being able to follow his footsteps, even at the remotest distance. With a cast of features resembling his parent in a most striking degree, ends all comparison between them. He is imbecile, illiterate, and inanimate. With few favourites or enemies, he takes no share in the politics of the state, and conciliates no party which may avail him in the hour of difficulty. The blighted hopes of the father in so degenerate an offspring, may have rendered him indifferent and regardless to the increasing prosperity of his kingdom: but there is also a grandson, Noor Nihal Sing, who has attained[297] the age of ten years. Besides Kurruck Sing, there are two adopted sons, and one of them, Shere Sing, now about twenty-six, is unquestionably the most rising person in the Punjab. To a commanding mien, and a disposition the most generous, he has already added the reputation of a brave and frank soldier. He has dissipated his treasures in riot and luxury; but he has been gaining the good opinion of the people, in particular the soldiery, to whom he has endeared himself by many sacrifices. His talents and acquirements (for a Seik) are said to be respectable; and, while he has obtained the esteem of the chiefs, he has equally secured the friendly offices of the French gentlemen in his father’s service. He now holds the government of Cashmere; and if he retains that important post on the demise of the Maharaja, he may be inducted, without much difficulty, into the extensive realm of his father. But it is to be remembered that he is a spurious child, and, with many friends, he has some enemies, and will have to contend with the legitimate son, and, perhaps, the treasures of his adopted father. It is believed by the people that Runjeet Sing might bequeath his government to any favourite, with a hope of its continuing permanent; but I cannot, for my own part, subscribe to the opinion. If Shere Sing does not secure a supre[298]macy, this kingdom will probably relapse into its former state of anarchy and small republics; or be reduced to subjection by some neighbouring power.



Introductory sketch.

Before entering upon the affairs of Cabool, it becomes necessary that I should first touch on the events which have happened in that kingdom since the year 1809, when Mr. Elphinstone closed his history.

During that period the monarchy has been totally dismembered; the provinces have either declared themselves independent under different chiefs, or been seized by the Seiks. Two of the kings of Cabool live as exiles in a foreign land; and of the extensive empire of Ahmed Shah Dooranee, the city of Herat alone remains in the possession of his descendants. This speedy dissolution of a power which was so formidable merits attention, since these political changes, in a country which borders on British India, may ultimately influence her destinies.

Shah Shooja deposed.

Shah Shooja ool Moolk lost his throne on the field at Neemla in the year 1809, immediately after the British mission recrossed the Indus.[300] His power had been gradually declining since the fall of his Vizier, and the murder of his comrade, the Meer Waeez. He had failed to conciliate the chief of the great house of Barukzye Futteh Khan, who espoused the cause of his brother Mahmood, and eventually placed him on the throne of Cabool. Never was the fortune of war more capricious than on this occasion. Shooja took the field with a well-appointed army of about 15,000 men: his Vizier, Akram Khan, was slain, and he was defeated by a force of 2000 men, headed by Futteh Khan. The troops of the King had not formed; and the rebels, led on by an experienced general, gained a complete victory on most disadvantageous ground. Shooja fled, with precipitation, to the Kyber country, leaving the greater portion of his jewels and treasure on the field, where they became the spoil of the victors. He made an attempt to regain his crown at Candahar, four months after his defeat; but, like all his succeeding endeavours, it proved unsuccessful.

Elevation of Mahmood to the throne of Cabool.

Immediately the day had been decided, Mahmood mounted the elephant which had been caparisoned for Shooja, and the trumpets once more proclaimed him king. So great was the confusion in the camp, that many were ignorant of the result of the battle till this proclamation.[301] The nobles and commanders of Mahmood then tendered their allegiance to him, and many of the court of Shooja did homage on the same occasion. Futteh Khan was promoted to the high rank of Vizier to the empire, which his services had so amply merited; and the whole of the Afghan country, with the exception of Cashmere, submitted to the dominion of Shah Mahmood. Mahmood submitted himself, without reserve, to the influence of his minister, whose conduct, added to his own dissolute character, held out no hopes of tranquillity or good government. Factions sprang up at the court, headed by the Prince Kamran, who was jealous of the power which the Vizier had acquired over his father.

Capture of Cashmere.

The first object of the Government was the reduction of Cashmere. That province was held by Atta Mahommed Khan, a son of Shooja’s Vizier, who had hitherto succeeded in repelling the attacks even of the late king. Futteh Khan, in this difficulty, applied for the aid of the Seiks, and a passage for his troops into the valley, by way of the Punjab. League with the Seiks. In return for these favours, he promised to set aside nine lacs of rupees of the revenue of Cashmere to the ruler of the Seiks, Runjeet Sing. That potentate and the Vizier had an interview at Jelum, on the banks of the Hydaspes. Futteh[302] Khan was accompanied by the whole of his brothers, eighteen in number, who stood during the ceremony. Some of them strongly advised the assassination of the King of the Seiks; and one of them is said to have tendered his services by a sign during the meeting. It did not, however, enter into the policy of Futteh Khan. The interview terminated by the army marching on Cashmere, reinforced by 10,000 Seiks, commanded by Mokum-chund. The Dooranees took the route of Beembur, and, crossing the Peer-Punjal hills, subdued the valley without opposition, and before the Seiks arrived. This happened in the year 1811. The Governor of Cashmere, after being blockaded in the citadel for a few days, surrendered himself, and was treated with distinction. The eldest brother of the Vizier, Mahommed Azeem Khan, was now appointed Governor of Cashmere.

Rupture with the Seiks, and loss of Attok.

When the valley had been subdued, the minister discovered no anxiety to fulfil his engagement towards his Seik allies, who left the country in disgust. At this time, the ruler of the Punjab received secret overtures from the Commandant at Attok, for the cession of that fortress. It was held by a brother of the ex-Governor of Cashmere, and the offer was at once accepted. Runjeet Sing acquired this valuable possession at the small sacrifice of a[303] lac of rupees, and prepared to defend his new acquisition. These events aroused the attention of Futteh Khan, who quitted Cashmere with all expedition, and marched on Attok. He found the Seik army encamped on the plains of Chuch, about two miles from the fort: the heat of the season was oppressive, and the Seiks had both the advantage of position and water. The Vizier had a contempt for his opponents. The conflict commenced by the advance of his brother Dost Mahommed Khan, who headed a body of 2000 Afghans, and captured the whole of the Seik artillery. He had dismounted two of their guns, and was proceeding to improve his victory, when he found that he was without support, and that the whole of his brother’s army had fled. On the attack of Dost Mahommed Khan, some evil disposed persons brought a report to the Vizier, that he had been made prisoner, with the whole of his division; and an equally treacherous intimation was conveyed to Dost Mahommed Khan, that his brother had fallen. It only remained for him to retreat, which he effected with honour; and crossed the Indus, previously burning some of his camp equipage, but leaving the greater portion to be plundered by the Seiks. Since this disaster on the plains of Chuch, the power of the Afghans has ceased on the eastern side of the Indus, and[304] that country has been ever since annexed to the dominions of Runjeet Sing.

Battle with the Persians.

The energies of the Vizier were soon called for in an opposite direction, as the King of Persia had demanded a tribute from Herat, the western province of the kingdom. The Government of that city was held by a brother of the King, named Hajee Feroz, who was requested to treat the demand with scorn; and the Vizier marched a force in that direction to oppose the Persians. On reaching Herat, Futteh Khan made himself at once master of the person of the Governor, though a brother of his sovereign, and not only extracted the whole of his wealth from him, but violated his harem on searching for it. He then seized Herat, and made every preparation for meeting the Persians, who advanced under Hoosein Ali Meerza, a son of the King. A battle ensued, which was undecisive. The Persians certainly fled, but the Afghans also left the field, and their victory, with the greatest precipitation. The Vizier was struck by a spent ball in the face, and fell on his horse’s neck. On seeing this, his troops became disheartened, and fled. The Vizier, however, reaped the full harvest of the campaign, since he refused the tribute which Persia had demanded, and beat off the army that had come to enforce it. He also strengthened the western[305] frontier of the kingdom, by seizing the Governor of Herat, who, though he professed every allegiance to his brother Mahmood, was at best a dubious friend. By this war, however, the garrison in Cashmere was much weakened, since he drew levies from it, which in the end proved most injurious to the interests of Mahmood in that part of his kingdom.

Seizure of the Vizier.

The reign of Mahmood had thus far proceeded, with a success which the most sanguine of his partisans could scarcely have expected: he was restored to a throne which, to all appearance, had passed into other hands; he held Cashmere, and could turn the revenues of that rich valley to the protection of his other provinces; he exacted the usual tribute from the Talpoors of Sinde, and had now warded off an attack from Persia, the only quarter from which he had to apprehend danger. The King himself was but a silent spectator, and owed these successes to his Vizier, who managed the whole affairs of the kingdom, while the monarch himself was plunged into debauchery. Futteh Khan profited by his power, and distributed the different governments of the kingdom among his numerous list of brothers. He evinced, however, no want of respect and allegiance to the sovereign; and Mahmoud seemed satisfied, as he owed his life and his power to his minister.[306] But, if the parent was content to govern on these terms, his son, the Prince Kamran, discovered the strongest discontent at the Vizier’s proceedings, and resolved to rid himself of a person so formidable, opposed as he was to some ambitious designs which he himself entertained. The prince at last worked upon his father, and succeeded in persuading him that he might govern his country, now that it was consolidated, without the assistance of his Vizier. He, therefore, determined on ridding himself of that powerful chief, his friend and benefactor. Kamran availed himself of an early opportunity, and seized Futteh Khan at Herat; and gave an immediate order for his eyes being put out. After a lapse of five or six months, Kamran put the Vizier to death, between Cabool and Candahar, with the full consent of the king. This rash act was perpetrated in the year 1818, and drove the whole of Futteh Khan’s brothers into rebellion.

Death of the Vizier.

The tragedy which terminated the life of Futteh Khan Barukzye is, perhaps, without parallel in modern times. Blind and bound he was led into the court of Mahmood, where he had so lately ruled with absolute power. The king taunted him for his crimes, and desired him to use his influence with his brothers, then in rebellion. Futteh Khan replied without[307] fear, and with great fortitude, that he was now but a poor blind man, and had no concern with affairs of state. Mahmood, irritated at his obstinacy, gave the last orders for his death; and this unfortunate man was deliberately cut to pieces by the nobles of the court; joint was separated from joint, limb from limb, his nose and his ears were lopped off, nor had the vital spark fled, till the head was separated from the mangled trunk. Futteh Khan endured these cruel tortures without a sigh; he stretched out his different limbs to those who thirsted for his blood, and exhibited the same careless indifference, the same reckless contempt for his own life, which he had so often shown for that of others. The bloody remnants of this unfortunate man were gathered in a cloth, and sent to Ghuzni, where they were interred.

Fall of Mahmood.

The reign of the king may be said to have terminated with the life of his minister. He had put him to death under pretext of misconduct at Herat, but really in the hope of appeasing some of the nobles of his court; in this the king and his son had most deeply erred. He was now even afraid to encounter a small party of the rebels; and, though in the field with his army, Mahmood precipitately fled to Herat, without even making the attempt. This flight involved a virtual resignation of his power, for[308] though he retained Herat and the title of king, he sunk into a vassal of Persia. He died at that city in 1829, and his son Kamran succeeded to his limited power. The eldest survivor of the family of the Vizier was Mahommed Azeem Khan, who had been left to govern Cashmere. On the rebellion of his brothers he immediately joined them, and prepared to dethrone the murderer of his brother. The precipitate retreat of Mahmood had rendered any further measures unnecessary; and Azeem Khan now took the extraordinary step of recalling Shooja ool Moolk from his exile, in the territories of British India. He offered him the crown of Cabool, and sent a Koran to the ex-monarch, under his seal, according to the custom of the country, as proof of his sincerity. Shooja repaired with every despatch to Peshawur.

Recall of Shooja ool Moolk.

Since Shooja ool Moolk had been defeated at Neemla, he had wandered as a fugitive in various corners of his dominions; and his adventures, which have been detailed by himself in a small volume[35], are replete with interest. After his discomfiture at Candahar, he was seized by Ata Mahommed Khan, the son of his former Vizier; and subjected to much indignity. He was for some time confined in the[309] fortress of Attok. The lancet was frequently held over his eyes; and his keeper once took him into the middle of the Indus, with his arms bound, threatening him with instant death. The object of such severity was to extract from him the celebrated diamond, called Koh-i-noor, or mountain of light, which he was known to possess. In the meanwhile Ata Mahommed Khan proceeded to Cashmere, and carried the captive monarch in his train. On the fall of that valley he was released by Futteh Khan, and joined his family at Lahore.

High-mindedness of his queen.

His queen, as I may well call the Wuffadar Begum, the most influential lady of his harem, had used every persuasion to prevent Shooja’s placing himself in the power of Runjeet Sing, but he disregarded her advice, and had in the end ample reason to regret his having neglected it. This lady was a woman of most bold and determined character; and her counsel had often proved valuable to her husband, both in his days of power and disaster.

At Lahore, while at the mercy of the Seiks, and absent from her husband, she preserved her own and his honour in a heroic manner. Runjeet Sing pressed her urgently to surrender the Koh-i-noor, or valuable diamond, which was in her possession; and evinced intentions of[310] forcing it from her. He also sought to transfer the daughters of the unfortunate king to his own harem. The queen seized on the person who conveyed the message, and had him soundly chastised. She also intimated to the Maharaja, that if he continued his dishonourable demands, she would pound the diamond in a mortar, and first administer it to her daughters, and those under her protection, and then swallow it herself; adding, “May the blood of all of us be on your head!” This lady succeeded in the end in escaping from Lahore, disguised as a Hindoo; and planned the deliverance of her husband, which shortly followed. This was only effected at the expense of the great diamond. A narration of the circumstances relative to its surrender would prove interesting, but it would be out of place in this sketch. It is sufficient to mention, that an imprisonment of the closest nature, insult, and even hunger, fell to the lot of this unfortunate monarch.

Shooja’s escape from Lahore.

The ungenerous part which the king of the Seiks was enacting towards her husband aroused the energies of the queen, who had settled herself at the British station of Lodiana. She arranged the placing of horses on the road; and Shooja, and his people, made every exertion[311] in Lahore. They hired all the houses which adjoined those in which they were lodged; and opened a passage into the street by cutting through seven walls. A few hours after the household had retired to rest, the king descended by the aperture, and issued into the street in the dress of a native of the Punjab. The city wall had yet to be passed, and the gates were shut. Shooja creeped through the common sewer of the city, and fled, with two or three servants, towards the hill country of Kishtwar. Here he once more raised the standard of a monarch, and planned an attack on Cashmere, in which he was assisted by the Rajah of Kishtwar. The expedition would have been successful, for the governor of Cashmere had evacuated his frontier position, but an untimely season blocked the roads with snow, interrupted the supplies, and once more frustrated the hopes of Shah Shooja. Wandering by a cheerless and ungenial country, the Shah at length reached the British station of Sabathoo in the outer Himilaya, from which he repaired to Lodiana, where his family had found an asylum. He here joined them; and has since shared the bounty of the British Government. Few monarchs and few men have been subjected to greater reverses of fortune than Shooja ool Moolk; and we find our[312] sympathies enlisted in his cause by a knowledge of his misfortunes.

Elevation of Shah Eyoob.

Shooja, after all his misfortunes, might have now re-ascended and retained the throne of his ancestors; but before Azeem Khan had reached Peshawur, he prematurely displayed his notions of royal authority by insulting some friend of his benefactor, whom he considered to be encroaching on his dignity, by using a palankeen. The whole Barukzye family took offence at this inconsiderate attack; and determined to place a more compliant master on the throne.

A favourable opportunity presented itself in the person of Eyoob (or Job), a brother of Shooja. He entered the camp of Azeem Khan, and sued for the throne as the most abject of slaves. “Make me but king,” said he, “and permit money to be coined in my name, and the whole power and resources of the kingdom may rest with yourself; my ambition will be satisfied with bread, and the title of king.” His conditions were accepted; nor did this puppet monarch ever violate or attempt to infringe the terms by which he had gained the name and trappings of royalty. Eyoob continued as a tool in the hands of Azeem Khan, who was nominally his Vizier. So degraded was now the state of the royal house of Cabool, that the very robe of honour which installed the[313] minister into the viziership of the empire was a portion of his own property, and had been sent privately to the Shah, who conferred it on the Vizier with all the pomp and display of royalty. Several of the young princes who aspired to the throne were delivered over to Eyoob, and put to death. Shooja was immediately driven from Peshawur, and retired to Shikarpoor in Sinde, which the Ameers of that country agreed to cede to him. A series of intrigues, set on foot by his enemies, expelled him even from this retreat; and he fled by the circuitous route of the desert and Jaysulmere to Lodiana. The conduct of Shooja while at Shikarpoor was ill calculated to support his falling fortunes. He forgot the dignity of a monarch in low intrigues with his subjects, in which he tarnished their honour as well as his own. The fitness of Shooja ool Moolk for the station of sovereign seems ever to have been doubtful. His manners and address are highly polished; but his judgment does not rise above mediocrity. Had the case been otherwise, we should not now see him an exile from his country and his throne, without a hope of regaining them, after an absence of twenty years; and before he has attained the fiftieth year of his age.


Capture of Cashmere by the Seiks, and their progress on conquest.

The death of Futteh Khan, which had drawn his brother, with the greater part of his troops, from Cashmere, left that rich province without protection. The Seiks availed themselves of the critical moment; routed the Afghans, and captured the valley, which they have ever since retained. The civil wars which followed in Afghanistan exhausted the power of the state; nor was it to be supposed that an active soldier, like Runjeet Sing, would fail to improve his opportunities of aggrandisement. The provinces of Cabool fell one by one into his hands; Mooltan, Cashmere, Leia, and Dera Ghazee Khan, with the whole country on the banks of the Indus and its eastern tributaries, owned him as conqueror. In 1823, he crossed the Indus, and fought the battle of Noushero, on the northern side of the river of Cabool, where he was opposed by a numerous population. They appeared in the field as “Ghazee” or champions of the Mahommedan religion. The conflict was most obstinate, and at last decided by the personal valour of Runjeet himself, who brought up his guards to a height from which his troops had been three times driven. Azeem Khan and all his brothers witnessed the action from the southern side of the river, and were unable to cross and assist their[315] countrymen, since it is not fordable, and they had no boats.

This defeat was so much at variance with the hopes of the Dooranees, that their chief fled in the night, and left his guns and tents in the hands of the Seiks, who advanced on Peshawar, and burned its palace. As the battle with Futteh Khan on the plains of Chuch decided the supremacy of the Seiks eastward of the Indus, this campaign established their power between that river and Peshawur. That city has since paid an annual tribute to Runjeet Sing. It is said that Azeem Khan was urged to his precipitate retreat by apprehensions which he entertained for his treasure that had been left at Muchnee, higher up the river than the field of battle. It is also said that he was not satisfied of the fidelity of his brothers; and, besides, feared the increasing army of the Seiks. The disgrace of having submitted to infidels without firing a shot preyed upon his mind, and he did not survive it: he sickened on the road to Cabool, and died immediately on his arrival at that city. On his death-bed he summoned his wives to his presence, dispossessed them of their jewels, which he delivered with the whole of his property to Hubeeb Oollah Khan, his eldest son. He then charged him to wipe off the disgrace from a[316] father’s name; and carry fire and sword into the Seik territories. A treasury which fell little short of three millions sterling might have furnished ample means to gratify the request of a dying parent; but since the capture of Cashmere, the Seiks were equally well supplied with the sinews of war. They had also been victorious in the field; and now, aware of their own strength, had become most formidable rivals. Even yet a confederacy of the Dooranee chiefs might have broken their rising power; but a season of discord and anarchy followed the death of Mahommed Azeem Khan. Since that period, Peshawur has been reduced to a state of vassalage; and Runjeet Sing is now confirmed in all the conquests which he had previously made.

Total dismember­ment of the Dooranee government.

Azeem Khan’s death became the signal for a scene of family strife. After a variety of cruelty and crime, his son, Hubeeb Oollah Khan, was deprived of his power and fortune. His uncles formed a cabal; and possessing themselves of his person, terrified his mother with the threat of blowing him from a gun, if the whole treasures were not surrendered. The youth had already squandered much of his wealth, and the remainder was now delivered up. Shere Dil Khan carried away with him about half a million sterling, and erected an[317] independent chiefship at Candahar; another was formed at Peshawur; and Cabool itself, after having had several masters, ultimately fell into the hands of Dost Mahommed Khan, another of the Vizier’s brothers. Such dissension has sowed the seeds of everlasting discord among this family. The puppet king, Shah Eyoob, lost his son in these scenes of trouble, and fled into the Punjab, where he found an asylum at the court of Lahore, in which he still continues. The royal house of Cabool, which may be said to have disappeared before he acted the part of king, now no longer existed as an ostensible part of the government; and the different chiefs ruled independent of one another:—the Sindians threw off the yoke in the absence of any power to enforce their tribute; Herat was held by the exiled family of Mahmood; Balkh was annexed to the dominions of the King of Bokhara; but the richest share of the provinces had fallen into the hands of the Seiks. It has been said with some truth, that Cabool could never have existed as a kingdom without the possession of Cashmere. The revenues and resources of most of the provinces were expended in them, while the annual subsidy of that valley and Sinde enabled the Dooranee monarchs to extend their power, maintain their honour, and terrify the neigh[318]bouring nations. Thus fell the Dooranee monarchy, which existed for a period of seventy-six years, from the time Ahmed Shah was crowned at Candahar, A. D. 1747. We shall now proceed with an account of the different chiefships into which the kingdom has been divided.



Sketch of events in the history of Peshawur.

The government of Peshawur has been held by a member of the Barukzye family since Futteh Khan placed Shah Mahmood on the throne of Cabool. Peshawur owed allegiance, and contributed to the support of the kingdom, till the year 1818, when the Vizier was put to death. Azeem Khan, his successor, exacted tribute from it during his lifetime, in the name of Eyoob Shah. Since that time it has formed a separate chiefship, like Cabool and Candahar, now subject, however, to the payment of a yearly tribute to the Seiks. It is governed by Sirdar Sooltan Mahommed Khan, who shares its revenues with two other brothers, Peer, and Saeed Mahommed Khan. A large portion of the country is alienated to different individuals, and the net revenue falls short of nine lacs of rupees per annum. The younger brothers enjoy three lacs, and the chief defrays from the remainder the entire expenses of the country, the tribute to the Seiks, and likewise supports the numerous families of two elder brothers, who fell in battle, and to whom he succeeded.


Extent of the chiefship.

The power of the chief is confined to the plain of Peshawur, and the hills of Cohat, which form its southern boundary. That plain is well known as one of the richest portions of the Cabool dominions. It is of a circular shape, about thirty-five miles broad, highly peopled and cultivated, watered by nature and art. Within this limited space there are numerous villages, which pay no taxes. The Khuttuks, a tribe of Afghans, in the east, hold the country for twenty miles west of the Indus, for the small sum of 12,000 rupees annually, which they render to the chief of Peshawur. The villages on the west, under the Khyber hills, do not pay any thing; and those north of the Cabool river, with some few exceptions, enjoy a like immunity. The only places of note in the chiefship are, Peshawur and Hushtnuggur, which are described by Mr. Elphinstone. Peshawur has fallen into a state of decay with its change of rulers, and it is doubtful if it boasts of a population of one half the hundred thousand souls which occupied it in 1809. Hushtnuggur is the seat of one of the younger brothers; Cohat is held by the other.

Its military and political strength.

The military strength of Peshawur is unimportant. Its contingent of troops cannot be rated above 3,000, two thirds of whom may be cavalry. The chief might rally round him a numerous body of irregulars, or, as they are called,[321] “ooloosee;” but they are badly armed, and not to be relied on. Six pieces of artillery and 200 regular infantry complete the power of the chief of Peshawur. With money, the services of the Khyberees, and other hill tribes, may be purchased on an emergency; but the chief has no treasury. In a religious war with the Seiks, an infuriated population may be always raised, and has proved itself formidable on a late occasion, when the Syud Ahmed preached his crusade in this country; yet the whole of these, combined, form a diminutive force, as compared with his neighbours on the east and west,—the Seiks, and his brother of Cabool. The political influence of Peshawur is as limited as its military power. The Seiks have exacted a tribute from it since the death of the Vizier’s brother, Azeem Khan, and retain a son of the chief as a hostage for its fulfilment. It now amounts to sixty horses, with some rice, which is peculiar to Peshawur; and it is annually enforced by an army which crosses the Indus, and lays waste their territories, if not speedily paid. The amount of the tribute depends on the caprice of Runjeet Sing, but the Seiks will not make a conquest of this country. Without Mahommedan auxiliaries they could not retain it.

Political relations of Peshawur.

The chiefs of Peshawur and Cabool, who are brothers, are at enmity. The power of Cabool is[322] far more consolidated than that of Peshawur, but the latter has an ally in his brother of Candahar, who would resent any attack, either on Peshawur or his own country. The Chiefs of Peshawur and Candahar have been some time past concerting an attack on Cabool; but it is not improbable that the territories of both may, ere long, be threatened, and perhaps taken, by the Khan of Cabool. In such an event, the chief of Peshawur would call in the aid of the Seiks. This would probably be given, since Dost Mahommed of Cabool would never consent to the annual tribute now paid to Lahore by his brother of Peshawur. Sirdar Sooltan Mahommed Khan entertains hopes of being able to interest the British Government in his cause, should it decline. He seems to believe that he might hold one portion of the country, by surrendering a part for the protection of the remainder. No chief in the kingdom of Cabool entertains a higher respect for the British Government than Sooltan Mahommed Khan. This has always been shown by his attention to Europeans who have entered his country. If misfortunes fell upon him, he might be a useful or dangerous partisan. He might espouse the cause of the King Shah Shooja ool Moolk, though that monarch is no favourite with his family; yet the inconsistency and inconstancy of the Afghan chiefs are proverbial. In any difficulty,[323] the chief of Peshawur would be ably assisted by Peer Mahommed, but his other brother is destitute of energy and enterprise. The whole of the Barukzye family entertain a dread of Shah Shooja ool Moolk, and the Prince Kamran of Herat. The one, if aided by the British, would drive them from their usurped authority; and the other, if assisted by the Persians, might perhaps fix himself on the throne of his ancestors.

Chief and government of Peshawur.

Sooltan Mahommed Khan bears a fair reputation, but his government is most oppressive and vexatious. His agents and underlings practise all manner of exactions; goods are taxed far above their value; and the currency is constantly altered and depreciated. An enormous tax is levied on the water mills, which grind the flour, and it falls heaviest on the lower orders of the people. This chief is a man about thirty-five; he is ambitious, and at one time held the government of Cabool. He is well educated, and, with good talents, possesses an engaging manner: he reads and writes, and transacts his business in person. He has not the art of settling disputes, and his court presents a scene of confusion, which is hardly to be described or believed. The complainants intrude at all times and places, and state their grievances in the most free and republican manner; yet nothing is ever settled, and the population are heartily dis[324]affected. Like Afghans, the chief of Peshawur, and his relatives, live from hand to mouth; they are liberal of what they possess, and have no wealth. I have been informed that they could not retain their government without this open-handed liberality. The chief of Peshawur has rallied round him some of the most celebrated of the Dooranee nation, who share his bounty. The sons of Akram Khan, and the Mookhtar o Doula, Shah Shooja’s two ministers, as also of the celebrated Meer Waeez, are among the number; the latter is an officer of the chief of Peshawur. The only son of the Vizier Futteh Khan likewise resides with Sooltan Mahommed Khan.

Provisions and productions.

Provisions are cheap and plentiful in Peshawur, though their price has risen with the decrease of population. Grain of every description abounds, but is not exported; 65lbs. of wheat may be purchased for a rupee, which is 10lbs. less than might be had for the same sum in 1809. Ninety-six lbs. of barley sell for a rupee. A sheep may be had for two rupees; a bullock costs twelve or fourteen; and the rupee is a quarter less in value than the common sonat of India. Fruit of almost every kind is to be had in Peshawur, but it does not stand a journey, like that of Cabool, on account of the great heat. One of the large gardens, which used to let for 7000 rupees[325] a year, now brings but 2000. The diminution is ascribed to the decrease of population; but fruit sells for half the price, now that there is no court to purchase it. The sugar cane thrives here, but the people are ignorant of the mode of crystallising its juice. That which is candied is brought from Hindostan, though the native sugar is excellent. The Afghans are very fond of the fresh cane, which they cut in small pieces, and use as a sweetmeat. The most remarkable production of the plain of Peshawur is a kind of rice called “bara,” produced on the banks of a rivulet of that name, which comes from Teera, in the Khyber country. The grains of this rice are so long, that fourteen of them are said to make a span. This rice is very superior, which is attributed to the excellence of the water. So strong is this prejudice, that most of the wells of Peshawur are filled from it during winter, and roofed in till the hot weather. They believe this keeps the water cold. The “bara” rice sells so high as 8lbs. for a rupee, and is exported as a rarity to Persia, Tartary, and all the neighbouring countries, and composes a part of Runjeet Sing’s tribute. The rice produced in other parts of the plain of Peshawur does not differ from common rice.

Feasible improvements.

It has been lately discovered in the low countries of Europe, that a much greater population[326] can be subsisted on a small space of ground, by following the Flemish mode of agriculture. Agriculture. The soil is dug up by the spade, and a succession of crops, chiefly of garden stuffs, is the produce. If there be a country in the Eastern World where this practice might be followed with advantage, it is the plain of Peshawur. The soil is a rich mould, and its spacious plain is intersected with water on all sides. The country, it is said, continues green during the twelve months of the year. It yields a succession of three crops annually; and if we reckon the barley (which is cut twice before it ears, and given to horses,) we have no less than five returns a year. The wheat and barley are off the ground by April. Vegetables abound, and are produced in fields rather than gardens. Public spirit and intelligence might render Peshawur a most productive region. Sugar.
We have seen that it is favourable to the cane, and recent experiments have proved, that the silk-worm may be reared with advantage. Mulberry trees abound, and the insect is liable to no particular disease. Those which I saw were brought from Cabool and Balkh. The eggs are hatched at the vernal equinox, a few days before the mulberry is in leaf. Till then the insects are fed on a kind of weed, with a yellow flower, called “khoobikulan” by the Persians, and common to England.[327] Their education does not differ from that of Europe. The silk is boiled before it is wound. The worms are brought forth by artificial heat, and generally by being tied under the armpits. Exposure to the sun kills the insects, and it likewise deprives the chrysalis of life when in the cocoon. By the end of May the worms have finished their career, and lie dormant in the egg till next spring. They are placed in cellars under ground, to protect them from heat, and they are as carefully guarded against damp. I do not doubt but successions of these worms might be brought forth during the warm months.

District of Cohat.

The district of Cohat, under Peshawur, deserves a minute description, from the richness and variety of its productions, though it yields but two lacs of rupees to the chief. The salt range lies within this tract, and the mineral abounds. It is sold for one eighth of the price east of the Indus. Minerals and coal. Gold, copper, iron, and antimony have been extracted from ores found in these hills; and there are two kinds of sulphur. There are also wells of naphtha, or petroleum, for the matter which they eject is used in the neighbouring villages for oil. But the most valuable production of Cohat is its coal, which we discovered during our visit, and explained its utility, much to the astonishment of the people. It occurs on the surface of[328] one of the hills, and in great abundance. The specimens which were procured for my satisfaction were of a greyish hue, intermixed with much sulphur. It burns well, but leaves much refuse. It has more the appearance of slate than coal; but, as the specimens were from the surface, they are not to be taken as a fair criterion of the mine. The coal is bituminous, and ignites at the candle. The villagers now use it as fuel. The discovery of a coal-mine at the head of the Indus may prove of the utmost importance in these times, since the navigation of that river is open to Attok; and the mineral is found about forty miles distant from that place, with a level road intervening, and near a large city, where labour is cheap. It is a singular circumstance, that deposits of coal should have been discovered, both at the mouth and head of the Indus (in Cutch and Cohat), within these few years, and since steam has been used in India. It is seldom that discoveries are so opportune, and I trust that they augur favourably for the opening of a new route to commerce by the Indus.



Chiefship. Power and extent.

The capital of Cabool now forms the residence of an independent chief, who holds the surrounding districts and Ghuzni, without any control over the kingdom of the Dooranees. The same circumstances which separated Peshawur, have dismembered Cabool; and since the death of Azeem Khan, the possession of it has been disputed by different members of the Barukzye family. In the year 1826, it fell into the hands of Dost Mahommed Khan, the present chief, and a brother of the Vizier, Futteh Khan. Since then he has greatly extended and consolidated his power. He intrusts the town and dependencies of Ghuzni to a brother, and admits no one else to share his fortunes. The limits of the chiefship extend north to Hindoo Koosh and Bameean. On the west it is bounded by the hill country of the Huzaras. To the south is Ghuzni, and to the east it stretches half way to Peshawur, terminating at the garden of Neemla. Much of the country is mountainous; but it contains a large[330] portion of arable land, which is most productive. It lies along the base of hills, and derives a richness from the soil washed from them. The revenues of Cabool amount to eighteen lacs of rupees. Its military force is greater than any among the Afghans, since the chief retains a body of 9000 horse, who are well mounted and accoutred. He has also 2000 infantry, with other auxiliaries, village troops, and a park of fourteen guns, which are well served for a native state. This country is by nature strong and mountainous, though it has good roads through it.

Character of the chief.

The reputation of Dost Mahommed Khan is made known to a traveller long before he enters his country, and no one better merits the high character which he has obtained. He is unremitting in his attention to business, and attends daily at the Court-house, with the Cazee and Moollahs, to decide every cause according to the law. The Koran and its commentaries may not be the standard of legislative excellence, but this sort of decision is exceedingly popular with the people, since it fixes a line, and relieves them from the “jus vagum aut incognitum” of a despot. Trade has received the greatest encouragement from him, and he has derived his own reward, since the receipts of the Custom-house of the city have increased[331] fifty thousand rupees, and now furnish him with a net revenue of two lacs of rupees per annum. One in forty, i.e. 2½ per cent., is the only duty levied in his territory; and the merchant may travel without guard or protection from one frontier to another, an unheard of circumstance in the time of the kings. The chief of Cabool, in his zeal for orthodox government, has deprived his subjects of the luxury of wine and spirits, as being prohibited by his creed. The enactment has driven the Jews and Armenians from his country, since they had no other means to procure a subsistence. A good Mahommedan ought not to regret the loss of such luxuries; but with this single exception, I heard of no complaint against the rule of Dost Mahommed Khan. That chief, in common with many of the Afghan nation, was addicted in early life to wine and its concomitant vices. His prohibition of them may be, therefore, capricious; but he, as well as his court, hold out a bright example of sobriety to the community. The justice of this chief affords a constant theme of praise to all classes: the peasant rejoices at the absence of tyranny; the citizen at the safety of his home and the strict municipal regulations regarding weights and measures; the merchant at the equity of the decisions and the protection of his property, and the soldiers at[332] the regular manner in which their arrears are discharged. A man in power can have no higher praise. Dost Mahommed Khan has not attained his fortieth year; his mother was a Persian, and he has been trained up with people of that nation, which has sharpened his understanding, and given him advantages over all his brothers. One is struck with the intelligence, knowledge, and curiosity which he displays, as well as his accomplished manners and address. He is doubtless the most powerful chief in Afghanistan, and may yet raise himself by his abilities to a much greater rank in his native country.

Political relations of the chiefship.

The differences which subsist between Dost Mahommed Khan and his brothers lessen the influence of all parties, and would lay open the state to intrigue and faction, if invaded. The family of Barukzye have nothing to fear from any other Afghan tribe, since they surpass all in numbers as much as in power. The chiefs of Peshawur and Candahar do not want the wish to injure their brother of Cabool, but they cannot accomplish their purpose. Both of them have had a footing in Cabool, and look with envy on the prosperity of Dost Mahommed Khan. Both have emissaries at his court, who excite disturbance; and both cherish hopes of[333] rooting out one whom they consider a usurper. The task will be found difficult; for the chief of Cabool, besides the moderation and justice which secure him so many friends, enjoys an advantage in his Persian descent, which will prove of material service to him in adversity. He holds the warlike clan of Juwansheer in his interests, and takes every occasion to conciliate this tribe, which has so often turned the scale in favour of different pretenders to the throne. He has acquired their language (the Turkish), and promoted their interests and well-being. The Persians of Cabool amount to about 12,000 families; they reside in a separate quarter of the city, which keeps up an esprit de corps among them. It also gives them a knowledge of their power, which may prove salutary or prejudicial to the factions that divide the country, according to circumstances. The state of fear which an enemy on both sides must inspire has a bad effect on Dost Mahommed Khan’s administration. With his own house as an object of care, he is not likely to pursue conquests abroad, or retrieve the fallen state of Cabool. This alone deters him from attacking Herat, and making some endeavours to wrest Mooltan and Dera Ghazee Khan from the Seiks. He last year made a demonstration against Julalabad, a district between Cabool and[334] Peshawur, worth about seven lacs of rupees a year. He will probably annex it to his power; but, until able to coerce or subdue either Peshawur or Candahar, Dost Mahommed Khan cannot rise above the rank of a chief, or be aught than one among many in Afghanistan. In the present state of politics in the country, he is, nevertheless, the most rising man in the Cabool dominions.

Supplies of Cabool.

Cabool is a country of great strength, but small resource. It abounds in fruit, but grain grows scantily. The Emperor Baber, on his conquering it, imposed a tax of 30,000 khurwars[36] of grain on Cabool and Ghuzni, but found in after-years, when better acquainted with the country, that the levy was exorbitant. The territory has no doubt improved in a lapse of three hundred years; but provisions are dear in Cabool. In summer, the necessaries of life are rather moderate; fruit and vegetables abound, and the city receives supplies from the surrounding country. In winter, the roads are shut, wood is scarce, grain is dear, and the severity of the climate demands warm clothing. The mills which grind the flour are also frozen up, and the poorest people must purchase animal food. The presence of a force in Cabool has[335] the effect of doubling the price of provisions, which is a sure indication of their scarcity. A large army might still find a comfortable quarter in the city of Cabool, and draw the supplies which it required, additional to the resources of the country, from Peshawur and the valley of the Cabool river, near Julalabad. Forage for cattle is most plentiful; artificial grasses are cultivated to a great extent, and prove a most nutritious food to horses. There are likewise most extensive meadows both at Cabool and Ghuzni. One, called Nawur, in particular, near the latter place, would supply a force of 20,000 cavalry. The city of Cabool has been described elsewhere. It has a population of about 60,000 souls, and a bazar of nearly 2000 shops. Each trade has a separate division of the town. Cabool furnishes a supply of articles far beyond what its size would indicate, for it is a mart, and the entrepôt of a great trade.


It increases daily under the fostering care of its present ruler. As a place of defence, it is contemptible; the city-wall, which has never been good, has fallen down; the summits of the hills that environ the town are crowned with walls, but they are a useless ornament. The Bala Hissar, or citadel, which stands on the eastern side, is a place of no strength, and the[336] other Bala Hissar below it is even more defenceless. The former building, which stands on an eminence, commands a noble view of the surrounding country, and might be made to command the city, which lies at its base.



Western Afghanistan.

The western portion of Afghanistan is held by the chiefs of Candahar and Herat; who rule as at Cabool and Peshawur. They complete the number of governments into which the monarchy has been dismembered; and, after our more minute accounts of the two other chiefships, do not require much notice. Candahar is in the possession of a branch of the Barukzye family, and Herat is ruled by Kamran, the son of King Mahmood of Cabool.

Chiefships of Candahar.

It has been already mentioned that Shere Dil Khan fled from Cabool to Candahar; and formed the present chiefship, with the spoil of his nephew. He was a man of singular habits, in some respects resembling his brother, Futteh Khan; but morose as well as cruel. They give an anecdote of his lopping off the finger of one of his boys, telling him at the same time, if he cried, that he could not be his child, or a Barukzye. The young fellow bore it with great patience. Shere Dil Khan, in his flight to Candahar, was accompanied by four brothers.[338] He himself is since dead, as also one of his brothers. Candahar is now governed by Cohun Dil Khan, supported by his two surviving brothers, Ruhum Dil and Meer Dil. The revenues amount to about eight lacs of rupees; his force consists of 9000 horse, and six pieces of artillery; but, as the city is situated in the heart of the Dooranee country, and near the native seat of the Barukzye family, he could, perhaps, increase his cavalry on an emergency. The government is not popular, nor would it appear, from the acts of oppression, that it deserved to be so. The chief is on bad terms with most of his neighbours. In common with all his family, he is inimical to Kamran of Herat, and has at different times attempted to seize that city. He is also at issue with the chief of Cabool. The connexion between the Peshawur and Candahar branches of the Barukzyes, is very close and sincere; but their united efforts will not, in all probability, injure their brother of Cabool. The Candahar chief also seeks to form a settlement on the Indus; and has for several years past sent his troops to threaten Shikarpoor in Sinde. The Ameers of that country have been hitherto able to resist his attacks; but, as there is an open and easy communication between Candahar and the Indus, by the pass of Bolan, the chief is not likely to discontinue his[339] endeavours in that quarter. In a disorganised state of Sinde, he might easily possess himself of Shikarpoor; and such a state of events seems by no means improbable in the country of the Ameers. The chief of Candahar would gladly interest the ruler of the Punjab in his cause; but it is not probable that he will procure his assistance, as he himself looks upon Shikarpoor with an eye of cupidity.

Government of Herat.

Herat is the only province of the kingdom of Cabool, now held by a descendant of the royal family; and the Prince Kamran rules more from tolerance in his enemies than his own power. He receives no aid from his countrymen, since the whole of the chiefs in Afghanistan are his enemies, and desire his destruction, in revenge for the assassination of their brother Futteh Khan. Herat has, therefore, become a dependency of Persia. The town itself has of late years been several times entered by the troops of that nation; and only spared by the ready tender of money on the part of its governor. It was threatened in September 1832, by the Prince Royal in person, who made a pecuniary demand; and also required that the coinage of the city should be struck in the name of the King of Persia. It is probable that both these requests will be granted, since Kamran would gladly hold his power[340] on any terms. The Persians do not appear to contemplate any permanent settlement in Herat, since it would incur the expense of retaining a force, that would diminish the tribute now gained from it. Kamran is said to be in possession of some of the crown jewels of Cabool, and derives a large revenue from Herat, which is situated in one of the most fertile countries of the world. By this wealth he is yet able to retain about his person some of the Afghan chiefs, and can raise a body of 4000 or 5000 horse. He has no political connexions in any quarter; but still clings to the hope of being able to re-establish the monarchy of his father. He has the character of a cruel and tyrannical man, is destitute of friends, and odious to his countrymen.



Remarks on the overthrow of the royal dynasty.

We have now given a sketch of the events which have occurred in Cabool, to the fall of the monarchy; and described the several governments into which it has been divided. Its prosperity as a kingdom seems almost to have terminated with its founder, Ahmed Shah Dooranee. His son Timour evinced none of the energy and activity of his parent. Shah Zuman, his child and successor, defective in education, and cruel in disposition, succeeded to a government relaxed by a long reign of indolence. Shah Zuman, and his brothers, Mahmood and Shooja, seem alike to have forgotten, on their elevation to a throne, that they ruled a people whose genius was republican. The total overthrow of the dynasty is universally attributed to the misplaced pride and arrogance of the last kings, who now receive no sympathy from the Afghans in their overthrow. Shooja, indeed, might have regained his power, but for his rash attempts to exercise the authority of king, before[342] he was firmly fixed in it. The Afghans cannot control their feelings of jealousy towards men in power; and this universal envy has dethroned their kings and butchered their nobles. There is not a person of note, that figures in their history for the last thirty years, who has died a natural death. To be happy under any government, they must either be ruled by a vigorous despot, or formed into many small republics.

Improba­bilities of restoring it.

All the institutions of the Afghans are favourable to a republic; and the supremacy of the Barukzye family in Cabool is acceptable to the people; and I even think favourable to the prosperity of the country. It is by far the greatest clan of the Dooranees, amounting to about 60,000 families, which will enable it to maintain its authority. The late royal family of the Sudozyes, on the other hand, were few in number, and looked for support to other tribes. Of these, the principal were the Barukzyes. Hajee Jumal, the most influential of its chiefs, willingly bowed to the authority of Ahmed Shah; and contributed to fix him on his throne. The successors of that monarch rewarded his services by the murder of his son Poynda Khan; and we have related the atrocious assassination of his grandson the Vizier. Had the royal house treated these benefactors with justice, and their subjects with moderation, they[343] might still have reigned in peace. The hatred of this family to the house of Cabool, and the cause which excites it (the assassination of two of their chiefs), forbid the belief that the Barukzyes will ever consent to their restoration. It is certain that the aid of no other tribe can avail them, for the whole wealth of the country is in the hands of their enemies; and the bulk of the people view their misfortunes with indifference, since it is believed they have drawn them upon themselves. It is evident, therefore, that the restoration of either Shooja ool Moolk, or Kamran, is an event of the most improbable nature. The dynasty of the Sudozyes has passed away, unless it be propped up by foreign aid; and it would be impossible to reclaim the lost provinces of the empire, without a continuation of the same assistance. It is more difficult to revive than to raise a dynasty; and in the common chain of events, if the country is to be ruled by another king, we must look for another family to establish its power in Cabool; and this, in all probability, will be the Barukzyes.

Relative power of Cabool and Persia.

At present, there is no connexion of a political nature between the states in Cabool and any foreign power. The Persians have long talked vaingloriously of invading the country, but if there were no treachery on the part of the Kuz[344]zilbash guards, at Cabool, they could not certainly make an impression on the kingdom. In a general war, the enmity between the different houses would probably be forgotten, and the united force of the Barukzyes alone amounts to about 30,000 horse. While we were in Cabool, the chief received a notice from his brother at Candahar, who had been threatened by an ambassador from the Persian camp. The reply of Dost Mahommed Khan was characteristic:—“When the Persians come, let me know, and as I am now your enemy, will I then be your friend.” The natural strength of Cabool is its best barrier against a successful invasion by an Asiatic power, and if we look to the expedition of Nadir Shah, we are to remember that he was accompanied by many Afghan chiefs, whom he had advanced to favour, and who largely participated in his acquisitions, and the spoils he gained from others.

The political state of Cabool, as a kingdom, becomes at all times an object of the deepest importance to India, from the many changes which constantly take place in that country. Of its four chiefships, one is subject to the Punjab, and another to Persia. The chief of Cabool himself is a man of enlightened views, and may secure a thorough supremacy over the country, on the death of Runjeet Sing. It would not be difficult for him to subdue Peshawur, and he[345] might then seize the provinces on the Indus, and very probably Cashmere. He is a man favourably disposed towards the British Government, as indeed are the whole chiefs of the kingdom. They were not in power when the British mission entered the country in 1809, but our reputation was then established, and the good opinion of all parties has been acquired by our immediate withdrawal afterwards. That circumstance, it is true, was unavoidable; but it has left impressions most favourable to our disinterestedness. In Cabool, therefore, it would not be difficult to form a connexion; and the chief is certainly worthy of notice, since his country lies on the great road by which the manufactures of Britain are imported, and which of late have been considerably increased by his equity and justice. It would require no great expenditure of the public funds to conciliate this chief; and, it is to be remembered, that he is in possession of the most important position in Asia, as regards the protection of British India. Had circumstances brought us into an alliance with Cabool instead of Persia, we might have now possessed more trusty and useful allies, nearer home, than we can boast of in that country. We also should have never incurred a tenth of the expenditure, which has been so freely lavished in Persia.



Chiefship of Koondooz.

The territories of Koondooz lie between Cabool and Bokhara. I shall comprehend under that designation all which I have to say on the countries, north of Hindoo Koosh, and south of the Oxus, as far westward as the city of Balkh. Its extent. These limits bound a chiefship, which is ruled by an Uzbek family that has lately extended its power, and is now possessed of great influence in these countries. This is the tribe of Kutghun; the name of the chief is Mahommed Moorad Beg, and Meer is the title by which he is known to his subjects. At no late period the tribe was confined to the canton of Koondooz, but this chief has established a power over all the neighbouring states; he holds Khooloom, Heibuk, Ghoree, Inderab, Talighan, and Huzrut-Imam, and is master of the valley of the Upper Oxus, and its tributary rivers. The city of Balkh has likewise been in his hands; he contented himself with sacking it, and marching off a great part of the population[347] to his other conquests. He has also reduced the whole kingdom of Budukhshan, and is at present engaged in operations against the hill states north of the Oxus. The district of Koolab, which is one of these, and lies between Durwaz and Shughnan, is already in his possession. His power extends south to Syghan, within thirty miles of Bameean, and across two of the passes of Hindoo Koosh.

Rise of Moorad Beg.

The population of the territory consists chiefly of Tajiks, the aborigines of the country, who form the entire body of the people in Budukhshan. The Uzbeks bear a very small proportion to them.

The chief of Koondooz attained his present ascendancy on the death of Khilich Ali Beg, a well-known Uzbek chief, who long ruled in Balkh, as a nominal tributary to the crown of Cabool. Moorad Beg, of Koondooz, held a secondary command under this chief.

At his death, which occurred more than eight years since, Moorad Beg entered into intrigues with the different members of his family; and finally succeeded in establishing his own authority. The sons of Khilich Ali Beg now govern Khooloom and Heibuk as his vassals. The Kutghuns have always possessed influence among the Uzbeks, but Moorad Beg is the first of his family, or of his countrymen, who has[348] formed so extensive a principality. The tribe is of Moghul extraction, as it is termed, since they and the Kalmuks descend from one stock. They entered on their present seats in the 16th century, with the great Uzbek nation, that expelled the descendants of Timour from their paternal kingdom. Koondooz appears to have been the utmost limit of invasion, since the Uzbeks have not settled in Budukhshan, or south of Hindoo Koosh. The government of the present chief may be viewed as tolerably well consolidated: his measures are vigorous.

Policy and power of the chief.

The Meer of Koondooz owes much of his power to the policy which he has pursued towards those whom he has subjected. He retains the former chiefs in authority, but stipulates for a contingent of troops, and the maintenance of a portion of his own in the country, at their expense. He thus increases his strength, and provides for the protection of his newly acquired conquests, without danger of revolt. His united forces amounted to about 20,000 horse, and six pieces of artillery, one of which is a thirty-six pounder. He has no infantry, for the Uzbeks despise that branch of an army, and know as little of the use of cannon, though the possession of guns seems to secure a victory. I must, however, mention, to the credit of the chief, that he has dragged the great gun to Sarbagh,[349] fifty miles into Hindoo Koosh. This piece of ordnance was brought from Persia by Nadir Shah, who took the route of Meshid, Shurukhs, and Meimuna, to Balkh,—a practical proof of the goodness of the road, and the calibre by which it may be traversed. The cavalry carry spears of an unwieldy size; some have matchlocks, but a great part are ill armed and accoutred, though much superior to those who oppose them. He supports these troops by an allowance of grain, and retains all the commanders, and a portion of the men, in constant attendance upon his person. Moorad Beg leads a life of great activity, and takes the field in person; he constantly sends his horse on excursions of plunder and capture, (as they are called, “Chupawul,”) north of the Oxus, in the neighbourhood of Balkh, and the country of the Huzaras. As the people there are Shiah Mahommedans, they are seized without mercy, and distributed or sold into slavery. A supply of these unfortunate wretches is also derived from Chitral, a hill state, east of Budukhshan, the chief of which pays his tribute in human beings. He excepts the caravans which pass through his territory from these attacks, and also guards against exactions from the chiefs whom he has rendered tributary. He holds little or no communication with neighbouring powers.[350] With the Chinese authorities in Yarkund, to which there is a considerable trade, there has been an exchange of presents, and the Koondooz chief once sent an ambassador regarding the protection of the roads, which were infested by robbers from beyond the Oxus. With the king at Bokhara there is no cordiality, for they are mutually afraid of each other. Moorad Beg makes constant irruptions into the provinces of Balkh, and the Governor of that city seeks his safety in flight. The Afghans are separated from Koondooz by a great chain of mountains, and the country to the eastward of Budukhshan is equally rugged, and cut off by the lofty mountains of Beloot. The chief of Koondooz has nevertheless crossed this range, and attacked Chitral. He has also at times made inroads into the country of the Siahpoosh Kaffirs, who dwell on Hindoo Koosh; but his last campaign, in this quarter, about four years since, was not of an encouraging nature. The Kaffirs allowed the troops to advance into the mountains, and then attacked them. A snow storm ensued, and out of 4000 horse, one half were unable to extricate themselves, and fell a sacrifice to their temerity.

Revenues of Koondooz.

The revenue of this principality is paid in grain. There is abundance of it and the neces[351]saries of life; but money is exceedingly scarce. Nothing proves this so satisfactorily as the coinage now in circulation, which is of an Emperor of Delhi, prior to the age of Nadir. Many foreign luxuries are derived from Bokhara, by sending slaves and cattle to its market. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to form any correct estimate of the revenues of Koondooz. Moorad Beg is considered wealthy for an Uzbek. He demands one third of the productions of the soil from his subjects. Koondooz itself is rich in rice; and much silk is produced on the banks of the Oxus. Budukhshan, at one time so fruitful and fertile a country, is almost depopulated; and has severely felt the power of Koondooz. The ruler of it, one of those who claim descent from Alexander the Great, has been deposed; and a great part of the population driven from their own beautiful valley to the fens of Koondooz. Budukhshan, therefore, furnishes no revenue, and is occupied by Uzbek horse, who contribute to its further desolation. Of its ruby mines I have spoken in another place. The whole of the affairs of Mahommed Moorad Beg are managed by a Hindoo named Atmaram, a native of Peshawur, who has the title of Dewan Begee. He is a person of some talent, and has unlimited influence. He has risen from the meanest origin.[352] Among the Uzbeks, Hindoos are despised, and never permitted to wear turbans; but this minister has not only secured the privilege for himself, but for all his servants and tribe who live with him. He has about 400 slaves in his household, the gift of an indulgent master, and has also enriched himself to a great extent; but his merits entitle him to the reward. The Uzbeks are incapable of conducting matters of state; for, except the priests, they are without education. Moorad Beg has therefore evinced the most unerring proof of his own superiority in the selection of such a man to conduct his government. It is to him that the merchant owes the protection of his property; and that the chief himself reigns without a rival in the countries which he has subdued.

Character of Moorad Beg.

Since much depends on the personal qualities of a chief who rules a country composed of such materials, we must regard his character with the greater interest. That of Moorad Beg has many prominent features, nor is it free from contradiction. He is at once cruel and indulgent: he encourages every plundering expedition which leaves his country, and shares the spoil with the barbarians who secure it. Possessed of power to retain the entire possessions over which he holds a supremacy, he concedes both property and power,[353] certainly of a limited nature, to the individuals who, in most Asiatic governments, meet with death. Except his forced removal of the inhabitants of one province to people another, and that too a most unhealthy one; and his seizure of the unfortunate Huzaras and Kaffirs, and their sale as slaves, I have not heard him accused of any of the flagrant acts of wanton tyranny and oppression, so common in despotic governments. The trader passes through the dominions of Koondooz without molestation. The duties are low; and some articles, such as shawls, are encouraged by an entire remission. The people were also relieved from the payment of the tax on silk at the time we were in Koondooz. The greatest apprehension under which this chief labours, is a terror of the British name, as was shown in the harsh treatment of Mr. Moorcroft and our party. He suspects the conquerors of India, and it will require much to remove his suspicion. Moorad Beg is about fifty years of age; his stature is tall, and his features are those of a genuine Uzbek: his eyes are small to deformity; his forehead broad and frowning; and the whole cast of his countenance most repulsive. He is not addicted to any excess, and is moderate in his pleasures. A holy person at Talighan, about thirty-five miles from his capital, exercises great power[354] over him. In early life he was indebted to this man for good offices and advice; and there is no favour that he might sue for which would now be refused. He has lately given one of his daughters in marriage to his son. Moorad Beg has two sons, one of them a promising lad of eighteen.



Early history of Bokhara.

I procured five manuscripts on the history of Bokhara during my residence in that country. It would be foreign to my design to give the voluminous contents of these works; nor do I feel impressed with a belief that the interest of their contents would reward the notice of a general reader: I have handed them over to that flourishing society the Oriental Translation Fund, from whom I have an assurance that it will use every means to make them known to Oriental scholars. Bokhara, in early ages, is described under the name of Bykune, a city still to be traced in its vicinity, and connected by fable or truth with the well-known name of Afrasiab. The country is there stated to have been a marsh overgrown with reeds, and fed by the ice and snow which melted in the hills of Samarcand. It is said to have been a hunting thicket, and so marshy in many places, that a camel could not pass it. Such is the language of the native historians. An intercourse was then kept up with the Emperor of China, who gave his[356] daughter to the ruler of Bokhara: but with this fair partner followed the inroads of the Toorks, which appear to have always desolated this country. We are next brought to the age of Islam and the inroads of the Arabs, who contended with a Queen, or Khatoon, famed as an idolater, but equally for her love of justice; which is yet commemorated by popular songs. Her son embraced the religion of the Faithful, but relented, and was put to death when the Arabs finally established themselves in Toorkistan. This person built a grand mosque in the ninety-fourth year of the Hejira (A.D. 716), causing the prayers to be read in Persian, “because it was the language of the country.”[37] From that time the fame and size of the city increased; and we hear of the commerce and vast population, the deeds of the renowned Haroon ool Rusheed, and of Arslan Khan, both of whom beautified and enriched it. We are also gravely told, on the authority of the Archangel Gabriel, of the joyful procession with which its inhabitants would be blessed on the day of judgment.

From the age of Jengis to the invasion of the Uzbeks.

Such is the early history of Bokhara, till the destroying Jengis desolated it with his horde of Tartars in the 622d year of the Hejira (A.D.[357] 1232). It then appears, by the accounts of its bazars, buildings, and aqueducts, to have been really a wealthy and fine capital; but, in common with many great cities, it was overwhelmed by the destructive hostilities of the Tartar, who swept, with unrelenting fury from the Caspian to the Indus. In its turn, the kingdom of Bokhara, ruled by its Ameer, the great Timur, a descendant of the ferocious Jengis, wreaked its vengeance on neighbouring and distant nations, and shook the bonds of sovereignty throughout Asia. The deeds of this hero belong to the history of which I now treat; but the conquests of Timour, and his enlightened institutes, his martial and political career, require only a passing notice in this literary age. His successors, after some generations, were driven from this their paternal kingdom, and founded the dominion of the Great Moguls in India, under the valiant Baber, whose present pageant successors yet live, I cannot call it reign, in Delhi. This last revolution sprang from the invasion of the Uzbek Tartars; another tribe from the seats of Jengis, and also related to that conqueror, who crossed the Jaxartes in the beginning of the sixteenth century, and retain in these times all the countries of Mawur ool nuhr, or Transoxiana, extending to the base of Hindoo Koosh. The Uzbeks[358] achieved this great conquest under Sheibanee Khan and his son. Baber was assisted by the King of Persia; and Sheibanee Khan was defeated and slain at the battle of Merve.

Nadir Shah’s inroad to the end of Shah Moorud’s reign.

The supremacy which the Uzbek race had thus acquired was maintained in the different kingdoms of Transoxiana, till the invasion of Nadir Shah, in the early part of the last century. Aboolfuez Khan then ruled in Bokhara, as Ameer, or Governor, and was acknowledged to be the hereditary representative of the Uzbeks, who had expelled the house of Timour, as well as a male descendant of the great Jengis. His Attalik, or Vizier, Ruheem Khan, an Uzbek of the Mungut tribe, intrigued with the Persian conqueror, and brought him to the gates of the city. Nadir spared Bokhara; but the minister put the Ameer to death, and raised up a son in his stead, to whom he had given his own daughter in marriage. Him he also murdered. On the death of Ruheem Khan, this cruel and treacherous minister was succeeded by Danial Beg, an Uzbek of the same tribe (Mungut), who was distantly related, by marriage, to Aboolfuez Khan. He pretended to no higher powers than the last minister, and governed the country in the name of Aboolghazee Khan, a descendant of the late Ameer and of Jengis. On the death of Danial Beg, his son Moorad succeeded him[359] as Vizier; and, setting aside the pageant king, in whose name his father had ruled, proclaimed himself the Ameer of Bokhara. Shah Moorad reigned seventeen years, and died about the year 1800. He was greater as a theologian than a ruler; but the name of Begee Jan, by which he was familiarly known, is much revered by the Uzbeks, and many singular stories are related regarding him. He carried on wars with the King of Cabool, and all the neighbouring and less powerful states. He destroyed the city of Merve, in the desert, and marched the greater part of its population to Bokhara; but his deeds contributed little to his fame or the aggrandisement of a kingdom, which he had usurped. From the time of Shah Moorad, the male descendants of Jengis Khan have ceased to reign in Bokhara. There are yet some members of that family in the country who live in poverty and contempt; and the last King of Bokhara was, I understand, related to them by the mother’s side.

Reign of Hyder and the present King Nussier oollah.

Shah Moorad was succeeded by his son Hyder, commonly called Saeed, or Pure. He converted his office more into that of a priest than a king, and his rigid adherence to the Koran, while it has rendered him illustrious throughout the Mahommedan world, has greatly increased bigotry and fanaticism in the country which he[360] governed. He viewed his title as Commander of the Faithful in its literal sense, and passed the greater portion of his time in endeavouring to correct and improve the morals of his age. Had his vigils been extended to external politics, he might have, perhaps, benefited his country; but, after a long and useless reign of twenty-seven years, he bequeathed (A. D. 1825) to his children a disputed succession, and a kingdom that had been insulted and encroached upon from every side. His death was the signal of revolt and civil war among his offspring. Ameer Hoosein, his son, was proclaimed King, and perished, after a reign of fifty days, not without suspicion of poison, which was administered by the Koosh Begee, or minister, who favoured the pretensions of another brother. He was succeeded by Omar Khan, who seized the reins of government and the capital. His elder brother, Nussier oollah, or, as he is generally styled, Buhadoor Khan, had, however, secured the secret influence of the Koosh Begee, (though avowedly a partisan of Omar,) and prepared to resist his power with all determination. He seized, as a preliminary step, on the city of Samarcand, and, marching down upon Bokhara, possessed himself of the canals and aqueducts which supply it with water: these he closed, and the city fell into his hands, after a siege of fifty days; delivered to him, however,[361] by the Koosh Begee, whom he appointed minister. Omar was placed in confinement; but he fled from his keepers, and, after wandering to Meshid and Balkh, died of cholera in Kokan; from which his remains were brought for interment to Bokhara. Nussier oollah entered on the sovereignty without further resistance. He put thirty of his brother’s partisans to death, and ordered one of the principal Bees, or chiefs, to be thrown from the palace-gate, the usual mode of execution in these countries. His treatment of three younger brothers was far less justifiable: he sent them to an estate on the banks of the Oxus, and cruelly ordered them to be murdered, lest they should cabal against him; and Nussier oollah himself, the only survivor of six children, now reigns in Bokhara. How little the practical good worked by the bigoted parent on his unhappy children! But Nussier oollah has, in some degree (if such be possible), redeemed himself from the foul and vicious acts by which he secured his throne: he now rules his subjects with a just and impartial hand, and has ceased to resort to cruelty or crime in upholding his government, since he has had no rival in the scene. He has a young and increasing family.



Importance of the kingdom of Bokhara.

The importance of Bokhara does not arise from the extent of its territories, but the position in which they stand. The fame which it enjoys as a kingdom is to be traced to the days of the Chaghtyes. It then included all Mawur ool Nuhr, or the country between the rivers Oxus and Jaxartes, extended to Kharasm and the Caspian, and far into Khorasan. That age of splendour has long since passed; but the favourable site of the capital still invests it with a great influence among the natives of Transoxiana. Situated between the richest regions of Europe and Asia, and in a tract surrounded by steppes and deserts, Bokhara becomes the resting place of the merchant and the traveller, and the centre of an extensive commerce. Viewed either in a military or political light, its situation is commanding, and in the highest degree valuable. Blessed with an exuberance of the productions of the soil, in a land of barrenness it arrests the[363] attention of remote and neighbouring nations. In former times, it attracted the cupidity of the Greeks and the Arabian Caliphs. It was overrun by the hordes of the North; and from it, as a base, the renowned Timour led his legions victorious to the remote countries of Asia. In modern days, it has received ambassadors from the emperors of China and Russia, the Sultan of Constantinople, and the monarchs of Persia and Cabool. It likewise holds a supremacy among the surrounding Uzbek nations, who look up to it as the capital of their tribe, and render a voluntary, though nominal, homage to the ruler.

Power and character of the King.

The King of Bokhara rules, as in other Asiatic nations, a sovereign despot; nevertheless, he is controlled in every action by the authority of the Moollahs, or priests. This arises from no inability on his own part to assert his power, but from the constitution of the monarchy, which is exclusively based on the laws of the Koran, here more strictly enforced perhaps than in any other Mahommedan country. The reigning King of Bokhara, Nussier oollah, or, as he is styled, Buhadoor Khan, is a young man of twenty-seven years of age. He takes the title of Ameer ool Moomuneen, or Commander of the Faithful, and is always addressed by the name of Huzrut; which is only used by the Mahommedans of Toorkistan[364] in speaking of their prophets. The name of King is seldom mentioned in official documents; that of Ameer is preferred, which without the affix of “ool Momuneen,” was the title by which Timour and his successors were designated, down to the days of Baber. It has a religious signification, which particularly unites it to the King of Bokhara. He looks upon himself as one of the heads of the Mahommedan religion. A respect is, nevertheless, paid to the Sultan of Constantinople, as he is here styled the Caliph of Rome; and the King of Bokhara is proud to hold the title of his bow-bearer.

The reigning King succeeded to the throne seven years since. He is naturally just and liberal, and very strict in the observances of religion. He appears, indeed, to be gradually sinking into the bigoted habits of his father; which the nature of his government renders it difficult to avoid. On his accession he divested himself of all his own and his father’s wealth; which has gained him a high reputation among his countrymen. In all his acts he is guided by the law; and the people pretend that his private expenses are defrayed from the capitation tax; which he exacts from Jews and Hindoos, since it would be sinful to so appropriate the money of true believers. He is of an ambitious[365] and warlike disposition, and employs his revenues in the conciliation of his army; to whom he has endeared himself by profuse largesses.

The Koosh Begee, or Vizier.

His minister, the Koosh Begee, possesses great influence over him; and, though chiefly indebted to him for his throne, the King entertains no dread of his power. He never leaves the citadel till his Vizier is present to take charge of it. His Majesty will not receive his food at any other hands but those of his minister. This person is of an advanced age; upwards of sixty. He is an Uzbek, of the tribe of Mungut, possessed of talent and acquirements; and unremitting in his attentions to business. He also trades to a great extent, and is fond of money, but strictly just in levying the taxes on commerce. The high office of Vizier may be considered hereditary in his family: his father enjoyed it; his brothers hold two of the governments; and his sons, of whom he has thirteen, are employed in different districts or provinces. He has fixed on one of these as his successor. There is a great mixture of cunning in the minister’s character; but he is a liberal-minded man, and favourably disposed to Europeans, and, in particular, the English. The whole wealth and power of the kingdom is at his command; since he receives the revenues, and is[366] able to sway the priesthood, to whom he is ever respectful and conciliatory.

Political condition of the Uzbeks.

Nothing is more remarkable to a traveller in Toorkistan than the entire want of chiefs, or Sirdars, among the people, as in India and Cabool. Here there are no great men, no Khans, or nobles, and no one of consequence, but the court and the priesthood. The whole of the governments are either held by slaves or dependents of the minister; and every town and village is ruled by the Moollahs or Khwajus, the descendants of the first Caliphs. As the base of the government of Bokhara is the Koran, and the whole community are, or desire to be, considered spiritual, it will fully account for the exception in favour of the church. That engine and the state go heart in hand in Toorkistan, and give mutual support to each other. There is no shadow of popular government; but still, there is no evidence of discontent under such a system of rule, though people could not be more thoroughly enslaved than the Uzbeks. We must attribute this universal contentment of the community to the protection which is derived from a strict enforcement of the laws of the Koran. That book, at best, appears but a poor Magna Charta; yet it fixes on a settled basis the principles of jurisprudence; which, no doubt, leads the people to consider the clergy as their best protection[367] against the ambitious power of the government. Their rigid adherence to the written law entitles these doctors to the share of gratitude which they enjoy. No measures of state are ever entered upon without their sanction; and a great portion of the revenues are alienated for the support of the national religion and the colleges which teach it. The surplus revenues of the capital are even divided after this manner; and the whole plan of administration bears a nearer resemblance to a hierarchy than any other government. If a murder be committed; if a robbery occur; if a dispute arise on any subject, it is immediately referred to the priesthood, since the King does not take upon himself to judge of the merits of a case without them. I am assured that this system has existed at Bokhara from the earliest ages of Mahommedanism, and is not coeval with the invasion of the Uzbeks, though it was more firmly established in the reign of the last King, Hyder Shah, who held his creed in bigoted veneration. Whatever may be the opinions entertained of the religion of Mahommed, it is productive of great advantages in the administration of a kingdom, when its laws are rigidly enforced. The police of the city and kingdom of Bokhara is strict and efficient: the largest bales of goods, as I have already stated, are left in open stalls at night without danger, and the roads[368] of the country are free from either robbers or thieves. The uncompromising manner in which offenders are treated, and the summary justice inflicted upon them, instil a salutary terror into the minds of the ill-disposed. The most trivial offences are punished with death: fines, and imprisonment in horrid dungeons, are also employed, but more rarely. The laws of Mahommed are as much enforced as they ever were under his own eye; and the legislation that united the wandering Arabs of the desert has been transferred, without a single improvement or alteration, to a people differing in manners, habits, and languages, and considerably advanced in some points of civilisation.

Revenues of Bokhara.

The revenues of the kingdom are levied according to the same standard—the dicta of the Koran. A merchant pays one fortieth as a tax on his goods; a farmer renders one fourth of the harvest of his fields to the King: but the greater part of land in the country has been alienated for the support of the religious men and establishments; and many of these take the higher assessment of three tenths of the crop: nor do the husbandmen complain of this exorbitant impost. In Toorkistan land is valued by the water which it can command; and the individual who distributes that necessary of life into the different aqueducts about the[369] capital holds a high rank in the state. A money-tax is levied on gardens, and orchards, and melon-beds. All the inhabitants of the country, not Mahommedans, pay a capitation tax annually. In time of war, each householder is also taxed. There is a sum of money derived from the customs of Bokhara; but, with this single exception, the whole revenue is raised from the land. The following is an abstract of its amount:—

The seven tomuns of Bokhara Rametun 4,000
Zundunee 6,000
Wafkund 3,000
Wurdunzye 3,000
Kyrabad 4,000
Wangazye 6,000
Kizhdowun 6,000
—— 31,000
The five tomuns of Samarcand Sheeraz 6,000
Sohood 4,000
Afeenkund 6,000
Anhar 5,000
Shoudar 12,000
—— 33,000
Districts under Samarcand Punjkund 4,000
Oometan 2,000
Pan 2,000
Ooroogut 6,000
Karratippu 2,000
—— 16,000
Meeankal, or Kuta-Koorghan, between Bokhara and Samarcand Katakoorghan 12,000
Kutarchee 6,000
Punjshumbu 5,000
Meetan 4,000
Noorator 5,000
Engi Koorghan 6,000
Chulak 5,000
—— 43,000
[370]Kermina Kermina 12,000
Zoodeen 15,000
—— 27,000
Jizzak Jizzak 8,000
—— 8,000
Kurshee Kurshee 12,000
Khozar 6,000
Sheerabuel 5,000
Sadabad 4,000
Chiraghchee 5,000
—— 32,000
Banks of the Oxus, called “Lubab” Narazsee 5,000
Kukee 4,000
Charjooee 8,000
Ootar 5,000
—— 22,000
Karakool Karakool 15,000
—— 15,000
City of Bokhara Bokhara 50,000
—— 50,000
Grand total of tillas (or rupees 18 lacs) 277,000

From Balkh the crown receives nothing; the revenue is said to have declined with its population, and the scanty returns from it, amounting to 20,000 tillas, are granted to the chief, Eshan Khoju, who protects it. Both Balkh and Jizzak are late acquisitions to the kingdom. As far as an opinion can be formed on such subjects, I am led to believe that the net land revenue of this kingdom amounts to about thirty-six lacs of rupees, or double that which is received into the royal treasury, since about half the land is enjoyed by the church. All the names mentioned in the enumeration of the revenue are market-[371]towns or places, except the five “tomuns” of Samarcand. These are old names. The idea which we have of towns and villages must be received with considerable qualification in Toorkistan. A bazar, or market-place, is sometimes a small village, and the inhabitants, instead of living in it, reside in “robats,” at a distance, visiting it on market-days from a circuit of ten or fifteen miles. The bazars of the country are held on fixed days, with great regularity, as in Europe.

Military force, &c.

The military force of Bokhara is levied from the different districts of the kingdom, and has no discipline. It consists of about 20,000 horse and 4000 infantry, with forty-one pieces of artillery. There are likewise a description of troops, called “eeljaree,” or militia, which are formed of the dependents and servants of the government, and amount to about 50,000 horse, 10,000 of which are from Balkh and the countries south of the Oxus. It might be further increased by levies among the Toorkmuns; but the services of that tribe can only be commanded by the individual who can enforce them. This is no great number, where almost every individual, rich and poor, has a horse of some description. These troops are seldom or ever called upon to serve, and, when embodied, receive no pay. The registered, or “duftur,”[372] troops are paid in grain, and the chiefs have assignments of land. Each soldier receives yearly eight Bokhara maunds of grain, each of which is equal to 256 lbs. English. It consists of wheat, barley, juwaree, and urzun. The infantry receive the same allowances as the cavalry, and, what is singular, they come into field on horseback, and then dismount. They arm with matchlocks, and are called “khusa burdar.” The horsemen have swords; sometimes long knives, and heavy spears, about twenty feet long, with a short blade. These lances are constructed of different pieces of wood (generally of willow), and have an unwieldy appearance; they never break at the joinings. The Uzbeks have few fire-arms, and use them indifferently. An Indian or an Afghan never sets out on a journey but he bristles with arms. The Uzbek, on the other hand, contents himself with a lance, or the knife which he usually wears in his girdle. From what I hear, the Uzbeks are not much to be dreaded as enemies. Spirit of the Uzbeks. Their manner of fighting wants spirit and courage; they vociferate loudly, and the fate of the advanced guard decides the conquest. They are a superior description of irregular cavalry, but poor soldiers. The park of cannon lies neglected in the citadel, for the Uzbeks do not properly appreciate the value of artil[373]lery, and the King has only to contend with horse. There are no native artillerymen, and the guns lie separated from their carriages, which, as may be imagined, are by no means efficient. The train could, however, be easily put in order by some of the Russian slaves. All the cannon are brass; three-fourths of them appeared to be small field-pieces, four and six pounders. There are four mortars; the rest are large guns. The powder of the country is serviceable.

Detail of the military force.

The following detail of the military force of the kingdom will afford an insight into the power of the several districts, and serve also to mark the great Uzbek tribes at present existing in the country. The first list is composed of cavalry; I also add the names of their chiefs, here called “Bee,” which is a Turkish word, better known in Europe as Bey.


Tribes. No. Chiefs. District.
Kongrad 1,000 Moorad Bee Kurshee.
Suraee 1,000 Ashoor Bee.
Yaboo 2,000 Md. Ameer Bee.
Khitai 500 Hoosun Bee Yargi Koorghan.
Kipchack 500 Mahmood Bee Chuluk.
Surkh Khitai 800 Aderagood Bee Kut Koorghan.
Kara Kilpauk 400 Thikeem Bee Sheeraz.
Kur Khyooz 500 Shade Bee Jizzak.
Dyakhlee 600 Alum Bee Punjenud.
Meeng 2,000 Kut Bee Ooloogut.
Nymun 500 Kalaitoksa Bee Zeodeen.
Julaee 400 Roostum Bee Punjshumbu.
Meetna 400 Abdoo Jubbar Bee Meetum.
Bahreen 500 Kobad Bee Katurchee.
Boorkoot 500 Abdoo Jubber Bee Nooratun.
Kulloogh 600 Abdoo Russool Bee Kermina.
Huzara 300 Abdoo Jubber Bee Ditto.
Kutghun 300 Doulut Bee Ditto from Koondooz.
Arabuchee 400 Good Md. Bee Karakool.
Chunder 400 Dolmus Bee Ditto.
Toorkmuns N. of the Oxus 800 Eser Bee Banks of the Oxus.
Kalmucks 1,000 Rhodaee Nug Bokhara.
Mixed tribes of Bokhara, called “Shagird Peshu” 2,000 The King. Bokhara.
Mervees 1,000Persians. Mad. Suduk Bee Ditto.
500 Moorad Bee Meer Akhor Samarcand.
Zorabadee 500 Lootf Ali Beg Zorabud, near Kurshee.
Grand total 19,500

The infantry is levied on a much smaller scale, and entirely composed of Tajiks, or the[375] mercantile class. They are drawn from the districts as follows:—

Bokhara 1,000
Samarcand 1,000
Kurshee 200
Jizzak 500
Kermina 200
Kut Koorghan 100
Punjshumbu 100
Khojar 100
Sherabul 100
Karabul 100
Narazun 100
Oostee 100
Charjooee 300
Grand total 3,900

That portion of the troops south of the Oxus is only nominally dependent on Bokhara; there the Uzbeks are not numerous; a great proportion of the population, however, are Arabs, who have the same reputation for soldiers as in other countries. They are not at the disposal of the government. Except the territories of Balkh, from which a force of 2000 or 3000 men might be assembled, these people cannot be viewed as available troops, for they are at[376] enmity with one another, and the King takes no pains to reconcile them.

Foreign policy of Bokhara.

Bokhara possesses a much higher influence, both physical and moral, than any of the states around it; but its affairs were left in a most embarrassed state by the late King, who bestowed more attention on religion than politics. The Khan of Orgunje or Khiva waged a continual war with him. The Khan of Kokan was also his declared enemy. The chiefs of Shuhr Subz and Hissar acknowledged no allegiance, and the Meer of Koondooz plundered and even seized Balkh. The affairs of the kingdom are at present more prosperous, and the designs and power of the reigning King bid fair to keep pace with one another. He has this year chastised the chief of Shuhr Subz, and seized upon six of his villages. That town, which is famed as the birth-place of Timour, is considered the strongest in Toorkistan, from the marshy nature of the country which surrounds it. The power of Kokan has been also broken, and one of its frontier districts, that of Jizzak, which formed one half of Uratippa, has been annexed to Bokhara within these four years. Hissar might be also overcome, though it is mountainous, since the chief is dead, and his country has been divided among four brothers. The most powerful enemy of the king[377]dom is the chief of Koondooz; and if the city of Balkh has been wrested from him, he has conceded it to policy, and not to fear. He retains the name of that ancient city on his coin, and there is little amity between the states. The King of Bokhara entertains designs on Koondooz; but the country is distant, and it is very doubtful if he could make an impression upon it, though his formidable title of Commander of the Faithful would secure to Bokhara the aid of the Moollahs and a large army. The enmity of the Khan of Khiva terminated with the death of Mahommed Ruheem Khan, the late chief, who sent an ambassador on his death-bed to ask forgiveness. The sons of the two parents, who were ever at war with one another, are now united. The injuries which Khiva inflicted on the kingdom, determines its influence over the destinies of Bokhara. With an inferior power, the chief of that state plundered its caravans, robbed its subjects, obstructed its commerce, and laid waste its territories. The intervening deserts protected him from reprisal, though a vigorous monarch might successfully invade his territories from the Oxus. If the Khan of Khiva continues friendly, the King will be able to extend his power to the eastward, where he has long meditated an expedition.


With China, Cabool, and Turkey.

The connexion of Bokhara with China, Cabool, and Turkey, is friendly; and all of them have sent ambassadors. Last year an envoy from China was deputed to solicit the assistance of the King, in maintaining the peace of the western frontier of China, from the inroads of the Khan of Kokan. His majesty wisely declined all interference, but the chastisement which the Chinese inflicted on the inhabitants of that state some years ago, may relieve the emperor at Pekin from any alarm regarding his frontiers. The commercial relations between Bokhara and China are on a footing favourable to both states; but the Uzbeks are not permitted, more than other nations, to pass beyond Yarkund, Cashgar, and their tributary towns. While the monarchy existed in Cabool, the intercourse between that kingdom and Toorkistan was friendly and frequent, for the Afghans possessed the province of Balkh. The number of Afghans in Bokhara is considerable, and the whole Indian trade is carried on by their intervention. There is, however, no intercourse between the King of Bokhara and the chiefs who have risen on the ruins of the Cabool monarchy: the Uzbeks despise the friendship of Persia, from the hatred which they have for the heretical doctrines entertained by that people. Their only intercourse is commercial,[379] and but few of them engage in trade, which is left to the Persians or Mervees, who are of the Shiah creed. The liberality of the present minister of Bokhara has contributed to soften the asperity of feeling between the Persians and Uzbeks, but it is difficult to say on which side the greatest animosity subsists. The Persians have far the greatest cause, since they are constantly seized and sold into slavery. The fame of the Ottoman empire has extended to Bokhara, but the people have very imperfect notions of the weakness of the Porte. They believe the sultan to be the most potent monarch of the globe, and I have been frequently interrogated as to the extent of tribute which the different European nations rendered to him. We can comprehend the reasons for this assiduous attention of Bokhara, even on religious grounds; but the countries are far apart, and their intercourse is limited to empty expressions of devotion and attachment to one another.

Connexion with Russia.

From the time of Peter the Great, there has subsisted a continued communication between Bokhara and Russia, and it has been based on the reciprocal advantages of commerce. The land route between the countries was first opened in the reign of that monarch, and, during the last seventy years, the transit has been uninterrupted. In the reign of Alexander,[380] and about the year 1820, the Russians endeavoured to cultivate a closer connexion, and despatched an embassy to Bokhara. They had failed in the preceding year to open the road between the Caspian and Khiva. It is but fair to believe, that some of the views of this mission were commercial, but they were likewise connected with political ends. The embassy was well received at the capital. A mission was sent in return to St. Petersburgh, and several others have since followed it. From that period, the subjects of Russia have ceased to be sold into slavery in Bokhara; it is supposed that these missions have had reference to the affairs of Khiva, but Russia will require no foreign aid to coerce that chiefship. The Russians have also established a friendly feeling with the chief of Kokan: they have impressed the whole of the Uzbeks with high notions of their power, to the detriment of all other European nations; but they have yet to eradicate, by their future conduct, other opinions, which have been as universally adopted, that they want truth and honour in their diplomacy. Setting aside the physical obstacles which present themselves to the Russians making a conquest of Bokhara, the people are generally inimical to them. It is even probable that Bokhara, with all her pretended amity, would succour Khiva,[381] if attacked by the Czar. Should these countries ever be subdued from that quarter, it would be found most difficult to retain them, or control the wandering tribes around. Regular troops would be useless, and irregulars could not subdue a race who had no fixed places of abode. It is not, however, to be concealed, that the court of St. Petersburgh have long cherished designs in this quarter of Asia.



Limits of the principality.

The delta of the Oxus, or Amoo, before falling into the Aral, forms the state of Khiva, which is more generally called Orgunje by the inhabitants. It is the ancient Kharasm, and occurs in Arrian, under the name of the country of the Chorasmi. It lies about 200 miles W.N.W. of Bokhara. It is a small, but fertile principality. The inhabited part is about 200 miles from north to south, and half that distance from east to west. It is surrounded on all sides by deserts; and, claims a superiority over these that extends its power to the Caspian, and brings it into contact with Persia. It has, of late years, established a supremacy over the Toorkmun hordes, south of the Oxus, and holds Merve, which lies on the high road between Khorasan and Bokhara. There are but two places of note in the country, Orgunje and Khiva; the former is the commercial capital, and the latter the residence of the Khan. Orgunje is situated about six miles from the Oxus, and is the larger place, having a population of about[383] 12,000 souls; Khiva is a modern town, about half that size. Circumstances, which have been detailed in my narrative, prevented our visiting the capital of Khiva, though we travelled for some time in the countries subject to it, and met a portion of its army in the deserts westward of Merve. I shall only, therefore, give a brief outline of the power and politics of Khiva, as far as they came under my own observation, or have been detailed to me by the people. The work of General Mouravief, who was despatched to Khiva in 1820, contains full information regarding the statistics of that country.

Khan of Khiva. Sketch of his rise.

The Khan of Khiva is an Uzbek, and rules with all the sway that the lords of that tribe arrogate to themselves. There are no chiefs or nobles to interfere with him. Though the principality is small, it is entirely independent; and, during the rule of the late chief, waged a continued war against the kingdom of Bokhara. The name of that personage was Mahommed Ruheem Khan, a man of daring spirit and great enterprise, who acquired the chiefship by the murder of two brothers, and retained it for a period of twenty-two years by acts of severe justice, and perhaps cruelty. He is often upbraided by his neighbours for his tyranny; but the principality of Khiva acquired an ascendancy under him which it had never before held,[384] and it is not surprising that he was more feared than loved. He fell a victim to a malignant disease about eight years since, and charged his family, on his death-bed, to heal the difference with Bokhara. Before his demise, he despatched an ambassador to the King, and solicited forgiveness for the quarrels which he had so perseveringly promoted, and the injuries he had inflicted on the commerce of that kingdom; since then the states have lived in amity with one another. Ruheem Khan left a family of six sons, the eldest of whom, Ullah Kholi, succeeded him, and is the present Khan of Khiva. He is about forty years of age, and a much milder man than his father. He lives in great concord with the other members of his family, and still preserves all the power which his parent had acquired.

Power and military strength of Khiva.

The injuries which the Khivans have inflicted on the neighbouring countries have given them a greater importance than they deserve, for at best they are but an organised banditti, protected by the natural strength of their country. The situation of Khiva, between Russia and Bokhara, makes it the entrepôt of commerce between these kingdoms, which extends its influence. Orgunje itself has no internal trade, and is thinly peopled. It is doubtful if the population amounts to 200,000 souls. Till[385] the time of Ruheem Khan, it was considered a dependency of Bokhara; but there is no proof of its allegiance being other than nominal. The Khan can raise a force of 10,000 men, and has a park of nine pieces of ordnance. His troops are either Uzbeks or Toorkmuns, who are armed in the same manner as the levies in Bokhara: some of the latter carry bows and arrows. The great object of the Khan of Khiva is to subdue the Toorkmun tribes between his territories and Persia, as well to increase his revenue as his power. The position of Khiva has enabled him to exert a greater influence over these wanderers than either Persia or Bokhara; who are thus set at defiance by a body of robbers, holding an oäsis in the desert. In the summer of 1832, the Khan of Orgunje marched his whole military force from Khiva to Merve, and levied contributions on the Tuka, the greatest of the Toorkmun tribes. He fixed a custom-house both there and at Shurukhs, a town held by the Toorkmun tribe of Salore, which is within three marches of Meshid, in Persia; and he now levies duties on the caravans which pass both these places. This advance of the Orgunje army is creditable to the military genius of the Khan. The journey from Khiva to Merve amounts to fifteen marches, and is almost destitute of water,[386] which he procured by digging wells at every stage as he advanced. He commanded in person, and gave out that he had taken the field to resist the Persians, under Abbas Mirza, who threatened him from Meshid. He was accompanied by a vast herd of camels, bearing water and provisions for his troops. About 2000 of these perished from thirst in the steppe. His father surpassed him in this achievement, since he entirely crossed this desert to Persia; he, however, lost the greater portion of his horses in the undertaking, and was compelled to leave his guns in the sand, where one of them still remains.

Predatory habits of the Khivans. Revenues.

The chiefs of Khiva have not generally aimed at such combined attacks as here represented, but confined themselves to a marauding life; they continually send detachments to plunder in Persia, and seize the inhabitants. The Khan receives a fifth of all the booty so captured. The power of Khiva over the Toorkmuns gives them great facility in these forays, which are conducted with great success. They also seize upon the subjects of Russia on the Caspian Sea; and both Persians and Russians are sold in this country as slaves. They supply the kingdom of Bokhara, and the whole of Toorkistan, with these Persian captives; and I have it on undoubted information, that there are about 2000 Russian slaves in Khiva. It is impossible to give any estimate of[387] the number of Persians, but both nations are on the increase. The Russians are now not sold out of Khiva, as the King of Bokhara entered into an agreement with the emperor to discourage their purchase in his territories. While the Khivans are thus robbing in every direction, they yet grant a protection to the caravans that pass their territories, on the payment of fixed duties.

Hindoos and Armenians pass through Khiva, but neither they nor foreign merchants, though Mahommedans, feel at ease while in the country. The bales are opened, the caravans are delayed, and much property has been at times extorted; where the chief sets the example of plunder, the people will not be very honest. The Khan demands duties at the port of Mangusluck, on the Caspian, which lies opposite Astracan, and he sometimes enforces them from the caravans which pass the Sir, or Sihon, eastward of the Aral.

The connexion between the Khan and the Russians, regarding the improvement of trade, is mentioned in the chapter that treats on commerce. It is impossible to form any but a vague estimate of the revenue of Khiva: little of it is derived from lawful sources, and the Khan supports his army and himself chiefly at the expense of his neighbours.


Affairs of Khiva and Russia.

The affairs of Khiva have excited considerable attention in the Russian cabinet, which has attempted, without success, to form a connexion with it, as well for the advancement of commercial ends, as the suppression of the odious practice of enslaving her subjects. There is great hostility to Russia in the minds of the Khivans, and it would be most dangerous to appear in the character of a Russian in their country; but the Khan is only able to exhibit this hostile feeling from the strength of his position.



Extent of Persian power over the Toorkmuns.

It will now be necessary to give a short sketch of those Toorkmun tribes east of the Caspian Sea which lie on and beyond the north-eastern frontier of Persia.

Their country has been partly described in the chapter on Toorkmania; and various incidents illustrative of their national character occur in the narrative of our journey. They stretch from Balkh to the Caspian, and are composed of predatory hordes, with no king, and a most imperfect government to control them. The only portion which owe allegiance to the crown of Persia are the tribes of Goklan and Yamood, the least powerful of all the Toorkmuns.

They occupy the south-eastern banks of the Caspian, having their country westward bounded by the rivers Goorgan and Atruk, and extending about 140 miles eastward of that sea. The Yamoods are farthest to the westward, and consist of 20,000 families. They are succeeded by[390] the Goklans, who amount to 9000 families; the only tribe of Toorkmuns who inhabit a hilly country. These two tribes have been reduced to their present state of dependence within the last thirty years. A guard of about 1000 of them attends on the King of Persia, but the rest of the tribe occupy their native seats, and pay a small tribute in horses or kind to a Persian Governor, who is stationed on the river Goorgan.

Koord and other chiefs of the Persian frontier.

The country which lies between these Toorkmuns and the city of Meshid is occupied by the tribe of Koords and other chiefs, who are nominally subjects of Persia. They acknowledge the supremacy of that crown, but commit every act of devastation and plunder, if not restrained by superior force. The Koords were fixed in this part of Persia by Shah Abbas, to strengthen the frontier; but they have proved a complete curse on its peace. The greatest of these chiefs held the fortress of Koochan (also called Kabooshan), and had a force of 8000 men. This place was captured by Abbas Meerza in the autumn of 1832. Near Koochan is the smaller chiefship of Boojnoord, ruled by a Koord, who can raise about 3000 horse. In this neighbourhood lies Kelat, the chief of which is an Afshar Toork, who can muster about 2000 horse. Next in importance to the chief of Koochan is he of Toor[391]but, Mahommed Khan Kuraee[38], who occupies a portion of the country between Meshid and Herat. He can raise about 6000 men, and is the most notorious freebooter in Khorasan.

About eighty miles eastward of Meshid lies the town of Shurukhs, a Toorkmun settlement, already mentioned as at present owing allegiance to Khiva. It submits to Persia, when the Prince at Meshid is able to enforce his commands. There are 2000 families at Shurukhs of the Salore tribe. This completes the enumeration of the chiefs on the boundaries of Persia.

Weakness of the Persian frontier.

This frontier of Persia must be considered exceedingly weak, since the whole of these tribes are imperfectly subjugated, and acknowledge its authority with extreme reluctance. The Toorkmuns view the Persians in the most odious light, from their religious opinions; and the only real advantage which the Shah may be said to have gained over the two tribes near Persia consists in their having discontinued their incursions into the kingdom. This only applies to a very small division of them, for the Salores of Shurukhs, and all the other Toorkmuns, carry on their inroads with a fierce and daring spirit. Their brethren, even on the S.E. shores of the Caspian, frequently exhi[392]bit proofs of discontent, and have, as I formerly observed, formed connexions with Russia, that time may improve to the advantage of themselves and that empire. They are not bound by the possession of houses and cities to the lands which they inhabit, and their strength lies in the great facility with which they can move from one country to another. The Koords, on the contrary, are established on these frontiers as citizens. They have exhibited much bravery, and considerable military knowledge in making their strongholds on the plains instead of the hills. The fortress of Koochan is a place of great strength; it is built of mud, and the tenacious nature of the soil is favourable to that kind of fortification, which is common all over Khorasan. These Koords, though Shiahs, form secret connexions with their Toorkmun neighbours, and connive at the capture of the Persians and plunder of the provinces. Their country, although it yields a sufficiency for the consumption of the people, is poor. It does not, therefore, hold out any allurement to the government to retain it; and, since it possesses many strongholds, the chiefs, who are generally in rebellion, can defy every force but an extraordinary one, such as has lately been sent to attack them. Hitherto they have parried[393] off such attacks, by giving tribute, and promising future allegiance; but no sooner have the troops retired, than they have relapsed into the old state of rebellion and defiance. Nor is it likely that the present expedition of the Prince Royal into Khorasan, though much more formidable than any that has preceded it, will effect any permanent settlement of that part of Persia. Khorasan is a province which requires the presence of a foreign force to maintain its tranquillity; but it does not yield revenues to defray the expenses that would be incurred by such an arrangement. This is a line of policy that will not, therefore, be pursued by a court like Persia, which does not lay out the revenues of one province on another.




“It has been observed in every age, that, when any branch of commerce has got into a certain channel, although it may be neither the most proper or the most commodious one, it requires long time and considerable efforts to give it a different direction.”—Robertson’s Disq. on Ancient India.

“When Egypt was torn from the Roman empire by the Arabians, the industry of the Greeks discovered a new channel by which the productions of India might be conveyed to Constantinople. They were carried up the Indus, as far as that great river is navigable: thence they were transported by land to the banks of the river Oxus, and proceeded down its stream to the Caspian Sea. There they entered the Volga, and, sailing up it, were carried by land to the Tanais, which conducted them into the Euxine Sea, where vessels from Constantinople waited their arrival.”—Robertson’s America. Book I., following Ramusio.

On navigating the Indus to the Punjab.

The navigation of the Indus and its tributary rivers, when laid open to the merchant, must[396] advance the interests of commerce. In the revival of an ancient channel to exchange the goods of distant nations, we behold with equal pleasure the advantages of British supremacy in India, and an increased outlet for the commodities of our commercial country. An enquiry into the condition and manufactures of every region which adjoins this great river, as well as those situated between it and the Caspian Sea, seems, therefore, opportunely to suggest itself. I have also the greatest inducement to enter on the subject, since I have seen the bazars and associated with the mercantile community of these countries.

Favourable position of the Punjab for trade.

There is, perhaps, no inland country of the globe which possesses greater facilities for commerce than the Punjab, and there are few more rich in the productions of the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms. Intersected by five navigable streams, it is bounded on the west by one of the largest rivers of the Old World. To the north it has the fertile and fruitful vale of Cashmere to limit its sceptre; so placed, that it can export without trouble its costly fabrics to the neighbouring kingdoms of Persia and Tartary, China and India. Situated between Hindostan and the celebrated entrepôts of Central Asia, it shares the advantages of their traffic, while it is itself blessed with an exuberance of every pro[397]duction of the soil that is useful and nutritious to man.

Extent and variety of its productions.

The productions of the Punjab relieve it from any great dependence on external resource. Its courtiers and chiefs may robe themselves in the shawls of Cashmere, and the strong and beautiful silken fabrics of Mooltan. Its citizens and husbandmen may wear the cheap textures of the native cotton. Every animal may be bounteously fed on the grains indigenous to the country, and a range of mountains, entirely composed of salt, furnishes that necessary ingredient of food; while the upland parts yield condiments and fruits to season the daily bread. To such a mart we can export but with dubious success the productions of our own or other countries; yet there are some articles in which the industry of Britain may still cause a rivalry. Towards forming a conclusion on this subject, we shall treat of the different productions of the country, and afterwards point out the probable effects of opening a new door to commerce on its imports and exports.

Shawls of Cashmere.

The staple commodity of the Punjab is found in the shawl manufactures of Cashmere, which have been so often described by others, that they merely require a passing notice. They are a fabric which no exertion on the part of foreigners can imitate; and, though the European manufac[398]turer may impart much of the beauty, and copy with success the pattern, his web possesses none of the delicacy of the original, and is equally destitute of that warmth and comfort which the inhabitants of Europe, in their more frigid zone, are so well able to appreciate. Nor are the weavers of the adjoining countries more successful in this branch of art than our own countrymen: the shawls of Lahore and Delhi, though woven by natives of the valley, and with the same materials, are wanting in the fineness of those prepared in Cashmere, and have the degenerated appearance of a coarse woollen, but little superior to our own manufactures. If implicit reliance is to be placed on the people, the shawl derives its beauty from the water in which the wool is dyed, and which is peculiar to Cashmere.

Extent of the shawl manufactures.

The yearly revenue from the shawl manufactures, exclusive of every expense, is rated at eighteen lacs of rupees; but, as it is entirely realised in kind, every fraud which the ingenuity of a deceiving people can devise is practised in remitting it to Lahore. Shawls which cannot be valued at a higher price than a couple of hundred rupees, are rated at a thousand; and it is not a subject of surprise that the amount which I have now stated far exceeds the actual realisation by the treasury of Runjeet Sing. With a more judi[399]cious system, this Prince might double this source of his revenue. An idea may be formed of the value to which these fabrics may be manufactured, by some shawls having been lately prepared to order, for the Russian and Persian courts, at the enormous price of 30,000 roubles per pair; which is, I believe, about 12,000 rupees. It is a source of complaint among merchants, that the shawls have lately declined in quality, and good articles are now only to be procured by commissioning them from the valley. The article, indeed, has become a drug, and the Punjab government have at present in Umritsir a store of shawls that cannot be valued at less than half a million sterling (fifty lacs of rupees).


The commercial genius of the people has introduced another manufacture from silk, named “kais,” with a strength of texture and brilliancy of hue, that has secured to the silks of Mooltan a merited reputation in the Indian market. The worm is unknown in the Punjab; but the small bulk and great value of its produce admit of silk being imported from distant countries, and converted with profit by the trader into a rich manufacture. These silken stuffs are only woven in the shape of shawls and scarfs, which have an extensive sale, for the Indian weavers have been, hitherto, unable to rival either their colour or durability. There is also a considerable manu[400]facture of satin in Mooltan, called “atlass;” but it only shares this branch of trade with Umritsir and Lahore. The “kincob,” or brocade, of the Punjab, is inferior to that of Bengal and Guzerat, and cannot, therefore, compete with the cloths of those countries. I should here mention the carpets of Mooltan, which do not equal those of Persia: but even they are far surpassed by the splendid shawl carpets of Cashmere. This manufacture is not to be purchased, and is made, I believe, only for the ruler of the country.


The climate of the Punjab is unfavourable to the cotton shrub, which affects another soil; yet it grows in considerable quantities. The plant is chiefly produced in the “doab,” between the Sutledge and Beas Rivers; but, on account of the demand, it is also imported from the dry country, south of the former river, which is known by the name of Malwa. The natives of the eastern portion of the Punjab, about Rohun and Hoshyarpoor, are skilful in the manufacture of cotton; and their looms furnish white cloth of various textures, from the value of a yard, to four times that quantity, for a rupee. The cloth is inferior in appearance to that of British manufacture; but it is stronger and lasts better, while it has the advantage of being much cheaper. The finer cottons of the Punjab are exported to the people south of the Sutledge, who are unable[401] to vie with their manufactures. The chintses of Mooltan were, at one time, much sought for in the Punjab, and territories west of the Indus; but the trade is now ruined by the British imports, as we shall have occasion to mention hereafter.


The mineral resources of the Punjab have been but imperfectly explored; yet, from the little that has been laid open, their value must be considerable. A range of hills, extending from the Indus to the Hydaspes, formed entirely of rock-salt, furnishes an inexhaustible supply, and, being closely monopolised, contributes to the enrichment of the ruler. It is in general use throughout the country, and most extensively exported, till it meets the salt of the Sambre lake, and the Company’s territories. There is another deposit of salt on the verge of the mountains towards Mundee; but it is of an inferior description. In the same vicinity, if I can place reliance on my information, some veins of coal have been discovered; and there are also extensive mines of iron. The ore, after being pounded, is pulverised by grindstones, and then smelted: matchlocks and swords are formed from this metal; and the warlike weapons of Lahore are famous among the Indian nations. The precious metals are more scarce; yet gold is found among the sands of the Acesines, as it issues from the[402] mountains. The salt range, as well as the other high lands, yield alum and sulphur. Nitre is gathered in quantities from the extensive plains; and “tooree,” or milk-bush, which gives the best charcoal, completes the enumeration of what is necessary for the manufacture of gunpowder.


The productions of the vegetable world exceed the consumption of the population, and increase in abundance towards the hills. Some of them are exported with advantage to the neighbouring countries; but the surrounding plenty discourages the husbandman. The wheat and barley of the plains are expended within the limits of the Punjab; but such is the number of horses in this country, that gram, moong, mut, bajree, and other grain, reared in a dry soil, are imported with advantage. Rice is exuberantly produced under the mountains; but it is not a diet which suits the palate of the people. The cane thrives luxuriantly, and sugar is manufactured for exportation. The smallness of its stalk is remarkable; but it is said to produce the most saccharine fluid, and is preferred to the thicker canes of India. Indigo is reared about Mooltan and eastward of Lahore, and it is exported to the Mahommedan countries westward, where dark-coloured cloths are more prevalent than in the Punjab. A valuable oil is expressed from the “Sirsya,” or Sesamum plant, and is both[403] used for the lamp and culinary purposes. The esculent vegetables, such as turnips, carrots, &c., are produced every where; and most of the vines and fruit-trees common to Europe may be seen in Kishtwar and Cashmere. The tobacco of Mooltan is only surpassed by that of Persia.

Advantages of opening the Indus to the Punjab trade.

Without a longer detail of the resources of the Punjab, it will have already appeared that the nature and extent of its productions forbid any sanguine hope of improving to a considerable degree our commercial communication, even by water, with the countries eastward of the Indus.

A region that yielded corn, wine, oil, and salt was considered, in ancient times, a favoured land; and we have here, likewise, extensive manufactures to keep pace with the modern tastes of mankind: yet the trade in loongees, at Tatta, and in the silks of Bhawalpoor and Mooltan, which still exists, affords undoubted proof of a former line of commerce by the Indus. Trade requires a fostering care, to which even uncivilised nations are no strangers. With such an extensive export trade as this country possesses in the single article of Cashmere shawls, it is evident that there must be equally extensive returns; and it is the province of commerce to effect an interchange of the goods of one country[404] for those of another. An outlet for shawls was formerly found in Delhi; but in later years, since the tranquillity of Rajpootana was restored, they have been exported direct to Bombay, through that country, by Pallee. It may be unhesitatingly averred, that the least inconvenient and expensive route, which leads by the Indus, will turn the commerce into that channel. As we introduce our goods into Central India from other quarters, we must not look to the countries east of the Indus for any great increase to our commercial relations in this quarter. At present the import of European articles into the Punjab is far from trifling; and, as the resistance to the stream is removed, the consumption ought to increase with the diminution of price. It depends on the Lord of Cashmere, whether we receive the productions of his country alike reduced; but, if he properly understood his own interests, he might augment his revenue by diminishing the price, which, it is but reasonable to suppose, would increase the demand.

Effects of a new route on the manufactures of the towns on the Indus.

If we ourselves copy the manufactures of Tatta, Mooltan, and Bhawulpoor, as we did the chintses of India, we may supersede the lingering remnants of trade in these cities, since we shall be able, with our machinery, to undersell their merchandise; for there is nothing in them that an European would find it difficult to imitate;[405] but, as I have before observed, we should confine our views to Western Asia. I do not touch upon the policy of supplanting still further the trade of India; but I am certain that, in the present instance, disappointment would follow the speculation, for the consumption of loongees, and silks, which form the apparel of the higher orders, is far less than that of chintses. A trade of ten lacs of rupees in that article has, I am credibly informed, been driven for some years past from Bombay alone to the northern parts of India. With silks it would, I am persuaded, never rise to thousands. I do not, of course, include brocade, which is at present imported.

European articles for which an increased demand might be looked for. Metals, woollens, &c.

There are means of improving our exports to the Punjab, if shipped by the Indus. It has been seen that the country is without copper, brass, tin, lead; all of which are bulky articles, difficult of transport by land, and which could be imported with profit. Wrought iron might also be introduced: locks, keys, padlocks, bolts, screws, hinges, and such dead weight have now a steady sale, and are imported by land. But the great desideratum of this country is woollens; and, in a climate where the cold is greater than in other parts of India, they become an object to the people. Their consumption is considerable, and it is vastly increased by the large standing army, which Runjeet Sing entertains and clothes[406] in them. In the time of Timour Shah, the Company’s factory in Sinde yielded a profit of five lacs of rupees, chiefly from the sale of woollens, which were sent up the Indus, or by its banks to Cabool, for the use of that King’s army. It is very immaterial to trade, whether the armed body occupies the east or west bank of the Indus; and, though Timour Shah and his successors have ceased to rule, Runjeet Sing governs in the zenith of his power. I must observe, however, that M. Allard, the general of Runjeet Sing’s regular cavalry, informed me that he could clothe his troops in English woollens at Umritsir, in the Punjab, cheaper than at Hansee and the British provinces on the frontier, where he had tried the experiment. This is to be accounted for by the reluctance of the merchants to open the bales before reaching the commercial mart. There is a taste among the people of the Punjab for woollens; and, though less than exists in the colder countries across the Indus, it could no doubt be improved by cheapening the articles, which would follow on a water communication.


With regard to the cottons of the Punjab, I entertain doubts of any decrease in the price of British goods (which a more facile line of commerce might effect) supplanting the existing manufactures: they are generally of a coarser texture than the European article; and in a cold[407] country this accords with the inclinations of the people, and will induce them to adhere to their own fabrics. Chintses. The case was otherwise with chintses, which pleased from their variety of patterns, and were, in other respects, a close imitation of their own: their introduction involved at once a complete revolution in the manufactures of the country. The chints of Mooltan was formerly exported to Persia; but, in its competition with the British article, the manufacture has almost ceased. The European article, when first introduced, about twelve years ago, was sold for four rupees per yard, and may be now had for as many annas, or one sixteenth of its original value. The Mooltan manufacturers, being unable to reduce their prices to so low a standard, find little sale for their goods with so formidable a rival. Chintses have, however, decreased in the demand; and the reason is obvious: they have ceased to be a rarity, and the fashion has changed; for it is a mistake to believe that the customs of the Indians are unalterable, like the laws of the Medes and Persians.

Jewellery, cutlery, and finer European articles.

For the finer articles of European manufacture, such as watches, cutlery, jewellery, China ware, glass, &c., the natives of the Punjab have no taste beyond the precincts of the court, and there the demand is exceedingly limited. Pearls and pre[408]cious stones are already imported from India by a safe route, and much prized; for the more opulent natives give no encouragement to the minor manufactures of Birmingham and Sheffield, which too often compose an investment to this country. With a settled government, Runjeet Sing has introduced among his chiefs and subjects a taste for fine clothes: but the artizans of his own country supply these in abundance. In this respect his court is, perhaps, unequalled in the East; yet this prince and his courtiers are strangers to most of the elegancies and comforts of civilised life: nor could such a taste be hoped for from an illiterate people, whose habits of life, at a late period, were those of a predatory horde. Many of the chiefs have, within these few years, built costly mansions; but they are yet unacquainted with the necessity or advantage of furniture, or with the convenience of glass windows. A few of the Seik Sirdars exhibit the penchant of an epicure for savoury and preserved food, such as hams, &c.; but, though wonderfully relieved from prejudice, no outlet can be looked for in this quarter, as in India, to the hermetically sealed dainties of Europe. Ardent spirits would be brought to a better market; but the Punjabees still prefer the pungent fiery drink of their own soil.

Depôt for a water commerce.

In opening a water communication to the[409] countries at the head of the Indus, it would not appear that any advantages arose from navigating the great river higher than Dera Ghazee Khan, or the streams of the Punjab above Mooltan, and, perhaps, Lodiana. The exports for Central Asia might be landed at Bukkur, which may be considered the port of Shikarpoor; a town which has extensive connections with all parts of Asia, and is situated on the plains below the Bolan pass, the great defile through the Sooliman mountains. If we found it advisable to transport them higher up to Leia, they would meet at the Kaheree ferry, the stream of commerce as it at present flows from Pallee, Becaneer, and Mooltan, which would involve a virtual annihilation of that trade. Though the passage from Attok downwards is perfectly open, and fruit is annually sent by the Indus to Shikarpoor, the difficulties of navigation increase above Karabagh, from the rapidity of the current that flows through mountains, and there are no solid benefits to be reaped from the risk. The Punjab trader, on the other hand, would effect his objects when he had reached Mooltan; for the Chenab and Jelum, both of which are navigable rivers, and the former a very noble one, lead to no mart beyond that city. The tortuous course of the Ravee, on which Lahore stands, with its inferiority to all the other streams in depth and size,[410] will ever prevent its becoming a line of traffic, and the more so, since the trade of the capital is limited, and the great commercial city of Umritsir can be approached within a distance of thirty miles by the course of the Sutledge. I cannot doubt that this latter river will be found navigable from Ooch to Hurreeke, where it is 275 yards wide, and joined by the Beas; after which it is said to have a medial depth of twelve feet, and is never fordable. With but little difficulty it might be ascended as high as Lodiana by the boats of the country, and thus connect our communication between the sea and the most remote position of our Indian empire. It is to be regretted that we have no proper report of the capabilities of the Sutledge from Lodiana to its confluence with the Chenab at Ooch; but the facts which I have recorded, and I cannot doubt them, excite the greatest hopes that it will be found navigable throughout, and present no physical obstacles to commerce.[39] A mercantile capital of considerable consequence, the city of Bhawulpoor, fortunately stands on the banks of this river, towards the embouchure. The Sutledge, in this part of its course, traverses a barren and[411] ill-protected country; and, though risks would be incurred at the outset, this and other disadvantages would probably disappear in the course of time.

Political condition of the countries.

An extensive commerce can only exist where a liberal protection is extended to the merchant and his property. In Sinde ample securities will be required before the trader embarks his capital; but beyond its limits the Punjab offers a safer route. The lawless tribes in the Derajat, between Attok and Mittun, owe allegiance to no sovereign; but they are, comparatively speaking, beyond the channels of commerce. Though Runjeet Sing has tranquillised the countries eastward of the Indus, he has not failed to exact the most excessive duties, which injures the trade. Since the Indus and its tributary rivers lie beyond the territories of British India, it might be supposed that the want of a tribunal for the adjustment of differences and disputes would prove hurtful to an infant commerce; but, with all the rectitude that characterises the public servants of the Company, and the enlightened intentions of the Government, it is very questionable, if our system of jurisprudence has not increased dishonesty and deceit among the mercantile community; while, unaided by facilities to complain, the traders of India, particularly under native governments, preserve[412] an honesty in their transactions, and repose a confidence in each other, which is fast disappearing from our own territories. With an extension of our trade in this quarter, we shall require no advancement of our position; and if war follows in the train of commerce, we shall then have the double satisfaction of protecting our trade and our frontier.



Commerce of Cabool.

The commerce of Cabool has undergone a great alteration, from political causes, since the year 1809, when this country was visited by a British mission. In the time of the monarchy, the trade with India was considerable, and our commercial factory in Sinde, for a long time, was principally supported by the demand from Afghanistan. The abolition of that establishment led the merchants of Cabool to seek their supply in the bazars of India; and though the monarchy has ceased to exist, yet the body of the people has acquired a taste for European manufactures quite unprecedented. I have stated that the wealth of Cabool is now to be found eastward of the Indus; but the dismemberment of this once extensive kingdom into a variety of small chiefships has not proved prejudicial to the interests of commerce. The wealth of the state is now subdivided, and we have four or five different courts, instead of one, of overgrown magnitude, which, in so poor a country as Cabool, has a very material influence on the market. But this is no speculative view of the subject; for the[414] collections and town duties of the city of Cabool have greatly increased since the exile of the kings, and risen one fourth within the last six years, without any additional imposts being levied. Not only has the consumption of British and Indian manufactures been augmented in the country itself, but the transit trade to Toorkistan has at the same time increased it.

Routes of commerce to Afghanistan.

The merchandise of Britain, which is sent into these countries, is landed in India, either at Calcutta or Bombay. I am given to understand that the greater supply is derived from Bombay. The caravans from both these places concentrate in Cabool, which they reach by three principal routes. 1. The merchants from Bengal take the route of the Ganges, Delhi, Hansee, Bhawulpoor, Mooltan, and cross the Indus at the ferry of Kaheree, above the latitude of 31° north. From this they proceed to the Golairee pass and Goomul River to Ghuzni and Cabool. 2. Those from Bombay proceed by Guzerat to Pallee, in Marwar; from whence they cross the desert to Beecaneer, and join the above route at Bhawulpoor. 3. A portion of the merchandise from Bombay is shipped for Sonmeeanee or Curachee, in Sinde; from which they reach Candahar in eighteen marches, and proceed thence to Ghuzni and Cabool. Such part of these goods as is not sold in the country, or intended for[415] the Bokhara market, is sent to Herat. The route through Sinde to Shikarpoor is little frequented, from fear of the Kakers. It will be observed in this enumeration, that the great road between India and Persia, from Delhi, by Lahore, Attok, and Peshawur, to Cabool, is deserted: this arises from heavier duties being levied by the ruler of the Punjab than by his neighbours. Such goods as are exported from Umritsir, which is the mart of the Punjab trade, cross the Hydaspes (Jelum) at Jung, and join the other routes at Kaheree. It is, therefore, a singular fact, that the city of Peshawur, which lies on the very eastern frontier of Afghanistan, is supplied with European and Indian articles, from Cabool, to the westward. The merchants can bring them cheaper to market by this circuitous route, and therefore prefer it; which, in part, accounts for the increased amount of the receipts in Cabool.

Carriers of the trade.

The principal carriers of this trade between India and Cabool, are the Lohanees, a pastoral tribe of Afghans, who occupy the country eastward from Ghuzni to the Indus. Many of these are men of great opulence, and proceed in person to make their purchases in the Indian markets. Their families and flocks repair, in due season, to meet them on the banks of the river, and their merchandise is conveyed on their own[416] camels, by easy marches, to Ghuzni. The intervening country is mountainous, and the roads are stony and difficult; but the territory is their native soil, and they are free from the imposts and duties that obstruct commerce. The caravan reaches Cabool about the beginning of June; here the Lohanees dispose of their goods, and prosecute their journey to Bokhara. In return for the merchandise which is sold in Cabool, these traders export horses, the madder of Ghuzni and Candahar, as well as a great quantity of fruit, both fresh and dried. With these they repair to the banks of the Indus, where their camels are retained till the arrival of the caravan of the ensuing season.

Imports to Cabool.

It is a trite remark of the natives in these countries, that the exports of India are but grass, and her returns are gold. These are indigo, cotton, and sugar, the chief imports of Cabool. The goods consist of white cloths of all kinds, calicoes, and muslins; also chintses of European manufacture; shawls, brocades, Dacca muslins, Punjab turbans, spices, &c.: about a thousand camel-loads of these are now consumed yearly in Cabool. Previous to the year 1816, this country was supplied with many articles from Russia; but the chints trade, which is to be dated from that time, has effected a material change. The manufactures of Eu[417]rope have since flowed from India with increased volume on this part of Asia. It has been believed, and not erroneously, that the cloths of Russia not only found their way to Bokhara, but to the countries southward of Hindoo Koosh, and were distributed through the provinces of Cabool; but a commercial revolution, almost unobserved, has gradually changed the channels of commerce. It would be difficult, in the most civilised kingdom of Asia, to furnish the authentic data, which are so necessary to our European notions for the establishment of such an important point; but the inward Custom-house receipts prove it. To the justice and equity of Dost Mahommed Khan, the chief of Cabool, we must mainly attribute a change so beneficial to Britain. Once effected, the fabrics of Russia have failed to vie with our own, and an outlet for our exports, which we owe to the wisdom of a chief, has been improved by the superiority of the exports themselves. The only cloths now received from Russia are nankeen and broad chints, of a description which are not manufactured in Britain.

Dispositions of the Cabool chiefs in regard to commerce.

The chiefs of Peshawur and Candahar do not extend to commerce that encouragement which so distinguishes their brother at Cabool; but their conduct in this respect is of less conse[418]quence, as they have less power and influence: and the great road to Toorkistan passes through the country under Cabool. The shawl trade from Cashmere to Persia has been driven into other routes by the exactions of the Candahar chief. These goods are now either sent by way of Bombay and Bushire, or the circuitous route of Cabool, Bokhara, and the Caspian. I am persuaded that these exactions at Candahar arise from ignorance, for the chief is well disposed to the British Government; and he must be aware of the fact, that all the Bokhara merchants choose the route of Cabool, to his detriment. It is otherwise with the Peshawur chief, who is overawed by the Seiks, and can only secure his existence by oppression. His capital, which stands on the high road from India to Tartary, has ceased to be an entrepôt of trade, owing to his own exactions, as well as his disturbances with the Seiks. The only merchandise imported into Peshawur is consumed in the city; and, as I have before said, much of it is brought by way of Cabool. No merchant can afford to transport his goods through the territories of the Punjab to Peshawur; and the Khyber pass between that city and Cabool is unsafe. A tax of sixty rupees is levied on each horse between Peshawur and Lahore, which has almost suppressed that[419] trade. Peshawur has no manufactures peculiar to itself, but a course kind of cotton loongee, which is exported through Tartary and the whole of Afghanistan. European goods are sold in its bazars, but the demand is limited. The better orders of people wear them; and chints dresses and muslin turbans are common. They also wear Russian nankeens and velvets, and Indian silks. The lower classes dress in the cloths of the country. The whole revenues of the city of Peshawur do not amount to 30,000 rupees a year.

Remarks on improving the trade of Cabool.

The trade to Bokhara or Toorkistan is so intimately connected with that of Cabool, that it is necessary to state the information which I have gathered on that subject before I offer any conclusion on this commerce. That it can be improved and extended, I feel most fully satisfied, since those who shared it with us have been driven from the field within these few years, and the import of Indian chints has nearly ceased. The duties of Cabool are also moderate, not exceeding 2½ per cent. It occurs to me that the establishment of fairs or bazars, in imitation of the Russians, is the best means which we can follow towards the accomplishment of so desirable an end as the extension of British commerce westward of the Indus. The Cabool merchants began to frequent these[420] annual assemblages in Russia within the last fifteen years; and at present make extensive sales and purchases. They have been so much encouraged by the emperor, that the greater part of the Russian trade to Bokhara has fallen into their hands; of which the Uzbeks complain bitterly. I mention the fact, to show that these institutions might be introduced with the greatest advantage on the frontier of our Indian empire, which immediately adjoins that of Cabool. It may be seen that they have attracted merchants to a distant country, who would more readily embark their capital in speculations nearer home, if they had an opportunity. This would diminish their risks, and, in all probability, increase the demand, and, consequently, the exports of British manufactures to Afghanistan. It would at the same time counteract the intrigues and designs of the great power I have named. No men are more deserving of encouragement than the Lohanee merchants of Cabool: they are an enterprising race, who may be often met in the upper parts of India. In returning to their own country, they speak of little civilities, which are sometimes shown them, with a gratitude that proves how sensibly they would appreciate the more substantial favours of a liberal government. An introduction to the authorities in India, and a few presents[421] of the most trifling description, would be to them a strong manifestation of the good feelings of our government. It would also show them that it took an interest in their welfare, and that it was not our desire to transfer the trade of British goods into the hands of British merchants, which is universally believed by these people. In my interviews with them, I have often had to combat such an opinion, which I did, by assuring them that it was an increase of the national exports which we desired, and not an enrichment of any individual set of men. Perhaps the most material service which can be rendered to these people is, the removal of grievances in the Custom-house (to which I shall hereafter allude), that have been generally felt in these countries. That they only require to be known to be redressed, is, I am sure, most certain.



Progress of the commerce between Asia and Europe.

The commercial intercourse which has subsisted between Europe and the nations of Central Asia and India is of high antiquity: it flourished under the Greek monarchs of Bactria, the successors of Alexander, and is mentioned by Pliny, and earlier writers. The inroads of the Caliphs appear to have obliterated for a time the traces of this extensive commerce; but the inhabitants of modern Russia imported, during the tenth century, the riches and aromatics of the East into the “great Novogorod.” The opening of a passage to India by the Cape of Good Hope, in the fifteenth century, effected an eventful change in the channels of ancient commerce; but the fruits of that discovery continued for a long time in the hands of the Portuguese. In the middle of the following century, while that nation were reaping the advantages of this new line of trade, the English sent merchants and ambassadors to seek for other[423] outlets of commerce, among the nations on the Caspian and eastward of that sea. These expeditions were productive of no salutary consequences, as we learn from the quaint and amusing accounts of Anthony Jenkinson, and those who followed him. “Cloth they will buy none,” says that traveller, in his Journey to Bokhara; “and there is little utterance, and little profit.”

Particular revival of commerce by the Russians.

The attempt to establish a commerce between Europe and these countries, in particular with Bokhara, at this time abortive, was not such as to discourage all future endeavours. The kingdom of Bokhara, though of secondary importance, politically considered, holds a far higher position in the commercial world. Fruitful in the productions of the earth, where all around is desolation, it lies between Europe and Asia, and is a central mart, where the merchant may exchange with advantage the productions of China, Persia, India, and Cabool. The proximity of the eastern parts of Europe pointed to it as an outlet for its commodities, since it appeared to lie beyond the influence of the line of maritime trade with India. But these advantages were only to be enjoyed by the nation that adjoined its territories; and, if the expeditions of the English were unsuccessful, the Russians, who enjoyed more favourable[424] opportunities, succeeded, though at a much later period—about the middle of the eighteenth century. It was the design of Peter the Great of Russia to form a commercial communication between the Caspian Sea and the banks of the Oxus; but he was frustrated by the foulest perfidy. He succeeded, nevertheless, in opening the roads from the southern frontier of Asiatic Russia, eastward of the Caspian and Aral; and, for a period of about eighty years, they have been annually travelled by the caravans of Bokhara. I will not assert that, in this line of commerce, we have a revival of the exact channels of ancient trade; but a comparatively safe and easy communication has assuredly been opened between Asia and Europe.

British Indian trade established.

While the bazars of Bokhara have been supplied by the over-land route from Russia, the merchant of India, who formerly resorted to them with the productions of his native soil, has likewise introduced the fabrics of Britain. The commerce of the English has been thus widely extended, and the Russian merchant discovers a formidable rival in the diminution of his trade. It is a curious reflection, that the manufactures of Europe should reach the central parts of Asia by a retrograde route, after they have half circumnavigated the globe, and that the opening of commerce between Britain and these coun[425]tries, which had failed by the direct road of Europe, should be now firmly established from an opposite direction. The subject is curious and important; and it is the design of this paper to follow up that trade through its course, and to give such particulars concerning the general commerce of these countries as appear interesting, as well as to delineate the lines of communication by which it is conveyed. The flourishing condition of this trade will then enable me to speak of the means of improving our exports, and to state my hopes and reasons for believing that these may be further increased, to the great benefit of our commercial country.

Modern alterations, and routes of commerce.

Till within these twelve or fourteen years, the trade in European fabrics to Toorkistan, which includes Bokhara and the regions north of the Oxus, was principally confined to the Russians, who exported their goods into these countries from Orenburg and Troitskai; but it is now carried on more extensively through India and Cabool. There are four great lines of route between Russia and Bokhara, by which the commercial intercourse is carried on: the first of these leads from Astracan, across the Caspian, to Mungusluck, and thence to Orgunje and Bokhara, and may be voyaged and travelled in thirty days. The next begins at Orenburg, and passes between the Aral and Caspian Seas,[426] to Orgunje and Bokhara, and is a journey of sixty days. The third commences at Troitskai, in Asiatic Russia, and, crossing the “Dusht-i-Kipchak,” or desert of Kipchak, passes eastward of the Aral, and across the Sirr or Jaxartes, near its mouth, to Bokhara. A caravan may march it in forty-eight days. The fourth and last commences at Kuzzul-jur, or, as it is also called, Petropolosk, on the Issim, considerably to the eastward of Troitskai, and leads down upon Bokhara by a south-west direction, passing through Tashkend. This is a journey of ninety days. A commercial intercourse is carried on between Toorkistan and the empire of Russia by all these routes; but that by Orenburg and Orgunje (Khiva) is the safest and most frequented. The great yearly caravan, which sets out from Bokhara in June, takes that route; and the portion of it intended for Astracan diverges to Mungusluck, on the Caspian. The stragglers of the year, and about two hundred camels of the less valuable merchandise, proceed to Troitskai, and march in August. The “Dusht-i-Kipchak,” which the whole of these routes traverse, is a flat and dreary country, without fixed inhabitants; and the traveller provides himself with the necessaries of subsistence, before he sets out on his journey. But this tract is not destitute of[427] forage, fuel, or water; and its inhabitants, the Kirgizzes and Kuzzaks, wander over it with their flocks and herds in search of pasture. They are possessed of numerous herds of camels, of the strongest and most robust breed: these are the two-humped, or Bactrian camel. One of them will carry 640 lbs. English, which surpasses by 150 lbs. the burdens of those of India and Cabool. The caravan is entrusted to these shepherds; the merchandise is committed to their charge, and they are followed by their families in the journey. There is no road, and no guide but the stars of heaven; and the camels, in a line of fifteen and twenty abreast, in a slow but steady pace, only advance during night.

Negotiations of Russia regarding its commerce.

In the year 1819, the government of Russia despatched M. Mouravief on a mission to Orgunje, with the view of effecting a change in the established line of commerce: they desired to bring it at once to the Bay of Krasnovodsk, on the Caspian, which is a much nearer route, and where the merchandise could be shipped for Astracan with the same facilities as at Mungusluck. The Khan of Orgunje objected to the arrangement, and the negotiation failed. In the following year another mission was despatched to Bokhara, by the way of Troitskai and the east bank of the Aral, under M. Negri, which had[428] also in view an improvement of the commercial communications between the two countries. The road was found practicable; and, on the return of the mission, a caravan of merchants, protected by a party of five hundred soldiers and two field-pieces, was despatched in due course to Bokhara. This attempt on the part of Russia also failed, for the chief of Orgunje took umbrage at a measure which turned the traffic from his own territories. He sent his army to the embouchure of the Sirr to obstruct the advance of the caravan, and, if possible, to plunder it. The detachment, taking up a position on a hillock, defended itself with great bravery, and succeeded in scaring off some thousand horse; but they only extricated themselves from the dilemma by burning the merchandise, and precipitately returning to Russia; for their provisions were exhausted. No attempt has been since made to avoid the territories of Orgunje; nor are the duties levied by the Khan of that state immoderate or unreasonable. It may be supposed that the government of Russia has taken offence at the conduct of this chief, and is not wanting in a desire to chastise his obstinacy. There is now no intercourse of a friendly nature between the countries, though the pertinacious chief of Orgunje is dead, and has been succeeded by his son. Russia has not entirely trusted to negotiations for the further[429] extension of her commercial influence. Numerous fairs are annually held on the southern frontiers of the empire: that called by the Asiatics Mucrea (St. Macaire), on the banks of the Volga, is the most considerable: it commences in August, and lasts forty days. The merchants who carry on the trade of Central Asia make the most part of their sales and purchases at this market; and even Hindoos are found at St. Macaire.

Exports from India and Russia to Bokhara.

The imports of Bokhara from India are the same as those of Cabool. About two thousand camel-loads of these goods reach Cabool yearly, and one half of the quantity is passed on to Toorkistan. The exports of Russia are sent from Orenburg and Troitskai, across the desert, to Bokhara. They consist of white cloths, muslins, chintses, and broad cloth, both of English and Russian manufacture; of imitation brocade (kimcob) velvet, with nankeen and gold thread; all of home manufacture; also furs, cochineal (kirmiz), locks, iron pots, iron, brass, and copper; wires, leather, paper, needles, inferior cutlery and jewellery, hardware, refined white sugar, honey, and a variety of other small articles. Much of the returns from Russia are made in specie, such as ducats and venetians. The annual caravan, which arrives at Bokhara, consists of about thirteen hundred camels, and leaves Russia in January. It will be seen that there[430] is a large portion of the Russian exports that encounter no opposition at Bokhara from the Indian trade; and I am credibly informed, by respectable merchants, that three fourths of those articles, which are alike imported from both countries, are of British manufacture. Where two streams of commerce meet from opposite quarters, the prices of the one must be lowered, and approximate to the standard of the other, whatever may have been their original cost, or the expense of transport. The sale of British goods is discouraged in Russia, and their transit is impeded by heavy duties; still they find their way to Bokhara, and are there sold with profit. There are some articles, such as broad cloth and velvets, which only reach that country from Russia, though of British fabric.

Prices of merchandise.

The prices of merchandise, both British and Russian, when exposed in the bazars of Bokhara, will illustrate the relative value of the commodities, and exhibit, at the same time, the profit which is to be derived by their export. I give the prices in gold tillas of Bokhara, each of which is equal to six and a half Sicca rupees, or about thirteen shillings.


Goods from Russia. Tillas. English Goods from Cabool. Tillas.
Broad piece of Russian chints, 23 yards 8 None such imported.
Second best ditto, ditto 5 None such imported.
A piece of Russian chints Ditto, ditto, English
Second sort, less flowered Ditto, ditto
Coarsest chints Ditto, ditto
Flowered muslins, 20 pieces for 18 Flowered English muslin jamdanes, 20 pieces 22
Finest Russian muslin, gold border, per piece 3 to 4 English muslin
Long cloth, piece of 10 yards, 20 pieces 15 Ditto, ditto, English, per 20 pieces 18
None such imported Long cloth, piece of 40 yards, per piece 3 to 3½
Finest English broad cloth, 2¼ yards 5 None such imported.

A profit of fifty per cent. is not unfrequently derived by the merchants on English chints: one merchant realised it while I was in Bokhara.

European goods. Chintses.

It will be seen that the British chintses sell more profitably than those of Russia; but that there are goods of a description from that country which do not appear to be manufactured in Britain. These chintses are of Polish or German manufacture: they are broader, and more highly coloured; they look like flowered velvet, and are much prized, both in Bokhara and Cabool.[432] A knowledge of the pattern would also throw this into the hands of our merchants. It is broader than common chints, striped and exquisitely coloured: very coarse chintses should not be exported to Bokhara, as there is a native manufacture of that kind. It is about a foot broad, and striped: five pieces of sixteen yards each may be purchased for a tilla. About two hundred camel-loads of this commodity are annually exported to Russia, where the nobles employ it in clothing their slaves. Though the sale price of chintses be much diminished in Bokhara, a profit of thirty and forty per cent. is yet realised.

White goods.

Of the white goods which are imported into Bokhara, the Russian muslins are better, and bear a higher price than those of Britain; but they are in less demand. All other Russian goods are inferior in texture, and none of them now find their way south of the Oxus. There are about one thousand pieces of long cloth, three fourths of which are short webs, expended yearly in Bokhara, and as many pieces of flowered muslin (jamdanes.)

Broad cloth.

The broad cloths of England are never brought from India to Bokhara: they are imported from Russia; and such is the present state of this trade, that a most intelligent merchant of Ca[433]bool, whom I met at Bokhara, was thinking of taking an investment of it to Lodiana in India, where he could afford to sell it cheaper than it is to be had there, notwithstanding the length of the journey! The finest English broad cloth, which sells in India for twenty-two rupees a yard, may be purchased for fifteen in Bokhara; but the merchants who bring it from Russia say they are losers by it. It is much more prized than the broad cloth manufactured in Russia, from its retaining its colour, and lasting better; and, if the price could be reduced so as to meet the means of the natives, it would soon supplant the other article. Velvets. Velvet is brought into Bokhara from Russia: it is flowered cotton velvet, and about two feet broad. There is a demand for it, and it is not imported from India. The Russians have imitated, with much success, the brocades of India, and export great quantities of what is called “false brocade” to Bokhara: it looks nearly as well as that of Benares, and sells for half the price: it is wove in narrow webs. There is nothing to prevent the successful fabric of this article in Britain. Nankeens. The staple commodity of Russian manufacture exported to this country is nankeen: it is seldom of a white colour, for they have imitated the[434] patterns of this country, which are striped and dark. The article sells for 1½ tillas per piece of forty yards: it is in general use among the people for their pelisses, or “chupkuns.” I had at first imagined that it was a Chinese import; but it is brought by the Russian caravans, and sent as far as Cabool, and even India. I have seen it at Lahore. One of the most important articles of import from Russia is kirmiz die, or cochineal: it is used to die raw silk. Kirmiz die. Cochineal. Till lately, it was sent in great quantities from Bokhara to India and Cabool: but the article has been brought from the seaports of India to the Punjab; and the trade in kirmiz, like that in cloths, declines yearly, and will shortly be confined to Bokhara. It now sells there for eight or nine tillas a maund of Tabreez, which is equal to seven lbs. English, and it may be had cheaper than this at Cabool. It is an article which may be exported from India to Cabool with advantage. I bear an impression that the kirmiz, or cochineal, may be procured in Bokhara; but no one knows how to prepare it.

Indian goods.

The demand for Indian goods in Bokhara is steady. Muslins. Dacca muslins of the larger sort sell for twenty tillas per score, the smaller being half the price. There are about five hundred pieces of Benares brocade (kincob), imported yearly: that from Guzerat is too expensive. The whole[435] of the natives of Bokhara and Toorkistan wear turbans of white cloth which are imported from the Punjab: they are about thirty yards long and a foot broad, and sell for a tilla each. They are in universal use among both sexes, and might be manufactured in Europe, and sent with advantage into Toorkistan. Shawls. The shawl trade is only one of transit: it is not considerable. Two lacs of rupees worth of shawl goods have passed to Russia within the last year (1832). There is never more than double this sum risked in the trade. The number of pairs of shawls varies from one hundred and twenty, to three hundred; but they must be of the finest texture, since none others will bring a price in Russia. Several natives of the valley of Cashmere, have from time to time repaired to Russia; and the shawl fine-drawers, or “rufoogurs,” sometimes alter the patterns of the shawl to suit the taste of the purchasers, who, by all accounts, are not a little fastidious. The passion for shawls among the Russian nobles is great, and will account for the exorbitant prices given for them, to which I have before alluded. Indigo. The greatest import from India is indigo, which averages five hundred camel-loads a year. A portion of it is again exported to Yarkund, in the Chinese territories; where, though the plant is found, they are ignorant of the means of preparing it.[436] The sugar of India is also brought into Toorkistan, for the cane does not grow in Bokhara. Sugar. The China sugar, brought by way of Bombay, will not bear the expense of a journey beyond Cabool; nor can the Chinese themselves send it further than Yarkund, for the same reason. This coarse sugar has not a very great sale, for the richer people use the refined loaf-sugar of Russia; and the poorer classes employ the “turunjbeen,” a saccharine substance, gathered like manna, which is found in this country, and which I have mentioned in the account of Bokhara.

Trade with China.

Besides the Russian and British Indian trade, Bokhara carries on an extensive and direct commercial intercourse with the Chinese garrisons of Cashgar and Yarkund. A coarse kind of China ware, musk, and bullion, are received from that quarter, but the chief import consists of tea; and the extent of the trade, as well as the remoteness of the tracts by which it is brought, equally arrest our attention. The inhabitants of Toorkistan are inordinately fond of that beverage, which they drink at all hours; nine hundred and fifty horse-loads of tea, or about 200,000lbs., have been this year brought from Yarkund to Bokhara. The greatest part of this quantity is consumed in Toorkistan; but little of it finds its way south of the Hindoo Koosh. The trade is carried on by the natives of Budukhshan. These[437] merchants praise the equity of the Chinese, and the facilities of transacting matters of commerce with them. They levy a duty of one in thirty on all traders, which is very moderate. The tea is brought from the central provinces of China in boxes, by a tedious journey of many months. It is transferred to bags, and then sewed up in raw hides, as the boxes would not stand the journey. A horse-load of 250lbs. costs sixty tillas in Yarkund, and sometimes sells for a hundred in Bokhara: it is entirely green tea. The best tea found in Toorkistan is imported overland from a place called Tukht, in China, situated on the banks of a river, and sent by way of Astracan, in small tin or lead boxes. It goes by the name of “banca” tea, I believe from the tin in which it is packed: it sells for four rupees the pound, and is very high-flavoured. This tea is superior to any which I ever saw in England; and I have been informed that it retains its flavour from never having been subjected to the close atmosphere in a ship’s hold or the sea air. The Yarkund caravans cross the high lands of Pamere, and follow the valley of the Oxus to Budukhshan, Balkh, and Bokhara. The road is unsafe, and in many places dangerous, from overhanging cliffs. An earthquake, which occurred in January, 1832, threw down several of these, and[438] also destroyed many villages and people in Budukhshan. The traveller likewise experiences a difficulty of breathing in crossing the Pamere ridge; and the caravans are sometimes attacked by the wandering Kirgizzes. Obstacles both natural and political endanger the path of the traveller and merchant. There is another and better route from Yarkund to Bokhara by the valley of the Sirr, or ancient Jaxartes, and Kokan, but less frequented than that by Budukhshan, from differences which exist between the Khan of Kokan and the Chinese. The Kokan route may be travelled by a caravan in forty-five days; and, as far as that town, the merchandise is conveyed from Bokhara in carts. The route by Budukhshan is more circuitous, and occupies a period of sixty-five days. At Khooloom, which is a mart between Yarkund, Bokhara, and Cabool, the ponies are exchanged for camels, and the load of two horses is borne by one camel to Bokhara. Trade with Persia. The Persian trade is inconsiderable, from the unsettled state of the roads, and the hatred which subsists between the people, who differ in their religious tenets. The shawls of Kerman form the principal article of import. Opium has also found its way from Persia to Bokhara, and is again exported to Yarkund and Cashgar, in China, where the same demand exists for it as on the sea-coast. In Bokhara it is sold for five[439] tillas per maund of Tabreez.[40] These articles, as well as others of inferior note, are despatched by the route of Meshid, in Khorasan.

Exports of Bokhara to other countries. Silk.

I shall next notice the exports of Bokhara; and these are far from inconsiderable, since it has silk, cotton, and wool. The silk of Bokhara is chiefly produced on the banks of the Oxus, where the mulberry thrives luxuriantly; and nearly all the Toorkmuns are engaged in rearing silk-worms during the months of summer. It is exported in considerable quantities to Cabool, and even finds its way to India. At Bokhara it varies in price from nine to ten tillas for eight English lbs. The silk is wound and manufactured at Bokhara into a stuff called “udrus,” of a mottled colour,—red, white, green, and yellow,—which is the fashionable and most expensive kind of dress in Toorkistan. It sells from one half to one and a half tillas per piece of eight yards long and a foot broad. It is woven by the Mervees, now settled in Bokhara; but is not exported. Cotton. There are likewise extensive cotton manufactures in Bokhara. I have mentioned the coarse chints which it exports to Russia; but most of the people dress in the native manufactures. There are dark and striped coarse cloths of different hues, of which a pelisse, or “chogha,” may be purchased for half a tilla. I do not suppose they[440] would be worth imitating in Europe. The cotton thread of Bokhara seems to be in as much demand as that of Britain: it is exported in quantities to Russia, and much of the raw material is sent to Balkh, Khooloom, and Koondooz. Wool. The wool (pushm) of Toorkistan is sent across the mountains to Cabool and the Punjab, where it is manufactured into a coarse kind of shawl. It sells from six and a half to eight tillas per maund of Bokhara, which is equal to 256 lbs. English. A few years since it sold for double the price; but the articles manufactured from it have been found inferior, and the sale of the wool has declined. It is procured from among the Kuzzaks and wandering tribes about Bokhara, who were long ignorant of its value, and yet use it in the common ropes by which they bind their horses and cattle. Skins. The lamb skins of Bokhara are celebrated in the East: they are only procured at Karakool, a small district that lies between Bokhara and the Oxus. They are exported to Persia, Turkey, and China, but chiefly to the former country; the merchants of which purchase them for ready money, being afraid to risk a commercial investment across the desert. It is not possible to negociate a bill between Meshid and Bokhara.

Duties on trade.

The duties demanded on European goods at Bokhara are most moderate. They are levied[441] according to the Koran, and are fixed at one fortieth of the capital, or 2½ per cent. A merchant who was not a Mahommedan would have to pay higher duties; a Christian so much as 20 per cent.; a Hindoo 10 per cent., since the law so enacts it; but the greater part of this trade must ever be carried on by Mahommedans. The same principles guide the authorities in Cabool, though the chiefs eastward of the Lower Indus are more extravagant in their demands. Trade, however, is not obstructed by their exactions; while the upper routes, through the Punjab, are nearly closed on that account. Besides the regular customs, there is a transit duty levied in several places between the Indus and Bokhara; and some increased disbursements arise from the hire of escorts through troubled parts of the route. The merchants do not consider them exorbitant, and complain much more loudly of the rapacity and malpractices of the subordinate native officers of revenue in the British provinces. Abuses in the British Custom-house. It is stated that these persons, when on duty at the custom-houses, purposely delay the merchants in their journey, though provided with the requisite passes; and that it is impossible to get their goods cleared without bribery. One merchant of Cabool assured me that he had been mulcted, in copper money, for one cart in which he[442] was travelling, without goods, to the amount of eighteen rupees, between Hurdwar and Benares. The mercantile community of Cabool and Bokhara complain of this evil, and feel it the more, as the public duties are considered moderate, and their property is well protected. The Russian government, on the other hand, is free from such corruption, though it levies heavier duties: these have been made the subject of remonstrance on the part of the king of Bokhara, and are now partially reduced.

Russian and British trade compared. Openings for increasing British exports.

When we review the productions of Bokhara, and the apt uses to which they are applied by her native population, we may wonder at the great outlet which exists to our commerce in that quarter; but the demand is steady, and its constancy leads to a belief that it may be improved. There is no country in the Mahommedan world where a merchant is safer, and more free from oppression and exaction, than in Bokhara. If the people are bigoted on account of their religion, they are also bigoted to the injunctions which that religion imposes upon them. The Koran enjoins the most strict protection of the merchant in a variety of passages: nor are these violated or evaded by the ruler of the country. The goods which are imported into Bokhara are again sent to Samarcand, Kokan, and Yarkund, in China; also to Orgunje, and all the[443] little cantons around the capital. Coarse articles are in more request than the finer fabrics, for the Uzbeks are very indifferent judges. We have seen that this market is supplied by two great European nations; but the females of both Cabool and Bokhara prize more highly the manufactures of Britain: and the influence of the ladies is of no mean weight in any country. The chints, while it has almost superseded the demand for shawl goods, has instilled a desire for novelty, and given a general taste for other articles of British import. Russia possesses such an extent of inland navigation, that she can bring the whole of her goods to the confines of Asia by water-carriage; and it is the superiority and cheapness of our manufactures that alone enable us to appear in the contest by the Indian route. We must surrender to her, I imagine, all trade in metals, and other weighty articles made from them; but we may successfully compete with her in our manufactures. To a mercantile country like England, a demand for goods is of the highest moment; and it is to be presumed that increase of demand will generally be attended with a diminution of price, while the increased sale would still bring an adequate profit to the manufacturer. A more extended exportation of British goods into these countries, in particular of white cloths, muslins,[444] and woollens, I am assured by the first merchants, and even by the Vizier of Bokhara, would have the immediate effect of driving the Russians from that branch of commerce. The present exports of these articles from that country have been gradually declining; and the increase of the custom-house duties of Cabool affords the best evidence of the cause—the late increase of our own exports. I have taken pains to investigate this fact in other quarters, and the result of my enquiries leads me to believe, that we may not only throw the Russian part of this trade into the hands of our own merchants, but very materially augment the trade to Toorkistan in the whole of these articles. There are merchants in Cabool who would willingly push speculation still further, though some of them have a capital of eight or ten lacs of rupees floating in the Toorkistan trade. The transport of merchandise by the route of Cabool costs little; and, if Russia navigates the Volga, the greatest of the European rivers, Britain can command like facilities, by two more grand and equally navigable streams, the Ganges and Indus.



State of commerce in Persia.

It is an old and just remark, that the Persians are not a trading nation, and have ever evinced equal timidity in adventures of navigation and commerce. The extent of trade which may be carried on through an inland country must always be limited, as compared with one possessing a sea-coast and harbours. In these Persia is not altogether wanting; but her population neither navigates the sea which washes her southern shores, nor the Caspian, that approaches her capital. The shipping of both is in the hands of foreigners, who have it in their power to lead the taste of the country by the nature of their exports, and to increase their quantity as occasion and opportunity present themselves. Persia is well supplied with goods of European fabric, both Russian and English, which stand much in the same relative estimation in this country as they do in Bokhara. English manufactures are preferred to those of any other nation; and, as the Persians dress well, their country is, perhaps, the best mart for[446] their exportation in Asia. It is nevertheless very remarkable, that the British merchant here encounters a greater share of competition than in most other countries; and I cannot but think that it is greatly owing to the remissness and inattention of the English themselves.

Routes of the commerce, and their advantages.

It is not intended that we should here enter on an account of the general commerce of Persia, nor is the deficiency of our information such as to require any such essay. My own attention has been particularly directed to its northern trade; but we shall be throwing a clearer light upon that subject by sketching the whole of the routes of commerce into the kingdom. The intercourse between Russia and Persia is principally carried on by the ports of the Caspian; but there are also routes both east and west of that sea, by which its commodities reach the country. Meshid, in Khorasan, is supplied with many Russian articles by way of Bokhara. Tabreez and Tehran likewise receive them by way of Teflis and the Caucasus. Till lately, the imports of Britain into this country were conveyed by way of Bushire, which is the only port in the gulf of Persia, since Gombroon or Bunder Abbas, opposite the famous Ormuz, has long ceased to hold its former supremacy. We are informed that English East-Indiamen at one time sailed direct from Europe, and landed[447] their cargoes in this harbour; but the annual amount of customs does not now exceed four thousand ducats. In our own times the exports of Britain have first been sent to India, and then reshipped for Persia by a most circuitous channel. It is with great propriety, therefore, that an endeavour has lately been made to open a road from Trebizond, on the Black Sea, to the northern provinces of Persia. With due care and attention, it cannot fail to become a most valuable opening to Britain, for it brings her goods into those parts of Persia, which are most stored with those that are brought from Russia, and gives a fair opportunity for a just competition with them, since it is equally inconvenient for the Russians to send their goods south of Isfahan, as it was for the English to carry them beyond that city. The trade by Trebizond places the rival powers on a more equal footing: and it will be remarkable if the experience of a very few years does not bear testimony to the greater consumption of British goods in Persia. This route too has great advantages over those from the Levant by Aleppo or Damascus, for both the Euphrates and Tigris traverse inhospitable countries; and there is no safe road into Persia from these cities but by way of Bagdad. At present, the goods which are sent beyond that city are of trifling value, for there is a loss in pushing on the greater and[448] more common articles. The eastern provinces of Persia, about Herat and Meshid, are partly supplied from Candahar, in the kingdom of Cabool, which is a better line of commerce than would generally be believed. A boat may reach the coast of Mekran in ten days from Bombay; and Candahar is but eighteen easy marches from the sea. It is therefore a most valuable position, as the Indian exports which reach it branch eastward into Cabool, and westward into Persia. In this direction, too, there is no competition from any other nation.

Foreign nations which trade with Persia.
Goods introduced.

With the command of position acquired by the English from their possessions in India, it is a matter of surprise that any other nation should be at all able to appear in the gulf of Persia as a trader; yet the case is very different, and many of the imports into Bushire are of foreign manufacture. The Dutch are in the habit of trading with this port, and have lately established a company for the purpose, though their operations have been at no time very active, and are now suspended from fear of the plague. They send indigo, spices, sugar, and coffee of their own produce from Batavia: they export little cloth, and their indigo is inferior to the article produced in India. When the Hollanders do not find a sale for their goods at Bushire, they take them on to Bussora. The[449] French import the same articles as the Dutch from their settlements in Bourbon and the neighbouring islands. But the most formidable rivals are the Americans, who have only entered lately on this trade. At present, they land most of their cargoes in the east coast of Africa, from which they find their way to Muscat and Persia. Hitherto, they have only sent white goods, and with them they have spread an opinion, which was repeated to me by the Armenian merchants of Isfahan, that their cloths are superior to British, because the cotton is produced in their own country, and not injured from pressing. It is said to wear and wash well; and, if this cloth were introduced more extensively, the merchants assure me it would have a good sale: very little of it has been hitherto imported. The chintses of India, which are manufactured at Masulipatam, have a considerable consumption in Persia, and of late years have been preferred to English. There is not sufficient attention given to the brightness and variety of the pattern in England; and the native manufactures of India, though much coarser, retain their hue and brilliancy much longer. The demand for them is, therefore, on the increase, which is the more worthy of notice, as the English chintses for a long time superseded those of India, and are[450] now sold cheaper than those of Masulipatam. We have stated that the Russians introduce their manufactures into Northern Persia; and they also import the fine Polish chints which I met with at Bokhara. There is no similar manufacture of the English to compete with this; which is also in great demand throughout Persia. The English do not, therefore, keep the ground which they might maintain in the chints trade, both from their position and manufacturing skill.

Hints for improving the trade to Persia.

Towards the improvement of the commerce with Persia, there are other points to be considered than the routes which ought to be pursued; but these are of great importance, since a number of outlets must be favourable to an increased sale. While we improve the communication from the west by Trebizond, we should not neglect it by the east from Candahar: that road is safe; but the chief exacts exorbitant and irregular duties, which he might be disposed to reduce on representation, as he professes a friendship for the British nation. It is at the same time practicable to open a better route into Persia, by the river Karoon, a navigable stream west of Bushire, which unites with the Euphrates, or Shat ool Arab, before it falls into the gulf. Goods sent up the Karoon would be thrown at once into the heart of Persia; but it may be doubted if the Persian authorities have either[451] power or inclination to effect any such change: it would require their cordial co-operation, because the country that lies between the Karoon and Isfahan is wild and unsettled. Next to the lines of route, the kind of articles to be imported must be considered. English cloth bears a far higher character in Persia than Russian; but the colour which is in demand depends upon the fashion; and if due attention is not paid to it, a merchant will sustain loss. When I was in Persia, in the end of 1832, the colours most in request were, Oxford blue, blue, and brown, and next year they may change to red and grey; but it may be remarked, that, if dark coloured, they generally sell best. The outer garment of most respectable persons is made of broad cloth; and a cheap kind, that will keep its colour, is the best for export. No high-priced goods of any description should ever be sent into these countries; for property is insecure, and all persons will purchase that which is cheapest, if it be but respectable. The Persians, however, are fond of fine clothes, and will pay a liberal price for them. I remarked, on approaching the sea-coast, that the common people dress better; I presume because the goods are cheaper, or that there is greater temptation to buy them. This is observable in particular at Shiraz. In the case of broad cloths, a sombre colour will be most prized; but it is[452] quite the reverse with chintses, which should be highly coloured. The patterns, also, should be frequently changed, as many of them being on a white as on a coloured ground: this will not only ensure a better sale, but a more constant one, as the Persians are fond of novelty. A profit of 30 and 40 per cent. is often derived in the Persian trade; but the mercantile community of that country are neither strict nor honourable, and an European trader must deal among them with caution. They are very liable to overtrade, and few of them have any capital. Bankruptcies are common; fifteen considerable merchants failed last year in Isfahan, simply from the non-arrival of silk from Gilan on the Caspian. It is also necessary to be cautious regarding the coinage, for it is liable to alteration, according to the pleasure of the monarch. A Persian ducat now bears a value of nine kurans, or rupees, while it was only held at eight last year. The increase has arisen from the Prince Royal taking the field, and his Majesty’s desire to fill his coffers: he does not seem to have considered that, since nothing ever goes out of his treasury, and he only receives to hoard, he himself must be the loser. From what I saw of the market in Persia, if money may be lost from this cause, I am also sure that great sums might be realised; for there is a scarcity of gold, and it may be transferred[453] with profit from one province to another. Cutlery is a good article for export to Persia, and there is, perhaps, nothing that would sell so profitably as good flint locks: they must be good, for it is to be remembered they are already supplied from Constantinople, and also from Russia; and though their workmanship is inferior, it is by no means bad. All the hardware in the country is brought from Russia.

Singular instance of commercial enterprise. Advantages held out from that instance.

On the banks of the Caspian I had a singular instance of the wide extent to which the articles of import into Persia are scattered in the case of China sugar-candy: I there met a merchant, at Astrabad, with an investment of that article, with which he was proceeding to Khiva: he had purchased it at Tehran, and was embarking at a small port called Kara-tuppa, and would coast along the east side of the Caspian by Hoosn Kouli, Chelken Isle, and the bay of Balkan, to a place called Okh, which is but ten days’ journey, and due west from Khiva. Here he intended to disembark his property, and forward it by hired camels belonging to the Toorkmuns, which he assured me he could do without fear, since the barbarous part of that community lie south of the road to Khiva, and between it and Persia. What a proof of enterprise have we in this single fact! The sugar had been first brought from China to Bombay, shipped from thence to[454] Bushire, and then sent inland to Tehran and the banks of the Caspian, where it was a third time embarked, and transported across a desert to Khiva. It would there meet the sugar of our West India possessions, that is exported by the Russians, which would place the products of America and China in competition with each other in the centre of Asia. I have before observed, that the sugar-candy of China sent from India will not bear the expense of transport beyond Cabool, and does not, therefore, find its way to Bokhara. In the instance before us, we have the same commodity pushed far beyond that city by the route of Persia, which will better suggest the other advantages to be reaped from this route than any further remarks on my part. I have only to observe, that if a bulky, and by no means valuable commodity, brought from so vast a distance as China, can be sent to such a remote quarter of Asia, and bring a profit to the trader, the same route may be used with still greater advantage as another channel for the export of British manufacture.



Procured by Lieut. Burnes during his travels into Bokhara.

Drawn & Engd. by L. Beadley.

London, Published by John Murray, Albemarle Str. June 1834.


Procured by Lieut. Burnes during his travels into Bokhara.

Drawn & Engd. by L. Beadley.

London, Published by John Murray, Albemarle Str. June 1834.






The coins, of which delineations are now offered to the public, form an extensive and important contribution to a branch of numismatic enquiry which has been, within a few years, successfully prosecuted in India. To Colonel Tod belongs the merit of having introduced it to notice by his paper on Greek, Parthian and Hindu medals, in the first volume of the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society: further information was published in the 17th volume of the Researches of the Asiatic Society of Bengal; and the Journal of the same Society contains several interesting communications on the same subject, many of these relate to the present collection, which, for the variety, number, and description of the coins that it comprises, and the authentication of the sites in which they were found, is of the highest interest and value.

The coins in question may be classed under four divisions, exclusive of the Macedonian and Syrian medals, which sometimes occur. These are—1. Bactrian, 2. Indo-Grecian, 3. Indo-Scythian, and 4. Hindu. In the former there have been discovered by Colonel Tod and Dr. Swiney: coins of Apollodotus and Menander, one such coin has been found by Lieutenant Burnes, and one of Euthydemus, besides several which cannot be[458] ascribed to any individual prince, although unquestionably Bactrian coins. The Indo-Grecian coins are comparatively rare, and the series is not very extensive: one specimen is in the present collection. The Indo-Scythian coins are more numerous, and offer a number of interesting specimens: some of them are the same as those described by Colonel Tod, Mr. Prinsep, and myself; but there are some which are new, and there is one (pl. iv. fig. 18.) which is in better preservation than any that has hitherto been found.

The coins of the last class, or Hindu are less numerous in this than in other collections, but such as it comprises are new.

Besides these coins, which are the subjects of more special attention, as little known and calculated to throw light on Indian history, the collection includes a gold and several copper coins of the Sassanian kings of Persia, and a number of Mahommedan coins, for the verification of which there has not yet been an opportunity: from their late date, however, and the fulness of the information derivable from Mahommedan writers with regard to the history of this part of Turan, less interest attaches to them than to the Greek and Indian coins, and it was less necessary to have them delineated. The following are brief notices of the coins which are engraved.

Plate III. No. 1. A coin of Euthydemus, who has been hitherto regarded as the third Bactrian king. Obverse: a head with the Bactrian diadem. Reverse: Hercules sitting on a seat over which the lion’s hide is spread: he holds his club in his right hand, resting it on his right knee. Legend, ΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΕΥΘΥΔΗΜ.

Until recently, the only coin known of this prince was[459] a gold coin, originally published by Pellerin, and described by Mionnet and Visconti. In 1831 the abbé Sestini published a catalogue of the collection of Baron Chaudoir, and has there given a description and plate of a silver coin of Euthydemus, exactly similar to the one in our plate. These are the only two perfect specimens yet described: No. 2. agrees in general character and appearance with No. 1.; but it presents on the obverse a very dissimilar portrait; and the attitude of the sitting Hercules is something different. The letters also vary, and offer only ΛΕΩΣ and ΗΜ. It is possibly, therefore, rather the coin of Demetrius, the son of Euthydemus, than of the latter; but, if so, it differs still more widely from the coin of Demetrius described by Sestini in the collection of the Baron Chaudoir, in which the obverse presents a king, very unlike the individual in our coin, and having on his head an elephant’s hide by way of a crest: on the reverse is a standing figure of Hercules.

The succeeding figures, Nos. 3. to 5., express evidently Bactrian coins, as the device of the sitting Hercules, and the general character of the portraits, sufficiently establish. Some are much worn, and they are more or less of inferior execution, and present no legible inscriptions: such traces of letters as are visible appear to be intended for Greek, although very rude. In the catalogue of Sestini, above referred to, are three coins of a similar description, all Bactrian, evidently having the same sort of profile on one side, and the sitting Hercules on the other. The difference that prevails in the features of the kings whose portraits we have on these coins, sufficiently proves them to belong to different individuals. If these were all Greek kings of Bactria, as is probable,[460] they also show that our series of those kings is much more imperfect than has been hitherto suspected, and that it undoubtedly omits several names, whilst it probably includes others who never ruled over Bactria.

Fig. 6. This coin is identified with the preceding by the reverse, the sitting Hercules; but the execution is much more rude, and the disposition of the hair peculiar. There are characters on the reverse, but undecipherable: they seem designed for Greek. This coin may, perhaps, be referred to one of the first barbaric princes who subdued Sogdiana, if not Bactria Proper, and adopted the device of the Bactrian coins.

7. A copper coin, much worn: on the obverse a standing figure, something like the Apollo on Colonel Tod’s coin of Apollodotus. (Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, pl. 12. fig. 1.) On the reverse, also, is the same figure, a tripod, with similar characters. The letters on the other face are Greek: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ is legible, the others are less distinct; but they appear to be ΝΙΚ. ΜΕΝΑΝΔΡΟΥ, making this a coin of Menander, not of Apollodotus.

8. Is the coin of an Antiochus; apparently, from the countenance, Antiochus the Great. On the reverse is a standing figure casting a javelin with the right hand, and bearing the lion’s hide by way of shield on the left arm: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ. The device on the reverse is unusual, if it occurs at all amongst the coins of the Antiochi.

9. One of a number of small copper coins, the impression on which is in most effaced. Those that are perfect present a head on one side with a figure on the reverse, intended for a rude fire altar: there are Pehlevi[461] characters; and these coins, there can be little doubt, are of Sassanian origin.

10. A gold coin, evidently of one of the Sassanian kings.

11. These are very doubtful. The other engravings are antiques found at Khojuoban, near Bokhara.

Plate IV. fig. 18. This coin is of singular interest and value: it belongs to the class which is considered Indo-Scythian, and of which representations have been published in the third volume of the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, by Colonel Tod, and, in the seventeenth volume of the Asiatic Researches, by myself. In all these coins Greek letters are traceable, but the inscriptions are imperfect or indistinct: that of Colonel Tod’s coin has been read by Professor Schlegel ΒΑΣΙΛΕVϹ ΒΑϹΙΛΕΩΝ ... ΙΕΡΝΙϹΛΕΙϹ ... ΕΔΟΒΙΓΡΙϹ; but the legend is interrupted, and the final letters of the latter word indistinct. In this coin the inscription on both sides is entire and distinct. On the obverse is plainly ΒΑϹΙΛΕΥϹ ΒΛΕΙ Λ-ΩΝ ΚΑΝΗΡΚΟΥ, and on the reverse ΝΑΝΑΙΔ.

It has been conjectured by Mr. Prinsep that the name on the obverse Kanírkos, or, perhaps, Kaníthkos,—for the letter is rather undetermined,—is intended for Kanishka, a Turk or Tartar sovereign of Kashmir, who reigned about 120 B.C. according to the “Raja Tarangini” a history of Cashmir. Mr. Csoma Körösy also informs us that Kanishka is well known in the Tibetan annals as a king of Kapila; near Hurdwar, about the date already mentioned, who was a patron of the Bauddha doctrines; name, date, and locality are therefore in favour of the verification, and it must be admitted, until, at least, something more satisfactory can be proposed. It is not possible to offer an equally plausible conjecture with[462] regard to the inscription on the reverse. If it could be read Tanaid, it might be imagined to refer to the original seat of the Scythian tribes, who conquered Bactria, according to Des Guignes, about 134 years before Christ, and extended their power to the delta of the Indus. In this coin the figure on the obverse is the same that prevails on these Indo-Scythian coins: a man in a high cap and a long tunic, holding a spear in his left hand, and extending his right either to grasp a trophy, a buckler or coat of mail, or, as supposed by Colonel Tod, to drop incense on an altar: on the reverse is a figure in a long robe, holding, apparently, a flower. There is also the monogram which is found on all the coins of this class, and on a series of coin apparently Hindu. This monogram is figured by Mionnet No. 1222, and referred by him to an unknown coin (vol. 6. p. 715); the description of which shows it to be a coin not yet observed amongst those recently found in India, but belonging, probably, to the class.

19. A coin belonging, possibly, to the Indo-Grecian series: on one face is a helmeted head, on the other a single horseman with his right arm extended. The specimens found in this instance are much worn; but on several, with this device, Greek inscriptions have been read: this is particularly the case with two delineated in the Journals of the Asiatic Society for August 1833, on one of which is plainly ΣΩΤΗΡ ΜΕΓΑ; and on the other, ΜΕΓΑ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ. On one of Colonel Tod’s is ΤΡΩ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ, and there can be no doubt, therefore, that these are coins of Greek princes either of India or Bactria.

20. Is an Indo-Scythian coin, figured by Colonel Tod:[463] the man on the obverse is the same as in No. 18.; but on the reverse is an Indian bull and a figure in front.

21. Has the same reverse as the preceding; but the costume is more distinct, and is that of a Brahman; the figure on the obverse appears to be clad in mail. These two coins were found at Balkh.

22-30. These coins all belong to the same series as the foregoing, some bearing the same devices; whilst on some the reverse is varied. Detached Greek letters are observable on one or two.

31. This is one of several coins which are unquestionably Hindu: they mostly bear an elephant on one face, and a horse, or a nondescript animal, on the other; above the elephant are Devana gari letters, the most legible specimen of which appears to read Srí Mahá deva, the common title of the god Siva.

Oxford, 17th May, 1834.


Considering the short space of time allowed to a traveller, in his rapid passage through a foreign country, for the pursuit of objects not immediately connected with his errand, and the disadvantages which his own disguise and the suspicions of the natives oppose to his search after the very rare relics of antiquity, which may have escaped destruction for twenty centuries in their country; considering, too, that the inhabitants are un[464]able to appreciate the value of such objects, and mostly ignorant of the demand for them among inquisitive natives of the West, Lieut. Burnes may be deemed very successful in the store of coins he has brought back from the Punjab, and from the valley of the Oxus.

Of pure Bactrian coins he will be able to add at least three to the cabinets of Europe, upon one of which the name of Euthydemus is quite distinct; while of the Indo-Scythic, or subsequent dynasties, his store is so ample as to afford ten to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, besides those he takes to Europe; and among the latter is one coin of the dynasty which supplanted the Macedonian princes of Bactria, calculated to excite much curiosity among antiquarians.

I shall note the observations that occur to me regarding the whole of this collection of coins.

Plate III. Figs. 1. to 6.—These silver coins, tetradrachms, are known at once to be of Bactrian origin from the sitting figure of Hercules holding his club, on the reverse, much in the same posture as that of Jupiter on the Syro-Macedonian coins. The epigraphe on fig. 1., a valuable coin and in fine preservation, is ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΕΥΘΥΔΗΜ, or, “of king Euthydemus,” the third king of Bactria. The only coin of this monarch hitherto known in Europe, is described in Mionnet’s Description de Medailles Antiques. Pinkerton says it is a gold coin, having “two horsemen with Bactrian tiaras, palms, and long spears,” on the reverse; it is therefore quite different from the unique specimen before us.

Fig. 2. has the features of a different prince; the reverse is, however, similar to the last, and the three final[465] letters of ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ are visible; as are ΗΜ, which can only form part either of ΕυθυδΗΜος, or of δΗΜητριος, his son.

Fig. 3., of which there is a duplicate, is of a similar nature; the features corresponding with No. 1. or Euthydemus. There are two others of still ruder fabrication, distinguished by a more projecting forehead, (Nos. 4. and 5.); they are illegible on the reverse.

Fig. 6. One of two silver tetradrachms. These are more like Arsacidan coins, the stool on which the figure on the reverse sits having the form of those depicted in Vaillant: although the connection with the foregoing coins is very strong, the headdress and formal curls appertain to the Persian monarchs. The inscription is in the Pehlevi character, some of the letters resembling badly executed Greek.

Fig. 8. This is a coin of Antiochus, probably struck in Parthia, from the figure of the javelin-thrower.

Fig. 9. One of twenty small Sassanian copper coins. They have a good head on the obverse, and a very rudely executed fire altar on the reverse.

Fig. 10. A gold coin of one of the Sassanian kings of Persia, supposed to be Sapor (Shapûr). The name and titles are very distinct, in the Pehlevi character. It is remarkable that the usual supporters of the fire altar, two priests or kings, are omitted; unless, indeed, the rude ornaments on each side are intended to represent human figures holding swords. A silver Sassanian coin, delineated in Hyde’s Religio Veterum Persarum, has similar supporters.

All these coins are from Khoju oban, the ruins of an ancient city, thirty miles N.W. of Bokhara, where nu[466]merous gems and antiques, some of which are engraved, were also procured.[41]

Fig. 7. This is a square copper coin, from Shorkoth, a fortress twenty miles from the junction of the Jelum and the Chenab (the Hydaspes and Acesines), where Alexander lost his fleet in a storm. It is by some thought to be the fortress of the Malli, in the assault of which he was wounded. All that can be read of the inscription is ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ. On the other side the inscription is Pehlevi. This coin may be ascribed with tolerable certainty to Menander, both because it resembles in shape the coin of that prince, in Col. Tod’s plate, and because the first three letters of the word which follows ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ, have much the appearance of ΝΙΚ, or ΝΙΚΑΤΟΡΟΣ, the epithet applied to Menander, according to Schlegel, Journal Asiatique, Nov. 1828. The standing figure, however, on the obverse, and the curious emblem on the reverse, supposed by Col. Tod to be a portable altar, agree rather with his coin of Apollodotus.

Plate IV. fig. 18. This is a copper coin, procured in the neighbourhood of the Tope of Manikyala.

Obverse—A king or warrior holding a spear in the left hand; and with the right sacrificing on a small altar. (?) Epigraphe, ΒΑϹΙΛΕΥϹ ΒΑϹ ... ΚΑΝΗΡΚΟΥ.

Reverse—A priest or sage standing, and holding a flower in his right hand; a glory encircles his head; on[467] the left the letters ΝΑΝΛΙΔ; on the right the usual Bactrian monogram, with four prongs.

This coin is of great value, from the circumstance of its being the only one out of many discovered in the same neighbourhood, upon which the characters are sufficiently legible to afford a clue to the prince’s name. In the onset, however, we are disappointed to find, that none of the recorded names of the Bactrian kings at all resemble that before us[42]: yet there can be no doubt about any letter but that preceding ΚΟΥ, which may be either Θ, Ρ, or Ϲ. By assuming this latitude in the reading, I discovered a name which would agree, as nearly as it could be expressed in Greek, with ΚΑΝΗΘΚΟΥ or ΚΑΝΗϹΚΟΥ; and should my conjecture prove correct, the discovery of this coin will be[468] hailed as of the greatest value by all who are engaged in the newly developed study of Bactrian antiquity. The coin was at first placed with the Society by Lieut. Burnes; but, seeing its value, I thought it but just, after taking impressions and drawings of it, to place it in the discoverer’s hands, for the personal satisfaction of numismatologists in Europe. I suppose it to be a coin of KANISHKA, a Tartar or Scythic conqueror of Bactria.

According to Mr. Csoma De Körös, the name of KANISKA occurs in the Tibetan works as a celebrated king in the north of India, who reigned at Kapila, which is supposed to have been in Rohilkhand, or near Hardwar. His reign dates above 400 years after Sakya, when the followers of the Buddha religion had become divided into eighteen sects (the Sakya tribes, or Sacæ), under four principal divisions, of which the names, both Sanscrit and Tibetan, are on record.[43]

In Mr. Wilson’s Chronological Table of the history of Kashmir (As. Res. xv. p. 81.), we find Hushca, Jushca, and Canishca, three Tartar princes, who succeeded Domodara in the kingdom of Kashmir, either reigning successively or synchronously. They introduced the Buddha religion, under a hierarch named Nagarjuna, and were, according to the Raja Taringini, of Turushca or Tatar origin. The Sanscrit MS. places their reign 150 years before Sacaysinha (or Sakya Singh); but the learned translator, in a note, proves that the text was at least misunderstood, and that the passage intended to express “150 years after the emancipation of the Lord Sakya Sinha.”

The epoch of Sakya (the fifth Buddha or Goutama)[469] is determined by concurrent testimony of the Ceylonese, Siamese, Pegue, Burmese, and Chinese æras, which are all founded on the birth or death of the Buddha legislator; and, though all differing more or less, concur in placing him between the limits of 544 and 638 years B.C.: the Raj Gúrú of Asam, a pundit well versed in Buddha literature, fixes the Nirwan or emancipation of Sakya-Muni in 520 B.C.[44] Taking, then, from this epoch an interval of 400 years to the reign of Kaniska, the latter would fall near the end of the second century B.C. We know from other sources that the overthrow of the Bactrian dynasty by the Scythian or Sakyan tribes happened in 134 B.C. (125 by Schlegel). The present coin, therefore, confirms the fidelity of the Raja Taringini as an historical work, and leaves no doubt of the epoch of Sakya.

Mr. Wilson finds grounds for throwing back the termination of the reign of Abhimanya Canischa’s successor, from B.C. 118, as given in the Raja Taringini, to B.C. 388; because Kashmir became a Buddha country under Tartar princes, shortly after the death of Sakya; but from Mr. Csoma’s subsequent examination of the Tibetan sacred books, in which the three periods of their compilation are expressly stated; “first, under Sakya himself (520-638 B.C.), then under Ashoka, king of Pataliputra, 110 years after the decease of Sakya; and lastly by Kaniska, upwards of 400 years after Sakya,”—little doubt can remain that the epoch, as it stands in the Raja Taringini, is correct.

There are other circumstances connected with the Bactrian coins, which tend to confirm the supposition[470] of a Buddhist succession to the Greek princes. In the first place, the reverse ceases to bear the formerly national emblem of the Bactrian horseman, with the Macedonian spear; and in its place a sage appears, holding a flower, and invariably having a glory round his head, proving him to be a sacred personage.[45] Secondly, although upon the first coins of the dynasty, we find the inscription in Greek characters (a custom which prevailed under the Arsacidæ also, and continued under the first Sassanian princes); still, upon coins of the same device, but probably of later fabric, we find the same kind of character which appears upon the Delhi and Allahabad pillars; the same which is found at Ellora and in many ancient caves and temples of Central India, and is held in abhorrence by the Brahmans, as belonging to the Buddhist religion.[46]

I need not repeat Mr. Wilson’s opinion, drawn from other grounds, that the Tope of Manikyála, in the neighbourhood of which these coins are found, is a Buddhist[471] monument, but it receives much confirmation from the discovery of this coin of the Sakyan hero, Kanishka.

Having thus far endeavoured to reconcile the coin before us, and others of the same class to the Sakyan dynasty, to which the term Indo-Scythic very aptly applies, we may reasonably follow up the same train by ascribing the next series, which exhibit, on the reverse, a Brahmani bull, accompanied by a priest in the common Indian dhoti, as the coins of the Brahmanical dynasty, which in its turn overcame the Buddhist line. Colonel Tod includes these coins in the same class as the last, and adduces his reasons for referring them to Mithridates, or his successors, of Arsacidan dynasty, whose dominions extended from the Indus to the Ganges, and to whom Bactria was latterly tributary. Greek legends “of the King of kings,” &c. are visible on some; and what he supposes to be Pehlevi characters on the reverse; but I incline to think these characters of the Delhi type, and the Bactrian monogram should decide their locality. Mr. Wilson and Schlegel, both call them Indo-Scythic; and the latter, with Colonel Tod, names the figure “Siva, with his bull, Nandi.”[47]

Mr. Schlegel thinks it curious, that such marks of the Hindú faith should appear on these Tartar coins; but, considering the Indian origin of the Sacæ, does not this rather prove the same of their successors, instead of their Tartar descent. It is more curious that the fire altar should continue on all of the devices; but the[472] fact of its being a fire altar at all, is still matter of great uncertainty.

Figs. 19, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. The series of small copper coins found near Manikyála, and generally throughout Upper India, which have a head on the obverse, and a Bactrian horseman on the reverse, may be referred to the reign of Eucratides I., since the gold coin from the neighbourhood of the Caspian Sea, described by Bayer as having the same device on the reverse, bears, in legible characters, the epigraphe “of the great king Eucratides.” Our coins of this type have never shown us more than the words, “King of kings;” and in most of them (as fig. 19. ΒΑϹΙΛΕΥ, ΒΑϹΙΛΕΥ) the Greek is so corrupted as to give the idea of a later epoch. The type of the horse seems to have prevailed long afterwards.

Fig. 24. Copper coins of this device are met with throughout Upper Hindostan: they constitute the third series of Colonel Tod’s plate; and some in his possession have decided Greek characters upon them. On the obverse is the same warrior, with spear and altar. On the reverse is what he supposes to be a priest about to sacrifice the bull; but in the coin before us the dhoti is so precisely the costume of the Brahmans, that it inclines rather to look upon the animal (especially as he has the hump) as the sacred bull of this country, denoting the prevalence or predominance of the Brahmanical faith in the Indian dependencies of Menander’s or Eucratides’ dominion.

Fig. 25. This type of coin is, if any thing, more common than the last; and the inscriptions are no longer Greek; but either of the unknown character of[473] the Delhi column, or genuine Hindi. The figure astride upon the elephant is always much out of proportion, and the Raja with the altar more rudely executed. The elephant is, like the horse, preserved in subsequent coins of the Hindus; thus:—

Fig. 31. This same device is still common in Southern India. The form of the Nagni characters on this and fig. 14. agrees with those on copper grants of land, 700 or 800 years old.

Figs. 20, 21. These coins were found at Balkh, and resemble those of Manikyála.

Calcutta, June, 1833.



Printed by A. Spottiswoode,


[1] I can only give the native names.

[2] “Ta khooda khubur shoodun ab i Maroochak adum ra mee kooshud.”

[3] Arrian, l. iv. c. 6.

[4] See “Memoir on the Run of Cutch,” in the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society. May, 1834.

[5] See Robertson’s America, books v. and vi.

[6] Travels in Khorasan, by J. B. Fraser, Esq.


Meshid ra goombuz i subzush nubashud
Khuwarish khanu i rooe zumeen hust.


Meshid ufzul i rooe zumeen ust
Ki anja noor i rub ool alumeen ust.

[9] As this work is passing through the press, intelligence has been received of Abbas Meerza’s death.

[10] Lieut. Conolly has just published an account of his “Journey to the North of India overland from England.” 2 vols. 8vo. London.

[11] Lord or chief.

[12] Foray.

[13] This is the manner of reckoning their years.

[14] The name of the poet.

[15] Places on the river Goorgan.

[16] Plain north of the Sir, or Jaxartes.

[17] The poet’s name.

[18] I need not observe that this was written before the intelligence of Abbas Meerza’s death reached England.

[19] See his valuable Atlas, which has just been published, and exhibited at the anniversary meeting of the Royal Geographical Society.

[20] As the text in Mr. Elphinstone’s work describes the neighbourhood of Balkh to be a plain, the mountains in his map are probably an error of the engraver.

[21] About three shillings.

[22] I brought from Toorkistan melon seeds of every description, which I have distributed in this country and India, in the hope that this delicious fruit may be introduced into Britain and our Eastern possessions.

[23] Some observations of my fellow-traveller, Dr. Gerard, determine this most satisfactorily. A bowl-full of water altogether disappeared in two days.

[24] Since this chapter was written I have been favoured with a sight of the journals of Mr. Geo. Trebeck, who accompanied Moorcroft to Ladak, where this information is completely confirmed. That enterprising young gentleman determined the latitude of the two places to be as follows:—

Cashmere, 34° 4′ 28″.
Ladak 34 10 13.

[25] Macartney.

[26] Since I drew up the information contained in this chapter, I have fallen in with the “Mémoires relatifs à l’Asie,” by M. Klaproth. Speaking of the translation of the history of Khotan, by M. Abel Remusat, that distinguished Orientalist adds, “Nous attendons avec impatience ces traductions, et nous engageons ce savant à les donner an public aussitôt que possible, pour faire disparaître des abrégés géographiques un amas d’absurdités reçues à bras ouverts par les compilateurs, et entre lesquelles le double Kachgar occupe le premier rang. Le voyageur Anglais, M. Elphinstone, ayant entendu parler de la ville de Kachgar dans le nord de la petite Boukharie, et du pays du même nom situé dans la partie méridionale de cette contrée, n’a pas su autrement combiner ces notions que de supposer deux Kachgars. Il est cependant bien clair que dans le premier cas il était question de la capitale, et dans le second du pays qu’elle gouverne.” Tom. ii. p. 293. It is satisfactory to find my observations on the two Cashgars confirmed by so high an authority as M. Klaproth, but I cannot agree with him in his inference, that the one is the country, and the other the capital; since it has already appeared in the text that Cashgar, which erroneously fills up so large a part of the country eastward of Budukhshan, really exists as a small district near Peshawur.

[27] The whole of the altitudes have been determined from the boiling point of water in thermometers carefully examined and compared, reckoning each degree roughly to be of the value of 600 feet.

[28] Dundan-shikun.

[29] I observe that the Emperor Baber mentions this fact.

[30] The rest of the lines recommend Herat as the place of evening prayer; Bagdad for that at the hour of sleep; and Nishapoor for that at sunrise.

[31] “If I could but captivate the heart of that Toorkee girl of Shiraz—I would give in exchange for the black mole of her cheek all the riches of Samarcand and Bokhara.”

[32] The Uzbeks themselves believe the Kalmuks and Kutghun Uzbeks one tribe. In their native seats, a colony desiring to migrate took the name of “Kutghurn,” which means, “we go;” and the greater portion which remained were afterwards called “Kalmuk,” which signifies, “we stop:” such, at least, is the popular belief and tale of the Uzbeks.

[33] Kizzak, or Cossack.

[34] Holcus sorghum.

[35] I am in possession of this curious work, which Shah Shooja himself did me the honour of presenting.

[36] A khurwar is 700 lbs. English.

[37] See the MSS. to which I have alluded.

[38] This person has been lately seized by Abbas Meerza, and deprived of his power.

[39] The capabilities of this river have not been here over-rated; a mission lately sent down it by the Governor-General, under Captain Wade, has verified the facts above recorded.

[40] Seven Pounds.

[41] A gold solidus of the Lower Empire was also found at Khoju oban, of rude fabrication; it is either of Marcianus, or more probably Mauricius: inscription, DN MAVRC..TIb PP AVG.; on the reverse an angel holding the cross and globe, with VICTORIA AVGGG, and below, CONOB.

[42] By way of convenience to those who have not the power of reference respecting the history of Bactria, I subjoin a catalogue of its kings, according to the authority of Schlegel.—Journal Asiatique, 1828, p. 326.

B.C. 255. Theodotus I. Fixed historically by Strabo, &c.
243. Theodotus II.
220. Euthydemus of Magnesia.
195. Appollodotus Soter.
Menander Nikator.
Alluded to by Plutarch, Trogus, and Arrian. Their coins prevalent in Baroach, A. D. 200.
Heliocles Dikaios. On the authority of Visconti and Mionnet, from a single medal.
Demetrius. Son of Euthydemus: doubtful if he reigned in Bactria.
181. Eucratides I. Artemidorus calls him the “Great king.”
146. Eucratides II. Murdered his father, and was himself slain.
125. Destruction of the empire by the Tartars and the Scythians or Sacæ.

[43] Csoma’s Life of Sakya, M.S.

[44] Orient. Mag. IV. 108.

[45] See Col. Tod’s Coins, 11. 14.; Mr. Wilson’s Plates, figs. 1, 2. 6. 7.; and Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Plate II. figs. 17. and 18.

[46] See translation of portions of the Salsette and Ellora inscriptions, by Major Wilford (Asiatic Researches, vol. xiv.); which shows them all to refer by name to Sakya. Mr. A. Stirling (Asiatic Researches, vol. xv. p. 314.) says of some similar inscriptions on the Udaya Giri hill in Orissa:—“The Brahmans refer the inscription, with horror and disgust, to the time when the Buddhist doctrines prevailed. I cannot, however, divest myself of the notion, that the character has some connection with the ancient Prakrit; and I think an explanation is to be looked for only from some of the learned of the Jain sect.” What has become of the key to this and other ancient Sanscrit alphabets, which Wilford says he fortunately discovered in the possession of an ancient sage at Benares?

[47]Ce qui me parait la circonstance la plus remarquable dans ces medailles, ce sont ces preuves du culte Brahmanique adopté par les rois Tartares. Ils régnaient donc certainement sur des provinces où ce culte était établi.”—Journal Asiatique, Nov. 1828.

Transcriber's Note

The following apparent errors have been corrected:

Inconsistent or archaic language has otherwise been kept as printed.

The following possible error has not been corrected: