MOUNTAINS, HILLS, AND PLAINS
The Great Northern Rampart.— The huge mountain rampart which guards the northern frontier of India thrusts out in the north-west a great bastion whose outer walls are the Hindu Kush and the Muztagh-Karakoram ranges. Behind the latter with a general trend from south-east to north-west are the great valley of the Indus to the point near Gilgit where it turns sharply to the south, and a succession of mountain chains and glens making up the Himalayan tract, through which the five rivers of the Pan jab and the Jamna find their way to the plains. To meet trans-Indus extensions of the Himalaya the Hindu Kush pushes out from its main axis great spurs to the south, flanking the valleys which drain into the Indus either directly or through the Kabul river.
The Himalaya.— Tibet, which from the point of view of physical geography includes a large and little known area in the Kashmir State to the north of the Karakoram range, is a lofty, desolate, wind swept plateau with a mean elevation of about 15,000 feet. In the part of it situated to the north of the north-west corner of Nipal lies the Manasarowar lake, in the neighbourhood of which three great Indian rivers, the Tsanpo or Brahmaputra, the Sutlej, and the Indus, take their rise. The Indus flows to the north-west for 500 miles and then turns abruptly to the south to seek its distant home in the Indian Ocean. The Tsanpo has a still longer course of 800 miles eastwards before it too bends southwards to flow through Assam into the Bay of Bengal. Between the points where these two giant rivers change their direction there extends for a distance of 1500 miles the
Fig. 2. Orographical Map.
vast congeries of mountain ranges known collectively as the "Himalaya" or "Abode of Snow." As a matter of convenience the name is sometimes confined to the mountains east of the Indus, but geologically the hills of Buner and Swat to the north of Peshawar probably belong to the same system. In Sanskrit literature the Himalaya is also known as ' Himavata," whence the classical Emodus.
The Kumaon Himalaya.— The Himalaya may be divided longitudinally into three sections, the eastern or Sikkim, the mid or Kumaon, and the north-western or Ladakh. With the first we are not concerned. The Kumaon section lies mainly in the United Provinces, but it includes the sources of the Jamna, and contains the chain in the Pan jab which is at once the southern watershed of the Sutlej and the great divide between the two river systems of Northern India, the Gangetic draining into the Bay of Bengal, and the Indus carrying the enormous discharge of the north-west Himalaya, the Muztagh-Karakoram, and the Hindu Kush ranges into the Indian Ocean. Simla stands on the south-western end of this watershed, and below it the Himalaya drops rapidly to the Siwalik foot-hills and to the plains. Jakko, the deoddr-ca.d hill round which so much of the life of the summer capital of India revolves, attains a height of 8000 feet. The highest peak within a radius of 25 miles of Simla is the Chor, which is over 12,000 feet high, and does not lose its snow cap till May. Hattu, the well-known hill above Narkanda, which is 40 miles from Simla by road, is 1000 feet lower. But further west in Bashahr the higher peaks range from 16,000 to 22,000 feet.The Inner Himalaya or Zanskar Range.— The division of the Himalaya into the three sections named above is convenient for descriptive purposes. But its chief axis runs through all the sections. East of Nipal it strikes into Tibet not very far from the source of the Tsanpo, is soon pierced by the gorge of the Sutlej, and beyond it forms the southern watershed of the huge Indus valley. In the west this great rampart is known as the Zanskar range. For a short distance it is the
Fig. 3. Nanga Parvat.
"The waste of snow.... is the frontier of barren Tibet, where sandy wastes replace verdant meadows, and where the wild ridges, jutting up against the sky, are kept bare of vegetation, their strata crumbling under the destructive action of frost and water, leaving bare ribs of gaunt and often fantastic outline The colouring of the mountains is remarkable throughout Ladakh and nowhere more so than near the Fotula (a pass on the road to Leh to the south of the Indus gorge) .... As we ascend the peaks suggest organ pipes, so vertical are the ridges, so jagged the ascending outlines. And each pipe is painted a different colour.... pale slate green, purple, yellow, grey, orange, and chocolate, each colour corresponding with a layer of the slate, shale, limestone, or trap strata " (Neve's Picturesque Kashmir, pp. 108 and 117).
Fig. 4. Burzil Pass.
In all this desolation there are tiny oases where level soil and a supply of river water permit of cultivation and of some tree growth.
Water divide near Baralacha and Rotang Passes in Kulu.— We have seen that the Indus and its greatest tributary, the Sutlej, rise beyond the Himalaya in the Tibetan plateau. The next great water divide is in the neighbourhood of the Baralacha pass and the Rotang pass, 30 miles to the south of it. The route from Simla to Leh runs at a general level of 7000 to 9000 feet along or near the Sutlej-Jamna watershed to Narkanda (8800 feet). Here it leaves the Hindustan-Tibet road and drops rapidly into the Sutlej gorge, where the Lurf bridge is only 2650 feet above sea level. Rising steeply on the other side the Jalauri pass on the Watershed between the Sutlej and the Bias is crossed at an elevation of 10,800 feet. A more gradual descent brings the traveller to the Bias at Larji, 3080 feet above sea level. The route then follows the course of the Bias through the beautiful Kulu valley to the Rotang pass (13,326 feet), near which the river rises. The upper part of the valley is flanked on the west by the short, but very lofty Bara Bangahal range, dividing Kulu from Kangra and the source of the Bias from that of the Ravi. Beyond the Rotang is Lahul, which is divided by a watershed from Spiti and the torrents which drain into the Sutlej. On the western side of this watershed are the sources of the Chandra and Bhaga, which unite to form the river known in the plains as the Chenab.Mid Himalaya or Pangi Range.— The Mid Himalayan or Pangi range, striking west from the Rotang pass and the northern end of the Bara Bangahal chain, passes through the heart of Chamba dividing the valley of the Chenab (Pangi) from that of the Ravi. After entering Kashmir it crosses the Chenab near the Kolahoi cone (17,900 feet) and the head waters of the Jhelam. Thence it continues west over Haramukh (16,900 feet), which casts its shadow southwards on the Wular lake, to the valley of the Kishnganga, and probably across it to the mountains which flank the magnificent Kagan glen in Hazara.
Fig. 5. Rotang Pass.
Fig. 6. Mt Haramukh.
of 15,000 feet, but rises as high as 16,000. It passes from Chamba into Bhadarwah in Kashmir, and crossing the Chenab is carried on as the Pir Panjal range through the south of that State. With an elevation of only 14,000 or 15,000 feet it is a dwarf as compared with the giants of the Inner Himalayan and Muztagh-Karakoram chains. But it hides them from the dwellers in the Panjab, and its snowy crest is a very striking picture as seen in the cold weather from the plains of Rawalpindi, Jhelam, and Gujrat. The Outer Himalaya is continued beyond the gorges of the jhelam and Kishnganga rivers in Kajnag and the hills of the Hazara district. Near the eastern extremity of the Dhauladhar section of the Outer Himalaya it sends out southwards between Kulu and Mandi a lower offshoot. This is crossed by the Babbu (9480 feet) and Dulchi passes, connecting Kulu with Kangra through Mandi. Geologically the Kulu-Mandi range appears to be continued to the east of the Bias and across the Sutlej over Hattu and the Chor to the hills near Masuri (Mussoorie), a well-known hill station in the United Provinces. Another offshoot at the western end of the Dhauladhar passes through the beautiful hill station of Dalhousie, and sinks into the low hills to the east of the Ravi, where it leaves Chamba and enters the British district of Gurdaspur.
River Valleys and Passes in the Himalaya.— While these principal chains can be traced from south-east to north-west over hundreds of miles it must be remembered that the Himalaya is a mountain mass from 150 to 200 miles broad, that the main axes are linked together by subsidiary cross chains dividing the head waters of great rivers, and flanked by long and lofty ridges running down at various angles to the gorges of these streams and their tributaries. The typical Himalayan river runs in a gorge with mountains dipping down pretty steeply to its sides. The lower slopes are cultivated, but the land is usually stony and uneven, and as a whole the crops are not of a high class. The open valleys of the Jhelam in Kashmir and of the Bias in Kulu are exceptions. Passes in the Himalaya are not defiles between high cliffs, but cross the crest of a ridge at a point where the chain is locally depressed, and snow melts soonest. In the Outer and Mid Himalaya the line of perpetual snow is at about 16,000 feet, but for six months of the year the snow-line comes down 5000 feet lower. In the Inner Himalaya and the Muztagh-Karakoram, to which the monsoon does not penetrate, the air is so dry that less snow falls and the line is a good deal higher.
Himalayan Scenery.— Certain things strike any observant traveller in the Himalaya. One is the comparative absence of running or still water, except in the
Fig. 7. R. Jhelam in Kashmir - View towards Mohand Marg.
Fig. 8. Near Náran in Kágan Glen, Hazára.
much more shade, snow lies longer, and the supply of moisture is therefore greater. The grazier for the same reason is less tempted to fire the hill side in order to promote the growth of grass, a practice which is fatal to all forest growth. The rich and varied flora of the Himalaya will be referred to later.
Muztagh-Karakoram Ranges.— The Muztagh-Karakoram mountains form the northern watershed of the Indus. The range consists of more than one main axis. The name Karakoram is appropriated t.o the eastern part of the system which originates at E. longitude 79 near the Pangong lake in the Tibetan plateau a little beyond the boundary of Kashmir. Beyond the Karakoram pass (18,550 ft.) is a lofty bleak upland with salt lakes dotted over its surface. Through this inhospitable region and over the Karakoram pass and the Sasser-la (17,500 ft.) the trade route from Yarkand to Leh runs. The road is only open for three months in the year, and the dangers and hardships are great. In 1898 Dr Bullock Workman and his wife marched along it across the Shyok river, up the valley of the Nubra, and over the Sasser-la to the Karakoram pass. The scenery is an exaggeration of that described by Dr Neve as seen on the road from the Zoji-la to Leh. There is a powerful picture of its weird repellent grandeur in the Workmans' book entitled In the Ice World of Himalaya (pp. 28-29, 30-32). The poet who had found ideas for a new Paradiso in the Vale of Kashmir might here get suggestions for a new Inferno. The Karakoram range culminates in the north-west near the Muztagh pass in a group of majestic peaks including K2 or Mount Godwin Austen (28,265 feet),
Fig. 9. Muztagh-Karakoram and Himalayan Ranges in Kashmír
Gasherbrum, and Masherbrum, which tower over and feed the vast Boltoro glacier. The first of these giants is the second largest mountain in the world. The Duke of the Abruzzi ascended it to the height of 24,600 feet, and so established a climbing record. The Muztagh chain carries on the northern bastion to the valley of the Hunza river and the western extremity of the Hindu Kush. It has several peaks exceeding 25,000 feet. The most famous is Rakiposhi which looks down on Hunza from a height of 25,550 feet.
The Hindu Kush.— The Muztagh chain from the south-east, the Sarikol from the north-east, and the Hindu Kush from the south-west, meet at a point to the north of Hunza. The last runs westward and south-westward for about 200 miles to the Dorah pass (14,800 feet), separating the valleys which drain into the Indus from the head waters of the Oxus, and Hunza and Gilgit in Kashmir and Chitral in British India from the Afghan province of Wakhan. The highest point in the main axis, Sad Istragh (24,171 feet), is in this section. But the finest mountain scenery in the Hindu Kush is in the great spurs it thrusts out southwards to flank the glens which feed the Gilgit and Chitral rivers. Tirach Mir towers above Chitral to a height of 25,426 feet. From Tibet to the Dorah pass the northern frontier of India is impregnable. It is pierced by one or two difficult trade routes strewn with the bones of pack animals, but no large army has ever marched across it for the invasion of India. West of the Dorah pass the general level of the Hindu Kush is a good deal lower than that of its eastern section. The vital point in the defences of India in this quarter lies near Charikar to the north of Kabul, where the chain thins out, and three practicable passes debouch on the valley of the Kabul river. It is this fact that gives the town of Kabul its great strategic importance. The highest of the three passes, the Kaoshan or Hindu Kush (dead Hindu), crosses the chain at an elevation of 14,340 feet. It took its own name from the fate that befel a Hindu army when attempting to cross it, and has handed it on to the whole range. It is the pass which the armies of Alexander and Babar used. The historical road for the invasion of India on this side has been by Charikar and the valley of the Kabul river to its junction with the Kunar below Jalalabad, thence up the Kunar valley and over one of the practicable passes which connect its eastern watershed with the Panjkora and Swat river valleys, whence the descent on Peshawar is easy. This is the route by which Alexander led the wing of the Grecian army which he commanded in person, and the one followed by Babar in 1518-19. Like Alexander, Babar fought his way through Bajaur, and crossed the Indus above Attock.
Fig. 10. The Khaibar Road.
The Khaibar.— A British force advancing on Kabul from Peshawar has never marched by the Kunar and Kabul valley route. It has always taken the Khaibar road, which only follows the Kabul river for less than one-third of the 170 miles which separate Peshawar from the Amir's capital. The military road from Peshawar to Landikhana lies far to the south of the river, from which it is shut off by difficult and rugged country held by the Mohmands. Safed Koh.— From Landikhana the political boundary runs south-west to the Safed Koh (white mountain) and is continued westwards along that range to the Paiwar Kotal or pass (8450 feet). The Safed Koh forms the watershed of the Kabul and Kurram rivers. It is a fine pine clad chain with a general level of 12,000 feet, and its skyline is rarely free from snow. It culminates in the west near Paiwar Kotal in Sikaram (15,620 feet). To the west of the Peshawar and Kohat districts is a tangle of hills and valleys formed by outlying spurs of the Safed Koh. This difficult country is in the occupation of Afridis and Orakzais, who are under our political control.
The Kurram Valley.— The line of advance into Afghanistan through the Kurram valley is easy, and Lord Roberts used it when he marched towards Kabul in 1898. After the war we annexed the valley, leaving however the head waters of the Kurram in Afghan terrrtory. The road to Kabul leaves the river far to the south before it crosses our frontier at Paiwar Kotal.
Waziristan Hills.— Between the Kurram valley and the Gomal river is a large block of very rough mountainous country known as Waziristan from the turbulent clan which occupies it. In the north it is drained by the Tochi. Westwards of the Tochi valley the country rises into lofty mountains. The upper waters of the Tochi and its affluents drain two fine glens known as Birmal and Shawal to the west of the country of the Mahsud Wazirs. The Tochi valley is the direct route from India to Ghazni, and nine centuries ago, when that decayed town was the capital of a powerful kingdom, it must often have heard the tramp of armed men. The loftiest peaks in Waziristan, Shuidar (11,000 feet) and Pirghal (11,600 feet), overhang Birmal. Further south, Wana, our post in south-west Waziristan, overlooks from its plateau the Gomal valley. The Gomal Pass as a trade route.— East of Kajuri Kach the Gomal flows through tribal territory to the Gomal pass from which it debouches into the plains of the Dera Ismail Khan district' The Gomal route is the oldest of all trade routes. Down it there yearly pours a succession of kdfdas (caravans) led and followed up by thousands of well-armed Pathan traders, called Powindahs, from the plains of Afghanistan to India. The Powindahs mostly belong to the Ghilzai tribes, and are not therefore true Afghans. Leaving their women and children encamped within British territory on our border, and their arms in the keeping of our frontier political officials, the Powindah makes his way southwards with his camel loads of fruit and silk, bales of camel and goat hair or sheepskin goods, carpets and other merchandise from Kabul and Bokhara, and conveys himself through the length and breadth of the Indian peninsula .... He returns yearly to the cool summits of the Afghan hills and the open grassy plains, where his countless flocks of sheep and camels are scattered for the summer grazing" (Holdich's India, pp. 80-81).
Physical features of hilly country between Peshawar and the Gomal river.— The physical features of the hill country between Peshawar and the Gomal pass may best be described in the words of Sir Thomas Holdich:
"Natural landscape beauty, indeed, may here be measured to a certain extent by altitude. The low ranges of sun-scorched, blackened ridge and furrow formation which form the approaches to the higher altitudes of the Afghan upland, and which are almost as regularly laid out by the hand of nature in some parts of the frontier as are the parallels .... of the engineer who is besieging a fortress — these are by no means ' things of beauty,' and it is this class of formation and this form of barren desolation that is most familiar to the frontier officer .... Shades of delicate purple and grey will not make up for the absence of the living green of vegetation .... But with higher altitudes a cooler climate and snow-fed soil is found, and as soon as vegetation grasps a root-hold there is the beginning of line scenery. The upper pine-covered slopes of the Safed Koh are as picturesque as those of the Swiss Alps; they are crowned by peaks whose wonderful altitudes are frozen beyond the possibility of vegetation, and are usually covered with snow wherever snow can lie. In Waziristan, hidden away in the higher recesses of its great mountains, are many valleys of great natural beauty, where we find the spreading poplar and the ilex in all the robust growth of an indigenous flora .... Among the minor valleys Birmal perhaps takes precedence by right of its natural beauty. Here are stretches of park-like scenery where grass-covered slopes are dotted with clumps of deodar and pine and intersected with rivulets hidden in banks of fern; soft green glades open out to view from every turn in the folds of the hills, and above them the silent watch towers of Pirghal and Shuidar .... look down from their snow-clad heights across the Afghan uplands to the hills beyond Ghazni." (Holdich's India, pp. 81-82.)
The Suliman Range.— A well-marked mountain chain runs from the Gomal to the extreme south-west corner of the Dera Ghazi Khan district where the borders of Biluchistan, Sind, and the Panjab meet. It culminates forty miles south of the Gomal in the fine Kaisargarh mountain (11,295 feet), which is a very conspicuous object from the plains of the Dera j at. On the side of Kaisargarh there is a shrine called Takht i Suliman or Throne of Solomon, and this is the name by which Englishmen usually know the mountain, and which has been passed on to the whole range. Proceeding southwards the general elevation of the chain drops steadily. But Fort Munro, the hill station of the Dera Ghazi Khan district, 200 miles south of the Takht, still stands 6300 feet above sea level, and it looks across at the fine peak of Ekbhai, which is more than 1000 feet higher. In the south of the Dera Ghazi Khan district the general level of the chain is low, and the Giandari hill, though only 4160 feet above the sea, stands out conspicuously. Finally near where the three jurisdictions meet the hills melt into the Kachh Gandava plain. Sir Thomas Holdich's description of the rugged Pathan hills applies also to the Suliman range. Kaisargarh is a fine limestone mountain crowned by a fores't of the edible chilgoza pine. But the ordinary tree growth, where found at all, is of a much humbler kind, consisting of gnarled olives and dwarf palms.
Passes and torrents in Suliman Hills.— The drainage of the western slopes of the Suliman range finding no exit on that side has had to wear out ways for itself towards the plains which lie between the foot of the hills and the Indus. This is the explanation of the large number of passes, about one hundred, which lead from the plains into the Suliman hills. The chief from north to south are the Vehoa, the Sangarh, the Khair, the Kaha, the Chachar, and the Siri, called from the torrents which flow through them to the plains. There is an easy route through the Chachar to Biluchistan. But unfortunately the water of the torrent is brackish.
Sub Himalaya or Siwaliks.— In its lowest ridges the Himalaya drops to a height of about 5000 feet. But the traveller to any of the summer resorts in the mountains passes through a zone of lower hills interspersed sometimes with valleys or "duns." These consist of Tertiary sandstones, clays, and boulder conglomerates, the debris in fact which the Himalaya has dropped in the course of ages. To this group of hills and valleys the general name of Siwaliks is given. East of the Jhelam it includes the Nahan hills to the north of Ambala, the low hills of Kangra, Hoshyarpur, Gurdaspur, and Jammu, and the Pabbi hills in Gujrat. But it is to the west of the Jhelam that the system has its greatest extension. Practically the whole of the soil of the plains of the Attock, Rawalpindi, and Jhelam districts consists of disintegrated Siwalik sandstone, and differs widely in appearance and agricultural quality from the alluvium of the true Panjab plains. The low hills of these districts belong to the same system, but the Salt Range is only in part Siwalik. Altogether Siwalik deposits in the Panjab cover an area of 13,000 square miles. Beyond the Indus the hills of the Kohat district and a part of the Suliman range are of Tertiary age.
The Great Panjab Plain.— The passage from the highlands to the plains is as a rule abrupt, and the contrast between the two is extraordinary. This is true without qualification of the tract between the Jamna and the Jhelam. It is equally true of British districts west of the Jhelam and south of the Salt Range and of lines drawn from Kalabagh on the west bank of the Indus southwards to Paniala and thence north-west through the Pezu pass to the Waziristan hills. In all that vast plain, if we except the insignificant hills in the extreme south-west of the province ending to the north in the historic ridge at Delhi, some hillocks of gneiss near Tosham in Hissar, and the curious little isolated rocks at Kirana, Chiniot, and Sangla near the Chenab and Jhelam, the only eminences are petty ridges of windblown sand and the "thehs" or mounds which represent the accumulated debris of ancient village sites. At the end of the Jurassic period and later this great plain was part of a sea bed. Far removed as the Indian ocean now is the height above sea level of the Panjab plain east of the Jhelam is nowhere above 1000 feet. Delhi and Lahore are both just above the 700 feet line. The hills mentioned above are humble time-worn outliers of the very ancient Aravalli system, to which the hills of Rajputana belong. Kirana and Sangla were already of enormous age, when they were islands washed by the waves of the Tertiary sea. A description of the different parts of the vast Panjab plain, its great stretches of firm loam, and its tracts of sand and sand hills, which the casual observer might regard as pure desert, will be given in the paragraphs devoted to the different districts.
The Salt Range.— The tract west of the Jhelam, and bounded on the south by the Salt Range cis-Indus, and trans-Indus by the lines mentioned above, is of a more varied character. Time worn though the Salt Range has become by the waste of ages, it still rises at Sakesar, near its western extremity, to a height of 5000 feet. The eastern part of the range is mostly in the Jhelam district, and there the highest point is Chail (3700 feet). The hill of Tilla (3242 feet), which is a marked feature of the landscape looking westwards from Jhelam cantonment, is on a spur running northeast from the main chain. The Salt Range is poorly wooded, the dwarf acacia or phuldhi (Acacia modesta), the olive, and the sanattha shrub (Dodonea viscosa) are the commonest species. But these jagged and arid hills include some not infertile valleys, every inch of which is put under crop by the crowded population. To geologists the range is of special interest, including as it does at one end of the scale Cambrian beds of enormous antiquity and at the other rocks of Tertiary age. Embedded in the Cambrian strata there are great deposits of rock salt at Kheora, where the Mayo mine is situated. At Kalabagh the Salt Range reappears on the far side of the Indus. Here the salt comes to the surface, and its jagged pinnacles present a remarkable appearance.
Country north of the Salt Range.— The country to the north of the Salt Range included in the districts of Jhelam, Rawalpindi, and Attock is often ravine-bitten and seamed with the white sandy beds of torrents. Generally speaking it is an arid precarious tract, but there are fertile stretches which will be mentioned in the descriptions of the districts. The general height of the plains north of the Salt Range is from 1000 feet to 2000 feet above sea level. The rise between Lahore and Rawalpindi is just over a thousand feet. Low hills usually form a feature of the landscape, pleasing at a distance or when softened by the evening light, but bare and jagged on a nearer view. The chief hills are the Margalla range between Hazara and Rawalpindi, the Kalachitta and the Khairimurat hills running east and west through Attock and the very dry and broken Narrara hills on the right bank of the Indus in the same district. Between the Margalla and Kalachitta hills is the Margalla pass on the main road from Rawalpindi to the passage of the Indus at Attock, and therefore a position of considerable strategical importance. The Kalachitta (black and white) chain is so called because the north side is formed of nummulitic limestone and the south mainly of a dark purple sandstone. The best tree-growth is therefore on the north side.
Peshawar, Kohat, and Bannu.— Across the Indus the Peshawar and Bannu districts are basins ringed with hills and drained respectively by the Kabul and Kurram rivers with their affluents. Between these two basins lies the maze of bare broken hills and valleys which make up the Kohat district. The cantonment of Kohat is 1700 feet above sea level and no hill in the district reaches 5000 feet. Near the Kohat border in the south-west of the Peshawar district are the Khattak hills, the culmination of which at Ghaibana Sir has a height of 5136 feet, and the military sanitarium of Cherat in the same chain is 600 feet lower. On the east the Maidani hills part Bannu from Isakhel, the trans-Indus tahsil of Mianwali, and on the south the Marwat hills divide it from Dera Ismail Khan. Both are humble ranges. The highest point in the Marwat hills is Shekhbudin, a bare and dry limestone rock rising to an elevation of over 4500 feet.
- They are held to be of Turkish origin.