The DARD PEOPLE
Daradas are the modern Dards. Their location which does not seem to have changed since the times of Herodotus, extend from Citral and Yasin, across the Indus regions of Gilghit, Cilas, and Bunji to the Kishanganga Valley to the immediate north of Kashmir. The tribes inhabiting the later valley are meant in most of the passages in which the chronicles mentions the Darads’.
The Kishenganga Valley is transitional between Kashmir and Dardistan in scenery and in race, and at Gurais, where the valley opens out and there are lovely flowery meadows and fields of buckwheat around the quaint and huddled log hamlets, we get to be among Dards’, modified by rare intermarriage with Kashmiris-a very coarse featured type, which reminds one of faces seen in many out-of-the way mountain villages of Kashmir, writes Neve.
From the Rajtarangani, the Sanskrit chronicles of ancient Kashmir, it appears that, however wide the dominions of Kashmiri rulers to the south and east, they seldom maintained their hold for long over these hardy hill men, and many a fierce fight took place on the passes leading to Kashmir.
Visnu Cakradhara had an ancient shrine on the alluvial plateau of Udar, which lies on the west bank of the Vitasta, one mile below the town on Vij bror. Archeological finds of a sophisticated Dard civilization is evidenced there. The plateau bears to this day the name Tsakdar Udar. Kalhan mentions frequently the temple and hill Cakradhara, which also served in times of trouble as a fortified position. One of the trouble spot for Kashmir’s kings was the north west portion of Kramarajya which included a pocket of Chak habitation in the village of Trahgam. Baharistan-Trahgam with Trigumma in Lolab Valley. Lolab means ‘sweet spring water’, the name given to the spring of drinking water of the purest quality in that location giving the Valley its name. Its an ancient spring preserved for countless centuries until it neglect in the last 2 decades.
The former Nawabs of Gurais were tributary to the Rajahs of Astor, and during the Sikh conquest Malik Dilawar, a Dard chief having been invited to Srinagar, was treacherously thrown into prison from which he only managed to escape after 3 years; and though for a time he was able to collect the tribesman and hold his own in the wild ravines north of the Kishenganga, the Sikhs built and held forts at Gurais and Shardi, and when they also occupied Astor his position became untenable, and he fled to Gilghit, where he was eventually murdered.
The Dras men must be a hardy race, for the winter is very severe and snowy. They are a very mixed race. Some in the highest part of the valley are Dards from Tilel, others are of partly Kashmiri blood, while the majority are Mongolians of the mixed type met with among the Mohammedans of Purik, the district in the Suru basin.
At Khalsi there is an inscription on a rock near the bridge which shows Brahmi characters, and therefore probably dates from before 200 BC. In those days there was considerable trade apparently between India and China by this route, and a custom official was stationed here with the title Mdo gtsong gtso “Lord of the trade in the lower valley”. The ruins of the old custom-house and of Bragnag castle, which picturesquely crowns the precipitous hill over Khalatse, was examined by Mr. Francke, the archeologist. The Dards formally ruled here, but were driven westward by Tibetans about 1000 AD.
At Gurais, although the Kashmiri language is spoken, the people are Dards by race, and closely allied to the tribes which occupy the valleys draining into the Indus where it makes its great bend to the south. They appear to have been there from prehistoric times, occupying much the same area, for though at times temporarily subdued by powerful Indian monarchs or by the Kings of Kashmir, yet there is not much land in those wild mountains to tempt the conquerors to dispossess any locals. It is a moot question whether the Dards did not occupy the western part of Litttle Tibet long before the beginning of the Christian era, and until the Tibetans pushed them out. They still remain a distinct group of tribes, very seldom intermarrying with either the Kashmiri’s, the Balti’s, or the Pathan tribes which border them.
Their villages had log huts closely clustered together, human beings and cattle in the same building surrounded by manure heaps and mud. The proximity of animals is used to warm the indoor space. Though naturally no darker than the Kashmiri’s, yet these smoke-begrimed folk, with their dark woolen garments, are far less attractive in appearance. The women wear a loose dark brown bag upon the head, which can be pulled down to protect neck and cheeks from the wind and snow. Some of the valleys were also exposed to raids from Chilas, so the huts were huddled together for protection and in many places arranged like a small square fort.
The Tilel district lies along the eastern tributary. The people there are mostly allied with the Kashmiri’s, a connection which apparently dates back to the period of the Dogra conquest, early last century. Plundering bands of Dogras burnt many of the villages, and the inhabitants fled across the passes to the nearer valleys on the Kashmir side. Later on a reverse current set in, and peasants from the Lar district of Kashmir migrated to Tilel to avoid the grinding taxation and the forced labour. During several decades of the last century Dogra and Sikh armies were conquering the mountains of Ladak, Baltistan and Gilgit. Each expedition involved the forced levy of thousands of Kashmiri porters by summary process of driving most of the men out of all the villages at the mouth of the valleys leading up to the passes. From such oppression some fled to find a peaceful haven in the secluded valleys of Tilel. There they intermarried, and at the present time the people are bilingual, speaking almost as much Kashmiri as Dardi.
The Rajatarangini in recording the rule of Ananta (1028-1063 A.D.) describes a Dard king Achalamangala who was approached by Brahmaraja to defeat Ananta. Consequently Kashmir was invaded by Dards. Kalhan says the 7 Mleccha princes also helped. Mlechha was a term usually used for those who were not Hindu and in these times represented Tibetan rulers or those who were Muslim. But, Bilhana describes then as Saka. These forces were opposed by the Kashmiri army led by Rudrapala Sai at the village of Ksirapristha (Kharot). The Kashmiri army made a surprise attack after sun down when all hostilities were expected to stop in battle norms. King Achalamangla was killed in this attack.
It chronicles in the battles of Vijayamalla his seeking refuge with the Dard king. “After remounting his steed, the brave Vijayamalla disappeared from the view of the enemies, and proceeded towards the country of the Dards by the route of Lahara. By the upper valley of the Krishanganga is meant modern Gurez, which is to this day inhabited by Dards. It can be reached by several mountain tracks from the Sindh Valley i.e. Lahara. By crossing the Vitasta at its confluence with the Sindhu (opposite Shadpor), Vijayamalla avoids the necessity of crossing subsequently the later river on his way to the Dard country. Though Kandarpa, the deity of the Gate, had closed everywhere the routes, Vijaymalla crossed the mountains and reached the town of the Darads (Daratpur) hidden in the mountains. By the town of Darads, perhaps is meant the modern Gurez, the chief place of Upper Kishanganga Valley. The epithet girigupta, ‘hidden in the mountain,’ would well apply to that place. Gurez lies in a valley whose ground is nowhere more than about one mile broad. All around rise high mountain ranges. There he was hospitably received by the illustrious Vidhyadhara Sahi, the Dard ruler, and was joined, as time went on, by some of his own followers. The title Shah has been borne for centuries back by the Dard rulers of Citral and Yasin. When King Harsha heard that Damaras and others were taking up the feud, he felt terrified, and day by day employed fresh strategies. These failed. After passing the winter in the town of the Dards, he Vijaymalla precipitately started on an expedition in the month of Caitra, having received messages from the Damaras. This proud prince after escaping from his danger, lost his life accidentally by an avalanche, while stopping in a tent on the road.”
Lolab Temple-last archeological remain
“Kafir” refers to a group of tribes in western Dardistan known by that name.
The Indo-Aryan element in Dardic languages is naturally most evident in the southern parts of Dardistan nearest India, and grows weaker as we go farther north into Chitral and Kafirstan. It is in Kashmir that the infiltration was the strongest, and through the influence of Kashmiri, its cognate Sina, immediately to its north, shows more purely Indian traces than do the Khowar of Chitral and the Kafir dialects. One of the most southern of these Dradic languages is Torwali. In all its most typical features, it is a true Dardic language. Its speakers count in twenties, not in tens as in India; the Old Present has become the Future, as in Eranian; intervocalic occlusive are not necessarily elided, there is frequent interchange of surds and sonants, sonant aspirates are disaspirated, consonants are epenthetically affected by a following palatal sound, conjunct consonants are simplified without lengthening a preceding short vowel, initial r always becomes z, intervocalic r is always elided, and so on.
Torwali is spoken in a mountainous country, where intercommunication is not easy, and which had been the scene of frequent intertribal conflicts. It is natural that it should change from valley to valley, and should exhibit many dialectic variations. The account given to the Linguistic Survey correctly represents the forms of Torwali spoken in Chihil-dara, while the present folk tales are in the dialect of Branail, a village which may be looked upon as the capital of the tribe.
Torwal where the Dardic tounge recorded by Sir George Grierson is spoken, comprises that alpine portion of the valley of the Swat River which extends from Kalam down to the large village of Churrai.
Name Torwal applies to a collection of hamlets of about 120 households, situated near the mouth of a side valley that debouches towards the right bank of the Swat river about 5 miles from Branail, the present chief place of Torwal.
The whole of Torwal forms part of the extensive but very sparsely inhabited mountainous area usually designated as the Swat Kohistan which is drained by the head waters of the Swat river. The hill tribes inhabiting it from the high glacier-crowned range towards Chitral in the north down to the open river valley below Churrai in the south represent the remnant of that ancient Dardic-speaking race which before the Pathan conquest may be assumed to have formed the main stock also of the population throughout the great and fertile territory now known as Upper and Lower Swat.
What is your name? Chi naam kaa thu?
Dards, Dardistan, and Dardic:
an Ethnographic, Geographic, and Linguistic Conundrum
The Karakoram presents exceptional ethnic, geographic, and linguistic diversity, where high mountains and intervening deep river gorges often mark the boundary lines of ethnic and linguistic features. This topography, however, has channeled rather than blocked human movement, so that there has been persistent contact between the various people speaking different languages. The present social and linguistic fabric of the Karakoram is a result of continual processes of convergence and divergence.
A lineal taxonomy of the languages of the Karakoram presents us with a snapshot of genetically related languages at one moment, but does little to illuminate the ongoing change due to contact, and gives no indication of the interrelationship between neighboring but genetically unrelated (i.e., not sharing a common ancestor) languages.
Early British efforts placed almost all the peoples and languages of the upper Indus River between Kashmir and Kabul into one group, distinguishing only the ethnically and linguistically Tibetan Balti people as a separate group. This unitary classification, however, obscured the distinct identities of all other peoples and their interrelationships. Not only was there a conflation of ethnic identity, but the resulting conflated ethnicity was then employed as a linguistic classification, which provided the basis for a geographic classification. Each term carried with it social, political, and ideological baggage, resulting in the conundrum of Dard, Dardistan, and Dardic. Looking at how and why this conundrum came about will help us understand the implications of choices we make in categorizing the diversity in the Karakoram.
No people in the Karakoram and vicinity today refer to themselves as Dards, their country as Dardistan, or their language as Dardic. The word dard itself is unknown in any languages of the area, except as a loan word from Persian via Urdu, in which it means “pain”. Why should a term with no self-referentiality be so widely used by scholars today? The work of Fussman (1972), Tucci (1977), Müeller-Stellrecht (1979), Jettmar (1980), and Vohra (1982; 1983; 1988; 1989) offers representative examples of the varying usage of the term “dard” by scholars. Graham Clark has questioned the broad application of this term, pointing out that Dardistan is a “non-existent county” and the term Dard “a casual reification … lacking a firm basis either in the ideas of the people themselves, or in the classical sources, … resulting from misconceptions that have arisen from theoretical biases in the colonial literature” (Clark 1977: 325-45). In Clark’s view, the ethnographic construction of the country of Dardistan, populated by Dards, is “the genesis of a pedigree” which operates by positing “a continuity between a past literature and a present people that is assumed rather than demonstrated”. Schmidt, approaching the question from a linguistic perspective, notes “the term Dardistan suggests a political unity which has never existed” (Schmidt 1984:678). Allan, from a geographical perspective, notes that the promotion of a homogeneous Dardistan from Kashmir to Kabul in the late 19th century “reflected an attempt by supporters of imperial India’s ‘forward policy’ to link the Indian northwestern frontier tracts to Kashmir” (Allan 1993:26). In these discussions of the term Dard, however, important source material from the Karakoram region itself has not been considered, namely the Rajatarangini and recently translated epigraphic material. Hence, it is appropriate to review this question including all available sources: Greek and Roman references; Karosthi and Brahmi epigraphic references; Sanskrit epic and Puranic references; Kashmiri references; British colonial administrative references; the emergence of Dardic as a linguistic classification; and in conclusion, to discuss the referential field for the three terms and their relative validity.
Greek and Roman References
In a well-known and much repeated story, Herodotus (4th century B.C.) mentions a war-like people on the frontier of India, near to whom are found gold-digging ants. Herodotus provides the name Dadikai for one of the groups living on India’s frontier, which was then the seventh satrapy of the Achaemenian empire. Writing much later, Strabo (64 B.C. to A.D. 23) and Pliny (A.D. 23 to A.D. 79) repeat Herodotus’ story and name the war-like people Dardae. Alexander, whose travels provide much of the data for classical geography of India, apparently did not meet any Dard people, but he did go to a place called Daedala. Curtius reports Alexander fought against people called Assakenoi in Daedala. Tucci assumes the Assakenoi were a Scythican tribe whose name derives from the word for horse (Tucci 1977:29). Herodotus’ Dadikai may be the Persian name for the darada given in the Puranic lists, which Strabo and Pliny applied to the war-like people whom they equated with Curtius’ Assakenoi. Hence, Herodutus’ original citation appears to have been derived from Puranic sources. Finally, Ptolemy gives us a map that shows the Indus River arising in the country of the daradrai (map in McCrindle 1885), a term that appears to be received from Sanskrit epic and Puranic sources.
Sanskrit Epic and Puranic References
These Sanskrit references to Daradas, although they cannot be assigned any historicity, indicate that the Darada were known to those familiar with such texts. Singh cites references in the Vayu, Brahmanda, Markandeya, Vamana, and Padma Puranas (Singh 1972). Daradas are also mentioned in the Brhatsamhita, and in Manu, where they are classified pejoratively as Mlecchas. Mahabharata refers to them as degraded Kshatriyas (XII 35, 17-8 in Singh 1972). Rather than a specific people, the term Dard may have been used to characterize a fierce people, residing in the northwest, outside the boundaries of civilization. Their land is near to the “Strirajaya”, the Country of Women. These fantastic and vaguely defined regions and the people who lived in them belong as much to the mythic landscape of ancient India as to the historiographic. David White, in discussing the European, Chinese, and Indian traditions regarding these people, points out that “they are a negativity, a blank space on the fringes of the conceptual map of these traditions’ self-centered universes” (White 1991:117).
Three inscriptions on rocks along the Indus and Gilgit Rivers in the southern reaches of the Karakoram provide the earliest epigraphic references to Dard kings. One is found on rocks where the present-day road between Gilgit and Skardu crosses the Gilgit River, over a bridge known as the Alam bridge, now called the Farhad bridge. The inscription is in poor Kharosthi, and Fussman has read “daradaraya”, meaning “King of the Dards” (Fussman 1978:1-6). The second inscription is found at Chilas Terrace, near to Chilas village along the Indus River, south of the junction of the Gilgit River and the Indus River. It has been discussed by Dani (1983) and more recently by Hinuber (1989). It is in Brahmi script. Hinuber publishes a transliteration srir daranmaharajavaisrava, which he interprets as daran-maharaja “great king of the Dards” (1989:57-8). A third inscription is immediately below the Thalpan bridge over the Indus River on the Thalpan side of the bridge. It is also in Brahmi script. Hinuber publishes a transliteration of daratsu maharaja sri vaisravanasena ssatrudamanah, which he translates as “The glorious Vaisravanasena, the subduer of enemies, great King in the land of the Dards” (1989:59). Hinuber interprets these Brahmi inscriptions as referring to the same king Vaiaravanasena, and dates them to the 4th or 5th centuries A.D. He remarks that this king “is the second oldest king of the Dards known by name, preceded only by the daradaraya mentioned at Alam bridge in a Kharosthi inscription” (1989:59). These inscriptions appear to be the only known self-reference to a Dard people.
Kalhana, in Rajatarangini (Chronicle of the Kings of Kashmir), first mentions “the Darada country” as the location of a Vihara built by king Surendra (Stein 1979:I, 93, 17). Surendra is the fifth king after Ashoka, whom Kalhana identifies as the familiar Ashoka of the 3rd century B.C. Daradas are next mentioned, along with Bhauttas and Mlecchas, as impure people during the reign of Mihirakula, calculated as from Laukika dates 2372-2442 (Stein 1979:I, 312-6, 46). Sircar gives dates of A.D. 515to A.D. 545 for Mihirakula, based on an inscription at Gwalior (Sircar 1965:424-5). Stein offers a footnote to the reference to Mihirakula’s reign, which is worth quoting in full:
The Daradas are the modern Dards regarding whose territory and ethnography Drew, Jummoo, pp. 393 sqq., may be consulted. Their seats, which do not seem to have changed since the time of Herodotus, extend from Citral and Yasin across the Indus regions of Gilgit, Cilas, and Bunji to the Kishanganga Valley in the immediate north of Kasmir. The tribes inhabiting the latter valley are meant in most passages in which the Chronicle mentions the Daradas or Darads.
In Rajatarangini, these people are mentioned as residing to the north of Kashmir, and as frequently attempting to invade Kashmir and/or intrigue with factions in Kashmir. They are next mentioned during the latter part of the reign of Lalitaditya-Mukt pida, around A.D. 750, who “did not tolerate the continual wine-drinking of the Darads” (Stein 1979:IV, 169). Dards are next mentioned during the reign of Shankaravarman, A.D. 883 to A.D. 902 (Stein 1979:V, 152-155, 206). Kalhana goes on to name several Dard rulers: Acalamangala, during the reign of Ananta of Kashmir, A.D. 1028 to A.D. 1063 (VII, 167), Vidhyadhara Shahi during the reign of Harsa, 1089-1101 A.D. (VII, 913), Jagaddala during the reign of Uccala, A.D. 1101 to A.D. 1111 (VIII, 209), Manidhara during the reign of Sussala, A.D. 1112 to A.D. 1120 (VIII, 614), and Yasodhara during the reign of Jayasimha, A.D. 1128 to A.D. 1149 (VIII, 2454). During Kalhana’s own time, the Darad ruler joined forces with an opposition faction and fought against Jayasimha, only to be defeated (VIII, 2764-2873). Clearly, Kalhana identified people living in the Karakoram region northwest of Kashmir as Darads. Whether they were one distinct ethnic group, or whether the term broadly signified the unruly wine drinkers living in the mountains cannot be determined.
Colonial Usages of the Term
Stein’s note (Stein 1979:I, 312-316, 46ft) exemplifies the assumption of a link between the people referred to by classical Greek authors as “daradrai” and people in the Karakoram regions northwest of Kashmir. Stein refers to Frederic Drew, a colonial officer, as the ethnographic authority on the Dards as a people. Prior to Drew, however, the Dards were first mentioned by Mir Izzet Ullah, who was the assistant to the chief veterinarian of the East India Company, William Moorcroft. Izzet Ullah was sent by Moorcroft from Kashmir via Leh to Yarkand, in search of horses. His notes were translated from Persian into English and published in the Quarterly Oriental Magazine of Calcutta in 1825. In them he mentions “Dardi, an independent mountain tribe, three or four marches north from Dras, who speak the Pashtu as well as the Daradi language” (Izzet Ullah 1843:286). This would most likely refer to the Astor Valley, across the Deosai Plains from Dras, where today, as then, Shina is spoken and Pushtu would be most improbable. H.H. Wilson, sometime Boden professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University, prepared Moorcroft’s own notes for posthumous publication. He added a footnote in reference to Izzet Ullah’s report, linking the Dards to classical Greek and Sanskrit accounts, “Few people can be traced through so long a history in the same place as these, as they are evidently the Dáradas of Sanscrit geography, and the Daradae, or Daradrae of Strabo” (Wilson in Moorcroft 1841:II, 266). It is as if Wilson has discovered those very people whom classical geographers led him to expect to find inhabiting the Karakoram.
The connection between past and present thus established, the term became accepted through repeated usage. G.W. Leitner emerged as an unabashed advocate of the ethnographic and political reality of the Dards and Dardistan, writing that “the country is known, since my visit in 1866, as ‘Dardistan’, [even though] the name ‘Dard’ was not claimed by any of the race that I met” (Leitner 1983:59). Although Robert B. Shaw mentions in a footnote that “I have heard the Drás people of that [Dard] tribe apply [the name Dard] to their parent stock in Astor under the form Dardé” (Shaw 1878:27ft), no other writer on the area confirmed his assertion. On the contrary, John Biddulph, who spent many years in Gilgit as Political Officer, wrote “the name Dard is not acknowledged by any section of the tribes to whom it is so sweepingly applied” (Biddulph 1880/1977:156). Biddulph recognized Leitner’s term Dardistan as “a name founded on a misconception” (Biddulph 1880/1977:8), but accepted the term as a convenient way of designating the difficult, diverse, and largely unknown Karakoram between Kashmir and the Hindukush Range. This usage of the term is curiously parallel to the Sanskrit usage, where it connoted nonspecific ferocious outsiders living in the mountains beyond the borders of civilization. So it is not surprising to find an appropriation of the more fantastic elements of those earlier sources. The 1919 Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of Punjab and North-West Frontier Province informed its readers that “the tribes which occupied the modern Kafiristan, Gilgit, and Chitral were called Pisacha or ‘eaters of raw flesh’, and traditions of ritual cannibalism still survive among the Shins of Gilgit, the Wai and Bashgal Kafirs and in Dardistan. Indeed the Dards of Gilgit had a reputation among the Kashmiris for cannibalism as late as 1866” (Ibbetson, Maclagan, and Rose 1919:25). This date of 1866 is the date of Leitner’s visit to Gilgit, when he heard the well-known legend of the cannibal king of Gilgit, Shri Badat (Mock 1997). Leitner had succeeded in establishing a country, even though its boundaries were most elastic. “Dardistan, or the country of the Daradas of Hindu mythology, embraces, in the narrowest sense of the term, the Shiná-speaking countries (Gilgit, etc.); in a wider sense, Hunza, Nagyr, Yasin, and Chitral; and in the widest, also parts of Kafiristan” (Leitner 1893:1). He apparently felt no need to specify by what criteria his sense of the term was to be expanded.
Leitner’s Dardistan, in its broadest sense, became the basis for the classification of the languages in the north-west of the Indo-Aryan (IA) linguistic area (which includes present-day Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and Kashmir). G.A. Grierson proposed a Dardic sub-family of the Indo-Aryan language family on terms seemingly identical to Leitner’s neologism. “Following the example of the extended connotation of the word “Dardistan”, it is convenient to give the general name “Dardic” to all Aryan languages spoken in this [whole mountainous] tract [between the Hindukush and the frontiers of India proper]” (Grierson 1919:1). Grierson initially termed these languages Pisacha, but dropped that term in favor of Dardic in the face of objections that Pisacha denoted a cannibal demon in Sanskrit. Grierson cited McCrindle’s 1885 account of Greek and Roman references to Daradrai, Derdai, Dardae and Dardanoi, the Rajatarangini references to Darada, the Sanskrit epic references to Darad, and Leitner’s coinage of Dardistan as sources for his use of the term Dardic. Grierson classified Dardic as a separate, third branch of Indo-Iranian, and identified three major groups within Dardic: a Kafir group, which included Bashgali, Wai-ala, Wasi-veri or Veron, Ashkund, Kalasha, Gawar-Bati, Pashai, Diri, and Tirahi; a Kho-war or Chitrali group; and a Dard group, which included Shina, Kashmiri, Kashtawari, Poguli, Siraji, Rambani, Kohistani, Garwi, Torwali, and Maiya. A Stammbaum “tree” form of Grierson’s classification is reproduced in Masica (Masica 1991:461).
Georg Morgenstierne, who conducted extensive fieldwork in Afghanistan and what is now Pakistan during the early 20th century, revised Grierson’s classification by distinguishing between Grierson’s Kafir group and the rest of the languages, for which he reserved the term Dardic. Morgenstierne retained Grierson’s designation of a third branch of Indo-Iranian for the Kafir languages alone, which “must have separated from the others at a very early date” (Morgenstierne 1961/1983:139), but moved Kalasha, Pashai, and Gawar-Bati to the Dardic group(1). Dardic he regarded as “simply a convenient term to denote a bundle of aberrant Indo-Aryan hill-languages” which “contain absolutely no features which cannot be derived from Old IA” (Morgenstierne 1961/1983:139). Morgenstierne doubted the coherence of Dardic as a linguistic group, remarking that “there is not a single common feature distinguishing Dardic, as a whole, from the rest of the IA languages” (Morgenstierne 1961/1983:139).
(Exerpt and copyrighted by by John Mock, Ph.D.)