Category Archives: General

The True Source of the Jehlum

Published / by Jehangir

Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia (which I somehow managed to recommend and put-down in the same post) also helped to clear up a quandary regarding the origin of the Jehlum.

Most historical and modern traditions consider the Verinag pool as the source of the Jehlum (except for a handful of purists who maintain that the honour belongs to the nearby Vyethvathur spring).

The outflow from Verinag forms a small stream that flows for around three kilometres before merging with the more sizeable Sandrin stream near Chinigund. Near Khanabal the Sandrin stream meets the confluent flow of the Bringi and Arpath streams before merging with the Lidder near Sifan to give rise to the Jehlum river.

The headwaters of the Sandrin, however, lie many miles further away from the sangam (confluence) of the Verinag and Sandrin streams. Numerous nars (mountain streams), arising from the snowfields of the mountainous ring between the Hansraj, Kaukut and Sundar Kanthi peaks, merge to form the Sandrin stream which flows in a north-westerly direction for more than 20 kilometres till it meets the Verinag stream.

So why is the Sandrin, or rather its first and farthest tributary, the Chhitar Nar, not traditionally considered to be the source of the Jehlum?

Alice Albinia faced a similar conundrum on reaching Senge Khabab (The Lion’s Mouth – the traditional source of the Indus) at the end of her quest, and wondered why the Dorjungla or other tributaries arising farther away were not considered to be the source of the Indus.

The explanation comes via Sven Hedin – the Swedish adventurer-explorer who explored the Transhimalaya and discovered the source of the Indus. Alice Albinia relates that Sven Hedin was told by his Tibetan guides that the Senge Khabab, arising from underground springs, was considered the true source as it emitted the same amount of water in summer and winter (unlike the other snowmelt-dependent tributaries that waxed and waned from season to season).

This fits in well with our own tradition that the reliable Verinag spring is considered to be the actual source of the Jehlum and not the snowmelt-dependent mountain streams rising farther away in the hills. I am inclined to agree.

Historical Monuments of Srinagar

Published / by Jehangir presents a 2021 calendar featuring digital art from the Kashmir ReImaginedseries depicting visit-worthy monuments of Srinagar built during successive historical periods of Kashmir.

Monuments in Kashmir may be broadly divided into the ancient stone monuments of the Buddhist-Hindu period, the wooden architecture of the Sultans of Kashmir and the resurgence of stone during the heyday of the Mughals.

The most prominent stone monument, visible from anywhere in Srinagar, is the Shankracharya Temple on the Takht-e-Suleiman hill.

Shankracharya Temple

Initially the Sultans of Kashmir built a few unique monuments – the tomb of Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother with its predominant use of brickwork, domed roofs and tile-studded walls, and the tomb of Madin Sahib exhibiting coloured tile-work representing ‘Al Kaus’ or Sagittarius depicted as a leopard-human figure shooting an arrow at its own dragon-headed tail.

The classic monuments of the Sultanate era, however, are predominantly wooden – inspired mainly by the architecture of Central Asia. The Khanqah-e-Moula is the archetypal example of the style. Other notable monuments are the Jama Masjid, the Aali Masjid and the Jama Masjid at Pampore.

The tomb of Zain-ul-Abidin’s mother at Zaina Kadal

Reconstruction of the tile-work at Madin Sahib. While the tiled figure of Sagittarius is a common horoscopic motif in medieval Persian architecture, it is highly unusual for the Indian subcontinent,. Curiously, most observers fail to realise that the tiles were originally mounted on the inner walls of the tomb.


The Mughals brought to Kashmir the perfection of their garden-building and stone-working skills. Mughal craftsmen worked the local limestone to a degree comparable to marble, most notably at the ‘Black Pavilion’ at Shalimar. Shalimar, Nishat and Cheshma Shahi are a series of exquisite gardens laid out by the Great Mughals on the foothills of the Zabarvan Hills overlooking the Dal Lake in Srinagar.

Limestone pillars at Shalimar

Other remarkable Mughal monuments include the Pathar Masjid built by Empress Nur Jahan, and the ruined Mosque on the Hari Parbat and spiritual retreat at Pari Mahal built by Dara Shikoh for his Sufi guide Akhund Mullah Shah.

The Hari Parbat fort may be the only noteworthy contribution of the Afghan rulers while nothing quite memorable has survived in Kashmir from the Dogra period. (In Jammu, they did build the exquisite Amar Mahal).

In Srinagar, beyond these three styles, monuments of archaeological interest are the menhirs at Burzhama (the remnants of a stonehenge from prehistory) and the the ruins of the ancient Buddhist stupa at Harwan which exhibit uniquely painstaking styles of using pebbles as the basic material for construction. The latter is also notable for its extensive use of embossed terracotta tiles.

The immensely important neolithic site of Burzhama is currently being ‘vandalised’ (for want of a better term) as an improptu cricket stadium while the Harwan site fortunately seems to have escaped encroachment due to its relative inaccessibility.

Present-day Burzhama

Reconstruction showing a cutaway of a pit dwelling with a dolmen and menhirs in the background

Present-day Harwan

Schematic reconstruction of the apsidal stupa at Harwan

As for the native houses, let us quote from the ‘Jehangirnama‘:
The buildings of Kashmir are all of wood; they make them two, three or four-storied, and covering the roofs with earth, they plant bulbs of the chaughashi tulip, which blooms year after year in the spring season, and is exceedingly beautiful

You can download the calendar here:

Hope you enjoy a healthy 2021 !

Disclaimer: You are encouraged to share this calendar but please note that all rights to these images are retained by Dr Bakshi Jehangir. Commercial usage of these images is strictly forbidden.

Radio Blues

Published / by Jehangir

Over the years cellphones have committed virtual genocide.

A snap list of victims would include (alphabetically) address books, airline tickets, alarm clocks, barcode scanners, board games, books, business cards, cable tv, calculators, calendars, camcorders, cameras, compasses, credit cards, ebook readers, flashlights, GPS devices, landline phones, laptops, measurement devices (light meters, measuring tapes, thermostats, timers), movie theatres, newspapers, notepads, paper money, photo albums, physical maps, portable gaming devices, portable music and video players, radios, remote controllers, scanners, sketchpads, snail mail, usb thumbdrives, voice recorders, walkie talkies, webcams, wired internet and wristwatches.

Most of these may die unsung but I feel a twinge of sadness for radio.

I’d sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights
… Radio, what’s new?
Radio, someone still loves you*

I read somewhere that the first radio available to the public in Kashmir was a Sky Champion set manufactured by the Hallicrafters Company in Chicago, USA and marketed by Lyra & Co in Lal Chowk.

I was unable to confirm that these radios were actually war surplus receivers with the transmitter removed but the original advertisement is quite suggestive.

Apparently in those days a licence was needed to own a radio set with annual stamps required from the post office!

In the seventies I grew up listening to a relentless barrage of Hindi songs on a leather-covered Philips Commander transistor belonging to the retainer/dastango mentioned in an earlier post. Even today I try to impress my kids (as if !) by identifying old Hindi hits just from the song intro.

In the eighties I managed to get my hands on a Trans-Oceanic transistor radio that had belonged to my father. The superbly-crafted Zenith Trans-Oceanic Royal 1000 has been described as the ‘royalty of radios.’ IMHO, the ‘Rolls Royce of radios‘ would be an equally apt description.

Upon turning a knob the whole dial cylinder would cycle between bands with a soul-satisfying thunk – the effect was akin to James Bond revolving the number plates on his Aston-Martin. The superb reception and separation of channels in the Trans-Oceanic opened up the joys of shortwave surfing. I became a DXer tuning into the BBC World Service, Radio Deutsche Welle, Voice of America (Billboard charts!) et al while keeping my connection to Hindi oldies alive with Chaya Geet and Binaca/Cibaca Geet Mala on Radio Ceylon.

Radio almost faded to extinction in the nineties and the naughts till the FM revival. I did attempt sporadic shortwave surfing on the ubiquitous Sony digital radios (de rigueur for any one with a relative in the Middle East) but the experience was never the same. I exchanged mine for an iPod which was swiftly rendered obsolete by the iPhone 🙁

Radio/Transistor sets may be history but fortunately FM (and USB drives) saved one gadget from oblivion – the car FM radio. In Kashmir thousands are tuning into the plethora of new FM Radio channels (and annoying RJ’s) on their morning drives. Future generations are thankfully no longer in danger of missing out on the joy of a favourite song playing unexpectedly on the radio – as opposed to the ho-hum availability of the MP3 on one’s hard drive.

You had your time, you had the power
You’ve yet to have your finest hour

*Queen – Radio Ga Ga