Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The coming of Islam to Afghanistan 650 to the Mogul Empire

Babur, the first Mogul Emperor who lived in Kabul, and when he died on his Delhi throne, he willed his body to be buried at the feet of the mountain surrounding his beloved Kabul.
I lived in Afghanistan for three years, 1993 to late 1996. With time on my hands in the evenings, I read many books on Afghanistan and wrote the following article based on a limited number of books I had at my disposal. There will be omissions and errors and for those I apologise.

Hsuan Tsang was the last traveller to record Afghanistan before the coming of Islam. Up un-til his visit. "the cycle of invasion, expansion, and decline had been regular, as one empire succeeded another in the virile north, only to dissipate its resources of strength in the vast enervating plains of India," wrote Fraser-Tytler. However while Hsuan Tsang was writing about the peaceful Kabul valley, in the middle if the seventh century, Arabs carrying the new and zealous faith of Islam reached Persia and an-other group coming from Basra reached Sistan and soon took control of large part of Western and south Afghanistan and the ruling Sassanians suffered a major defeat in 642. However from the north came equally commited Turkish Moslems and conflict grew between the two races. The approached Kabul via Kandahar and Ghazni, where they fought zealous defenders, who put up brave resistance. However Kabul was stoutly defending itself from the Moslem invaders under the leadership of a Turkish King, known by many names including Kabul Shahi, Turki Shahi or the Ratbil Shahan. The King had been partly Hinduised and fought gallantly against the Moslem invaders, resisting so strongly that their epics are recorded in Islamic literature.Kabul, mountain fortress capital of the Hindu Kush, was finally captured in 664 after a full year of siege.This clash between Arabs and Turks wasn't settled until the middle of the eighth century under the Turkish General Abu Muslim who brought stability to the regions of the Hindu Kush. However in the next 100 years the combined influence of the Arabs and Turks succeeded in dominating the old faiths, particularly Bhuddism, except for that pocket of resistance in Kafirstan where their animist beliefs remained.A rather peaceful period followed under the Caliph Harun-al-Rashid (785-809) and his son Mamun who encouraged the arts and sciences flourished and Merv and Samarkand. There fol-lowed an unsettled period when the Saminids extended their influence across to India, but as their influence declined, Hinduism challenged the Moslem faith and appeared for the last time in the Kabul Valley. From the Kabul valley the ruler of the Punjab, Jaipal pushed his religious doctrine towards Ghazni, he met a rising Islamic dynasty which was to change the course of history. King or Sultan Mahmud. Although the Arab conquistadors had brought Is-lam to the Sind region of India some three hundred years before, it never spread.King Mahmud (Turk)of Ghazni was a strong leader and in words of Fraser Tytler, whose iconoclastic zeal was to carry fire and sword deep into Hindu India and to pave the way for the domination of his Islamic successors.But like so many rulers, on his death the dynasty faltered, and was taken over by the Turks. Then we see the short domination of the mountain people from south-east of Herat who established the House of Ghor and who dominated the twelfth century and their territory stretched well into India and ruled the much coverted Delhi.. At the beginning of the 13th century a new race came to Afghanistan from eastern shores of the Caspian Sea, they were the Khwarizm, a Turkish race.. They established a Kingdom in Bamian and from there ruled Kabul. This peaceful time didn't last long before the heart of central Asia was ripped out by Genghis Khan and his Mongol hoardes who came from the north of China and by 1218 AD reached Central Asia.
GENGHIS KHAN - An apostle of extremes.Ghengis Khan with 100,000 mounted mehad reached Balkh by 1220 destroying everything and everyone in their wake. Jalal-ad-Din, the son of Sultan Muhammad who ruled the Kha-warizm empire, from Ghazni, managed to unite many tribes from the area and decided to defend against the invading Mongols. He advanced to the confluence of the Panjshir and Ghorband Rivers where a bloody battle ensued against Genghis Khan and his army of 30,000 skilled horsemen. Imagine the scene, 30,000 wild mongol horsemen on one side of the Panjcher River lusting for blood and on the other a more civilised army recently brought together. The beginning of the 13th century saw sweeping changes in Central Asia - not to mention Russia - for this was the time of the great Mongol migration. Unlike the Scythians, Sarma-tians, Huns and Turks who preceded them, these barbarians who erupted from the far-off borders of Manchuria were of an entirely different race. Round-headed, yellow-skinned, with slanting eyes and high cheek-bones, they were related to the peoples of northern China and Korea, although they spoke a Turkic language. They were also indescribably dirty and malodorous, for water was something they regarded as too precious to be waster on personal hygiene. They were not a hirsute people, but so infested were they with lice that their chests ap-peared to be thickly covered in hair.The astonishing conquests of Ghenghis Khan swept aside several empires and innumerable petty kingdoms, and brought all countries from the Black Sea to the Yellow Sea under direct Mongol control by the end of the first quarter of the thirteenth century. The unstoppable Mongol tide continued under his successors. Baghdad fell in 1258, the Sung capital of Hang-chow on 1276. In Europe the Mongol empire-the largest in history-extended as far as Poland and Hungary, taking in most of Russia on the way.The Mongols had been completely unlettered but now, with the help of the astute, Eastern Turks, they set about writing their own language down, using the Uighur script. This fruitful collaboration, accom-panied by intermarriage, was in time to produce a new hybrid master race and a new world leader, Tamerlane, but in the meantime a Mongol emperor sat on the illustrious throne of China and entertained curios visitors from distant Europe. Kublai Khan, grandson of Ghenghis, had become the Great Khan, or Chief of all the Mongol clans, in 1260. Karakoram, in Mongolia, was the headquarters of the huge empire, to which all clan leaders were summoned periodically etc etc. p 12Chingis Khaan Ghengis Khan Kublai Khan (grandson of Gheghis Khan)In 1218 Ghneghis Khan invades transoxiana 1227 he dies in 1996 (Christchurch Press) 2 Jan 1996, said: While other media groups were naming their man of the year, the "Washington Post" was thinking big yesterday and going right for the "Man of the Millennium", And the winner is...Genghis Khan.the newspaper gave the nod to the 13th century Mongol conqueror as "an apostle of extremes..who embodies the half-civilised, half-savage duality of the human race."

MARCO POLO 1256-1324
Today, a number of people say that Marco Polo never travelled to the places he writes about and that he was a fraud. I strongly disagree.
When on his death bed, friends asked Marco to "correct the book by removing everything that was not actual fact. To which he replied that he had not told one-half of what he really had seen."Most of this is from The Travels of Marco Polo, translated by John Frampton. Editor.N.M. Penzer, MA FRGS, 1929, The Argonaut Press, London. Includes recent in-formation provided by Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin and others. Clears up earlier confusion on his route through Afghanistan.In 1299 a remarkable book was published in Italy that stirred much of Europe and aroused in-terest in the mysterious lands of the Orient. With the all encompassing title "The Description of the World", an enticing prologue written by an Italian writer Rustichello of Pisa, announced what the great Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, had done in the past quarter century."It must be known then that from the creation of Adam to the present day, no man, whether pagan, or Saracen, or Christian, or other, of whatever progeny or generation he may have been, ever saw or inquired into so many and such great things as Marco Polo.The book described Polo's travels covering 24 years and 20,000 miles (change to km). Young Marco was barely 15 years of age when he left Venice in 1271 with his father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo.Sailed from Venice to Turkey, and headed overland. Mt Araat, three Magi Tombs in Persia, oil near the Capsian Sea and comes via Tun and Kain in modern-day Khorasan province of Iran to Afghanistan Route through Afghanistan: Crosses from Persia in the Nemeksar ( Salt Namaskar's in Herat province) Herat, or some other place near or in the Paropamisus range Firuz-Kuh (Firozkohi)-Band-i-Turkestan - Maimana - Sapurgan (Shibarghan). From Sapurgan Polo went to Balc (Balkh), the "Baldach" of Frampton; thence to Dograna, the idetification of which is still uncertain...then to Kunduz andTalikan. Three days from Talikan to Kishm, and three more days from Kishm to Badakshan. Polo travels E.N.E. for 12 days to Vokhan (Wakhan), and thence another 3 days north-east to the plain of the great Pa-mir. The French text merely tell us that Polo found a fine river running through a plain, but Rasmusio also mention "a great lake." This could be either Lake Victoria or Lake Chakmak, but it is probably the former (see Stein, Innermost Asia, Vol II pp 858 et seq., also Ancient Khotan, Vol 1 pp. 30 et seq.; and Serindia, Vol 1. p 65. He now describes a twelve days' de-sert ride across the plain, followed by another 40 days of continuous desert tracts without any green thing to relieve the dreariness and monotony. To this country he gave the name of Bolor.In the Frampton Elizabethan translation of the Travels of Marco Polo he writes of great detail about the "Citie of Baldach", known now as Balkh, Sempergayme (aslo refrred to other writ-ers as Sapurgan, but is modern day Shibergan Thaychan, (Talikan), Ballafia, (Badashan, now modern day Badakhshan) Vochaym or Vokhayn(Wakhann) mountaine called Plauor, his first reference to the Pamir (check p 181)Gian Battista Ramusio published two versions of Marco Polos travels in 1550 and 1556, which was translated by Marsden in 1818, gives greater detail on Balashan, (Badakhshan)
Ibn Batuta, born as Mohammed Ibn Abd Allah was the greatest Moslem pilgrim and traveller. Born on 24 February 1304 in a city that was once the extreme outpost of the Roman Empire, the ancient Tingis, now modern day Tangiers, in the Sultanate of Fez. The countries he trav-elled in were as numerous as the wives he accumulated and divorced.As a boy his life was devoted to learning the Koran and as he grew older, became an authority in theology and jurisprudence.His first pilgrimage to holy places began when he was 21, to the beautiful ancient city of Tlemcen, high in the Algerian mountains. North Africa, Middle-East, including Mecca, East Africa and then to Turkey and Persia. Batuta was determined to reach the greatest of Holy Cities, Balkh, the 'Mother of Cities' He then 'turns north-eastwards to Meshad, the capital Khorasan and holy citiy of the Shiites, thence travels to Jam, the birthplace of Jami, the Per-sian Poet, and at Tus finds the tomb of the Calph Haroun-al-Raschid, who died when on a military expedition.' (rewrite all this .p127)On reaching Balkh, he found it to be deserted and virtually destroyed.It was Batuta who first wrote of the name Hindu Kush. "Hindu Kush - the Slayer of the Hin-dus, so called because most of the slaves brought from India die here of the bitter cold thereof." For forty days he waited for the snow to melt off the Hindu Kush. He described the Afghans as a " turbulent, violent race, impatient of the slightest curb."He crossed the Hindu Kush by approaching them from the north by the Anderab valley and over the Khawak Pass. Once over the Khawak Pass he came to the area, probably Kapisa, where the once great city was deserted and ruined, a result of the Mongul onslaught.Travellng with a small group of other people, he was attacked crossing the Kabul pass but fortunately they repulsed the bandits with bows and arrows. Kabul had been destroyed and reduced to the size of a village and little remained of Ghazni. He reports that Kandaahr had escaped the rav-ages of the Mongols and was cordially received by the Turkish governor. From here he trav-elled to Sind and onto Delhi.While passing through the Pathan (Pashtoon) tribal areas on his way to the Indus, via the Su-liaman Range, he was repeatedly attacked by the marauding Afghans and complained bitterly about their behaviour.Although their destruction had been great, in places almost total, the Mongols only controlled the Hindu Kush regions for a little more than a hundred years. By the mid fourteenth century the Mongols still held parts of Central Asia north of the Sir Darya (Jaxartes) but the most of what is modern day Afghanistan was in the hands of Turkish chieftans who ruled with rea-sonable civility.
Timur-i-Lang born 1336 in Kesh, modern day Shakhrisabz, south of Samarkand. Within 30 years he established a new empire in Central Asia. He first made himself master of Turkestan, and then proceeded to conquer Persia, parts of southern Russia (weakening the power of the Golden Horde), and northern India as far as Delhi. Timur's mother was a descendent of Gen-ghis Khan and was described as belonging to the Gurkhan branch of the Barlas Turks.One of his greatest expeditions was his invasion of India in 1398 to punish the Moslem rulers who were showing to mouch tolerance towrds the Hindus.En route to India he crossed the Hindu Kush by the Khawak Pass and made a side expedition with a smaller force to punish the Kafir unbelievers in Nuristan. Rafferty describes this trip(page 136, Notes on Afghanistan) Timur found himself in that terrible tangle of ridge and val-ley which lies to the north of the Kabul River opposite modern Jalalabad. The country was so steep that Timur himself was lowered down the precipitous sides of the valleys on a sledge supported by ropes while his officers lay on their shields and toboganned over the surface of the snow.Towards the end of his life, in 1402, he defeated the Ottoman Turks-who had succeeded the Seljuks in Asia Minor- at Ankara, and even took Sultan Beyazit captinve. Notorious for his savagery, it has been estimated that he caused the deaths off seventeen million people. Some of these were the slave-laboureres used for his extravagent building projects, for paradoxically there was a creative side to his nature. In the course of his conquests he commandeered the best local artists and craftsmen, and sent them back to embellish his capital of Samarkand, which became reknowned thropughout the world. He died in 1405, on th eve of his campaign against China, and the seeds of decay were planted when his empire was divided among his sons and grandsons. Kathleen Hopkirk p 14.The Timurud princes were a strange mixture of warrior, aesthete and the barbarian:they built beautiful mosques and palaces in Herat, Balkh and Meshed, but fought savagely among them-selves and had anyone who displeased them skinned alive. The exception was Ullugh Beg, a scholarly man and Tamerlane's favourite grandson, under who Samarkand continued to flourish as a centre of civilization. He was assassinated by his own son. The sixteenth century brough a new invader the Uzbek Turks from the north, who gave their name to a large terri-tory in western Turkestan which has recently become a new country: Uzbekistan. Turks and Mongols were now thoroughly intermixed.....

The Mogul Empire (AD 1504-1747) Babur Zahiru'd- din Muhammad Babur Padshah Ghazi, popularly known as Babur, was the first of the Moghul rulers In his memoirs, ' Babu-Nama' which he wrote in Turki, he reveals his ex-tensive knowledge of the mountains of Central Asia, particularly Afghanistan.Barbur was born in Farghana in 1483 and was a descendent of Tamerlane's third son.. His bi-ographer describes his race as Turk and later refers to him being Uzbek -Turk . By the fif-teenth century both Turks and Mongols had been interrmixing for some time.He described his birth place thus:Farghana is situated in the fifth climate and at the limit of settled habitation. On the east it has Kashgar; on the west, Samarkand; on the south, the mountains of Badakshan border; on the north, though in former times there must have been towns such as Almaligh. Almatu and Yangi, which they write Taraz, at the present time all is desolate, no settled population what-ever remaining, because of the Mughuls and the Auzbegs. In June 1494 at the age of 12, Babur became the ruler of Farghana. For the next seven years he struggled to take the alluring city of Samarkand, Timur's former capital. .In 1500 at the age of 19 Babur took Samarkand and a year later loses through unreliable friends and ruthless op-ponents thwarted his desire to hold it long termDuring these apprenticeship years, he travelled extensively and these journeys equipped him for the arduous life ahead. In the opening section of his autobiography his reference points are mountains. "Farghana is a small country,... It is girt round by mountains except on the west..and refers to local mountains Bara Koh . He frequently refers to the his southern refer-ence points the mountains of Badakshan and later ... " In the mountains round Farghana are excellent summer-pastures (yilaq) In late August 1500, Babur left the town of Kesh and travels over one of the most difficult passes en route to AuratipaNext we were for going up the valley of the Kam torrent and over the Sara-taq pass (da-ban)...we entered a valley and made our way up it. On its steep and narrow roads and at its sharp and preciptitous saddles many horses and camels were left. Before we reached the Sara-taq pass we had (in 25m.) to make three or four night halts. A pass! and what a pass! Never was such a steep and narrow pass seen; never were traversed such ravines and preci-pices. Those dangerous narrows and sudden falls, those perilous heights and knife edge sad-dles, we got through with much difficulty and suffering, with countless hardships and miser-ies.In the summer of 1504 at the age of 22, Babur left his homeland hoping to join his uncle Husain Beg Baiqara, the ruler Herat the leading Asian city in art, literature, philosophy and religion. On leaving his homeland he describes that poignant moment."Those who. hoping in me, went with me into exile, were, small and great, between 2 and 300; they were almost on foot, had walking staves in their hands, brogues on their feet, and long coats on their shoulders. So destitute were we that we had but two tents (chadar) amongst us; my own used to be pitched for my mother, and they set an alachug at each stage for me to sit in."He crossed the Oxus in June and regained hope in Hisar country when he learns that the cow-ardly and aging ruler Khusrau Shah is losing control of his territory. Nearly all the followers of Khusrau Shah join Babur as he changes plans from visiting Herat and decides to head for Kabul.Babur makes his first crossing of the Hindu Kush in Autumn 1504 via the Qipchak (Cha-hardar) Pass from the Surkhab River and descended into the Ghorband Valley. He soon takes Kabul Typical is his section on Mountain Passes into Kabul:The country of Kabul is a fastness hard for foreign foe to make his way into.The Hindu Kush mountains, which separate Kabul from Balkh, Qunduz and Badakhshan, are crossed by seven roads. Three of these lead out of Panjshir, viz. Khawak, the uppermost Tul, the next lower, and Bazarak. Of the passes on them, the one on the Tul road is the best, but the road itself is rather the longest whence, seemingly, it is called Tul. Bazarak is the most di-rect; like the Tul, it leads over into Sar-i-rab; as it passes through Parandi, local people call its main pass, the Parandi. Another road leads up through Parwan; it has seven minor passes, known as Haft-bacha (Seven-younglings), between the main pass (Baj-gah). It is joinded at its main pass by two roads from Andar-ab, which go on to Parwan by it. This is a road full of dif-ficulties. Out of Ghur-bund, again, three roads lead over. The next one to Parwan, known as the Yang-yul pass (New-road), goes through Walian to Khinjan; next above this is the Qip-chaq road, crossing to where the water of Andar-ab meets meets the Surkh-ab (Qizil-su); this also is an excellent road; and the third leads over the Shibr-tu; those crossing by this in the heats take their way by Bamian and Saighan, but those crossing it in winter, go on by Ab-dara (Water valley). Shibr-tu excepted, all the Hindu-kush roads are closed for three or four months in winter, because no road through a vally-bottom is passable when the water are high. If any-one thinks to cross the Hindu-kush at that time, over the mountains instead of through a valley-bottom, is journey is hard indeed. The time to cross is the three of four au-tumn months when the snow is less and the water are low. Whether on mountains or in the valley-bottoms, Kafir highwaymen are not few.The road from Kabul into Khurasan passes through Qandahar, it is quite level without a pass.Four roads leads into Kabul from the Hindustan side; one by a rather low pass through the Khaibar mountains, another by way of Bangash, another by way of Naghr (var. Naghz), and another through Farmul;; the passes being low also in the three last-named.In his book Babur-Nama he describes with great details his favourite city Kabul, the moun-tains, routes and passes, flora, fauna, the ethic tribes. Of Kabul he says, " It has a very pleasant climate; if the world has another so pleasant, it is not known. Even in the heats, one cannot sleep at nights without a fur-coat. Although the snow in most places lies deep in winter, the cold is not excessive...."Baburs travels in the mountain are legendary. In May 1506 he set out to fight the Uzbeks in the north and goes via the Ghorband valley over the Shibr-tu Pass , then the pass of the Little-Dome (Gumbazak-kutal) through Saighan then over the Dandan-Shikan Pass and camped in the meadows of Kahmard. Bibaur then moves to Khurasan via the Ajar valley and crosses the upper Balkh river at Balkh-Ab. Camps awhile at Saf Hill to Gorziwan, Almar, Qaisar, Chechaktu. Morghab to the Bam Valley.After meeting various rulers in the region he travelled to Herat an enjoys the spectacle and splendid architecture created by his forebears. Although persuded to stay the winter in the Herat region, Babur decides to head back to Kabul because he was worried that some of his enemys might vtake the city in his absence. The winter came and heavy snow feel on the moungtains between Herat and Kabul. On Dec 24 1506, Babur left Herat and was soon con-fronted by a sheet of snow from Khwajagan and as he got near to Chachcharan, the snow was above the horses knees. The story becomes a mountain travellers nightmare. Chest deep snow, progress 2 miles a day, frostbitten hands and feet. Babur writes:" Much misery and hardship were endured in those few days, more than at any time of my life. In that stress I composed the following opening couplet:Is there one cruel turn of Fortune's wheel unseen of me ?Is there a pang, a grief my wounded heart has missed.For nearly w eek Babur and a his tough band of men stamped chest-deep snow down for 6 or 7 metres, before being exhausted. then the lead would change After 10 to 20 men had stamped the snow, the horses would be led. After a few steps the horse would sink up to the stirrups. After four days the got out of that depressing place and reached a large cave below the Zirrin Pass.In 1525, he left Kabul for India and from then on Delhi and Agra became his capitals. He never lost his love for Kabul and requested that on his death, he be buried there. He was bur-ied on the western slopes of the mountain called Sher-i- Darwaza.Later "In India, meanwhile, Babur's grandson - the Emperor Akbar- was bringing Mogul rule to its zenith. By the end of the sixteenth cebtury he had established a sound administrative framework, while peerless cities like Agra and fatepur Sikri claimed the artistic glories of his reign. Far away in London, however, the East India Company was founded in 1600, with profound implications for the future of the sub-comtinent.
Mirat ul Mumalik 1553-1556
From the book Travels of an Admiral. Mirat ul Mumalik. by Syed Ali Rais. Translated from the Turkish, with notes by A. Vambery.People from the Turkic tribes had ruled Afghanistan, or parts of Afghanistan for centuries but somehow historians give scant recognition to this factor.Sidi (Syed) Ali Reis also known as Mirat ul Memalik (the Mirror of the Countries), travelled through India, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Persia between 1553 and 1556 in his capacity as an Admiral in the Turkish Navy. A man blessed with many talents; mathematician, astrono-mer, geographer, poet, theologian and an expert in nautical science, he left us with a book of his travels. The Admiral was the first of two navy men who, far from their seas, made a greatername as land travellers, than sailors. Less than 300 years later, the English navy Captain John Wood, made one of the greatest feats in Central Asian exploration, when he discovered the sources of the Oxus, high in the remote Wakhan of Afghanistan. In 1553 Sidi Ali Reis was appointed to the position of Admiral of the Egyptian fleet and his first mission was to travel overland to Basrah and bring back the fleet of 15 Galleys anchored there. As he prepared to leave Basrah with the fleet, he was attacked by the Portugese and en-gaged in a number of bloody seabattles. This event, coupled with a foul 10 day storm, saw most of his shipped wrecked and he escaped with the few remaining ships on an epic voyage to Gujarat. Here he realised the impossibility of sailing his ships back to Turkey so he left them in charge of the local ruler and travelled overland by way of Sind, Punjab, Afghanistan, Transoxiana, Khorassan, Azerbijan and home through Persia. Accompanied by a handful of Egyptian soldiers he travelled through India and on reaching Lahore he found that Padishah Humayun of Kabul had just defeated Iskender Khan and had taken Lahore and was now seated on the throne in Delhi. The Governor of Lahore would not let him travel to Afghanistan until he had been to see the Padishah Humayun. Here in Delhi he was detained by the benvolent ruler who treated him royaly and enjoyed his poetry. After some months he gained permission to leave for Kabul. His account of his travels to Kabul are confusing and even the great explorer Vambery who translated his book gets thoroughly con-fused. He sets off for Kabul via Peshawar and the Khyber Pass and reached Djushai. " In the mountains we saw two rhinoceroses, each the size of a small elephant; they have a horn on their nose about two inches long. " They travelled to Kabul by Laghman. In Kabul he was the guest of the two sons of Humayun, Mehemmed Hekim Mirza and Ferrukh Fal Mirza. The admiral was royally treated and was captivated by the scenery. " Kabul itself is a beautiful city, surrounded by mountains covered by snow, and pleasure gardens with running brooks. Pleasure and merriemnt prevailed everywhere, feasting and banqueting were the order of the day. In every corner were gaily dressed Luli's (Gipsy dancing and singing damsels) en-ticing one with music and song to join the merry crowd; the populace in fact seemed to have no thought for any thing, but for pleasure and enjoyment." (p64,65)Having no time for frivolities, the Admiral's thoughts were focussed on getting home as quickly as possible. But with snow covering the roads and mountain passes, the Governor ad-vised him not to leave Kabul. The Admiral countered the argument by saying that men could overcome mountains, if they had a mind to do so. The Governor agreed he could attempt the treacherous crossing of the Hindu Kush and gave him men to guide the group and their horses. They rode out of Kabul via Kara-bag to Charikar and Parwan. Details of which pass he took are a bit sketchy but Vambery believes he crossed east of the more commonly used pass of that era, Dendanshiken Pass. This is supposedly the pass crossed by Babur. Their guide, Mir Nezri, was from the southern side of the Hindu Kush and was well acquainted with the area. The Admiral decribed the crossing of the Hindu Kush as " a very difficult passage." They crossed the pass in one day and spent a night at the bottom of the pass and onto Anderab.The admiral's gift of poetry opened many door for him. On his arrival in Taloqan he met the son of the son of the ruler of Badakhshan and all the upper Oxus and entered into a poetical competition which led to introduction to his father Suleiman Shah who " showed me much at-tention and loaded me with signs of his favour." (p66)With fighting in Balkh, Termez and Kunduz and surrounding areas, he was advised to skirt these conflictual areas and go via Khism, the capital of Badakhshan, Kalai Zafar, Rustak and onto Bender Semiti and Khatlan, an ancient city also known as Khotl.
After a succession of conquerors, explorers, pilgrims who were always fleet of foot and in a hurry to reach their destinations, a new group of intelligent, well educated Catholic men be-gan penetrating remote corners of the globe. These were Jesuits who were here to stay perma-nently. There was never any haste in their travel and they had a tendency to amble and soak in the alien culture, that they would soon be experts in..Biographer C. Wessels, a fellow Jesuit, summed up their work:" -before everything else they were, and remained, missionaries going out to cast abroad the seeds of the Gospel wherever human heart would give it soil; whose one ultimate purpose was to gain souls rather than to discover territories; who never lost sight of their raison d'etre , and therefore carried into their enteprises the same indomitable energy and daring that had called them away from friends and home to brave the perils of the deep without any wish or hope of gain or glory."We are fortunate indeed to know a little of one of the world's most dogged travellers as his diaries were destroyed after his death in China. Much is owed to his companion, the Armeian Isaac, who saved some fragments of his diary and took them to Peking and gave them to the famous Jesuit astronomer father Matthew Ricci, who recorded the story of Isaac and pieced together the scraps. So it is likely some inaccuracies crept into to Ricci's account of Bento De Goes travels.translationBento de Goes was born in 1562, on the island of San Miguel in the Azores. His first profession was a soldier and in 1584, entered a the Society of Jesus in Goa. After two years he quit and went to Ormuz, Regreting his decision he applied to reenter the Society and acceptabed again in 1588 at the age of 26. His superiors soon discovered he was a man of exceptional ability and he was offered the opportunity to study for the priesthood which he declined from a position of humility. After living for six year in Goa, Bento de Goes, was one of three Jesu-its selected to accept the invitation of the great Mogul ruler, Akbar, to visit him at his court in Lahore. The party survived a hazardous journey across the deserts to Lahore where he met Akbar soon after his arrival on 5 May 1595. In the splendour of one of the most lavish courts every known, the young Jesuit brother won the confidence of Akbar and so storng grew the relationship, that De Goes persuaded him from attacking the Deccan plateau and capturing all the Portugese colonies. In 1601, De Goes was appointed an ambassador of Akbar to negotiate for peace with the viceroy of India. Goes superiors soon began to realise his talents and started planning a journey for him to find Cathay and its forgotten Christian communities. Not only was he given the blessings of Akbar and letters of introduction, the great Khan gave 400 gold pieces to his trusted friend. Wearing the clothes of a Persian merchant and with long hair and beard, he travelled under the Moslem name of Abdullah Isai.Goes left Agra on October 29, 1602, and arrived in Lahore on December 8. Here he was lucky to find a very experience companion, Isaac, an Armenian.The following year 1603 , in February with a party of 500 persons, pack animals, includin camels and waggons they joined the annual caravan for Kashgar. At Attock the crossed the Indus, everything from thereon being then part of a greater Afghanistan. Next he tackled the mountains of Afghanistan which he described as perilous and difficult. His lumbering convoy was attacked before reaching Peshawar by bandits who were after the goods the were carry-ing. Next they headed for Jalalabad and as the convoy moved towards Kabul, along narrow tracks scratched on the face of hillsides, natives continued to attack them by dropping rocks on them from above. Frequently they had to travel at "the point of the sword." As he travelled the route towards Kabul Goes met a hermit who said that they were 30 days from Kafirstan, " which noMohammedan was allowed to enter. Those who penetrated into the country were punished with death, while heathen merchants went about unmolested. " (p 15) De Goes sampled some of the wine given to the Hermit by the Kafirs, and noted that it was similar to the wine of his country. What De Goes learnt about was the land formerly known as Kafirstan, now Nuristan where a race of fierce mountain people lived, with a strong dislike for the Muslim neighbours.It took De Goes six months to reach Kabul, a journey that could be done in half the time, but there were no records to break, and much to absorb and learnDue to the hardships of the journey, De Goes lost many of his companions through death or desertion, but his faithful companion Isaac remained. He formed a new caravan and now had the formidable barrier of the Hindu Kush to cross. Resting in Kabul it is easy to imagine the thoughts going through Goes mind, looking at the high snow-capped mountains which ring Kabul. Yet further north, and beyond them, is the greatest barrier of all, the might Hindu Kush.It would appear that Goes proceeded from Kabul to Charikar, thence Parwan where he rested for five days, before tackling the the killer mountains.From the little information available it is fairly certain he crossed the Hindu Kush by the Par-wan Pass ( or Bajgah) and presuming he took the normal route though the villages via Aliabad on the Kunduz River then to Taloquan, following the route of Marco Polo into Badakhshan. Wessels states it took " twenty days across the mountains to Aingaràm, from where another fifteen days' march brought them to the district of Calcià." (p 17-18) There has been a lot of discussion as to where Aingaràm is but for those who have travelled the route by foot or seen it from the air, the most likely route he would have gone is to Anderab, down the Nahrin, through Aliabad to Kuduz and Taloqan. From here he went to Badakhshan, probably following Marco Polo's route through Kishm.
Posted by Bob McKerrow at 3:39 AM

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