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belong to the Dàrd* race, although they themselves are not aware of the kinship. They are known simply as Bròk-pà or highlanders). While isolated among strangers they have preserved themselves with a caste-like feeling from amalgamating with them, and seem to have only recently and very superficially accepted the religious beliefs of their neighbours. The greater part of the tribe is thus nominally Buddhist, while two or three of their north-westernmost villages bordering on Baltistán have become Musalman.
This tribe presents therefore, to the student of early institutions, the interesting sight of a people of pure Arian race, isolated in the semibarbarous stage, and who enjoy the rare distinction of being practically unaffected by the action of any of the great philosophising or methodising religions; although in some of their customs they have not altogether escaped being influenced by contact with neighbours of another race.
I paid a visit to the Dàh-Hanu district (the home of these so-called Buddhist Dàrds) on my way down to India from Ladàk (Western Tibet) last winter (1876). In a wild gorge through which the narrow Indus rushes, and where the grand masses of granite seemingly piled in confusion on both banks scarce leave room for the passage of the river and conceal the higher mountains behind them, my first camp was pitched. Close by, the Hanu Ravine, which in its upper part expands into a wide inhabited valley, escapes through a rocky chasm into the Indus. Here, on a little triangular plain a few yards in extent between the cliffs and the river, the only flat spot around, the people of Hanu were waiting to receive me. The sun was setting; the gorge was already in deep shade; a line of women in dark attire was drawn up along the side of the pathway, each holding in her hand a saucer full of burning juniper-wood from which columns of smoke ascended in the still air, uniting overhead in a kind of canopy and giving out a pungent incense-like odour. A wild music of drums and screaming pipes was playing. As I approached, the women bent down and placed on the ground at their feet the smoking bowls which screened them as in a cloud, while they greeted me in the peculiar manner of their tribe by waving the two hands rapidly in front of their faces with fingers closed as if holding something.
My attention was chiefly attracted by some witch-like old hags of the number, with faces begrimed by juniper smoke, whose sharp haggard features and deep sunk eyes were in marked contrast with the flat Tibetan countenances to which one is accustomed in Ladak. These were unmis
* Although Dr. Leitner (in his Dardistán) states that the name Dard was not claimed by any of the race that he met, yet I have heard the Drás people of that tribe apply it to their parent stock in Astor under the form Dardé. They are also known to their Kashmírí neighbours by the name of Dard, and Durdu.
takeably of a different race. They wore long straight woollen smocks, square flat caps poised on their heads with one of the corners projecting over the forehead, the hair done up into numberless slender plaits hanging loose and straight, and sheep skins suspended like cloaks over the shoulders, the only part of their dress resembling that of Tibetan women, excepting the mocassin-like boots. The men were clothed just like Tibetans* with caps, like black nosebags, falling over one ear.
These people were inhabitants of the Hanu side-valley, whose villages lie some distance up it, but who had come down to the gorge of the main river (Indus) to receive me. They have lost their own tribal dialect and speak Tibetan; but otherwise in dress and customs they resemble the rest of their people.
My next day's march led through similar scenery, the path now rising up the side of the cliff supported on frail-looking scaffoldings of tree-trunks resting on projecting rocks or on wooden trestles, now plunging precipitously down to the river-side where a stone could be thrown to strike the opposite cliff across the Indus. We saw a village or two on the other side at the mouths of lateral valleys, inhabited not by Bròkpàs but by Musalmàn Tibetans from beyond the mountain-range on the west. At length we came to a succession of isolated villages on our own (north-east) side of the river, mostly placed on high alluvial plateaux near the mouths of side ravines (whence they obtain their water for irrigation), and divided by vertical cliffs into terraces rising in successive steps. Here the warmth in summer is great, the rays of the sun being thrown off from the granite sides of the confined valley, so that where water is available the vegetation is luxuriant. Vines trail from the overhanging cliffs and from the splendid walnut trees, and two crops ripen each year on the same ground during the summer season, nothing being grown in winter. The apricots, mulberries, and apples of the district are celebrated. Between the villages there is nothing but the most arid wastes of granite without a green thing to cheer the eye. In this part the villages that occur in the other side of the river are inhabited by Bròkpàs as well as those on this.
Dah is the principal village in this part. Situated on a long sloping alluvial terrace about a hundred yards wide and at the highest part perhaps a couple of hundred feet above the river, it is separated from a still higher terrace by a wall of cliff which culminates in a point immediately above the village. On this point a cairn surmounted by thin staves with fluttering rags attached, marks the supposed abode of a local demon or deity. The howling waste behind, invisible from the village on account of its higher level, but rising into still higher mountain masses which tower above, affords a fitting scene for all the supernatural doings of the * Women arc everywhere the most conservative of national customs.
mountain spirits. The scenery which inspires awe in a passing traveller, has made its mark on the minds of the inhabitants. These lofty solitudes are, from their earliest years, connected with ideas of dread, which shape themselves into myths. The priest affirms that sometimes in the early dawn while performing the annual worship, he perceives a white indistinct shape hovering over the cairn; and this, he says, is the goddess of the spot revealing herself to her worshipper. The people believe that this demon keeps a special watch over all their actions, and in a country where frequent accidents by flood or fell are almost inevitable, and where a false step or a falling rock may cause death at any time, they put down such disasters to the vengeance of the goddess for the neglect of some of their peculiar customs which they have persuaded themselves are religious duties.
Foremost among their tenets is the abhorrence of the cow. This is an essentially Dàrd peculiarity, though not universal among them. Unlike Hindus they consider that animal's touch contamination, and though they are obliged to use bullocks in ploughing, they scarcely handle them at all. Calves they seem to hold aloof from still more. They use a forked stick to put them to, or remove them from, the mother. They will not drink cow's milk (or touch any of its products in any form); and it is only recently that they have overcome their repugnance to using shoes made of the skin of the animal they so contemn. When asked whether their abstaining from drinking the milk and eating the flesh of cows is due to reverence such as that of the Hindus, they say that their feeling is quite the reverse. The cow is looked upon as bad not good, and if one of them drank its milk, they would not admit him into their houses.
Again in reply to a question, they ascribed this custom to the will of their goddess. They found by experience that she would not allow them to drink the milk of cows with impunity. The son of a certain head-man of the village of Ganok, a Musalman Bròkpà, had broken through the prohibition after living some years among the Baltis. After a time the goddess caused him to go mad and to throw himself into the river where he was drowned.
Thus although the Bròkpàs of Dàh-Hanu are nominally Buddhists, yet their real worship is that of local spirits or demons like the Lhà-mo (goddess) of Dàh.*
* In this, however, they are not singular; for the Tibetans of Ladak also have a reverence for similar spirits of purely local influence called Lhà (cf. Lhà-sa "the city of gods"), a reverenco which seems to be neither founded on the Buddhist dogmas, nor much countenanced by the more respectable members of the Làmaïte hierarchy. An annual incarnation of one of these demons (a female) takes place at Shè, a village of Ladak, in the month of August; but though Làmas are so plentiful in the country, it is to one of the lay members of a certain family that the honour of giving a temporary body to the deity belongs, while Làmas are rarely to be seen in the crowds that witness
Her name is Shiring-mo.* A certain family in the village supplies the hereditary officiating priest. This person has to purify himself for the annual ceremony by washings and fastings for the space of seven days, during which he sits apart, not even members of his own family being allowed to approach him, although they are compelled during the same period to abstain from onions, salt, chang (a sort of beer), and other unholy food. At the end of this period he goes up alone on to the rocky point before mentioned above the village, and after worshipping in the name of the community the deity who dwells there in a small cairn,† he renews the branches of the “shukpa” (Juniperus excelsa)‡ which were placed there the previous year, the old branches being carefully stowed away under a rock and covered up with stones.
It is said that this deity or spirit accompanied the ancestor of the priestly family from the original home of the Bròkpàs in Gilgit. Formerly the priest used to be occasionally possessed by the demon and in this state to dance a devil-dance, giving forth inspired oracles at the same time, but these manifestations have ceased for the last twelve or fifteen years. The worship is now simply one of propitiation inspired by fear, the demon seeming to be regarded as an impersonation of the forces of nature adverse to man in this wild mountainous country. Sacrifices of goats (not sheep) are occasionally offered at all seasons below the rock, by the priest only, on behalf of pious donors. They talk of the existence of the demon as a misfortune attaching to their tribe, and do not regard her with any loyalty as a protecting or tutelary deity. In each house the fireplace consists of three upright stones of which the one at the back of the hearth is the largest, 18 inches or 2 feet in height. On this stone they place an offering for the Lhamo from every dish cooked there, before they eat of it. They also place there the first-fruits of the harvest. Such is their household worship.
Besides this spirit-worship, which is their tribal religion, they have a superficial coating of Buddhism. They say that three or four cycles, that is
the performance and consult the oracle. Perhaps this may be the remains of a form of local spirit worship which may have preceded Buddhism in these countries. I have already treated this subject elsewhere.
* The affix mo is the Tibetan feminine affix, as bo is the masculine.
† The Sidh-pòsh Kafirs (probably Dàrds) have also a custom of "going once a year to the top of a mountain as a religious exercise and putting a stone on a cairn" (Leitner's Dàrdistàn, Vol. I, Part 3, p. 42).
This is also a Tibetan custom with this difference, that each Tibetan householder has a similar sacred bundle of shukpa branches and horns of animals on the flat roof of his own house. But these customs are mere survivals (superstitions) among the Tibetans, while they form the religion of the Bròkpàs.