Anthropology Friday: Travels into Bokhara, pt. 2/3

16445980Today we are continuing with Alexander Burnes’s Travels into Bokhara. Oddly, the volume I am reading ends with his arrival in Lahore, which is quite a distance from Bokhara. His actual expedition to Bokhara must be in a different volume; I’ll let you know next week if I find it.

As usual, I am using “” instead of block quotes for readability and trying to correct for any mistakes in the scanning, but unfamiliar words (chiefly ethnonyms) make this difficult.

“The population chiefly consists of the pastoral tribe of Katha, or Jun, who are so called from their living an erratic life, “Jun” having that signification: few of them are found at any distance from the rivers but in the rainy season. They have immense herds of buffaloes and camels, from the milk of which they derive sustenance; hardly cultivating the soil, though some tolerable fields of tobacco, raised by irrigation, may be seen near their habitations.”

EvX: The text here says “Kattia,” but this is most likely a transcription error, as “h” is often turned into “ti,” and I haven’t found any evidence of a “Kattia” tribe, but Kathia is a last name found among Gujarati and Punjabi peoples.

Scene in Kathawar: Travelers and Escort
Scene in Kathawar: Travelers and Escort

“They are a tall and handsome race, which may be attributed to a rule among them, prohibiting marriages before their females attain the age of twenty years: they believe that the children of an early union, so common among every other Indian tribe, are puny and unhealthy. These Katha are a predatory and warlike race: few of them are free from scars and wounds. They extend from the banks of the Hydaspes across the deserts to Delhi, and are the aborigines of this country.”

EvX: Wikipedia claims:

The Kathia are a Muslim tribe classified as Rajput, who claim descent from Parmara Rajputs, found in Punjab, Pakistan. According to the Census of India 1931, their male population numbered about 200,000. …

According to their traditions, the Kathia are descended from the legendary Rajah Karan of the Mahabharat.Originally they resided in Bikaner, whence they migrated and founded the state of Kathiawar, which takes its name from the Kathia tribe, and is in modern day Gujerat State of India. From there they went to Sirsa and then Bahawalpur. In this migration, they were accompanied by a few families of the Baghela tribe. Next they crossed over to Kabula stream and went on to Daira Dinpanah. From this place they spread over to Kamalia. The Kathia, like other Neeli Bar tribes were pastoralist.

Gold coin of Diodotus, Bactrian Empire, c. 245 BC. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΙΟΔΟΤΟΥ – "(of) King Diodotus".
Gold coin of Diodotus, Bactrian Empire, c. 245 BC. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΙΟΔΟΤΟΥ – “(of) King Diodotus”.

“At Shorcote I had the good fortune to procure a variety of coins, which I long believed to be Hindoo; but my surmise regarding the antiquity of the spot received a strong and satisfactory confirmation through the intelligence of the able secretary to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, — Mr. James Prinsep. That gentlemen discovered it to be a Bactrian coin, resembling that of an Appolodotus, and shaped like a Menander, — two coins of the Bactrian monarchs, found by Colonel J. Tod, and engraved in the transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society. The Greek word Bazileos may be read; and I had, therefore, to congratulate myself on having, in my journey to the Hydaspes, found the first Grecian relic in the Punjab. …”

Map of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom circa 180 BC
Map of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, circa 180 BC

EvX: Wikipedia notes:

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was – along with the Indo-Greek Kingdom – the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC. It was centered on the north of present-day Afghanistan. The expansion of the Greco-Bactrians into present-day northern India and Pakistan from 180 BC established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which was to last until around 10 AD.[1][2][3]

Dugong
Dugong–bolun?

“Among the inhabitants of the river itself, a creature called “bolun” was the most remarkable. We saw several of them in the mouth of the Ravee, which were of a black colour, and rolled like the porpoise. The natives class this fish with the alligator, and say it has four small paws, and a long snout like a pig. Its habits do not lead it on shore, and it lives on small fish. The large alligator is unknown here ; but the long-nosed reptile called “ghuryal” abounds. There is said to be a singular creature, called ‘* thundwa,” in this river, which is described as of the turtle species, and to have a string in its mouth, by which it can entangle a man, or even an elephant. It is mentioned in the Shasters as having seized the elephant of a god.

gharial
gharial

EvX: I’ve found nothing so far on this “bolun,” but I suspect it may have been a dugong, a relative of the manatee, which lives in coastal waters throughout the Indian Ocean including western India (though not, currently, off the coast of Pakistan.) Gharials, at least, are well-documented.

“It was a source of no small amusement to watch the love of gossip among the natives of our suite. We had a reporter sent purposely from the Court, who daily despatched an account of our employment and rides: the news-writer of Mooltan followed us from that city, and every day transmitted a Gazette. I had also letters from the news-writer at Lahore, giving me a precis of local news, and asking for a morceau in return. Our Dewan corresponded with the Chevaliers Ventura and Allard; and I was somewhat surprized to receive answers to many of my enquiries regarding the country from the former gentleman, to whom their subject had been communicated without my knowledge. Nothing, however, could exceed the politeness of all the people towards us, and the ready and happy manner they acceded to our wishes made us careful to wish for any thing.”

EvX: Wikipedia defines “Dewan“:

The originally Persian title of dewan (also quite commonly known as Diwan; also spelled -van) has, at various points in Islamic history, designated a powerful government official, minister or ruler. … The word is Persian in origin, and was loaned into Arabic. The original meaning was “bundle (of written sheets)”, hence “book”, especially “book of accounts,” and hence “office of accounts,” “custom house,” “council chamber”. The meaning divan “long, cushioned seat” is due to such seats having been found along the walls in Middle Eastern council chambers.[1]

The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro
Mohenjo-daro, an IVC city laid out similarly to Harappa

“About fifty miles eastward of Toolumba, I passed inland [number transcribed incorrectly] miles to examine the ruins of an ancient city, called Harapa. The remains are extensive, and the place, which has been built of brick, is about three miles in circumference. There is a ruined citadel on the river side of the town; but otherwise Harapa is a perfect chaos, and has not an entire building ; the bricks have been removed to build a small place of the old name hard by. Tradition fixes the fall of Harapa at the same period as Shorkote (1300 years ago), …”

Wikipedia, again:

[Harappa] is believed to have had as many as 23,500 residents and occupied about 150 hectares (370 acres) with clay sculptured houses at its greatest extent during the Mature Harappan phase (2600–1900 BC), which is considered large for its time.[2][3] Per archaeological convention of naming a previously unknown civilization by its first excavated site, the Indus Valley Civilization is also called the Harappan Civilization.

(See also my post on the Indus Valley Civilization.)

I’m going to pause here, but I’ll leave you with a preview for next week:

The Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, Lahore, houses the funerary urns of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 - 1839).
The Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, Lahore, houses the funerary urns of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 – 1839).

Sikhs got pretty buildings. I hear they have nice food, too.

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