Mohand Marg The woodland meadow where Aurel Stein worked on Rajatarangini – Jammu Kashmir Latest News | Tourism
The local Sarpanch informed us that we must first reach the village of Anderwan, the starting point of Mohand Marg.
I had heard of Mohand Marg from elders, and later read about its meaning. The name of Sir Marc Aurel Stein has always made me curious why he chose this place at a height of 11,000 feet in the Himalayan forest, to translate the famous Rajatarangini story of Kalhan Pandit and add notes to it footnotes and unique scholarly appendices. Stein also wrote valuable research on the history and civilization of Central Asia.
British archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein was born on November 26, 1862 in Hungary into a moderate Jewish family. He fell in love with this grassland (Mohand Marg) when he first visited Kashmir on June 8, 1888, and continued to visit this place until April 1943. Stein spent several summers in the grasslands of Mohan Marg translating the Rajatarangini in English and prepared his first Sanskrit edition. After completing his work, Stein erected a memorial at the spot to commemorate his achievement. It suffered some damage afterwards. From Mohand Marg he made four major expeditions to Central Asia in 1900-1901, 1906-1908, 1913-1916 and 1930.
Ever since I started journalism as a profession in 1982, I have longed to visit Mohand Marg. This did not happen for many years. Eventually, a time came when my dream would come true and on July 2, 2022, I found myself in Wanghat with some journalist friends. Wanghat is also famous for historical ruins of Hindu temples or Buddhist viharas. It is a site of archaeological importance.
After covering the distance from Ganderbal to Wanghat in two hours, we met another local contact who was waiting there to receive us. During our discussion about the plan to visit Mohand Marg, the locals were not in favor of our adventure. They said it would be difficult to hike 15km to Mohand Marg, a steep climb without any arrangement for the trekking adventure. In case we do, the return will take a month. Despite these discouraging signals, I wanted to visit my long-cherished place.
The local Sarpanch informed us that we must first reach the village of Anderwan, the starting point of Mohand Marg. He has already been informed by my friends of our Mohand Marg mission. He therefore showed extraordinary care to make our adventure a success.
Arriving in the village of Anderwan on July 3, 2022, we found three horses with their keepers waiting for us. Giving instructions before mounting the horses, the local Sarpanch said that one should take paracetamol tablets and chew onion, otherwise when crossing the woods the scent of the shrubs could cause dizziness. He had kept foodstuffs like chapatis, vegetable butter, salted tea and bottles of water with the squires.
We started our horse riding expedition at 10 am. Just after completing the two kilometer hike with ease, the uphill journey began gradually on a winding road of scattered white stones. Here the keepers advised us to lean forward to allow the horse to easily negotiate the tight curves along the hilly terrain.
After covering 7 km of uphill terrain in two hours, we reached Jabbad, a small plateau where our friends and guides advised us to take some rest and snacks. The young boys who accompanied us were students but did part-time work as guides. All were happy companions who made our stimulating company a great success. Before having snacks, the boys suggested that we take tables of paracetamol and onion. I carried my medical kit and offered pills to everyone. However, the boys were reluctant to take the tablets as they are acclimated to the hilly environment.
From Jabbad the terrain was almost inhospitable, but our strength was the company of our boys and our ongoing conversation with them. They too were smart to keep our attention away from the rough terrain where the horses also get scared negotiating the tight trails.
Finally, we were delighted to reach our destination at noon, traversing the lush green meadow of densely lined pine trees. Immediately I touched the three-sided memorial stone with epitaphs in Urdu, English and Sanskrit at the site of Sir Marc Aurel Stein’s campsite in Mohand Marg erected in December 2017 by the Kashmir Chapter of INTACH and Ministry of Tourism, Government of Jammu and Kashmir. I felt emotionally uplifted after touching the memorial of a great scholar. I was happy to have finally accomplished my decades-old mission to visit Mohand Marg.
The site is unique in its pristine beauty and solitude, and so close to nature. Our fatigue evaporated into thin air. When we put our feet on the spot we were looking for, we felt like we were on top of the world.
I had with me a copy of Rajatarangini, translated by Stein for reference. Here, I was able to discover that he preferred this place because of its isolation and the soothing scent of pine trees and flowers. The sky was cloudy. We were afraid of the rain because there was no shelter anywhere on the vast green meadow. However, the clouds disappeared after dropping a few drops of rain. We were lucky enough to escape the vagaries of nature. The bright sun rays made the meadow more attractive.
Aurel Stein had spent several decades here absorbed by the immaculate beauty of nature and by his exercise of scholarship. Unfortunately, his last wish remained unfulfilled. He had wished for him to be “cremated” in his beloved Mohand Marg. Stein died of a serious heart attack in Kabul in 1943 at the age of 81. He had never married. He often expressed that “the idea of marriage never occurred to him.”
In Aurel Stein’s own words, “from the high mountain plateau that my camp again occupies, almost all of Ka?hmir stretches out before me, from the icy peaks of the northern range to the long line snow-covered Pir Panjal, a small world apart, surrounded by mighty mountain ramparts. Small indeed the country may seem, beside the Great Plains which extend to the south, and contained the history of which it was the theatre. And yet, just as the natural attractions of the valley have earned it a reputation far beyond the borders of India, the interest attached to its history goes far beyond the narrow geographical limits.
“The favors with which nature has so generously endowed “the earth in the belly of the Himalayas” are not in danger of fading away or disappearing. But these multiple remnants of antiquity which the isolation of the country has preserved and which help us to resurrect the life and conditions of yesteryear, are doomed to disappear more and more with the rapid advance of Western influences.
“Great are the changes which the last decades have brought to Ka?hmir, greater perhaps than anything the country has known since the end of the Hindu period. It is easy to predict that much of what is valuable to the student of history will soon be destroyed or wiped out. It is time to collect as carefully as possible the materials still available for the study of ancient Ka?hmir and its early archives. I have spared no effort to serve this end, and in the result of my labors, I hope, there will be a return for the books which I owe to Kashmir.
Quoting Kalhana in Rajatarangini, Sir Aurel Stein writes: “Nor did Kalhana fail to mention the failure of kings due to human frailties. For example, Harsha’s downfall has been attributed to his avoidance of battles, lack of independent judgement, poor selection of people as ministers, and most importantly, heeding the advice of a scheming woman.
“Significantly, Kalhana was aware of the relationship of various political power groups of his time to their economic conditions. Thus, he repeatedly urges kings not to allow any village to store food if it exceeds a year’s consumption. Nor should a village be allowed to keep oxen beyond the number needed to cultivate the fields. Why? Kalhana attributed the emergence of the feudatories and their revolts to the accumulation of wealth. Among various other factors, marital alliances within the official class are also described as a source of trouble for a king.
In 1899, Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri helped Stein translate the Rajatarangini in several ways until his great work was completed. Shastri was asked to give up the teaching position in a Christian missionary, at the request of Aurel Stein. King George V conferred on him the title of Mahamahopadhyaya in 1912.
Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri died in 1921 leaving behind his genuine scholarly works. He was highly respected by Western scholars. Grierson called him his “old friend”. Stein observed, “I will always be happy to remember him among my friends”. Dr. Hutzch reports: “In him, too, I hope I have immediately found a friend whom I will never forget. For all those for whom Kashmir is not just a geographical denomination but a reservoir of learning and ideas, Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri will always be a guiding star.
John Marshall once observed “Pandit Mukund Ram Shastri, of whom I can safely say there is no Pandit in India of whom I have heard such constant praise from everyone he is with to be in contact.”