1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Makran

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MAKRAN, or Mekran, a province of Baluchistan, fringing the Arabian Sea from Persia almost to Sind for about 200 m. It is subject to the khan of Kalat under British political supervision. Estimated area, 26,000 sq. m.; estimated pop. (1903), 78,000. The long lateral valley of Kej is usually associated with Makran in early geographical records. The Kej-Macoran of Marco Polo is the Makran of to-day.

The long stretch of sandy foreshore is broken on the coast-line by the magnificent cliffs of Malan, the hammer-shaped headlands of Ormarah and Gwadar, and the precipitous cliffs of Jebel Zarain, near Pasni. Within them lies the usual frontier band of parallel ridges, alternating with narrow valleys. Amongst them the ranges called Talana and Talur are conspicuous by their height and regular configuration. The normal conformation of the Baluchistan frontier is somewhat emphasized in Makran. Here the volcanic action, which preceded the general upheaval of recent strata and the folding of the edges of the interior highlands, is still in evidence in occasional boiling mud volcanoes on the coast-line. It is repeated in the blazing summit of the Kuh-i-taftan (the burning mountain of the Persian frontier) which is the highest active volcano in Asia (13,000 ft.), and probably the farthest inland. Evidence of extinct mud volcanoes exists through a very wide area in Baluchistan and Seistan. Probably the miri, or fort, at Quetta represents one of them. The coast is indented by several harbours. Ormarah, Khor Kalmat, Pasni and Gwadar are all somewhat difficult of approach by reason of a sand-bar which appears to extend along the whole coast-line, and which is very possibly the last evidence of a submerged ridge; and they are all subject to a very lively surf under certain conditions of wind. Of these the port of Gwadar (which belongs to Muscat and is therefore foreign territory) is the most important. They all are (or were) stations of the Indo-Persian telegraph system which unites Karachi with Bushire. With the exception of the Kej valley, and that of the Bolida, which is an affluent of the Kej, there are no considerable spaces of cultivation in Makran. These two valleys seem to concentrate the whole agricultural wealth of the country. They are picturesque, with thick groves of date palms at intervals, and are filled with crops and orchards. They are indeed exceedingly beautiful; and yet the surrounding waste of hills is chiefly a barren repetition of sun-cracked crags and ridges with parched and withered valleys intersecting them, where a trickle of salt water leaves a white and leprous streak amongst the faded tamarisk or the yellow stalks of last season’s grass. Makran is the home of remnants of an innumerable company of mixed people gathered from the four corners of Asia and eastern Africa. The ancient Dravidians, of whom the Brahui is typical, still exist in many of the districts which are assigned to them in Herodotus. Amongst them there is always a prominent Arab element, for the Arabs held Makran even before they conquered Sind and made the Kej valley their trade highway to India. There are negroes on the coast, bred from imported slaves. The Meds of the Indus valley still form the greater part of the fishing population, representing the Ichthyophagi of Arrian. The old Tajik element of Persia is not so evident in Makran as it is farther north; and the Karak pirates whose depredations led to the invasion of India and the conquest of Sind, seem to have disappeared altogether. The fourth section includes the valleys formed by the Rakshān and Mashkel, which, sweeping downwards from the Kalat highlands and the Persian border east and west, unite to break through the intervening chain of hills northward to form the Mashkel swamps, and define the northern limits of Makran. In these valleys are narrow strips of very advanced cultivation, the dates of Panjgur being generally reckoned superior even to those of the Euphrates. The great Mashkel swamp and the Kharan desert to the east of it, mark the flat phase of southern Baluchistan topography. It is geologically part of an ancient inland lake or sea which included the present swamp regions of the Helmund, but not the central depression of the Lora. The latter is buttressed against hills at a much higher elevation than the Kharan desert, which is separated from the great expanse of the Helmund desert within the borders of Afghanistan by a transverse band of serrated hills forming a distinct watershed from Nushki to Seistan. Here and there these jagged peaks appear as if half overwhelmed by an advancing sea of sand. They are treeless and barren, and water is but rarely found at the edges of their foothills. The Koh-i-Sultan, at the western extremity of the northern group of these irregular hills, is over 6000 ft. above sea-level, but the general level of the surrounding deserts is only about 2000 ft., sinking to 1500 ft. in the Mashkel Hamun and the Gaod-i-Zirreh.

The whole of this country has been surveyed by Indian surveyors and the boundary between Persian and British Baluchistan was demarcated by a commission in 1895–1896. In 1898 a column of British troops under Colonel Mayne was despatched to Makran by sea, owing to a rebellion against the authority of the khan of Kalat, and an attack made by some Makran chiefs on a British survey party. The campaign was short and terminated with the capture of the Kej citadel. Another similar expedition was required in 1901 to storm the fort at Nodiz. The headquarters of the native governor, under the khan of Kalat, are at Turbat, with deputies at Tump, Kolwa, Pasni and Panjgur. A levy corps, with two British officers, is stationed along the western frontier. The port of Gwadur forms an enclave belonging to the sultan of Muscat.

Baluchistan District Gazetteer, vol. vii. (Bombay, 1907). (T. H. H.*)