Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Badakhshán

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BADAKHSHÁN, a country of Central Asia, situated in the upper valley of the Kokcha river, one of the principal head streams of the Oxus. The name has been variously spelt Badascian, Balacian, Balakhshan, Balashan, Balaxien and Balaxia. Including Wakhan, it lies between 35 50 and 38 N. lat., and between 69 30 and 74 20 E. long. The chief ascertained positions are as follows : Faizabad, 37 2 K, 70 36 E. ; Ishkashm, 36 45 N., 71 38 E. ; Punja, 37 5 N., 72 39 E. ; and Karkat Yassin lake, 37 14 K, 74 18 E. Its extent from east to west is about 200 miles, and from north to south about 150 miles. On the north it is bounded by Kulab and Darwaz ; on the east by the lofty table-land of Pamir ; on the south by the Hindu Rush range ; and on the west by Kunduz. The Pamir land is the principal watershed of Asia, and Badakhshan forms part of the western water slope consti tuting the basin of the Oxus. The country is for the most part mountainous, but there are numerous plains and fertile valleys. The general slope of the country is great, since Kunduz is probably not more than 500 feet above the level of the sea, while Lake Victoria, close to the principal watershed, is estimated at 15,600 feet.

Badakhshan comprises 16 districts. The principal district called Faizabad is under the rule of the Mir Mahmiid Shah ; the others are dependencies ruled by relatives of the Mir, or by hereditary feudatories. Each ruler is inde pendent, but is bound to aid the Mir of Faizabad in time of need. The Mir himself pays tribute to the Amir of Cabul. The other districts besides Faizabad are Daraim, Shahr-i-buzurq, Gumbuz,Farakhar, Kishm, Rustak, Rushan, Shighnan, Ishkashm, Wakhan, Zebak, Minjan,Ragh, Daung, and Asiabd. Each district has its sub-divisions. In Faiza- bdd there are several fertile tracts ; amongst them are the hilly regions of Yaftal and Shewa, which are thickly popu lated, the former by Tajiks, and the latter by Turks of the Jakha Moghal tribe ; and the plateaus of Argu and Shewa, of which the former is somewhat higher than the plain of Faizabcid, about 15 miles in length by about 8 in breadth, and well cultivated, while the latter is still higher, and forms the best and largest pasture ground in Badakhshan. A lake named Sir-i-kol, about 20 miles in circumference, is situated on the Shewa plateau. In and around Faizabad there are numerous excellent fruit and flower gardens; the principal manufactures are cast-iron pots, boots and shoes, and a material woven from silk and cotton, called ilacha. The district of Jirm, also subject to Mahmiid Shah, com prises numerous rich valleys, as well as the famous mineral region called Yamgan, or " all mines." The mines yield rubies, lapis lazuli, lead, alum, sal-ammoniac, sulphur, copper, &c. The annual yield of lapis lazuli averages about 1500, which is sold at the rate of seven shil lings per pound; it is exported to Russia, Kashmir, and China. The Dasht-Baha-rak is an extensive plain in this district, on which was formerly situated a large city, once the capital of Badakhshan. There are several villages on it, as also the summer residence of the Mir. The caravan route from India to Faizabad passes over this plain. The districts of Rustak, Ragh, Kishm, Daraim, and Shahr-i-buzurg are next in importance as regards fertility and population. They abound in fertile hills and plains. The principal cultivated products are wheat, rice, Cicerarietinum,Phaseolus Mungo, cotton, linseed, poppy, sesame, apples, grapes, mul berries (which form the principal article of food in these regions), pears, apricots, walnuts, melons, gourds, turnips, radishes, carrots, spinach, leeks, as also numerous garden flowers and timber trees. The districts of Minjan and Rushan are more mountainous, have a cooler climate, and are more sparsely populated than the foregoing. Their inhabitants are also distinct, differing in physical features, creed, language, and habits. The celebrated ruby mines are in Ishkashm; they have not been worked for more than 30 years, except temporarily in 1 866. It is, however, suspected that they are worked surreptitiously by the people. They yield the well-known Balas (i.e., Badakhshan) ruby.

The principal domesticated animal is the yak. There are also large flocks of sheep, cows, goats, ponies, numerous fine dogs, and Bactrian camels. The more important wild animals are a large wild sheep (Ovis poll], foxes, wolves, jackals, bears, boars, deer, and lions; amongst birds, there are partridges, pheasants, ravens, jays, sparrows, larks, a famous breed of hawks, <kc.

Badakhshan proper is peopled by Tajiks, Turks, and Arabs, who speak the Persian and Turki languages, and profess the orthodox doctrines of the Mahometan law adopted by the Sunnite sect; while the mountainous districts are inhabited by Tajiks, professing the Shia creed, and speaking distinct dialects in different districts.

Badakhshan was visited by Hwen Thsang in 630 and 644. The Arabian geographers of the 10th century speak of its mines of ruby and azure, and give notices of the flourishing commerce and large towns of WakshandKhotl, regions which appear either to have in part corresponded with or to have lain close to Badakhshan. In 1272-73 Marco Polo and his companions stayed for a time in Badakh shan. During this and the following centuries the country was governed by kings who claimed to be descendants of Alexander the Great. The last of these kings was Shah Mahomet, who died in the middle of the 15th century, leaving only his married daughters to represent the royal line. Early in the middle of the 1 6th century the Uzbeks obtained possession of Badakhshan, but were soon expelled, and then the country was generally governed by descend ants of the old royal dynasty by the female line. About the middle of the 18th century the present dynasty of