Reviewing the Archaeology of Lidder Valley

Many archaeologists claim to have come across evidences of early human artefacts from this valley
Shrine of Baba Zain ud Din Reshi Ashmuqam, Lidder Valley
Shrine of Baba Zain ud Din Reshi Ashmuqam, Lidder Valley

Pahalgam is the most significant tourist resort of south Kashmir situated at the upper course of Nallah Lidder. It is also the main centre of the historic valley of Nallah Lidder known as Lidder valley and is spread on the banks of this Nallah. Literary, the Pahalgam consists of two local words Pahal and Gam, Pahal in local dialect means Shepherds and Gam as village, so Pahalgam means village of shepherds.

In fact, in this 21st there are a considerable number of shepherds and other nomadic tribes with their respective herds putting up in the lower and upper reaches of its green forests and vast meadows.

For the general tourists, Pahalgam is a treasure of natural heritage where in a pleasant climate, it offer them the wonderful expeditions to its thick glaciers, gushing Nallahs, pine trees, evergreen forests and vast meadows. But for the tourists of intellectual taste, Pahalgam offers something more in terms of its art, archaeology and architecture. And very few people are aware about the archaeological significance of this valley. In fact archaeologists widely believe that the earliest evidences of human civilization have evolved from this historic valley. Many archaeologists claim to have come across evidences of early human artifacts from this valley. The first ever stone tools have been found on the banks of Nallah Lidder. In the recent times many such stones were also found scattered in the upper course of Nallah Aura to the left of Lidder. These tools looked as the tools of early Stone Age. Besides Pahalgam also revealed the first ever human settlements at scores of places in its green forests, but most of artifacts of Paleolithic and Megalithic ages have gone unnoticed and unrecorded. The archaeology history says that the first archeological survey of this valley was undertaken in 1928. It was a European traveler called, Gruniton, a German national. He came across a handmade boulder on the Lidder bed.

This traveler was followed by other European experts, Peterra and Paterson in the year 1935. The famous Indian geologist Prof H. D. Samkaliya also explored this valley in 1969. He was successful when first time discovered the Paleolithic evidence at Pahalgam. The Pahalgam valley proved more historic in 1979, when archaeology department (which was headed then by historian turned archaeologist Prof Fida Mahammad Hassnain and his associate Mohammad Hassan Makhdoomi), discovered a terracotta settlement of Kushan era at Liddro, on the outskirts of this town. The discovery was made on the left bank of Nallah Lidder in a forest plateau called locally Hionar.

Although archaeologists identified few archaeological mounds in the area, but none of these were excavated. It was from the surface of one of the mounds that some moulded terracotta tiles were recovered. The tiles carry motifs and forms of expression. The human figures, animal and other motifs are crude, devoid of luster and skill which takes the site earlier than the known and famous site of Harwan. The motifs stamped on these tiles being unique in their character are the human beings in their usual Kushana dress and in their jovial mood with hands raised up in token of their happiness over the hunt which includes the running deer after it has been struck by the former. The other representation is of winged lions in combat.

During the trial dig of the site in 1979, the tiles and pavement were recovered at the site. The site was identified as a Buddhist site built here during the period of Kanshika the famous Kushan king. Researches believed that this Buddhist site has been then burnt down by Huns who followed Kushans. The Huns as recorded were the aggressors who spread a regime of terror in this glorious valley. They killed the Buddhist people and damaged their stupas and monasteries. The numismatic evidenced recovered from this area suggest, that like other parts of Kashmir valley Huns had not spread the Pahalgam valley. Archeologists have come across evidences of ancient coins of Tormana, the Hun king from the Pahalgam valley. The finding of Tormana copper coins from Pahalgam valley suggests the existence of their power in the area. Another, either Scythian or Kushan era, site was found at Daradkote on a forest plateau few miles below Liddru near the glorious hamlet of Hutmur. It was in year 1986 that state archeology department under the supervision of Prof Dr. Abdul Ahad, the reputed historian of Kashmir, discovered an ancient terracotta settlement on this elevated plateau. The experts during a trial dig in a terrace exposed a pavement. The pavement was found laid out in concentric circle formed of baked tiles. The centre of the pavement was occupied by a full blown lotus carved from one of the baked tile. These tiles which carried various human, mystical and floral motifs were laid here in a proper and geometrical sequence. The pavement after discovery was again covered with the soil to protect it from the common human vandalism.

The entire site as one can see is spread over different leveled terraces. I could also see these terraces demarcated by a low small wall which at few spaces has been disturbed. The small pebbles are visible. It looks that this demarcation line had been formed of small pebbles. The site has been attributed to some ancient Buddhist shrine by various scholars; however, I could not understand the purpose of its builder. Among the excavated tiles, one of the tiles which is concave shaped depicts the bunche of grapes and lotus petals with kharoshti numerals, another tile is divided in three panels, depicting one man with torch, another man with tail in dancing pose and animal headed body. Another tile carries geometrical designs with kharoshti numerals. Besides Hionar and Daradkote, the early historic evidences have come across from its Mamal and Donipathar sites as well. Surprisingly, the excavated pavements have been refilled with soil layers and no remains of the wonderful terracotta settlements are visible anywhere in this valley. The tourists visiting these sites have to return without having any glimpses of those magnificent terracotta settlements. In fact the wonderful artifacts acquired from the archaeological sites of this valley, have been lifted from this glorious valley and most of those are these days showcased at SPS Museum in Srinager.

Apart from this terracotta art and culture, Lidder valley also showcases wonderful architectural and mystic cultural heritage, the grand ruins of Martand Temple at Keheerbal, the mysterious Cave temple at Bumzu, Malmaleshwar temple at Mamal, the Reshi shines of Baba Bamu Ud din and Baba Zain Ud Din at Bamzo and Ashmuqam respectively are a few most significant archaeological and mystic sites found in this valley.

Heritage lovers say that the artifacts which included ancient stone tools, terracotta tiles and ancient coins shall be preserved and showcased at Pahalgam by setting up of a site museum at its any of the archaeological sites so that tourists also get information about the ancient art and archaeology of this glorious valley.

In fact once there was a proposal before the state cultural authorities to set up a heritage site museum at Pahalgam which would house and exhibit the heritage collections of the Pahalgam valley and of its archeological and architectural sites, but due to reason best known to authorities concerned the proposal for Pahalgam site museum could not get materialised.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK

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