Kara Galwan Story

At the heart of the stand-off between the Indian and Chinese Army are two spots – the Galwan River and the Galwan Valley. These two strategic points on the Line of Actual Control LoAC) are named after Rasul Galwan (1878-1925), one of the descendent of Kashmir’s rebels who eventually became the cattle thieves after they were banished and massacred during Afghans and Sikh era. Rasul was a caravan manager who worked with various visitors in the region. Exploration of these two areas is credited to him when he led Lord Danmor to Pamirs in 1892. During his long travels with big shots between Kashmir, Yarkand, Baltistan and other places, the adventurous traveller picked up some English words and was encouraged by his patron guests to write his memoir. He eventually did it and it was only superficially correct to retain its essence – communicating through broken English. The following passages were excerpted from Servant of Sahibs: A Book to be Read Aloud that was first published in 1923.

Servant of The Sahibs, the cover of the book by legendary caravan guide

This told my mother me. Long years before, in Kashmir hills, were herds of ponies belonging Maharaja, and were very many people to watch to them, on those mountain pastures. One those people, after, become a robber. His name Kara Galwan. Kara was his name (means black). Galwan means robber. He was a very strong and clever a robber. He robbed in houses of rich men, and he robbed on way. He climbed high walls like a cat. Where he saw good one pony, that stole he. He kept very best ponies for own use. What matter he taught those ponies, that they understand.

What he bade them do, that they did. After, about fifty men join him. What he bade the men, they do, same ponies. He kept good ponies for the riding all those men. Sometimes when Kara ride through a villages, he meet with beautiful girl on way. Then seize that girl; put her up on ponies; run very fast.

Kara gave much money poor men. Many rich men in Kashmir very hard men, never gave any money to poor men, only one or two pies sometimes. Kara like rob these hard men on way, and in house, give all their money poor men.

One time Kara climbed up into Maharaja’s house. He had with him big knife that time. He woke Maharaja; told to him: “I am Kara Galwan. You must never give order catch me, if you not want me come here again with big knife. Maybe that time will kill you.” Like this, did Kara with many big men.

Not any men knew Kara where he lived, only they know that he lived in tent, in jungle with big trees, in mountains. Sometimes lived one part; sometimes another part. He never lived in house. Sometimes he went India for robbing-work.

Maharaja always afraid Kara come again his palace. All people were frightened when they saw Kara. Rich men afraid at night in house; and afraid in day when they travelling. Short word, Maharaja and all villages men very tired with all the trouble Kara made for them.

All men wanted catch Kara, but they afraid to try, because they know if not catch, he make more bad with them than before. Kara had many different thing to kill men with. Sometimes he had with him one whip. With this whip did kill very plenty men. If could catch Kara same way men catch tiger, when he not know they would come, maybe then could keep him so that he cannot run. Kara had very good one friend.

Sometimes he come that friend’s house, and friend make dinner for him. One day Maharaja heard this friend matter. Then he called that friend to his palace; told to him: “If you will make one bandobast (arrangement) to catch this man, I will give you very plenty presents, and all country peoples will be glad for what you do.” That friend said: “When Kara come my house to dinner, that day we catch him.” This was very bad one friend, but plenty Kashmiri men do this bandobast; and sometimes good men do it, because they frightened for Maharaja. If they not do Maharaja’s order, then Maharaja kill them. Anyway, that friend dig one hole, like well, deep, in own house. Over that hole put one rug. Then he made dinner for Galwan. That time Maharaja sent plenty sepoys. They all stop one place, where Galwan cannot see them.

Ghulam Rassul Galwan, a caravaan manager and servant of the European visitors whose book was published two years before he died.

Galwan came for the dinner. He never could think this friend will any time make bad with him. He not look very careful all place, same he look when he go one place, where he think they not his friends. Not see sepoys. Not see well. He walked into friend’s house; fell into well. Down there in well, he told some matter like a song. He said: “Do not know if my friend do this, or not do. Anyway, now myself will catch own both hands, and give to Maharaja my body. Not need any man do anything with me.” That time had with him very plenty things for kill men, but all gave Maharaja’s sepoys. Only that whip not gave.

Then sepoys take him and put Maharaja’s prison. While he live that prison, they made one gallows for hang him. Three, four days after, they took him gallows place; and he stood there on loose board under gallows, with rope on neck. And he had a wife of India. She came there that time. Then she told song, very good one song in Kashmiri language. Now, at this time, plenty Kashmiri men remember that song. Then he gave his whip that friend, for remember. Then one sepoy let drop that board, and Galwan felled, and his neck broke with rope.

That time many men run from Kashmir. They think maybe Maharaja hang them, because they like Kara Galwan, and give help him, plenty time. Some run India; some other place. My grandfather come to Baltistan. My grandfather’s name was Mahmut Galwan. One brother name was Gaffor Galwan. Other names I not remember.

Mahmut took one wife Baltistan, and they all came Leh. They very poor that time when reach at Leh. My grandfather and two his sisters winnowed wheat for earn money.

Baltistan, that time, my mother was in womb. She born Leh, and next one sister to her born. I not know sure my grandfather was son Kara Galwan, but I think was.

My Borning Birth in Leh

Leh is little village, surrounded by mountains. That look grey, all. There not any jungle and grass, like in wet country. There very plenty rocks and sand. For this, looks all grey. Weather not is very hot or cold, but winter more long than summer, and more cold weather than warm. And it is dry country. Up mountains, snow comes often; lies there very more deep than in villages. That place are several mountains all time covered ice and snow.

When Galwan ran away from Kashmir, and my grandfather came Leh, were three brothers and two sisters.

One brother’s daughter was my mother. One sister’s son was Shukur Galwan. He lives now Yarkand. One brother, Gaffor Galwan, had no any children. Because their parents were poor, Gaffor keep my mother and Shukur as own children. Then they grow older.

Gaflfor married my mother to Shukur Galwan. That always Mussulman’s custom, that brother’s son and next brother’s daughter can many.

After that marriage, Gaffor Galwan went to Yarkand. My mother and Shukur Galwan left in Leh, very poor.

One of Galwan’s relatives showing the Samavar which the famous Ladakh explorer would take along on all his explorations.

And Gaffor Galwan very poor, that time he go Yarkand. After some years, Gaffor Galwan get very rich in Yarkand. I heard they got rich this way: one time was war in Yarkand between Chinese and Turki people. Gaffor Galwan found good money in that war.

My mother and Shukur Galwan not get rich in Leh. They heard that Gaffor Galwan was rich man. Their friends said: “You go to him. You will get a little rich, too.” So Shukur Galwan went to Yarkand, too. My mother left in Leh. When Shukur Galwan met Gaffor Galwan, Gaffor not would help him, Shukur Galwan worked for own self in Yarkand; found good money.

And he found there a wife; forgot my poor mother. She did write many letters. Not get any answer. She very hard-working in Leh. After long time, Shukur Galwan write her one letter. That say: “I not come back. You marry with some other man.” Then my mother marry with Ibrahim, and had my sister and me and two other brothers. Shukur Galwan lived in Yarkand, and Gaffor Galwan lived there too. When I go there, I not know them, because with my mother was enemies for that old matter.

When I came Yarkand with Captain Younghusband sahib, my grandfather came for look us all Ladak men.

They shown him to me across the garden, and they said: “He is your grandfather,” I went to him and said: “Asalaam aleikum.” He said: “Who are you?” I said: “I am a grandchild of your.” He said: “I not have any relations and grandchildren.” From that day he not speak to me any. After that, I did come several times Yarkand. He never speak with me. He afraid, if we say we are his relations, then all his money we might take when death came. He was bad one grandfather. Shukur Galwan was kind with me.

Our father’s name not was Galwan. The mother, our root, was Galwan. For this we got the good name Galwan, which mean ” bad-trouble-man ” in Kashmiri language. Myself have written that name in letters always, when I had done the letter. But my brothers not like this name at all.

My mother was very bad angry woman with everyone. My brothers could not take that angry of mother. While after, they went Yarkand. One time, my sister did marry. I live alone with mother. What mother bade me do, that did. My mother’s angry was very bad, but with me she was kind.

(Published by British publisher W Heffer & Sons Ltd, Galwan’s manuscript was edited by American travelling couple, Mrs KRE Barret and Robert Barrett whom he led to various locations in the desert region between 1902 and 1905.)

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