AN EXOTIC JOURNEY TO THE
By Raj Nandy
“When spring-time flushes the desert grass,
Our caravan wind through the Khyber Pass.
Lean are the camels but fat the frails,
Lighter the purses but heavy the bales!
As the snowbound trade of the North comes down,
To the market square of Peshawar town.”
- Rudyard Kipling (Dec1865- Jan 1936).
Those immortal lines of Kipling had enticed me,
To delve into famous Khyber’s exotic History ;
And today I narrate its wondrous story!
THE KHYBER PASS:
Steeped in adventure, bloodshed and mystery,
The Khyber remains the doorway of History!
Winston Churchill, then a young newspaper
correspondent in 18 97 had said, -
‘Each rock and hill along the pass had a story
to tell! ’
Cutting across the limestone cliffs more than
thousand feet high,
This narrow winding path of 45 km’s stretch,
Cuts through the Hindu Kush mountain range!
Forming a part of the ancient Silk Route between
Central and South Asia;
Linking Kabul with Peshawar town during those
early days of Pre-Independent India!
The area is inhabited by fierce Pashtun tribesmen,
who live by their ancient Honor Code;
They value their land and liberty, and their winding
mountain roads !
They can be the greatest of friends and deadliest
And as the saying goes, for a friend a Pashtun
can even give up his life;
But he never forgets a wrong or when rubbed on
the wrong side !
He always avenges a wrong deed done, -
Even after decades, through his sons!
The indigenous tribes living along the pass,
Regard this area as their sole preserve!
They have levied a toll on all travelers from
the earliest days,
For their safe conduct and passage through the
Khyber, - as Historians say!
HISTORIC INVASIONS THROUGH KHYBER:
At its highest point the Khyber is 3500 ft in height,
But its strategic importance can never be denied!
Around 2000 BC came the Indo-Aryan tribes
from Central Asia,
Migrating to the rich fertile plains of Ancient India!
In 326 BC, the great Alexander came through,
By bribing the local tribes to gain their favour,
To defeat King Porus on the banks of Jhelum River;
And set up his short-lived Bactrian Empire!
In 1192 AD Afghan warlord Mohammad Ghori, -
Invaded India to set up The Sultanate at Delhi!
In 1220 Genghis Khan with his Mongol hordes
came through the Khyber;
With the help of local tribesmen to plunder the
ruling Arab Empire!
In 1380 through this pass came Timur Lane,
To wreck and destroy the Delhi Sultanate!
And finally from Kabul through the Khyber path,
Came Babur to establish the Mogul Empire with
his victory at Panipath!
From 1839 till 1919, here the British had fought,
- three bloody Anglo-Afghan Wars!
And before retreating, drew the famous Durand
Line to ally fears;
But this Line is now the cause of bickering and
THE BRITISH KHYBER RAILWAY:
At Jamrud Cantonment town 17 km west of
Lies the doorway to the historic Khyber!
The track passes through a breath-taking rugged
mountainous terrain, -
Through 34 tunnels, over 92 bridges, a 42 kilometer’s
of winding stretch!
A five hour’s journey at Laudi Kotal gets complete;
The line stands as a tribute to British Engineering
The legendary Khyber Rifles had guarded the
western flanks of the British Empire,
With garrisoned troops guarding this route entire! @
Since 1990 this train is run by a private enterprise, #
With local tribesmen always taking a free joy ride!
Recent Taliban attacks made Pakistan to close
the Khyber Pass,
An uneasy truce prevails, only God knows how
long it will last ?!
But with that Durand Line of 1893 demarcated,
Forty million Pashtuns today stand divided, -
Between Pakistan and Afghanistan!
With hopes, aspirations and dreams of becoming
- Raj Nandy
New Delhi .
Battle Of Panipath, April 1526, where Babur defeated numerically
superior forces of Ibrahim Lodhi; thereby establishing the Moghul
Empire in India!
On 04Nov1925, the British inaugurated the Khyber Railway to carry
troops up to Laudi Kotal on the other end, short of the Afghan border
to guard the western flanks of the British Empire!
@KHYBER RIFLES: - Raised in early1880s with HQs at Laudi Kotal,
& garrison troops manning the Forts at Ali Masjid near the
mid-way point of the Pass, and also at Fort Maud to the east of the
KHYBER RAILWAYS: With 75 seats, a kitchenette, and two toilets;
pulled by two old Lancashire engines of 1920 vintage! It cuts across
Peshwar Airport under Air Traffic Control! It was stopped in 1982, as
economically not viable! Started again by a Private Enterprise
in 1990, in collaboration with the Pak Railway! After the Partition of
India in 1947, the Khyber is under the Federal Administered Tribal
Area of Pakistan! A difficult and a volatile region to govern! The
Khyber now remains closed due political reasons! Thanks for
* ALL COPYRIGHTS ARE WITH RAJ NANDY