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Kashmiri Followers of Aurel Stein

By Bhushan Parimoo

Thus goes the English saying: if you love the Master; then you must love his dog as well. Looks, it may be true for some Stein lovers. That he owned seven dogs in succession, and every one of them was called Dash. The name was more common at one time than it seems to be now: Queen Victoria’s Dash was a King Charles spaniel. It still seems slightly odd to give every one of a sequence of dogs the very same name, and Stein, whose claim to fame is above all as an investigator of the Buddhist cultures of Central Asia, sometimes toyed with the idea that the latest Dash was a reincarnation of one of its predecessors. Following Stein’s Knighthood in 1912 at Srinagar, he received a very special greeting telegram. It was from his friend Percy Allen, written on behalf of Dash the Great his canine companion during his Second Expedition. 1906-1908.” Many congratulations, dear Master. Am wearing my collar of achievement. If I had known this was coming, I should not have cried on the Wakhjir. Whip the young one, and keep him in orderSir. Dash, KCIE(Have assumed the title). Thus Dash II was the only ‘Sir’ in Stein’s canine breed of seven. The two other in the family equally special were Spin Khan and Yelochi Beg!Perhaps no animal, except for Lyka, the celebrated Russian dog that ever went into space in the Soviet spacecraft Syoz in the mid-60s of the last century, has attained such a celebrated status as Stein’s dogs, Dash.It was sometime mid-September 2017, sunnyafternoon thatthis writer managed a few moments, with intent to pay a courtesy call on Mahmood Ahmed Shah, the then Director Tourism Kashmir. Knowing him as one of the best adventurist from the valley, he knows the landscape like the lines of his palm. My purpose of the visit was to kill two birds with one visit; one to pay regards beside to inquire about the arrangements being conducted to reinstall the memorial stone at the Mohand Marg in the memory of Sir Marc AruelStein whom the locals call Marg KaBabu. During our conversation I referred to Stein as the Nomadof Mohand Marg, a place where he spent several summers of his five decade stay in Kashmir between 1895 and 1943. Stein simply preferred the place over other places of the valley and even declined more urban hospitality of his fellow Europeans in Srinagar or elsewhere. The only exceptions were when it served the needs of his research.


Of course an earlier memorial of Stein was installed by his camp assistant Late Ramchand Bali and is associates on 15 August 1947, which now stands vandalised. While we were still in mutual conversation upon the subject, a hefty personality who was already there lent his ears to our talk. On his part, he informed us that he knew about mountains a bit more than anyone else; at least in a general sense. He had reasonably good knowledge while impressing that he had grown among the White adventurers. Sure of his claims, this gentleman now posed seemingly a simple question but full of punch, more to me than to Mahmood Shah as to what was the name of Stein’s dog.He wanted to take me off the guard. For a while he believed he had an upper hand thinking many did not know the name of Stein’s canine companion-friend. To say the least,this writer was subjected to a test with regard to my depth of knowledge about Sir MarcAurel Stein which in sincerity is nothing but elementary with no claims ever made in this regard.However, in all humility, I did share with this anonymous ‘all knowing Stein buff’ that it is quite well known that he edited Kalhana’sRajatarangni in Sanskrit in 1892 and later produced its masterly English translation in 1900 and Saniskrit; and both these from the original manuscript written in Kashmir’s unique Sharda script.Nonetheless, I did not shy to share that I had gone through this historical chronicle long ago in 1964 at the erstwhile Prince Wales College Jammu Library now called as. Gandhi Memorial Science College.My inquisitive friend’s roving eyes still tried to elicit more from me about Stein, perhaps in his misplaced belief that soon my ‘ammunition’ will exhaust. And it was then that I had to give a better account of my ‘ Stein ignorance’ by stating that Sir Marc Aruel Stein was born a Hungarian in a Jewish family at Budapest; got baptized to the Christianity along with his brother who was nineteen years older than him. The move was to avoid discrimination with the intent to pursue his desired studies unhindered from Anti-Semitism which was prevailing those days. Also he was administered the oath of a Naturalized British citizenship in a small tent at a remote corner of the Swat called Batkundi now in Pakistan. He carried a British-Indian passport indicating his being a domicile of ‘Kashmir.” Significantly Stein is acclaimed as a great explorer of histime but not before he had acquired the knowledge and skills of an accomplished Sanskrit’s in Kashmir which he subsequently used as a launching pad for explorations in Central Asia and the Middle East.In the finality I replied to his original question when I said Dash was the name of Stein’s dog! It was now my turn to serve. The poser from me caught him plumb before the wicket when I asked him how many Dash Stein had. He sensed it right and changed the topic.It is now through these columns I tell my friend what he avoided that day.Stein owned seven dogs in succession, and every one of them was called Dash except Dash V All were fox terriers .Queen Victoria’s dog too had the same name but was a King Charles spaniel. Dash V was the only Dash who was not a fox terrier. Stein, sometimes toyed with the idea that the latest Dash was a reincarnation of one of its predecessors. He acquired for the first time a dog in 1896 to keep away the rats at his Mohand Marg camp. It was a Fox terrier whom he gave the name of Dash. Animal played no part in Stein’s urban upbringing but perhaps he had been influenced by his old friend Lockwood Kipling who wrote in his own book; ’Beast and Man in India’ (1891) that “the companionship of a good Dog will teach more effectively than the words of any philosopher”.

“But quickly (Dash) became an indispensable companion travelling everywhere with his masters and enlivening otherwise lonely periods with antics which Stein always be recalled affectionately throughout his life”.Eventually a fox terrier became a fixture in his life, always called Dash. Dash I, Stein’s first dog, was acquired in 1896 and accompanied Stein on his early travels, culminating in the 1st Central Asian Expedition. Known also by the Turki name Yolchi Beg — ‘Sir Traveller’ — given to him by Stein’s servant Mirza, he is seen here at Niya in January 1901, wearing the Kashmiri coat specially made to protect him against the desert winter. He died in India in 1902 while Stein was in England.Dash II (1904-18) was the second dog. ‘Dash the Great’, the dog against which all his successors were to be measured, was acquired by Stein in 1904 and travelled with him on the 2nd Central Asian Expedition. He returned to England with Stein in 1909 and lived in retirement in Oxford until 1918, when he was run over by a bus.Acquired by Stein in 1912, Dash II’s successor (Dash III) accompanied Stein on the 3rd Central Asian Expedition between 1913 and 1916. He survived until 1919, when he was killed by a pack of dogs in Srinagar.Dash IV (1921-25) was acquired as a puppy in 1921. He was brought back to England by Stein in 1924, but died the following year. Dash V (1927-30) was acquired in 1927, Dash V was the only Dash who was not a fox terrier. He accompanied Stein on the 4th Central Asian Expedition, but died at Kashgar in 1930. Stein considered that he was perhaps over bred for the rigours of travelling.Dash VI (1931-41) was acquired in 1931 and considered by Stein a very promising reincarnation of Dash the Great’. He travelled with Stein on his archaeological investigations in Iran and Iraq. He survived until 1941, when he was killed by a leopard near Mohand Marg. Dash VII was acquired in 1943-? Dogs have long been companions in man’s quest to conquer the Poles too.

More than a century ago, Roald Amundsen the Norwegian explorer set foot on South Pole on December 14, 1911. The British team led by Robert Scott managed to arrive at the South Pole only on January 17, 1912, 33 days after Amundsen had hoisted the Norwegian flag.

The reason why Amundsen reached the Pole earlier than Scott is not difficult to figure out. Their goal was the same, but their priorities were vastly different.
Scott indulged in scientific work, wasted time to study Antarctic animals and collecting samples. On the contrary, Amundsen was focused to reach the goal to register geographical feat.

Perhaps the singular difference about the achievements between the two came from the fact of the choice of the animals. It was strikingly different. Scott took more ponies than dogs. Amundsen had special dogs to pull the sledges. Worse, Scott sent his dog teams back to the base camps and instead men pulled their heavy dredges.If Amundsen had no hesitation killing the dogs that had weakened, and eat their meat. Scott believed that using man- harnesses was less cruel than using dogs.

In the end, the focus and clear priorities meant that Amundsen reached the coveted place weeks before Scott, simply because the former relied more on dogs while latter on men.The inquisitive Stein lover I encountered that day in September 2107, I later learned is Yusuf Chapri, son of one of Stein’s favourite camp retainers GhaffarChapri.

(The author is a Jammu based environmentalist)