« Historical Documents from the borders of Tibet », Archaelogical Survey of India, Annual Report 1909-10. 1914. p. 104-112.
HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS FROM THE BORDERS OF TIBET.
The present paper contains a résumé of the chief results of an archaeological tour made by me on the western borders of Tibet in the summer of 1909 on behalf of the Government of India. Starting from Simla on the 14th June, I travelled up the Satluj valley to Poo in Bushahr and Shipke in Tibet, and, crossing over to Spiti, continued my journey through Rubshu and Rong-chu-rgyud to Leh, the capital of Ladakh. From Leh I followed the trade route to Srinagar in Kashmir with excursions to Likir, Alchi, Mangrgyu and Chigtan. I returned by way of the Plains, to Simla on the 11th October. The epigraphical and other historical and archaeological materials recovered will be published in due course.
The most ancient epigraphs of this region are the rock inscriptions of Khalatse consisting of one in Brahmi and three in Kharoshthi. In the course of my tour, I did not meet with any of an earlier period, nor did I discover any more of the same age. We arrived at Khalatse just in time to prevent the inscribed rocks from being destroyed. As a new bridge across the Indus was being constructed, many boulders, some with interesting rock-carvings and inscriptions, had been blasted, and that with the Brahmi inscription had already been marked. I spoke to the overseer in charge, as well as to the officials of Khalatse, and entreated them to preserve these invaluable stones. We took photographs of the Brahmi and the longer Kharoshthi inscription near the bridge, and of the ancient Gupta inscription near the mGochen stupa. In addition, a paper impression was taken of the Kharoshthi inscription. The Brahmi and the two shorter Kharoshthi inscriptions have already been read by Dr. Vogel.1
About two miles above the Commissioner’s compound, in the Leh valley, there are several ancient graves on which the late Dr. Shawe and myself did some excavation work in 1903. On hearing that somebody had again opened one of the graves,
I decided to examine them, before it should be too late. The roof of the grave which I opened is more than a yard below the present level of the ground. It consists of large unhewn stones of rectangular shape, each about one and a half yards long and a foot or so broad. The walls consist of masonry of unhewn stones. The grave is about two yards long, one and a half yards broad, and at least six feet deep.
The grave contained clay pots of various sizes, a few entire, but most of them in fragments. The largest pot, of which only fragments came to light, may have had a height of three feet, the smaller pots, which were rarer than the large ones, had a height of four to six inches. There were also small saucer-like vessels of burnt clay, probably lamps. The pottery of the graves is not wheel but hand-made, and provided with very small handles. When Dr. Shawe and myself examined this grave in 1903, we found two elegant medium-sized vessels ornamented with designs in dark red colour. This time we could not find a single pot with painted designs in the grave; but linear ornaments were impressed on several of them. These painted or stamped ornaments are all of a very primitive type. They consist of spirals, ladders and zigzag bands; and occasionally there are bundles of lines which may represent grass or reeds. As most of the pots were broken at the bottom, I was led to believe that they had fallen down from some height, probably from wooden boards.
As I had observed, when previously examining the graves, most of the pots were filled with human bones. This circumstance seems to indicate that the ancient inhabitants of the Leh valley indulged in the practice of cutting the corpses to pieces and filling the clay pots with the fragments. This custom, which is also found in other parts of the globe, is asserted by Chinese authors to hare been in vogue in the « Empire of the Eastern Women. » We found between fifteen and twenty skulls in one single grave. How many there were originally, it is difficult to state, as we were not the first to, examine the grave. All the skulls were most distinctly dolichocephalic, and the index formulas 74-77 would probably suit them all. As dolichocephalic heads are a distinctive mark of the Dards of Da Hanu, and other Dard settlements of Ladakh, we are led to believe that the people who built these ancient graves, were probably of Dard stock. Besides human bones, the grave contained the skull of a sheep, and the horn of an ox, which are apparently remains of a sacrifice, or gifts to the dead.
The grave yielded also a number of bronze implements, some in fairly good preservation. Most of them, however, were much corroded and covered with thick layers of verdigris. First of all, I may mention small square laminae of thin bronze, furnished with an embossed ring, of which we found hundreds. Whether they were used for ornamental purposes, or as coins, I am unable to decide. Then, there were numerous beads of bronze, both round and oblong in shape, small and large, the largest thicker than a finger. Later on, we discovered little bell-shaped pendants of bronze with triangular holes and a ring at the top. They were probably inserted between the bronze beads of the necklace. Then, there were a number of bronze buttons of various sizes with a loop on the reverse, some of ordinary size, about half an inch in diameter, but others much larger, up to about two inches in
diameter. The largest had a scolloped edge, like an Indian one anna piece. None of them contained an inscription. The smallest were quite plain, the largest had an elaborate spiral ornament, and those of medium size a star ornament. I suppose that these buttons were worn by the ancient, officials as a distinguishing mark of rank, as is the case in China nowadays. Besides several fragments of bronze pots, we found a well preserved small bronze can with a spout of excellent workmanship, though quite plain and without any ornament. I may also mention a bronze seal with a cross pattern and an entire bracelet with a pattern of small circles. In addition, let me say that fragments of iron implements and a single gold implement came to light also. The latter is of a shape similar to the mouth-piece of a trumpet, but its purpose is not known. Its ornamentation is a curved form of the Greek key.
The ancient graves at Leh, as stated above, as well as those at rGya call to mind the following description of the form of burial practised in the « Empire of the Eastern Women » as found in Chinese historians:– « When a person of rank dies, they strip off the skin, and put the flash and bones mixed with gold powder into a vase, and then bury it …… At the burial of the sovereign, several tens of the great ministers and relatives are buried at the same time. » The latter statement may account for the great number of skulls, sometimes as many as twenty, found in a single grave. From the large bronze buttons, obviously a mark of high rank, I conclude that the Leh grave actually contained the remains of several ministers. The boundaries of the « Empire of the Eastern Women. » are given in the Sui-shu as well as by Hiuen Tsang. They are Khotan, Sampaha (Ladakh), Brahmapura (the upper Ravi valley) and Tibet. The Empire apparently comprised the Tibetan provinces of Guge and Ruthog, and possibly Eastern Ladakh.1
The empire was a Tibetan one according to our Chinese anthorities, and it is therefore difficult to account for dolichocephalic heads in the Leh graves, the skulls being evidently not those of Tibetans but of Aryans. My explanation would be that in those times the greater part of Ladakh was inhabited by Dard emigrants from Gilgit. As regards the date of the Leh graves, the presence of iron, besides bronze, seems to preclude the fixing of any very early date. In my opinion the grave dates from between 1 and 500 A.D.
Our researches in the field of the pre-Buddhist religion of Ladakh and Tibet were also crowned with success. The earliest type of the pre-Buddhist religion is Nature worship, as it finds expression in the oral versions of the Kesar Saga, and in several collections of hymns, such as the gLing-glu and the marriage rituals. The principal sources for the study of this ancient religion are contained in the folklore of the western borders of Tibet. But some of the ancient songs have already become literature. Then, what is literature, and what folklore? For my own part, when an old saga or hymnal which has been handed down orally for centuries is reduced to writing without the agency of a European or educated Indian, I propose to call it literature.
Previous to my Tibetan tour I had discovered only a single specimen of such indigenous manuscripts of hymnals, viz., the Marriage Ritual of Tagmachig. To my
gratification I found at Poo another manuscript of an old hymnal written down by the natives themselves. According to their own statement, it contained the song which were used on the occasion of their former human sacrifices. The language of this hymnal is exceptionally difficult to understand. Although I have made partial translations of it, I am still far from understanding the whole. The last part is of special interest, as it seems to contain the ideas of the pre-Buddhist inhabitants of these regions with regard to the life after death. Later on, when the pre-Buddhist religion had become mixed up with doctrines borrowed from Buddhism and Hinduism it changed its character and became the Bon-chos, which was still prevalent in the tenth and eleventh centuries, as we know from legends connected with Milaraspa.
We discovered, what appeared to be a ruined Bon-po temple of those times at Lamayuru. The entrance was towards the east, exactly as in many ancient Buddhist temples. Owing to the roof having collapsed, the frescoes in this temple have suffered badly. Most of the divinities painted on the walls of the hall, are of Buddhist type, but their complexion is either blue or black, and their dress is red. Besides, there were several female figures of unusual shape whose complexion was white. They appear to wear ear flaps, like the modern Ladakhi women. On the ceiling were represented well designed rows of female musicians, alternately white and grey. The most interesting group of frescoes is that which represents what I believe to be priests of the Bon-po religion. One of them is represented almost life size, whilst the others are smaller. They are all clothed in white undergarments and striped gowns. The large figure, and one of the smaller figures, wear gowns with black and blue stripes; in the case of the other small figures the gowns are striped black and grey. The large figure, moreover, wears a blue hat, like a European soft hat with a broad brim. The smaller figures have hats of the same shape, but of black colour. In most references to the Bon-po priests, their dress is described, as being black, but there are a few passages which make mention of the blue colour of their dress. These relics of the Bon religion at Lamayuru are of some importance ; for, as we learn from Sarat Chandra Das’ « Journey to Lhasa » the present day Bonpo priests of Central Tibet cannot be distinguished from Buddhist priests, the dress of both being exactly alike.
The times of Atisa have become known through the same author’s work, « Indian Pandits in the Land of Snow, » and a few translations of texts relating to church history have been published in the Journals of the Buddhist Text Society. But, up to the present, it has been impossible to decide whether the persons mentioned in connection with Atisa actually lived, or not. In the course of our tour we discovered several inscriptions of those times, at Poo, in Spiti and in Ladakh.
The one at Poo is a rock inscription which was found in a field belonging to a lama called bKa-rgyud. The rock is about six feet high and is carved on one side. The upper half of the carved side shows the well executed representation of a stupa, the lower half, which is in very bad preservation and mostly underground, that of a human being wearing a three-pointed hat. On the other side of the stone is a Tibetan inscription of eleven lines, of which only the first two are in fair preservation; of the remaining lines only the beginning and end portions have been preserved. The first line contains the full name of the royal priest Lha-blama Ye-shes-‘od, who died
in prison as a martyr for Buddhism about 1025 A.D. The words following the name in the inscription are sku ring la — « in his life time. » Though fragmentary, the inscription contains some interesting information. We learn from it that in the days of the priest-king Ye-shes-‘od the villages of Spu (Poo) and dKor both existed and that Spu even possessed a palace. The priest-king had ten sons, and all of them were sent to Poo. With what object cannot be said with certainty, but from the frequent occurrence of the words lha-chos (religion of the lha) and sngar-chos (former religion), it appears that they were sent here for the propagation of Buddhism. In the end we read that they erected at Spu some structure, probably the first Buddhist temple, which has now entirely disappeared.
On one of the walls of the Tabo monastery of Spiti I discovered an inscription of the days of king Byang-chub-‘od of Guge, the very ruler who invited Atisa, to Tibet. The principal hall of the Tabo monastery, called rNam-par snang-mdzad, seems to have remained almost unchanged since the days of Atisa, and its artistic images and ancient pictures deserve a closer study than we could devote to it during our brief visit. It also contains an eleventh century manuscript of the Tibetan version of the Prajna-paramita.
More important than this document are two inscriptions written on the wall in black ink immediately above the floor. Their low position indicates that they were intended for people who are in the habit of sitting cross-legged on the ground. One of them is historical it speaks of the foundation of the Tabo monastery about 900 years ago, and of people who were connected with that event. The other inscription is admonitory. One might call it « blessing and cursing, » but there is more of cursing in it than of blessing. It speaks of the many punishments to be inflicted on such lamas, as do not live up to the standard of the law, and there is no end of chopping off parts or their bodies. I wonder if these regulations have ever been carried out. To return to the historical inscription, it records a renovation of the Tabo monastery by Byang-chub-‘od, the priest-king of Guge, forty-six years after the monastery had been founded by Lhayi-bu Byang-chub sems-dpa. The latter, evidently the king of Ladakh mentioned in the Ladakhi chronicle as one of the early rulers of that country, is referred to with much respect in this inscription. His advice was repeatedly asked by the king of Guge, and thus the inscription confirms the statement of history that the kings of Ladakh were the recognized suzerains of the princes of Guge. Besides both these royal names, the inscription contains those of the two most important lamas of the period, viz., Rin-chen bzang-po, and Atisa, the latter being called Phul-byung, which is his Tibetan name, as already stated by the Rev. Jäschke. The inscription says that Rin-chen bzang-po was made a « light of wisdom » through the agency of Atisa. This is apparently a reference to the controversy between the two lamas which ended with Rin-chen bzang-po acknowledging Atisa’s superiority.
As this inscription was evidently written in the days of king Byang-chub-‘od, about 1050 A.D., it is of great importance for Tibetan palaeography, as are also the inscriptions of the same times at Poo, Achi, and Mangrgyu in Ladakh. It should be remembered that, besides these epigraphs, only the following dateable inscriptions of ancient Tibet have become known : (1) The Endere inscriptions of the 8th century
discovered by Dr. Stein. (2) The inscription of king Khri-srong-lde-btsan of about 780 A.D. at Lhasa, discovered by Professor Waddell. (3) The inscription of king Ralpacan of 810-820 A.D. at Lhasa. The most archaic of the Endere epigraphs have among others, the following peculiarities:– (1) the i vowel sign is often inverted ; (2) when m precedes i or e, y intervenes ; (3) words ending in r, l, or n are furnished with a d suffix. Now, the Tabo, Spu, Alchi and Mangrgyu inscriptions of the 11th century exhibit only the two last mentioned peculiarities. The i vowel sign is no longer inverted in them, but is always in its present position. From this observation we may conclude that all those inscriptions which contain inverted i vowel signs, may be older than the eleventh century. As regards the position of the e and o vowel signs on the right or left upper end, or above, the consonant base, it varies with the age of inscriptions. I have recorded a few observations on this peculiarity in my article on Ralpacan’s inscription.1
I am of opinion that the compilation of the BKa-‘agyur about 1300 A.D., marks an epoch in Tibetan palaeography. It probably put an end to the intervening y between m and i or e, and to the suffixed d. From about the year 1300 A.D., the Tibetan orthography probably remained stationary, and the age of an inscription after 1300 can be estimated only by the position of the vowel signs on or above their consonant bases.
With regard to the Alchi monastery, it deserves special mention that a well executed picture of a king with his wife and son is found on the other side of the door, opposite to king Byang-chub sems-dpa’s inscription. It, therefore, most probably represents this king himself. My reason for this assertion is that both in the dGon-khang temple of Leh and in the Byams-pa temple of Basgo, we find the portraits of the royal founders by the side of the door. The supposed king Byang-chub sems-dpa wears a diadem, and his yellow coat has large round spots of blue or purple colour with the figure of a lion or tiger in each of them, whilst his girdle shows a checkered pattern of white and red. He is shaded by an umbrella and in his hand carries an axe of fanciful shape. His son (probably Lha-chen rgyal-po) is dressed in a similar manner and the queen has her hair plaited in lithe pigtails. In another hall at Alchi there are also some interesting pictures of the same times representing Tibetan sports, notably hawking.
In Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, I paid special attention to all such places as are connected with Rinchana Bhoti, the Tibetan king of Kashmir who reigned from 1319 to 1323 A.D. He is the reputed builder of the Awwal Masjid, the oldest mosque of Srinagar, a small insignificant building which bears no comparison with the beautiful later mosques of Srinagar. It has not even a minaret on the roof, and the walls have lost their plaster coating. It is empty and devoid of artistic decoration. It is said that formerly there was a stone slab incised with non-Arabic characters, described as a kind of Sastri, which designation may stand for Sarada or Tibetan. About twenty years ago, so I was told, a European carried off the stone and took it to England. Anyhow, a Persian translation of the inscription has apparently been preserved in Haidar Malik’s Persian History of Kashmir. It runs thus: « My friend, for the sake of gaiety, has become the observed of observers. His face claimed Islam, and his hair adorned paganism. He
controls both paganism and Islam, and takes interest in both. » From this inscription it would follow that Rinchana Bhoti had become only half converted. The Awwal Masjid is, according to popular tradition, the oldest mosque of Srinagar, and people assert that thousands of Hindus were here converted to Islam. It is generally known. as Rindan Shah Masjid. In the chronicle, mentioned above, it is also stated that Rinchana Bhoti built the shrine called Bulbul Lankar, which is situated only a few steps from the Awwal Mosque. It is interesting that Rinchana’s friend, priest Bulbul, has found, his way into Ladakhi folklore, where he is mentioned in the song of the Bodro Masjid of Srinagar. At a short distance from Bulbul Lankar, people showed us the grave of Rinchana Bhoti. It is marked by a plain slab uninscribed and a little larger in size than the tombstones of common people. It is surrounded by a low stone wall on the four sides, and rosebushes hare been planted inside the enclosure. As I have shown elsewhere,1
Rinchana Bhoti is probably identical with the Lha-chen rgyalbu rin-chen of the Ladakh chronicles.
At Leh, I discovered the first inscription of king bKra-shis rnam-rgyal, the Ladakhi king who, in all probability, reigned in. the days of the Turkoman invasion of Sultan Haidar of Kashgar, 1500-1532 A.D. It is found in a temple of red colour, on the top of the rNam-rgyal rtse-mo hill at Leh. This temple, called mGon-khang, is the very one which was erected by king bKra-shis rnam-rgyal, as stated in the rGyal-rabs. Dr. Marx was assured of its existence, but was unable to visit it. It contains very artistically executed figures of « the four lords » which are from about three to eight feet high. The principal figure represents rNam-thos-sras (Vaisravana), the god of wealth, in sexual union with his Sakti. These images belong to the few in Ladakh which can be roughly dated and are, therefore, of the greatest importance for the history of Tibetan art. Among the wall paintings, I noticed one on the right hand side of the door which represented gorgeously dressed men wearing Yarkandi turbans. At first I failed to understand the presence of these Moslim portraits in a Buddhist temple, until the lama in charge explained that they represented Ladakhi kings. By the side of the picture, there is a long inscription in gold on indigo-tinted paper, which mentions king bKra-shis rNam-rgyal, the builder of the temple. From this it appears that the picture represents this king who testified to his feigned attachment to the Turks by adopting their dress. As regards the Turkoman invasion under Sultan Haidar, which took place during his reign, it is very difficult to reconcile the Tibetan with the Turkish account contained in the Tarikh-i-Rashidi. According to the Tibetan sources, he gained a signal victory over the Turkomans and the corpses of the slain Turks were placed before the idols of the mGon-khang temple, whereas the Tarikh-i-Rashidi represents him as a servant of theTurks who held him in little honour. In the fresco, it is only the male members of the royal family of Ladakh who are shown wearing the Turkoman dress, whereas the females are dressed in true Ladakhi fashion. It is of particular importance that the name of a state minister, Phyag-rdor is mentioned in the temple inscription, as having served under bKra-shis rNam-rgyal. The name pf the same minister is also found in the Daru rock inscription which
contains the name of a king, Lha-chen Kun-dga rNam-rgyal. As the latter name is not found in the Ladakhi chronicles, I had difficulty in identifying king Kun-dga rNam-rgyal. Now I feel inclined to identify him with bKra-shis rNam-rgyal’s father, king Lha-chen bha-gan, the founder of the rNam-rgyal dynasty. It is quite possible that Lha-chen bha-gan did not only give names containing the word rNam-rgyal to his sons, but that he assumed such a name for himself. Thus, Kun-dga rNam-rgyal may be identical with Lha-chen bha-gan, and the minister Phyag-rdor, after having served Lha-chen bha-gan, may have done service also under bKra-shis rNam-rgyal. Another inscription of bKra-shis rNam-rgyal is found at Alchi, where he renovated the gSum-thsag temple, apparently with the assistance of an Indian to knew the Mughal style of painting. This adaptation of Mughal art to a Buddhist subject is probably unique. It is interesting that the inscription which records the restoration of the temple, also mentions the amount of red, blue, or gold colour which was contributed by various peasants of the neighbourhood.
On a mani wall at Horling, in the desert between Kanawar and Spiti, I discovered, an inscription of a king of Guge who resided at Tsaparang, apparently during the first half of the 17th century. This mani wall was erected by an inhabitant of the Tibetan village of rGyumkhar, the Shugar of the map. When reading this inscription, I could not help thinking at once of the Jesuit priest Andrada, who says that he found a Tibetan king at Tsaparang who was favourably inclined towards Christianity. This statement has been subjected to serious doubts by modern writers on Tibet, who could not believe that a king should over have resided at the now unimportant village of Tsaparang. Now Andrada is vindicated by the inscription which proves that Tsaparang was the capital of a sovereign whose power was acknowledged even as far as Spiti. The dynastic name of the kings of Guge, the last of whom apparently resided at Tsaparang was Lde. The name of the king mentioned on the votive tablet, is Khri bKra-shis grags-pa Lde. As this name is not found in the genealogical tree of the Guge kings, he must be one of the later members of the dynasty. He cannot well have reigned before 1600 A.D., for mani walls were hardly ever constructed before that time, nor can his reign have fallen much later than 1630 A.D., for about that time, Indra Bodhi rNam-rgyal, a younger brother of the king of Leh, was made vassal king of Guge, and in 1650 A.D., Guge was annexed by Lhasa and received a Tibetan Governor. It is, therefore, very probable that Khri bKra-shis grags-pa Lde is the very king whose acquaintance was made by Andrada in 1623 A.D.
This supposition is strengthened by the discovery of a similar votive tablet, which I made three days after at Tabo in Spiti. It contained the name of the same king and gave Tsaparang as his residence. But, what is still more surprising, is the occurrence of the following short prayer on the tablet: « Help that the darkness and unfaithfulness to our religion there [at Tsaparang] may cease. » The man who carved the inscription, was evidently displeased with the king of Tsaparang’s inclination towards Christianity. So was the suzerain king of Leh, for it was probably on this account that he placed his younger brother on the throne a Guge. We shall, therefore, be justified in accepting Andrada’s account of his mission to Tsaparang without any severe criticism.
Among the manuscripts collected by me there are copies of some important works relative to the history of Ladakh. As stated elsewhere, the Tibetan text of Dr. K. Marx’s second « Historical Document from Ladakh » (of his B. and C. MSS.) being lost, the English translation only has as yet been published. It was, of course my particular wish to trace these important documents, but Dr. Marx’s indications as to their ownership are somewhat vague. I had long suspected that Munshi dPal-rgyas of Leh was the owner of manuscript C. and on the Muushi’s copy of the rGyal-rabs being examined, by the Rev. G. Reichel of Leh, my supposition proved to be correct. It was still more difficult to recover manuscript B. Mr. Josef Thse-brtan of Leh, our Mission schoolmaster, succeeded finally in tracing Munshi Tsandan of Leh as its happy owner.
From Munshi dPal-rgyas was also obtained his latest, revised and enlarged, version of the Dogra war, and from Munshi Tsandan a copy of the first chapter of the Ladvags rGyal-rabs, containing an account of the creation of the world, a chapter which has never been published. At Leh, I chanced upon a number of manuscripts of my own, mostly relating to Ladakhi folklore, which were preserved in the Mission library. These manuscripts, of which only a few have as yet been published, as well as my other stock of unpublished documents, were purchased by the Government of India. Among them is a copy of a woodprint containing a Primer of the Tibeto-Mongolian script of Tibet, and a number of copies of chronicles of vassal chiefs from Ladakh. The Primer has already stood me in good stead in deciphering the seals of the Dalai Lama,1of a chief of Sikkim, and of Thse-dpal rNam-rgyal of Ladakh. Among the antiquities brought back from my tour let me mention a collection of Tibetan stone implements, and another of clay tablets, many of which are furnished with inscriptions in Indian and Tibetan characters. The Indian legends cover the period from about 600 to about 1200 A.D. These antiquities will be deposited in the Indian Museum at Calcutta with the exception of those unearthed in Ladakh, which have been claimed, by the Kashmir Darbar, and, it is understood, are now preserved in the Partab Singh Museum at Srinagar.
p. 104 1 See his Annual Progress Report, 1906, and my paper Historische Documente von Khalatse in Z.D.M.G., Vol. LXI, p. 583. Our photograph of the Kharoshthi inscription was sent to Professor Rabson of Cambridge, as suggestested by Mr. Marshall.
p. 106 1Cf. my note on Po-lo-hih-mo-pu-lo and Su-fa-la-na-chu-ta-lo in J.R.A.S. for 1910, pp. 489 ff.
p. 109 1 Ep. Ind.
p. 110 1Cf. my References to the Bhotta or Bhauttas in the Rajatarangini of Kashmir in Ind. Ant. Vol. XXXVII.
p. 112 1Cf. my Note on the Dalai Lama’s seal and the Tibeto-Mongolian characters in J.R.A.S. for 1910, pp. 1203 ff. See also J.R.A.S. for 1910, pp. 204 ff and 328 ff.