This fine map depicts Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, and long famous as one of the most stunning resort locations in the world. Predicated upon exacting trigonometrical surveys, the map is executed to the relatively large scale of 1 mile to an inch (the same scale as the British Ordnance Survey) and was published in Calcutta by the Survey of India.
The map showcases the entire city which lies along the Jhelum River (locally known as the Vyath, or here the ‘Veth’), as well as the famous nearby Dal and Anchar lakes. The Srinagar area occupies a verdant place within the Vale of Kashmir, which is surrounded on all sides by the Himalayas. The map depicts all key civilian and military infrastructure and its renown famous bridges, as well as its many mosques, temples and shrines, plus various other historical sites, including the named tombs of luminaries. Also showcases are the many great gardens (Bāgh), including the legendary ‘floating gardens’ on the shores of the Dal Lake. To the east, the piedmont of the Himalayas dramatically rises out of the vale.
The map captures Srinagar during its modern heyday, before it was marred by urban sprawl and mass tourism, and previous to Kashmir being shaken by sectarian violence. Indeed, in 1928, only a select few wealthy travellers could visit Srinagar and enjoy its famous houseboats on the lakes, while in recent times, before the current pandemic, it was on a travel circuit, visited by millions a year. The 1931 census records the city as having only 173,649 residents, as opposed to 1.2 million today!
Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, and was favourite destination for the Mughal Emperors. In 1846, in return for his support in the First Anglo-Sikh War, Britain gave Kashmir to the ruler of Jammu, Maharaja Gulab Singh (1792–1857), of the Hundi Dogra Dynasty. Gulab Singh was a sagacious ruler and Kashmir & Jammu and remained one of Britain’s key allies on the subcontinent. However, under the surface tensions brewed due the fact that Kashmir’s population was approximately three-quarters Muslim but ruled by a Hindu upper class.
In the times of the Raj, Srinagar became a popular vacation spot for senior British officials, as well as Indian nobility and wealthy businessmen. Many of the world best-travelled people described it as a peerless earthly paradise. Sadly, the partition of India in 1947, inflamed longstanding Hindu-Muslim tensions, and Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan (with Srinagar going to India). While there have been long periods of relative peace when one could safely visit Srinagar, the area had often been plagued by violence. Thus, the map harkens back to halcyon days.
The map is based upon advanced surveys undertaken in 1911, with the first edition of the map being issued by the Survey of India in Calcutta in 1912. The present example is of the second, or ‘New Edition (slight alterations’), of 1928.
The map is part of sectional series of maps of Kashmir, although each map was separately issued. The maps were specialty items and were created in only small print runs, while the survival rate of such types of Indian maps is very low.
The present map is extremely rare. We cannot definitively trace any other examples, although there may be an example within a non-itemized collection of maps from the Kashmir series held by the University of Manchester Library.
References: Cf. University of Manchester Library: D1:7 (3).
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