1881 - Sarat Chandra Das
(Scholar; Bengal Educational Service)
The Kashmir Envoy
December 13. To-day some 15,000 persons assembled at noon in the market-place to see the arrival of the Kashmir Envoy with his guards and escort in military dress. All the alleys of Shigatse, the courtyard of Kesar Lhakhang, and the adjacent gardens were filled with people all eagerly waiting for the temo (sight). There was the Envoy of the Maharaja with some fifty sowars, all in uniform, besides a hundred mounted followers of various nationalities, some Sikhs, Mohammedans with flowing beards and white turbans, Ladakis in clumsy lambskin dresses, Murmis from Nepal, Dokpas from Chang, a few Nepalese, and some Tibetans from Kirong. There were also with the Envoy a number of merchants dressed in princely style, and attended by servants in liveries of silk and broadcloth. Some of their ponies were also richly caparisoned with ornaments of silver and brocade of gold. The Kashmir Government, I learnt, sends an envoy to Lhasa every three years with presents (called tribute) to the Grand Lama. The Tibetan Government, on receiving notice of the proposed setting out of the mission, has relays (ta-u) of ponies and mules, about 500 head, and also coolies, prepared at all the towns and post-stations along the road from the Ladak frontier to Lhasa. Although so large a number of ponies and men is hardly necessary for the Envoy, who only brings presents of precious things of little bulk, the party avails itself of the privilege for the carriage of personal property and merchandise to and from Lhasa. As the mission passed by, we heard the people remark that all this splendour and ostentation was at the expense of the Government of Lhasa, and to the ruin of the poor people of Tibet.
The origin of this tribute from Kashmir to Lhasa is as follows: After the conquest of Ladak, Balti, and Skardo, Zorwar Sing, the famous sikh general of Maharaja Golab Sing, turned his arms against Kudok and Gar in the year 1840-41. These two provinces, which produce the finest wool of Tibet, and contain the wealthiest and most sacred of its monasteries, were held by the great Buddhist ruler of Tibet as his most valued possessions, and the Sikh general, by attempting their conquest, excited the wrath of the Lhasa Government, who, applying to their suzerain, the Emperor of China, was able to put more than 10,000 men in the field. Zorwar Sing, with some 5000 men, invaded these two provinces, and the governor (garpori) fled to the Chang tang [the northern part of Tibet, inhabited by a few pastoral tribes only] leaving the fort (of Rudok?) and the whole country at the mercy of the enemy. The general established himself near the sacred lake Mapham (Manasarowar), and sent detachments all over the the country to pillage and spread desecration in the holiest of Buddhist sanctuaries at Mapham and Kailas; and one body of troops he posted at Purang, near the Nepal frontier, to watch the Lhasa forces. The combined forces of Lhasa and China now marched on Kudok under the leadership of one of the Shape; and Zorwar Sing, whose contempt for the Tibetan soldiery was great, and who underrated the strength of the forces opposed to him, sent some small detachments of his troops to oppose their advance. These were cut to pieces, when he himself, at the head of his troops, advanced to encounter the Lhasa forces. The two armies fought for two days and nights without any decisive result, but on the third day the Sikh general fell, and victory declared itself for the lamas. The defeat was complete, and the number of slain on both sides immense. The victorious troops now threatened Ladak, and the Maharaja sued for peace. A treaty was concluded by the agent of Golab Sing and the Government of Lhasa, of which one of the terms was the payment of a triennial tribute.
Das, Sarat Chandra
Journey to Lhasa and Central Tibet
First Published 1902; reprint New Delhi 1970 edited by W.W. Rockhill