Crossing the Pir Panjal Pass near Srinagar, just beyond the old village of Aliabad Sarai, there’s a precipitous cliff locally known as ‘Hastivanj’ or ‘Hasti Watar’, which roughly translates to ‘the place where the elephants died’ in Sanskrit and Persian, respectively. While visitors may be surprised to find a reference to elephants so high up in Kashmir’s mountains, the story of this cliff and the elephants who died here goes back over 1,500 years. Now shrouded in legend, this is a dark tale of brutality, referred to not just in 12th century CE Kashmiri historian Pandit Kalhana’s text Rajatarangini but also Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari written in the 16th century CE.
The story goes that there was once a King who was crossing the Pir Panjal pass with his mighty army. One day, he heard the terrifying cry of an elephant who had fallen off the cliff here. The cruel King loved the sound of the screeching elephant in the throes of death so much that he is said to have ordered a hundred elephants to be pushed off this cliff.
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