Friday, June 3, 2011


It is said that all four members of Led Zeppelin agreed that "Kashmir" (1975) is perhaps the band's definitive work of art. It can be heard (among other places on the internet) here.

The Vale of Kashmir lies in the high mountainous region between India and Pakistan, surrounded by towering peaks many of which exceed 17,000 feet. The valley floor is above 5,000 feet in elevation and averages around 5,400 above sea level. This storied region provides a window into the connection between geology and mythology.

As Walt Brown notes in the 7th edition of his book on the hydroplate theory, the Hindu Nilamata Purana (probably composed between AD 550 and AD 700) describes the Valley of Kashmir as once containing an enormous lake. The Purana goes on to say that a demon-child or water serpent named Jalodbhava ("Born of Water") inhabited this lake, depopulating the villages near the water because he was an "eater of human flesh" (verses 141 through 144; see this translation by Dr. Ved Kumari).

The Nilamata tells the account of the gods who went to subdue this water demon and give relief to the people:
Hearing the sound of the retinue of the gods, the evil-minded demon, knowing himself to be imperishable in the water, did not come out. Having come to know that he would not come out [. . .] the pious-minded god Janardana, with a view to kill the demon, said to Ananta: "Breaking forth Himalaya today with the plow, make soon this lake devoid of water." Then Ananta, resembling a mountain and possessed of a lustre equal to that of the full moon [. . .] broke forth Himalaya, the best of the mountains on earth, with plow. When the king of the best mountains had been broken, the water flowed forth hurriedly with force, terrifying all the beings with its violent rush and sound and overflowing the tops of the mountains with curved waves like Himalaya touching the sky. When the water of the lake was disappearing, Water-born practised magic. He created darkness all around. O hero among men, the world became quite invisible. Then the god Siva held the sun and the moon in his two hands. In the twinkling of the eye, the world was brought to light and all the darkness was destroyed. When the darkness had vanished, unfathomable Hari, assuming another body with the power of Yoga, fought with the demon and witnessed that fight through a different body. There was a terrible fight between Visnu and the demon, with trees and peaks of mountains. [. . .] [Hari] cut off, forcibly, the head of the demon and then Brahma obtained gratification. 168 - 180.
Dr. Brown notes that geologists now confirm that the Vale of Kashmir did in fact once hold an enormous lake, and asks, "Was this just a lucky guess by the ancient writers of the Nilamata Purana myth? Did they understand geology and create a story to fit the evidence? They would have needed a microscope to see some of the evidence" (110).

Note that the legend describes the water leaving the lake all at once, in a violent breaching event which created a terrifying rush of water with mountainous waves. That such an event could have taken place, and within human memory, is consistent with the hydroplate theory, which argues that in the events after the flood many great inland lakes were trapped as the continents buckled and thickened, and that afterwards some lakes dried up (leaving wide salt flats, such as those around the Great Salt Lake) while others filled and breached violently (see here and here for further discussion).

Dr. Brown notes that the Jhelum River, visible in the NASA photograph above and outlined in the image below, may have been the path that the water escaped from the Kashmir Valley (the Jhelum flows between the two white lines added to the picture).

Of course, critics of the hydroplate theory might argue that the Vale of Kashmir could have been filled up with water during human memory as a result of the Ice Age and the melting of some of the glacial water, which may have later breached. However, Dr. Brown counters that at such high and cold elevations "snow or glaciers might accumulate, but rarely a large lake, because at high elevations, evaporation rates are higher and precipitation rates are generally lower" (110). This is similar to the problem conventional theories have in explaining where all the snow and ice came from that blankets Antarctica and the northern islands of Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, where levels of precipitation today are lower than in the Sahara Desert.

Further, assuming that the legends are correct about the presence of a man-eating reptile in the lake that terrorized the villages along the shore, how would a theory of glacial melt account for such a creature? Was it frozen in a glacier and then did it thaw out and wake up once the glacier melted and deposited it in the Vale? Of course, it is possible that the creature described in the Purana is purely mythical, but it is also possible that the buckling and lifting that created inland seas at the end of the flood trapped large marine creatures in places such as the lochs of Scotland and the ancient lake in the Vale of Kashmir. There is not enough evidence at this time to make such an assertion dogmatically, but if definitive evidence of such creatures is ever discovered in the future, it would not be impossible to explain.

Additionally, note that a human legend of such an inland lake and a violent breaching event adds credence to the possibility that the Grand Canyon was carved during human memory as well, and in fact Dr. Brown cites a Navajo legend that appears to suggest that humans were around to witness that event as well.

Finally, in light of the terrible violence that now mars this beautiful valley in the high mountains, we must note that the Kashmir region provides yet another window onto the theme of a lost ancient civilization that was forgotten in the ensuing centuries of ignorance and barbarism. We suggested in this recent post that the human tendency to blame and hate other groups (whether "other" because of skin color, religion, social class or earlobe length) is a leading candidate for the explanation of what causes civilizations to descend into barbarism. This tendency is by no means a thing of ancient history alone, but is alive and well in the teachings of grievance mongers actively gnawing at the foundations of civilization around the world today.