Amarnath Yatra Pics by Ralph Stewart in 1920
Ralph Randles Stewart was an American botanist who spent a lot of time collecting Plants and taking Photographs in the Western Himalayas in the early part of the 20th century. In his memoirs he describes his Journey in the Western Himalayas as follows
“As a fresh graduate of Columbia University in New York City … I began to lecture in Botany and Zoology in a tiny Presbyterian Mission college in Rawalpindi with only 86 students. I had a three-year appointment and not expecting to be in India again, I wondered what would be the most interesting way to spend the two summers I expected to have in the East, on a slender budget (my salary was $600 a year with a room in a dormitory).
In 1911, with four young men (two Americans, a Bengali and a Scot) who wanted an adventurous summer vacation, we decided that a good way to utilize the summer of 1912 would be to hike in Kashmir and Western Tibet (Ladak). Two of us worked in Gordon College, Rawalpindi, at the beginning of the cart road to Kashmir constructed in 1890 with a good deal of cost and difficulty. It crossed the first Himalayan Range at Jhicca Gali near Murree (2100 m), descended to the Jhelum River at Kohala and then followed the river to Srinagar, a distance of 196 miles. We had nearly three months of vacation and we left Rawalpindi at the beginning of July on our push-bikes. It was still in the horse and buggy age, just before the Model-T Fords and the buses began to carry visitors to Kashmir. Our cook and baggage traveled in a one-horse, spring less vehicle called an Ekka. I was the only botanist in the party. The other were interested in taking pictures and seeing new country.
We spent the summer in Kashmir and Ladak and I enjoyed the trip so much that I helped organize an even longer expedition for the summer of 1913. We again rode bicycles to the Kashmir Valley and again hiked to Leh, the capital of Ladak. Instead of returning to Kashmir we turned east from Leh, crossed the Rupshu plains and entered Lahul by the Baralacha Pass; left Lahul by the Rotang La, visited Kulu and then walked further east to Simla and returned home from there by train.”
In 1920 Ralph went on the Amarnath Yatra and took pics of the same giving us a priceless treasure and a window into how things were in these Mountains a hundred years back.