The Kashmir Mammoths : A Tragic Comedy Almost.
The Woolly Mammoth, the giant of the North which roamed the expanses of Central and Northern Asia among-st other places. And it was also the ancestor of both the Asian and the African Elephants but became extinct after the ending of the Ice Age from what we know.
Many remains of the prehistoric Mammoths have been found all over the world, most notably in Siberia where the remains buried in the permafrost have emerged as fresh as probably the day the mammoth died. And all thanks to the frozen Ground and the low temperatures. In-fact the remains are so fresh that DNA samples have been taken and some scientists are trying to clone and resurrect the Mammoth. I am sure many of you must have seen the “Raising The Mammoth” series on Discovery or was it on National Geographic. Not very sure.
And now the story of not one, but remains of two Woolly Mammoths found in the Himalayas from where else but Kashmir. The thing is that Kashmir is so beautiful that even a couple of Mammoths decided to move in and make it their home. Now this was unprecedented and apparently the second Mammoth found was said to be the biggest Mammoth remains ever found. The Skull was 5 feet by 4 feet. A broken Tusk almost 3 feet along was also found. Experts later calculated the size of the Tusks to be a staggering 12 feet. Yes 12 feet. That's like One and half Stories. This was really some find. But in Kashmir even such finds can get embroiled in comical situations.
The first Mammoth was found in 1931 by an American called Dr. De Terra who was a researcher with the Carnegie foundation in the United States. He was working for the Yale University and visited Kashmir twice while on the trail of the remains of prehistoric man in Kashmir. He found some remains of prehistoric times but his most exciting find was the remains of a Mammoth at the same general location where the second Mammoth remains would be found 70 years hence. But the good scientist on his return took all the Mammoth remains with him to the good old United States of America. The Mammoth remains were then put on display at the Yale University in New Haven. And it was then that this news reached the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Of course he was infuriated at his people to let go of such a significant prehistoric find. So letters were sent by the Maharaja to the Yale University asking for the return of the Mammoth remains as they were taken without any Official consent. Under pressure the University and more importantly Dr. De Terra relented and the Mammoth remains were sent back to Kashmir. The Doctor maintained he had got the necessary permissions to take the remains but had relented to return them as he wanted to go to Kashmir again.
So the first Mammoth returned to its beautiful Motherland, Mouj Kashir (Mother Kashmir). And now it was put on display at the new Palace of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. And the Tusks of the Mammoth worked well as Coat Hangers. To be honest who can think of a more impressive Coat Hanger than prehistoric Mammoth Tusks. But soon enough better sense prevailed and in around 1935 the Mammoth remains were shifted to the Sri Pratap Singh Museum in Srinagar. And its there where it rests to this day and were damaged a little in the Floods. As a result they are not on display for Public and is in the Archives.
Coming to the second, bigger, Mammoth which was discovered in 2001 by a Group of students on a field trip around the Karewa in Pampore. The find was a great one and got top publicity in the National Newspapers as well. There was great euphoria among the Scholars and the Students for obvious reasons. And samples were sent to to forensic labs for carbon dating and other stuff. All was nice and dandy. But good things rarely last especially in Kashmir. One fine day in 2007 a Scholar went to the site and discovered to his horror that the Mammoth remains had disappeared from the Site. Not even a trace was left behind. It was obviously a professional job.
Well the Mammoth was soon found in the corridors of the Geology Department of Jammu University. The comedy transpired in this way, one of the Scholars co-opted for studying the remains on behalf of Kashmir University had actually come from Jammu. And on his return to Jammu he decided to take all the remains with him to Jammu University. Come on not again. It was like Deja Vu. Were the Mammoth God's not happy with Kashmir ?
And soon of course a war of words ensued between both Universities. With accusations flying in both directions. And while all this was going on Jammu University announced that it no longer had the Mammoth remains. What do mean you don't have the Mammoth remains, they were asked. Well we have given the mammoth remains to the Wadia Museum of Natural History in the Jammu University itself. So technically they were in the Jammu University but were installed in the Museum and hence Museum property. Kashmir University people were of course furious as Kashmiri Mammoth belongs to Kashmir. And RTIs were filled and Cases were filed. I think. Or I would assume that being the only resort to get the Mammoth back.
Now the funniest part of the whole Mammoth story. In response to the RTI’s, Jammu University came back with a reply which made many Experts fall off their Chairs. What Mammoth ? They said. They were just remains of an Elephant, what’s all this talk of Mammoths ? Claiming that the Mammoth remains were actually that of an Elephant would of ofcourse lessen the severity of the consequences that it would entail. Even the head of Geology and the boss at the Wadia Museum of Natural History “clarified” that there is no “Mammoth” on display at the Museum. This was in 2018. “Mammoth Lies” say the Scholars from Kashmir University.
At least we got one back from the United States of America.
I am an eyewitness. I even took pics on a Visit to the Museum when the officials at the Museum were kind enough to let me see and photograph the Mammoth remains. For the record I am Posting a couple of pics for the record. We already lost one. We don't want to loose another one.
“And that's all i have a say about that” as a line goes in one of my favorite Movies.
Pics from October 2017. Sri Partap Singh Museum, Srinagar, Kashmir