Hindu Kush is an 800 km long Central Asian mountain range that rises north eastward from Kabul, which is at 5,900 feet, till it meets the Karakoram Range of the Great Himalayas. Inhabited by a million tribesmen, it separates the valleys of river Amu Darya to its north and Indus to the south. These mountainous areas are mostly barren and sparsely sprinkled with trees and small bushes. Gem-grade emeralds are found in the valley of the Panjsher River north of Kabul. The centre of this region is occupied by the powerful Ahmadzai Wazir and Mahsud tribes, and a few others like the Ghilzais, Durranis (Nozais, Alekozais, Eshaqzais) etc. They are totally independent, and pay neither tax nor owe allegiance to anyone. Only in late 1980s, they changed ‘loyalty’ to the Taliban and Al Qaeda combine that had transformed the region from Hindu Kush to Waziristan region of West Pakistan into a loosely integrated jihadist state.
For centuries Hindu Kush had acted as the great wall between Central Asia and India. Towards the east it merges with Pamir knot from where the mighty Himalayas start and where borders of China, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan meet. These mountains have historically seen military presence since Alexander the Great. Greek and Indian Kings (Chandragupta Maurya and Kushans) ruled the region for long periods in the first millennium. Of the many origins of the name, most accepted meaning of ‘Hindu Kush’ is from Persian meaning “Kills the Hindu”. Hindu slaves while being transported to Central Asia got killed by harsh weather or were killed by the invaders. Historic documents indicate many million Hindus were killed in the last two thousand years. Mahmud Ghaznawi crossed these mountains and invaded India through Khyber Pass 17 times between 1001 and1030, Muhammad Gauri came in 1175 and 1193, Timur in 1398, and Babur first came in 1505 and again in 1526 to establish the Mughal Empire. Nadir Shah came in 1739 and Ahmad Shah Abdali in 1761. Ever since Alexander the Great came searching for this fabled land, Hindu Kush Mountains have been the Gateway to India.