Page images

either declared their inability to supply, or about which they equivocated for days, was at last, on search, found in abundance in their houses, although the price fixed upon it by their own headman had been advanced for its purchase; and this at a time when they knew that the Ghoorkha power was overthrown, and the British arms had broken their own chains: this was not only a very unamiable, but a very unaccountable trait in their character. Like most Asiatics, but not exceeding them, they are severe and tyrannical masters, but cringing to a disgusting degree to those whom they know to be their superiors in power. Those who were foremost in denying to us the necessaries we wanted, were, when brought before us, by far the most servile and abject in their professions of service and devotion.'-pp. 201,



This is not all; he accuses them of obstinacy and laziness, though his own account of the general appearance of the country, and the neatness of their houses, sufficiently refutes this part of the charge; he even denies them the common savage virtue of hospitality, and declares, that he does not believe a vessel of milk was ever given from a kind motive. No present,' he says, ever offered without a hope, nay, tolerably full persuasion, of a more valuable consideration being returned.' This we conceive to be matter of inference rather than of fact. The same observation will apply to the following passage: "The presents of sheep and goats that were offered to us were not to be considered as the voluntary gifts of a grateful, generous, or obliging disposition; they were the peace offerings customary in the country, the tender of an inferior who needs protection, and thus solicits it from a superior.' This censure of the natives is by no means confined to the places visited by our army; it extends over the whole of his tour: long after he had quitted the political agent with whom he set out, and was on his return from the Source of the Ganges, he recurs to this hostile feeling, and thus sums up their character.

If these roving principles (of theft and rapine) were found united with the usual highland virtues, it would be well; but it is melancholy to observe that, of the warmth of heart, of that generous and open hospitality, of that keen sense of honour, rigid fidelity to trust, and steady romantic friendship, which adorn the rough character of the European highlander, which in some measure redeem his ruder and more lawless acts, and force admiration to mingle with our censure, no traces are here to be met with. The mean, cringing, and crafty nature of the Asiatic has blended with the hardy impetuous courage of the highlander, and, like poison, blasted all the good that belonged to the character. In the course of our tour through these hilly regions, much of treachery, of theft, of usurpation, of low despicable knavery, of falsehood, nay even of murder, came to our ears; but not one honourable, not one generous or hospitable act. The excitement of all the better feelings to virtue is unknown; and fear is the only effectual in


strument to compel them to honesty, even in their simplest dealings.'pp. 486, 487.

It is but fair, however, to add, that Mr. Fraser is in some measure borne out in his character of these mountaineers by the statement of one of our officers, who observed, that their hand was against every man, and every man's hand was against them.' Mr. Fraser does indeed admit that their natural character may have been disguised and distorted by violence and tyranny; he admits too, that whole districts have given proof of a high degree of courage, and that some have manifested a decided faith in British power and honour, when permitted to declare themselves. The Ghoorka army, against whom we had been contending, was chiefly raised in the conquered districts, and composed of the same kind of materials as those which have fallen under his censure; and yet the following is the description of a garrison that had surrendered :

When we thus saw a portion of the Ghoorkha army together, and marked them, so miserable, stript, and unarmed, we could not but ask ourselves with astonishment, were these the men who had so well defended the fort of Kalunga, who had so often foiled our regular troops, and had protracted the campaign to such a length, by their constancy and bravery? Yet among them there were many fine looking young men; and there was a cheerfulness of countenance, a modest confidence of demeanour, that could not but pleasingly attract observation.

They were prisoners; they had lost their all; and they had been. in the power of a cruel and treacherous enemy; nor could they well say what they had to expect: but no murmurs of lamentation or discontent were heard; good humour and lightness of heart absolutely seemed to prevail among them, yet without noise or tumult. The hum of many voices was heard, and the noise of encamping, making their cooking places, pitching a stick to suspend a blanket from, that their wives and children might be somewhat shielded from the sun; but no disputes, no quarrels occurred: and the quietness with which all was conducted might have afforded a lesson to the more disciplined troops of other nations. Among the women we remarked several who were fair, and had good features: they were chiefly natives of Bischur and Gurhwhal, who had married Ghoorkha soldiers, and now followed their husbands' fortunes.'-p. 224.

The high notions of strict obedience and fidelity by which these people are animated towards their superiors, were finely exemplified in the person of Kirtee Rana, the captive Ghoorka, chief, a man of seventy years of age. On being asked what could induce him, at such a time of life, to leave his native land, his eye sparkled, and with great emphasis he replied, "My master, the Rajah, sent me: he says to his people, to one, go you to Gurwhal; to another, go you to Cashmere, or to any distant part. My lord,




thy slave obeys; it is done. No one ever inquires into the reason of an order of the Rajah." Another chief, on being asked whether, according to the terms of the capitulation, he would return to Nepaul, answered "No; I can no more visit my country; I must look for service elsewhere; I can never face the Rajah again, for I have eaten Ghoorkha salt. I was in trust, and I have not died at my post. We never can return to our country." And all the soubadars and chiefs present, shaking their heads, said, "No; we never can return."

The highest peaked hill between the Sutlej and the Jumna, short of the snowy range and its immediate shoulders, is the Choor, from which other hills radiate as from a centre. On these Mr. Fraser met with numerous European plants; the ferns, he says, were very beautiful, and even the humble buttercup gave rise to a pleasing recollection:' but though he mentions the interminable pine forests in the valley of the Choor, he does not notice the size of those magnificent trees, which, we learn from other authorities, measure in circumference 24 feet, and tower in a straight and even trunk to the enormous height of 180 feet.

The fatigue of travelling in those wild regions is excessive, not only from the roughness of the roads, but from the universal abruptness of the sides of every hill; it is a perpetual succession of steep ascent and precipitous descent to and from heights that vary from two to six thousand feet.

From the pass,' Mr. Fraser says, between the two peaks of the Urructa mountain, looking to the northward, the whole stupendous range of the Himālā burst upon our view, now no longer fading into distance, but clear and well defined. Bright with snow, and rising far above all intervening obstacles, they stretched, bounding our view from far beyond the Sutlej, till our sight was interrupted, where, in all probability, the hills of Gungotri and Buddrinaath arose.

'The day was clear, and only here and there a black cloud rested on the highest peaks. The scene was majestic, and if the epithet can justly be applied to any thing on earth, truly sublime.

There is that in the appearance of the Himālā range which every person who has seen them will allow to be peculiarly their own. No other mountains that I have ever seen have any resemblance to their character. Their summits shoot in the most fantastic and spiring peaks to a height that astonishes; and, when seen from an elevated situation, almost induces the belief of an ocular deception.'-p. 159.

We should hardly have expected to find in this remote and sequestered part of the world, the rude counterpart of one of the machines employed in the art of war, and in common use in the best days of the Romans.

While conversing with Thiken Das upon the means for reducing the garrison,

garrison, he told us, that he expected a man from his own country, who would construct a machine, by the help of which, the fort would soon be compelled to surrender. On his describing this machine, we were not a little surprised to find, that it was almost exactly similar to the catapulta of the Romans for projecting large stones. He plainly stated it to be framed of strong ropes, and large beams of wood; one of which, a large tree, was to be pulled back by the force of from one to two hundred men, and a heavy stone, of from seventy to two hundred pounds, to be thrown by its reaction to a great distance, which, falling on a house or fort, would destroy it and the garrison. He said, that it had been used in that country more than once, with success; and that when one or two stones of a certain weight had been thrown, they could easily judge of the weight that would carry to the distance required; and would reach their object with certainty every time they discharged stones at it. We had no better authority for believing that this machine ever had been in use here, excepting the assurance of other natives of the same country in confirmation of his report.'-p. 167.

But the same means, with a greater or less degree of art and refinement, are resorted to for producing the same effect in all parts of the world, however civilized or however savage; thus the most obvious of the mechanical powers, usually so called, are employed by all nations; and thus the finest iron is obtained in these mountains by a smelting furnace of the following description.

The apparatus and construction of this is very simple, consisting of a chimney built of clay, about four feet and a half high, by fifteen to eighteen inches diameter, placed upon a stage of stone work over a fire-place. In an opening below the stage there is a hole, through which the metal, when melted, flows; and this is stopped by clay or earth, easily removed by an iron poker. The ore, which is black, but glittering with metallic lustre like black ore of antimony, was mixed with charcoal pounded, and the chimney filled with the mixture; and as it falls and consolidates, more is added from above. The fire, once lighted, is kept fierce by means of two pair of bellows, each made of a goat's skin, fixed in some way to the stone stage, and filled through apertures closed with valves as ours are. A woman or boy sets between two of these skins, and raises and compresses them alternately with the hand. Four such skins are thus applied to each chimney.'p. 173.

Comharsein, which Mr. Fraser had now reached, is a petty state on the banks of the Sutlej, whose Rana, or sovereign, resides at a mean village of the same name, consisting of about a dozen houses. The breadth of the river here was considerable, the water falling over ledges of rocks on the banks were several huts of gold-finders, who procure the metal by washing the sand brought down by the current. The height of the village above the bed of the stream is estimated at 3000 feet. A short but fa



tiguing day's march brought them to the village and temple of Manjnee. Of the village our traveller says nothing; but he speaks with just praise of the temple; and, indeed, if the mountaineers, and not (as we rather incline to think) the Chinese, were the artists employed in its construction, they deserve the praise of singular ingenuity, considering the rude implements they have to work with, and that, as Mr. Fraser tells us, even the saw is unknown among them.

'The temple was remarkably neat, quite in the Chinese style, as usual: it is sacred to the goddess Bhowannee. The whole of the interior is sculptured over in wood, with infinite labour, and probably forms a detail of the exploits of the deity: with these I am wholly unacquainted; but she seems to have been frequently engaged with monsters of very uninviting shapes. That portion of the carving, however, which neither represents the human nor animal figure, is by far the most beautiful. The whole roof, which is formed of fir wood, is richly cut into flowers and ornaments, entirely in the Hindoo taste, with a sharpness and precision, yet an ease that does honour to the mountain artist; and, considering his tools and materials, it is truly wonderful. The shrine of the goddess was in the centre, and a small pair of folding doors opening, disclosed her; but the outside apartment, containing the sculptured work, was filled with people of all sorts, apparently without any scandal or sense of impropriety to the priesthood, who inhabited the interior. There were several small pagodas, similar to those at Hat-Gobeseree, and much curious sculpture in stone; but it was wholly of a schistose and crumbling nature, which appeared to be mouldering into dust, and therefore could not be very ancient.'—p. 196.

Ascending still higher as they proceeded northwards, the party reached the Moral-ke-kanda, the loftiest mountain short of the snowy range, and that which divides and turns the waters of Hindostan; all those on its eastern face flowing into the Pabur and Girree, which, with the Touse and Jumna, find their way, by the channel of the Ganges, into the bay of Bengal; whilst those from the western side are carried, by the Sutlej and the Indus, into the gulph of Sinde and the Arabian sea. The summit of this range was streaked with snow in the middle of June; but in its ravines were abundance of apricots, peaches, apples and pears; mulberry trees were also plentiful, and the horse chestnut, from the bitter fruit of which a species of food is prepared, in use among the peasantry of the neighbouring villages; grapes were also abundant.

Leaving this place, and climbing over innumerable precipices, the party advanced to Rampoor, on the banks of the Sutlej, a small town rising in tiers of streets and houses one above another, while the river foams and dashes at its feet, and the mountains hang over it in frightful projection. This place may be consi


« PreviousContinue »