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and the Bramapootra have their rise on the northern side of the snowy mountains, on the elevated plains of Tartary. The Gunduck is supposed to issue from the valleys of Nepaul; the sources of the Cossy and the Teesta, and some others to the eastward of this, do not appear to have been accurately ascertained.
The portion of the mountainous region visited and described by Mr. Fraser, is that which lies between the ravine of the Sutlej and the Alicanunda; but that which we mean particularly to notice, as being untravelled by any European, is his journey to Seran, near the bank of the Sutlej, from thence to Jumnotree, near Bunderpouch, at the source of the Jumna, and across the mountains to Gungotree and Roodro Himāla, the source of the Bhagarutee. The celebrated shrines of Kedar-nath, at the head of the Calligunga and of Badri-nath on the Alicanunda, we have, in former articles, had occasion to speak of, on the authority of Messrs. Raper, Webb, and Moorcroft.
Mr. Fraser observes, on first approaching the mountains, that the restless tribes of the Siks, occupying the plain between the Jumna and the Sutlej, are constantly engaged in quarrels and appeals to arms; that their manners are as rude and inhospitable as their natures; and that they are proud, insolent, and ever ready to insult strangers who pass through their country: on the present occasion, however, they contented themselves, with 'staring; they looked surly and silent,' he says, 'and as if they were well inclined to be insolent and troublesome if they dared.'
The first place which they reached among the hills was Nahn, " perched like a bird's nest on the brow of a rock,' at the height of 2000 feet nearly above the level of the plains. It is a small town; the houses were built of stone, with flat roofs; and the streets rose by steps to the crest of the hill. A comparison with the vast proportions of the surrounding objects conveyed to Mr. Fraser's mind a strange idea of diminutiveness, like the abridgement of a town.'
A few miles beyond Nahn, and on the lofty extremity of a higher ridge, was situated the fort of Jytock, 3,600 feet above the level of the plains; the surrounding country was rugged with rocks, steep hills, and deep ravines; yet the wooded sides, generally to the north, were speckled with cultivation.
'As level ground is seldom to be met with, the least rocky faces of the hills are cut into a succession of terraces, rising above each other; which operation produces a number of strips of level ground, more or less narrow according to the steepness of the hills, and more or less regular according to its ruggedness. Great labour and care are bestowed on this operation. It is generally necessary to build a retaining wall, to support the edge of the small strip of ground, of a height correspond
ing with that of the bank, and much attention is paid to levelling its surface, so that water may neither rest upon it, nor, in running off, carry away any portion of its scanty soil; but this exact level is also necessary to fit it for receiving the benefit of irrigation; and every rivulet (with which indeed the hills abound) is diverted from its course at a height sufficient for their purpose (consequently often from a great distance,) and led by small drains, constructed with much neatness and skill, first to the higher cultivated spots from which it flows to the rest, or is again collected into a stream, after saturating them, and carried to another and lower range of fields.'—p. 113.
On the side of every mountain, however steep, cultivation was either carrying on in this way, or traces of it on former terraces were apparent. The villages were numerous, and the houses chiefly of stone, with doors so small as scarcely to admit a man. Rude as they were without, they were exceedingly neat within; the floors were smooth, well swept, and clean; and the cows, the chief source of their wealth, had invariably a respectable share of the house, which was kept dry and comfortable for them. A few lemon, or walnut, or mango trees, threw a grateful shade over the dwellings, and afforded convenient resting places under their branches to the inhabitants. Of these our author speaks in degrading terms, as contemptible in size, mean in aspect, cringing in address, and almost brutal.' He allows, however, that they are remarkably stout and well made, muscular and able to carry great weights. They have, he says, the general cast of the Hindoo countenance, without its softness and intelligence; and he notices the sunk eye, the sharp prominent nose, the large forehead, the high cheekbones, the long chin, and spare visage, with the wrinkles about the eyes and brows, and the habitual grin which deforms their countenance. From this description it would be clear, if other authorities were wanting, that the inhabitants of these elevated regions are a mixture of Hindoos and Tartars, as we know they are of Brahmins and Bhoodists; though each and all of them appear to be perfectly indifferent to the object of their worship, and to know or care little about the duties of religion beyond its superstitions.
The women are described as something more prepossessing, of better stature, and more delicate features: unlike the females of the plains, they fly not the approach of men; in fact they labour in the fields, and take their full share of fatigue with them. Thus busily occupied in providing for the necessaries of life, neither sex (to use Mr. Fraser's expression) seems to admit of a feeling so refined' as that of jealousy.
'It is usual for a family of four or five brothers to marry and possess the same woman at the same time, who thus becomes the wife in com
mon to all of this usage a full account will be given hereafter; but the general ideas regarding female virtue may be inferred from the admission of a practice so disgusting.'-p. 70.
This revolting custom he afterwards found to be common throughout the whole of the hilly country; and we may here observe, that it is by no means confined to these highlands, but that the lower tribes of the Nairs, on the coast of Malabar, and the people of Thibet, follow the same practice. We can hardly reconcile to ourselves the explanation given by Mr. Fraser for so unnatural a custom-the difficulty of raising a sum of money for the purchase of a wife, and the expense of maintaining her. But further, if one woman is allowed to have four or five husbands, how are the rest of the females disposed of? The question it seems was asked, but, says our author, it was never satisfactorily solved.' He thinks, however, that a part of the redundant female population is disposed of into slavery; which is not at all improbable. Be that as it may, the fact is unquestionable; and the custom has, as might be supposed, a most injurious effect on the morals of the females, who, we are told, are entirely at the service of such as will pay for their favours; a practice from which they are not discouraged by education, example, or even by the dread of their husbands, who only require from them a part of the profit.
It is remarkable, that a people so degraded in morals, and many of whose customs are of so revolting a nature, should in other respects evince a much higher advancement in civilization, than we discover among other nations, whose manners are more engaging and whose moral character ranks infinitely higher. Their persons are better clad, and more decent: their approach more polite and unembarrassed; and their address is better than that of most of the inhabitants of the remote highlands of Scotland; although certainly the circumstances under which they saw Europeans for the first time, were sufficient to have confounded them much more than any that usually occur in the most distant uncouth parts of the latter; and their houses, in point of construction, comfort, and internal cleanliness, are, beyond comparison, superior to Scottish highland dwellings.'-p. 209.
At a village near the banks of the Girree our traveller witnessed an extraordinary piece of discipline, to which the inhabitants of the hills subject their children.
'Several straw sheds are constructed on a bank, above which a cold clear stream is led to water their fields, and a small portion of this, probably of three fingers breadth, is brought into the shed by a hollow stick or piece of bark, and falls from this spout into a small drain, which carries it off about two feet below.
'The women bring their children to these huts in the heat of the day, and having lulled them to sleep, and wrapt their bodies and feet warm
in a blanket, they place them on a small bench or tray horizontally, in such a way that the water shall fall upon the crown of the head, just keeping the whole top wet with its stream.
We saw two under this operation, and several others came in while we remained, to place their children in a similar way. Males and females are equally used thus, and their sleep seemed sound and unruffled.'-p. 105.
He also observed, at the same place, a singular method of Julling children asleep. The mother, seizing the infant with both arms and aided by the knees, gives it a violent whirling motion, that would seem rather calculated to shake the child in pieces, than to produce the effect of soft slumber; but the result was unerring, and in a few seconds the child was fast asleep.
The further the party advanced into the mountainous regions the more the natural produce of the soil put them in mind of home. 'Asia,' says Mr. Fraser, 'was almost lost in our imagination; a native of any part of the British Isles might here have believed himself wandering among the lovely and romantic scenes of his own country.' They were now, however, on a range of hills called the Sine, whose height has been conjectured at 8000 feet. Yet, so early as the 8th of May, the corn was nearly ripe in the valleys, the peach and apricot trees were in full bearing, and the pear trees and mulberries loaded with fruit; such is the powerful influence of the sun in these mountainous tracts notwithstanding their great elevation. The difference of latitude will fully explain why the mountain rice, which there grows so luxuriantly, cannot be cultivated on the warmest soils in England; for although from their great elevation the winter's cold is perhaps more severe than our own, yet we want the influence of their cloudless skies and the intense heat of their summer's sun. Wheat and barley were both common; but the cultivation of rice appeared to employ their chief care. The tilth both for this and other grain was observed to exhibit a clean, equal, well-worked appearance, which could not be surpassed by an English farmer, with all his various and expensive apparatus;' that of the hill farmers, it is almost unnecessary to add, is of the simplest and rudest kind.
Proceeding northerly and more deeply into the mountains, our travellers passed several villages in ruins, but others were thickly scattered over the face of the hills, and sometimes perched on their crests. Those inhabited by Brahmins were always remarkably neat, (an observation which should have mitigated our author's spleen against this unfortunate caste,) and generally surrounded by walnut, apricot, mulberry and other fruit-bearing trees. Many of the tops of the hills were covered with woods of larch, fir, and oak. Watch-towers of stone, from fifty to sixty feet high, appeared in this part of the country, and temples were nu
merous, exhibiting a mixture of Hindoo and Chinese taste in their form and ornaments.
In this flourishing district, Mr. Fraser seems at a loss to account for the difficulty experienced in procuring grain. Although the natives (he says) were offered their own price for it, they not only refused, on some pretence or other, but frequently denied that they had any to dispose of; and he is the more surprised since, he adds,' they must have felt that the strong arm of power was at hand to enforce compliance with its demand.
'Here,' says he, we have a true and striking specimen of the falsehood and cunning policy, as well as of the shortsightedness, and the inconsistency of the Asiatic. He advances with a cringing and respectful demeanour, and to a plain direct inquiry at once replies by a downright untruth, supported by many assertions and good reasons, and seasoned with a sufficient dose of flattery and entreaty. He neglects his immediate and apparent interest for a remote and contingent advantage; and, trusting to his good fortune, and to that flattery which is so cheap, and which he thinks he can use so effectually, and to his own cunning and proficiency in deceit, so often successful, he braves and often exasperates a power that can crush him.
Such was the conduct of the hill people on this occasion, and it will probably be found of a piece with the whole tenor of that uncertain, vacillating, mean, and narrow policy, which marks and stains the Asiatic character. From such men no steady or good course of conduct can be looked for; on them no reliance can be placed. Even the tie of interest seems unsteady when viewed through so uncertain a medium.'-p. 129.
Now, we do not think it at all surprising that men, who had but a few years before been subjected to the unlimited rapacity and plunder of a Ghorkha army, should have their suspicions and fears awakened on the second approach of an armed force, however correct its conduct, and sincere its professions. Whether this, and other obstructions thrown in the way of the party, contributed to put our author in ill humour with these mountaineers, we know not, but we cannot help thinking that he has viewed these simple and ignorant people with a somewhat prejudiced eye; and that, on the whole, they are not deserving quite so bad a character as he almost invariably seems inclined to give them.
'In every dealing of inferior importance that occurred on the march, they prevaricated, trifled, and endeavoured to disappoint or deceive us. Seldom could a direct answer to any question be obtained; or all was fair promise without an idea of fulfilment, although they were aware that the means of enforcing performance were in our hands, and no obvious benefit was to be obtained by withholding what was demanded. The corn wanted for the troops and required of them, but which they