Page images
PDF
EPUB

dered as the capital of the Bischur district, and was, in fact, the only spot which they had seen deserving the name of a town since they entered the hills. It contained two well-built palaces, the roofs of which were ingeniously tiled with a purple coloured slate. It was impossible,' says our author, 'to look at the carved ornaments in wood, the pillars, the screens, the cornices, or the smaller and nameless pieces that every where covered the walls in front, without being struck with admiration at the beauty of their execution.' Rampoor was once a flourishing place, being the entrepot of commerce between Hindostan and Cashmere, Ladak, Bootan, Cashgār, Yarcund and the two Thibets. Beyond the Sutlej, and opposite the town, is a ghaut or pass through the Himalaya range, the only one to the westward of that near Buddranath, at the head of the Alicanunda, through which Mr. Moorcroft passed; hence it became to the westward what Srinuggar was to the eastward, the general mart for the products of India and Tartary. Mr. Fraser seems to think that by means of this pass the shawl-wool trade, now inonopolized by Cashmere, and by far the most profitable which it enjoys, might partially be directed to Hindostan: but is he quite sure that the skill of the Hindoo weaver is equal to that of the Cashmerian? Besides, the introduction of so small a quantity (for small it must be) can scarcely be an object of much moment with the government of a state containing from sixty to eighty millions of people; while the deprivation of it would occasion misery to thousands whose entire subsistence depends on the manufacture in Cashmere.

What the nature of the pass may be, to which Rampoor owed its former prosperity, we know not, as Mr. Fraser passes it over in silence; but the communication across the Sutlej, by means of a singular species of bridge called a j'hoola, appears to us but ill adapted to the purposes of commercial intercourse.

At some convenient spot, where the river is rather narrow and the rocks on either side overhang the streain, a stout beam of wood is fixed horizontally upon or behind two strong stakes, that are driven into the banks on each side of the water; and round these beams ropes are strained, extending from the one to the other across the river, and they are hauled tight, and kept in their place, by a sort of windlass. The rope used in forming the bridge is generally from two to three inches in circuinference, and at least nine or ten times crossed to make it

This collection of ropes is traversed by a block of wood hollowed into a semicircular groove large enough to slide easily along it, and around this block ropes are suspended, forming a loop, in which passengers seat themselves, clasping its upper parts with their hands to keep themselves steady; a line fixed to the wooden block at each end, and extending to each bank, serves to haul it, and the passenger attached to it, from one side of the river to the other. H 3

( The

secure,

The jhoola at Rampore was somewhat formidable, for the river tumbles beneath in a very awful way; and the ropes, though they decline in the centre to the water, are elevated from thirty to forty feet above it; the span is from ninety to a hundred yards. It was amusing enough to see several of our low country attendants arming themselves with courage to venture on this novel mode of transit; and I must confess, that although it was evident that the actual danger was small, it was not without certain uncomfortable feelings that I first launched out on the machine to cross the Sutlej. We found, however, that accidents do sometimes occur; and it was scarcely twelve months since a Brahmin who had come from Cooloo, having loaded the

ropes

with too great a weight of his goods, and accompanied them himself, fell into the stream, was hurried away, and dashed to pieces.'-pp. 260, 261.

Mr. Fraser's opinion of the natives of these wild and wonderful regions does not appear to improve as he proceeds.

• The inhabitants of Nawur and Teekur (he says) are notorious for infamy of character even in this country, (Bischur,) where all are bad. They are revengeful and treacherous, deficient in all good qualities, abandoned in morals, and vicious in their habits. As a proof of the savage indifference with which they look on the life of another, and on the act of shedding human blood, it is said that mere wantonness or a joke will induce the crime of putting a fellow creature to death, merely for the satisfaction of seeing the blood flow, and of markir.g the last struggles of their victim : and some facts that came under our observation of a tantamount nature, give too much reason for believing the assertion: to be founded in truth. Female chastity is here quite unknown; and murder, robbery, and outrage of every kind, are here regarded with indifference.'-p. 267.

Our author must forgive us, if we do not readily yield our belief to these sweeping charges, especially as they appear to be supported by little more than mere hearsay. We have followed Mr. Fraser wish equal interest and pleasure through the awful magnificence of glen and mountain, but we cannot call to mind the mention of a single fact, as connected with his own experience, which bears him out in the smallest part of this outrageous summary. We greatly fear that he took the character of these people from the Goorkhas, who formed a part of his escort, and who soothed their mortified feelings by calumniating those whom they were no longer permitted to oppress and plunder. However this may be, it will be seen that no part of their vices can be attributed to the example of their sovereign.

'This morning the young rajah came to pay his respects to the British authority. He is a small, ill-grown child, of between six and , eight years old; his manners and countenance both marked and formed, and not at all like those of so young a person. His nose is much hooked, and he has large, full, and sparkling black eyes. He is affected by

that

that species of glandular swelling of the neck so common among the people of the hills, known in Europe by the name of goitre. His father, we learnt, was afflicted with it; and in this boy it was certainly hereditary. He seemed much frightened, or overpowered, either by terror and confusion, or by mauvaise honte, and continually made salaams and prostrations to us, which seemed to have been studiously taught him, and which he had got by heart with much success. After he had been some time seated on one of our knees he appeared more at ease, and answered several questions naturally enough, displaying some intelligence and freedom ; but he was kept apparently in great order, and felt much awe at those who were with him, as well as those whom he was visiting. We did all in our power to inspire him with confidence, and to make him pleased with his entertainers, presenting him with such little articles as he was likely to admire; and I think he went away far less frightened, and a good deal gratified. He was attended by a considerable suite of retainers, heads of families, and landholders, who seemed very solicitous about him. A most earnest and strenuous request was made, that, while the young rajah was in our tent, no Ghoorkha might be permitted to venture near: they were afraid lest these dreaded people might throw spells on the child, and bewitch him. We respected their prejudices, and took care that no such dangerous characters should have access near the sacred person of the young rajah ; who retired in about two hours to his own house, after having made his nuzzur to the British government as to a respected superior.'-pp. 346, 347.

The young rajah resides at Seran, a town considerably above the immediate channel of the Sutlej, and of which his palace forms the principal ornament. Elevated as the hills were in this district, the villages were numerous, and generally situated amidst groves of fruit trees, round which the grape twined itself loaded with the richest fruit. The sloping sides of the hills were covered with endless tracts of the finest scarlet strawberries. The heat was excessive, though immediately under vast mountain peaks covered with eternal snow.

The native animals of these mountains are not described in a way that would afford much amusement or information to our readers. We shall notice only the musk-deer.

• The most curious and worthy of attention is, perhaps the muskdeer. It is an animal by no means common in any situation, but keeps entirely to the most inaccessible and remote heights, among rocks and forests that defy the foot of man. They cannot endure heat, and several young ones which were presented to us invariably perished, after being exposed a few days to the warmth of a lower region. The figure of the musk-deer is somewhat singular. It attains the size of a fallow doe, or small buck, and its body and legs are completely those of a deer. The head, however, bears some resemblance to that of a hog; the eye

is black and full, but not so large as that of a deer usually is; and the sharp snout and wrinkled countenance give it a considerable

H 4

resemblance

resemblance to a pig's head, which is rendered more remarkable by the two tusks that project from the upper jaw, and hang, pointing downward, considerably over the lower; and their colour is dark brown. It is commonly known that the musk is contained in a liquid state in a small bag near the navel of the animal. When it is caught, this bag is taken just as it

found, and cut from the beast while yet alive. A small hollow reed is inserted into it that the musk may not suffer, as it would be apt to do, from want of air; and the whole is tied around with a sinew of the animal. In this state, when it has dried, which it does in the shape of small brown grains, it is sold together with the skin for about twice its weight in silver. It is said that the animal must be caught alive in order to obtain its musk. Should it be shot, the drug (it is affirmed) is absorbed into the body, and consequently not only lost, but the animal is rendered uneatable. The great value of the article makes the animal an object of great request. Whenever, therefore, it is understood that a musk-deer has been seen on any particular hill, the whole country is turned out, to hunt him down. This alone would tend to create scarcity of the animal; and if it is as rare in the hills to the south-eastward, and on the opposite side of the Himālā range, as it is in that portion between the Sutlej and Alacnunda, there is little danger that the market will ever be overstocked by the genuine musk. -pp. 352, 353.

We have no doubt that a little time will bring to light many objects of natural history peculiar to the elevated regions of central Asia, and hitherto unknown in the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, particularly in the two former. This is an opinion which we have long entertained; but we are led io che expression of it on the present occasion, by having been favoured with the perusal of a most interesting communication from Major Latter, commanding in the Rajah of Sikkim's territories, in the Hilly Country east of Nepaul, addressed to Adjutant General Nicol, and transmitted by him to the Marquis of Hastings. This important paper explicitly states that the unicorn, so long considered as a fabulous animal, actually exists at this moment in the interior of Tbibet, where it is well known to the inhabitants. • This,'—we copy from the Major's letter— is a very curious fact, and it may be necessary to mention how the circumstance became known to me. In a Thibetian Manuscript, containing the names of different animals, which I procured the other day from the hills, the unicorn is classed under the head of those whose hoofs are divided; it is called the one-horned tso'po. Upon inquiring what kind of animal it was, to our astonishment, the person who brought me the manuscript described exactly the unicorn of the ancients : saying, that it was a native of the interior of Thibet, about the size of a tattoo, (a horse from twelve to thirteen bands high,) fierce and extremely wild; seldom, if ever, caught alive, but frequently shot; and that the flesh was used for food.'

"The

[ocr errors]

• The person, Major Latter adds,' who gave me this information, has repeatedly seen these animals, and eaten the flesh of them. They go together in herds, like our wild buffaloes, and are very frequently to be met with on the borders of the great desert, about a month's journey from Lassa, in that part of the country inhabited by the wandering Tartars.

This communication is accompanied by a drawing made by the messenger from recollection: it bears some resemblance to a horse, but has cloven hoofs, a long curved horn growing out of the forehead, and a boar-shaped tail, like that of the 'fera monoceros,' described by Pliny.* From its herding together, as the unicorn of the Scriptures is said to do, as well as from the rest of the description, it is evident that it cannot be the rhinoceros, which is a solitary animal; besides, Major Latter states that, in the Thibetian manuscript, the rhinoceros is described under the name of serto, and classed with the elephant; 'neither,' says he, 'is it the wild horse, (well known in Thibet,) for that has also a different name, and is classed in the MS, with the animals which have the hoofs undivided.' I have written (he subjoins) to the Sachia Lama, requesting him to procure me a perfect skin of the animal, with the head, horn, and hoofs; but it will be a long time before I can get it down, for they are not to be met with nearer than a month's journey from Lassa.'

We must now return to Mr. Fraser. From Seran he struck off to the south-east along the banks of the Pabur and the Touse, crossing the country, till, on the 9th of July, he reached the banks of the Jumna. Here he quitted the political agent, (with whom he had hitherto travelled,) in order to pay a visit to Jumnotree, the celebrated source of this river. For this purpose he took with him an escort of soldiers, guides, porters, and pilgrims, amounting to about sixty people. It would be tedious to follow him through the same kind of country in which we travelled with him before, through a rapid succession of glens and forests, rocks and rills, jungles and swamps, all minutely and circumstantially described. Suffice it to say, that after a most fatiguing journey the party reached an ascent, from which they had the first sight of Jumnotree, and, at the same time, of a deep and dark glen below them, called Palia Gadh, which,' says Mr. Fraser, is the outlet of the waters of one of the most terrific and gloomy valleys I have ever seen.'

* In speaking of the wild beasts of India, Pliny says, with regard to the animal in question, ' Asperrimam autem feram monocerotem, reliquo corpore equo similem, capite cervo, pedibus elephanti, cauda apro, mugitu gravi, uno cornu nigro media fronte cubitotum dûum eminente. Hanc feram vivam negant capi.'-Plin. Hist. Mund. lib. 8, cap. 21. The resemblance is certainly very striking.

• But

« PreviousContinue »