Page images

Such a

• But it would not be easy to convey by any description a just idea of the peculiarly rugged and gloomy wildness of this glen: it looks like the ruins of nature, and appears, as it is said to be, completely impracticable and impenetrable. Little is to be seen except dark rock; wood only fringes the lower parts and the water's edge: perhaps the spots and streaks of snow, contrasting with the general blackness of the scene, heighten the appearance of desolation. No living thing is seen; no motion but that of the waters; no sound but their roar. spot is suited to engender superstition, and here it is accordingly found in full growth. Many wild traditions are preserved, and many extravagant stories related of it.

On one of these ravines there are places of worship, not built by men, but natural piles of stones, which have the appearance of small temples. These are said to be the residence of the dewtas, or spirits, who here haunt and inveigle human beings away to their wild abodes. It is said that they have a particular predilection for beauty in both sexes, and remorselessly seize on any whom imprudence or accident may have placed within their power, and whose spirits become like theirs after they are, deprived of their corporeal frame. Many instances were given of these ravishments : on one occasion a young man, who had wandered near their haunts, being carried in a trance to the valley, heard the voice of his own father, who some years before had been thus spirited away, and who now recognised his son. It appears that paternal affection was stronger than the spell that bound him, and instead of rejoicing in the acquisition of a new prey, he recollected the forlorn state of his family deprived of their only support: he begged and obtained the freedom of his son, who was dismissed under the injunction of strict silence and secrecy. He however forgot his vow, and was immediately deprived of speech, and, as a self-punishment, he cut out his tongue with his own hand. This man was said to be yet living, and I desired that he should be brought to me, but he never came, and they afterwards informed me that he had very lately died. More than one person is said to have approached the spot, or the precincts of these spirits, and those who have returned have generally agreed in the expression of “their feelings, and have uttered some prophecy. They fall, as they say, into a swoon, and between sleeping and waking hear a conversation, or are sensible of certain impressions as if a conversation were passing, which generally relates to some future event. Indeed, the prophetic faculty is one of the chiefly remarkable attributes of these spirits, and of this place.- pp. 408, 409.

Nothing can equal the wild and rugged scenery which our traveller describes between this valley and Jumnotree. Cataracts, of many hundred feet, precipitate themselves down the steep sides of the mountains; while the foliage assumes a character suited to the general tone of the country, dark, heavy, and luxuriant; “yet among the dusky firs and thickets of oak, were still seen the white rose rising in rich clusters to the tops of the old trees, and the jasmines creeping lower, but at times alžnost overarching the



path; while under foot the strawberry, ferns, and yellow, blue, and white blossoms of innumerable flowers, furnished a sweet and remarkable contrast, on which the eye, weary with a continual stretch to the crags above, reposes with pleasure.'

The travellers were now in the very heart of the lofty range of Himaleh, whose peaks towered in majestic grandeur above their heads, more especially that of Bunderpouch, which Mr. Fraser says is a prodigious mountain. It is the same which Captain Webb calls the peak of Jumanavatari, and whose height is calculated by Mr. Colebrooke, from that officer's distant observations of the angle it subtended, at 25,500 feet. At the very foot of this mountain, elevated as the situation was, village succeeded village, in the most romantic and terrific positions, and surrounded on every side with snow. Yet even here Mr. Fraser talks of descending gently along a lovely, wooded, and flowery path ;' of growing wheat; and of the finest walnut-trees he ever

On reaching Cursalee, the last village on this side Jumnotree, he fell in with a concourse of people, assembled to perform the annual ceremony of carrying the images of their Gods to wash them in the sacred stream of Jumna. Men and women, in a state of intoxication, indiscriminately joined in a grotesque and savage dance to the sound of wild and uncouth music; this kind of frantic worship is continued for several days and nights, and, in truth, says Mr. Fraser, it is in unison with their general manners and habits, which are barbarous and inconsistent!

At the end of a painful and perilous day's journey beyond this place, they reached the temple of Byramjee, (a subordinate divinity to Jumna,) stationed here to announce the approach of votaries to the more sanctified shrine of the goddess. Here a Brahmin officiated at a little temple without any image, built of loose stones, and about three feet high, perched on the point of a rock overhanging the stream, which roars and foams at a tremendous depth below: to this depth they had again to descend, and to cross and recross the river many times; while the water, fresh from beds of snow, was so intensely cold as almost to benumb the joints. Each time we plunged in,' says Mr. Fraser, we felt as if cut to the bone. Just in advance of the sacred spot, to which they were approaching, the river was formed by a junction of three streams, one of which issued from under a prodigious avalanche of snow which had slid down the side of the steep mountain,' whose very peaks,' says our traveller,' are seen towering above us, as ready to overwhelm the gazer with the snow from their summits. Scrambling up a steep ascent of rocks, loose stones, and precipices, a short walk brought them to Jumnotree. This sacred spot is situated just below the place where a

multitude This word (which no human organ can articulate) stands, we suppose, for what is usually ternied a faquir! We are alıuost put beyond our patience by the miserable affectation of giving a new appearance to every Eastern termu in common use. We have wuzzeers and vuzzeers; nuwabs and nawobs; and, after all, do not approach a jot nearer to the true sound than when we used the pronunciation of our fathers, and said viziers and nabobs. Why do not the gentlemen who write on India, follow sunie respectable standard of orthography, instead of setting up, each in his individual capacity, for a leader?


multitude of small streams, occasioned by the melting masses of snow, trickle down, and unite in a large basin ; this however is inaecessible, and completely hid from the eye by the breast of the mountain, which is of vivid green from perpetual moisture, and furrowed by time and the torrents into ravines, along which the numerous sources of this branch of the Jumņa rush with inconceivable rapidity. "Above this green bank,' says Mr. Fraser,

rugged, bare, and dark rocky cliffs arise ; and the deep calm beds and cliffs of snow, towering above all, finish the picture.' The ceremony of ablution is performed in several streams of warm water, which issue from various sources; one of the largest, which sprang up in a column of very considerable size, was, our traveller says, so hot that the land could not bear to be kept in it one moment; it was pure, transparent and tasteless.

The magnificent mountain of Bunderpouch, which towers above the sacred spot, where the goddess Jumna has fixed her abode, is said to terminate in four peaks, though two of them only appear when observed from the west; the Brahmins affirm that in the cavity formed by them is a lake of peculiar sanctity. No one has ever seen, much less approached, this lake; for besides the physical difficulties which are absolutely insurmountable, the goddess has prohibited any mortal from passing beyond the spot appointed for her worship. This is satisfactorily proved to every good Hindoo by the following incident:

• A fugeer* once lost his way in attempting to reach Jumnotree, and was ascending the mountain, till he reached the snow, where he heard a voice inquiring what he wanted; and, on his answering, a mass of snow detached itself from the side of the hill, and the voice desired him to worship where this snow stopped; that Jumna was not to be too closely approached or intrudled on in her recesses; that he should publish this, and return no more, under penalty of death.'— p. 419.

Captain Hodgson visited Jumnotree, or Jumoutri, in April, 1817, when the mass of snow which had fallen from the heights above, of 60 yards wide, covered and concealed the stream of the Jumna; this mass was wedged in on the right and left by several precipices of granite, and was found to be 40 feet thick, by letting down a plumb line through one of the holes which a stream of


[ocr errors][merged small]

water, of the temperature of boiling, had eaten into it. The peak (Bunderpouch) is estimated by him at the height of 25,000 feet.

Mr. Fraser now determined to cross over the gorges of the mountains, in as direct a road as possible, so as to reach the Bhagarutee, (long considered as the chief branch of the Ganges,) at a point not very distant froin its source, where stands the shrine of Gangotree, the holiest of the holy, and of all others the most difficult of approach. His companions, or rather his guides, admitted that the journey had been performed, but described it as a most dangerous route; affirming that a pestilential wind blew from the mountains, which rendered the traveller senseless and deprived him of motion. He determined, however, to make the attempt, and on the 16th of July set out on his adventurous expedition. The peak of Bunderpouch exhibited one prodigious snowy mass, without a black speck; below it the snow lay in vast masses, cut into ravines, such a depth that when our traveller asked his companions if they thought them 300 feet deep, they smiled and said that 500 cubits would not fathom them. The whole of the first day's journey was a desert ; 'we met not,' Mr. Fraser says, with the slightest sign of man: not a house nor a hut appeared ; not the smallest trace of cultivation ; it was desolate throughout, but the hills were particularly verdant, and the pasture wonderfully rich ;' lovely flowers of the most brilliant hues burst through the green carpet, and cowslips and polyanthuses smiled among the heaths and juniper bushes.

The second day they arrived at the extreme height to which vegetation extends; patches of snow lay on the ground, but plenty of flowers intervened; these were succeeded, as the party advanced, by 'a scanty green slime and brown moss;' but at the top of the ridge even this disappeared. Here the loose stones among the snow made the path slippery and dangerous; and the sepoys and others began to complain of the bīs or poisoned wind. Mr. Fraser himself felt a difficulty of breathing, as if there was a want of air to distend the lungs.

• I had no idea,' he says, 'that height could have so severely affected the strength and chest, and yet it must have been this alone, for severe as was the ascent, and bad as the road was, we had met with fully as bad days' journeys before; and though the people asserted that the air was poisoned by the scent of flowers, and though there really was a profusion of them through the whole of the first part of the march, yet the principal part of them had no smell, nor could I perceive any thing in the air except a cold and somewhat raw wind. Besides which, the chief distress was experienced after we reached the lofty gorge of Bamsooroo, which was beyond the region of vegetation, and consequently could not be easily affected by the perfume of flowers. After reaching that place


no one was proof against this influence. It was ludicrous to see those who had laughed at others yielding, some to lassitude, and others to sickness, yet endeavouring to conceal it from the rest. I believe I held out longer than any one; yet after passing this gorge every few paces of ascent seemed an insuperable labour, and even in passing along most level places my knees trembled under me, and at times even sickness at stomach was experienced. The symptoms it produced were various : some were affected with violent headache, others had severe pains in the chest, with oppression; others sickness at the stomach and vomiting; many were overcome with heaviness, and fell asleep even while walking along. But what proved the fact that all this was the effect of our great elevation, was, that as we lowered our situation, and reached the region of vegetation and wood, all these violent symptoms and pains gradually lessened and vanished. The appearance of ihe higher cliffs, however, both snowy and rocky, and the sensations of this day, proved most satisfactorily that it would be a very arduous undertaking, if not an impracticable one, to ascend even nearly to the tops of these loftiest hills. We could not have been within several thousand feet of even those peaks of snow which were tolerably near us.'—p. 449.

On the third day they reached the Bhagarutee, at a village named Sookhee. It was here as broad as the Sutlej; but the scenery was wilder and of a more savage description than any that had yet been seen. The same day brought them to the highest inhabited spot on the river, called Duralee: this village is mentioned by the Moonshee, who, as our readers may perhaps recollect, was sent to explore the source of the Bhagarutee from the spot which arrested the progress of Captain Raper and Mr. Webb. The mountains were here 'unspeakably more lofty, rugged, and inaccessible than those of the Jumna; they had less of beauty and more of horror,' says our traveller; 'more to inspire dread, less to captivate.'

Mr. Fraser, however, found no obstacle to prevent his proceeding, and he seems to doubt the veracity of the Moonshee. His relation, he observes, affords such a singular mixture of truth and falsehood, authenticity, and error, as to create a doubt whether he really proceeded as far as Gangotree or not. His account, for instance, of the Gae Mouk,h, or cow's mouth, is stated to be a pure fiction; and Mr. Fraser is the more at a loss to account for the fabrication of the story, as nothing of the kind is mentioned in the Shasters, nor believed by the officiating Brahmins.

The distance to Gangotree, from the village last mentioned, is estimated at 12 cos. The pundit of the place said it was necessary to leave all Mussulmans behind, to put off the shoes from their feet, and to proceed_unarmed. After much discussion, it was stipulated that Mr. Fraser should carry his gun, and five of the people their arms, as far as a as far as a cave near the holy spot.


« PreviousContinue »