Transcribed from the 1852 John Murray edition by Les Bowler.
A JOURNEY TO KATMANDU (THE CAPITAL OF NEPAUL), WITH THE CAMP OF JUNG BAHADOOR; INCLUDING A SKETCH OF THE NEPAULESE AMBASSADOR AT HOME.
BY LAURENCE OLIPHANT.
LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET. 1852.
TO SIR ANTHONY OLIPHANT, C.B., CHIEF JUSTICE OF CEYLON, THE FOLLOWING PAGES ARE INSCRIBED BY HIS AFFECTIONATE SON, THE AUTHOR.
The interest which was manifested in the Nepaulese Embassy during the short residence of Jung Bahadoor in England leads me to hope that a description of the romantic country and independent Court which he came to represent, as well as some account of his own previous eventful career, may not be unacceptable to the English public—more especially as no work upon Nepaul has been published in this country, that I am aware of, since Dr. Hamilton's, which appeared about the year 1819.
Through the kindness and friendship of the Nepaulese Ambassador, I was enabled to visit Katmandu under most favourable circumstances; and during the journey thither in his company I had abundant opportunity of obtaining much interesting information, and of gaining an insight into the character of the people, and their mode of every-day life, for which a residence in camp was peculiarly favourable.
In the Terai I was fortunate enough to witness the Nepaulese mode of elephant-catching, so totally unlike that of any other country, while the grand scale on which our hunting party was organised was equally novel.
I therefore venture to submit this volume to the public, in the hope that the novelty of a portion of the matter contained in it will in some degree compensate for its manifold defects.
CHAPTER I. Arrival of Jung Bahadoor in Ceylon—Voyage to Calcutta—Rifle practice on board the Atalanta—Rifle-shooting—Colonel Dhere Shum Shere—A journey along the Grand Trunk Road of Bengal—The experimental railway—The explosion at Benares.
CHAPTER II. Benares—Cashmere Mull's house—The Chouk—The Bisheshwan temple, and Maido Rai Minar—The Ambassador in Benares—A Rajah's visit—The marriage of Jung Bahadoor—Review of the Nepaul rifle regiment—Benares college.
CHAPTER III. Jaunpore—A shooting-party—Scenes in camp and on the march—A Nepaulese dinner—Ghazipore—The Company's stud—Indian roads—Passage of the Gograh—Jung Bahadoor's mode of despatching an alligator.
CHAPTER IV. A picnic on the Nepaul frontier—A boar-hunt—The Terai and its resources—Our shooting quarters—Incidents of sport—A tiger-hunt—The great elephant exhibition of 1851—Camp Bechiacor.
CHAPTER V. March to Hetowra—Cross the Cheriagotty Hills—Scenes of the war of 1815-16—Preparations for a wild-elephant hunt—The herd in full cry—A breakneck country—Furious charges of wild elephants—The lost child—Return to camp.
CHAPTER VI. March to Bhimphede—National defences—The Cheesapany pass—Lovely scenery—Night adventure—The watch-fire—Reception at camp—Arrival at Katmandu.
CHAPTER VII. The British residency—Houses at the temple of Pusputnath—Unprepossessing appearance of the Newar population—Their dress and characteristic features—Ghorkas—Temple of Pusputnath—View from the hill above it—The temple of Bhood—Worshippers from Thibet and Chinese Tartary—Their singular and disgusting appearance—Striking scene in the grand square of the city of Katmandu.
CHAPTER VIII. The temple of Sumboonath—View from the platform of the temple—The valley of Nepaul and its resources—Tradition respecting it—Entrance of the Prime Minister into Katmandu—The two kings—A brilliant reception.
CHAPTER IX. Sketch of the career of his Excellency General Jung Bahadoor, Prime Minister of Nepaul.
CHAPTER X. The titles of his Excellency General Jung Bahadoor Coomaranagee in England—Extraordinary notions of the British public on Indian affairs—Jung Bahadoor's conciliatory policy—Our unsuccessful attempt to penetrate beyond the permitted boundaries—Dangerous position of the Prime Minister—His philanthropic designs—Great opposition on the part of Durbar—Native punishments—A Nepaulese chief-justice—Jung's popularity with the peasantry and army.
CHAPTER XI. The temple of Balajee—The old Newar capital—The houses and temples of Patn—View from the city gates—Nepaulese festivals—The Newars skilful artisans—The arsenal—The magazine and cannon-foundry.
CHAPTER XII. Kindness of the Mahila Sahib—His motive—Drawing-room ornaments—Visit to the palace of Jung Bahadoor—A trophy of the London season—Grand Durbar at the reading of the Queen of England's letter—Dress of the officers—Review of troops—Dancing boys.
CHAPTER XIII. Distinguishing features of the races of Nepaul—The Ghorkas—Maintenance of the Nepaul army—Bheem Singh's monument—A feast at the Minister's—We bid him adieu—Ascent of the Sheopoori—Magnificent view of the Himalayas from its summit.
CHAPTER XIV. A visit to the Minister's brothers—Dexterity of Colonel Dhere Shum Shere—Scenes for lovers of the Fancy—Adieu to Nepaul—The view from the summit of the Chandernagiri pass—The scenery of Nepaul—The pass of Bhimphede—Night quarters.
CHAPTER XV. A dilemma at Bisoleah—Ignominious exit from the Nepaul dominions—The resources and capabilities of Nepaul—Articles of import from Thibet and Chinese Tartary—A vision of the future.
CHAPTER XVI. Journey to Lucknow—Nocturnal disasters—View of the Himalayas—Wild-beast fights—Banquet given by the King of Oudh—Grand display of fireworks—Our return to cantonments.
CHAPTER XVII. A Lucknow Derby-day—Sights of the city—Grand Trunk Road to Delhi—Delhi—The Coutub—Agra—The fort and Taj—The ruins of Futtehpore Secreh—A loquacious cicerone—A visit to the fort of Gwalior—The Mahratta Durbar—Tiger-shooting on foot.
CHAPTER XVIII. The carnival at Indore—Extraordinary scene in the palace of the Holkar—A night at the caves of Ajunta—The caves of Ellora and fortress of Doulatabad—The merits of a palkee—Reflections on the journey from Agra to Bombay—Adieu to India.
[Map of Nepaul: map.jpg]
Arrival of Jung Bahadoor in Ceylon—Voyage to Calcutta—Rifle practice on board the Atalanta—Rifle-shooting—Colonel Dhere Shum Shere—A journey along the Grand Trunk Road of Bengal—The experimental railway—The explosion at Benares.
Towards the close of the year 1850 a considerable sensation was created in the usually quiet town of Colombo by the arrival in Ceylon of His Excellency General Jung Bahadoor, the Nepaulese Ambassador, on his return to Nepaul, bearing the letter of the Queen of England to the Rajah of that country.
The accounts which had preceded him of the magnificence of the jewels with which his person was generally adorned, had raised expectations amongst the natives which were doomed to disappointment: intelligence had been received by Jung of the death of the Queen of Nepaul, and the whole Embassy was in deep mourning, so that their appearance on landing created no little astonishment, clad, as they all were, in spotless white, excepting their shoes, which were of black cloth—leather not being allowed to form part of the Nepaulese mourning costume.
His Excellency had a careworn expression of countenance, which might have been caused either by the dissipation attendant upon the gaieties of his visit to London, by grief for his deceased Queen, or by sea-sickness during his recent stormy passage across the Gulf of Manaar. He had been visiting sundry Hindoo shrines, and it was for the purpose of worshipping at the temple of Ramiseram, which is situate on the island of that name, in the Gulf of Manaar, forming part of Adam's Bridge, that he touched at Colombo. Here I was fortunate enough to make his acquaintance, and, attracted by his glowing description of sport in Nepaul, accepted an invitation to accompany him to that country, in order to judge of it for myself.
So good an opportunity is indeed rarely afforded to a European of visiting Nepaul, and of inspecting the internal economy of its semi-barbarous Court. I soon found that Jung Bahadoor excelled no less as a travelling companion than he had done as Premier and Ambassador.
As doubts had arisen and some misapprehension had prevailed in England as to his position in his own country, I was anxious to ascertain what was his real rank and how he would be received there. It was reported that he had risked his temporal welfare by quitting his country, while, in order that his eternal welfare should in no way be compromised by this bold and novel proceeding, he had obtained an express reservation to be made in his favour at Benares, overcoming, by means of considerable presents, the scruples of a rapacious and not very conscientious priesthood.
The ostensible object of the mission had reference, as far as I could learn, to a portion of the Terai (a district lying upon the northern frontier of British India) which formerly belonged to Nepaul, and which was annexed by the Indian Government after the war of 1815-16; but it is probable that other motives than any so purely patriotic actuated the Prime Minister. His observant and inquiring mind had long regarded the British power in India with wonder and admiration—sentiments almost unknown amongst the apathetic Orientals, who, for the most part, have become too much accustomed to the English to look upon them with the same feelings as are entertained towards them by the hardy and almost savage race inhabiting the wild valleys of the Himalayas.
But besides the wish to gratify his curiosity, there existed yet another incentive which induced him to undertake this expedition. The precarious nature of his high position in Nepaul urged on him the good policy, if not the necessity, of a visit to England, for he doubtless felt, and with good reason, that the Native Durbar would be inclined to respect a man who had been honoured with an interview with the Queen of so mighty a nation, and had had opportunities of securing the support of her government, should he ever be driven to seek its aid.
* * * * *
The Atalanta, one of the oldest steam frigates in the Indian navy, had been placed at the disposal of His Excellency, and, upon the evening of the 9th of December 1850, was lying in the Colombo Roads, getting up her steam as speedily as possible, while I was uneasily perambulating the wooden jetty, which is all the little harbour can boast in the shape of a pier, endeavouring to induce some apathetic boatmen to row me over the bar, a pull of three miles, against a stiff breeze. It was bright moonlight, and the fire from the funnel of the old ship seemed rushing out more fast and furious in proportion as the boatmen became more drowsy and immovable; finally they protested that it was an unheard-of proceeding for anybody to wish to go on board ship on such a night at such an hour, and insinuated that all verbal or pecuniary persuasions would be alike unavailing. It is very evident that Colombo boatmen are a thriving community; still they seem a timid race, for upon my having recourse to threats containing fearful allusions, which there was not the remotest possibility of my being able to carry into execution, a wonderful revolution was effected in the feelings of the sleepers around me; they forthwith began to unwind themselves from the linen wrappers in which natives always swathe themselves at night like so many hydropathic patients, and, converting their recent sheets into turbans and waistcloths, they got with many grumblings into a tub-like boat, just as the smoke from the steamer was becoming ominously black. Their eyes once open, the men went to work in good earnest, and an hour afterwards I had the satisfaction of walking the deck of the Atalanta, which was going at her utmost speed, some seven knots an hour.
In the morning we were off Point de Galle, and put in there for General Jung Bahadoor, who, with some of his suite, had made the journey thither by land.
All the world make voyages now-a-days; and nobody thinks of describing a voyage to India any more than he would an excursion on the Thames, unless he is shipwrecked, or the vessel he is in is burnt and he escapes in an open boat, or has some such exciting incident to relate. We were unfortunate in these respects, but in our passengers we found much to interest and amuse us; and as everything regarding the Nepaulese Ambassador is received with interest in England, a description of the proceedings of one day, as a sample of the ten we spent on board the Atalanta, may not be altogether uninteresting.
Time never seemed to hang heavy on the hands of the Minister Sahib, for that was his more ordinary appellation; rifle practice was a daily occupation with him, and usually lasted two hours. Surrounded by those of his suite in whose peculiar department was the charge of the magnificent battery he had on board, he used to take up his station on the poop, and the crack of the rifle was almost invariably followed by an exclamation of delight from some of his attendants, as the bottle, bobbing far astern, was sunk for ever, or the three strung, one below the other, from the end of the fore-yard-arm, were shattered by three successive bullets in almost the same number of seconds. Pistol practice succeeded that of the rifle, and the ace of hearts at 15 paces was a mark he rarely missed.
Then the dogs were to be trained, and in a very peculiar manner; a kid was dragged along the deck before the noses of two handsome stag hounds, who, little suspecting that a huge hunting-whip was concealed in the folds of their master's dress, were unable to resist so tempting a victim and invariably made a rush upon it, a proceeding which brought down upon them the heavy thong of the Minister Sahib's whip in the most remorseless manner. That task accomplished to his satisfaction, and not being able to think of anything else wherewith to amuse himself, it would occur to him that his horse, having thrown out a splint from standing so long, ought to be physicked. He was accordingly made to swallow a quantity of raw brandy! It was useless to suggest any other mode of treatment, either of horse or dogs. The General laughed at my ignorance, and challenged me to a game of backgammon. Occasionally gymnastics or jumping were the order of the day, and he was so lithe and active that few could compete with him at either.
While smoking his evening pipe he used to talk with delight of his visit to Europe, looking back with regret on the gaieties of the English and French capitals, and recounting with admiration the wonders of civilization he had seen in those cities. He was loudest in his praise of England. This may have arisen from a wish to gratify his auditory, and it certainly had that effect. He had not thought it necessary, however, to perfect himself in the language of either country beyond a few of what he considered the more important phrases. His stock consisted chiefly of—How do you do?—Very well, thank you—Will you sit down?—You are very pretty—which pithy sentences he used to rattle out with great volubility, fortunately not making an indiscriminate use of them.
But my particular friend was the youngest of his two fat brothers, whose merits, alas! were unknown in England, the more elevated position of the Minister Sahib monopolizing all the attention of the lion-loving public. Colonel Dhere Shum Shere, such was his name, was the most jovial, light- hearted, and thoroughly unselfish being imaginable, brave as a lion, as recent events in Nepaul have proved, always anxious to please, and full of amusing conversation, which, however, from my limited knowledge of Hindostanee, I was unable fully to appreciate.
It is considered a breach of hospitality to make invidious remarks affecting the character of the mansion in which you are a guest; but although my recollections of the Atalanta are most agreeable in reference to the kindness of the officers, I must say she was a most indisputable tub; and if there is an individual who deserves to be turned slowly before the fire in her engine-room, so as to be kept in a state of perpetual blister, it is the Parsee contractor who furnished the provisions, for so meagre was the supply that we could barely satisfy the cravings of hunger.
On the morning of the tenth day after leaving Ceylon we came in sight of the city of palaces, and, sweeping up its magnificent river, soon after anchored amidst a host of other shipping.
Of Calcutta I need say nothing; Chouringhee Road is almost as well known in these days of quick communication as Piccadilly; this is not quite the case with towns in the interior: if it is easy to get to Calcutta, it is not so easy to get beyond, and the means of locomotion by which the traveller makes the journey to Benares are of the most original nature.
The morning of New Year's Day found me comfortably ensconced in a roomy carriage, built almost upon the model of an English stage-coach, in which, with my fellow-traveller, I had passed the night, and which was being dragged along at the rate of about four miles an hour by ten coolies, harnessed to it in what the well-meaning philanthropist of Exeter Hall would call a most barbarous way.
The road along which we were travelling in this extraordinary manner was not, as might be expected, impassable for horses; on the contrary, it was an excellent macadamized and perfectly level road, denominated the Great Trunk Road of Bengal.
The country through which this road led us was flat, stale, but not unprofitable, since on either side were paddy-fields extending ad infinitum, studded here and there with clumps of palms.
The climate was delightful, and the morning air tempted us to uncoil ourselves from our night-wrappers, and take a brisk walk in the dust; after which we mounted the coach-box, and devised sundry practical methods for accelerating our team, who however were equally ingenious in contriving to save themselves fatigue.
The mid-day sun at last ridded them of their tormentors, and we once more betook ourselves to our comfortable beds in the interior of the conveyance, there to moralize over the barbarism of a man, calling himself an enlightened Englishman, in employing men instead of horses to drag along two of his fellow-countrymen, who showed themselves even more dead to every feeling of humanity by the way in which they urged on their unfortunate fellow-creatures. These coolies were certainly very well paid, and need not have been so employed had they not chosen—for they had all applied for their several appointments—but then the ignominy of the thing!
And so we rolled lazily along, hoping to reach Benares some time within the next fortnight. Before dark we passed through Burdwan, where a few Bengal civilians vegetate on large salaries, to do the work of the rajah, who is still more highly paid not to interfere. He lives magnificently in his palace, and they live magnificently in theirs. We arrived at a small rest-house at night, where we had the satisfaction of eating a fowl in cutlets an hour after it had been enjoying the sweets of life.
There is a considerable amount of enjoyment in suddenly coming to hills after you have for a long time seen nothing but flat country—in first toiling up one and then bowling down the other side, at the imminent peril of the coolies' necks—in seeing streams when you have seen nothing but wells—in coming amidst wood and water and diversified scenery, when every mile that you have travelled for a week past has been the same as the last. Such were our feelings as we woke at daylight one morning in the midst of the Rajmahal hills.
There were a good many carts passing with coal from the Burdwan coal-mines; moreover, we saw sticks, and from the top of each fluttered a little white flag, suggestive of a railway, whereby our present mode of conveyance would be knocked on the head, and all the poor coolies who were pushing us along would be put out of employ. Notwithstanding the disastrous results which must accrue, a railway is really contemplated; but I have heard doubts thrown out as to the present line being the best that could be obtained. It is urged that it has to contend against water carriage—that, with the exception of the Burdwan mines, the coal of which is of an inferior quality, there is no mineral produce—that immense tracts of country through which it passes are totally uncultivated, and from a want of water will in all probability remain so—and it has been calculated that, even if the whole traffic at present passing along the great trunk road of Bengal was to become quadrupled, and if all the Bengal civilians were to travel up and down every day, and various rajahs to take express trains once a week, it would not pay: all these things being considered, were it not that its merits and demerits have been maturely considered by wiser, or at least better-informed men than the passing travellers, one might have been inclined to think that those who expressed doubts regarding its success had some good foundation for them.
However, it is better to have a railway on a doubtful line than none at all; the shareholders are guaranteed 5 per cent., and the Government is rich and can afford to pay them. So let us wish success to the experimental railway, and hope that the means of transport may soon be more expeditious than they are at present.
It will doubtless open out the resources of the country, though I cannot but think, for many reasons, that it would have been more judicious to have made the line from Allahabad to Delhi the commencement of the railway system in this part of India, instead of leaving it for a continuation of the line that is now being made.
The bridges we passed over are all on the suspension principle, and do credit to the government; the rivers are difficult to bridge in any other way, as the rains flood them to such an extent that arches will not remain standing for any length of time. It took us two hours to cross the Soan, which we forded or ferried according as the streams between the sand-banks were deep or shallow. This large river is at times flooded to so great an extent that it is one of the most serious obstructions to the railway.
It was not until the morning of the seventh day after leaving Calcutta that we found ourselves on the banks of the Ganges. The Holy City loomed large in the grey dawn of morning, with its tapering minarets barely discernible above it, looking like elongated ghosts.
We were ferried across in a boat of antique construction, better suited for any other purpose than the one to which it was applied, and landed in the midst of the ruins caused by the dreadful explosion of gun-powder that had taken place the previous year: it had occasioned a fearful destruction of property and loss of life, and many hairbreadth escapes were recounted to us. We were told, indeed, that two children, after being buried for five days, were dug out alive; two officers were blown out of the window of an hotel, one of whom was uninjured, the other was only wounded by a splinter, whilst the Kitmutgar, who was drawing a cork close to them at the time, was killed on the spot.
In the course of an hour after leaving this scene of desolation we reached the hospitable mansion which was destined to be our home during our short stay in Benares.
Benares—Cashmere Mull's House—The Chouk—The Bisheshwan Temple, and Maido Rai Minar—Jung Bahadoor in Benares—A Rajah's visit—The marriage of Jung Bahadoor—Review of the Nepaul Rifle Regiment—Benares College.
Whatever may be said of the large salaries of the Bengal civilians, they certainly deserve great credit for the praiseworthy employment of their wealth; and making amends as it were for the backwardness of India as regards hotels, they supply their places to the friendless traveller, in a way which our frigid friends at home might imitate with advantage. I look back upon my stay in Benares with the greatest pleasure, and shall long remember the kindness I there experienced.
There is much to be seen in the Holy City, and the means of locomotion which I should recommend the sight-seer to adopt are Tom Johns, or chairs swung upon poles, with or without hoods, as the case may be. Upon arriving at the Chouk or Market-place, we hired two of these conveyances and started to see the residence of Cashmere Mull. But first I must make an attempt, however unsuccessful, to describe the Chouk: it is a large square, studded with raised oblong platforms without walls, the roofs being supported by fluted Ionic columns. The Police Court, in which a Native magistrate presides, forms one side of the square. On the platforms sit the vendors of shawls, skull-caps, toys, shells, sugar-cane, and various other commodities; but to enumerate the extraordinary diversity of goods exposed for sale, or to describe the Babel of tongues which confound the visitor as he wanders through the motley crowd, would be impossible.
We turned out of the Chouk down a narrow street about three feet broad, gloomy from the height of the houses, and unpleasant from the great crowd and close atmosphere; every now and then we got jammed into a corner by some Brahminee bull, who would insist upon standing across the street to eat the fine cauliflower he had just plundered from the stall of an unresisting greengrocer, and who, exercising the proud rights of citizenship, could only be politely coaxed to move his unwieldy carcase out of the way.
We wended our way through pipe bazaars and vegetable bazaars, where each shopkeeper has a sort of stall, with about three feet frontage to the street, but of unknown depth, and a narrow balcony supported by carved wood-work over his head, out of the latticed windows of which bright eyes look down upon the passengers. Whenever there is a piece of wall not otherwise occupied in this compact and busy city, you see depicted, in gaudy colours, elephants rushing along with dislocated joints in hot pursuit of sedate parrots, or brilliant peacocks looking with calm composure upon camels going express, who must inevitably crush them in their headlong career, but the vain birds, apparently taken up with admiration of their own tails, are blind to the impending danger, thereby reading a good lesson both to the passers-by and to the shopkeepers opposite. Now a sudden jerk prevents you from further moralizing, as you find that you are going round a corner so sharp that you must get bumped either before or behind. There are ugly women carrying brass water-vessels, rich merchants on ponies, sirwahs on horses, here and there in the wider streets a camel or an elephant, but very seldom, as few streets would accommodate either of them; finally there are chuprassies who disperse the crowd with their swords in a most peremptory manner, smiting everything indiscriminately, except the Brahminee bulls, which, although they are much the most serious impediments, are left "alone in their glory."
By the exertions of these city police we reached Cashmere Mull's house, noted as a specimen of antique Oriental architecture.
The court-yard into which we were first ushered reminded me of an old English "hostelrie;" it was small and uncovered, and round each story ran a curiously worked balcony, on to which opened doors and windows, carved with strange devices, and all the nooks and crannies formed by so much intricate carving were filled with dust and cobwebs. Passing up a narrow, dark, and steep stone stair, we reached a second court-yard, upon the balcony of which we emerged, and which was so very like the last, that I imagined it to be the same, until I remarked that it was smaller, and, if possible, more dirty. We thence ascended to the flat roof of the house, and on our way looked through half-open doors into dark dungeons of rooms, which one would not for the world have ventured into at night.
There was a raised stage with steps up to it, which we ascended and found ourselves on a level with a great many similar stages on the tops of a great many similar houses. A stone parapet about 8 feet high, with beautiful open carving, enclosed this stage, so that we could inspect our neighbours through our stone screen with impunity. On the next roof to where we were was a boy training pigeons, and the numerous crates or frames on the surrounding house-tops showed this to be a favourite amusement. The young gentleman in question certainly made his flock obey him in a wonderful manner, his chief object being to take prisoner a pigeon from his neighbour's flock. He directed their gyrations by loud shrill cries, and, as there were numbers of other members of "Young Benares" employed in like manner, it seemed wonderful how he could recognize his pigeons, or they their master.
Leaving this antique specimen of a nobleman's town house, we passed through a maze of narrow streets; and bobbing under low archways at the imminent peril of fracturing our skulls, we arrived at the Bisheshwan Temple, which was crowded with Hindoos worshipping the Lingum, representations of which met the eye in every direction.
A well in the yard behind the temple was surrounded by worshippers of the god, who is supposed to have plunged down it and never to have come up again. If so, he must find the smell of decayed vegetation very oppressive, as garlands of flowers and handfuls of rice are continually being offered up, or rather down, to him. From this well we had a good view of the temple, which was covered with gold by Runjeet Singh, and presents a gorgeous and dazzling appearance.
In close vicinity to this temple is a mosque built by Arungzebe to annoy the Hindoos. I ascended the Maido Rai Minar or minaret, and from its giddy height had a magnificent panorama of the city and its environs, with the Ganges flowing majestically beneath, its left bank teeming with life, while the opposite bank seemed desolate.
The observatory, or man mundil, is on the river's bank, and affords a pretty view from its terraces, which are covered with disks and semicircles and magical figures cut in stone.
Gopenate Dore Peshad is the great dealer in Benares embroidery, as well as its manufacturer. We paid him a visit and were delighted with the rich variety of embroidered goods which were displayed; we saw pieces valued at from 10,000 rupees downwards: magnificent smoking carpets, housings and trappings for horses, shawls, caps, kenkabs, and other articles of eastern attire, were spread out before us in gorgeous profusion. After eating a cardamum, and touching with our pocket-handkerchief some cotton on which had been dropped otto of roses, we ascended to the house-top, and found it built upon much the same plan as Cashmere Mull's, without its antique carving and quaint appearance.
We were not a little glad when the bustle and heat attendant on so much sight-seeing was over, and we forced our way back through the crowded streets.
The population of Benares is estimated by Mr. Prinsep at nearly 200,000; its trade consists chiefly in sugar, saltpetre, indigo, opium, and embroidered cloths; besides which, the city has advantages in its position on the great river, making it, jointly with Mirzapore, the depot for the commerce of the Dukkum and interior of Hindostan.
General Jung Bahadoor had reached Benares a few days before I arrived there, and I found him installed in a handsome house, the envy of all rajahs, the wonder of the natives, and the admiration of his own countrymen, some thousands of whom had come thus far to meet him. If he had been a lion in London, he was not less an object of interest at Benares—his house was always crowded with visitors of high degree, Indian and European; one old native rajah in particular was frequently to be seen in close conference with him; and the result was, that the Prime Minister of Nepaul became the husband of the second daughter of his Highness the ex-Rajah of Coorg. Upon the day following his nuptials my friend and I called upon him, and to our surprise he offered to present us to his newly wedded bride. We, of course, expressed our sense of the honour he was doing us; and had just reached the balcony, the stairs leading up to which were on the outside of the house, when our friend the bridegroom perceived his father-in-law, the Coorg rajah, coming in a most dignified manner down the approach. Like a schoolboy caught in the master's orchard, he at once retreated and unceremoniously hurried us back—and just in time, for no doubt, if the old Coorg had detected him thus exhibiting his daughter the day after he had married her, he would have mightily disapproved of so improper a proceeding. This incident shows how utterly Jung despised those prejudices which enthralled his bigoted father-in-law. He was, in fact, the most European Oriental, if I may so speak, that I ever met with, and more thoroughly unaffected and unreserved in his communication with us than is the habit with eastern great men, who always seem afraid of compromising themselves by too much condescension. An instance of this occurred during another visit. While we were chatting on indifferent subjects a native rajah was announced, as being desirous of paying a visit of ceremony. Jung immediately stepped forward to receive him with much politeness. The rajah commenced apologising for not having called sooner, excusing himself on the plea of the present being the only auspicious hour which had been available since his Excellency's arrival; a compliment which the latter returned by remarking that it was unfortunate that his immediate departure would preclude the possibility of his returning his visit, which he the more regretted, as he was at present most particularly engaged in matters of a pressing nature with the English gentlemen, and he therefore hoped he would be excused thus abruptly, but unavoidably, terminating an interview which it would otherwise have given him the greatest pleasure to have prolonged. Thus saying, he politely rose and led the rajah in the most graceful manner to the front door, which was no sooner closed behind him than he returned, rubbing his hands with great glee, as he knowingly remarked, "That is the way to get over an interview with one of these natives."
A detachment of a regiment had come to Benares to escort the General on his journey to Katmandu, and he accordingly determined to favour the inhabitants generally, and the English in particular, with a review.
The men were tall and well-made, and were dressed in a light-green uniform with yellow facings. They went through various evolutions with tolerable regularity; but the performance which excited the most interest was the platoon exercise, no word of command being given, but everything done with the utmost precision at different notes of the music, the men beating time the whole while and giving a swaying motion to their bodies, which produced a most curious effect. The origin of this novel proceeding, his Excellency told us, was a request by the Ranee that some other means should be invented of putting the men through their exercises than by hoarse shouts, which grated upon her ear. The minister immediately substituted this more euphonious but less business-like method.
At this review Jung Bahadoor and his brothers were dressed in the costume they wore when in England: the handsome diamonds in their turbans glittering in the sunshine.
I accompanied him one day on a visit to the Benares college, a handsome building in process of erection by the Indian Government. The Gothic and Oriental styles of architecture are most happily combined, and there is an airiness about the building; but this did not in any way detract from its solidity. The cost of the college and professor's house is not to exceed 13,000 pounds; the length of the large school-room is 260 feet, its breadth 35; and there are six large class-rooms on each side.
Jaunpore—A shooting-party—Scenes in camp and on the march—A Nepaulese dinner—Ghazipore—The Company's stud—Indian roads—Passage of the Gograh—Jung Bahadoor's mode of despatching an alligator.
Being anxious to visit Jaunpore, I left Benares one evening after dinner, and accomplished the distance, 36 miles, with one set of bearers, in seven hours and a half.
The first object that attracts the eye of the traveller as he enters Jaunpore is the many-arched bridge thrown by the Mahometans over the Goomte, and considered the finest built by them in India; on each side are stalls, in which sit the vendors of various wares, after the fashion of old London Bridge. On an island in the middle of the river was discovered a huge figure of a winged lion guarding an elephant, which would suggest some connexion with the sculptures found at Nineveh, and must date much further back than the erection of the bridge.
Passing through a serai, which was filled with travellers, we reached the fort, built, it is supposed, by Khan Kan, or one of the kings of the Shirkee dynasty, about the year 1260. From one of its turrets we had a magnificent view of the town and the surrounding country, while immediately below is seen the river, spanned by the picturesque old bridge, unmoved by the fierce floods which so constantly destroy those arched bridges that have been erected in India by Europeans.
The appearance of the town is diminished in size, but increased in beauty, by the many stately trees which are planted throughout it, while here and there a huge screen of some musjid rears its Egyptian-looking crest, and gives to the town an appearance peculiar to itself; Jaunpore is, in fact, the only city in India in which this style of architecture prevails.
On our way out of the fort we passed a monolithe, on which was an inscription in the same character as that on Ferozeshah's Lath at Delhi, which has been recently translated by Mr. Prinsep. In the main gateway were some porcelain slabs which had at one time formed part of a Jain temple.
The Itala musjid, to which we next bent our steps, has been built on the site of one of these temples; its cloisters remain untouched, and the figures on almost every slab bear undoubted testimony to the previous existence of a Jain temple on this spot. The large square rooms, which were filled during our visit with true believers, were curiously roofed; a dome was ingeniously thrown over the square. An octagon, placed on solid buttresses, supported a 16-sided figure, which in its turn supported the dome. The Jumma musjid, which we also visited, was remarkable for its magnificent screen, 120 feet in height by 70 in breadth, and covered with curious inscriptions and fantastic devices; the top is slightly narrower than the base, tapering in depth as well as in breadth.
The population of Jaunpore is about 35,000; there is a small European station near the town. In the course of the evening's drive I saw a specimen of the Addansonia or baobab-tree: the trunk, measuring 23 feet in circumference, was perfectly smooth and the branches were destitute of leaves. There are but five other specimens in India, and not many in Java, where the tree was discovered by Mr. Addanson; it is said to have attained, in some instances, the enormous age of 2000 years.
Leaving Jaunpore about midnight, I reached the camp of Jung Bahadoor on the following day. The scene as we approached was in the highest degree picturesque; 5000 Nepaulese were here collected, followers, in various capacities, of the Prime Minister, whose tents were pitched at a little distance from the grove of mango-trees which sheltered his army and retainers. On our arrival he was out shooting, so, mounting an elephant, we proceeded to join him. We heard such frequent reports of fire-arms that we fully expected to find excellent sport; great was my disappointment, therefore, when I saw him surrounded by some 20 or 30 followers, who held umbrellas, loaded his guns, rushed to pick up the game, or looked on applaudingly while he stealthily crept up to take a deliberate pot shot at some unlucky parrot or small bird that might catch his eye as it perched on a branch, or fluttered unconsciously amongst the leaves. But the most interesting object in the group was the lately-wedded bride, who was seated in a howdah. Jung introduced her to me as "his beautiful Missis"—a description she fully deserved. She was very handsome, and reflected much credit on the taste of the happy bridegroom, who seemed pleased when we expressed our approval of his choice.
Before quitting the subject of Jung's shooting-party, I must remark, in justice to him as a sportsman, that he considers nothing less than a deer to be game at all. Tiger or rhinoceros shooting is his favourite sport, and he looks upon shooting a parrot, a snipe, a hawk, or a partridge as being equally unworthy of the name of sport, nor does he understand why some of those birds should be dignified with the name of "game," and the others not.
At dawn on the following morning the stir and bustle in camp announced an early start, and our elephant appeared at the tent door just as the gallant rifle corps marched past, the band playing the "British Grenadiers." Mounting the elephant, we picked our way through the debris of the camp, now almost deserted; some few of the coolies were still engaged packing the conical baskets which they carry on their backs, one strap passing over the forehead, and two others over the shoulders. The appearance of a hill coolie as he thus staggers along under his tremendous burden is singular enough, and so totally unlike that of the coolies of the plains, that it was a sort of promise of there being in store for us more curiosities, both of Nepaulese men and manners, in their native country, and we looked with no little interest upon the first specimens we had seen of the Newar race—the aborigines of Nepaul. Short and compact, the full development of their muscle bore evidence to their almost Herculean strength. Their flat noses, high cheek-bones, small eyes, and copper-coloured complexion are unequivocal signs of a Mongolian origin, whilst the calves of their legs, which I never saw equalled in size, indicate the mountainous character of their country.
Threading our way on our wary elephant through nearly 5000 of these singular-looking beings, all heavily loaded with the appurtenances of the camp, we soon overtook the cortege of the Minister and his brothers, which consisted of three or four carriages dragged along by coolies, over a road which, in many places, must have severely tried the carriage springs, as well as nearly dislocated the joints of Jung's "beautiful little Missis," whom I saw peeping out of one of the windows. The rest of this motley crowd, with which we were destined to march for the next three weeks, was made up of Nepaul gentlemen in various capacities, who cantered past on spirited little horses, or squatted cross-legged in the clumsy, oddly constructed "Ecce," a sort of native gig; besides these, there were merchants and peddlers, who followed the camp as a matter of speculation. Amidst an indiscriminate horde, our elephant jogged lazily along, generally surrounded by eight or ten others, with whom we marched for company's sake. We usually arrived at the mango tope destined to be our camping-ground about ten o'clock in the morning, and lounged away the heat of the day in tents; towards the afternoon Jung generally went out with his gun or rifle, shooting with the former at parrots at ten yards distance, and with the latter at bottles at a hundred. There was not much attraction for the sportsman throughout the whole line of march, and I only bagged a few couple of snipe, partridges, wild-duck, and quail.
Our dinner was always supplied from Jung's own carpet, for he does not use a table, and it was with no little curiosity that at the end of the first day's march I looked forward to the productions of a Nepaul cuisine. We had not forgotten to provide ourselves with a sufficient stand-by in case it should not prove altogether palatable. Towards evening an enormous dish, containing rice enough to have satisfied the whole of the gallant rifle corps, was brought into our tent, closely followed by about 20 little cups formed of leaves, one inside the other, each containing about a thimbleful of some exquisite condiment; also three or four saucers containing some cold gravy, of unpleasant colour, in which floated about six minute particles of meat.
Filling my plate with rice, which had been well and carefully greased to improve its flavour, and scientifically mixing the various other ingredients therewith, I unhesitatingly launched a spoonful into my mouth, when I was severely punished for my temerity, and almost overcome by the detestable compound of tastes and smells that at once assailed both nose and palate: it was a pungent, sour, bitter, and particularly greasy mouthful; but what chiefly astonished me, so much as to prevent my swallowing it for some time, was the perfume of Colonel Dhere Shum Shere, the fat brother, which I was immediately sensible of, as overpowering everything else. Not that I would for a moment wish to insinuate that it was a nasty smell; on the contrary, it would have been delicious on a pocket-handkerchief; but to imagine it going down one's throat, in company with an immense amount of grease and gravy, was nearly enough to prevent its doing so at all.
Our march to Ghazipore was through country richly cultivated and pleasing, if not absolutely pretty. The numerous poppy-plantations were evidence of our proximity to the headquarters of one of the largest opium agencies in India. Ghazipore is approached by an avenue of handsome trees, more ornamental than useful, seeing how utterly destructive it is to the permanent welfare of a road.
The mausoleum, containing a monument to Lord Cornwallis, is solid but not ungraceful: upon one side of the monument are sculptured the figures of a Hindoo and a Mussulman, and on the other a British and a native grenadier, all of whom are weeping. The building is prettily situated near the bank of the Ganges, on a large plain or maidan, across which pleasant avenues lead in all directions; the one which we followed brought us to the stables of the Company's stud, containing 700 horses. On our way we remarked a number of handsome houses now unoccupied and falling rapidly into decay, the military force at the station having of late been much reduced. The horses were being exercised, notwithstanding which they carried a good deal of superfluous fat, and vented their spirits by occasionally breaking loose, and dashing pell-mell through rings of their companions, who, grudging them the sweets of liberty, made vigorous efforts to partake of them, and in some instances succeeded. I saw not less than eight at once dashing about in the large training enclosure. My friend having already bought three, we thought it best to withdraw ourselves from further temptation, and set out to join the camp at Cossimabad, 16 miles distant, still passing through richly cultivated country, which was as pretty as a dead level ever can be.
The crops most generally reared are, sugar-cane, poppies, rare (a species of pulse), wheat, often with a delicate border of blue-flowered flax, tobacco, mustard, peas, and sometimes vetches. The large rose-gardens for which Ghazipore is celebrated lay to the right. I regretted that our way did not lead us through them, but we had evidence of their existence in some delicious otto of roses, which is easily procured here.
The road by which we were now travelling was what is called in India a cutcher-road, which means unmetalled. It is a pity that Government should spend so much in macadamizing roads, when cutcher-roads answer just as well for all the wants of native traffic. The rocks here are of limestone formation, and consequently, as there is not much traffic on any road in India, if the trees were cut down, roads on a limestone formation would always keep themselves in repair, provided the side drains were properly kept open. The bridges are all good, and, if the line of road was well bridged throughout, the country conveyances could always make their way along it with perfect ease. If the money now spent in macadamizing were spent in making the necessary bridges, the resources of the country would be much more fully opened out than they are at present; a garre-waller, or cart-man, can always appreciate a bridge, never a macadamized road. At present the bridges on this road are all wooden, and liable to be carried away by the first heavy flood.
The whole way to the frontier of Nepaul we travelled along a cutcher-road, accompanied by a train of at least a hundred hackerys, without the slightest inconvenience; and until the style of cart at present used by the natives becomes wonderfully improved, this road may well be used, except of course during the rains.
A few days' march brought us to the banks of the Gograh, a large river rising in the western Terai, and measuring, at the point where we crossed, at least half a mile in breadth. As we came upon the cliff overlooking the river, the scene was novel and amusing. As 5000 persons had to reach the opposite bank, and no preparations had been made for their transit, the confusion may be easily imagined. The good-humour of the hillmen, however, was imperturbable, and, though there was plenty of loud talking, the remarks made were usually of a facetious nature.
The stream was rapid, and carried the boats down some distance. Ten elephants, with nothing visible but the tips of their trunks and the crowns of their heads, on which latter squatted the mahouts, made the passage gallantly. On the opposite side we passed through a village, the little square of which was absolutely filled with monkeys. They resort thither by hundreds from the neighbouring jungles to be fed by the villagers, and are most independent in their behaviour, unscrupulously attacking the man who brings their daily allowance, and, as they are accounted sacred, they are of course unmolested. We saw some serious fights amongst them, young and old mixing indiscriminately in the melee; a mother was frequently seen making a rapid but orderly retreat with her young one on her back.
We occasionally passed picturesque villages, the inhabitants of which were of course all attracted by so novel a spectacle. The system pursued by the villagers here is the same as may be observed in many parts of the Continent of Europe: they invariably congregate in a collection of mud- built closely packed huts, showing a gregarious disposition, and great aversion to living alone. I do not remember to have passed one solitary house. As the whole of the country is richly cultivated, the distance of their dwellings from the scene of their daily labour must in some instances be considerable.
The Gandaki, over which we were ferried, is a large stream rising in Nepaul, and as broad as the Gograh. We went some distance up its banks, in the hopes of finding wild-pig, but were unsuccessful.
The minister, however, being determined not to go home empty handed, doomed to destruction a huge alligator, unconsciously basking on a sand- bank. Accordingly, arming eight of us with double-barrelled rifles, he marched us in an orderly manner to the bank, when, at a given signal, 16 balls whistled through the air, arousing in a most unpleasant manner the monster from his mid-day slumbers, who plunged into the stream and disappeared almost instantaneously, and the Minister Sahib, coolly pulling out the wallet which contained his tiffin, remarked that we might profitably employ ourselves in that way until he came up to breathe, when he should receive another dose. Retiring therefore a few yards from me—for a Hindoo may not eat in the presence of a Christian—he and his brothers were soon deep in the mysteries of curious viands. Perceiving, however, that I was not prepared for an alfresco luncheon, he shared with me some grapes, pomegranates, etc., as well as a piece of green-looking meat, which I found very delightfully scented. As we were in the middle of our repast, our wounded friend showed his nose above the water, when he was immediately struck by a splendid shot from the minister, who was in no way disconcerted by having his mouth full at the time. Lashing the water furiously with his tail, the alligator once more disappeared: he came up shortly after, and the same scene was enacted three times before his huge form floated lifeless down the stream.
A picnic on the Nepaul frontier—A boar-hunt—The Terai and its resources—Our shooting quarters—Incidents of sport—A tiger-hunt—The great elephant exhibition of 1851—Camp Bechiacor.
Pitched under the shade of some wide-spreading mangoes are a variety of tents of all sizes, from the handsome and spacious marquee to the snug sleeping tent; near them are picqueted a number of fine-looking Arab horses in prime condition, while the large barouche, which is standing close by, might have just emerged from a coach-house in a London mews; a few servants are loitering about, and give life to this otherwise tranquil scene.
Nobody can for an instant suppose that this is the camp of Jung Bahadoor; his tents are green and red and generally surrounded by soldiers; his horses do not look so sleek and fresh as these; he has not got a barouche belonging to him, far less a piano, and I think I hear the music of one proceeding from yonder large tent.—No—this is an Indian picnic—none of your scrambling, hurried pleasure parties to last for a wet day, when everybody brings his own food, and eats it uncomfortably with his fingers, with some leaves for a plate and an umbrella for a roof, and then persuades himself and others that he has been enjoying himself. Let such an one come and make trial of a deliberate, well-organized picnic of a fortnight's duration, such as the one now before us, with plenty of sport in the neighbourhood, while the presence of the fair sex in camp renders the pleasures of the drawing-room doubly delightful after those of the chace.
Boar-hunting, or, as it is commonly called, pig-sticking, is essentially an Indian sport, and I could not have partaken of it under more favourable auspices than I did at Hirsede, when, having obtained intelligence of a wild boar, and having been supplied with steeds, some five or six of us proceeded in pursuit of the denizen of the jungles. We soon roused and pressed him closely through the fields of castor-oil and rare-cates. The thick stalks of the former often balked our aim. He received repeated thrusts notwithstanding, and charged three or four times viciously, slightly wounding my horse, and more severely that of one of my companions. After being mortally wounded, the brute unfortunately dodged into a thick jungle, where, hiding himself in the bushes, he baffled all our efforts to dislodge him. In their attempts to do so, however, the beaters turned out a fine young boar, who gave us a splendid run of upwards of a mile at top speed—for a pig is a much faster animal than his appearance indicates, and one would little imagine, as he scuttles along, that he could keep a horse at full gallop. However, he soon became blown, and, no friendly patch of jungle being near for him to take refuge in, was quickly despatched,
Our revels having been kept up to a late hour, I left Hirsede in the small hours of the morning, and came up to Jung Bahadoor's camp on the Nepaul frontier.
A small stream divides the Company's from the Nepaulese dominions, and on crossing it the change of government was at once obvious. The villages looked more wretched, the people more dirty, the country was almost totally uncultivated, and nearly all traces of roads disappeared as we traversed the green sward of the Terai of Nepaul, scattered over which were large herds of cattle, grazing on the short grass, which extended in all directions over the vast expanse of flat country.
This province is governed by Krishna Bahadoor, a younger brother of the prime minister, an active and energetic officer. Any complaint of the peasantry is in the first instance brought to his notice, and referred by him to his brother, if his decision does not give satisfaction. His subordinates are a sirdar, or judge, and several subahs, or collectors.
The Terai is a long narrow strip of territory, extending for three hundred miles along the northern frontier of British India, and is about twenty miles in breadth. The whole tract is a dead level. For the first ten miles after crossing the frontier the country is used chiefly for grazing by the inhabitants of the adjoining British provinces, who drive thousands of cattle across the border, paying a considerable revenue to the Nepaul government for the privilege of so doing.
Ten miles from the frontier commences the great saul forest, which is also ten miles in breadth. It is composed almost entirely of the valuable saul-tree, and a great quantity of timber is annually exported to Calcutta down the Gandaki, which is navigable to the foot of the Cheriagotty hills. The licence to fell the saul timber is confined exclusively to Nepaul merchants, and the payment demanded by Government for such permission is so enormous that the trade is not very profitable.
The principal sources of revenue derived from this district are the land- tax and the receipts from the sale of licences for felling timber and for grazing cattle. The large amount thus received, together with the number of elephants which are annually caught in the great forest, renders the Terai a most valuable appendage to the Nepaul dominions.
It is, however, entirely owing to the excellent management of Jung that the revenue of the Terai is now so considerable. In 1816 this province did not yield more than one-tenth its present revenue, which is now computed to amount to fifty lacs (500,000 pounds). Still the Terai might be made yet more profitable. At present no use whatever is made of the hides and horns of the hundreds of head of cattle that die daily in this district, which are left to rot on the carcases of the beasts. It would remain to be proved however whether, even if permission were granted by the Nepaul Government, any would be found possessing the capital or enterprise to engage in a speculation which would, unquestionably, ensure a handsome return.
It is not, however, in a pecuniary point of view alone that the Terai is considered by the Nepaulese as contributing to the prosperity of their dominions; it is looked upon as one of their chief safeguards against invasion. For nine or ten months a disease, denominated by the natives the "Ayul," renders the Terai impassable to man, so deadly are its effects even to the natives of the country. It would appear that might be obviated—if we are to believe the native theory somewhat gravely recorded by Mr. Hamilton (who made a journey through this province with a mission sent by Government in 1803)—by going in search of and killing certain serpents, which are said to poison the atmosphere with their breath. I should be inclined to recommend the cutting down of the jungle in preference to the cutting up of the serpents; and I have little doubt that, were parts of the great forest cleared, and wide roads cut through it, it would cease to be so pestilential a locality as it is at present. In case of a war, there would be no difficulty, even now, in our troops possessing themselves of the whole territory to the foot of the Cheriagotty hills in the cold season; but as we should have to maintain some position throughout the year, the top of those hills themselves would be the only one available, and here, in the heart of an enemy's country, and cut off from all communication with India, the position of the garrison would be anything but enviable.
I observed several of the natives of this district afflicted with goitre, and I was informed that cretinism was also prevalent,—a fact which proves clearly the fallacy of the old doctrine that these complaints are attributable to snow-water, for all the water drunk by the inhabitants of the Terai rises in the Cheriagotty hills, on which snow rarely if ever falls. This would be strongly corroborative of the correctness of the idea that malaria is the origin of goitre and cretinism, even if the experiment which has been tried at Interlacken, of building a hospital on the hills, above the influence of the infectious atmosphere in the valley, had not proved completely successful.
The camp which was destined to be our headquarters during a few days' shooting was pitched in the plain near the village of Bisoleah, distant about two miles from the borders of the grand jungle. Its appearance was totally different from those already described; two more regiments were here in attendance upon the Minister; the men were all comfortably lodged in grass huts got up for the occasion, and the innumerable host of camp followers, who on the march had been contented with wrapping themselves up in their thick cloths, and sleeping in groups round the various fires, were now engaged in erecting like temporary habitations, forming by these means a grass village of considerable extent.
Horses, oxen, camels, elephants, were tethered in every direction, or wandering in search of sweeter tufts of grass. The village itself was close and dirty; the largest house, which stood near a temple, was occupied by some half-dozen wives of the Minister, who had come to the borders of their country to welcome home their lord and master.
Our tents were pitched between the camp and a small clump of trees, near which upwards of 300 elephants were tethered; a stream divided us from them, the banks of which presented a continual scene of confusion, as men and animals, at all hours, passed along in crowds, while the motley groups, collecting as the Minister moved about to inspect various parts of his establishment, indicated the whereabouts of that great personage. The scene struck us as particularly novel and attractive when we arrived from Hirsede about mid-day; as we approached from one direction, the Minister Sahib arrived from another, mounted in a handsome howdah, the trophy of the morning being a tiger which he had just killed, and which was lashed on to the elephant following him, while a hundred more hustled one another up the steep bank and through the crowded street, greatly to the inconvenience of his dutiful subjects, who were salaaming vociferously.
We immediately started in quest of like game, and commenced beating the heavy jungle, by which the plain was bounded as by a wall, but fortune did not smile upon our efforts, and we only succeeded in killing a deer and a pig. I found my first experience in shooting from a howdah to be anything but agreeable: the deer bounds through the long grass as a rabbit would through turnips; and, at the moment one catches a glimpse of his head, the elephant is sure to be going down a steep place, or stopping or going on suddenly, or trumpeting, or doing something which completely balks a sportsman accustomed to be on his own legs, and sends the ball flying in any direction but the right one. Our line of elephants consisted of upwards of one hundred, and they beat regularly and silently enough, except when the behaviour of one of them irritated some passionate mahout, who would vent his wrath upon the head of the animal by a blow from a short iron rod, or would catch him sharply under the ear with a huge hook, which he dexterously applied to a sore kept open for that purpose; then a loud roar of pain would sound through the jungle for a moment, much to our disgust, as it startled the deer we were silently and gradually approaching.
The pig, which formed part of the game-bag of the afternoon, was, in the first instance, only severely wounded, and an elephant was commanded to finish the poor brute; as he lay, grimly surveying us, his glistening tusks looked rather formidable,—so at least the elephant seemed to think, as for some time he strongly objected to approach him. At last he went timidly up and gave the boar a severe kick with his fore-foot, drawing it back quickly with a significant grunt, which plainly intimated his opinion that he had done as much as could reasonably be expected of him. His mahout, however, thought otherwise, and, by dint of severe irritation on the sore behind his ear, seemed to drive him to desperation, as the elephant suddenly backed upon the pig, and, getting him between his hind legs, ground them together, and absolutely broke him up. After this we went crashing home, regardless of the thick jungle through which we passed, as the impending boughs were snapped, at the word of the mahouts, by the obedient and sagacious animals they bestrode.
Daybreak of the 30th of January found us not foot in stirrup, but foot on ladder, for we were mounting our elephants to proceed in search of the monarch of the Indian jungles, intelligence of the lair of a male and female having been brought into camp overnight. A hundred elephants followed in a line, forming a picturesque procession, towards the long grass jungle in which our noble game was reported to be ensconced. On reaching the scene of action we formed into a line and beat regularly the whole length of the patch. We were not destined to wait long, and the crack of my friend's rifle soon sounded in my ears. He had wounded the tiger severely, and the animal had again disappeared in the long grass. We were now on the alert, as it was impossible he could escape us; and in a few moments I had the satisfaction of seeing him bounding through the grass at about thirty yards' distance. The report of my rifle was quickly followed by three more shots as he passed down the line, and he fell dead at the feet of the minister, with five balls in his body.
In the evening, after our return from a good day's sport, we paid Jung Bahadoor a visit in his tent, and went with him to see the elephants which had been caught for the service of the Government during his year's absence from the country. In a square enclosure were upwards of two hundred elephants of all sorts and sizes. Here might be seen an elephant fastened between two others, and kept quiet only by being dragged continually in two different directions at once, no mahout having yet ventured to mount him; while, in evident terror at her proximity to such a monster, stood an anxious mother performing maternal duties to a young one not much larger than a calf, who was in no way puzzled by the position of the udder between her fore legs, but by a dexterous use of his trunk helped himself in a manner wonderfully precocious for so young a baby; indeed, he seemed very much pleased with having a trunk to play with, and certainly had a great advantage over most babies in possessing so permanent a plaything. Behind this interesting party stood a large elephant, with huge tusks, which had been chiefly instrumental in the capture of the victims he was now grimly surveying at a considerable distance, it not being safe to let him approach too near, as he seemed to be under the delusion that every elephant he saw still required to be caught. Each mahout now brought forward the prizes he had captured since the commencement of the year, and they were severally inspected: those which had no tufts of hair at the tips of their tails, or were in any way deformed, were put aside to be sold to unwary purchasers in India; while those approved by his Excellency were reserved for the use of government, or, to speak in plainer language, for his shooting parties.
As I do not know the points of an elephant as well as those of a horse, the want of the tuft was the only mark I could distinguish. However, the science of elephant-flesh seemed to be as deep and full of mysteries as that of horse-flesh.
Having finished our inspection, and the pay of an unsuccessful mahout or two having been stopped, Jung entered into a long disquisition upon the subject of the wild sports of the Terai. He told us, amongst other things, that he had forbidden all deer-shooting here, although the revenue to Government upon the skins amounted to 400 or 500 pounds a year, in order that he might enjoy better shooting. Of course, we praised the love of sport which could prompt such an order, and said nothing of the love of country which might perhaps have prevented it. I was often struck by the despotic tone which the prime minister assumed, and it only confirmed my previous opinion as to his substantially possessing the sovereign power.
We killed five or six more deer and pigs before quitting Bisoleah on the following day, our road to Bechiacor leading us through the great forest, at this season perfectly healthy. We found our camp pitched in the broad dry bed of a mountain torrent, which I observed to be filled with fragments of granite and micaceous schist.
As the shades of evening closed in upon the valley, the scene became extremely interesting: high upon the hill sides,—for we had reached the base of the Cheriagotty hills,—groups of natives, crouching round their fires, were sheltered only by grass huts, the labour of an hour. While lights twinkled in the minister's camp, soldiers were gathered round their watch-fires, and the villagers were assembled near a huge crackling blaze to witness so unusual, and to them so exciting a scene, as 5000 souls encamped in their solitary valley.
March to Hetowra—Cross the Cheriagotty Hills—Scenes of the war of 1815- 16—Preparations for a wild-elephant hunt—The herd in full cry—A breakneck country—Furious charges of wild elephants—The lost child—Return to camp.
Early on the following morning we were on the march, and for five miles did our clumsy elephant trip it heavily over the large stones forming the bed of the stream in which we had been encamped the previous night. I fear the beauty of the scenery did not so well compensate him for the badness of the road as his more fortunate riders. To see a hill at a distance after having travelled so long over a dead level was refreshing; but when we began to wind round the base of precipitous cliffs, or clamber up some romantic mountain pass, the effect was most animating.
The cliffs which now frowned over us were about 500 feet in height; a few larches crowning the summit indicated the elevation of the country, and almost reminded us of home, until some monkeys swinging about amongst the branches at once dispelled the illusion.
The hills themselves consist entirely of clay mixed with sandstone, mica, and gravel; and the effect of the mountain torrents during the rainy season upon such soft material had been to form precipitous gullies, along which we were now passing, while the grotesque pinnacles which constantly met the eye reminded us of the dolomite formation of the Tyrol. In many places were strata, sometimes horizontal, but more frequently inclined at an angle of about forty-five degrees, consisting of limestone, hornstone, and conglomerate.
This range is called by Hodgson the sandstone range; it does not rise more than 600 feet from its immediate base, its elevation above the sea being about 3000 feet. The pass itself, by which we crossed the Cheriagotty hills, was a mere watercourse, sometimes so narrow that the banks on each side might be touched from the back of the elephant, and so steep and rocky that, both in ascending and descending into the dry bed of a torrent, the animal found no little difficulty in keeping his footing.
It was in this place that some of the severest fighting took place in 1816 during the Nepaulese war. Commanded by the surrounding heights and crowned by the temporary stockades of the Ghorkas, it was a dangerous and formidable obstacle to the progress of our army; but the able tactics of Sir David Ochterlony successfully overcame it. In the very watercourse we were now traversing the carcase of a dead elephant had, on one occasion during that campaign, fallen in such a manner as effectually to block up the way; and so narrow is the path, and so steep the banks on each side, that the army was absolutely delayed some time until this cumbrous impediment was removed.
After descending into the bed of the Chyria Nuddee our road lay through the saul forest, the magnificent trees of which served as a grateful shade for some miles, while, the road being comparatively level and free from impediments, our journey was most agreeable. A short distance from our destination we crossed the Kurroo Nuddee, by a picturesque wooden bridge peculiar to the Himalayas.
Hetowra is a place of considerable importance in a mercantile point of view, but it is not gay except during the season; it is, in fact, fashionable only while it is healthy. From this place two roads lead to Katmandu. The whole of our week's stay in the Terai was rendered interesting to us from the recollection that in this province originated a war as disastrous to our troops as it was unprovoked by us. Never in our eastern experience have we commenced hostilities with a native power upon more justifiable grounds, and seldom have we paid more dearly for the satisfaction of at last dictating terms, from which indeed we have since reaped no great advantage. At Persa, but a short distance from Bisoleah, Captain Sibley and his detachment fell into the hands of the enemy, losing two guns and three-fourths of his men. Major-General Gillespie fell at the storming of Kalunga, while gallantly cheering on his men; our casualties here amounting to 225, twenty of whom were officers. Beaten back on this occasion, we were no less unsuccessful in a second attempt, losing in killed and wounded 483 men, including eleven officers. It was only when General Ochterlony assumed the command that affairs began to wear a brighter aspect. The energy and ability of this officer were displayed in a series of operations which daunted the enemy in proportion as they inspired confidence amongst our own ranks, and the result of the campaign was the expulsion of the Ghorkas from a large tract of country, which was subsequently annexed to British India. Attempts at negotiation were then made, which ultimately proved futile, and after the usual amount of delay, specious professions, and deceit common to native Courts generally had been practised by the Nepaul Durbar with a view to gain time, open hostilities broke out with redoubled vigour on both sides. General Ochterlony assumed the command of an army of 36,000 men, and commenced the campaign by moving the main body at once across the Cheriagotty hills, an operation involving incredible toil and difficulty, but which was, nevertheless, performed with the greatest rapidity. From Hetowra he advanced upon Muckwanpore, which, after two engagements, fell into his hands, our loss amounting to nearly 300. This fort commands the valley of Katmandu, and the Durbar therefore thought it advisable to treat as speedily as possible. The terms which were finally agreed upon differed little from those proposed on the former occasion, leaving in our hands a portion of the Terai, and, what was more important, giving the Ghorkas a more correct notion of the enemy they had to deal with than they had gained from their experience in the first campaign.
We found our camp prettily situated at the village of Hetowra, on the Rapti, surrounded by hills clothed to their summits with evergreen jungle, not unlike those I had lately left in Ceylon.
The Minister Sahib, having received information that a herd of wild elephants were in the neighbourhood, paid us a visit immediately on our arrival at camp, in a great state of excitement, and enjoined on us the necessity of an early start if we wished to partake of a sport which he promised would exceed anything we had ever witnessed, and prove such as no European had ever before had an opportunity of joining in.
I was aroused about 3 on the following morning, by the tune of the 'British Grenadiers,' played by the bands of the two regiments, which marched past my tent on their way to beat the jungle, and I wondered whether its composer ever imagined that its inspiriting effects would be exercised upon men bound on so singular a duty as those whose tramp we now heard becoming fainter and fainter as they wound up the valley. This was a signal for us to abandon our mattresses, which were always spread on the ground, in default of a four-poster, but were none the less comfortable or fascinating to their drowsy occupants on that account. It was necessary to make such a morning's meal as should be sufficient to last for 24 hours. This was rather a difficult matter at that early hour, as we had eaten a large dinner overnight; however, we accomplished it to the best of our power, and, jumping into our howdah, soon overtook Jung, whom we accompanied to what was to be the scene of action, a thick saul jungle on the banks of the Kurroo Nuddee, here a considerable stream.
Down a hill before us, and by a particular pass, the wild elephants were to be driven by the united efforts of the gallant rifle corps, a regiment of infantry, and a hundred elephants; while our party, which comprised an equal number of these animals, was prepared to receive their brethren of the woods.
Our patience as sportsmen was destined to be severely tried, and mid-day came without any elephants having made their appearance: we therefore lit a huge fire, and, dismounting, partook with Jung of some very nice sweet biscuits and various specimens of native confectionery, declining the green-looking mutton which was kindly pressed upon us. Had the elephants chosen that moment to come down upon us, a curious scene must have ensued: Jung's grapes would have gone one way and his curry-powder the other—he was eating grapes and curry-powder at the time; and his brother, who was toasting a large piece of mutton on a reed, must have either burnt his mouth or lost the precious morsel: however, the elephants did not come, so Jung finished his grapes and curry-powder, and his brother waited till the mutton was cool, ate it in peace, and went through the necessary ablutions.
He then gave me a lesson in cutting down trees with a kukri, a sort of bill-hook, in the use of which the Nepaulese are peculiarly expert. The Minister Sahib at one stroke cut through a saul-tree which was 13 inches in circumference, while sundry unsuccessful attempts which I made on very small branches created great amusement among the bystanders skilled in the use of the weapon.
At last a dropping shot or two were heard in the distance: this was the signal of the approach of the herd, and I was put by the minister through the exercises necessary to be acquired before commencing the novel chace.
Taking off my shoes and tying a towel round my head, I was told to suppose an immense branch to be in front of me, and was taught to escape its sweeping effects by sliding down the crupper of the elephant, and keeping the whole of my body below the level of his back, thus allowing the branch to pass within an inch above it without touching me. In the same manner, upon a branch threatening me from the right or left, it was necessary to throw myself on the opposite side, hanging only by my hands, and swinging myself into my original position by a most violent exertion, which required at the same time considerable knack. Having perfected myself in these accomplishments to the utmost of my power, I awaited in patience the arrival of the elephants.
Looking round, I saw Jung himself, seated in the place of the mahout, guiding the elephant which he bestrode very cleverly. When silence was required he made a peculiar clucking noise with his tongue; whereupon these docile creatures immediately became still and motionless: one would drop the tuft of grass which he was tearing up, another would stop instantly from shaking the dust out of the roots which he was preparing to eat, others left off chewing their food. When a few seconds of the most perfect calm had elapsed, the rooting up and dusting out went on more briskly than ever, and the mouthful was doubly sweet to those who were now allowed to finish the noisy process of mastication.
At last our patience was rewarded, and Jung gave the signal for us to advance.
On each elephant there were now two riders, the mahout and a man behind, who, armed with a piece of hard wood into which two or three spikes were inserted, hammered the animal about the root of the tail as with a mallet. He was furnished with a looped rope to hold on by, and a sack stuffed with straw to sit upon, and was expected to belabour the elephant with one hand while he kept himself on its back with the other.
This was the position I filled on this trying occasion; but my elephant fared well as regarded the instrument of torture, for I was much too fully occupied in taking care of myself to think of using it. Away we went at full speed, jostling one another up banks and through streams, and I frequently was all but jolted off the diminutive sack which ought to have formed my seat, but did not, for I found it impossible to sit. Being quite unable to maintain any position for two moments together, I looked upon it as a miracle that every bone in my body was not broken. Sometimes I was suddenly jerked into a sitting posture, and, not being able to get my heels from under me in time, they received a violent blow. A moment after I was thrown forward on my face, only righting myself in time to see a huge impending branch, which I had to escape by slipping rapidly down the crupper, taking all the skin off my toes in so doing, and, what would have been more serious, the branch nearly taking my head off if I did not stoop low enough. When I could look about me, the scene was most extraordinary and indescribable: a hundred elephants were tearing through the jungle as rapidly as their unwieldy forms would let them, crushing down the heavy jungle in their headlong career, while their riders were gesticulating violently, each man punishing his elephant, or making a bolster of himself as he flung his body on one side or the other to avoid branches; while some, Ducrow-like, and confident in their activity, were standing on the bare backs of their elephants, holding only by the looped rope,—a feat I found easy enough in the open country, but fearfully dangerous in the jungle. A few yards in front of us was a wild elephant with her young one, both going away in fine style, the pace being 8 or 9 miles an hour. I was just beginning to appreciate the sport, and was contemplating hammering my elephant so as to be up amongst the foremost, when we, in company with about half a dozen others, suddenly disappeared from the scene. A nullah, or deep drain, hidden in the long grass, had engulfed elephants and riders. The suddenness of the shock unseated me, but fortunately I did not lose my hold of the rope, and more fortunately still my elephant did not roll over, but, balancing himself on his knees, with the assistance of his trunk, made a violent effort, and succeeded in getting out of his uncomfortable position.
The main body of the chace had escaped this nullah by going round the top of it; but we were not so much thrown out as I expected, for we arrived in time to see the wild elephant charging and struggling in the midst of her pursuers, who, after several attempts, finally succeeded in noosing her, and dragging her away in triumph between two tame elephants, each attached to the wild one by a rope, and pulling different ways whenever she was inclined to be unmanageable. I was watching the struggles which the huge beast made, and wondering how the young one, who was generally almost under the mother, had escaped being crushed in the melee, when a perfect roll of small arms turned our attention to another quarter, and I saw an elephant with an imposing pair of tusks charging down upon us through a square of soldiers, which had just been broken by it, and who were now taking to the trees in all directions. I ought to remark, lest the gallant riflemen should be under the imputation of want of valour in this proceeding, that they were only allowed to fire blank cartridge. The elephant next to me stood the brunt of the charge, which was pretty severe, while mine created a diversion by butting him violently in the side, and, being armed with a formidable pair of tusks, made a considerable impression; the wild one was soon completely overpowered by numbers, after throwing up his trunk and charging wildly in all directions. Of the violence of one of these charges I have retained visible proof, for a splintered tusk, which had been broken short off in the combat, was afterwards picked up and given to me as a trophy. Having succeeded in noosing this elephant also, we were dragging him away in the usual manner between two others, when he snapped one of the ropes and started off, pulling after him the elephant that still remained attached to him, and dashed through the jungle at full speed, notwithstanding the struggles of the involuntary companion of his flight. For a moment I feared that the courage of the mahout would give way in that pell-mell career, and that he would slip the rope which bound the two animals together. But he held on manfully, and after another exciting chace we succeeded in surrounding the maddened monster; my elephant jostled him so closely that I could touch him as we went neck and neck. It is a curious fact that the elephants never seem to think of uncurling their trunks, and sweeping their persecutors from the backs of their tame brethren: this they have never been known to do, though it has not unfrequently occurred that a wild herd have proved more than a match for the tame one, and then there is nothing for it but to turn and make off in an ignominious retreat as fast as the blows of the mahouts can urge them. It is only under these circumstances that there is any danger to the riders, and such an occurrence can take place only when the tame herd is small, and encounters an unusually large number of the wild elephants. Upon this occasion we mustered so strong that defeat was out of the question.
We now heard a terrific bellowing at a short distance, which, in my ignorance, I thought proceeded from a huge tusker making a gallant resistance somewhere; I was rather disappointed, therefore, to find that the object of interest to a large group of men and elephants was only a young one struggling on his back in a deep hole into which he had fallen, and from which he was totally unable to extricate himself. Lying on his back, and kicking his legs wildly about in the air, he looked the most ridiculous object imaginable, and certainly made more noise in proportion to his size than any baby I ever heard. So incessant was his roaring that we could scarcely hear each other speak; at last, by means of ropes attached to various parts of his body, and by dint of a great deal of pulling and hauling, we extricated the unfortunate infant from his awkward position.
The poor little animal had not had a long life before experiencing its ups and downs, and it now looked excessively bewildered at not finding its mother, who had escaped with the rest of the herd. He was soon consoled, however, by being allotted to a tame matron, who did not seem particularly pleased at being thus installed in the office of foster mother whether she liked it or not.
We now all jogged home in great spirits, and, though Jung professed himself dissatisfied with only having captured four out of a herd of twelve, we were perfectly contented with a day's work which my elephant- shooting experience in Ceylon had never seen equalled, and which so fully realised the promise made by the minister at starting, that we should be the first to partake of a sport to be met with only in the noble forests of his native country.
March to Bhimphede—National defences—The Cheesapany pass—Lovely scenery—Night adventure—The watch-fire—Reception at camp—Arrival at Katmandu.
We had looked forward with no little anxiety to the morning following our elephant-hunt, as we were to go in search of rhinoceros: it was therefore a severe disappointment to us when Jung entered our tent at daylight, and informed us that it was necessary we should at once proceed on our way to Katmandu. The reason he gave us was, that we should have to go too far out of our route before we could find our game: however that might be, there was no help for it, and we commenced our march up the valley of the Rapti, along the narrow rocky path leading to Bhimphede, our next halting- place. It was a five hours' march, and we crossed the river thirty-two times before we came in sight of the picturesque Durumsolah, or native rest-house, which is situated at the head of the valley. Hills clothed to their summits with variegated jungle rose above us to an immense but not uniform height, and the scenery looked bolder as we became more enclosed among the mountains.
Bhimphede is a Newar village, the inhabitants being the aborigines of the country. It is said to derive its name from a Hindoo divinity named Bheem having on some occasion happened to stop there. It is distant from Hetowra about 18 miles, and the road might be much improved by a little engineering.
The present policy of the Nepaul government is to keep the roads by which their country is approached in as impassable a state as possible, vainly imagining that, in case of a war, the badness of the roads would offer an insuperable obstacle to our progress, and compel us to relinquish any attempt to penetrate to Katmandu. This delusion ought to have been dispelled by the occupation of Muckwanpore by Sir David Ochterlony; not that it is a contingency they need take much trouble to provide against, since it would never be worth our while to do more than take possession of the Terai.
The present state of the roads renders it impossible for goods to be conveyed into Nepaul, except upon men's backs; and as the traffic would be considerable in various articles of commerce, the prosperity and wealth of the country would be incalculably increased by an improvement in the means of transit.