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The journey became now little more than a succession of ascents and descents. “No description could convey an idea of the usual “ style of a day's journey over the Himalaya. Lines of irregular peaks
towering one above the other, and in every relation possible to each “ other, oblige you to be constantly climbing up or sliding down. In
every depth we find a roaring torrent to pass, and on every height “ an almost inaccessible rock to scale."
These, however, were only ordinary and endurable inconveniences; others they encountered were almost intolerable. Our author, on reaching a commanding position, saw the natives performing sundry strange antics and contortions, jumping and skipping, and striking their bodies with extraordinary agility. He conceived it might possibly be a national dance, executed in compliment to their arrival. By degrees his party caught the same frisking propensity, which was occasioned by the tormenting bites of a most venomous little insect,miniature wasp, scarcely larger than a sand-fly, within whose precincts they had now come. The sufferings inflicted upon the party by these little tormentors are depicted in most pathetic colors; our author was almost maddened. it required all the magic of the scenery around to compensate for these tortures. “ I have beheld,” says Captain Skinner, “ nearly all the celebrated scenery of Europe; but I " have seen it surpassed in these unfrequented and almost unknown
They had now reached the foot of the terrific Bunder Puch, where the Ganges and the Jumna were only eight miles apart.
The source of the latter was, however, still sereral arduous journeys distant, over high ridges, along paths of loose stones, and across chasms, below which the foaming stream dashed over large rocks with tremendous noise, the crossing of which was like dancing on the tight-rope. The corn in the fields and terraces they had passed was ripe and cut; as they advanced it was quite green. The faces of the hills were covered with red spinach, which gave them a singular aspect; potatoes, small but of good flavor, had been introduced here from Simla.
From Cursali, the first human habitation past which the Jumna flows, sitrated in a delightful valley, full of apricot trees, and bounded by peaks of snow, our author and his party commenced their pilgrimage to Jumnoutri, the source of the Jumna, crossing the river a dozen times, sometimes wading through its cold waters, and occasionally on trunks of trees laid over it, and clambering almost perpendicular ascents.
“ At length we reached the summit of our labors; we had tracked the river to its covert, and lost all further trace of it, as well as power of proceeding, by the snow that choked the way. Here then we at last stood, on the threshold of eternal snow! We had come unto that bourne whence no traveller returns ;' where nature has written for ever with a death-cold hand, “Thus far shalt thou go, and no further!' It is not often that man has an opportunity of reaching the very verge of human power, and on such an event I hope I may be pardoned for displaying some exultation. The consciousness of having endured a little to accomplish it may heighten VOL. I. - NO. I.
the feeling; and although I have to boast that in common with several, I must feel proud, as I have no doubt they did, at having gained the source of the Jumna.
“The first and greatest object of curiosity, both to the pilgrim and the traveller is the hot-spring. It rushes through an aperture in the rock of about four inches in circumference, with very great force and heat. In the vent the thermometer stood at 1800 : about a foot further, and where the water bubbled from the ground, and was a little more exposed to the air, the temperature was 1600. There is a constant smoke rising to a considerable height. So wonderful a phenomenon as boiling water on the edge of perpetual snow, was very likely to attract the devotion of the Hindoos. They dip their hands in it, and perform the necessary prayers and evolutions about it, and make offerings of money, the perquisite of the Brahmin, if they can afford it. I propitiated the divinity of the spring in the most orthodox manner, and had soon an opportunity of seeing it transferred to the custody of the high priest.
“ Close to the bed of the Jumna, and a few feet from where it first appears from beneath the snow, another sinall stream of hot water issues from the rock, and, mixing with the river, makes a delightful tepid bath, in which the devout never fail to indulge. During their ablutions the officiating Brahmin mutters prayers for their salvation, and congratulations for their having reached so holy a spot. I joined in the bathing, and was included in the prayer. The water was exceedingly cold, for I first jumped into the river itself; it was about four feet deep, and running with the utmost rapidity. I thought I had been divided in two when I made my first plunge, and was not long in hastening to the warm bath.”
On returning to Bunassa, preparations were made for a new route across the intervening mountains to Gungoutri, the yet-more-celebrated source of the Ganges. Captain Skinner tells us he meditated, when he began his tour, to pass from the Jumna to the shores of the Sutledge, traversing the valleys of the Pauber and the Tonse; then crossing the snowy pass of Burunda into Kunawar, continue his track till turned back by Chinese jealousy. The rumor of his intention to attempt passing the range nearest the mighty barrier of everlasting snow, caused a mutiny in his camp. It was with great difficulty he prevailed upon his people to follow him to the next highest range to wards Gungoutri. The rain fell heavily ; the paths, made by native pioneers and paid for, pro istâ vice, were dreadful. The scenery, however, was sublime.
“I climbed up to the top of the high ridge above it, over which lay the track; and from its summit beheld one of the most magnificent scenes the sublimest imagination could conceive. I had passed over about a mile of snow, four or five feet deep; but hard enough to bear me, without much sinking; and was glad to have something to draw my thoughts from the fatigue, for such the natives even consider it; and
many of the most devout have raised a species of altar, to commemorate the feat, consisting of a heap of stones, surrounding a high one placed upright in the middle. They fringe the crest of the mountain; and, to each in succession, as they reached them, my guides made their salaams, and returned thanks to whatever divinity they were dedicated, for having assisted them to reach such a height.
“ Behind me, to the north-west, were the snows of Bunderpuch and
Dootie, whence the Jumna flows: thence, towards the east, rose the high peaks which mark the source of the holy river, the Ganges — the Rudru Himaleh, like a white cloud, in the horizon — Kedar Nath and Badri Nath, those mighty objects of Hindoo superstition, mixing with the skies; so far out-topping other heights, that I had almost considered them illusory; I began to doubt, as I gazed on them, whether there was any interval between heaven and earth! When I remembered that I was stan ling, on the 30th of May, on a mountain covered with snow, not ten degrees from the tropics, and that the peaks I was looking at were higher above ine than Mount Blanc from the plain, and Mount Etna from the sea, I was breathless with astonishment.
“ Before me, towards the south, were less grand, but more varied pros· pects :— at the foot of the hill where I stood, but far below, stretched yellow fields in terraces, to the edge of a winding stream; as well as wooded ridges, and peaks, crowned with pines, their sides blooming with lilac and rhododendron. All around, far as the eye could reach — and that was far indeed, - were mountains, interminable mountains, of every shape and every hue : the clefts on the edges of some were masses of snow, shining through the open trees: rough and rugged rocks, opposing their barrenness to gently-rising hills, as carefully and tastefully planted, as if by the hand of art: dark, impenetrable forests, with torrents of water roaring through them; and little clusters of fruit-trees, with birds of sweetest notes singing within them. The summit of Oonchal was, for a time, ecstasy. My descent to the village of Nongong was pure matter-of-fact indeed. It occupied about three hours: such slipping, sliding, and scrambling, no mortal, that bas not made the attempt, can form any idea of. We had to creep down by the uneven surface of the stony hill, for a long distance, where the ledges upon which we placed our feet were scarcely broad enough to admit them. Several times I was near falling a victim to love of the picturesque. If I looked round for a moment, which I could scarcely resist doing, I was soon restored to attention by rolling down ten or twenty feet.”
The first view of the Ganges, or Gunga-jee, had a powerful effect upon the natives of the party, even the Musulmans.
After a painful series of descents, they sat down by the banks of the sacred Bhagirathi. It was about eighty yards wide, flowing rapidly over a bed of stone, the water of the colour of sand, and much impregnated with it.
After a severe struggle with the difficulties of the journey, they reached Bhairo Ghati, at the confluence of the Jahnavi and the Bhagirathi, the two remote branches of the sacred river. They rush towards each other with tremendous velocity and noise, meeting at right angles, and sweeping away to the west amidst the wildest scenery.
At daylight, on the 10th June, they commenced their expedition to Gungoutri, about four miles from Bhairo Ghati. The channel of the river, for half way, is formed of rocky mountains, their peaks rising to a great height. In some places they approach so nearly, as to afford a very narrow vent for the river, through which it rushes with immense force. Gungoutri is at length reached.
“A river as wide as the Thames at Windsor running over an uninterrupted bed higher than the crater of Mount Ætna (for Gungoutri is nearly
thirteen thousand feet above the level of the sea), would be an interesting object if it had no other claim upon the mind: but the traveller must feel almost disposed to overlook that in the extraordinary scenes that he is destined to witness acted on it. It is impossible to survey this fountain of credulity, to enter this focus of human folly, without feeling as much wonder and astonishment, as the sight of it can inspire devotion and awe in the victims of its superstition, who toil through so many hardships, to bathe in its dirty water.
“Here every extravagance that the weakness of the human race can be guilty of, seems to be concentrated :—some, who have been wandering for months to fill their phials at the stream, overcome by the presence of their God, lie prostrate on the banks! others, up to their waists in the water, perforining with the most unfeigned abstraction, all the manœuvres of a Hindoo worship. Under the auspices of brahmins, groups were sitting on several parts of the bank, kneading up balls of sand, with holy grass twisted round their fingers, intended as offerings to the Ganges for the propitiation of their fathers' souls, which when ready they drop into the stream with the most profound and religious gravity. Such faith is placed in its power of performing miracles, that many haunt it for the most ridiculous purposes, convinced that what they ask will be accorded.
“ At this moment, a fanatic is up to his middle in the river, praying it to bestow upon him the gift of prophecy: he has travelled from a village above Sirinagur, never doubting that the Ganges will reward him for his journey, by opening the book of futurity ; and if fools may be inspired to foretell, there is some probability of this pilgrim succeeding in his object, for he is siinple indccd. He will return, he says, a prophet to his native hill, where all will flock to him to have their fortunes told, and he will soon grow rich.
“ As I approached the holy shrine, a troop of pallid spectres glided through the woods before me, and vanished like the images in Banquo's glass. I thought I had reached supernatural regions indeed, till a few more yards brought me to a train of naked faquirs whitened all over with ashes: a rope wils coiled round thair waists, and their hair hung down to their shoulders, twisted like serpents: their hands close to their sides, they glided along with measured steps, repeating constantly in a hollow tone, Ram! Ram! Ram!' a Hindoo word for the deity. If it required any thing to heighten the wildness of the scene, these unearthly beings were admirably adapted for it. The firmest skeptic in ghost stories would have startled to behold one of these inhuman figures rise suddenly before him ; and the slightest shade of superstition would be sufficient to blind the eyes of a believer to the reality of such a form, if in the glimmering of the moon one were to be seen perched upon the brow of a precipice, with an arm raised above the head, incapable of motion, and the nails hanging in long strings from the back of the clenched hand. If he sight of such an apparition could give rise to fear, the deep sepulchral voice with which the words · Ram? Ram!' fell upon the stillness of the night, and resounded from the rocks around, would indeed complete the scene of terror!
“ At Gungoutri there are several sheds erected for the shelter of pilgrims; and as the evening was far advanced, and a storm brewing, I went into one of them. It was a long narrow building, and the further end was so wrapped in darkness, that I had been some moments in it before I perceived any thing. I was attracted by a sullen murmur, and went to the spot whence it oceeded. A miserable wretch had just blown a few sticks into a flane; and as the light burst upon his coun
tenance, I unconsciously receded, and had to summon all my fortitude to return to him again. His eyes started from his head, and his bones were visible through his skin; his teeth chattered, and his whole frame shook with cold: and I never saw hair longer or more twisted than his was. I spoke to hin, but in vain: he did not even deign to look at me
– and made no motion but to blow the embers into a fresh blaze; the fitful glare of which, falling on his skeleton form, made me almost think that I had descended to the tomb. I found that he had come for the purpose of ending his iife by starvation at Gungoutri. Many faquirs have attempted this death, and have lingered on the banks of the river for several days without food. The Brahmin, however, assures me that nobody can die in so holy a place; and to preserve its character for being unconnected with mortality, the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages take care that they should not, and bear them by force away, and feed them, or at any rate give them the liberty to die elsewhere.
" A small temple marks the sacred sourre of the river; and immediately opposite is the orthodox spot for bathing in and filling the phials, which, when ready, receive the stamp of authenticity from the seal of the Brahmin, who wears it as a ring upon his finger: it bears the following inscription engraved upon it-“The water of the Bhagirathi, Gungoutri.' — Without such mark the water would not be deemed holy by the purchasers in the plains.
The situation of Gungoutri is sufficiently provoking. The river rather widens above it, and nothing can be traced by the eye that will justify a conjecture of its distance from the source. There is no road beyond ; and, with all the effort possible, I question whether a traveller could penetrate much more than a mile further. The river about a quarter of a mile beyond Gungoutri winds to the east, towards the high mountain of the Rudru Himmaleh, in which it is believed to have its source. One peak of this mountain is visible from here ; that which contains the fountain of the Ganges. The Hindoos suppose that from each peak of the Rudru a river flows, and consider it (for it has several peaks) the birth-place of the most esteemed ones in the Himmalaya."
Captain Skinner's narrative of the incidents and objects met with in his return from these sublime and ridiculous spectacles is sufficiently interesting, but we have not space to extract more.
Upon the whole, we recommend the work as a very amusing one; it is written in a matter-of-fact style, without affectation or pedantry.
[From “ The Penny Magazine, No. 26."]
[The " Penny Magazine " is one of the valuable publications of the Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge, in England. It is an entertaining work, intended for popular circulation, and excellently adapted to its purpose. Five numbers, including what is called a Supplementary Number, are published every month. Each number consists of eight long quarto pages, with various wood cuts, well engraved. Many of the articles are written with more good taste and good sense, than the generality of those in British magazines of greater