JUNE 29. — After some trouble in procuring coolies, we started at eleven in a shower of rain, and found ourselves gradually passing into the valley, and exchanging rocks and firs for groves of walnut; and moss and fern for the more civilized strawberry and the wild carnation. The strawberries, though small, had a delicious flavour, and we whiled away the time by gathering them as we passed. About two o'clock we reached the village of Shupayon, and here began to perceive a considerable change in the style of architecture from what we had been accustomed to; the flat mudden roof giving place to the sharply-pitched wooden one, thatched with straw, or coarsely TILED with wood.
Our halting-place we found, for the first time, to possess a staircase and upper story. A little square habitation it was, with a verandah all round it, and built entirely of wood. From this, as the clouds lifted from the mountain-tops around, a most lovely view opened out before us.
Wherever the eye rested toward the mountains, the snow-capped peaks raised themselves up into the clear blue sky; while at our feet lay the far-famed valley, reaching towards the north, to the very base of the mountain range, and rising gradually and by a gentle slope to our halting-place, and so back to the pass from which we had just descended.
As the sun appeared to have come out again permanently, we took the opportunity of getting our tents and other property which had suffered from the wet out for a general airing.
JUNE 30. — Marched about nine miles through fertile slopes of rice-fields, shaded by walnuts and sycamores, and found our halting-place situated in a serai, shrouded in mulberry and cherry trees, and with a charming little rivulet running through it, discoursing sweet music night and day. Our habitation was a baraduree, or summer-house, of wood, and having an upper room with trellised windows, where we spent the day very pleasantly. At dinner we had the first instalment of the land of promise, in the shape of a roly-poly pudding of fresh cherries, a thing to date from in our hitherto puddingless circumstances.
JULY 1. — Started at daybreak for our last march into the capital. The first appearance of the low part of the valley was rather disappointing, for there was nothing striking in the view; still, the country was extremely fertile, and its tameness was redeemed by the glorious mountain range, which bounded the valley in every direction, with its pure unsullied fringe of snow. Our path was occasionally studded with the most superb sycamores and lime-trees; and as we approached the town we entered a long avenue of poplars, planted as closely together as possible, and completely hiding all the buildings until close upon them. Passing through the grand parade-ground, we found a bustling throng of about four hundred Cashmeeries, with heavy packs beside them, waiting for an escort to take out supplies to the Maharajah's army, now on active service at a place called Girgit, in the mountains. The said army seemed to be fighting with nobody knew who, about nobody knew what; but report says that his Highness, having a number of troops wanting arrears of pay, sends them out periodically to contend with the hill tribes, by way of settlement in full of all demands.
Having engaged a boat's crew at Ramoon, we were, on arriving at the River Jhelum, which runs through the city, immediately inducted to the manners and customs of the place; and being safely deposited in a long flat-bottomed boat, with a mat roof and a prow about twelve feet out of the water, we were paddled across by our six new servants, and landed among a number of bungalows on the right bank, which were erected by the Maharajah for the reception of his English visitors. These are entirely of wood, of the rudest construction, and are built along the very edge of the river, which is here about a hundred yards broad.
We were received on landing by the Baboo and Moonshee, the native authorities retained by the Maharajah for the convenience of his visitors; and learning from them that there were no bungalows vacant, we pitched our little camp under a shady grove of trees close by; and thus, in the capital of the land of poetry and promise, the far-famed paradise of the Hindoo, we brought our wanderings to an end for the present, and gave ourselves and our retainers a rest from all the toils and troubles of the road.
A Halt in the Valley.
Being fairly settled in our quarters, we were not long in putting our new staff of dependants into requisition; and, taking to our boat, sallied forth to get a general view of the city of Sirinugger. Finding, however, a review of the army going on, we stopped at the parade-ground to witness the interesting ceremony. The troops we found drawn up in lines, forming the sides of a large square, and dressed in what his Highness Rumbeer Singh believes confidently to be the ENGLISH COSTUME. As far as one could see, however, the sole foundation for this belief lay in the fact of their all wearing trousers! These were certainly the only articles of their equipment that could in any way be called English in style; and they bore, after all, but a slender resemblance to the corresponding habiliments of the true Briton.
The head-dress, generally speaking, was a turban. One regiment, however, had actually perpetrated a parody on the English shako — a feat which I had always hitherto considered absolutely impossible.
The cavalry were mounted upon tattoos, or native ponies, and wore white trousers, with tight straps, which rendered them for the time being the most miserable of their race.
A few of them had imitations of Lancer caps, some had boots, some slippers, some spurs, others none; some had wondrous straps of tape and cord, others wore their trousers up to their knees; but one and all were entirely uniform in looking completely ill at ease and out of their element in their borrowed would-be-English plumage. Just as we had finished taking a general view of the army, the Maharajah appeared upon the stage, dressed in a green-and-gold embroidered gown and turban and tight silk pantaloons, mounted on a grey caparisoned Arab steed. After riding round the lines with his retinue, he came up, and we were presented in due form; and after asking us if we had come from Allahabad, and expressing his opinion that it was a long way off, in which we entirely concurred with him, he shook hands in English style; and, taking his seat in a chair which was placed for him, we collected ourselves around, and, similarly seated, prepared to inspect the marching past of his highness's redoubtables. Before this began, however, the Maharajah's little son made his appearance, dressed in all respects like his papa, with miniature sword and embroidered raiment; and to him we were also introduced in form. During the marching past, I congratulated myself upon being several seats distant from his highness's chair, for the effect was so absurd that it was almost impossible to preserve that dignity and composure which the occasion demanded.
The marching was in slow time, and the step being fully thirty-six inches the fat little dumpy officers nearly upset themselves in their efforts to keep time, and at the same time prevent their slippers from deserting on the line of march; while, in bringing their swords to the salute, they did it with a swing which was suggestive of their throwing away their arms altogether. Besides artillery, five regiments of infantry and two of cavalry marched past — in all, little over 2,000 men — colours flying and bands playing "Home, sweet home!" After this the irregulars began to appear; and although the first part of the army might have almost deserved the name, these put them completely in the shade. One colonel had a pair of enormous English gold epaulettes and a turban; another a black embroidered suit, with white tape straps, and slippers; and as for the men, there were no two of them dressed alike, while in the way of arms, each pleased his own particular fancy also. A long gun over the shoulder was the most popular weapon; but each had, in addition, a perfect armoury fastened in his girdle: pistols with stocks like guns, daggers and even blunderbusses made their appearance; and the general effect, as the crowd galloped independently past, dressed in their many-coloured turbans, and flowing apparel, was most picturesque. As soon as the last of the flags and banners and prancing horses had gone past, the Maharajah set us the example of rising, and mounting his grey steed, cantered off in state, surrounded by the crowd of dusky parasites, arrayed in gold and jewels, who formed his court.
His Highness appeared to be about thirty-eight years old, and was as handsome a specimen of a native as I had ever seen. He wore a short, jet-black beard, and mustachios, turned up from the corners of his mouth, and reaching, in two long twists, nearly to his eyes. He appeared absent and thoughtful which, considering the low state of his exchequer, was perhaps not to be wondered at. His English visitors spend a good deal of money every summer in his kingdom; and for this reason alone, he is anxious enough to cultivate their acquaintance, and gives naches, or native dances, and champagne dinners periodically to amuse them. He presents, also, an offering to each traveller that arrives, and we in due course received two sheep, two fowls, and about fourteen little earthen dishes containing rice, butter, spices, eggs, flour, fruit, honey, sugar, tea, &c., all of which were laid at the door of our tent, with great pomp and ceremony, by a host of attendants.
After the review, we took boat again and paddled down the stream to look at the town, and a quainter and more picturesque-looking old place it would be hard to conceive. The, houses are built entirely of wood, of five and six stories, and overhanging the river, and are as close as possible to each other, except where here and there interspersed with trees. Communication is kept up between the banks by means of wooden rustic bridges, built on enormous piles of timber, laid in entire trees, crossing each other at equal distances. Not a single straight line is to be seen in any direction — the houses being dilapidated and generally out of the perpendicular; and everywhere the river view is bounded by the snow-capped ranges of mountain, which, towards the north, appear to rise almost from the very water's edge.
JULY 2. — Taking the Q.M.G. as a guide, we sallied out immediately after breakfast to explore the land part of this Eastern Venice. Entering at the city gate, on the left bank of the river, near the Maharajah's palace, we walked past a row of trumpery pop-guns, on green and red carriages, and so through the most filthy and odoriferous bazaar I ever met with, till we reached the residence of Saifula Baba, the great shawl merchant of Sirinugger. Here we found a noted shawl fancier inspecting the stock, and were inducted to the mysteries of the different fabrics. Some that we saw were of beautiful workmanship, but dangerous to an uninitiated purchaser. They ranged from 300 to 1,000 rupees generally, but could be ordered to an almost unlimited extent of price. After inspecting a quantity of Pushmeena and other local manufactures, Mr. Saifula Baba handed us tea and sweetmeats, after the fashion of his country; and we adjourned to the abode of a worker in papier mache, where we underwent a second edition of tea and sweetmeats, and inspected a number of curiosities. The chief and only beauty of the work was in the strangeness of the design; and some of the shawl patterns, reproduced on boxes, &c., were pretty in their way, but as manufacturers of papier mache simply, the Cashmeeries were a long way behind the age.
On reaching home, we found that the Maharajah had sent his salaam, together with the information that he was going to give a nach and dinner, to which we were invited.
JULY 3. — After continuing our explorations of Sirinugger, we repaired, about seven o'clock, to the Maharajah's palace, where we were received by a guard of honour of sixty men and four officers., the latter in gold embroidered dresses, and hung all over with ear-rings and finery of divers sorts and kinds.
Ascending the stairs, we were met by the DEEWAN, or prime minister, who conducted us into an open sort of terrace over the river, where we found the Maharajah with the few English officers already arrived seated on either side of him, and the nach-girls, about twenty in number, squatted in a semicircle opposite them. Standing behind his Highness were colonels of regiments and native dignitaries of all sorts, dressed in cloth of gold and jewels, and in every variety and hue of turban and appointments. A number of these were Sikhs; and magnificent-looking men they were, with their flowing dress and fiercely-twisted whiskers and mustachios. The nach-girls, too — a motley group — were attired in all the hues of the rainbow, and with the white-robed musicians behind them, awaited in patience the signal to commence. In singular contrast to this glittering throng, which formed the court, were the guests whom the Maharajah, on this occasion, delighted to honour. The British officer appeared generally in the national but uncourtly costume of a shooting jacket! and though some few had donned their uniform, and one rejoiced in the traditional swallow-tail of unmistakeable civilization, neither the one nor the other contrasted favourably in point of grace with the Cashmerian rank and fashion.
After shaking hands with his Highness, who prides himself upon his English way of accomplishing that ceremony, and does it by slipping into one's hand what might be taken for a dying flat fish, we took our seats, and the dancing began shortly afterwards. Though on a more magnificent scale than anything I had seen of the kind before, the programme was flat and insipid enough. The ladies came out two and two, and went through a monotonous die-away movement, acting, dancing, and singing all at the same time, and showing off their red-stained palms and the soles of their feet to the best advantage. Some of the women were very pretty, but very properly they modified their charms by dressing in the most unbecoming manner possible. Their head-dress was a little cloth of gold and silver cap hung all round with pendent ornaments, and these were becoming enough, but the remainder of the dress was much more trying. A short body of shot silk was separated by a natural border from a gauze skirt, which hung down perfectly straight and innocent of fulness, and allowed a pair of white pyjamas to appear beneath. These were fastened tightly round the ancles, which were encircled by little bunches of the tinkling bells, which the ladies make such use of in the dance. Round the shoulders comes a filmy scarf of various colours, which also plays a prominent part in all their movements, and answers in its way to the fan of more accomplished Western belles.
After each couple had gone through the whole of their performances, they used to squat themselves down suddenly in the most ungraceful style imaginable, and were then relieved by another pair of artistes from the group.
One lady, in addition to the dance, favoured us with "the Marseillaise" with the French words, being occasionally prompted by the head of the orchestra, who nearly worked himself into a frenzy while accompanying the dancers with both vocal and instrumental music at the same time. The Maharajah himself was plainly dressed in white robes, with a pair of pale-green striped silk pantaloons fitting his legs like stockings from the knee down, and terminating in a pair of English socks, of which he seemed immensely proud. His turban was of the palest shade of green, and (in strong contrast to the rest of his court) without any ornament whatever. The little heir to the throne — a nice little blackamoor of about eight years of age — was, like his father, perched upon a chair, and arrayed in a green and gold turban, pants, and socks, with the addition of a velvet gold-embroidered coat, while round his neck were three or four valuable necklaces, one of pear-shaped emeralds of great size and beauty. After a few dances the doors of the banqueting-room were thrown open, and his Highness led the way into dinner with the commissioner. On entering, we found a capital dinner laid out English fashion, and with a formidable army of black bottles ranged along the table. The Maharajah, however, had disappeared, and we were left to feed without a host. The grandees, meanwhile, remained outside, and still enjoyed the dances, ranging themselves upon their haunches in front of the rows of chairs which not one among them would have dared to trust himself in for either love or money. Considering that our entertainer was a Hindoo, and that his dinner-giving appliances were limited, each person having to bring his own knife, fork, spoon, and chair, we fared very well, and after having drunk his health, again assembled in the court, where we found Rumbeer Singh still occupied with the wearisome nach, and reattired in a gorgeous dress of green velvet and gold. After a short stay he got up, and we all followed his example, glad enough to bring the entertainment to an end, and betake ourselves to our boats. At the stairs there was a desperate encounter with innumerable boatmen, each boat having six, eight, or ten sailors, and all being equally anxious to uphold the credit of their craft by being the first to land their masters safe, at home. We were fortunate enough to reach our own at once, and, with a shouting crew, away we dashed up the river, leaving the others struggling, fighting, and flourishing their paddles in the air, in a way which was more suggestive of an insurrection scene in Masaniello than the departure of guests from a peaceable gentleman's own hall door on the night of an evening party.
On the stairs there was an extraordinary assemblage of slippers, which seemed to hold the same relative position that hats and cloaks do in more enlightened communities — that is, the good ones were taken by the owners of the bad, and the proprietors of the bad ones were fain to make the best of the exchange. Next morning our khidmutgar came up with a most doleful countenance and presented to our notice a pair of certainly most ill-favoured slippers, which a fellow true-believer had INADVERTENTLY substituted for a pair of later date. The lost ones had, in fact, only recently been received from the boot-maker; and the blow was difficult to bear with resignation, even by the saintliest follower of Islam — a reputation which our retainer came short of by a very long way indeed.
JULY 4. — Having an accumulation of letters to answer, we devoted the day to writing — merely enjoying a little OTIUM CUM DIG. — in the evening, reclining in our boat while serenaded by the crew of boatmen.
JULY 5. — Walked up, before daybreak, to the Tukht e Suleeman, or Solomon's throne, "the mountainous Portal," which Moore speaks of in LALLA ROOKH, and which forms the most striking landmark in the valley.
From the summit there was a curious view of the multitudinous wooden houses and the sinuous windings of the river, which could alone be obtained from such a bird's-eye point of inspection. An old temple at the top was in the hands of the Hindoo faction, being dedicated to the goddess Mahadewee, and in charge of it I found two of the dirtiest fukeers, or religious mendicants, I ever had the pleasure of meeting. One was lying asleep, with his feet in a heap of dust and ashes, and the other was listlessly sitting, without moving a muscle, warming himself in the morning sun. Both were almost naked, and had their bodies and faces smeared with ashes and their hair long and matted. They appeared to have arrived at a state of almost entire abstraction, and neither of them even raised his eyes or seemed to be in the slightest degree aware of my presence, although I took a sketch of one of them, and stared at both, very much as I would have done at some new arrival of animals in the Zoological Gardens.
In the evening we went again to Saifula Baba's and visited the workrooms, where we were much astonished by the quickness with which the people worked the intricate shawl patterns with a simple needle, and no copy to guide them.
The first stages of the work are not very promising, but the finished result, when pressed and rolled and duly exhibited by that true believer Saifula Baba, in his snowy gown and turban, was certainly in every way worthy of its reputation.
Returning home, we visited a garden where any of the English visitors who die in the valley are buried — the Maharajah presenting a Cashmere shawl, in some instances, to wrap the body in. There were about eight or ten monuments built of plaster, with small square slabs for inscriptions. One of these was turned topsy-turvey, which was not to be wondered at, for a native almost always holds English characters upside-down when either trying to decipher them himself or when holding them to be read by others.
JULY 6. — In the early morning I ascended to the throne of Solomon, in order to get a sketch of the Fort of Hurree Purbut, and in the afternoon we repaired to the lake behind the town, where there was a grand Mela or fair, on the water, to which the Maharajah and all his court went in state. The lake is beautifully situated at the foot of the mountains, and was covered so densely in many parts with weed and water-plants that it bore quite the appearance of a floating garden; and as the innumerable boats paddled about, with their bright and sunny cargoes, talking and laughing and enjoying themselves to their heart's content, the scene began to identify itself in some measure with Moore's description of the "Sunny lake of cool Cashmere," and its "Plane-tree isle reflected clear," although the poet's eyes had never rested on either lake or isle. Putting poetry on one side, however, for the present, we made our way to the extremity of the lake, in order to pay a visit to his Highness's gaol, where we were received by a very civil gaoler, equipped with a massive sword and dilapidated shield. We found 110 prisoners in the place, employed generally in converting dhan into chawul, or, in other words, clearing the rice-crop. There was also a mill for mustard oil, and the most primitive machine for boring fire-arms ever invented, both worked by water-power. The prison dress was uniform in the extreme: it consisted simply of a suit of heavy leg-irons and nothing more!
After seeing the fair, we paddled across through a perfect water-meadow to the Shalimar gardens, where we found the Rajah and his suite just taking their departure. The vista on entering the gardens was extremely pretty: four waterfalls appear at the same moment, sending a clear sheet of crystal water over a broad stone slab, and gradually receding from sight in the wooded distance. A broad canal runs right through the gardens, bridged at intervals by summer-houses and crossed by carved and quaintly-fashioned stepping stones. At the extremity there is a magnificent baradurree of black marble, which looks as if it had been many centuries in existence, and had originally figured in some very different situation. The pillars were entire to a length of seven feet, and were highly polished from the people leaning against them. Around this, in reservoirs of water, were about two hundred fountains, all spouting away together, and on one side a sheet of the most perfectly still water I ever saw. It appeared exactly like a large looking-glass, and it was impossible to discern where the artificial bank which inclosed it either began or terminated.
In these gardens it was that Selim, or Jehangeer the son of Akbar, used to spend so many of his days with the far-famed Noor Jehan in the beginning of the seventeenth century, and here was the scene of their reconciliation, as related by Feramorz to Lalla Rookh ere he revealed himself to her as her future lord, the king of Bucharia. From these founts and streams it was that the fair Persian sought to entice her lord, with "Fly to the desert, fly with me!"
"When breathing, as she did, a tone To earthly lutes and lips unknown; With every chord fresh from the touch Of Music's spirit, — 'twas too much!"
"The light of the universe" overcomes even the "conqueror of the world." Thinking it, after all, wiser to kiss and be friends than be sulky, he surrenders at discretion: —
"And, happier now for all their sighs, As on his arm her head reposes, She whispers him with laughing eyes, 'Remember, love, the Feast of Roses!' "
Leaving the favourite haunts of the "magnificent son of Akbar," we crossed the lake again to see the Maharajah inspect a party of about 2,000 soldiers, who were departing for the war at Girgit. Nothing in the way of supplies being procurable near the scene of action, the greater part of the review was taken up by the marching past of a horde of Cashmeree and mountain porters, heavily laden with the sinews of war. According to report, the pay of the army here is about five shillings per mensem, with a ration of two pounds of rice per diem.
In the evening, the number of boats congregated on the lake was marvellous. All were perfectly crammed with Cashmerian pleasure-seekers; but the turbaned faithful, in spite of the pressure, in no way lost their dignity, but with pipes and coffee enjoyed themselves in apparently entire unconsciousness of there being a soul on the lake beside themselves. The most wonderful sight, however, was the immense crowd of many-coloured turbans congregated on shore, witnessing the departure of the Cashmerian Guards; and as they thronged the green slopes in thousands, they gave one quite the idea of a mass of very violent-coloured flowers blooming together in a garden. On our way home we had great jostling, and even fighting, in order to maintain our position among the crowds of boats, the result of which was that our crew managed to break two paddles in upholding the dignity and respectability of their masters. The Maharajah himself, however, gave us the go-by in great style, in a long quaint boat, propelled by thirty-six boatmen, and built with a broad seat towards the bows, in shape like the overgrown body of a gig in indifferent circumstances, on which his Highness reclined. By his side was the little prince, in glorious apparel, while half a dozen of his court, arrayed in spotless white, appeared like so many snow-drifts lying at his feet.
JULY 7. — Made our arrangements to-day for a trip by water to the Wuler Lake, and spent the afternoon in inspecting the jeweller's and other shops in the city. The native workmen appear to engrave cleverly both on stone and metal, and some of their performances would bear comparison with any European workmanship of a similar kind. They also work in filagree silver, charging about sixpence in every two shillings' worth of silver for their labour. About nine P.M. we took to our boats; F. and I occupying one together, in which we stowed bedding, dressing-things, &c. while the cooking apparatus and servants occupied the other. Passed the night very comfortably, and found the situation most conducive to sleep, as we glided gently along with the stream.
JULY 8. — Awoke to find an innumerable swarm of mosquitoes buzzing about our habitation, and apparently endeavouring to carry it off bodily. Letting down, however, the muslin curtains, which the foreknowledge of the faithful Q.M.G. had provided us with, we succeeded in puzzling the enemy for the time being. About eight o'clock, the fleet came to an anchor at a luxuriant little island at the entrance of the great lake; to all appearance, however, it might have been situated in a meadow, for we had to force our way to it through a perfect plain of green water-plants, whose slimy verdure covered the face of the lake for miles around. It was wooded by mulberry trees, very prettily entwined with wild vines, and in the midst were the remains of an old Musjid, in which we discovered a slab of black marble, covered with a beautifully carved inscription in Arabic, and appearing as if it had not always held the ignoble position which it now occupied. Scattered about the island, also, were many scraps of columns and carved stones, which gave evidence of having belonged to some ancient temple or palace. While thus surveying our island, we were pestered to death by swarms of prodigious mosquitoes, for which the Wuler Lake is justly celebrated, and during breakfast the eating was quite as much on their side as ours; so that we were glad to weigh anchor, and with our curtains tightly tucked in around us, we floated away, in lazy enjoyment of climate and scenery, towards the centre of the lake. As we cleared the margin of the water-plants, we found ourselves on a glassy surface, extending away towards the west as far as the eye could see, and bordered on all sides by gorgeous mountains and ranges of snow. Around the edges of the lake a sunny mirage was playing tricks with the cattle and the objects on the banks, and as we glided lazily on with the stream, and the splashing paddles, and even the foiled mosquitoes, made music about us, we began to enter more into the spirit of our situation, and to appreciate the peculiar beauties of the "sunny lake of cool Cashmere," with the DOLCE FAR NIENTE existence which of right belongs to it. About one o'clock we reached Sompoor, at the Baramoula extremity of the lake, and as it came on to blow a little, it was not too soon: our boats were totally unadapted for anything rougher than a mill-pond, and in the ripple excited by the small puffs of wind, I had the misfortune to ship what was, under the circumstances, a heavy sea, and so sacrificed the prospects of a dry lodging for the night. Sompoor we found a picturesque but dirty village, with promise of good fishing, in the river below it. We unfortunately had no tackle, but the boatmen succeeded in catching five or six good fish with a hook baited with a mulberry only : a very favourite article of consumption, apparently, among the Cashmerian little fishes.
Dropping down the river, we dined on the bank among the mulberry trees, and I afterwards essayed to take a sketch of the village; such a firm and determined body of mosquitoes, however, immediately fell upon me, that, after a short but unsuccessful combat, I was fairly put to flight, and Sompoor remained undrawn. We passed the night above the town, ready for an early start in the morning.
JULY 9. — Left our moorings before sunrise, and halted about eight A.M. at a little island stacked with elephant-grass, where, after as good a swim as the tangled weeds would permit, we breakfasted pleasantly under the trees.
From this point we adopted a new mode of progression, the boatmen towing us from the bank; and the motion was a great improvement on the paddling system, except that it had a tendency to set one to sleep altogether. Reached Sirinugger, and our camp again, at four P.M.
JULY 10. — Paid Saifula Baba, the shawl merchant, a visit to-day, in order to get a bill of exchange on Umritsur cashed. Found him just going out to Mosque, in his snow-white robe and turban, cleanly-shaved pate, and golden slippers. Not having any money, he promised us a hundred rupees of the Maharajah's coinage to go on with. These nominal rupees are each value 10 annas, or 1S. 3D., the most chipped and mutilated objects imaginable. On one face of the coin are the letters I.H.S. stamped, a strange enough device for a heathen or any other mint to have adopted. While floating about the Eastern Venice, we discovered a number of finely-cut old blocks of stone in the built-up wall which bounded the river; and on inspecting the place, we came upon an ancient Mussulman cemetery and ruined Musjid, in which there were some very antique-looking carvings, which apparently had commenced life elsewhere than on Mussulman ground. The graveyard, however, was itself extremely old, although many of the turbaned and lettered tombstones of the faithful were in perfect preservation. All began with the "La Ulah ila Ullah," or "B'ism Ullah," with which everything connected with a Mussulman does commence, either in life or death.
All through the city one can trace the remains of some much more ancient structure in the huge blocks of carved stone which are scattered about among their more plebeian brethren, and serve to form with them, in humble forgetfulness of past grandeur, the foundations of the lofty rattletrap but picturesque wooden structures which line both sides of the river and form the city of Cashmere in the year of grace 1860.
Some of these houses, as one looks into the narrow lanes leading to the river and sees them in profile, are apparently in the last stage of dissolution, leaning out of the perpendicular and overtopping their lower stories and foundations in a way that would put even the leaning tower of Pisa to shame. One six-storied house, of long experience in this crooked world, had made the most wonderful efforts to redeem his character and to recover his equilibrium by leaning the contrary way aloft from what he did below. Poor fellow! he had been but badly conducted in his youth, and was nobly endeavouring to correct his ways in a mossy and dilapidated old age. The tracery of much of the wood-work carvings, and particularly of the windows, varies greatly, and in some places is so minute that it requires close inspection to find out the design. Of these the Zenana windows of the Maharajah's palace are about the finest specimens; but as there is no way of approaching them closely, it is impossible to make out their details.
JULY 11. — Started this evening by water for Islamabad, the ancient capital of Cashmere.
We made a slight change in our arrangements, rather for the better, by hiring a large boat for ourselves and handing our own over to the servants and culinary department in general.
JULY 12. — Found ourselves not very far on our road on awakening this morning, the night having been very dark, the current strong against us, and the sailors lazy.
Another cause of delay also, if these were insufficient, was, that the proprietor of the boat dropped his turban overboard, with two rupees in the folds of it, and the old lady his spouse had stopped the fleet for at least an hour to cry over the misfortune. Before breakfast we had a swim, and found ourselves only just able to make way against the stream. Breakfasted on the river bank, under the trees, and surrounded by rocky snow-capped mountains. Reading, scribbling, and eating apricots brought us to about an hour before sunset, when F. and I landed and went ahead to pick out a spot for a dining-room for ourselves. In the search, we passed through orchards and gardens innumerable, and finally decided upon a grove of magnificent sycamores on the river bank, where we laid out our table just as the sun went down. Within view was a picturesque old wooden bridge, on the mossy tree-formed piles of which the bushes were growing, as if quite at home, and hanging gracefully over the flowing river.
JULY 13. — Found ourselves at sunrise at the end of our boat journey, bathed in the river, and started for Islamabad, about half a kos off.
On the bank we found three other travellers encamped, and leaving them fast asleep, we pushed ahead and took possession of the baraduree. This we found a charming little place in a garden, full of ponds of sacred fish, with old carved stones scattered about, belonging to the Hindoo mythology. Through one corner of an upper tank a stream of crystal water flowed in from the mountain which rose perpendicularly behind it — the water welling up from below in a constant and abundant stream. Round this corner were some most grotesque stones; and here the sacred fish were assembled in such shoals as to jostle each other almost out of the water; but whether they were attracted by the fresh supply of water or the sacred images covered as they were with votive offerings of milk and rice, flowers, &c., the fish or the Brahmins alone can tell.
Tradition states that an infidel Christian officer once killed three of these fish, and having eaten one of them, died shortly after. Putting their sanctity out of the question, however, the little creatures are so tame and so numerous that few people would be inclined either to kill or to eat them. While feeding them with bread, I could have caught any number with my hand; and holding a piece of tough crust under water, it was amusing to feel them tugging and hauling at it, making occasional snaps at one's fingers in their efforts. They were generally about half a pound in weight.
Our baraduree was built of wood, in the usual style, with latticed windows of various designs, and having one room overhanging the stream which ran through the centre of the house from the sacred tanks. Directly below the place we occupied was a little waterfall, which conversed pleasantly day and night; and by taking-up a loose plank in the floor we could see as well as hear it. Learning that there were some ruins in the neighbourhood, supposed to have existed from before the birth of our Saviour, we started in the afternoon for a place called Bowun, or more popularly Mutton, about two and a half kos off.
The sun to-day we found very hot in this same valley of coolness, its rays coming down on the backs of our heads in a very searching and inquisitive manner. Along the entire path there were running streams in every direction: and what with these and the magnificent sycamores and walnut-trees which shaded us as we walked, our opinions of the beauty of the country got a considerable rise. The path from the Peer Punjal Pass by which we entered appears to be the worst point of view from which to see the valley. From either the Peshawur or Murree roads the effect is much finer; and from the north-east, from which direction it is perhaps seldomer seen than any other, it looks greener and more beautiful than from either of the other points.
At Mutton we found our three lazy friends of the morning, encamped under the trees reading green railway-novels, and evidently very much puzzled how to kill time. Beyond a tank teeming with sacred fishes, there appeared nothing whatever to be seen here. Taking warning from this, we thought it not worth while proceeding to Bamazoo, where we were told there were caves; but, treating the fishes to a small coin's worth of Indian maize, we retraced our steps and diverged about a kos off the Islamabad road to Pandau. Here we were rewarded by coming suddenly upon a magnificent old Cyclopeian ruin of grey stone, bearing, from a little distance, the appearance rather of an ancient Christian Church — such as may be seen occasionally in Ireland — than of a heathen place of worship. On entering, we found a number of ancient carvings on the massive stone walls, but they were much worn, and the designs to us were unintelligible. Some of them were like the Hindoo divinities, while others were more like Christian devices, such as cherubims, &c. Altogether, it puzzled us completely as to its origin; but there was no doubt whatever as to its having existed from an extremely ancient date; and from its general style, as well as the absence of any similitude to any other place of heathen worship we have met, we set it down in our own minds as most probably a temple to the Sun. Most of the figures, as far as their worn state would allow one to judge, appeared to be female; and there was an entire absence of any symbol at all resembling a cross. Many of the huge pillars had been eaten away as if they were of wood, by the combined effects of wind and weather; but hands had also been at work, as pieces of the decorations and figures appeared scattered about in every direction.
Passing through the town of Islamabad on our return, we went into some of the houses to see the people at work at the loom-made shawls. Very hard-working and intricate business it seemed to be, and very hard and MANCHESTERY the production looked to my eye, far inferior to the hand-made, shawl, though not generally considered so.
I tried to negotiate a shawl with the overseer, but he assured me that the pieces were all made separately, and were sent in to the merchant at Sirinugger to be put together, and that he in fact had nothing whatever to do with the sale of them.
In the evening we dined at a fashionably late hour, and were lulled to sleep by the simple music of our domesticated waterfall.
JULY 14. — Started at daybreak for Atchabull, three and a half kos off towards the north-east. The baraduree we found situated in the middle of a large reservoir, in a beautiful but half-ruined garden; and here, the commissariat being unusually late in arriving, we took the edge off our appetites with a quantity of small apricots, red plums, cherries, &c.
While exploring the gardens, we found, among other remains of grandeur, a Humaam, or hot-bath room, which was in very good preservation, and had probably in its day been honoured by the fair presence of Noor Jehan, with whom Atchabull was a favourite resort, and who has been, at one time or another, over all these gardens, during her lord's visit to the valley.
About thirty yards from the house, at the base of an almost perpendicular hill, were the great sources of interest which the place possesses — viz., a number of springs of ice-cold water, bubbling up to a height of two or three feet above the surrounding water level, and forming three separate rivers: one in the centre which expanded round our house, and one on either side. Around were fruit-trees of all sorts and kinds, and from every quarter came the gurgling sound of rushing water mingled with the singing of innumerable birds. Here sweetly indeed do the "founts of the valley fall;" and their number and beauty, as well as the purity of the clear and crystal streams which they pour over the length and breadth of the land, it is which forms one of its chief and pleasantest features, and has, no doubt, mainly contributed to its reputation as a terrestrial paradise. To the abundance of these streams the inhabitants are indebted for the crops of waving rice which spread their delicately-green carpetting over the entire valley; the purity of the waters give to the silks the brightness of their dyes and to their shawls their fame; and from its virtues also the love-lighted eyes are supposed to derive their far-famed lustre. No wonder, therefore, that to the Hindoo at least, "Cashmere is all holy land." From his sun-burnt plains and his home by the muddy banks of his sacred Ganges, he can form but a small conception of these cooling streams and shady pleasures. Should he happen to read the glowing descriptions of Lalla Rookh, and be perhaps led to reflect that —
"If woman can make the worst wilderness dear, What a heaven she must make of Cashmere!"
He no doubt ejaculates "Wa, wa!" in admiration of the poetry of the West, and thinks complacently of the partner of his joys as all his fancy painted her. His highest flights of imagination, however, probably fail to transplant him very far beyond the actual wilderness which bounds his mortal vision, while Pudmawutee and Oonmadinee, as here depicted by his own artistic skill, present, in all their loveliness of form and feature, his best conceptions of ideal worth and beauty. No wonder, therefore, that the reality of
"Those roses, the brightest that earth ever gave, Those grottoes and gardens and fountains so clear!"
and above all of —
"Those love-lighted eyes that hang over their wave,"
should shed its influence largely on his imagination, and that, in contrast to his own dry and dusty native plains, Cashmere should well be called the Hindoo's Paradise.
JULY 15. — Marched at dawn for Vernagh, a distance of eight kos, rather over a Sabbath-day's journey. Here we had to wait a considerable time for our breakfast, the cook being an indifferent pedestrian and the day a very hot one. The baradurree was curiously built, close to an octagon tank, the water from which ran at a great pace through an arch in the middle of the house. The tank was supplied with water in great volume, but from no apparent source, and was filled with fine fish, all sacred, and as fat as butter, from the plentiful support they receive from the devout among the Hindoos, not to mention the unbelieving travellers, who also supply them for amusement. The tank itself, the natives informed us, was bottomless, and it really appeared to be so; for from the windows of the baradurree, some fifty feet over the water, we could see the sides stretching back as they descended, and losing themselves in the clear water, which looked, from the intensity of its blue, both deep and treacherous to an unlimited extent. The water, too, was so intensely, icily cold, that an attempt to swim across it would have been a dangerous undertaking, and neither F. nor I could summon courage to jump in. We, however, bathed in the stream which ran out of the inexhaustible reservoir, and its effect we found very similar to that of hot water, so that a little of it went a very Iong way with us. As for the fish, they swarmed in such numbers that they jostled each other fairly out of the water in a dense living mass, while striving for grains of rice and bread.
This also was a favourite resort of Jehangeer and Noor Jehan; and I found an inscription in the Persian character which, in a sentence according to Eastern custom, fixed the date of the erection of the building attached to the tank as A.H. 1029, or, about A.D. 1612. The inscription runs thus: —
"The king of seven climes, the spreader of justice, Abdool, Muzuffer, Noor-ul-deen Jehangeer Badshah, son of Akbar, conqueror of kings, on the day of the 11th year of his reign paid a visit to this fountain of favour, and by his order this building has been completed. By means of Jehangeer Shah, son of Akbar Shah, this building has raised its head to the heavens."
"The 'Inventor of Wisdom' has fixed its date in this line, viz : — 'Aqsirabad o Chushma Wurnak.' "
The fountain or reservoir, and the canal, &c. seem to have been the work of Shah Jehan, Noor Jehan's son, or were probably remodelled in his reign. The inscription referring to them runs also in the Persian character on a slab of copper:
"Hyan, by order of Shah Jahan, King, thanks be to God, built this fountain and canal. From these have the country of Cashmere become renowned, and the fountains aye as the fountains of Paradise."
"The poet Survashi Ghaib has written the date in this sentence, viz: — 'From the waters of Paradise have these fountains flowed.' "
JULY 16. — On the road again at daybreak, with the intention of going to a place called Kukunath, where there were more springs, and which, from information obtained from the sepoy who accompanied us, was on our road to Islamabad. However, like most information relative to either direction or to distance in this country, it turned out to be wrong, and we accordingly altered our course and made for our old quarters. Breakfasted under a huge walnut-tree, at a village about six kos off, and reached Islamabad about one P.M., after a very hot tramp of ten kos, through groves of sycamore and walnuts, and hundreds and hundreds of acres of rice-fields, immersed in water, and tenanted by whole armies of croaking frogs. The people were principally employed in weeding their rice-crops, standing up to their knees in mud and water, and grubbing about, with their heads in a position admirably adapted to give anybody but a native, apoplexy in such a hot sun.
JULY 17. — In the middle of the night we were awoke by a tremendous uproar in our wooden habitation, as if some one was crashing about the boards and panels with a big stick; immediately afterwards something jumped upon my bed, and with a whisk and a rush, clattered through the room to F.'s side, over the table, and back again to my quarter. Half asleep and half awake, I hit out energetically, without encountering anything of our uninvited guest; and the faithful Rajoo coming in with a light, I found F. brandishing a stick valiantly in the air, everything knocked about the room; an earthenware vessel of milk spilt upon the floor, a tumbler broken, and a plate of biscuits on the table with marks of teeth in them. This latter discovery was quite a relief to my mind, for the visitation had a most diabolic savour about it, and we were just beginning to fancy that there was a slight smell of sulphur. However, the milk and the biscuits being such innocent food, we were enabled to fancy that the intruder might have been no worse than a wild cat, which had frightened itself by breaking, our tumbler, and had eventually jumped through the window and made its escape. This interpretation, however satisfactory to ourselves, was apparently not so to the Q.M.G., and to his dying day he will probably remain rather doubtful of the kind of company we kept that night.
At sunrise I paid another visit to the ruins of Pandau, or Martund, and sketched it from the north-east; a view which took in the only columns of any perfection that remained standing.
Islamabad being, as its name implies, the "abode of Mahomedanism," I had set the kotwal to work to procure me a good copy of the Koran.
On returning, however, I found that he had collected together a bundle of the common editions printed in the Arabic alone, without interlineations. He assured me, however, that they were rare and valuable specimens; and I was amused by the old gentleman reading out a passage in a sonorous voice, following each word with his finger, and astonishing the bystanders by the display of his erudition; but at the same time holding the precious volume upside down, and thus failing in impressing at least one of his audience. In the evening we started again for Sirinugger.
JULY 18. — Found ourselves, according to sailing directions, at anchor this morning, or in other words, tied to an upright stick, at Wentipore, on the left bank of the river, where there were some old ruins to be seen.
The architecture we found very similar to the Pandau temple. One column, however, was left standing, which was more perfect than any we had seen before.
The ruins consisted of a large quadrangle, with cloisters all round, and the remains of a temple in the centre; both these were completely decayed, but the enormous stones piled together in grand confusion showed that the buildings had been of considerable extent. The corner stones here alone pointed out the position of the cloisters, which at Pandau had been in very fair preservation.
About fifty yards from the entrance there were three columns of different form, sunk in the ground, their capitals just reaching a little below the surface, and connected by trefoil arches, all in pretty good preservation.
A few hundred yards down the river we found another large ruin, but in a more dilapidated state than either of the others. In both, the designs carved in the huge stones were something similar in pattern — viz. a female figure, with what appeared to be a long strip of drapery passing round either arm and descending to the ancles. It was impossible to decipher the exact device, but the breast and head, in most instances, were plainly distinguishable.
About three kos from Sirinugger, we stopped at another very extensive site of Cyclopeian ruins, at a place called Pandreton. Here we found the most perfect building of any we had met; and for a considerable distance around were traces of what must have been, in ages past, a city of some extent.
Among other interesting remains, there was the base of a colossal figure standing in the midst of a field of cut corn. Only from the knees down remained, but this block alone was over seven feet high; the toes were mutilated a good deal, but the legs were in wonderful preservation. There was also, about half a, mile off, an enormous base of a column, resting on its side, at the summit of a little eminence, where a, considerable amount of mechanical power must have been required to place it. Its diameter was about six feet; and at some distance we found the remainder of the column, split into three pieces. It was about twelve feet long, the lower part polygon, the upper round, and the top a cone similar in form to the stones dedicated to Mahadeo in the temples of the Hindoos. The building which alone remained in at all a perfect state was situated in a sort of pond or tank of slimy green, and was quite inaccessible without a boat. Sending on the cooking apparatus and servants, I remained with the smaller boat; and with a rug and a supply of biscuits, set to work to sketch the ruins. The operation, however, was not performed without very great difficulty. Innumerable mosquitoes made the spot their home, and at critical moments they persisted in settling themselves in the most uncomfortable positions. The ants, too, took a fancy to my paint-box, and even endeavoured to carry off some of the colours; so that between the two I was soon fairly put to flight, and obliged to evacuate the territory.
On consulting my Hindoo authority, Rajoo, on the subject of Cyclopeian ruins, he tells me that they were built, not by man but by "the gods," in the Sut Jug, or golden age, an epoch which existed no less than 2,165,000 years ago, or thereabouts!
This view of the matter increases the interest of the ruins immensely, besides being very complimentary to the style of building practised by "the gods" in that age.
The Hindoo ages are four, and we are believed to be at present in the last of the four, of which 5,000 years have been already accomplished. The names and duration are as follows, viz : — Sut Jug, 1,728,000 years; Treth Jug, 1,296,000 years; Duapur Jug, 864,000 years; and Kul Jug. 432,000 years. This makes the present age of the world to be about 3,893,000 years!
About five P. M. I reached Sirinugger, and found the advanced guard in possession of one of the bungalows. Spent the night in a succession of skirmishes with innumerable fleas, who appeared to have been out of society for a considerable time previous to our arrival. Up to this moment I fancied that I knew something of the natural history of the race, having studied them and fought with them and slept with them in their happiest hunting grounds. Greek fleas, Albanian fleas, Tartar fleas, Russian fleas, I had combated on their own soil, but never before was I put to such utter confusion. All night long the enemy poured in upon me, and several times during the action was I forced to leave the field and recruit my shattered forces outside in the moonlight. As day dawned, however, I fell upon the foe at a certain advantage, and managed at last to get a few hours of sleep.
JULY 19. — Made an expedition to the small lake to see a building which we were informed was built by the Puree, or fairies — the Peri of poetical licence.
After a sharp struggle up a steep hill, under a hot sun, we reached the building; but, to all appearance, the fairies had less to do with the edifice than a race of very indifferent engineers. It was evidently the remains of a hill fort, built of stones and mortar, and with nothing wonderful in its construction whatever. It was tenanted by buffaloes and a few natives; and having seen specimens of both before, we took our departure again rather in a bad humour with both the fairies and their partisans.
In the plain below we found the remains of Cyclopeian ruins in an enormous block of stone, part of a column.
JULY 22. — Started this evening in the direction of the water-lake in further search of ancient ruins.
JULY 23. — Found ourselves at daybreak among the mosquitoes in a little stream about two kos from Patrun. After breakfasting, we started for the vicinity of the ruins. As usual, in the villages we passed through, we found traces of cut stone doing duty as washing-stones, or corners of walls, &c; and at Patrun we found rather a fine old ruined temple, something similar in style to those towards Islamabad. It was surrounded at some distance by trees, which had tended apparently to preserve the building, for the stone carvings were clearer and less decayed by time than any others we had seen. Being caught here in a heavy rain, we had a scamper for our boats, and after a wet journey, reached Sirinugger about eight P.M.
JULY 26. — Finding ourselves rather tired of Sirinugger, and with no other books than Hindostanee to beguile the time, we resolved upon an expedition across the mountains into the regions of Little Thibet. Began preparations by hiring twelve coolies, at thirteen shillings each per mensem, and a mate or head man to look after them. Increased our stock of ducks to twelve, and otherwise added to our necessary stores, and completed the arrangements for a move.
To-day a number of arrivals and departures took place, and the whole settlement was in a state of excitement and confusion. Boatmen swarmed about in rival application for employment, while all the rascals in the place seemed to have assembled together for the occasion: those who had bills, wanting to get them paid; and those who were either lucky or unfortunate enough to have none, wanting to open them as soon as possible with the new comers. What with these and pistol practice and rifle shooting from upper casements across the river, in order to expend spare ammunition, the European quarter was a very Babel all day long, and we were not sorry to escape the turmoil and get under weigh to new scenes as soon as possible.
About dusk we embarked in two large boats with Rajoo, the cook, and the bhistie, the other servants remaining behind, much to their delight, to take charge of spare baggage, &c. left in the bungalow. One of the Maharajah's army also accompanied us, a rough-and-ready-looking sepoy irregular, whose duty it was to ferret out supplies and coolies, &c. during our march, and at the same time, perhaps, to keep a watch over our own movements and desperate designs. Passed the night under gauze fortifications, the disappointed mosquitoes buzzing about outside in myriads, and striving hard to take a fond farewell of their much-loved foreign guests.
By strange sounds from the direction of my companion's quarters, as if of smacking of hands, &c., I was led to infer that they had partially succeeded in bidding him good-bye. I, however, luckily escaped without receiving even as much as a deputation from the enemy, and slept in happy unconsciousness of their vicinity.
JULY 27. — About six o'clock this morning we found ourselves at anchor under the mountains at the northern extremity of the lake, and at the mouth of a dashing river of ice-cold water, into which we lost no time in plunging. On mustering our forces after breakfast, we found that our possessions required fourteen coolies for their transport. Our own immediate effects took four, viz. bedding two, guns one, and clothes, &c. one; the kitchen required four more; tent one, charpoys one, servants' reserve supply of food one, brandy, one, plank for table and tent poles one, and last though not least, the twelve ducks took up the services of the fourteenth all to themselves. The rest of our train consisted of the faithful Rajoo, who came entirely at his own request to see a new country, the two servants, the sepoy, and the coolie's mate, who was to act as guide, carry small matters, and make himself generally useful. After a most affectionate parting with our boatmen, Messrs. Suttarah, Ramzan, Guffard, and Co., we started on our new travels at about ten A.M. under a broiling sun. After several halts under shady chestnuts, groves of mulberry, &c., and passing by a gentle ascent through a lovely country, we came to our first encamping ground, at Kungur, and pitched our tent under a chestnut grove, considerably hot and tired by our first march, after all the ease and comparative idleness we had of late been enjoying in the valley. Here we saw the first of the system of extortion which goes on among the government authorities and the people; for after the paymaster to the forces had settled with the seven coolies who were not in our permanent employ, not being able to take all as we had originally intended, they assembled round us, and complained most dolefully of the smallness of their pay. The sepoy, who appeared a most pugnacious customer, cuffed some of them, and made desperate flourishes at others with a big stick, and seemed altogether so anxious to prevent, as he said, the "cherishers of the poor," from being inconvenienced by the "scum of the earth," that we suspected something wrong, and on inquiring, ascertained, that out of the amount due to the seven, viz. one rupee five annas, or about two shillings and eightpence, the organ of government had actually stopped eight annas, or one shilling. The mistake we soon rectified, much to the delight of the "scum of the earth," — who had certainly earned their three annas, or fourpence halfpenny per man, by carrying our impedimenta eight kos under a hot sun, — and equally to the disgust of "the organ" who handed over the difference with a very bad grace indeed, and was rather out of tune for the rest of the day. Our hearts being expanded by this administration of justice, we proceeded to a further act of charity, and emancipated our twelve ducks from their basket, into a temporary pond constructed for them by the bhistie, where they dabbled about to their hearts' content, and soon forgot the sorrows of the road in a repast of meal and rice.
JULY 28. — Marched at six A.M., and after proceeding about a kos found that we were in for a regular wetting. Our path lay through a beautifully wooded ravine with precipitous mountain peaks appearing ahead in every direction: these, however, were soon shrouded in impenetrable mist, which gradually gathered in about us, and proceeded to inspect us in a most searching and uncomfortable way.
The road however, though beautiful, was by no means a good one, and it was in many places difficult work to keep one's feet in the wet slush, over wooden bridges, or along the side of a dashing torrent which kept us company, and which seemed to be labouring just now under an unusual degree of temporary excitement, in consequence of having had too much to drink. We had arranged to breakfast on the road, but the rain made us push on, and on reaching the vicinity of our halting-place, we stopped to inspect the condition of our garments, and to satisfy ourselves as to our future prospects in the matter of dry changes of raiment. On opening our small reserve, of which the mate had charge, I found that sad havoc had been made in the precious articles we had been so hopefully depending upon for comfort and consolation at the end of our soaking march. The last efforts of our generally rather useless dhobie had been brought to bear upon our present equipment. The massive brass smoothing-iron and its owner had alike done their best to start us creditably in life with the only clean linen we were likely to behold for many weeks, and now nothing remained of the first instalment of these spotless results, but a wringing mass of wet and dirty linen. The sun, however, coming out opportunely to our assistance, we made the best of our misfortune by spreading out our small wardrobe to the greatest advantage in its rays. Our guide, who by the way appeared to know nothing whatever about the path, proceeded to unroll his turban, and divesting himself of his other garments, took to waving his entire drapery to and fro in the breeze, with a view to getting rid of the superfluous moisture. Leaving him to this little amusement, in which he looked like a forlorn and shipwrecked mariner making signals of distress, I repaired to a torrent close by, and after a satisfactory bathe in the cold snow water, and very nearly losing the whole of my personal property in the rushing stream, donned the few dry articles I was possessed of, and proceeded to pick out our camping ground. We fixed it among the scattered cottages of the little village of Gundisursing, and while waiting for the main body, stayed our appetites with the few apricots we managed to discover on the already rather closely picked trees.
Got breakfast at two P.M. just as the rain began to come down upon us again. The supplies procurable here were flour, milk, fowls, and eggs; butter, however, was not forthcoming.
JULY 29. — Marched early after enjoying a drier night than I had anticipated from the look of the evening and the fine-drawn condition of our tent.
Our road continued up a beautifully wooded and watered valley, and reaching a gorge in the mountains, about five kos from our start, we halted at a log hut a little way beyond a wooden settlement dignified by the name of Gugenigiera.
Here we had a bathe in the rushing snow torrent, a curious combination of pain and pleasure, but the latter considerably predominating, particularly when it was all over.
After breakfast we sent the coolies on again, intending to halt three kos off; however, on reaching the ground, they unanimously requested to be allowed to go on to the village of Soonamurg, the halting-place shown on our route. It was altogether considerably over a Sabbath-day's journey, being nine kos of a bad mountain-path; but as no supplies whatever were procurable short of it, we held on our course. After leaving our halt, the path led us close to the torrent's edge, and the gorge narrowing very much, we were completely towered over in our march by gigantic peaks of rock, blocks of which had come down from their high estate at some remote period of their existence, and now occupied equally prominent though humbler positions in the torrent's bed below. Occasionally they presented themselves in our actual path, and at one place we found that our course was blocked completely, the inaccessible mountain side descending precipitously to the torrent, and leaving us no option but to take to the water, roaring and boiling as it was. Our guide went first with great deliberation and groping his way with a stick, and after an ineffectual attempt to scale the rock above, F. and I also unwillingly followed his example. The water was piercingly cold as it swept against us, and the pain was so great that we were glad to blunder over as quickly as possible, without taking very much trouble about picking our steps. After passing this in safety we came suddenly upon a band of hill-men with their loads, from Thibet; they were the first natives we had encountered, and wild and weird-looking savages they appeared as they congregated about us, gibbering to each other in their astonishment at our sudden appearance. With them, was a strange-looking bullock, with long black mane and tail, and hind quarters like a horse, which they apparently used for carrying their merchandize. To-day we passed the first snow since leaving the valley, although in the distance there was plenty of it to be seen.
Nothing could exceed the beauty of the view as we approached our intended halting-place. Having crossed the torrent by a wooden bridge, the mountains we had been winding through showed out in all their grandeur, while above us, inaccesible peaks, with sharp and fanciful projections, nestled their mighty heads among the fleecy clouds, which hung about after the recent rains. In advance again, other mountain ranges rose behind each other, clothed on their southern faces with delicate grass up to the point where the snow lay lightly on their rocky top-knots and hid itself among the clouds. From the bridge, a rustic structure of entire pine-trees, we passed through an upper valley carpeted with the brightest soft green pasturage, until we reached the usual little cluster of dilapidated wooden tenements which constitute a village in these mountains. This was Soonamurg, and crossing another bridge, formed of two single giant pines, we came to a halt and pitched our camp close to a huge bank of snow on the river's brink. What with our halt, and the badness of the path, we did not arrive until five P.M., and as the sun set, the spray from our snowy neighbour began to wrap its chilling influence about us, and we were glad enough to invest ourselves in some thick cashmere wraps of native manufacture, which we had hitherto considered merely as standbyes in case of extraordinary cold on mountain tops.
According to general report, however, we only reach THE FOOT OF THE MOUNTAINS to-morrow. This sounds well, considering that we have been ascending steadily for three days, and have left huge avalanches of snow beneath us, not to mention the mountains which we traversed on the Peer Punjal side before even entering the Valley of Cashmere at all.
At Soonamurg, where we had been warned that there were no supplies, we found large herds of sheep and goats. The, people, however, were not at all inclined to sell them, and we had some trouble in getting hold of a couple of fine fat sheep from them, for which we paid, what was here considered a high price, viz. two rupees, or four shillings each. We also enlisted the temporary services of two hairy, horny goats, which are to accompany us for the next three marches as portable dairies, no supplies being procurable on the road. Butter and milk are both forthcoming here in abundance, and occasionally rice is to be got. Penetrated with the freshness of the mountain air and the freedom of our vagabond life, we came unanimously to the conclusion that we had made a wise exchange from the FAR NIENTE DOLCES of Sirinugger, and passed a vote of general confidence in the expedition.
JULY 30. — The wind this morning blew bitterly cold over the snow and into our tent, rendering the operation of turning out rather more unpopular than usual.
Got off, however, about six, and had a fine bracing march over a grassy valley among the mountains. After about four kos, the sun began again to assert his supremacy, and, in conjunction with the cold of the morning, rather took liberties with our faces and hands. About half-way we came upon the merry ring of axes among the trees, and found a party of natives constructing a log-house for the benefit of travellers towards Ladak. Pitched our camp in a wild spot at the foot of the mountains, bathed in the snow water, and had a sheep killed for breakfast.
One of the live stock died this morning: an unfortunate hen had been sat upon by the ducks, and the result was asphyxia, and consignment to the torrent.
JULY 31. — Finished up the month by a difficult march of four and twenty miles, encamping at Pandras about eight P.M. and no longer at the FOOT of the mountains. Immediately on leaving our halting-place we commenced the ascent of a steep glacier, and for upwards of four miles our path lay entirely over the snow: so dense and accumulated was it, that even when the sun came out and burned fiercely into our faces and hands, there was no impression whatever made on its icy surface.
The glacier was surrounded on all sides by peaks of perpetual snow, while parts of it were of such ancient date that, ingrained as it was with bits of stick and stones &c., it bore quite the appearance of rock. The path was in some places so indistinct, that on one occasion I found myself far ahead of the rest of the party, and approximating to the clouds instead of to the direction of Ladak. About five kos on our journey we halted to let the kitchen come up, and had our breakfast on the snow in the company of a select party of marmots. The little creatures appeared to live in great peace and seclusion here, for they let us up, in their ignorance of fire-arms, to within thirty yards of them before scuttling into their habitations. They were all dressed in blackish brown suits of long thick fur, and considering that they live in snow for at least eight months out of twelve, they appeared not the least too warmly clothed. As we went by they used to come out and sit up on their hind legs, with their fore paws hanging helplessly over their paunches, while, with a shrill discordant cry, they bid us good-morning and then hurried back to their houses again. Not having our rifles handy they escaped scot free, otherwise we might have borrowed a coat from one of them as a reminiscence of the country. After another kos or two we began to get clear of the glacier; but occasionally we came upon enormous masses of snow jammed up on either side of the torrent, the action of the water having worn away the centre. The path gradually led us through rocky passes, over torrents spanned by snow among the magnificent mountain range; and although the march was, rather long for a hill country, we found no fault with it until about the last three kos, when it was getting late in the day, and although fast becoming hungry, we saw no immediate prospect of getting anything to eat.
The last few kos we find invariably longer than their fellows; one kos by DESCRIPTION, at this stage of the proceedings, being generally equal to two in reality. Asking a native, how far we are from a halting-place, is invariably answered in one of two ways: either THOREE DOOR, not very far, or NUZDEEK, close. THOREE DOOR means generally about four miles, while NUZDEEK may be translated five at least. A kos too, which ought to be from one and a half to two miles, means here anything between one mile and seven. Delaying as much as possible, to let our servants up, we reached Pandras at last, and found all the inhabitants turned out to see our arrival; they were dressed in long woollen coats and sheepskins, and looked something between Russians and Tartars, with a strong flavour of the Esquimaux, as depicted by Polar voyagers. As the sun went down it became bitterly cold, and we found the natives even, shuddering under the influences of the snowy wind, which, setting in from the mountains, appeared to blow from all points of the compass at one and the same time. What the village of Pandras must be in mid-winter it is hard to imagine, so covered with snow as the mountains around it are even in August, and so bleak and so barren the valley in which it is situated.
In spite of the cold, we astonished the entire swaddled population by taking off our clothes, and bathing in a little crystal stream close by: two operations, in all probability, which they themselves had never perpetrated within the memory of the oldest inhabitant, This feat accomplished, we were much astonished by the arrival of a RARA AVIS, in the shape of a British traveller, from the direction of Ladak. He turned out to be an officer of the Government survey, now being carried on in the mountains, and we took the opportunity of deriving from him all the information we could, relative to the prospect before us. He strongly recommended us to go to the monastery of Hemis, beyond Ladak, and also to the Lakes, but the latter would appear to be beyond the limits of our time. The only natives we had met during our unusually long march to-day, were four hairy-looking savages from the interior, from whom, after much difficulty, I succeeded in purchasing an aboriginal tobacco-pouch, flint, and steel, all combined in one, paying for the same about three times its actual and local value, viz. two rupees. They were dressed in long woollen coats, with thick bands of stuff rolled round their waists; and all four had bunches of yellow flowers stuck in their caps, and pipes, knives, tobacco-pouches, &c. hung round their girdles. Their shoes were of the Esquimaux pattern, the soles sheepskin, coming up all round the front of the foot, where they were joined by woollen continuations — shoes, socks, and leggings, being thus conveniently amalgamated into one article of apparel.
AUGUST 1. — On the road a little later than usual, all hands being tired after yesterday's exertions. The path to-day lay among huge boulders of rock, which had come down as specimens from the mountains above, and after a short march of five kos, we reached Dras, a little assemblage of flat-roofed houses, with a mud fort about half a mile from it, in the valley. This was built with four bastions and a ditch scarped with paving-stones, which surrounded it on all sides except one, where it was naturally defended by the torrent. On the road we passed a curious bridge, built entirely of rope manufactured from twigs of trees. The cables thus formed were swung across the torrent, from piles of loose stones, in a most scientific way, though not one calculated to inspire confidence in any traveller with weak nerves who might have to trust himself to its support. It appeared, nevertheless, a most serviceable structure, and was decidedly picturesque. At Dras we were able to get all supplies except fowls.
AUGUST 2. — Having a long and up-hill march before us, we were up and dressed by moonlight. Outside the village, we came upon two curious old stones, standing about six feet high, upright, and carved in the way we had already seen at the ruins of Pandau and elsewhere. These stones were of irregular form, and carved on three sides, and the designs, though much worn, were distinctly traceable. They represented, apparently, a male and female figure, standing about five feet high, and surrounded by three smaller figures each. Like all the other sculptured figures we had seen, they were innocent of clothes, with the exception of the rope, or very scant drapery, which ran across their ancles and up either side to the shoulders.
Leaving these, we passed through a wild and rugged valley among the mountains, cultivated in patches, and watered by numerous little sparkling crystal streams. At short intervals, there were little settlements of mud huts, built, Tartar fashion, one on top of another, and peopled by a few miserable-looking natives, who appeared, in their woollen rags, to be cold, even in the middle of this summer's day. The few travellers we met during our march were flat nosed, heavy-looking creatures, with Chinese skull-caps and pig-tails, and were employed in conveying salt to Cashmere, packed in bags of woven hair, and laden on cows and asses as weird and strange-looking as their owners. About five kos off, we called a halt for breakfast, and reached Tusgam about four P.M.
Here we found a few ARBOR VITAE, and other shrubs, in bad health, the first of the tree species we had encountered since ascending the glacier.
AUGUST 3. — Struck our camp at sunrise, and crossing the torrent, which still accompanied us, descended the Pass by a slight decline. During the day we passed through numerous gorges, studded with giant masses of rock, and bounded on all sides by rugged and inhospitable mountains. We only saw one village, and that some way off the road — Kurroo, the guide called it. Breakfasted under an overhanging rock on the mountain side, just where our path was, hemmed in by the torrent, and were disturbed during our repast by several volleys of stones which rattled down over us from above. They were set free by the melting of some large masses of snow, which, being covered with sticks and dirt, we had not noticed when we chose our breakfast parlour so close to their uncomfortable proximity. To-day we met more salt-carrying parties — uncouth-looking savages in pig-tails, speaking a language that not one of our party could understand. We also encountered an original-looking gold-washing association of five, who were wending their way towards the snow with their wooden implements. They were all also weighted with bags of grain, to keep them alive during their search. Their labour consists in sifting the fine sand which comes down in the snow-torrents, charged with minute particles of gold; and the proceeds, from the appearance of "the trade," would not seem to be very great. They say it amounts only to a few annas a day, but would probably not allow to the full amount for fear of being taxed.
At our breakfast-halt we saw the most primitive specimen of a smoking apparatus probably ever invented. It consisted of a dab of mud stuck in a hole of a tree, about five feet from the ground. Two small sticks, inserted in this from above and below and then withdrawn, had evidently served to form the smoke passage; while the bowl as evidently had been fashioned by the simple impression of a Thibetian thumb, the whole forming, for the use of needy travellers, as permanent and satisfactory a public pipe as could well have been devised. It had just been in requisition before we passed, for a small quantity of newly-burned tobacco lay in the bowl; and a fresh patch of clay on the mouthpiece had probably been added, either in the way of general repairs or by some extra-fastidious traveller, who preferred having a private mouthpiece of his own. After rather a severe march through rocky mountain gorges, we reached Chungun, a little oasis of about five acres of standing barley, with three or four flat-roofed houses dotted about it in the usual Tartar style of architecture. It also boasted four poplar-trees, standing in a stiff and reserved little row, evidently in proud consciousness of their family importance among such rugged, treeless, iron mountains.
It was altogether a refreshing little spot for a halt, after the savage scenery we had marched through; and pitching our camp in it, we were not long in introducing ourselves to the little brawling stream of clear cold water to which it owed its existence.
AUGUST 4. — Started this morning in a mountain mist. Just outside the village we passed the scene of the fall of an avalanche, which gave one some faint idea of the enormous forces occasionally at work among these mountains. It had taken a small village in its path, and over the place where it had stood we now took our way, among a perfect chaos of masses of rock, and uptorn earth, trees, &c. The whole ground was torn and rent, as by the eruption of volcanoes or the explosion of enormous magazines of powder. Passing this, our path continued to descend the gorge until about two kos from Chungun, when another torrent came down to join its forces to the one we were accompanying; and leaving our old companion to roar its way down to join the Indus, we proceeded up the valley in the society of our new friend. Passing a series of little villages nestled among the rugged rocks, we crossed the stream by a tree bridge and causeway, to the Fort of Kurgil, where, after a long consultation, we breakfasted. The differences of opinion between the guide and the rest of the natives as to the distance of a village ahead, where milk and supplies were forthcoming, were so wide, some saying three kos, others six, &c., that we finally determined upon getting some breakfast before deciding the true distance for ourselves. The village Hundas was another most perfect little oasis. It was only about five or six acres in extent, under the frowning mountain, and was terraced and planted in the neatest and most economical way imaginable. The fields were beautifully clean, and were quaintly adorned in many instances by huge blocks of rock from the mountain above, bigger considerably than the whole of the houses of the village put together. Leaving Kurgil, we made a sharp ascent, and crossed a plateau bounded by some extremely curious formations of rock and sandstone.
The mountains appeared to have been reared on end and cut with a knife, as if for the especial benefit of geologists in general, although the hues of their many-coloured strata were calculated to attract even the most ungeological mind by their brightness. Descending from this plateau, we came to a pass dotted with three or four little villages, wooded with poplars, and adorned with a few shrubs of different kinds. Here every available inch of ground which the grudging rocks bestowed was cultivated, although all around, the mud-built native huts were broken down and deserted, in such numbers as to give the idea of an Irish settlement whose inhabitants had transplanted themselves to America. At the last of these little villages, called Pushkoom, we pitched our camp, the retainers taking a fancy to the place from the promise it gave of abundant supplies.
AUGUST 5. — Made our first day's halt, and enjoyed it considerably — not the least of its advantages being the immunity it gave us from being torn out of bed at grey hours in the morning. The rest of the force also appreciated the day of rest, and made themselves comfortable after their fashion under our grove of trees.
In the afternoon I ascended the mountain opposite to reconnoitre and inspect the curious formation of strata, which formed the principal feature of the place.
The ascent I found at first to be over a soft crumbling small stone, resembling ashes, but of various colours, and in distinctly-marked strata. These were generally of pinkish red and grey, and from them in large masses, rose enormous blocks of concrete, in all manner of forms and shapes, some like towers and fortifications, and others standing out boldly by themselves, worn by the weather into holes and ridges. After a considerably difficult ascent, from the crumbling nature of the stones, I reached the summit of the mountain, and climbing a concrete monster which capped it, had a magnificent survey of the mountain ranges and country around. In every direction the eye rested on snowy summits, and the wind from them fell coolly and refreshingly after the toil of ascent under a hot sun.
Returning through the village, I found the natives hard at work collecting their crops of wheat and barley, and stowing them away, generally upon the flat tops of their houses. They seemed altogether a peaceful, primitive race; but, although their ground appears in first-rate order, they themselves are uncultivated and dirty in the extreme. The ladies, I am sorry to say, are even rather worse in this matter than the gentlemen. The female costume consists generally of robes of sheep and goat skins thrown across the shoulders; while a long tail of twisted worsted plaits, looking like a collection of old-fashioned bell-ropes, forms the chief decoration. This is attached to the back hair, and hangs down quite to the heels, where it terminates in a large tuft, with tassels and divers balls of worsted attached to it. On a hill overhanging the village were the remains of a mud fort, which had been pulled down by Gulab Singh in one of his excursions to Thibet, with a view to bringing the inhabitants to a proper sense of their position, and enforcing the payment of his tribute.
The number of battered and deserted huts about the village is accounted for by the erratic habits of the people, which induce them never to stay long in one set of houses, but to flit from one side of the valley and from one settlement to another as the fancy strikes them. That the large increase of the flea population among such a race, however, may have something to do with their restlessness, seems more than probable.
Except when impressed for government employ, they seldom leave the vicinity of their villages, and one old gentleman told me he had never been even as far as a place called Lotzum, which is only two kos off! The religion seems to be a mixture of Buddhism and Mahomedanism — the latter on the decrease as we get farther into the country.
The dress assimilates to the Chinese — pig-tails and little skull-caps being the order of the day. We obtained here good supplies of cow's milk, butter, &c., and among other things, some peas. These enabled us to celebrate our Sunday's dinner by a "duck and green peas," and never since the first invention of ducks could a similar luxury have been so thoroughly appreciated.
AUGUST 6. — Started early again, and marched five kos, through the little half-deserted settlement of Lotzum to the village of Shergol, where we halted for breakfast. Here we found ourselves fairly among the Buddhists, and saw an entirely new description of monuments connected with religion, from anything we had yet encountered. The most striking objects were a series of tomb-like buildings, without entrances, and adorned on all sides by the most hideous effigies, rudely executed in coloured mud.
Some of these were men, depicted in bright red on a yellow ground, with horrible staring countenances; others women, adorned with numberless necklaces and other ornaments; besides these, there were peacocks, griffins with human arms, deer, &c., and all in the most flaring colours and the very rudest designs.
In the perpendicular face of a rock beyond was a very curious monastery, or abode of the Lamas. It was built completely IN the rock, and was reached by a natural cavity on the face of the stone.
Jutting out from the upper part, balconies had been erected overhanging the precipice, and these were decorated with red copings, spotted with white. From the fact of only one of our party knowing the language, it was difficult to ascertain from the natives the history of this curious abode, but they gave us to understand that it was the home of their Lamas, or spiritual preceptors. Here we met another of the race of wandering Englishmen, who was wending his way back to the valley. He was returning from a shooting tour, was all alone, and appeared to have had very hard work indeed of it, if his face and hands and generally dilapidated appearance might taken as a criterion. Not being quite in such light marching order ourselves, we were able to ask him to breakfast, and from his ready acceptance and the entire justice he did to our offer, I don't think he could have had anything to eat for a week.
He appeared to be a thorough sportsman, and had bagged several head of large game, which he showed us. They were principally a kind of wild sheep with enormous heads and horns, each of his trophies being almost a coolie load in itself. Leaving Shergol, we entered a curious valley with rocks of concrete standing out like towers and fortifications, and on the summits of these again, airy-looking habitations with red streaks adorning them, and entered, as that at Shergol, by holes in the face of the rock. These were, or had been, the abodes of the Lamas; numbers of them now however, as well as the mud settlements at their feet, appeared in ruins, and gave no sign of habitation, beyond having about them a number of little flags stuck on long poles, which fluttered about in the breeze. According to the account of our interpreter, which had to pass from Thibetian into Hindostanee before it could clothe itself in English, the cause of this dilapidation was the state of wealth and ambition at which the Lamas had arrived, and the consequent interposition of Gulab Singh to take down their pride and ease them of a little of their wealth, both of which he accomplished in the style to which he was so partial, by slaughtering some hundreds of them and reducing their airy habitations to ruins.
At a place called Moulwee we came to a curious block of massive rock standing close beside the path, with one of the red-topped houses built into its side. Above this was a colossal figure with four arms, rudely cut on the face of the rock, and above all was perched an implement, something after the fashion of a Mrs. Gamp's umbrella of large proportions, together with sundry sticks and rags, which seem to be the common style of religious decoration in these parts.
The figure was about eighteen feet high, the lower extremities being hidden behind the building at the base of the rock. It resembled in some measure the sculptures occasionally seen among Hindoo temples, but no one appeared to know anything whatever of its origin or history.
Close to this there were an immense number of stones collected together, bearing inscriptions in two different characters, one of which resembled slightly the Devanagree or Sanscrit. Seeing such a profusion about, I appropriated one which happened to be conveniently small, and carried it off in my pocket.
The sun being intensely powerful, we called a halt at a village named Waka, perched among the rocks, where we found a rattletrap of a baradurree, which saved us the trouble of pitching our tents. Opposite to us was a curiously worn mass of concrete mountain, which might easily have been mistaken for artificial lines of fortification, had not the scale been so large as to preclude the possibility of any but giants or fairies having been the engineers. At the head of the valley there was a fine snow-covered mountain, which helped to keep us cool in an otherwise excessively hot position. The cook having been rather overcome by his exertions to-day, we got our dinner at the fashionable hour of nine P.M.