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Himalayan Journals or Notes of A Naturalist Index      Next Chapter XVIII

 

Chapter XVII

EXCURSION TO TERAI

 

Dispatch collections — Acorns — Heat — Punkabaree — Bees — Vegetation — Haze — Titalya — Earthquake — Proceed to Nepal frontier — Terai, geology of — Physical features of Himalayan valleys — Elephants, purchase of, etc. — Riverbeds — Mechi river — Return to Titalya — Leave for Teesta — Climate of plains — Jeelpigoree — Cooches — Alteration in the appearance of country by fires, etc. — Grasses — Bamboos — Cottages — Rajah of Cooch Behar — Condition of people — Hooli festival — Ascend Teesta — Canoes — Cranes — Forest — Baikant-pore — Rummai — Religion — Plants at foot of mountains — Exit of Teesta — Canoe voyage down to Rangamally — English genera of plants — Birds — Beautiful Scenery — Botanizing on elephants — Willow — Siligoree — Cross Terai — Geology — Iron — Lohar-ghur — Coal and sandstone beds — Mechi fisherman — Hailstorm — Ascent to Khersiong — To Dorjiling — Vegetation — Geology — Folded quartz-beds — Spheres of feldspar — Lime deposits.


 

Having arranged the collections (amounting to eighty loads) made during 1848, they were conveyed by coolies to the foot of the hills, where carts were provided to carry them five days’ journey to the Mahanuddy river, which flows into the Ganges, whence they were transported by water to Calcutta.

On the 27th of February, I left Dorjiling to join Mr. Hodgson, at Titalya on the plains. The weather was raw, cold, and threatening: snow lay here and there at 7000 feet, and all vegetation was very backward, and wore a wintry garb. The laurels, maples, and deciduous-leaved oaks, hydrangea and cherry, were leafless, but the abundance of chesnuts and evergreen oaks, rhododendrons, Aucuba, Linonia, and other shrubs, kept the forest well clothed. The oaks had borne a very unusual number of acorns during


 

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the last season, which were now falling, and strewing the road in some places so abundantly, that it was hardly safe to ride down hill.

The plains of Bengal were all but obscured by a dense haze, partly owing to a peculiar state of the atmosphere that prevails in the dry months, and partly to the fires raging in the Terai forest, from which white wreaths of smoke ascended, stretching obliquely for miles to the eastward, and filling the air with black particles of grass-stems, carried 4000 feet aloft by the heated ascending currents that impinge against the flanks of the mountains.

In the tropical region the air was scented with the white blossoms of the Vitex Agnus-castus, which grew in profusion by the road-side; but the forest, which had looked so gigantic on my arrival at the mountains the previous year, appeared small after the far more lofty and bulky oaks and pines of the upper regions of the Himalaya.

The evening was sultry and close, the heated surface of the earth seemed to load the surrounding atmosphere with warm vapours, and the sensation, as compared with the cool pure air of Dorjiling, was that of entering a confined tropical harbour after a long sea-voyage.

I slept in the little bungalow of Punkabaree, and was wakened next morning by sounds to which I had long been a stranger, the voices of innumerable birds, and the humming of great bees that bore large holes for their dwellings in the beams and rafters of houses: never before had I been so forcibly struck with the absence of animal life in the regions of the upper Himalaya.

Breakfasting early, I pursued my way in the so-called cool of the morning, but this was neither bright nor fresh; the night having been hazy, there had been no terrestrial radiation, and the earth was dusty and parched; while the


 

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sun rose through a murky yellowish atmosphere with ill-defined orb. Thick clouds of smoke pressed upon the plains, and the faint easterly wind wafted large flakes of grass charcoal sluggishly through the air.

Vegetation was in great beauty, though past its winter prime. The tropical forest of India has two flowering seasons; one in summer, of the majority of plants; and the other in winter, of Acanthaceæ, Bauhinia, Dillenia, Bombax, etc. Of these the former are abundant, and render the jungle gay with large and delicate white, red, and purple blossoms. Coarse, ill-favoured vultures wheeled through the air, languid Bengalees had replaced the active mountaineers, jackal-like curs of low degree teemed at every village, and ran howling away from the onslaught of my mountain dog; and the tropics, with all their beauty of flower and genial warmth, looked as forbidding and unwholesome as they felt oppressive to a frame that had so long breathed the fresh mountain air.

Mounted on a stout pony, I enjoyed my scamper of sixteen miles over the wooded plains and undulating gravelly slopes of the Terai, intervening between the foot of the mountains and Siligoree bungalow, where I rested for an hour. In the afternoon I rode on leisurely to Titalya, sixteen miles further, along the banks of the Mahanuddy, the atmosphere being so densely hazy, that objects a few miles off were invisible, and the sun quite concealed, though its light was so powerful that no part of the sky could be steadily gazed upon. This state of the air is very curious, and has met with various attempts at explanation,*

* Dr. M‘Lelland (“Calcutta Journal of Natural History,” vol. i, p. 52), attributes the haze of the atmosphere during the north-west winds of this season, wholly to suspended earthy particles. But the haze is present even in the calmest weather, and extreme dryness is in all parts of the world usually accompanied by an obscure horizon. Captain Campbell (“Calcutta Journal of Natural History,” vol. ii, p. 44.) also objects to Dr. M‘Clelland’s theory, citing those parts of Southern India which are least likely to be visited by dust-storms, as possessing an equally hazy atmosphere; and further denies its being influenced by the hygrometric state of the atmosphere.


 

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all unsatisfactory to me: it accompanies great heat, dryness, and elasticity of the suspended vapours, and is not affected by wind. During the afternoon the latter blew with violence, but being hot and dry, brought no relief to my still unacclimated frame. My pony alone enjoyed the freedom of the boundless plains, and the gallop or trot being fatiguing in the heat, I tried in vain to keep him at a walk; his spirits did not last long, however, for he flagged after a few days’ tropical heat. My little dog had run thirty miles the day before, exclusive of all the detours he had made for his own enjoyment, and he flagged so much after twenty more this day, that I had to take him on my saddle-bow, where, after licking his hot swollen feet, he fell fast asleep, in spite of the motion.

After leaving the wooded Terai at Siligoree, trees became scarce, and clumps of bamboos were the prevalent features; these, with an occasional banyan, peepul, or betel-nut palm near the villages, were the only breaks on the distant horizon. A powerfully scented Clerodendron, and an 0sbeckia gay with blossoms like dog-roses, were abundant; the former especially under trees, where the seeds are dropped by birds.

At Titalya bungalow, I received a hearty welcome from Mr. Hodgson, and congratulations on the success of my Nepal journey, which afforded a theme for many conversations.

In the evening we had three sharp jerking shocks of an earthquake in quick succession, at 9.8 p.m., appearing to come up from the southward: they were accompanied by a hollow rumbling sound like that of a waggon passing over a wooden bridge. The shock was felt strongly at Dorjiling, and registered by Mr. Muller at 9.10 p.m.: we had


 

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accurately adjusted our watches (chronometers) the previous morning, and the motion may therefore fairly be assumed to have been transmitted northwards through the intervening distance of forty miles, in two minutes. Both Mr. Muller and Mr. Hodgson had noted a much more severe shock at 6.10 p.m. the previous evening, which I, who was walking down the mountain, did not experience; this caused a good deal of damage at Dorjiling, in cracking well-built walls. Earthquakes are frequent all along the Himalaya, and are felt far in Tibet; they are, however, most common towards the eastern and western extremities of India; owing in the former case to the proximity of the volcanic forces in the bay of Bengal. Cutch and Scinde, as is well known, have suffered severely on many occasions, and in several of them the motion has been propagated through Affghanistan and Little Tibet, to the heart of Central Asia.*

On the morning of the 1st of March, Dr. Campbell arrived at the bungalow, from his tour of inspection along the frontier of Bhotan and the Rungpore district; and we accompanied him hence along the British and Sikkim frontier, as far west as the Mechi river, which bounds Nepal on the east.

Terai is a name loosely applied to a tract of country at the very foot of the Himalaya: it is Persian, and signifies damp. Politically, the Terai generally belongs to the hill-states beyond it; geographically, it should appertain to the plains of India; and geologically, it is a sort of neutral country, being composed neither of the alluvium of the plains, nor of the rocks of the hills, but for the most part of alternating beds of sand, gravel, and boulders brought from the mountains. Botanically it is readily defined as the region of forest-trees; amongst which the Sal, the most valuable

* See “Wood’s Travels to the Oxus.”


 

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of Indian timber, is conspicuous in most parts, though not now in Sikkim, where it has been destroyed. The Terai soil is generally light, dry, and gravelly (such as the Sal always prefers), and varies in breadth, from ten miles, along the Sikkim frontier, to thirty and more on the Nepalese. In the latter country it is called the Morung, and supplies Sal and Sissoo timber for the Calcutta market, the logs being floated down the Konki and Cosi rivers to the Ganges. The gravel-beds extend uninterruptedly upon the plains for fully twenty miles south of the Sikkim mountains, the gravel becoming smaller as the distance increases, and large blocks of stone not being found beyond a few miles from the rocks of the Himalaya itself, even in the beds of rivers, however large and rapid. Throughout its breadth this formation is conspicuously cut into flat-topped terraces, flanking the spurs of the mountains, at elevations varying from 250 to nearly 1000 feet above the sea. These terraces are of various breadth and length, the smallest lying uppermost, and the broadest flanking the rivers below. The isolated hills beyond are also flat-topped and terraced. This deposit contains no fossils; and its general appearance and mineral constituents are the only evidence of its origin, which is no doubt due to a retiring ocean that washed the base of the Sikkim Himalaya, received the contents of its rivers, and, wearing away its bluff spurs, spread a talus upwards of 1000 feet thick along its shores. It is not at first sight evident whether the terracing is due to periodic retirements of the ocean, or to the levelling effects of rivers that have cut channels through the deposit. In many places, especially along the banks of the great streams, the gravel is smaller, obscurely interstratified with sand, and the flattened pebbles over-lap rudely, in a manner characteristic of the effects of running water; but such is


 

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not the case with the main body of the deposit, which is unstratified, and much coarser.

The alluvium of the Gangetic valley is both interstratified with the gravel, and passes into it, and was no doubt deposited in deep water, whilst the coarser matter* was accumulating at the foot of the mountains.

This view is self-evident, and has occurred, I believe, to almost every observer, at whatever part of the base of the Himalaya he may have studied this deposit. Its position, above the sandstones of the Sewalik range in the north-west Himalaya, and those of Sikkim, which appear to be modern fossiliferous rocks, indicates its being geologically of recent formation; but it still remains a subject of the utmost importance to discover the extent and nature of the ocean to whose agency it is referred. I have elsewhere remarked that the alluvium of the Gangetic valley may to a great degree be the measure of the denudation which the Himalaya has suffered along its Indian watershed. It was, no doubt, during the gradual rise of that chain from the ocean, that the gravel and alluvium were deposited; and in the terraces and alternation of these, there is evidence that there have been many subsidences and elevations of the coast-line, during which the gravel has suffered greatly from denudation.

I have never looked at the Sikkim Himalaya from the plains without comparing its bold spurs enclosing sinuous river gorges, to the weather-beaten front of a mountainous coast; and in following any of its great rivers, the scenery

* This, too, is non-fossiliferous, and is of unknown depth, except at Calcutta, where the sand and clay beds have been bored through, to the depth of 120 feet, below which the first pebbles were met with. Whence these pebbles were derived is a curious problem. The great Himalayan rivers convey pebbles but a very few miles from the mountains on to the plains of India; and there is no rock in situ above the surface, within many miles of Calcutta, in any direction.


 

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of its deep valleys no less strikingly resembles that of such narrow arms of the sea (or fiords) as characterize every mountainous coast, of whatever geological formation: such as the west coast of Scotland and Norway, of South Chili and Fuegia, of New Zealand and Tasmania. There are too in these Himalayan valleys, at all elevations below 600 feet, terraced pebble-beds, rising in some cases eighty feet above the rivers, which I believe could only have been deposited by them when they debouched into deep water; and both these, and the beds of the rivers, are strewed, down to 1000 feet, with masses of rock. Such accumulations and transported blocks are seen on the raised beaches of our narrow Scottish salt water lochs, exposed by the rising of the land, and they are yet forming of immense thickness on many coasts by the joint action of tides and streams.

I have described meeting with ancient moraines in every Himalayan valley I ascended, at or about 7000 or 8000 feet elevation, proving, that at one period, the glaciers descended fully so much below the position they now occupy: this can only be explained by a change of climate,* or by a depression of the mountain mass equal to 8000 feet, since the formation of these moraines.

The country about Titalya looks desert, from that want of trees and cultivation, so characteristic of the upper level throughout this part of the plains, which is covered with

* Such a change of temperature, without any depression or elevation of the mountains, has been thought by Capt. R. Strachey (“Journal of Geological Society”), an able Himalayan observer, to be the necessary consequence of an ocean at the foot of these mountains; for the amount of perpetual snow, and consequent descent of the glaciers, increasing indirectly in proportion to the humidity of the climate, and the snow-fall, he conjectured that the proximity of the ocean would prodigiously increase such a deposition of snow.—To me, this argument appears inconclusive; for the first effect of such a vast body of water would be to raise the temperature of winter; and as it is the rain, rather than the sun of summer, which removes the Sikkim snow, so would an increase of this rain elevate, rather than depress, the level of perpetual snow.


 

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short, poor pasture-grass. The bungalow stands close to the Mahanuddy, on a low hill, cut into an escarpment twenty feet high, which exposes a section of river-laid sand and gravel, alternating with thick beds of rounded pebbles.

Shortly after Dr. Campbell’s arrival, the meadows about the bungalow presented a singular appearance, being dotted over with elephants, brought for purchase by Government. It was curious to watch the arrival of these enormous animals, which were visible nearly two miles across the flat plains; nor less interesting was it to observe the wonderful docility of these giants of the animal kingdom, often only guided by naked boys, perched on their necks, scolding, swearing, and enforcing their orders with the iron goad. There appeared as many tricks in elephant-dealers as in horse-jockeys, and of many animals brought, but few were purchased. Government limits the price to about 75 pounds, and the height to the shoulder must not be under seven feet, which, incredible as it appears, may be estimated within a fraction as being three times the circumference of the forefoot. The pedigree is closely inquired into, the hoofs are examined for cracks, the teeth for age, and many other points attended to.

The Sikkim frontier, from the Mahanuddy westward to the Mechi, is marked out by a row of tall posts. The country is undulating; and though fully 400 miles from the ocean, and not sixty from the top of the loftiest mountain on the globe, its average level is not 300 feet above that of the sea. The upper levels are gravelly, and loosely covered with scattered thorny jujube bushes, occasionally tenanted by the Florican, which scours these downs like a bustard. Sometimes a solitary fig, or a thorny acacia, breaks the horizon, and there are a few gnarled trees of the scarlet Butea frondosa.


 

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On our route I had a good opportunity of examining the line of junction between the alluvial plains that stretch south to the Ganges, and the gravel deposit flanking the hills. The rivers always cut broad channels with scarped terraced sides, and their low banks are very fertile, from the mud annually spread by the ever-shifting streams that meander within their limits; there are, however, few shrubs and no trees. The houses, which are very few and scattered, are built on the gravelly soil above, the lower level being very malarious.

Thirty miles south of the mountains, numerous isolated flat-topped hills, formed of stratified gravel and sand with large water-worn pebbles, rise from 80 to 200 feet above the mean level, which is about 250 feet above the sea; these, too, have always scarped sides, and the channels of small streams completely encircle them.

At this season few insects but grasshoppers are to be seen, even mosquitos being rare. Birds, however, abound, and we noticed the common sparrow, hoopoe, water-wagtail, skylark, osprey, and several egrets.

We arrived on the third day at the Mechi river, to the west of which the Nepal Terai (or Morung) begins, whose belt of Sal forest loomed on the horizon, so raised by refraction as to be visible as a dark line, from the distance of many miles. It is, however, very poor, all the large trees having been removed. We rode for several miles into it, and found the soil dry and hard, but supporting a prodigious undergrowth of gigantic harsh grasses that reached to our heads, though we were mounted on elephants. Besides Sal there was abundance of Butea, Diospyros, Terminalia, and Symplocos, with the dwarf Phœnix palm, and occasionally Cycas. Tigers, wild elephants, and the rhinoceros, are said to be found here; but we saw none.


 

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The old and new Mechi rivers are several miles apart, but flow in the same depression, a low swamp many miles broad, which is grazed at this season, and cultivated during the rains. The grass is very rich, partly owing to the moisture of the climate, and partly to the retiring waters of the rivers; both circumstances being the effects of proximity to the Himalaya. Hence cattle (buffalos and the common humped cow of India) are driven from the banks of the Ganges 300 miles to these feeding grounds, for the use of which a trifling tax is levied on each animal. The cattle are very carelessly herded, and many are carried off by tigers.

Having returned to Titalya, Mr. Hodgson and I set off in an eastern direction for the Teesta river, whose embouchure from the mountains to the plains I was anxious to visit. Though the weather is hot, and oppressively so in the middle of the day, there are few climates more delicious than that of these grassy savannahs from December to March. We always started soon after daybreak on ponies, and enjoyed a twelve to sixteen miles’ gallop in the cool of the morning before breakfast, which we found prepared on our arrival at a tent sent on ahead the night before. The road led across an open country, or followed paths through interminable rice-fields, now dry and dusty. On poor soil a white-flowered Leucas monopolized the space, like our charlock and poppy: it was apparently a pest to the agriculturist, covering the surface in some places like a sprinkling of snow. Sometimes the river-beds exposed fourteen feet of pure stratified sand, with only an inch of vegetable soil above. At this season the mornings are very hazy, with the thermometer at sunrise 60°; one laid on grass during the night falling 7° below that temperature: dew forms,


 

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but never copiously: by 10 a.m. the temperature has risen to 75°, and the faint easterly morning breezes die away; the haze thickens, and covers the sky with a white veil, the thermometer rising to 82° at noon, and the west wind succeeding in parching tornados and furious gusts, increasing with the temperature, which attains its maximum in the afternoon, and falling again with its decline at sunset. The evenings are calm; but the earth is so heated, that the thermometer stands at 10 p.m. at 66°, and the minimum at night is not below 55°: great drought accompanies the heat at this season, but not to such a degree as in North-west India, or other parts of this meridian further removed from the hills. In the month of March, and during the prevalence of west winds, the mean temperature was 79°, and the dew-point 22° lower, indicating great drought. The temperature at Calcutta was 7° warmer, and the atmosphere very much damper.

On the second day we arrived at Jeelpigoree, a large straggling village near the banks of the Teesta, a good way south of the forest: here we were detained for several days, waiting for elephants with which to proceed northwards. The natives are Cooches, a Mogul (Mongolian) race, who inhabit the open country of this district, replacing the Mechis of the Terai forest. They are a fine athletic people, not very dark, and formed the once-powerful house of Cooch Behar. Latterly the upper classes have adopted the religion of the Brahmins, and have had caste conferred upon them; while the lower orders have turned Mahomedans: these, chiefly agriculturists, are a timid, oppressed class, who everywhere fled before us, and were with difficulty prevailed upon even to direct us along our road. A rude police is established by the British Government all over the country, and to it the traveller applies


 

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for guides and assistance; but the Conches were so shy and difficult to deal with, that we were generally left to our own resources.

Grass is the prevailing feature of the country, as there are few shrubs, and still fewer trees. Goats and the common Indian cow are plentiful; but it is not swampy enough for the buffalo; and sheep are scarce, on account of the heat of the climate. This uniformity of feature over so immense an area is, however, due to the agency of man, and is of recent introduction; as all concur in affirming, that within the last hundred years the face of the country was covered with the same long jungle-grasses which abound in the Terai forest; and the troops cantoned at Titalya (a central position in these plains) from 1816 to 1828, confirm this statement as far as their immediate neighbourhood is concerned.

These gigantic Gramineæ seem to be destroyed by fire with remarkable facility at one season of the year; and it is well that this is the case; for, whether as a retainer of miasma, a shelter for wild beasts, both carnivorous and herbivorous, alike dangerous to man, or from their liability to ignite, and spread destruction far and wide, the grass-jungles are most serious obstacles to civilization. Next to the rapidity with which it can be cleared, the adaptation of a great part of the soil to irrigation during the rains, has greatly aided the bringing of it under cultivation.

By far the greater proportion of this universal short turf grass is formed of Andropogon acicularis, Cynodon Dactylon,* and in sandy places, Imperata cylindrica;

* Called “Dhob.” This is the best pasture grass in the plains of India, and the only one to be found over many thousands of square miles.


 

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where the soil is wetter, Ameletia Indica is abundant, giving a heather-like colour to the turf, with its pale purple flowers: wherever there is standing water, its surface is reddened by the Azolla, and Salvinia is also common.

At Jeelpigoree we were waited upon by the Dewan, who governs the district for the Rajah, a boy about ten years old, whose estates are locked up during the trial of an interminable suit for the succession, that has been instituted against him by a natural son of the late Rajah: we found the Dewan to be a man of intelligence, who promised us elephants as soon as the great Hooli festival, now commenced, should be over.

The large village, at the time of our visit, was gay with holiday dresses. It is surrounded by trees, chiefly of banyan, jack, mango, peepul, and tamarind: interminable rice-fields extend on all sides, and except bananas, slender betel-nut palms, and sometimes pawn, or betel-pepper, there is little other extensive cultivation. The rose-apple, orange, and pine-apple are rare, as are cocoa-nuts: there are few date or fan-palms, and only occasionally poor crops of castor-oil and sugar-cane. In the gardens I noticed jasmine, Justicia Adhatoda, Hibiscus, and others of the very commonest Indian ornamental plants; while for food were cultivated Chenopodium, yams, sweet potatos, and more rarely peas, beans, and gourds. Bamboos were planted round the little properties and smaller clusters of houses, in oblong squares, the ridge on which the plants grew being usually bounded by a shallow ditch. The species selected was not the most graceful of its family; the stems, or culms, being densely crowded, erect, as thick at the base as the arm, copiously branching, and very feathery throughout their whole length of sixty feet.

A gay-flowered 0sbeckia was common along the roadsides,


 

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and, with a Clerodendron,* whose strong, sweet odour was borne far through the air, formed a low undershrub beneath every tree, generally intermixed with three ferns (a Polypodium, Pteris, and Goniopteris).

The cottages are remarkable, and have a very neat appearance, presenting nothing but a low white-washed platform of clay, and an enormous high, narrow, black, neatly thatched roof, so arched along the ridge, that its eaves nearly touch the ground at each gable; and looking at a distance like a gigantic round-backed elephant. The walls are of neatly-platted bamboo: each window (of which there are two) is crossed by slips of bamboo, and wants only glass to make it look European; they have besides shutters of wattle, that open upwards, projecting during the day like the port-hatches of a ship, and let down at night. Within, the rooms are airy and clean: one end contains the machans (bedsteads), the others some raised clay benches, the fire, frequently an enormous Hookah, round wattled stools, and various implements. The inhabitants appeared more than ordinarily well-dressed; the men in loose flowing robes of fine cotton or muslin, the women in the usual garb of a simple thick cotton cloth, drawn tight immediately above the breast, and thence falling perpendicularly to the knee; the colour of this is a bright blue in stripes, bordered above and below with red.

I anticipated some novelty from a visit to a Durbar (court) so distant from European influence as that of the Rajah of Jeelpigoree. All Eastern courts, subject to the Company, are, however, now shorn of much of their glory;

* Clerodendron leaves, bruised, are used to kill vermin, fly-blows, etc., in cattle; and the twigs form toothpicks. The flowers are presented to Mahadeo, as a god of peace; milk, honey, flowers, fruit, amrit (ambrosia), etc., being offered to the pacific gods, as Vishnu, Krishna, etc.; while Mudar (Asclepias), Bhang (Cannabis sativa), Datura, flesh, blood, and spirituous liquors, are offered to Siva, Doorga, Kali, and other demoniacal deities.


 

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and the condition of the upper classes is greatly changed. Under the Mogul rule, the country was farmed out to Zemindars, some of whom assumed the title of Rajah: they collected the revenue for the Sovereign, retaining by law ten per cent. on all that was realized: there was no intermediate class, the peasant paying directly to the Zemindar, and he into the royal treasury. Latterly the Zemindars have become farmers under the Company’s rule; and in the adjudication of their claims, Lord Cornwallis (then Governor-General) made great sacrifices in their favour, levying only a small tribute in proportion to their often great revenues, in the hope that they would be induced to devote their energies, and some of their means, to the improvement of the condition of the peasantry. This expectation was not realized: the younger Zemindars especially, subject to no restraint (except from aggressions on their neighbours), fell into slothful habits, and the collecting of the revenue became a trading speculation, entrusted to “middle men.” The Zemindar selects a number, who again are at liberty to collect through the medium of several sub-renting classes. Hence the peasant suffers, and except a generally futile appeal to the Rajah, he has no redress. The law secures him tenure as long as he can pay his rent, and to do this he has recourse to the usurer; borrowing in spring (at 50, and oftener 100 per cent.) the seed, plough, and bullocks: he reaps in autumn, and what is then not required for his own use, is sold to pay off part of his original debt, the rest standing over till the next season; and thus it continues to accumulate, till, overwhelmed with difficulties, he is ejected, or flees to a neighbouring district. The Zemindar enjoys the same right of tenure as the peasant: the amount of impost laid on his property


 

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was fixed for perpetuity; whatever his revenue be, he must pay so much to the Company, or he forfeits his estates, and they are put up for auction.

One evening we visited the young Rajah at his residence, which has rather a good appearance at a distance, its white walls gleaming through a dark tope of mango, betel, and cocoa-nut. A short rude avenue leads to the entrance gate, under the trees of which a large bazaar was being held; stocked with cloths, simple utensils, ornaments, sweetmeats, five species of fish from the Teesta, and the betel-nut.

We entered through a guard-house, where were some of the Rajah’s Sepoys in the European costume, and a few of the Company’s troops, lent to the Rajah as a security against some of the turbulent pretenders to his title. Within was a large court-yard, flanked by a range of buildings, some of good stone-work, some of wattle, in all stages of disrepair. A great crowd of people occupied one end of the court, and at the other we were received by the Dewan, and seated on chairs under a canopy supported by slender silvered columns. Some slovenly Natch-girls were dancing before us, kicking up clouds of dust, and singing or rather bawling through their noses, the usual indelicate hymns in honour of the Hooli festival; there were also fiddlers, cutting uncouth capers in rhythm with the dancers. Anything more deplorable than the music, dancing, and accompaniments, cannot well be imagined; yet the people seemed vastly pleased, and extolled the performers.

The arrival of the Rajah and his brothers was announced by a crash of tom-toms and trumpets, while over their heads were carried great gilt canopies. With them came a troop of relations, of all ages; and amongst them a poor little black girl, dressed in honour of us in an old-fashioned


 

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English chintz frock and muslin cap, in which she cut the drollest figure imaginable; she was carried about for our admiration, like a huge Dutch doll, crying lustily all the time.

The festivities of the evening commenced by handing round trays full of pith-balls, the size of a nutmeg, filled with a mixture of flour, sand, and red lac-powder; with these each pelted his neighbour, the thin covering bursting as it struck any object, and powdering it copiously with red dust. A more childish and disagreeable sport cannot well be conceived; and when the balls were expended, the dust itself was resorted to, not only fresh, but that which had already been used was gathered up, with whatever dirt it might have become mixed. One rude fellow, with his hand full, sought to entrap his victims into talking, when he would stuff the nasty mixture into their mouths.

At the end attar of roses was brought, into which little pieces of cotton, fixed on slips of bamboo, were dipped, and given to each person. The heat, dust, stench of the unwashed multitude, noise, and increasing familiarity of the lower orders, warned us to retire, and we effected our retreat with precipitancy.

The Rajah and his brother were very fine boys, lively, frank, unaffected, and well disposed: they have evidently a good guide in the old Dewan; but it is melancholy to think how surely, should they grow up in possession of their present rank, they will lapse into slothful habits, and take their place amongst the imbeciles who now represent the once powerful Rajahs of Bengal.

We rode back to our tents by a bright moonlight, very dusty and tired, and heartily glad to breathe the cool fresh air, after the stifling ordeal we had undergone.

On the following evening the elephants were again in waiting to conduct us to the Rajah. He and his relations


 

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were assembled outside the gates, mounted upon elephants, amid a vast concourse of people. The children and Dewan were seated in a sort of cradle; the rest were some in howdahs, and some astride on elephants’ backs, six or eight together. All the idols were paraded before them, and powdered with red dust; the people howling, shouting, and sometimes quarrelling. Our elephants took their places amongst those of the Rajah; and when the mob had sufficiently pelted one another with balls and dirty red powder, a torchlight procession was formed, the idols leading the way, to a very large tank, bounded by a high rampart, within which was a broad esplanade round the water.

The effect of the whole was very striking, the glittering cars and barbaric gaud of the idols showing best by torchlight; while the white robes and turbans of the undulating sea of people, and the great black elephants picking their way with matchless care and consideration, contrasted strongly with the quiet moonbeams sleeping on the still broad waters of the tank.

Thence the procession moved to a field, where the idols were placed on the ground, and all dismounted: the Dewan then took the children by the hand, and each worshipped his tutelary deity in a short prayer dictated by the attendant Brahmin, and threw a handful of red dust in its face. After another ordeal of powder, singing, dancing, and suffocation, our share in the Hooli ended; and having been promised elephants for the following morning, we bade a cordial farewell to our engaging little hosts and their staid old governor.

On the 10th of March we were awakened at an early hour by a heavy thunder-storm from the south-west. The sunrise was very fine, through an arch 10° high of bright blue sky, above which the whole firmament was mottled with cirrus. It continued cloudy, with light winds,


 

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throughout the day, but clear on the horizon. From this tinge such storms became frequent, ushering in the equinox; and the less hazy sky and rising hygrometer predicted an accession of moisture in the atmosphere.

We left for Rangamally, a village eight miles distant in a northerly direction, our course lying along the west bank of the Teesta.

The river is here navigated by canoes, thirty to forty feet long, some being rudely cut out of a solid log of Sal, while others are built, the planks, of which there are but few, being sewed together, or clamped with iron, and the seams caulked with the fibres of the root of Dhak (Butea frondosa), and afterwards smeared with the gluten of Diospyros embryopteris. The bed of the river is here threequarters of a mile across, of which the stream does not occupy one-third; its banks are sand-cliffs, fourteen feet in height. A few small fish and water-snakes swarm in the pools.

The whole country improved in fertility as we advanced towards the mountains: the grass became greener, and more trees, shrubs, herbs, and birds appeared. In front, the dark boundary-line of the Sal forest loomed on the horizon, and to the east rose the low hills of Bhotan, both backed by the outer ranges of the Himalaya.

Flocks of cranes were abundant over-head, flying in wedges, or breaking up into “open order,” preparing for their migration northwards, which takes place in April, their return occurring in October; a small quail was also common on the ground. Tamarisk (“Jhow”) grew in the sandy bed of the river; its flexible young branches are used in various parts of India for wattling and basket-making.

In the evening we walked to the skirts of the Sal forest.


 

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The great trunks of the trees were often scored by tigers’ claws, this animal indulging in the cat-like propensity of rising and stretching itself against such objects. Two species of Dillenia were common in the forest, with long grass, Symplocos, Emblica, and Cassia Fistula, now covered with long pods. Several parasitical air-plants grew on the dry trees, as Oberonia, Vanda, and Ærides.

At Rangamally, the height of the sandy banks of the Teesta varies from fifteen to twenty feet. The bed is a mile across, and all sand;* the current much divided, and opaque green, from the glacial origin of most of its head-streams. The west bank was covered with a small Sal forest, mixed with Acacia Catechu, and brushwood, growing in a poor vegetable loam, over very dry sand.

The opposite (or Bhotan) bank is much lower, and always flooded during the rains, which is not the case on the western side, where the water rises to ten feet below the top of the bank, or from seven to ten feet above its height in the dry season, and it then fills its whole bed. This information we had from a police Jemadar, who has resided many years on this unhealthy spot, and annually suffers from fever. The Sal forest has been encroached upon from the south, for many miles, within the memory of man, by clearing in patches, and by indiscriminate felling.

About ten miles north of Rangamally, we came to an extensive flat, occupying a recess in the high west bank, the site of the old capital (Bai-kant-pore) of the Jeelpigoree Rajah. Hemmed in as it is on three sides by a dense forest, and on all by many miles of malarious Terai, it appears sufficiently secure from ordinary enemies, during a great part of the year. The soil is sandy, overlying gravel,

* Now covered with Anthistiria grass, fifteen feet high, a little Sissoo, and Bombax.


 

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and covered with a thick stratum of fine mud or silt, which is only deposited on these low flats; on it grew many naturalized plants, as hemp, tobacco, jack, mango, plantain, and orange.

About eight miles on, we left the river-bed, and struck westerly through a dense forest, to a swampy clearance occupied by the village of Rummai, which appeared thoroughly malarious; and we pitched the tent on a narrow, low ridge, above the level of the plain.

It was now cool and pleasant, partly due, no doubt, to a difference in the vegetation, and the proximity of swamp and forest, and partly also to a change in the weather, which was cloudy and threatening; much rain, too, had fallen here on the preceding day.

Brahmins and priests of all kinds are few in this miserable country: near the villages, and under the large trees, are, every here and there, a few immature thatched cottages, four to six feet high, in which the tutelary deities of the place are kept; they are idols of the very rudest description, of Vishnu as an ascetic (Bai-kant Nath), a wooden doll, gilt and painted, standing, with the hands raised as if in exhortation, and one leg crossed over the other. Again, Kartik, the god of war, is represented sitting astride on a peacock, with the right hand elevated and holding a small flat cup.

Some fine muscular Cooches were here brought for Mr. Hodgson’s examination, but we found them unable or unwilling to converse, in the Cooch tongue, which appears to be fast giving place to Bengalee.

We walked to a stream, which flows at the base of the retiring sand-cliffs, and nourishes a dense and richly-varied jungle, producing many plants, as beautiful Acanthaceæ, Indian horse-chesnut, loaded with white racemes of flowers,


 

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gay Convolvuli, laurels, terrestrial and parasitic Orchideæ, Dillenia, casting its enormous flowers as big as two fists, pepper, figs, and, in strange association with these, a hawthorn, and the yellow-flowered Indian strawberry, which ascends 7,500 feet on the mountains, and Hodgsonia, a new Cucurbitaceous genus, clinging in profusion to the trees, and also found 5000 feet high on the mountains.

In the evening we rode into the forest (which was dry and very unproductive), and thence along the river-banks, through Acacia Catechu, belted by Sissoo, which often fringes the stream, always occupying the lowest flats. The foliage at this season is brilliantly green; and as the evening advanced, a yellow convolvulus burst into flower like magic, adorning the bushes over which it climbed.

It rained on the following morning; after which we left for the exit of the Teesta, proceeding northwards, sometimes through a dense forest of Sal timber, sometimes dipping into marshy depressions, or riding through grassy savannahs, breast-high. The coolness of the atmosphere was delicious, and the beauty of the jungle seemed to increase the further we penetrated these primæval forests.

Eight miles from Rummai we came on a small river from the mountains, with a Cooch village close by, inhabited during the dry season by timber-cutters from Jeelpigoree it is situated upon a very rich black soil, covered with Saccharum and various gigantic grasses, but no bamboo. These long grasses replace the Sal, of which we did not see one good tree.

We here mounted the elephants, and proceeded several miles through the prairie, till we again struck upon the high Sal forest-bank, continuous with that of Rummai and Rangamally, but much loftier: it formed one of many terraces which stretch along the foot of the hills, from


 

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Punkabaree to the Teesta, but of which none are said to occur for eight miles eastwards along the Bhotan Dooars: if true, this is probably due in part to the alteration of the course of the Teesta, which is gradually working to the westward, and cutting away these lofty banks.

The elephant-drivers appeared to have taken us by mistake to the exit of the Chawa, a small stream which joins the Teesta further to the eastward. The descent to the bed of this rivulet, round the first spur of rock we met with, was fully eighty feet, through a very irregular depression, probably the old bed of the stream; it runs southwards from the hills, and was covered from top to bottom with slate-pebbles. We followed the river to its junction with the Teesta, along a flat, broad gulley, bounded by densely-wooded, steep banks of clay slate on the north, and the lofty bank on the south: between these the bed was strewed with great boulders of gneiss and other rocks, luxuriantly clothed with long grass, and trees of wild plantain, Erythrina and Bauhinia, the latter gorgeously in flower.

The Sal bank formed a very fine object: it was quite perpendicular, and beautifully stratified with various coloured sands and gravel: it tailed off abruptly at the junction of the rivers, and then trended away south-west, forming the west bank of the Teesta. The latter river is at its outlet a broad and rapid, but hardly impetuous stream, now fifty yards across, gushing from between two low, forest-clad spurs: it appeared about five feet deep, and was beautifully fringed on both sides with green Sisso.

Some canoes were here waiting for us, formed of hollowed trunks of trees, thirty feet long: two were lashed together with bamboos, and the boatmen sat one at the head and one at the stern of each: we lay along the


 

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bottom of the vessels, and in a second we were darting down the river, at the rate of at least ten or fifteen miles an hour, the bright waters leaping up on all sides, and bounding in jets-d’eau between prows and sterns of the coupled vessels. Sometimes we glided along without perceptible motion, and at others jolted down bubbling rapids, the steersmen straining every nerve to keep their bark’s head to the current, as she impatiently swerved from side to side in the eddies. To our jaded and parched frames, after the hot forenoon’s ride on the elephants, the effect was delicious: the fresh breeze blew on our heated foreheads and down our open throats and chests; we dipped our hands into the clear, cool stream, and there was “music in the waters” to our ears. Fresh verdure on the banks, clear pebbles, soft sand, long English river-reaches, forest glades, and deep jungles, followed in rapid succession; and as often as we rounded a bend or shot a rapid, the scene changed from bright to brighter still; so continuing until dusk, when we were slowly paddling along the then torpid current opposite Rangamally.*

The absence of large stones or boulders of rock in the bed of the Teesta is very remarkable, considering the great volume and rapidity of the current, and that it shoots directly from the rocky hills to the gravelly plains. At the

* The following temperatures of the waters of the Teesta were taken at intervals during our passage from its exit to Rangamally, a distance of fifteen linear miles, and thirty miles following the bends:—

Exit Water     Air
2.30 p.m.     62°
3.00 p.m. 62·2° 74°
3.30 p.m. 63·2°
4.00 p.m. 64°
4.30 p.m. 65°
5.00 p.m. 65·4° 72·5° opposite Rummai
5.30 p.m. 66°
6.00 p.m. 66° 71·7° opposite Baikant

 

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embouchure there are boulders as big as the head, and in the stream, four miles below the exit, the boatmen pointed out a stone as large as the body as quite a marvel.

They assured us that the average rise at the mouth of the river, in the rains, was not more than five feet: the mean breadth of the stream is from seventy to ninety yards. From the point where it leaves the mountains, to its junction with the Megna, is at this season thirteen days’ voyage, the return occupying from twenty to twenty-five days, with the boats unladen. The name “Teesta” signifies “quiet,” this river being so in comparison with other Himalayan torrents further west, the Cosi, Konki, etc., which are devastators of all that bounds their course.

We passed but two crossing-places: at one the river is divided by an island, covered with the rude chaits and flags of the Boodhists. We also saw some Cooch fishermen, who throw the net much as we do: a fine “Mahaser” (a very large carp) was the best fish they had. Of cultivation there was very little, and the only habitations were a few grass-huts of the boatmen or buffalo herdsmen, a rare Cooch village of Catechu and Sal cutters, or the shelter of timber-floaters, who seem to pass the night in nests of long dry grass.

Our servants not having returned with the elephants from Rummai, we spent the following day at Rangamally shooting and botanizing. I collected about 100 species in a couple of hours, and observed perhaps twice that number: the more common I have repeatedly alluded to, and excepting some small terrestrial Orchids, I added nothing of particular interest to my collection.*

* The following is a list of the principal genera, most of which are English:—Polygonum, Quercus, Sonchus, Gnaphalium, Cratagus, Lobelia, Lactuca, Hydrocotyle, Saponaria, Campanula, Bidens, Rubus, Oxalis, Artemisia, Fragaria, Clematis, Dioscorea, Potamogeton, Chara, Veronica, Viola, Smilax.


 

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On the 14th of March we proceeded west to Siligoree, along the skirts of the ragged Sal forest. Birds are certainly the most conspicuous branch of the natural history of this country, and we saw many species, interesting either from their habits, beauty, or extensive distribution. We noticed no less than sixteen kinds of swimming birds, several of which are migratory and English. The Shoveller, white-eyed and common wild ducks; Merganser, Brahminee, and Indian goose (Anser Indica); common and Gargany teal; two kinds of gull; one of Shearwater (Rhynchops ablacus); three of tern, and one of cormorant. Besides these there were three egrets, the large crane, stork, green heron, and the demoiselle; the English sand-martin, kingfisher, peregrine-falcon, sparrow-hawk, kestrel, and the European vulture: the wild peacock, and jungle-fowl. There were at least 100 peculiarly Indian birds in addition, of which the more remarkable were several kinds of mina, of starling, vulture, kingfisher, magpie, quail, and lapwing.

The country gradually became quite beautiful, much undulated and diversified by bright green meadows, sloping lawns, and deeply wooded nullahs, which lead from the Sal forest and meander through this varied landscape. More beautiful sites for fine mansions could not well be, and it is difficult to suppose so lovely a country should be so malarious as it is before and after the rains, excessive heat probably diffusing widely the miasma from small stagnant surfaces. We noticed a wild hog, absolutely the first wild beast of any size I saw on the plains, except the hispid hare (Lepus hispidus) and the barking deer (Stylocerus ratna). The hare we found to be the best game of this part of India, except the teal. The pheasants of Dorjiling are poor, the deer all but uneatable, and the


 

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florican, however dressed, I considered a far from excellent bird.

A good many plants grow along the streams, the sandy beds of which are everywhere covered with the marks of tigers’ feet. The only safe way of botanizing is by pushing through the jungle on elephants; an uncomfortable method, from the quantity of ants and insects which drop from the foliage above, and from the risk of disturbing pendulous bees’ and ants’ nests.

A peculiar species of willow (Salix tetrasperma) is common here; which is a singular fact, as the genus is characteristic of cold and arctic latitudes; and no species is found below 5000 feet elevation on the Sikkim mountain, where it grows on the inner Himalaya only, some kinds ascending to 16,000 feet.

East of Siligoree the plains are unvaried by tree or shrub, and are barren wastes of short turf or sterile sand, with the dwarf-palm (Phœnix acaulis), a sure sign of a most hungry soil.

The latter part of the journey I performed on elephants during the heat of the day, and a more uncomfortable mode of conveyance surely never was adopted; the camel’s pace is more fatiguing, but that of the elephant is extremely trying after a few miles, and is so injurious to the human frame that the Mahouts (drivers) never reach an advanced age, and often succumb young to spine-diseases, brought on by the incessant motion of the vertebral column. The broiling heat of the elephant’s black back, and the odour of its oily driver, are disagreeable accompaniments, as are its habits of snorting water from its trunk over its parched skin, and the consequences of the great bulk of green food which it consumes.

From Siligoree I made a careful examination of the


 

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gravel beds that occur on the road north to the foot of the hills, and thence over the tertiary sandstone to Punkabaree. At the Rukti river, which flows south-west, the road suddenly rises, and crosses the first considerable hill, about two miles south of any rock in situ. This river cuts a cliff from 60 to 100 feet high, composed of stratified sand and water-worn gravel: further south, the spur declines into the plains, its course marked by the Sal that thrives on its gravelly soil. The road then runs north-west over a plain to an isolated hill about 200 feet high, also formed of sand and gravel. We ascended to the top of this, and found it covered with blocks of gneiss, and much angular detritus. Hence the road gradually ascends, and becomes clayey. Argillaceous rocks, and a little ochreous sandstone appeared in highly-inclined strata, dipping north, and covered with great water-worn blocks of gneiss. Above, a flat terrace, flanked to the eastward by a low wooded hill, and another rise of sandstone, lead on to the great Baisarbatti terrace.

Bombax, Erythrina, and Duabanga (Lagærstræmia grandiflora), were in full flower, and with the profusion of Bauhinia, rendered the tree-jungle gay: the two former are leafless when flowering. The Duabanga is the pride of these forests. Its trunk, from eight to fifteen feet in girth, is generally forked from the base, and the long pendulous branches which clothe the trunk for 100 feet, are thickly leafy, and terminated by racemes of immense white flowers, which, especially when in bud, smell most disagreeably of assafœtida. The magnificent Apocyneous climber, Beaumontia, was in full bloom, ascending the loftiest trees, and clothing their trunks with its splendid foliage and festoons of enormous funnel-shaped white flowers.

The report of a bed of iron-stone eight or ten miles west


 

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of Punkabaree determined our visiting the spot; and the locality being in a dense jungle, the elephants were sent on ahead.

We descended to the terraces flanking the Balasun river, and struck west along jungle-paths to a loosely-timbered flat. A sudden descent of 150 feet landed us on a second terrace. Further on, a third dip of about twenty feet (in some places obliterated) flanks the bed of the Balasun; the river itself being split into many channels at this season. The west bank, which is forty feet high, is of stratified sand and gravel, with vast slightly-worn blocks of gneiss: from the top of this we proceeded south-west for three miles to some Mechi villages, the inhabitants of which flocked to meet us, bringing milk and refreshments.

The Lohar-ghur, or “iron hill,” lies in a dense dry forest. Its plain-ward flanks are very steep, and covered with scattered weather-worn masses of ochreous and black iron-stone, many of which are several yards long: it fractures with faint metallic lustre, and is very earthy in parts: it does not affect the compass. There are no pebbles of iron-stone, nor water-worn rocks of any kind found with it.

The sandstones, close by, cropped out in thick beds (dip north 70°): they are very soft, and beds of laminated clay, and of a slaty rock, are intercalated with them; also an excessively tough conglomerate, formed of an indurated blue or grey paste, with nodules of harder clay. There are no traces of metal in the rock, and the lumps of ore are wholly superficial.

Below Punkabaree the Baisarbatti stream cuts through banks of gravel overlying the sandstone (dip north 65°). The sandstone is gritty and micaceous, intercalated with beds of indurated shale and clay; in which I found the shaft (apparently) of a bone; there were also beds of the


 

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same clay conglomerate which I had seen at Lohar-ghur, and thin seams of brown lignite; with a rhomboidal cleavage. In the bed of the stream were carbonaceous shales, with obscure impressions of fern leaves, of Trizygia, and Vertebraria: both fossils characteristic of the Burdwan coal-fields (see page 8), but too imperfect to justify any conclusion as to the relation between these formations.*

Ascending the stream, these shales are seen in situ, overlain by the metamorphic clay-slate of the mountains, and dipping inwards (northwards) like them. This is at the foot of the Punkabaree spur, and close to the bungalow, where a stream and land-slip expose good sections. The carbonaceous beds dip north 60° and 70°, and run east and west; much quartz rock is intercalated with them, and soft white and pink micaceous sandstones. The coal-seams are few in number, six to twelve inches thick, very confused and distorted, and full of elliptic nodules, or spheroids of quartzy slate, covered with concentric scaly layers of coal: they overlie the sandstones mentioned above. These scanty notices of superposition being collected in a country clothed with the densest tropical forest, where a geologist pursues his fatiguing investigations under disadvantages that can hardly be realized in England, will I fear long remain unconfirmed.

* These traces of fossils are not sufficient to identify the formation with that of the sewalik hills of North-west India; but its contents, together with its strike, dip, and position relatively to the mountains, and its mineralogical character, incline me to suppose it may be similar. Its appearance in such small quantities in Sikkim (where it rises but a few hundred feet above the level of the sea, whereas in Kumaon it reaches 4000 feet), may be attributed to the greater amount of wearing which it must have undergone; the plains from which it rises being 1000 feet lower than those of Kumaon, and the sea having consequently retired later, exposing the Sikkim sandstone to the effects of denudation for a much longer period. Hitherto no traces of this rock, or of any belonging to a similar geological epoch, have been found in the valleys of Sikkim; but when the narrowness of these is considered, it will not appear strange that such may have been removed from their surfaces: first, by the action of a tidal ocean; and afterwards, by that of tropical rains.


 

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I may mention, however, that the appearance of inversion of the strata at the foot of great mountain-masses has been observed in the Alleghany chain, and I believe in the Alps.*


 
A mech, native of the Sikkim Terai

A poor Mech was fishing in the stream, with a basket curiously formed of a cylinder of bamboo, cleft all round in innumerable strips, held together by the joints above and below; these strips being stretched out as a balloon in the

* Dr. M‘Lelland informs me that in the Curruckpore hills, south of the Ganges, the clay-slates are overlain by beds of mica-slate, gneiss, and granite, which pass into one another.


 

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middle, and kept apart by a hoop: a small hole is cut in the cage, and a mouse-trap entrance formed: the cage is placed in the current with the open end upwards, where the fish get in, and though little bigger than minnows, cannot find their way out.

On the 20th we had a change in the weather: a violent storm from the south-west occurred at noon, with hail of a strange form, the stones being sections of hollow spheres, half an inch across and upwards, formed of cones with truncated apices and convex bases; these cones were aggregated together with their bases outwards. The large masses were followed by a shower of the separate conical pieces, and that by heavy rain. On the mountains this storm was most severe: the stones lay at Dorjiling for seven days, congealed into masses of ice several feet long and a foot thick in sheltered places: at Purneah, fifty miles south, stones one and two inches across fell, probably as whole spheres.

Ascending to Khersiong, I found the vegetation very backward by the road-sides. The rain had cleared the atmosphere, and the view over the plains was brilliant. On the top of the Khersiong spur a tremendous gale set in with a cold west wind: the storm cleared off at night, which at 10 p.m. was beautiful, with forked and sheet lightning over the plains far below us. The equinoctial gales had now fairly set in, with violent south-east gales, heavy thunder, lightning, and rain.

Whilst at Khersiong I took advantage of the very fair section afforded by the road from Punkabaree, to examine the structure of the spur, which seems to be composed of very highly inclined contorted beds (dip north) of metamorphic rocks, gneiss, mica-slate, clay-slate, and quartz; the foliation of which beds is parallel to the dip of the strata. Over all reposes a bed of clay, capped with a layer of


 

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vegetable mould, nowhere so thick and rich as in the more humid regions of 7000 feet elevation. The rocks appeared in the following succession in descending. Along the top are found great blocks of very compact gneiss buried in clay. Half a mile lower the same rock appears, dipping north-north-east 50°. Below this, beds of saccharine quartz, with seams of mica, dip north-north-west 20°. Some of these quartz beds are folded on themselves, and look like flattened trunks of trees, being composed of concentric layers, each from two to four inches thick: we exposed twenty-seven feet of one fold running along the side of the road, which was cut parallel to the strike. Each layer of quartz was separated from its fellows, by one of mica scales; and was broken up into cubical fragments, whose surfaces are no doubt cleavage and jointing places. I had previously seen, but not understood, such flexures produced by metamorphic action on masses of quartz when in a pasty state, in the Falkland Islands, where they have been perfectly well described by Mr. Darwin;* in whose views of the formation of these rocks I entirely concur.

The flexures of the gneiss are incomparably more irregular and confused than those of the quartz, and often contain flattened spheres of highly crystalline felspar, that cleave perpendicularly to the shorter axis. These spheres are disposed in layers parallel to the foliation of the gneiss: and are the result of a metamorphic action of great intensity, effecting a complete rearrangement and crystallization of the quartz and mica in parallel planes, whilst the felspar is aggregated in spheres; just as in the rearrangement of the mineral constituents of mica-schists, the alumina is crystallized in the garnets, and in the clay-slates the iron into pyrites.

* Journal of Geological Society for 1846, p. 267, and “Voyage of the Beagle”.


 

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The quartz below this dips north-north-west 45° to 50°, and alternates with a very hard slaty schist, dipping north-west 45°, and still lower is a blue-grey clay-slate, dipping north-north-west 30°. These rest on beds of slate, folded like the quartz mentioned above, but with cleavage-planes, forming lines radiating from the axis of each flexure, and running through all the concentric folds. Below this are the plumbago and clay slates of Punkabaree, which alternate with beds of mica-schist with garnets, and appear to repose immediately upon the carboniferous strata and sandstone; but there is much disturbance at the junction.

On re-ascending from Punkabaree, the rocks gradually appear more and more dislocated, the clay-slate less so than the quartz and mica-schist, and that again far less than the gneiss, which is so shattered and bent, that it is impossible to say what is in situ, and what not. Vast blocks lie superficially on the ridges; and the tops of all the outer mountains, as of Khersiong spur, of Tonglo, Sinchul, and Dorjiling, appear a pile of such masses. Injected veins of quartz are rare in the lower beds of schist and clay-slate, whilst the gneiss is often full of them; and on the inner and loftier ranges, these quartz veins are replaced by granite with tourmaline.

Lime is only known as a stalactitic deposit from various streams, at elevations from 1000 to 7000 feet; one such stream occurs above Punkabaree, which I have not seen; another within the Sinchul range, on the great Rungeet river, above the exit of the Rummai; a third wholly in the great central Himalayan range, flowing into the Lachen river. The total absence of any calcareous rock in Sikkim, and the appearance of the deposit in isolated streams at such distant localities, probably indicates a very remote origin of the lime-charged waters.


 

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From Khersiong to Dorjiling, gneiss is the only rock, and is often decomposed into clay-beds, 20 feet deep, in which the narrow, often zigzag folia of quartz remain quite entire and undisturbed, whilst every trace of the foliation of the softer mineral is lost.

At Pacheem, Dorjiling weather, with fog and drizzle, commenced, and continued for two days: we, reached Dorjiling on the 24th of March, and found that the hail which had fallen on the 20th was still lying in great masses of crumbling ice in sheltered spots. The fall had done great damage to the gardens, and Dr. Campbell’s tea-plants were cut to pieces.


 
Pocket-comb used by the mech tribes

 

END OF VOLUME I
 

Next Chapter XVIII