THE SOUTHERN TABLELAND. 27 rivers, roll upwards from their banks into fertile plains, dotted with mud-built villages, and adorned with noble trees. Mango groves scent the air with their blossom in spring, and yield their abundant fruit in summer. The spreading banian with its colonnades of hanging roots, the stately piped with its masses of foliage, the leafless wild cotton-tree laden with its heavy red flowers, the tall feathery tamarind, and the quick-growing babdl, rear their heads above the crop fields. As the rivers approach the coast, the palms begin to take possession of the scene. Crops of the Delta. — The ordinary landscape in the Bengal Delta is a flat stretch of rice fields, fringed round with evergreen masses of bamboos, cocoa-nuts, areca, and other coroneted palms. This densely-peopled tract seems at first sight bare of villages, for each hamlet is hidden amid its own grove of plan- tains and wealth-giving trees. The crops also change as we sail down the rivers. In the north, the principal grains are wheat, barley, and millets, such as jodr and bdjra. The two last form the food of the masses, rice, in Northern Bengal, being only grown on irrigated lands, and consumed by the rich. In the delta, on the other hand, rice is the staple crop and the universal diet. More than a hundred varieties of it are known to the Bengal peasant. Sugar-cane, oil-seeds, cottftn, tobacco, indigo, and many precious spices and dyes grow both in the north and the south. The tea-plant is reared on several hill} ranges which skirt the plains, but chiefly around Darjiling or in the Dwars and Assam ; the opium poppy, about half-way down the Ganges, near Benares and Patnd ; the silkworm mulberry, still further down in Lower Bengal ; while the jute fibre is essentially a crop of the delta, and would exhaust any soil not fertilized by river floods. Even the jungles yield the costly lac dye and tasar silk cocoons. To name all the crops of the river plains would weary the reader. Nearly every vegetable product which feeds and clothes a people, or enables it to trade with foreign nations, abounds. Third Kegion : The Southern Tableland. — Having thus glanced at the leading features of the Himalayas on the north, and of the great river plains at their base, I come now to the third division of India, namely, the three-sided tableland which
Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/31
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