Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/38

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pressing forwards to the utmost limit, and endeavouring to get before their brethren, and thus secure the greatest share of the provant. Should any unlucky wight, in his eagerness to approach the tempting vase, overstep the bounds assigned, he is beaten and turned out. The grain being scattered amongst the expectant crowd, a general scramble takes place; each strives to fill his pouch at the expense of his neighbour, and, while biting, scratching, and tearing, is intent upon the grand object of the fray. Amid this fierce contention, the grain speedily disappears, the largest possible quantity being bagged in the shortest possible time; and at the sound of a second bell the monkeys make their exit. There are, however, festival days, on which, in addition to their usual allowance, they are regaled with fruit; the whole scene affording much entertainment to the by-standers, who, whatever their religious creed may be, are allowed to witness it without scruple.

On leaving Saharunpore, on our march to the valley of the Dhoon, our road conducted us through the Keeree Pass; and this lovely portal to a new country gave delightful promise of the scenery beyond. The distant view which we had caught of the true Himalaya, the birth-place and abode of the gods of Hindostan, was lost, and the scene became one of the softest beauty imaginable, the devious valley winding through rocky eminences, and richly clothed with stately trees. At every step of our progress, the landscape changed its features, and, though the character remained the same, presented so great a variety of forms, of crag and precipice, wild rock, deep forest, and smiling valley, that we paused continually in delightful amazement—now recognising, with that joy which the exile alone can feel, in suddenly encountering some well-known object, points of resemblance between our northern homes—and now struck with wonder by some splendid production of an Indian soil. Here, in all its native luxuriance, may be seen the giant creeper, which, with justice, is denominated the monarch of its tribe—the scandent bauhinia. This enormous parasite winds its snake-like stem, which attains the size, and somewhat resembles the body of the boa-constrictor, round the trunk of the forest-trees, either mingling its flowers with their foliage, or flinging them from the festoons which it forms from branch to branch as it travels along. The rich scent of these superb blossoms, together with that of the baubool, filling the air with perfume, and gratifying at once the sight and smell.

The elevation of these low hills, composing, as it were, the outworks of the Himalaya, varies from five to nine hundred feet above the plains, and about two thousand five hundred above the level of the sea. Geologists describe them as being composed chiefly of sandstone of different degrees of destructibility, of indurated clay, and beds of rounded pebbles and gravel, circumstances which characterise them throughout the range, from Hurdwar to its termination. The thick forest and brushwood are full of peacocks, and, amid game of less importance, the tiger is to be found, while hares, and the black and gray partridge, literally swarm in the neighbourhood. There are two halting-places in the Keeree Pass, one the Mohun Chokee, at the entrance, and the Shoupore Chokee within the pass, which extends to a length of upwards of six miles. Our party consisted of several persons, and we had with us a numerous cortege, comprising horses, elephants, and bullocks, for the conveyance of the baggage; our encampment, therefore, was extensive and picturesque, and rendered animated by groups of our people assembled