Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains/Village of Khandoo, on the Ascent to the Choor
VILLAGE OF KHANDOO, ON THE ASCENT TO THE CHOOR.
During our travels we had frequently obtained glimpses of the Choor mountain, and we were now approaching it in earnest: it is the most lofty eminence belonging to the secondary Himalaya, running south of the great snowy range, and, from whatever point it may be seen, it forms a grand and prominent object, towering majestically amid a host of satellites. Marching from the south-east, we came to the village of Khandoo, which occupies ground about nine thousand feet above the level of the sea. The principal building in this village, a religious edifice, occupying the right in the accompanying engraving, differs little in character from the generality of temples dedicated to the numerous deities of the Himalaya. It is rather more lofty than the rest of the houses; the cornices are decorated with a fringe of wooden bobbins, and the timber employed in its construction is rather elaborately carved. Generally it is not difficult for European travellers in want of such accommodation to obtain a lodging in the outer vestibule of a temple, but in some places the villagers will not permit these holy shrines to be thus desecrated. The religious worship chiefly consists in offerings of flowers, sweetmeats, and grain upon the altars, with occasional dancing, when the gods are dragged forth for adoration.
We were now in the haunts of several species of deer, which are never found below six thousand feet, and generally range considerably higher; these agile and beautiful animals are often to be seen dashing at full speed down the sides of some steep precipice, which few could even look over without feeling dizzy, and their appearance in such situations tends greatly to heighten the effect of the scene. They are found in the greatest abundance in almost inaccessible places, far into the interior, where "hill on hill, and alps on alps arise." We have not met with any tigers in our travels; this monarch of the plains seldom mounts to any great elevation, and is only occasionally to be seen at the height of eight thousand feet. Tigers are sufficiently plentiful at the bases of the hills, and parties are continually setting forward from the Dhoon in pursuit of this royal game. It is only in something like a level or open country that they can be encountered in a sportsmanlike manner, urged to the spirit-stirring charge which they frequently make in so gallant a style. In stealing along the sides of a mountain, or plunging into the pine forests, the tiger can only be killed ingloriously, and usually falls a victim to some concealed adversary. The leopard, and other mountain cats, are very common in the inferior ranges of the hills, and the hyæna is also very frequently to be found; but the great potentate of the Himalaya forests and fastnesses is the bear. This monster attains a great size, and would be very formidable, were he as bold as he is savage: the usual colour is black, but specimens are found in some parts of the country of a much lighter colour, and in the alpine districts a pure white: the common kind make their dens in the deepest and most sequestered dells, shunning the day, and haunting spots of such profound gloom, that it would seem as if the sun's beam had never enlivened their solitudes. We did not see the wolf in the hills: the jackal goes up as high as seven thousand feet, and the family appears to be gradually mounting, as, according to the best accounts, they were never seen formerly beyond two, or, at most, three thousand feet above the level of the sea. Wild hogs are very plentiful in the hills, being found at very high elevations, but, to the great horror of the pig-stickers, men who were wont to ride at the brindled monster spear in hand, they can only be slain by what is contemptuously termed a pot-shot, that is, they are merely killed for the sake of the pork. Elks of enormous size are occupants of the rocky fastnesses of the Himalaya, but, numerous as are the different specimens of deer which the traveller sees in his journeys through these mountains, there are many with which he only becomes acquainted by means of the skins brought to the Rampore fair for sale or barter. These belong to the shyest of the race, which must be sought in remote haunts by the patient and persevering native hunters.
In pursuing game in the mountains, it is especially necessary to guard against promiscuous shooting; and the sportsman should decide, before starting, whether he will try for furred or feathered game, for, should he attack birds and deer indiscriminately, he will not have much success with either; both require considerable caution, the ground being so favourable for their escape. The cher, one of the varieties of pheasant most in request, does not descend lower than seven or eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, and is generally found on the summits of the most naked mountains, avoiding those which are thickly clothed with forest trees or brushwood: early in the morning, or late in the evening, they are invariably at feed on the crest of the hills, and during the heat of the day hide in the grass under projecting crags. They are decidedly less numerous than any of the other mountain pheasants, and the excitement of a trudge after these beautiful birds is, to a true sportsman, considerably augmented by their comparative rarity. Another beautiful variety frequent the most shady and secluded dells, sheltered by overhanging rocks festooned with ivy and creepers, and diversified by clumps of holly and wild cherry; here and there an open space of greensward, a few yards in circumference, surrounded by patches of wild rose, scenting the fairy dell with their delicious perfume. A little silvery stream bubbles from the rocks above, and trickles over the elastic turf, its murmuring course defined by a belt of violets and cowslips, whilst ferns of every variety are dancing gracefully in the breeze, and dipping their feathered heads in the tiny wave as it sparkles on its way.