Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/23

This page needs to be proofread.


THE HIMALAYAS. 19 out India from the rest of Asia. Their heights between Tibet and India are crowned with eternal snow ; while vast glaciers, one of which is known to be sixty miles in length, slowly move their masses of ice downwards to the valleys. This wild region is in many parts impenetrable to man, and nowhere yields a route for an army. But bold parties of traders, wrapped in sheepskins, force their way across its passes, 18,000 feet high. The bones of worn-out mules and ponies mark their path. The little yak cow, whose bushy tail is manufactured in Europe into lace, is employed in the Himalayas as a beast of burden, and patiently toils up the steepest gorges with a heavy load on her back. The sheep are also used to carry bags of borax to markets near the plains. They are then shorn of their fleeces and eaten as mutton. A few return into the inner mountains laden with sugar and cloth. Offshoots of the Himalayas. — The Himalayas not only form a double wall along the north of India, but at both ends send out hilly offshoots southwards, which protect its north- eastern and north-western boundaries. On the north-east, these offshoots, under the name of the N&ga and Patkoi mountains, form a barrier between the civilized British Districts and the wild tribes of Upper Burma. But the barrier is pierced, just at the corner where it strikes southwards from the Himalayas, by a passage through which the Brahmaputra river rushes into the Assam valley. On the opposite or north-western frontier of India, the hilly offshoots run down the entire length of the British boundary from the Himalayas to the sea. As they pro- ceed southwards, they are in turn known as the Safed Koh, the Sulaimah range, and the Hala mountains. This western barrier has peaks over 11,000 feet in height; but it is pierced at the corner where it strikes southwards from the Himalayas by an opening, the Khaibar pass, near which the Kabul river flows into India. The Khdibar pass, with the Kuram pass to the south of it, the Gwalari pass near Dera Ism&il Khan, and the famous Bolan pass, still further south, form the gateways from India to Afghdnistan and Baliichistin. Himalayan. Water- Supply. — The rugged Himalayas, while thus keeping out enemies, are a source of food and wealth b 2