THE HIMALAYAS. 21 of the trees are themselves clothed with mosses, ferns, and flowering creepers or orchids. In the autumn, crops of red and yellow millet run in ribands of brilliant colour down the hill- sides. The chief saleable products of the Himalayas are timber and charcoal ; barley, small grains or millets, grown in the hot valleys and upon terraces formed with much labour on the slopes ; potatoes, other vegetables, and honey. Strings of ponies and mules straggle with their burdens along the narrow paths, at places cut out of the sheer precipice. The muleteers and their hard-working wives load themselves also with pine stems and conical baskets of grain. The Destruction of the Forests. — The high price of wood on the plains has caused many of the hills to be stripped of their forests, so that the rainfall now rushes quickly down their bare slopes, and no new woods can spring up. The potato crop, introduced from England, leads to a further destruction of timber. The hillman clears his potato ground by burning a ring round the stems of the great trees, and laying out the side of the mountain into terraces. In a few years the bark drops off the trees, and the forest stands bleached and ruined. Some of the trees rot on the ground, like giants fallen in a confused fight ; others still remain upright, with white trunks and skeleton arms. In the end, the rank green potato crop marks the spot where a forest has been slain and buried. Several of the ruder hill tribes follow an even more wasteful mode of tillage. Desti- tute of either ploughs or cattle, they burn down the jungle, and exhaust the soil by a quick succession of crops, raised by the hoe. In a year or two the whole settlement moves off to a fresh patch of jungle, which they clear and exhaust, and then desert in like manner. The Himalayan TJiver System. — The special feature of the Himalayas, however, is that they send down the rainfall from their northern as well as from their southern slopes upon the Indian plains. For, as we have seen, they form a double mountain-wall, with a deep trough or valley beyond. Even the rainfall which passes beyond their outer or southern heights is stopped by their inner or northern ridges, and drains into the trough behind. Of the three great rivers of India, — the two
Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/25
This page needs to be proofread.