THE RIVER PLAINS. 23 the Bay of Bengal on the east to the Indian Ocean on the west, and contain the richest and most densely-crowded pro- vinces of the Indian Empire. One set of invaders after another have, from very ancient times, entered by the passes at their north-eastern and north-western corners, and, following the courses of the rivers, pushed the earlier comers south towards the sea. About 150 millions of people now live on and around these river plains, in the provinces known as the Lieutenant- Governorship of Bengal, Assam, Oudh, the North- Western Pro- vinces, the Punjab, Sind, Rajputana, and other Native States. The Indus brings water from the Himalayas to the western side of the river plains of Northern India, the Brahmaputra to their eastern, while the Ganges and its feeders fertilize their central region. The Indus, after it unites the five rivers of the Punjab, ceases to obtain further tributaries, and the great desert of Raj- putana stretches from -its left bank. The Brahmaputra, on the extreme east of the plains, passes down the still thinly-inhabited valley of Assam ; and it is only in the lower part of its course, as it approaches the Ganges, that a dense population is found on its margin. But the Ganges and its great tributary the Jumna flow for nearly a thousand miles almost parallel to the Himalayas, and receive many streams from them. They do the work of water-carrier for most of Northern India, and the people reverence the bountiful rivers which fertilize their fields. The sources of the Ganges and Jumna in the mountains are held sacred ; their point of junction at Allahabad is yearly visited by thousands of pilgrims ; and a great religious gathering take's place each January on Sagar island, where the united stream formerly poured into the sea. To bathe in Mother Ganges, as she is lovingly called, purified from sin during life ; and the devout Hindu died in the hope that his ashes would be borne by her waters to the ocean. The Ganges is also a river of great cities. Calcutta, Patna, and Benares are built on her banks ; Agra and Delhi on those of her tributary the Jumna ; and Allahabad on the tongue of land where the two sister streams unite. The Work done by the Rivers. — In order to understand
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