Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/101

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lutely to strike upon the soul, so strange are the sensations which it produces in the craving heart of man, as it defies the farther intrusion of his adventurous footsteps.

The most holy spot is found upon the left bank, where a mass of quartz and silicious schist rock sends forth five hot springs into the bed of the river, which boil and bubble at a furious rate. When mingled with the icy-cold stream of the Jumna, these smoking springs form a very delightful tepid bath, and the pilgrims, after dipping their hands in the hottest part, perform much more agreeable ablutions, where the temperature offers the desirable medium between the scalding water above and the chilling stream below. It is usual with the devotees to make an offering of money to the divinity of the river, an offering which of course finds its way to the pocket of the officiating priest, who prays over the bathers, and marks them on the forehead in the most orthodox fashion with the sacred mud of the place.

European travellers pay the tax, for they feel that they owe something to the brahmin for his attendance; but they, at least those who are acquainted with the prevailing feeling of the Hindoos, dispense with the distinguishing badge of idolatrous worship, and make no scruple of standing beside the holy spring with their shoes on. The approach with bare feet is an acknowledgment of the sanctity of the place, which no Christian ought to give, and the natives of India do not insist upon it from those who differ from them in religious belief, preventing them only from penetrating to the interiors of a few temples. If we offer an insult to the religious feelings of a Hindoo by refusing this mark of respect to their deities, we ought to remain at the prescribed distance from their sacred places, since it has been very justly remarked, that no native would understand why a Christian should take off his shoes, or in any other way mark the holiness of any particular spot, unless he really considered the spot to be holy.[1]

The height of the snow bed at Jumnootre is about ten thousand feet, and in the month of October, when all the snow that ever melts is melted at this place, it is possible to advance somewhat nearer to the real source than at any other period of the year. Crossing the snowy bed whence the water emerges at Jumnootree, is a work of some difficulty, and when accomplished we find that the infant river is divided into three streams, each forming a separate waterfall, and flowing over steep green hills. The lower of these are surmountable, but with great difficulty and some danger, as the stones are loose, and slip from under the feet: in process of time, however, we may look forward to such an improvement in the roads of these hills as will allow the traveller to reach the utmost extent which human means can render possible.

Those persons who have proceeded as far as the present circumstances will admit, that is, about a mile beyond Jumnootre, have ascertained that the most direct stream

  1. It may be, perhaps, necessary to state, that in making these observations there is no wish to countenance the disdain of native opinion, which it is, but too frequently, the practice of Europeans to display. Many, who from their education and intelligence should know better, insist upon forcing their way with their shoes on into places considered holy by the Hindoos; a wanton act of sacrilege, for which there is no excuse: all that is here advocated, is a determination not to shew a degree of homage which is liable to misinterpretation, and to keep aloof from places which involve an acknowledgment of reverence to pagan gods. There is great reason to fear that the influx of European travellers to the hills is doing much to impress the natives of those districts with the same opinion which the haughty superciliousness, arrogance, and contemptuous conduct, too characteristic of Anglo-Indians, have rendered so prevalent in the plains. Instead of exerting the superior knowledge, virtue, wisdom, science, &c., of which we make so great a vaunt, in gaining the respect of, and affording an example to the less fortunate people of India, we disgust them by the display of all our bad qualities, while they cannot possibly, by intuition, know that we have any good ones. Few, indeed, there are who regard the estimation in which they may be held by the natives, caring not a farthing what "those black fellows" may think of them; and yet there are no better judges of manners.