Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/115

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the river. The brahmins who have the care of this temple are accommodated with habitations in its close vicinity, and there are a few sheds for the temporary residence of pilgrims, many of whom, however, are content with such shelter as the neighbouring caves afford. The usual ceremonies of bathing, praying, and marking the forehead, are gone through at this place, the officiating brahmin taking care that the fees shall be duly paid. Notwithstanding the stern and sullen nature of his retreat, at some periods of the year he may be said to lead a busy life, conversing with devout pilgrims, and carriers of water to distant lands, who require his seal to authenticate their burdens; and making the most out of all his visitors, whatever their country or their creed may be. Though dispensing with his orisons, we paid him for his services; and it seemed a matter of indifference to him on what account he received the cash.


The traveller in the Himalaya must accustom himself to the most dangerous and slippery bridges imaginable: habituated from their infancy to the sight of the steepest precipices in the world, the mountaineers are indifferent to circumstances which produce giddiness in the heads of those who have hitherto traversed comparatively level ground. Strange to say, the cattle of the mountains, guided by some extraordinary instinct, can make their way in safety over the frail and crazy bridges which at some places span rapid streams, and at others are thrown across deep ravines. Morning and evening the flocks and herds may be seen passing these narrow footways, and, accustomed to this mode of transit, they will cross on their way home, or to their distant pastures, without any human being to direct them. There can, however, be no doubt that the difficulties of communication between the inhabitants of neighbouring hills must often be very severely felt, and that to this cause the low intellectual state of the mountaineers of the Himalaya may in a great measure be attributed.

Living in isolated circles, apart from each other, the hill-people can acquire little or nothing from an interchange of ideas, and grovel on through life without a single attempt to improve their condition, or to increase the facilities of access with the neighbouring districts. The materials being close at hand, safe and commodious bridges might be constructed in all parts of the hills; but with very inadequate tools, and no conception of the extent of the advantages to be derived from improvements of the kind, it can scarcely be expected that the natives, accustomed to live as their fathers had done before them, should, without the example and assistance of strangers, attempt undertakings which belong to a higher degree of knowledge, and a more advanced state of civilization. It is, perhaps, only in periods of famine and pestilence that they feel the miseries of their situation—the impossibility of obtaining assistance from those poor neighbours, who would willingly accord it if they possessed the means; and the scanty population being kept down by dreadful mortality, which sometimes sweeps away the inhabitants of a whole village at once, and by the wretched customs and marriage laws which have been universally adopted, it can scarcely be expected that any improvement should emanate from the natives themselves.

At present the number of Europeans who seek health or amusement in these hills is too small to effect much in the way of example, except in the immediate vicinity of the stations which they have established. The tourists, who, considering the sum total of visitors, may be called numerous, cannot fail to requite the services of the simple