Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/146

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His Highness the maha-rajah, Runjeet Singh, the great Seik chieftain, who is Lord of the Punjab, or Country of Four Rivers, the conqueror of Cashmere and Moultan, and undisputed master of the most fertile country of India, and of revenues to the amount of two crores (millions) a year, may be styled the only independent prince throughout the whole peninsula. It has always been the policy of the British government to conciliate this potentate, who, notwithstanding some strange notions, the offspring of superstition, is a very able person, and one with whom, though we may not fear him, it is considered advantageous to keep upon good terms.

During the period in which Lord William Bentinck held the reins of government in India, a tour which he made throughout the Bengal territory, and into the hills, afforded an opportunity of a meeting with the chief of Lahore, which it was supposed had some great political object in view. It was deemed expedient to induce our powerful neighbour to enter into a defensive alliance with our government, and to gain, by treaty, the navigation of the Indus, for the more speedy transport of troops by steam from Bombay, in case of the necessity of strengthening the defences on our north-west frontier. The spot selected for the interview might be called classic, since it has been made memorable by affording a passage across the Sutlej to Nadir Shah in his invasion of India, while the river itself is still more celebrated as being the Hyphasis of Alexander the Great, and the boundary of his Eastern conquests. Roopur is beautifully situated among the lower skirts of the Himalaya, where the Sutlej first waters the plains, and the splendid encampment on either side of the river shewed to great advantage amid the low ranges of hills and woody valleys of the landscape.

Runjeet Singh's army occupied the right bank, and probably equalled in magnificence any display ever made by the gorgeous satraps of the East. The spot chosen for the temporary palace of the chieftain exhibited to great advantage the peculiar ingenuity of native talent, which is never so favourably employed as in the conversion of some desert waste into a scene which looks like the work of the fabled genii of the soil. A space of about eight acres of sand having been marked out, the interstices between the intended erections were sowed with a quick-growing herb, and kept constantly watered; when, therefore, the pavilions and tents were raised, they appeared to be surrounded by parterres of the brightest green. Nothing could exceed the splendour of these tents, which gleamed with the richest draperies of crimson, purple, scarlet, and gold, supported on gilt pillars, and having awnings embroidered, and fringed, and tasselled, in the most costly manner. A wall of kanauts, as they are called in India, on which crimson with a lining of yellow satin was substituted for canvass, enclosed the pavilions on three sides, having openings in the shape of lofty gateways, with towers at each angle; the river