Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/27

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Janghera stands at the very portal of Bengal, a district differing very widely from the high table-land of Hindostan proper. We leave the arid plains and bare cliffs—which, except during the season of the rains, give so dreary an aspect to the upper provinces—for fields of never-failing verdure. The damp climate of Bengal maintains vegetation in all its brilliance throughout the year, the period of the rains being only marked by a coarser and ranker luxuriance, proceeding from a redundance of plants, which actually appear to cumber and choke up the soil. Janghera, thus happily placed between the rugged scenery of the upper provinces, and the smiling landscapes of Bengal, partakes of the nature of both: the Ganges spreads itself like a sea at the foot of the rock, which on the land-side overlooks a wide expanse of fertile country, having for a back-ground the low ranges of hills which separate Behar from Bengal. These hills, though rendered exceedingly interesting by their breaking the monotony of the vast extent of plain which spreads itself on either side, have not until very lately attracted much attention from the European residents of India. Circumstances, however, have led to the development of resources which may open a new era in their history. Veins of coal have been discovered, a circumstance of great importance since the introduction of steam navigation upon the Ganges. At present the exceeding unhealthiness of the climate of these fastnesses, for such the hilly districts in this neighbourhood may be deemed, proves a great barrier to research. Cutting roads through them, and the attempt to bring them into cultivation, we may hope, will lead to improvements which will enable the scientific traveller to penetrate their recesses, and pursue in their own haunts his studies of the animal creation, hitherto existing in profound solitudes scarcely trodden by the foot of man. The ornithologist has found a considerable accession to the catalogue of birds: a splendid animal of the bovine genus, the gaour, feeds in the valleys, and the hippopotamus is supposed to inhabit the lonely rivers of Gundwana; the gaour differing considerably from the bison, or any other known specimen of the class, is altogether new in the records of zoology, and prevailing opinion confines the hippopotamus to Africa; it is therefore a matter of some importance to establish the existence of the one, and to render the other useful in a domestic capacity. Specimens of the gaour have found their way to the general mart in India, the fair at Hurdwar, but the attempts hitherto made to tame this fine animal have proved unsuccessful: those individuals that have been exhibited measured upwards of sixteen hands in height. The gaour somewhat resembles the buffalo in form, but has a much finer coat; it is distinguished by an excrescence running down the back, which by casual observers has been mistaken for the hump found in the common Indian bullock; and its appearance is so rare as to excite great curiosity among the native community, who crowd eagerly to gaze upon it when taking its place among the curiosities of Hurdwar.