Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/44

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bright waters, subjected to so many and such dreadful pollutions. Recognizing the Supreme Power in the blessings which a benignant Deity lavishes upon the objects of its creation, an untutored mind may be forgiven, if, ignorant of the Source whence the benefit is derived, adoration and homage should be paid to the tree affording shade, or to the river, which supplies the element so necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of life. But the Hindoos have, with the blindest perversity, departed from the early simplicity of their creed, and have reared, throughout scenes of tranquil beauty, altars cemented with human blood, desecrating the pure waters of the Ganges with the swollen corses of the dead, who have been murdered on its banks, in obedience to the most horrid superstition. It is deemed incumbent upon the relatives of a dying person to hurry the unfortunate to the side of some sacred river, there to breathe the last sigh; and when death is protracted, and exposure to cold dews or a burning sun fail to accomplish the object desired, the sufferer is relieved from his miseries by a more summary mode, the mouth and nostrils being stopped with the mud of the Ganges, which is supposed to possess purifying qualities. There can be no doubt that the death of multitudes is hastened by this process: for when once a patient is brought down to the water to die, recovery is deemed disgraceful, inasmuch as it proves that the person thus escaping is rejected by the gods.

In consequence of the expense of burning a corse upon a funeral pile, wood being in India both scarce and dear, individuals belonging to the poorer classes are after death thrust into the river with very little ceremony, affording a shocking spectacle to unaccustomed eyes, as they float down generally with the ghastly head above the water. People who can afford it, obtain wood for the performance of the last sad rites; but, generally speaking, they grudge the cost of a quantity sufficient for the purpose of reducing the body to ashes; it is merely scorched a little, and then consigned to the Ganges. When incremation is completed, the traveller who is so unfortunate as to pitch his tent or moor his boat near the scene of action, suffers very considerable annoyance from the effluvia arising from the burning corpse, while at the same time his eyes may be shocked by the sight of some huge carrion-bird, wafted down the river by the prey which it has seized and is devouring, a corpse being frequently indicated by the vulture which has perched upon it.

These are some of the sights which deform a river, whose calm and heavenly beauty few can behold unmoved by admiration. Cold indeed must be the person who could refuse to acknowledge the loveliness of the scene presented in the accompanying Plate; and every step of the road there delineated, constructed by Government into the valley of the Dhoon, leads to some region equally gratifying to the eye of taste.


A fair takes place annually at Hurdwar in the month of April, lasting nearly a fortnight, that being the period chosen by the pilgrims, who flock from all parts of India, to perform their ablutions in the Ganges. The auspicious moment is calculated by the brahmins, who aver that a great increase in the efficacy of the rite is derivable from its performance when Jupiter is in Aquarius or the sun enters Aries, which happens every twelfth year.