Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/47

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The immense concourse of persons drawn to Hurdwar by religious motives, has attracted others, who take advantage of this promiscuous meeting, to dispose of merchandise brought from the uttermost parts of the world, and which thus finds its way to every accessible place throughout India. There are, of course, purchasers as well as sellers, who resort to the fair for the purpose of buying cattle, shawls, and jewels, either for their own use, or to dispose of again. Many, also, visit the fair purely from motives of curiosity, this portion of the spectators being chiefly composed of Europeans and rich Mohammedans, who travel, particularly the latter, in great splendour. The peace in this promiscuous multitude is kept by a large detachment from the Sirmoon battalion of the Hill-rangers, who come down from their quarters at Deyrah Dhoon, and garrison an island in the centre of the river, where they are out of the way, and yet at hand to prevent disturbance; while there are magistrates present, with a very considerable body of police, to enforce the rules and regulations necessary for the preservation of order in an assembly composed of such heterogeneous materials.

The climate of Hurdwar during the early part of April is exceedingly variable: from four in the afternoon, until nine or ten o'clock on the following day, the wind generally blows from the north or east over the snowy mountains, rendering the air delightfully cool; during the intermediate hours, however, the thermometer frequently rises to 94°; and the clouds of dust arising from the concourse of people, together with their beasts of burden, collected at this place, add considerably to the annoyance sustained from the heat.

The principal road to Hurdwar lies through the town of Khunkul, which is also a Teerut, or place of Hindoo pilgrimage, overlooking the Ganges: it is very well built, and adorned with several commodious ghauts, constructed of cut freestone, landing-places descending by long flights of steps into the river. This town chiefly consists of one principal street, running north and south parallel with the course of the water, and composed of handsome houses belonging to rich merchants and brahmins from every part of India. In fact, the ownership of a house at Khunkul, shews the proprietor to be a man of great wealth, and considerable importance in society. It is like possessing a place at Melton Mowbray. The greater number of these mansions are unhappily disfigured by paintings, executed in a very barbarous manner in the most glaring colours, without, of course, the slightest attention either to shadow, proportion, or perspective. The house-tops are covered with troops of monkeys, animals sufficiently sagacious to discover those places in which their species is held in reverence. These creatures are sacred in every stronghold of Hindoo superstition, and from their multitudes become perfect nuisances, it being difficult to prevent their invasion into every apartment of a private residence. There are at Khunkul numerous serais for the accommodation of the people who resort to it at the time of the fair; and when full, these long quadrangular buildings, furnished all round with suites of small apartments, present a very singular appearance—men, women, and children, in large families, being thrust into an exceedingly circumscribed space, with cattle of every kind, bullocks, horses, camels, donkeys, and mules, together with other live-stock, biped and quadruped.