Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/53

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The whole of the battlements, terraces, and platforms, erected in the water, lining the side of the river, are covered with dense throngs of pilgrims, spectators, and priests, the European portion of the audience pushing their elephants into the water, in order to view, without inconvenience from the crowd, the bathing of the numerous devotees. The ceremony is simple enough, consisting merely of an offering of money, according to the abilities of the bather, to the officiating priest. Every separate ablution, and several are deemed essential, must be separately paid for, and when the pious worshipper of Gunga-jee has left the river, he is obliged to run the gauntlet through the priests of the temples on the banks, who assail every passer-by, whether Christian or pagan, with equal importunity. All the brahmins say, whether truly or not, that Lord William Bentinck, the late governor-general, honoured the holy land of Hurdwar by making a present of a thousand rupees to its priests,—a very injudicious method of attempting to obtain popularity, since it is construed into a secret recognition of the superiority of the Hindoo gods, and cannot fail to exalt the brahminical faith in the eyes of its professors, while at the same time it brings that of the rulers of the land into contempt. The Hindoos are excessively anxious to exact this mark of homage to their favourite deity, and endeavour to persuade the Christian visitors to deposit an offering, assuring them that Hurdwar is a holy place, and that they will not fail to procure some advantage in return.


Upon leaving Hurdwar, we travelled up the valley of the Dhoon to the village of Rajpore, at the foot of the secondary chain of the Himalaya. Part of our journey conducted us through a thick forest of lofty trees, amid which we found the rhododendron in full bloom, together with other strangers to the plains of India. The underwood was composed of richly flowering plants, and the air came loaded with the fragrance of the corunda, whose white starry blossoms are redolent with perfume, which is sometimes almost oppressive to the sense. The fruit of the corunda, which in its wild state resembles that of the black currant, is sweet and well-flavoured, affording abundant and delicious food to wild hogs and paroquets, the former feeding eagerly upon it; when over-ripe, the berries fall, and cover the ground.

In some places, the road formed itself into an avenue, the branches of the trees meeting over-head; near the inhabited portions, however, the jungle has been cleared, and even where it has been left to its natural state, the utmost variety of scenery is to be found in this beautiful valley, part of which is watered by a clear stream shaded by alders, while the turf is enlivened by the amaranth, a bright scarlet and pink flower, and several species of the ranunculus. Here, too, may be found large bushes of sage springing from a carpet of thyme, which gives out its aromatic odour to every breeze. The valley of the Dhoon has been selected for the residence of the political agent of the province, who, however, takes refuge in the hills during the hottest period of the year—an example followed by all who have it in their power to escape to a better climate while the thermometer is at its highest altitude.