Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/77

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of rock which continually cross the bed. The river gathers foam as it goes surging along, and while flinging up dense masses of spray, which descend again in silvery showers, roars and rages with terrific violence, sending forth wrathful sounds like the angry messages of some incensed deity, which tell of impending ruin.

"Those who have brains and nerves to bear the frightful whirl, which may assail the steadiest head, plant themselves on the bridge that spans the torrent, and from this point survey the wild and awful grandeur of the scene, struck with admiration at its terrific beauty, yet, even while visions of horror float before them, unable to withdraw their gaze. On the right, the snowy ranges shoot up their hoary peaks to a tremendous height, while to the left the inferior chains extend far and wide, shewing an endless variety of forms, all clothed in a mantle of green, the luxuriant herbage darkening into forests of pine, and the whole fertilized by innumerable streams. Imagination, however vivid, can scarcely figure to the mind a prospect so grand and thrilling, and the most gifted pencil would fail in the attempt to delineate its savage splendours: lying out of the common track, it is not often visited by Europeans, although perhaps no portion of the Himalaya affords so many attractions to those who delight in contemplating the more wondrous works of nature."

Arriving at Sungla, our friend was just in time to be present at one of the religious festivals celebrated annually by the natives of the valley, at which, according to the custom prevailing throughout Asia, a fair was also held. The people who attended were congregated in a small plain about a mile from Sungla, having brought out their gods in whose honour the assembly was convened. They consisted of four images, two of Narayan, one of Nagus, or the snake god, and one of Budrinath: these were placed upon a moveable throne, not unlike the rath or car of Juggernaut, draperied with gay-coloured tissues, and placed upon a circular platform of stone, which upon other occasions served for the purpose of treading out and winnowing corn. The images, though frightful enough, were less barbarous than some which are exhibited in the plains; each was furnished with a considerable number of faces, carved in gold and silver, and of no mean execution. They were crowned with enormous plumes of the silken hair of the cow of Thibet, dyed in purple and red, and profusely garlanded with the flowery products of the neighbouring jungles, many of great beauty and fragrance, and some of the splendid blue which is the least common of the varieties which the floral wreath exhibits. Around these idols, weapons of various kinds, and the ornaments belonging to the different temples, were piled, forming altogether a most fantastic group, and shewing the perversity of the human mind, in preferring such grovelling objects of worship in a scene so strongly indicative of the power and grandeur of the Creator of all things. One of these monsters, who figured as the principal divinity, and who mounted eighteen heads, six of gold and twelve of silver, was honoured by the imperial chattha or umbrella, a mark of sovereignty said to have been bestowed upon it by a pious rajah, who having made a pilgrimage to one of the most sacred places in the mountains, brought away the image of Narayan, which now bears the name of Budrinath in honour of his former residence.

The religious ceremonies consisted of a peculiar, frantic kind of dance, performed by persons of both sexes, and of all ranks, who formed themselves into a ring, holding each other's hands, and moving round to the music which should have marked the time. This dance was led by one of the chief attendants of the temples, who regulated the movements somewhat in the way of the conductor at the Italian Opera, using a silver-handled chowrie, instead of the roll of paper; and the musicians, who performed upon various instruments, all more or less barbarous, likewise made the circle with the dancers. Never