Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/89

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the air. When closely pursued, the speed increases; fleet as thought, they bound across astonishing distances at a time, springing over very considerable heights, and, but for the fatal bullet, would leave pursuit far behind, since horses and dogs would have no chance against them. The monal, or hill-pheasant, a most superb bird both in size and plumage, affords a very acceptable regale for the hungry traveller; and though the fish of these mountain-streams, usually the leather-mouthed kind, are not particularly good, they form a welcome variety to the daily fare. Sometimes the shikarrees, native-hunters, bring in a wild sheep for sale in our camp; the specimens we have seen are large animals with short horns, and superior in flavour to the common sort of the hills, at least we thought them so; but gastronomical opinions, given under the influence of sharp appetites in these mountainous regions, are not always to be relied upon as infallible. When too much fatigued to enjoy a meal, or suffering from heat or indisposition, we are apt to pronounce the mutton coarse, rank, or flavourless, which under other circumstances we should extol as the finest it had ever been our fortune to banquet upon. The existence of wild sheep was not known until our occupation of these hills placed the matter beyond a doubt; many flocks have established themselves in inaccessible regions, where they tantalize the traveller by their appearance upon some green slope, so effectually encircled by impassable ravines, as to defy the intrusion of man, and completely out of the reach of the shot which many persons in mere wantonness would fire at them.


At our halting-place near the village of Ozree, on the road to Kursalee, the immense assemblage of mountains, range swelling upon range, again forcibly brought the image to our minds of the waves of a mighty ocean lashed into fury, and rearing their billows on high, until, suddenly checked by an all-powerful hand, they ceased their wrath, and, stilled into sullen majesty, became gigantic masses of earth and rock. The clothing of these hill-sides favours the idea, adding considerably to their wave-like appearance, and presenting altogether a chaotic mass of wild and singular grandeur.

Kursalee is a large and flourishing place, full of temples and brahmins, the latter-named gentry establishing themselves in great abundance near the scenes most in repute with the numerous pilgrims resorting to the sacred sources of the Ganges and Jumna, from whose pockets these wily priests contrive to pick a very pretty subsistence. The brahmins who are attached to the temples have certainly the best of it, for the numbers resorting to the hills for the purpose of making as much as they can of their sacred caste, render it necessary that some should toil for their support. Occasionally we find them populating a whole village, and settling down as cultivators; and many who are not so fortunate as to establish themselves as proprietors of land, travel to and fro from the hills to the plains, with jars of the holy water, which obtain a ready sale among the pious who are unwilling or unable to make the pilgrimage themselves. During their journeys, the sanctity of the order is sufficient to procure board and lodging gratis; to refuse a meal to a brahmin would, indeed, be a heinous offence, for which no punishment, either in this world or the next, could be considered too great. Some of the temples are said to have been miraculously raised by the gods themselves, and of course derive superior holiness from that circumstance: they are adorned according to the revenues of the neighbouring devotees, with ornaments of various descriptions, musical instruments, and images of different degrees of value.