Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/94

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The rocks from which it issues are all quartz, surrounded by gneiss and mica schist on every side, except one, down which the torrent rushes, wearing the rock as smooth as marble in its fierce descent.

This spot is considered by the Hindoos to be exceedingly holy, and they are rapt in religious ecstasy, happy in the belief that they have secured the road to heaven, while the European surveys with admiration and wonder the sublime features which the great Creator of the universe has here assembled. The width of the channel allowing the river to spread at this place, renders the stream not so tumultuous as above and below, and its comparatively tranquil surface forms a pleasing contrast to the furious tributary which rushes into it. The rocks, piling themselves one above another in fantastic confusion, are peopled by thousands of pigeons, which, when disturbed, flock out in clouds; and here, a fitting scene for such a guest, the gigantic elk of these mountains finds a favourite haunt. The country round about partakes of the same wild, sublime, and savagely romantic character. Paths, rough, rocky, and dangerous, ascending and descending across the sides of steep precipices, down to deep ravines, and then winding upwards, lead to a halting-place on a ledge or terrace, where the hunter may take his stand, and watch for an opportunity to slay the musk deer, which, though scarce and shy, are sometimes attainable; while the traveller in search of the picturesque looks down heights of many hundred or even thousand feet, watching the course of some neighbouring rill, which flings itself in cascades to the dark abyss below. The foliage of these tremendous solitudes harmonizes well with the character of the scene, it is sombre, luxuriant, and heavy; but in his wanderings the pilgrim comes upon rich clusters of white roses, while the innumerable family of ferns, mingled with a bright variety of flowers, spring beneath his feet.


It is not always that the traveller in the Himalaya will find himself accommodated with such a bridge as we passed at Bhurkote, and repairs being considered as works of supererogation throughout the greater part of Asia, the chances are strongly against his being equally fortunate with ourselves, in crossing even that, while in good condition.

The most common contrivance in these hill-districts, when the stream is sufficiently narrow to admit of its employment, is the sangha, the rudest bridge imaginable. No one being at the trouble to repair a work which is not at any time very secure, these sanghas are usually in an exceedingly crazy and precarious condition, and side-rails being deemed superfluous, the narrow footway, only sufficient to admit of the passage of one traveller at a time, forms a method of crossing a torrent neither very easy nor very agreeable. Where two projecting rocks are found facing each other, they are employed as the support of a couple of fir-trees which rest on either side, a narrow platform being constructed by the boughs cut from the neighbouring forests, and placed crosswise: this is often performed in a careless and slovenly manner, without any endeavour to prevent gaps of an inconvenient width, and without any fastening whatever. So long as the traveller can keep in the centre, he is tolerably safe, but the moment that he plants his foot either to the right or left, he is in danger of being precipitated into the torrent by the boughs on the opposite side tilting up. Persons possessing the very steadiest head find their brains severely tried in these difficult passes; few can look upon the impetuous current below, and preserve any accuracy of vision, the best plan being to fix the eyes upon some object on shore, and to pass firmly and steadily along, for there is no parapet, no guiding rail, and