Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains/Fortress of Bowrie, in Rajpootana
FORTRESS OF BOWRIE, IN RAJPOOTANA.
The name of Rajpoot is connected with military enterprise, every man, so calling himself, feeling compelled to support his claim to the proud title by wielding a sword. In consequence of the warlike disposition of the inhabitants, and the difficult nature of the country, Rajpootana never was thoroughly subdued by those victorious Moguls, who carried their conquests throughout many well-defended provinces, down to the more easy acquisition of Bengal. At feud with each other when not engaged in combating an invading stranger, the chieftains fortified themselves upon heights which they deemed inaccessible to a hostile force. The native idea, founded upon a code of military tactics now exploded, that safety was best to be found at great elevations, has much improved the appearance of the country in all hilly districts. Whatever modern fortifications may have gained in strength, they have lost in picturesque effect; and most persons who have had any opportunity of contemplating the bastions and towers of feudal times, will sympathize with the disappointment experienced by Sir Walter Scott when he first beheld a modern citadel.
Ruined villages, of which there are abundance in India, are not more plentiful than the fortresses to be met with immediately as the upper provinces are gained, and we approach a country capable of being defended from a height. Every little rajah, or petty chief, climbs an eminence, and entrenches himself within walls of mud or stone, according as his means will afford: these eagles' nests are garrisoned by troops of retainers armed with spears, and bows, and rusty matchlocks, and bearing the defensive weapon so long out of use in Europe, namely, the shield. The country comprehended under the name of Rajpootana, is comprised of so many districts, that every variety of scenery is to be found in it; but though the valley of Oodipore and other equally beautiful portions are celebrated for the exquisite loveliness of the landscape, the general character is that of sterility. The country, therefore, represented in the plate, surrounding the fortress of Bowrie, must be considered as a favourable specimen: wood and water, which fail in many other tracts, are here abundant; the banian affords an umbrageous foliage to the scene, and the one delineated in the accompanying engraving will give the reader an accurate idea of the manner in which a whole grove is produced from the parent stem. Each of the pendent fibres, upon reaching the ground will take root, affording support to the branch whence it has descended, and enabling it to push out farther, and fling down other pillars, until at length a wide area all round is formed into avenues, some of these trees covering several acres. A native, who regards this beautiful product of nature with the greatest veneration, will never, with his own consent, permit a banian-tree to be cut down or mutilated; few, however, are allowed to spread themselves to their greatest extent, as the ground is in many places too valuable to be thus occupied. The small fig produced by the banian furnishes nutritious food to immense multitudes of animals—monkeys, squirrels, peacocks, and various other birds, living amid its branches; and, indeed, so great are the advantages to be derived from its shade, and from the protection it affords to the inferior classes of the animal creation, that it is not surprising that the Hindoos should look upon it as a natural temple, and be inclined to pay it divine honours.
There is a tree of this description on the banks of the Nerbudda, which, though exposed to the devastating influence of high floods which have washed a portion away, measured two thousand feet in circumference, the principal stems, three hundred and fifty in number, being only included. Travellers seek shelter in these magnificent pavilions, and the religious tribes of Hindoos are particularly fond of resting beneath their umbrageous canopy. Under many, a resident Brahmin is often to be found, and few are without their attendant priesthood in some shape or other—the Jogeis, Byragees, Gossaens, Sunyesses, or other denomination of Fakeers.