Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains/The City of Nahun, viewed from the North
THE CITY OF NAHUN, VIEWED FROM THE NORTH.
Nahun is the capital of Sirmoor, that is, the chief town of a small raj, and, though diminutive, is considered one of the best planned and best built cities in India. It is approached through a very picturesque, well-watered, and finely-wooded valley, and, occupying the summit of a rock, it commands on all sides most extensive and beautiful views. The country round about is intersected with valleys and ravines, clothed in the richest luxuriance of foliage and verdure, the Deyrah Dhoon stretching out in the distance to the south-east, and the comparatively low belts of hills in the neighbourhood affording very pleasing specimens of mountain scenery. The road leading to the town is exceedingly steep and narrow, cut inconveniently up a very precipitous ascent, which elephants, however, contrive to mount, even when laden with baggage. The streets have somewhat the appearance of stairs, so numerous are the steps occasioned by the unevenness of the rock on which they are built; and though accustomed to the native disdain of obstacles of this kind, we were surprised to see the principal inhabitants riding about on horseback and mounted on elephants, as if the place were adapted for such recreations.
The rajah, who is indebted to British aid for the rescue of his dominions from the Ghoorkas, is exceedingly polite and attentive to Europeans passing his way, affording them all the assistance in his power. He is rather in an impoverished condition, his territories consisting chiefly of the thinly peopled and scantily cultivated mountain regions between Deyra and Pinjore; but while complaining, and with some reason, of the scantiness of his revenues, he contrives to cut a figure, which he trusts will impress his European visitants with a due notion of his consequence.There are few things more absurd than the interviews which occasionally take place between native potentates and the civil or military European travellers who may chance to pass through some remote principality. The latter are usually in a most deplorable state of dishabille—fortunate if they have a decent coat to mount upon the occasion. A long journey, in all probability, has sadly deteriorated the appearance of the cattle and the followers, and the tourist would willingly relinquish the honours which are thrust upon him. The rajah, on the other hand, is anxious to exhibit as a person of importance, and, having given due notice of his intended visit, pays his respects to the representative of Great Britain with all the pomp and circumstance which he can command. The cavalcades on these occasions are generally exceedingly picturesque, and afford an imposing display of elephants handsomely caparisoned, ornamented litters, gaudily dressed troopers, and crowds of men on foot, brandishing swords, silver maces, and rusty matchlocks; while the deep and rapid sounds of the kettle-drums, and the shrill blasts of the trumpets, come upon the ear in wild and warlike melody. It is necessary, notwithstanding the numerous discrepances appearing in the shape of ragged followers, and the consciousness of the unfitness of travelling costume for the reception of a visit of state, to preserve a steady countenance, since laughter would appear unseemly, and certainly would not be attributed to the right cause. The rajah of Nahun is rather proud of his killar, or fortress, and never fails to invite European strangers to pay him a visit in it, and to inspect his troops. The latter are neither very numerous nor highly disciplined, and their appearance readily accounted for the facility with which the more martial Seiks and Ghoorkas possessed themselves of the territories of the raj. Within view of the town is the hill-fortress of Tytock, four thousand eight
hundred and fifty-four feet above the level of the sea, which cost the lives of four British officers in its capture during the Ghoorka war. The fall of these brave men is commemorated by a lofty obelisk, which marks their graves, dug on the bank of a spacious tank in the very centre of the town of Nahun; a scene full of melancholy interest to those who, in their wanderings, come suddenly upon the remote resting-place of men who wrested these hills from the frightful tyranny of their previous conquerors.
Nahun is situated in latitude 20° 33′ north, longitude 77° 16′ east, forty-six miles north-by-west of Saharunpore. There is a tolerably good road from this place to Subathoo, the ostensible residence of the political agent, and there are bungalows upon this road for the accommodation of travellers. Nahun is considered to be healthy, but it is rather inconveniently warm, notwithstanding its elevated position, upwards of three thousand feet above the level of the sea; it is also exposed to the influence of the hot winds, and during one period of the year the jungles in the neighbourhood are impregnated with malaria.
Subathoo, which is the most northerly European settlement in India, excepting Khotgur, is situated at the distance of four marches from Nahun, near the banks of the Sutlej river; and our party were induced to pay a visit to the fair at Rampore, so often mentioned in the preceding pages. Rampore is the capital of the country of Bussahir, which lies for the most part within the Himalaya, and is exceedingly rugged and mountainous; the town occupies a narrow stripe of land on the left bank of the Sutlej. This place consists chiefly of one broad street, containing about a hundred and fifty houses, and forming a crescent, the palace of the rajah, a substantial but gloomy-looking building, standing in a commanding position. Rampore boasts four temples, dedicated to Mahadeo and Kalee, the deities chiefly worshipped throughout these mountains, though under different appellations. On account of its confined situation, this oddly placed city only receives the sun during six hours of the day, a circumstance which occasions great variation of temperature. There is a considerable manufacture of blankets and woollen cloths carried on at Rampore, and, strange to say, the men use the spindle, sitting comfortably at home employed in their easy task, while the women not only perform all the household drudgery, but labour also in the fields.
The breadth of the Sutlej at Rampore is two hundred and eleven feet, and during the summer months is crossed by a jhoola, or swing bridge, which is erected in May, and employed until the early part of September. The river begins to swell in March, and during June, July, and August the stream reaches its height, and, rendered turbid by the dissolution of vast fields of snow in the Himalaya, rolls along in a dark flood. A gradual commencement of the subsiding of the waters takes place by the end of September, and the stream is low and clear until the close of February. There is no bridge during these months, but the passage across the river is effected upon the hide of a buffalo or bullock, inflated with air, on which a single person, together with the ferryman, can be conveyed. The latter throws himself on his breast athwart the skin, and directs its course by the rapid action of his feet in the water, assisted by a paddle three feet in length, which he holds in his right hand. He thus crosses the stream with ease, but it is sometimes necessary to launch two or three skins together, in order more effectually to stem the force of the current. The passenger sits astride, across the back of the ferryman, resting his legs on the skin, and, the tail and legs of the bullock being left entire, serve to support and prevent him from being wetted. There is some danger of the bursting of the skin, in which event the passenger would be in a disagreeable predicament, for the velocity of the current is so great, and the river so full of rocks, that an expert swimmer would scarcely succeed in reaching the shore. When natives of rank cross the ferry, a seat is prepared by lashing two or more skins together, and then placing a charpoy, or common bedstead, across them.