Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains/The Snowy Range from Landour


The plains of India may with justice be deemed one vast prison, in which the sun, aided at one period of the year by the hot winds, acts the part of jailor. It is only during a brief interval in the morning and evening that exercise can be taken with impunity, except during the cold season, and even then we require a carriage or a horse. Emancipation therefore from these restraints, the power of wandering at will in the open air, and the invigorating influence of the bracing atmosphere upon our frames, rendered the party on their arrival at Mussooree like captives newly liberated from a dungeon, or schoolboys breaking loose from their desks.

A road has been cut at the elevation of seven thousand feet above the level of the sea, which completely encircles the height chosen for the sanitarium of Landour, permitting the residents to make an easy excursion of four miles, either on horseback or on foot, every step of the way being fraught with objects of beauty and interest. Here we find mingled with the standard apricot, which grows in great abundance over the hills, the oak, the pine, the holly, the walnut, and cherry; raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries appear in the most delightful luxuriance; daisies, primroses, and violets enamel the ground; and the wild rose flings down its silken leaves in crimson showers. Here objects comparatively humble continually arrest the attention, even in the midst of the imposing scenery which meets the eye at every point.

In no place can the snowy range of the Himalaya be seen to more advantage than from the western side of Landour; the distance, thirty miles, being that which is best calculated to produce the finest effect. From this point they rise with a majesty and distinctness which is in some measure lost, when the traveller at a nearer approach gets shut in as it were amid lofty peaks, which circumscribe his view; and in consequence of the extraordinary purity of the atmosphere, they appear to the eye to be much nearer than they are in reality, especially immediately after sunrise. The intermediate country is then veiled in mist spreading like a lake, and the snowy eminences beyond, arising on its margin, when lighted up by the slanting rays of the sun, seem as if they could be gained by an easy effort; and it is not until these silvery mists have cleared away, and the sun

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Snowy range, from Landour.

shines out with broader splendour, revealing the true state of the case, that the illusion is dispelled. Dhawallaghiri, the white mountain, in which the river Ghunduck has its source, is considered to be the most lofty of these peaks, its height has not been exactly determined, but those accounts which are esteemed to be the most accurate, render it twenty-seven thousand four hundred feet above the level of the sea. Jumnoutri and Gungoutri, whence the Jumna and Ganges have their birth, are next in succession, both exceeding twenty-four thousand feet, and the latter-named is the most highly honoured by the natives, who affirm that on its topmost summit Mahadeo has erected his throne; while others reverence the whole mountain as a god.

Villages are to be found at an elevation of fourteen thousand feet, but a site of this altitude is not healthy, and the inhabitants have a very wretched appearance: cultivation has been carried five hundred feet farther, and vegetation does not totally cease until stopped, at sixteen thousand feet, by that eternal barrier of snow which asserts supreme dominion over the sublime wastes above. From another point the eye embraces that splendid range of mountains, through which the sacred river forces its impetuous course, now fretting along a narrow channel which it has worn amid the rocks, and now flinging itself down in glittering volumes from height to height, until, at length emerging to the view, it is seen winding and wandering along the level country, a thread of silver which the eye follows till it is lost in the distance.

Dazzled by the attempt to distinguish minute and distant objects, we turn with delight to the rich yet sober tints of the surrounding hills, their splendid purples and browns, with here and there the sun bringing out some brighter foliage, while below the landscape assumes a different style of beauty. A series of undulations, diversified with plain and valley, thickly wooded, and shewing in its patches of cultivation, its towns, villages, and isolated buildings, that man holds empire o'er the soil. Here we may trace the windings of many roads, and the courses of those fertilizing streams which go gently murmuring along in every direction.

From the crest of the Sowa Khola ridge, at a short distance from this place, the whole valley of Deyrah Dhoon, the small Sewalik range which encloses it to the south, and the dim plains of Saharunpore still farther in the distance, bursts upon the delighted gaze; the snowy mountains forming the magnificent back-ground, and the monarch of the secondary belt, the sublime Choor, standing out beyond the rest; while in the vast expanse of plain, the silver lines of the Ganges and Jumna come shining through the haze.

In our eagerness to reach Mussooree, we had neglected the beauties of Rajpore, which is really an exceedingly pretty village, sufficiently elevated to admit of a clear and unobstructed view of the ever-beautiful Dhoon: beyond it there are some natural objects worth visiting, one being the dripping rock of Shansa Dhare. From a precipitous height of overhanging rock, a stream descends in continual showers, each drop producing a petrifaction. The cliff being worn away by the perpetual action of the water, has assumed a cavernous appearance, formed entirely of spar, here and there presenting basins for the reception of the element, which is cool, clear, and agreeable to the taste. A brahmin has of course established himself in a place which may be called a natural temple, and it is accordingly dedicated to Mahadeo. Opposite, in another direction, we come to a spring containing sulphureous particles, rising out of a mass of limestone, which tinges the surrounding stones with its colouring matter. At Mala Pani the attention is attracted to an object of a very different description, but one which can scarcely fail to excite a strong degree of interest in the breast of every British traveller; it is a monument erected to the memory of General Gillespie, and the officers who fell before the fortress of Kalunga. This mausoleum stands on a platform of table-land, on the summit of a hill near the scene of action. The attack of Kalunga cost a sea of blood, for the Ghoorka invaders so resolutely defended the country, of which they had forcibly possessed themselves, that even practised troops found great difficulty in their subjugation. The walls of this once formidable fortress were razed to the ground, after it fell into our hands, and its situation is now only indicated by a rude cairn of brick, with a staff in the centre.