Page images
PDF
EPUB

bushes ; but the Silver Island was in good preservation in 1835, when Vigne and Hugel visited the "earthly paradise." The former mentions a drinking bout held there by Mihan Singh, the governor of the valley. At that time some of the circular stones of the little basin, and the cut one to throw the water off in fanciful forms, still lay about; but the garden is a wilderness, and the place rooted up as if it had been wantonly destroyed. Perhaps at some future day, when the valley falls under our rule, which day is devoutly prayed for by the inhabitants, Vigne's prophecy may be realized, and the bust of " Tom Moore " preside over a fairy temple erected in this lovely spot. It is in the centre of a large piece of water ; the Shalunar and Nishat gardens under the mountains stretch down to the water's edge on one side, so that if the waterfalls were kept going, and there were any nightingales in Cashmere, these beautiful lines in Lalla Rookh might be true:—

"When the waterfalls gleam like a quick fall of stars,
And the Nightingales hymn from the Isle of Chenars
Is broken by laughs and light echoes of feet,
From the cool shining walks where the young people meet."

On the other side stands forward the Nazeem Bagh, or garden of delicious breezes, on which were planted by Akbar the renowned, more than two hundred and sixty years ago, twelve hundred Chunar trees; some few have been cut down, but the majority are in good preservation. There were fountains, terraces, tanks, &c, here formerly, but Gholaub Singh, the present ruler of Cashmere, went ruthlessly to work, filled up the tanks, tore down the terraces, demolished the fountains, and walked off with the materials to repair the fort. However, in spite of all his endeavours to destroy it, the place is still beautiful, and is selected on account of the grateful shade afforded by these extremely handsome park-like trees, as a locality for the fairs, which are continually taking place amongst the festivity-loving Cashmeres. Adjoining the Nazeem garden with its forest of trees (plane) are the ruins of circular-roofed buildings, with towers at the corners; all that remains now is merely lime and cement, the stones, beams, and everything else that could be converted into cash having been turned to account by the present governor. In the palmy days of the valley these buildings must have given a finish to this end of the lake, in appearance resembling a miniature fort for the protection of this small sea. All the water is tepid up to this, when suddenly a small river called the Tel Bui, or oil flood, pours down from the surrounding mountains, whose waters are comparatively icy cold. The pleasure-seekers at their fairs, after paddling about the other portion of the lake, are in the habit of swimming up this cold stream during the three or four hot hours of the day, thence returning in the evening to renew their revels at the large village called Huzrut-i-bul, with its "zearnt," or mosque, where boat-racing, dancing, &c, are kept up without any regard to time. I never could find that these fairs had any particular object—no wares appear to be displayed for sale, people assemble only to enjoy themselves. The water at this place is very deep, but it is rarely the inhabitants bathe here themselves, European visitors however do so, finding in every ten or twelve yards that the temperature varies considerably, from the number of hot springs which abound, the fish are not worth eating. Near the village are fine meadows, on which are droves of cattle grazing; and then comes the Nazeem Bagh, with its little ruined summer-house, and groves of mulberry and cherry-trees, and its pretty calm deep sheet of water in front, a favourite resort for evening bathers, as it is clear of weeds. Passing over some meadows one comes upon the large rock whereon is reared the guardian fort, Hurree Parbut; it was built by Shah Jehan, grandson of Akbar, and the Cashmeres take great pride in relating that every labourer employed was paid, a matter of rather unusual occurrence in buildings erected by oriental rulers. It is of no strength against artillery, but still sufficiently powerful to overawe the city. Facing the town, and below the fort, is a long brick wall, with round towers here and there, and steps inside to ascend, this is being carefully repaired and made serviceable as a place of refuge in case of any serious disturbance, and the ruler of the province should feel unsafe in the Sheer Ghurree, or town palace before described, at least so say the populace. Workmen certainly are very busy at present. This Hurree Parbut, or mountain of Hurree, is very deficient in water. The Cashmeres, who hate the place from its being a sealed book to them, (none but Sikhs being ad-'mitted,) declare they could take it without assistance, by famishing the garrison. Nothing would give them greater satisfaction than knocking it to pieces no doubt. Between the wall before mentioned and the hill on which the fort stands is a building, in which is the tomb of Gholaum-ood-deen, father of Emam-ood-deen, last Mahomedan governor of the valley, he was very much liked. About a thousand yards from the wall runs the Mar canal, encircling the houses on the right bank of the river, into which it discharges itself below the seventh bridge : its object no doubt was the conveyance of merchandise from the stores at the backs of the houses. Baron Hugel says it is a wonderful work, but it struck me as only remarkable for the quantity of dirt about it. I don't think any one would venture down it a second time for pleasure. The centre of the lake abounds in floating islands, on which are raised a great part of the vegetables for the supply of the city. They are exceedingly simple in construction,—a few rushes plaited and covered with earth perhaps two feet thick; on these pumpkins, cucumbers, grapes, and other things, flourish luxuriantly; and, to prevent them being drifted away, stakes are driven through them into the bottom—a work of no difficulty, as, except at the Nazeem, or Nugeen Gardens, the water all over the lake is rarely deeper than three or four feet, and wherever shallow it is completely overspread with the superb lotus, spreading its large leaves so thickly as to occasion great pushing and struggling necessary to get through them. The flowers are very beautiful; "graceful as the lotus " is a common simile, and certainly we must applaud cupid's taste in selecting a lotus leaf to float on; for the perfume of the flower in July exactly resembles almond soap. What says the poet:—

"His breath is the soul of flowers like these,
And his floating eyes, oh ! they resemble
Blue water-lilies when the breeze

Is making the spirit around them tremble."

From a village near the Hurree Parbut, a causeway, built by an opulent Hindoo many years ago, extends to the Nishet Bagh, opposite the lower pavilion of which is an arch for the admission of boats, which viewed from a distance has a pleasing effect. Near this causeway, to the right of the Char Chunar, is a favourite resort for ducks. In the winter natives say there are thousands ; even in the summer months they afford good sport to any one living in the Nishet. During our residence there, numbers visited us, particularly in the mornings, and we found them remarkably good. Poor Nishet! I fear it will last but a few years longer; if the governor doesn't speedily repair the houses down they'll come ; probably this winter's snow will hurry the catastrophe. Grasping, avaricious as Gholaub Singh is, he will scarcely (one would think) allow the place to be completely destroyed ; but he is not a man of foresight, he only looks to the present, grinds down the unfortunate inhabitants cruelly, and hoards the proceeds of his exactions, never laying out one farthing on the province from which he derives such a large revenue. The population hate him; the stories related of him are something fearful, and after recapitulating his atrocities the Cashmeres invariably wind up by asking why the Sahib company handed them over to such a fiend, and why they don't come and take the government? saying, it is worth their trouble, and how happy they should be to see the day of advent. This is not the wish of individuals, but of the whole mass of the population—which, by the bye, has amazingly declined and is decreasing daily, so much so, that Golaub Singh is obliged to prohibit their leaving the valley. If it wasn't for this prohibition, and its being strictly enforced, (so say the people,) there would be a regular exodus—not a Cashmeree would remain. Physically they are a fine race, more especially the boatmen, but have been so outrageously bullied and degraded, that their courage is completely quelled, and they are absolutely afraid to take their own parts in a row, the punishments for showing pluck have been so awful. On the left of the Nishat, facing the Hurree Parbut, are several smaller gardens, mostly fallen to decay. About a mile farther on is a mass of ruins on the hillside, called the Purree Mahull, or Fairy Palace : it must have been in its palmy days beautiful, though time, the destroyer, has now laid a heavy hand upon it, the walls crumbling and the interior choked up with weeds. Immediately below it is the Sheekh Sufaie Bagh, pretty only from its proximity to the water, and the shade of some of its gigantic trees. All the gardens filled with plane trees being situated directly beneath lofty mountains, appear absolutely diminutive, and this Lilliputian appearance is not removed till one wanders about and observes the actual extent.

To the leit of the Sheekh Sufaie Bagh is a break in the hill, through which (according to Vigne) blows steadily a breeze which alone has the effect of preventing a stagnation of the lake; this is to be taken "cum grano salts." In addition to the stream continually flowing in from the Tel Bui and out of the sluice gate, Mar canal, and various minor channels, the inhabitants maintain that there is an underground communication with the Manus Bui, a lake eight cos (16 miles) below the city, which is sufficient to keep it pure; certain it is that the water directly below this aperture is clear of weeds and lotus plants, and is used considerably in making rose-water, esteemed of better quality than that of any part of India. The lake after this spot gets narrower, with many paths through rushes and weeds; there are some inferior gardens, and a kennel for the dogs of the Mir Sahib, who sometimes enjoys the sport of seeing them attack pigs, which are kept for the purpose. The dogs appear to be a large description of pariah. This brings us to the flood-gates before described as being at the head of the canal; to the left, on going out, is the bed of another or the continuation of the same nullah, leading from the river higher up: about the centre of this is a small bridge, connecting the avenue of poplars with the mountain road to the Tukht-i-Suliman or Lunck Lachar, temple of Mahadea of the Hindoos, who, with justice, claim the building as having been erected by their forefathers and not by the Mahomedans. Everything in India that the natives cannot account for is put down to Solomon or Alexander; so the date of its erection not being chronicled, Solomon, the mighty magician, has the credit of it.

Being now pretty well tired of Srenuggur, away we start for change of scene down the river; our mode of conveyance, a boat for each individual of the party, in which his bed is placed, and a jointstock one for cooking. The river is uninteresting, but a small creek in the right bank, just large enough to admit us in Indian file, being followed up, we came upon the beautiful lake called Manus Bui. Vigne says that he thinks this by far the thing best worth seeing in Cashmere; however, without going so far as he does, no one can deny it has very great charms: calm, placid, deep (the natives stick out that it has never been fathomed, perhaps because no one has ever taken the trouble to try); it stretches out into a superb sheet of water. On the left going up are the ruins of an old fort or palace, built by Akbar, looking very picturesque. On the right, farther up, is a village with a large lime-kiln; the village is remarkably pretty at a distance, but let no one approach, the stench is abominable: if dirt causes epidemics, then ought the Cashmeres to be continually subject to them. At the head of the lake, where a stream of cold water comes tumbling over the rocks (the water of the lake is usually tepid), and half-way up the mountain, stand eight or nine Chunar trees, forming a nice place for an encampment. Here we pitched our tents for four days, till driven away by the swarms of mosquitoes, who in the evening came down upon us in myriads; so away we sailed again out of the creek and down the river, making for the Wulur Lake, the largest in the valley; it is a fine sheet of water, about six or seven miles across; part of it covers what was originally (tradition says) a large city, and there is an island called Lunka after Ceylon, made by one of the Mahomedan emperors in derision of the Hindoos. The lake abounds in wild ducks and mosquitoes, the latter something alarming. Soon the town of Sopur, with its bridge and guard-house, comes in sight; there is a Bara Durti (literally twelve doors) here for the convenience of travellers, and, except the noise of brawling Sikh soldiery, it is a cool pleasant halting-place. Just below, on the right bank, are staMes for artillery and cavalry horses; the fine meadows which extend without interruption the whole way to Beramoula (about twenty miles farther down) affording excellent pasture for these animals. Moore talks about " the palms of Beramoula;" unfortunately they do not grow there. The town is pretty, but, as usual, filthy. A huge bridge, very nicely built, and a strong fort, for this is the end of the valley, make a nice little picture. The bungalow for the convenience of Europeans is far inferior to the one at Sopur, but there is a very fine Serei for the accommodation of natives. The river here is about a hundred yards wide, the stream is more rapid and appears closed by the towering mountains rising abruptly in its front, but turns to its left, continuing its course to Uri, beyond which it becomes a mountain torrent. The Jhelum navigable from Islamabad thirty-two cos above Srenuggur (the capital) to Beramoula nearly thirty cos below it, a distance of one hundred and twenty-four miles; and as roads are now making through the Hazarah country, the whole produce of the valley might be carried down in that direction. In a few years steamers, it is to be hoped, will run up and down the Jhelum as they now traverse the Ganges ; and it is not, perhaps, too sanguine an expectation that a large proportion of the population will be Europeans, the climate offering no impediment to the formation of a large colony ; the inhabitants have discrimination enough to see the superior energy of the English in contrast with the Sikh rulers, and are well aware that, tyrant and oppressor as he is to them, his Kaj or government could not exist a single day in opposition to our will : they say that Gholaub Singh fears to grind and oppress them openly during the residence of the Sahib Log in the summer season, reserving his cruel extortions for the time when there are no eye-witnesses. They long for the day when each individual will be enabled with some small deduction to enjoy his daily earnings, and not be compelled, as he is now, to surrender one-fourth for the exigencies of the state, that is, to swell the already overflowing coffers of the wily old fox, whose incalculable wealth is a common topic of conversation with Hindoo and Moslem ; is it that we are waiting till the lemon is fullest when we shall suck it and throw away the rind ; or as an Indian despot has said, "Give him time to absorb all he can contain, then press the matter out, and leave him as dry as a burnt-stick." At this idea some people may cry out, honour and justice forbid it, but on looking over the chronicles of the rise of British dominion in India, these fine sentiments do not appear to have been attended to in every case, and the cry of oppression rising from the ground would almost warrant our interference, although, perhaps, grown rich and respectable, we have abandoned Falconbridge's notion in King John—" Bell, book, and candle shall not drive me back, when gold and silver becks me to come on."

Instead of returning to Sopur by the tedious process of tacking up the river, away we went to Gool Murgh (Mountain of Flowers). Beautiful as is the country through which we passed, it scarcely repaid us for the toil of scrambling up the steep hills, soaked, at the latter part of the march, by the drippings from the tall trees. The summit is a

« PreviousContinue »