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- Himalayan Journals V2. - 50/94 -


those of the plant producing that perfume, to which it is closely allied. The _Pogostemon Patchouli_ has been said to occur in these parts of India, but we never met with it, and doubt the accuracy of the statement. It is a native of the Malay peninsula, whence the leaves are imported into Bengal, and so to Europe.

The summit commands a fine view northward of some Himalayan peaks, and southwards of the broad valley of the Oongkot, which is level, and bounded by steep and precipitous hills, with flat tops. On the 25th we left Mooshye for Amwee in Jyntea, which lies to the south-east. We descended by steps cut in the sandstone, and fording the Oongkot, climbed the hills on its east side, along the grassy tops of which we continued, at an elevation of 4000 feet. Marshy flats intersect the hills, to which wild elephants sometimes ascend, doing much damage to the rice crops. We crossed a stream by a bridge formed of one gigantic block of sandstone, 20 feet long, close to the village, which is a wretched one, and is considered unhealthy: it stands on the high road from Jynteapore (at the foot of the hills to the southward) to Assam: the only road that crosses the mountains east of that from Churra to Nunklow.

Illustration--OLD BRIDGE AT AMWEE.

Though so much lower, this country, from the barrenness of the soil, is more thinly inhabited than the Khasia. The pitcher-plant (_Nepenthes_) grows on stony and grassy hills about Amwee, and crawls along the ground; its pitchers seldom contain insects in the wild state, nor can we suggest any special function for the wonderful organ it possesses.

About eight miles south of the village is a stream, crossed by a bridge, half of which is formed of slabs of stone (of which one is twenty-one feet long, seven broad, and two feet three and a half inches thick), supported on piers, and the rest is a well turned arch, such as I have not seen elsewhere among the hill tribes of India. It is fast crumbling away, and is covered with tropical plants, and a beautiful white-flowered orchis* [_Diplomeris; Apostasia_ also grew in this gulley, with a small _Arundina,_ some beautiful species of _Sonerila,_ and _Argostemma._ The neighbourhood was very rich in plants.] grew in the mossy crevices of its stones.

From Amwee our route lay north-east across the Jyntea hills to Joowye, the hill-capital of the district. The path gradually ascended, dipping into valleys scooped out in the horizontal sandstone down to the basalt; and boulders of the same rock were scattered about. Fields of rice occupy the bottoms of these valleys, in which were placed gigantic images of men, dressed in rags, and armed with bows and arrows, to scare away the wild elephants! Slate rocks succeed the sandstone (strike north-east, dip north-west), and with them pines and birch appear, clothing the deep flanks of the Mintadoong valley, which we crossed.

The situation of Joowye is extremely beautiful: it occupies the broken wooded slope of a large open flat valley, dotted with pines; and consists of an immense number of low thatched cottages, scattered amongst groves of bamboo, and fields of plantain, tobacco, yams, sugar-cane, maize, and rice, surrounded by hedges of bamboo, _Colquhounia,_ and _Erythrina._ Narrow steep lanes lead amongst these, shaded with oak, birch, _Podocarpus,_ Camellia, and _Araliaceae_; the larger trees being covered with orchids, climbing palms, _Pothos, Scindapsus,_ pepper, and _Gnetum_; while masses of beautiful red and violet balsams grew under every hedge and rock. The latter was of sandstone, overlying highly inclined schists, and afforded magnificent blocks for the natives to rear on end, or make seats of. Some erect stones on a hill at the entrance are immensely large, and surround a clump of fine fig and banyan trees.* [In some tanks we found _Hydropeltis,_ an American and Australian plant allied to _Nymphaea._ Mr. Griffith first detected it here, and afterwards in Bhotan, these being the only known habitats for it in the Old World. It grows with _Typha, Acorus Calamus_ (sweet flag), _Vallisneria, Potamogeton, Sparganium,_ and other European water-plants.]

We procured a good house after many delays, for the people were far from obliging; it was a clean, very long cottage, with low thatched eaves almost touching the ground, and was surrounded by a high bamboo paling that enclosed out-houses built on a well-swept floor of beaten earth. Within, the woodwork was carved in curious patterns, and was particularly well fitted. The old lady to whom it belonged got tired of us before two days were over, and first tried to smoke us out by a large fire of green wood at that end of the cottage which she retained; and afterwards by inviting guests to a supper, with whom she kept up a racket all night. Her son, a tall, sulky fellow, came to receive the usual gratuity on our departure, which we made large to show we bore no ill-will: he, however, behaved so scornfully, pretending to despise it, that I had no choice but to pocket it again; a proceeding which was received with shouts of laughter, at his expense, from a large crowd of bystanders.

On the 30th of September we proceeded north-east from Joowye to Nurtiung, crossing the watershed of the Jyntea range, which is granitic, and scarcely raised above the mean level of the hills; it is about 4,500 feet elevation. To the north the descent is at first rather abrupt for 500 feet, to a considerable stream, beyond which is the village of Nurtiung. The country gradually declines hence to the north-east, in grassy hills; which to the east become higher and more wooded: to the west the Khasia are seen, and several Himalayan peaks to the north.

The ascent to the village from the river is by steps cut in a narrow cleft of the schist rocks, to a flat, elevated 4,178 feet above the sea: we here procured a cottage, and found the people remarkably civil. The general appearance is the same as at Joowye, but there are here extensive and very unhealthy marshes, whose evil effects we experienced, in having the misfortune to lose one of our servants by fever. Except pines, there are few large trees; but the quantity of species of perennial woody plants contributing to form the jungles is quite extraordinary: I enumerated 140, of which 60 were trees or large shrubs above twenty feet high. One of these was the _Hamamelis chinensis,_ a plant hitherto only known as a native of China. This, the _Bowringia,_ and the little _Nymphaea,_ are three out of many remarkable instances of our approach to the eastern Asiatic flora.

From Nurtiung we walked to the Bor-panee river, sixteen or twenty miles to the north-east (not the river of that name below Nunklow), returning the same night; a most fatiguing journey in so hot and damp a climate. The path lay for the greatest part of the way over grassy hills of mica-schist, with boulders of granite, and afterwards of syenite, like those of Nunklow. The descent to the river is through noble woods of spreading oaks,* [We collected upwards of fifteen kinds of oak and chesnut in these and the Khasia mountains; many are magnificent trees, with excellent wood, while others are inferior as timber.] chesnuts, magnolias, and tall pines: the vegetation is very tropical, and with the exception of there being no sal, it resembles that of the dry hills of the Sikkim Terai. The Bor-panee is forty yards broad, and turbid; its bed, which is of basalt, is 2,454 feet above the sea: it is crossed by a raft pulled to and fro by canes.

Nurtiung contains a most remarkable collection of those sepulchral and other monuments, which form so curious a feature in the scenery of these mountains and in the habits of their savage population. They are all placed in a fine grove of trees, occupying a hollow; where several acres are covered with gigantic, generally circular, slabs of stone, from ten to twenty-five feet broad, supported five feet above the ground upon other blocks. For the most part they are buried in brushwood of nettles and shrubs, but in one place there is an open area of fifty yards encircled by them, each with a gigantic headstone behind it. Of the latter the tallest was nearly thirty feet high, six broad, and two feet eight inches in thickness, and must have been sunk at least five feet, and perhaps much more, in the ground. The flat slabs were generally of slate or hornstone; but many of them, and all the larger ones, were of syenitic granite, split by heat and cold water with great art. They are erected by dint of sheer brute strength, the lever being the only aid. Large blocks of syenite were scattered amongst these wonderful erections.

Splendid trees of _Bombax,_ fig and banyan, overshadowed them: the largest banyan had a trunk five feet in diameter, clear of the buttresses, and numerous small trees of _Celtic_ grew out of it, and an immense flowering tuft of _Vanda caerulea_ (the rarest and most beautiful of Indian orchids) flourished on one of its limbs. A small plantain with austere woolly scarlet fruit, bearing ripe seeds, was planted in this sacred grove, where trees of the most tropical genera grew mixed with the pine, birch, _Myrica,_ and _Viburnum._

The Nurtiung Stonehenge is no doubt in part religious, as the grove suggests, and also designed for cremation, the bodies being burnt on the altars. In the Khasia these upright stones are generally raised simply as memorials of great events, or of men whose ashes are not necessarily, though frequently, buried or deposited in hollow stone sarcophagi near them, and sometimes in an urn placed inside a sarcophagus, or under horizontal slabs.

Illustration--STONES AT NURTIUNG.

The usual arrangement is a row of five, seven, or more erect oblong blocks with round heads (the highest being placed in the middle), on which are often wooden discs and cones: more rarely pyramids are built. Broad slabs for seats are also common by the wayside. Mr. Yule, who first drew attention to these monuments, mentions one thirty-two feet by fifteen, and two in thickness; and states that the sarcophagi (which, however, are rare) formed of four slabs, resemble a drawing in Bell's Circassia, and descriptions in Irby and Mangles' Travels in Syria. He adds that many villages derive their names from these stones, "mau" signifying "stone:" thus "Mausmai" is "the stone of oath," because, as his native informant said, "there was war between Churra and Mausmai, and when they made peace, they swore to it, and placed a stone as a witness;" forcibly recalling the stone Jacob set up for a pillar, and other passages in the old Testament: "Mamloo" is "the stone of salt," eating salt from a sword's point being the Khasia form of oath: "Mauflong" is "the grassy stone," etc.* [Notes on the Khasia mountains and people; by Lieutenant H. Yule, Bengal Engineers. Analogous combinations occur in the south of England and in Brittany, etc., where similar structures are found. Thus _maen, man,_ or _men_ is the so-called Druidical name for a stony, whence _Pen-maen-mawr,_ for "the hill of the big stone," _Maen-hayr,_ for the standing stones of Brittany, and _Dol-men,_ °the table-stone," for a cromlech.] Returning from this grove, we crossed a stream by a single squared block, twenty-eight feet long, five broad, and two thick, of gray syenitic granite with large crystals of felspar.

We left Nurtiung on the 4th of October, and walked to Pomrang, a very long and fatiguing day's work. The route descends north-west of the village, and turns due east along bare grassy hills of mica-schist and slate (strike east and west, and dip north). Near the village of Lernai oak woods are passed, in which _Vanda coerulea_ grows in profusion, waving its panicles of azure flowers in the wind. As this beautiful orchid is at present attracting great attention, from its high price, beauty, and difficulty of culture, I shall point out how


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