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- Himalayan Journals, V1 - 5/63 -

lives and impaired their health in forming similar ones at the orders and expense of the Indian government, are at home, and thrown upon their own resources, or the assistance of their scientific brethren, for the means of publishing and distributing the fruits of their labours.] The Indian government, itself, has already profited largely by these gardens, directly and indirectly, and might have done so still more, had its efforts been better seconded either by the European or native population of the country. Amongst its greatest triumphs may be considered the introduction of the tea-plant from China, a fact I allude to, as many of my English readers may not be aware that the establishment of the tea-trade in the Himalaya and Assam is almost entirely the work of the superintendents of the gardens of Calcutta and Seharunpore.

From no one did I receive more kindness than from Sir James Colvile, President of the Asiatic Society, who not only took care that I should be provided with every comfort, but presented me with a completely equipped palkee, which, for strength and excellence of construction, was everything that a traveller could desire. Often _en route_ did I mentally thank him when I saw other palkees breaking down, and travellers bewailing the loss of those forgotten necessaries, with which his kind attention had furnished me.

I left Calcutta to join Mr. Williams' camp on the 28th of January, driving to Hoogly on the river of that name, and thence following the grand trunk-road westward towards Burdwan. The novelty of palkee-travelling at first renders it pleasant; the neatness with which every thing is packed, the good-humour of the bearers, their merry pace, and the many more comforts enjoyed than could be expected in a conveyance _horsed by men_, the warmth when the sliding doors are shut, and the breeze when they are open, are all fully appreciated on first starting, but soon the novelty wears off, and the discomforts are so numerous, that it is pronounced, at best, a barbarous conveyance. The greedy cry and gestures of the bearers, when, on changing, they break a fitful sleep by poking a torch in your face, and vociferating "Bucksheesh, Sahib;" their discontent at the most liberal largesse, and the sluggishness of the next set who want bribes, put the traveller out of patience with the natives. The dust when the slides are open, and the stifling heat when shut during a shower, are conclusive against the vehicle, and on getting out with aching bones and giddy head at the journey's end, I shook the dust from my person, and wished never to see a palkee again.

On the following morning I was passing through the straggling villages close to Burdwan, consisting of native hovels by the road side, with mangos and figs planted near them, and palms waving over their roofs. Crossing the nearly dry bed of the Damooda, I was set down at Mr. M'Intosh's (the magistrate of the district), and never more thoroughly enjoyed a hearty welcome and a breakfast.

In the evening we visited the Rajah of Burdwan's palace and pleasure-grounds, where I had the first glimpse of oriental gardening: the roads were generally raised, running through rice fields, now dry and hard, and bordered with trees of Jack, Bamboo, _Melia, Casuarina,_ etc. Tanks were the prominent features: chains of them, full of Indian water-lilies, being fringed with rows of the fan-palm, and occasionally the Indian date. Close to the house was a rather good menagerie, where I saw, amongst other animals, a pair of kangaroos in high health and condition, the female with young in her pouch. Before dark I was again in my palkee, and hurrying onwards. The night was cool and clear, very different from the damp and foggy atmosphere I had left at Calcutta. On the following morning I was travelling over a flat and apparently rising country, along an excellent road, with groves of bamboos and stunted trees on either hand, few villages or palms, a sterile soil, with stunted grass and but little cultivation; altogether a country as unlike what I had expected to find in India as well might be. All around was a dead flat or table-land, out of which a few conical hills rose in the west, about 1000 feet high, covered with a low forest of dusky green or yellow, from the prevalence of bamboo. The lark was singing merrily at sunrise, and the accessories of a fresh air and dewy grass more reminded me of some moorland in the north of England than of the torrid regions of the east.

At 10 p.m. I arrived at Mr. Williams' camp, at Taldangah, a dawk station near the western limit of the coal basin of the Damooda valley. His operations being finished, he was prepared to start, having kindly waited a couple of days for my arrival.

Early on the morning of the last day of January, a motley group of natives were busy striking the tents, and loading the bullocks, bullock-carts and elephants: these proceeded on the march, occupying in straggling groups nearly three miles of road, whilst we remained to breakfast with Mr. F. Watkins, Superintendent of the East India Coal and Coke Company, who were working the seams.

The coal crops out at the surface; but the shafts worked are sunk through thick beds of alluvium. The age of these coal-fields is quite unknown, and I regret to say that my examination of their fossil plants throws no material light on the subject. Upwards of thirty species of fossil plants have been procured from them, and of these the majority are referred by Dr. McLelland* [Reports of the Geological Survey of India. Calcutta, 1850.] to the inferior oolite epoch of England, from the prevalence of species of _Zamia, Glossopteris,_ and _Taeniopteris._ Some of these genera, together with _Vertebraria_ (a very remarkable Indian fossil), are also recognised in the coal-fields of Sind and of Australia. I cannot, however, think that botanical evidence of such a nature is sufficient to warrant a satisfactory reference of these Indian coal-fields to the same epoch as those of England or of Australia; in the first place the outlines of the fronds of ferns and their nervation are frail characters if employed alone for the determination of existing genera, and much more so of fossil fragments: in the second place recent ferns are so widely distributed, that an inspection of the majority affords little clue to the region or locality they come from: and in the third place, considering the wide difference in latitude and longitude of Yorkshire, India, and Australia, the natural conclusion is that they could not have supported a similar vegetation at the same epoch. In fact, finding similar fossil plants at places widely different in latitude, and hence in climate, is, in the present state of our knowledge, rather an argument against than for their having existed cotemporaneously. The _Cycadeae,_ especially, whose fossil remains afford so much ground for geological speculations, are far from yielding such precise data as is supposed. Species of the order are found in Mexico, South Africa, Australia, and India, some inhabiting the hottest and dampest, and others the driest climates on the surface of the globe; and it appears to me rash to argue much from the presence of the order in the coal of Yorkshire and India, when we reflect that the geologist of some future epoch may find as good reasons for referring the present Cape, Australian, or Mexican Flora to the same period as that of the Lias and Oolites, when the _Cycadeae_ now living in the former countries shall be fossilised.

Specific identity of their contained fossils may be considered as fair evidence of the cotemporaneous origin of beds, but amongst the many collections of fossil plants that I have examined, there is hardly a specimen, belonging to any epoch, sufficiently perfect to warrant the assumption that the species to which it belonged can be again recognised. The botanical evidences which geologists too often accept as proofs of specific identity are such as no botanist would attach any importance to in the investigation of existing plants. The faintest traces assumed to be of vegetable origin are habitually made into genera and species by naturalists ignorant of the structure, affinities and distribution of living plants, and of such materials the bulk of so-called systems of fossil plants is composed.

A number of women were here employed in making gunpowder, grinding the usual materials on a stone, with the addition of water from the Hookah; a custom for which they have an obstinate prejudice. The charcoal here used is made from an _Acacia_: the Seiks, I believe, employ _Justicia Adhatoda,_ which is also in use all over India: at Aden the Arabs prefer the _Calotropis_, probably because it is most easily procured. The grain of all these plants is open, whereas in England, closer-grained and more woody trees, especially willows, are preferred.

The jungle I found to consist chiefly of thorny bushes, Jujube of two species, an _Acacia_ and _Butea frondosa,_ the twigs of the latter often covered with lurid red tears of Lac, which is here collected in abundance. As it occurs on the plants and is collected by the natives it is called Stick-lac, but after preparation Shell-lac. In Mirzapore, a species of _Celtis_ yields it, and the Peepul very commonly in various parts of India. The elaboration of this dye, whether by the same species of insect, or by many from plants so widely different in habit and characters, is a very curious fact; since none have red juice, but some have milky and others limpid.

After breakfast, Mr. Williams and I started on an elephant, following the camp to Gyra, twelve miles distant. The docility of these animals is an old story, but it loses so much in the telling, that their gentleness, obedience, and sagacity seemed as strange to me as if I had never heard or read of these attributes. The swinging motion, under a hot sun, is very oppressive, but compensated for by being so high above the dust. The Mahout, or driver, guides by poking his great toes under either ear, enforcing obedience with an iron goad, with which he hammers the animal's head with quite as much force as would break a cocoa-nut, or drives it through his thick skin down to the quick. A most disagreeable sight it is, to see the blood and yellow fat oozing out in the broiling sun from these great punctures! Our elephant was an excellent one, when he did not take obstinate fits, and so docile as to pick up pieces of stone when desired, and with a jerk of the trunk throw them over his head for the rider to catch, thus saving the trouble of dismounting to geologise!

Of sights on the road, unfrequented though this noble line is, there were plenty for a stranger; chiefly pilgrims to Juggernath, most on foot, and a few in carts or pony gigs of rude construction. The vehicles from the upper country are distinguished by a far superior build, their horses are caparisoned with jingling bells, and the wheels and other parts are bound with brass. The kindness of the people towards animals, and in some cases towards their suffering relations, is very remarkable, and may in part have given origin to the prevalent idea that they are less cruel and stern than the majority of mankind; but that the "mild" Hindoo, however gentle on occasion, is cruel and vindictive to his brother man and to animals, when his indolent temper is roused or his avarice stimulated, no one can doubt who reads the accounts of Thuggee, Dacoitee, and poisoning, and witnesses the cruelty with which beasts of burthen are treated. A child carrying a bird, kid, or lamb, is not an uncommon sight, and a woman with a dog in her arms is still more frequently seen. Occasionally too, a group will bear an old man to see Juggernath before he dies, or a poor creature with elephantiasis, who hopes to be allowed to hurry himself to his paradise, in preference to lingering in helpless inactivity, and at last crawling up to the second heaven only. The costumes are as various as the religious castes, and the many countries to which the travellers belong.

Himalayan Journals, V1 - 5/63

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