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And my imagination was so worked on that I could scarcely rouse myself from the utmost conviction I felt of my being surrounded by the savage inhabitants of the deep and sequestered glen through which I was passing. From these fastnesses the Mhairs were used to come suddenly down with an irresistible impetuosity, and burn and plunder the whole neighbouring country; the people were paralized with dread, and the hardy savages were safe again before they could resume courage to act on the defensive." *
These people were, a few years ago, brought into subjection by the British power, and under our protective rule have become more quiet and civilized. Agricultural pursuits have been encouraged among them, and their vallies, it is said, now display the marks of industrious cultivation.
Nepal, including its tributary provinces, was one of the most extensive independent sovereignties in India, comprehending nearly the whole of northern Hindustan.
The country is mountainous, giving rise to many rapid streams.
“ At Hettowra it is composed of a confused heap of hills, separated in various directions by narrow bottoms or glens, which is the appearance exhibited by the greatest part of the mountainous tract known under the general name of Nepal ; no single uninterrupted chain or range being met with after passing the Cheriaghauti ridge. The sides of these hills are every where covered with tall forests (chiefly of saul or sisso), or partially cultivated with different sorts of grain. The mountainous tract to the east is inhabited by various uncultivated nations, the principal of whom are the Kyrauts, the Hawoos, and the Limbooas, who are all Hindus of the Brahminical persuasion, but of the lowest caste. The chief towns are Katmandoo, Gorkah, Pattan, Bhatgan, Jemlah, Almora, and Serinagur.
“ The valley of Nepal Proper, whence the sovereignty takes its name, is nearly of an oval figure : its greatest length from north to south is twelve miles, by nine its greatest breadth; the circumference of the whole being
* India Gazette. Asiatic Journal.
under fifty miles. To the south it is bounded by very stupendous mountains; but to the east and west, the enclosing hills are less lofty. Sheopuri, which constitutes its principal barrier to the north, is the highest of the mountains that encircle it; whence issue the Bhagmatty and Vishunmatty rivers, which, with many other streams, traverse the valley of Nepal; the bottom of which, besides being very uneven, is intersected with deep ravines and speckled with little hills. Seen from Mount Chandraghire, the valley of Nepal appears thickly settled with villages, among fields fertilized by numerous streams; but the part of the view which most powerfully attracts the attention, is the adjacent numerous mountains of Sheopuri and Jibgibia, with the gigantic Himalaya ridge, covered with everlasting snow, in the back ground.
“ In some ancient Hindu books, Nepal is called Deccani Tapoo, or the southern isle, in reference to its situation with respect to the Himalaya mountains, and the contiguous northern regions; the valley of Nepal being there described as an immense lake, which, in the progress of ages, had retired within the banks of the Bhagmatty.
“The modern names of the other principal districts are Ghorkah, Kyraut, Morung, Muckwany, Macwanpoor, Lamjung, Jahnoor, twenty-four Rajas, Casly, Palpar, Ismah, Rolpah, Patahu, Deucar, Jemlah, Kemaoon, Almora, and Serinagur.
“ Throughout Nepal Proper, the Newar tribes alone cultivate the ground, and exercise the useful arts; but they enjoy little security or happiness under their present rulers. The sovereign is there regarded as the original absolute proprietor of all lands. Even the first subject of the state has, generally speaking, but a temporary and precarious interest in the lands which he holds; being liable, at every punjunni (or grand council) to be
orived of them altogether; to have them commuted for a pecuniary stipend, or exchanged for others.
" The great mass of the inhabitants of Nepal dwell in the valleys; the hills and Turiani being but thinly populated. General Kirkpatrick estimates the population of the valley of Nepal at half a million, which appears an extraordinary number, when its small dimensions are considered. The
inhabitants consist principally of the two superior classes of Hindus,* Brahmans and Khetries, with their subdivisions, Newars, Dhenwars, Mhanjees, Bhooteas, and Bhanras ;t the two first divisions, who occupy the principal stations in the sovereignty, and fill the armies, are dispersed through the country. The Newars are confined almost to the valley of Nepal; the Dhenwars and Mhanjees are the fishermen and husbandmen of the western districts, and the Bhooteas inhabit such parts of Kuchar (Lower Thibet) as are included in the Nepal territories. The Bharas are separated from the Newars, and amount to about five thousand. To the eastward some districts are inhabited by the Limbooas, Nuggerkooties, and others; of whom little is known beside the name. The Newars are divided into several castes like those among the more southern Hindus.
“ The Nepal artillery is very bad. Matchlocks, bows and arrows, and kohras, or hatchet-swords, are the common weapons used. The regular forces are armed with muskets, of which few are fit for actual service. The Jung Neshaun, or war-standard, is on a yellow ground, and exhibits a figure of the monkey-god Hanuman. The inhabitants of this region have all along entertained but little intercourse with the neighbouring nations, and are probably the only Hindu people who have not been disturbed, far less subdued, by any Mohammedan force. They are in consequence
* This description will not accord with that given under the article Buddha of Nepal. It may be presumed that the extensive worship of the Hindu deities as subordinate to Adi Buddha, &c., may have caused this discrepancy.
I The ancient history of Nepal is very much clouded with mythological fable. The inhabitants have lists of princes for many ages back, of whom Ny Muni, who communicated his name to the valley, was the first. Like other eastern states it often changed masters. It was last conquered by Purthi Narayan, the rajah of Goreah (Ghoorka), who put an end to the dynasty of Semrounghur Khetries. Runjeet Mull, of Bhatgong, was the last prince of the Soorej Bungsi (Surya Bans) race that reigned over Nepal.
Ghoorka, or Ghurka, a town, and also a district to which the former gives its name, in northern Hindustan, situated between the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth degrees of north latitude.
The Ghoorkali reigning family pretend to derive their descent from the Rajpoot princes of Odeypoor, in the same manner as the Savajee family claimed a similar origin. For a considerable period they have existed in the mountainous country bordering on the river Gunduck, during which time they have gradually risen into power by successive encroachments on their neighbours.
remarkable for a simplicity of character, and an absence of parade or affectation. The Newar tribe differ in many respects from the other Hindu inhabitants, particularly in feeding on the flesh of buffaloes. The ordinary hue of their complexion is between a sallow and a copper colour. It is remarkable that the Newar women, like the Nairs of Malabar, may, in fact, have as many husbands as they please, being at liberty to divorce them on the slightest pretences."*
An account of the religion of the Nepalese will be found under the head of Buddhism in Nepal, page 213.
In conjunction with the Nepalese, the Sirmoris may be noticed. The country of this people is bounded on the north, west, and south, by Bisr, Hindwar, and the Shikh possessions, and on the east by Ghoorkwal. Naken is the capital, once a flourishing town. After our successes in the Nepal war, the Sirmoris were released from the cruelty and extortion of the Ghoorkas, and taken under the protection of the British government. Their manners to European travellers have, however, been deceitful and inhospitable. They are filthy in their persons and habits, and nothing can be conceived more disgusting than the skirts of their villages at the close of the winter, when the snow begins to melt. Their villages are small, containing from three to fourteen houses ; but being situated on the summit of the ranges, or ornamenting their craggy slopes, they give a singular and highly pleasing effect to the mountain landscape.
“ Ten years of restraint have not subdued the mutual animosity of the borderers of Sirmor and Goorkwal. The one, in speaking of the other, rarely uses the appellation of his nation, but substitutes the more expressive and rancorous term “ Bairi,” signifying foe. After the conquest of Nepal by the Ghoorkhalies in 1768, the seat of government was transferred to Catmandoo, and the city of Ghoorka, having been much neglected, is greatly decayed.
• Asiatic Journal.
“ The superstition of this people is extreme. Every peak is the residence of some sprite, whose wrath it is deemed dangerous to provoke.
“ Polyandry, or the custom of one woman having two or more husbands (relations), obtains among them. It frequently happens that two brothers succeed conjointly to an estate : they cohabit with one wife, and the integrity of the property is thus preserved.”*
This latitude of female indulgence prevails also among the happy dames of several other Indian tribes. Among the Todirs of the Nilgiri mountains, the brothers of a family have usually only one wife between them, who makes her election of which of them she is disposed to drop the handkerchief to. She is, moreover, allowed to do so to a lover, without the slightest objection or jealousy on the part of her proper lords. In other parts of India females have had less deference paid to them; and in Malwa it has been said they were, till very recently, accounted witches; that is to say, after a certain age. They were then, according to a statement published in the Calcutta Journal, 1821, put into a sack and thrown into a tank; if they swam they were certainly witches and suffered death; if they sank they were drowned, and it may be supposed not witches. Many hundreds, adds the writer, have in some seasons been doomed to this cruel death. The Rajah Zalim Singh of Kotah sentenced four hundred to die in this manner, because the death of his favourite wife was attributed to witchcraft. Through the laudable and humane interference of the British political agent this barbarous custom has now, it is said, ceased ; and the benevolent author of the change became so popular among the old ladies, that it is supposed he might have married them all, had he been so disposed.
* Abstracted from the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society.