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THE country of the Mhairs is situated but a very few miles west of Ajmere, and is composed of successive ranges of huge rocky hills, the only level country being the vallies running between them.
Either from the insignificance or sturdy valour of this race, the rulers of India were never able to make any impression on them, notwithstanding their vicinity to the occasional residence, for a long period, of the emperors of Hindustan.
“ In later times the Mhairs have been the terror of their lowland neighbours; and even the Raj poots, perhaps, with the sole exception of the R0hillas, the bravest men in India, dreaded their approach.
“ The peculiarities in the disposition of the Mhairs are an irresistible love of freedom, which is, among them, carried to such an excess, that they acknowledge no king or chief; or, at any rate, the obedience they pay to them is purely nominal, and only continued as long as suits their own convenience. When a predatory excursion was determined on, some distinguished warrior volunteered his services to lead the attack, and those who placed confidence in him associated themselves with his band; but their choice of leaders was entirely voluntary, and the engagement was only binding according to the will of the people. Regarding the religion of the Mhairs, I have been unable to learn any thing correctly: their ideas of caste, however, are quite distinct from those of the neighbouring people, or of the Hindus generally; and, I believe, they make no objection to receive food from the hands of Europeans; but they still have some prejudices on the subject, which, perhaps, would induce the expression ‘ low caste Hindus’ to be applied to them. They do not hesitate in expressing the contempt they entertain for even the highest class of Brahmans or Rajpoots, and, in fact, generally for all natives distinct from themselves. Their habits and customs would lead a traveller to conclude them nothing more or less than ‘ Bheels;’ but it is rather a surprising fact, that the appellation is, among them, the greatest insult that can be offered; such a stigma thrown on the most inferior among them, is only to be wiped away by the blood of the offender.
“ The country of the Mhairs a common observer would pronounce impenetrable; and so it certainly would be to any thing but European valour. Its inhabitants reside in the deepest jungles, on the summits, chiefly, of their almost inaccessible mountains. Their towns formerly were securely hidden from all human search; the vallies were entirely deserted; and not a trace of man was there to meet the eye of a stranger, who could only conclude the country to be a barren and uninhabited waste; while, in reality, the people constantly stationed in the watch-towers, with which the summits of the mountains are crowned, had in all human probability given the alarm, and the sides of the hills were every where covered with the mountaineers, ready to rush down on their unsuspecting victim. Such was the state of the country but a very few years ago. I recollect passing a spot which most powerfully brought to my recollection Sir Walter Scott’s beautiful description of the ambuscade in ‘ The Lady of the Lake,’ which he thus describes.
‘ Instant through copse and heath arose,
Sprung up at once the lurking foe;
Are bristling into axe and brand,
And every tuft of broom gives life
To plaided warrior armed for strife.’
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, new 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 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.
* India Gazette. AsiaticJoumal.
“ 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,
. “ 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 deprived 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 Hindusflb rBrahmans 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 Mhanj ees 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 N ewars, 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 N ewars 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-standarrL-zis 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 forcejj 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
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 Sernrounghur 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 rien into power by successive encroachments on their neighbours. After