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The kingdom of Nepaul, with its snowy mountains and sunny valleys, extends for upwards of three hundred miles along the southern slopes of the loftiest mountain chain in the world, and is said to contain a population of about five millions. But we will at once introduce the reader to our guide and authority on the tour which we propose to take him through this interesting country :
“From this position,” says Mr. Oliphant,“ a panorama, in every respect as magnificent as it was wonderful, stretched itself, if I may so speak, as well above as below me. Northward, and not thirty miles distant, the Himalayas reared their heaven-piercing summits, peak succeeding peak, and crag succeeding crag, far as the eye could reach, from east to west a glittering chain, while here and there the light clouds which hung upon its rocks and precipices became thinned, till they vanished altogether, or, rising in denser masses from some dark valley, obscured the lower portions of the range, only to give relief to the summits and elevate them in appearance—an aid they little needed, for the height of the lowest level of the chain is upwards of fifteen thousand feet. But it was not the actual height of the various peaks, nor the masses of glistening snow which clothed them, brightly reflecting the rays of an almost vertical sun, and tinted by the most brilliant hues, that was the chief cause of wonder and admiration. It was the sharpness of the horizon-line against the serene, clear sky, which displayed precipices and crags of inconceivable grandeur, the overhanging peak looking down some thousands of feet upon the lower part of the range. Had it been possible to calculate upon such a stupendous scale, I felt I was gazing at sheer precipices six thousand or eight thousand feet in depth, for the descent from twenty-five thousand to fifteen thousand feet was not gradual, but the whole line was cragged and notched upon a scale of unsurpassable magnificence and grandeur. ..
Turning from this marvellous scene, I looked down upon the placid valley of Nepaul. Its four rivers appeared like silver threads, winding their way amidst rich cultivation to swell the waters of the parent Bhagmutty. Blooming and verdant, the populous plain lay embosomed in lofty mountains, shut out as it were from the cares of the world. It seemed a Paradise on earth, with an approach to heaven of its own along the summit of Gosain Thān."
Katmandu is the capital of Nepaul. It is surrounded by a wall, and its long, narrow streets are fairly paved, though only some of them would admit the passage of a carriage. The shops which are on the ground floor have the whole front open, and the merchant sits in the midst of his wares. The outside front of the houses generally presents a mass of wood-carving, each small window being surrounded by a border two or three feet broad.
Curious balconies are formed under the projecting eaves, which form a sort of small room. The durbar, or palace of the king, is situated in a great square, which also contains various pagodas. The palace is a gaudy, straggling building, almost European in its style, and close to it is a huge, deformed image of Siva, sitting in an uncomfortable position on a square stone, and violently gesticulating with her fourteen arms.
The Chinese-featured Newars, or aborigines of the country, dress in a short coat, of a cotton fabric produced by a tree in the country, and reaching about half-way to the knees; but in the colder months they wear home-spun woollen clothes. The coat of the women is longer than that of the men, and a sort of bodice is generally worn beneath it—a white shawl wrapped round the waist forms another item of a very ungraceful costume. The females have a debased and squalid look, and their appearance corresponds, there is too much reason to fear, with their character. The Ghorkas—the conquerors of Nepaul-are a handsome race, who absurdly pride themselves upon being able to do nothing but fight. Mr. Oliphant had no opportunity of seeing the females of the higher orders of either race, and indeed very few noble families of the Newars remain,
In one of the temples which Mr. Oliphant visited, he saw a curious spectacle : pots, pans, dusty-looking musical instruments, goods and chattels of all descriptions were thrust together indiscriminately beneath the projecting roof of the pagoda. This heterogeneous collection consisted of the unclaimed goods of worshippers who had died without known heirs.
Of the temple of Sumboonath we read :
“The Dagoba resembles the temple of Bhood, but is only about half its size ; the spire is covered with plates of copper, gilt. It is surrounded by pagodas, as well as numerous more modern shrines of a bastard Hindoo class, to which Bhootyas and Bhamas, a tribe of Newars, resort in great numbers. Occasionally the Ghorkas visit these shrines; the thunderbolt of Indra, which is here exhibited, being, I suppose the object of attraction to them, as they pride themselves on being orthodox Hindoos.
“This collection of temples is surrounded by rickety old houses, inhabited by Bhootyas and priests. All around small images sit upon wet stones, holding in their hands everlasting tapers, and look out of their niches upon the dirty worshippers who smother them with faded flowers. Turving our backs upon the little divinities, we obtained the first panoramic view we had yet had of the valley and city of Katmandu.
“The valley is of an oval shape ; its circumference is nearly fifty miles, and the hills by which it is enclosed vary from one to two thousand feet in height. Sheopoorie, the most lofty of these, is clothed to the summit with evergreen jungle, and rises abruptly behind the town. Behind it the fantastically-shaped Jib Jibia shows its craggy summit thickly powdered with snow, while the still loftier Gosain Thān, at a distance of about thirty miles, rears its ever-white and glittering peak to a height of twentyfive thousand feet, and seems majestically to preside over this glorious
“ The town of Katmandu, situated at the junction of the Bhagmutty and Bishmutty, and containing a population of fifty thousand inhabitants, lay spread at our feet, and we could discern the passengers on the narrow fragile-looking bridges which span the two rivers, at this time containing scarcely any water. Innumerable temples, Bhuddist and Hindoo, and mixtures of both, occupied hillocks, or were situated near the sacred fonts or groves with which the valley abounds, and which add much to the beauty of its appearance. The number of the edifices affords strong proof of the superstition of the people, and warrants the remark of Colonel Kirkpatrick, who says, “that there seem to be in Nepaul as many shrines as houses, and as many idols as inhabitants.' ...
“There is not, I conceive, any other mountainous country in the world that can boast of possessing so favoured a spot. Throughout its whole length and breadth not a stone is to be found: it is well watered; its temperature is delightful, the thermometer in the hottest month seldom reaches 75°, in the coldest never falls below 30°; it is sufficiently near the tropics to rejoice in the presence of the warm bright sun even in the depth of winter, while the proximity of the ever snow-capped 'Himaleh' prevents the heat being too severely felt in the middle of summer. It rarely freezes in the valley, and never snows, although the hills around, some of which do not exceed one thousand feet, are frequently powdered.”
Oaks, chestnuts, pines, and other English forest-trees flourish here, and European vegetables may be grown to perfection. Iron, lead, copper, and zinc mines abound in Nepaul, but of their qualities and productiveness we are not able to speak. There are mines of sulphur, and, it is said, of antimony and corundum; figure-stone and talc are Nepaulese minerals. Turmeric, wax, honey, resin, pepper, and cardamoms are amongst the exports ; but the difficulty of transport and the state of the people are a great barrier to trade. Immense quantities of salt are imported into Nepaul over the Himalayas on the backs of sheep. The silver coinage of the country is somewhat similar to that of British India, in whose northern provinces it passes current. The copper coinage consists of shapeless lumps of copper, eighteen or twenty of which go to a halfpenny.
A narrow strip of territory, about twenty miles in breadth, extends for three hundred miles along the northern frontier of British India. This tract, which is a dead level, is called the Terai. The first ten miles of its breadth is chiefly used for grazing by the inhabitants of the adjoining British provinces, who drive
thousands of cattle across the border, and pay a considerable revenue to the Nepaulese government. The great saul forest, which is ten miles in breadth, commences after this grazing tract is passed. For nine or ten months in the year a disease renders the Terai impassable even to the natives of the country.
The Nepaulese are expert jewellers, and they excel in bellmaking, which may be styled the trade of the land. They manufacture a species of coarse paper from the bark of a tree, and their . bricks are deservedly famed. They are said to be excellent agriculturists, and the soil seems inexhaustible, yielding its four crops of wheat, rice, Indian corn, and vegetables in the year. They never use the plough, but at certain seasons every one capable of wielding the hoe may be seen at work.
“ Katmandu, the capital of Nepaul, was built by the conquering Ghorkas, and is comparatively modern. The old Newar capital is Patn; situated on a green slope, and fortified by a high wall, it looks pictuesque when seen from the modern city, from which it is distant about two miles. ! "Crossing the narrow brick bridge which spans the Bhagmutty, outside the walls of the town, we shortly after entered the massive old gates of the ancient capital. As we trotted past the high rickety houses, along the brick pavement of the narrow streets, still slippery from the morning dew, we encountered troops of girls with garlands in their hair, for this was some festive day. At the corners of the streets were beings of both sexes as decrepit as the houses under which they crouched, presiding over baskets full of beautiful flowers. The entire population were Newars, except a few fierce mustachioed Ghorkas, who stood sentinels over the temples, or loitered about the guard-house. The long street looked deserted; there was not a single shop in it; and the foot-passengers were few and far between. But the grand square was the chief feature of the place, and was well worthy of a visit. We looked with astonishment and delight at the incongruous mass of buildings, of the most varied and fantastic construction, yet massive and substantial; but whence the designs originated, or in what other part of the known world anything is to be seen approaching to the style of Newar architecture, it would be impossible to conjecture. Houses built of horn are said to exist at Lassa ; and from Lassa, I should imagine, came the designs for the temples and houses of Patn. Time has mellowed their bright colours-if they were ever painted at all like those of Katmandu-into a sombre, quiet grey. The Durbar, a huge, massive building, is absolutely covered with black wood-carving. The care displayed in its execution is still apparent through the mass of dust and cobwebs which almost conceal it; for the old Durbar of Patn is deserted. The residence of the monarchs who ruled the happy valley is in strong contrast with the smiling appearance of their former territory. It alone seems to have gone into mourning for its former occupants, while the valley seems to thrive as well under the rule of the Ghorkas as it did under that of the Newars. The Durbar is of great extent, and occupies one side
of the square, in the centre of which stand two monoliths, between thirty and forty feet high: on one of them is the figure of an angel, represented in all respects as angels usually are, with the addition of a magnificent gilt tail; this, together with a pair of large gilt wings, gave it a most gorgeous appearance. My Ghorka guide could give me no information as to what particular divinity this figure was intended to represent. The other pillar was crowned by the figure of a Newar monarch with an unpronounceable name, who was watched over by a cobra, standing upon its tail, and looking over his head with its mouth wide open."
Here, as at Katmandu, there appear to be visible architectural tokens of impurity in the morals of a community which suffers such objects to exist.
The valley of Katmandu appears to be superior, as we might expect, to any other parts of Nepaul seen by Mr. Oliphant, so that it would be deceptive to take this lovely spot as a specimen of a country so little known to Europeans. He accompanied Jung Bahadoor, the Nepaulese premier, whose power was almost absolute, and yet under these favourable circumstances it was deemed too unpopular an innovation for the visitors to explore the country. The fourteen predecessors of the premier were all assassinated On one occasion he shot fourteen Nepaulese nobles with his own hands, and within a few moments.
“Fourteen times did that fatal report ring through the hall as one by one the rifles were handed to one who would trust no eye but his own, and at each shot another noble lay stretched on the ground.”
From such scenes as this the mind recoils with horror, and yet there was reason to hope that Jung Bahadoor would prove in some sense a reformer of his country.
But there is only one way in which Nepaul can be radically amended. There is but one rock upon which civilization can be built, and that rock is Christianity. When the Bible and the missionary have entered this country, then may we trust that a bright day is dawning upon it. And we thank God-and we hope the reader does so with us for the prospect there is of the evangelization of Nepaul. It is a scanty band, a mere handful of gallant men, that is attacking the vast fortress of idolatry in India, and yet we are more hopeful than ever of its capture. When that glorious day shall arrive-if not before—the standard of the cross will doubtless be carried onwards into Nepaul. And whoever may be the honoured standard-bearers--and who would not covet such a post !—it is our earnest prayer that they may go on from victory to victory until this entire kingdom is subjugated to the King of kings