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Koondil to the base of the hills, presents many indications of forme cultivation. On this expedition I was absent nine days.” Major Jen kins remarks that these forts refer to a time of which we hav.. no history or even tradition further than frequent traces of the dynast: of the Pals throughout Assam. Allnding to the destruction of the empire of these kings by Krishno and the conversion of those who escaped to the hills into the present tribes of Abors, he states : the Pals were Buddhists, this tradition may allude to their overthrow by the Rajas of the Brahminical faith; but all authentic records of those times appear to be lost, at least in this province.”
The origin of the name of Sera is involved in obscurity. There is a place of this name, the site of a monastery, in the vicinity of Lassa, which has been supposed by Malte Brun to be the Sera of the ancients. The former, however, was built in the 8th century* and it is obvious, therefore, that it is not the Sera of Ptolemy. Sera is also the name of a town in Mysore. The word is evidently one of Indian derivation, and is probably a corruption of Sri, "sacred.” It has reference, perhaps, to the site of Sera in the vicinity of the sacred Brahmakund, from which the Sri Lohit (or sacred Lohit) the Irawaddee, and the Brahmaputra were formerly supposed to issue. The Irawaddee is apparently the river designated “ Serus” by Ptolemy. The mountains in the vicinity of Sera, from which one of the affluents of the Brahmaputra is represented as having its origin, were called Serici. It is said that se is the name of silk in China, and it is supposed that from this word the name of Seres is derived. It was conjectured by an ancient author, that the name, by which the silk worm was designated, was the origin of the term Seres. Pausanias, Seres populum a sere vermiculo dictum cencet.” (Vide Steph. Thesaur. Ling. Græc.) The name of Seres, however, occurs before it was known that silk is the production of an insect. Virgil, Dionysius, and Pliny mention the Seres, but describe silk, as a substance that is obtained from the flowers or leaves of certain trees. The derivation of Sericum from Seres is particularly mentioned by one author ; “ Sericum dicitur a Seribus.” It is also stated that silk was called Sericum because the Seres were the first who exported it ; “ Sericum dictum quia id Seres primi miserunt.” It is probable therefore, that the Seres derived their name from the city of Sera,
* This information I obtained from the late M, Csoma de Koros,
which stood near the sacred fountain of the Brahmaputra. Hence Assam was called Serica, and its staple commodity, viz. silk, was desig. nated Sericum, while the other articles of merchandize, which were exported from it, were distinguished by the adjective Seric, as inpuca depuste Seric skins ; ferrum Sericum, Seric iron.
Essidon, called Issedon Serica by Ptolemy to distinguish it from Issedon Scythica which stood in Thibet or Bootan, was the capital of the Issedones, who appear to have been the most powerful of all the nations of Serica. They are described by Ptolemy, as a veya edvos, and by Ammianus Marcellinus, as "omnium splendidissimi ;” and from the situation assigned to their territory, it is probable that their capital stood in the vicinity of Ghergong, or Rungpore. Ghergong or Kirganu, as it was anciently called, (Vide Rennel's Memoir, &c. p. 299,) appears to be the Kangigu of Marco Polo. Marsden remarks that this country is designated “Cargingu" in the early Italian Epitome. It is described as a kingdom situated eastward of Bengal, and as having voluntarily submitted to the authority of Kublai Khan. The people are stated as being idolators and as having a peculiar language. The country is described as abounding in elephants, gold, and many kinds of drugs, but being an inland country distant from the sea, there is no opportunity of selling them. The inhabitants lived on flesh, rice, and milk ; and tattooed their bodies.* The Ahoms transferred the seat of gov. ernment to this place from Hulagari Nuggur, but from the architectural remains which are still to be seen in its vicinity, it would appear to have been, before it became their capital, the site of a city which belonged to a people far advanced in civilization.
Asmira was the capital of the Asmiræ, whose territory is described by Ptolemy as situated below the mountains of the same name (subque is Rabbannæ Asmiraea est regio, supra ejusdem nominis montes, Ptol.). It probably stood in Lackimpore, where the Chutteeahs, a branch of the Shyan family had possessions, before the Ahoms came into Assam. There are various remains of antiquity to be seen in Lackimpore, as tanks, and the remains of an embankment called Rajghur, which, Lieut. Dalton remarks, “bears the appearance of having been constructed as a rampart against the inroads of the hill people." He describes it as being “a stupendous work.” (Journal Asiatic Society, Vol. XIV. p. 252.)
* Marsden's Travels of Marco Polo, p. 455.
Asparata (the Aspacara of Ptolemy) appears to be the ancient cit of Pora in the district of Chardwar. Capt. Westmacott considers Poi as identical with Pratappur--a splendid city which is described in tł ancient manuscript records of the kings of Assam, as having stood o the north bank of the Brahmaputra, a little below Bishnath. ΤΕ ancient temples and ruins of Pora are described by him in the Journ: of this Society, Vol. IV. p. 185. He remarks : “From their massiv proportions and the carvings and ornaments being so much worn b time and exposure, the fanes are evidently the work of a remote era : sought in vain for an inscription, and neither the priests of the distric nor the ancient families whom I consulted could assist my researches or point with an approximation to accuracy to the date of their origin.' He mentions the ruins of six or seven enormous structures of granit broken into thousands of fragments. “Altars of gigantic proportion were the most remarkable objects," one of which he describes as makinç a square of forty-six feet and eighteen inches thick. He states : “i is certain from the prodigious number of ruinous and deserted temples, all of which appear to have been dedicated to Siva, being within the circuit of a few miles of Pora (I discovered twelve or fifteen in as many days on the hills and high lands at their feet) that this spot must have been the capital of a sovereign Prince, or a principal seat of the Hindu religion and enjoyed a large share of prosperity at some remote period.”,
Besides the four cities mentioned by Ammianus Marcellinus there are eleven others which are enumerated by Ptolemy as belonging to Serica, viz. Damna, Piada, Tharrhana, (Pal. Throana) Drosache, Paliana, Abragana, Thogara, Daxata, Orosana, Ottorocorrha, and Solana. There are various places in Assam and in the neighbouring hilly tracts to which the sites of these places might be referred. Ottorocorrha stood in the vicinity of the hills of the same name, and was apparently one of the two forts which are described by Lieut. Rowlatt. Mr. McCosh mentions that there are many extensive forts scattered over the country, and particularises Buddea-ghur, Rajah-ghur, and Gohatti as the most remarkable. Speaking of the latter place, he observes : “A small portion of its former extent and grandeur now remains : its mortar and earthenware constitute a large portion of the soil : its numerous spacious tanks, the works of ten thousands, the pride of its princes, and the wonder of the present day, are now choked up with weeds and jungle or altogether
faced by a false though luxuriant soil that floats on the stagnant water concealed beneath." Some of its gateways are still standing, and mounds and ditches-the remains of its fortifications-are to be seen for many miles around it. The intervening mountainous country between Assam, Cachar, and Munipore appears to have been cultivated formerly, and as Mr. Torrens remarks, to have been “thickly inhabited by a people far advanced in civilization.' The remains of the fortified city of Dhemapore on the banks of the Dhansiri, built by Rajah Chakardhaj, the fourth king of Cachar, are described by Mr. Grange, by whom they were discovered, in the Journal of this Society.t According to Mr. Crawford, the Burmese Annals mention Jynteah in the vicinity of Sylhet, as the site of a principality called Wethali, which was founded by Susanaga, a descendant of Gautama in the female line. It is stated that the son of Susanaga named “ Kalasanka, in the 10th year of his reign and 100 years after the death of Gautama, assembled all the learned men of his country, and made them repeat what they knew of the doctrine of Buddha : for there yet existed no scripture. This assembly is known to the Burmese by the name of the Second Counail:' the First Council having taken place three months after the death of Gautama. From this time, to the year 289 before Christ, a period of 83 years, twelve princes are described as having reigned in Wethali : the last of whom Sri-d'hama-sanka, is a personage of some repute.
It was the son of this pious reformer who permanently fixed the seat of government at Prome.”I These details identify the Wethali of the Burmese with the Wesali of the Pali Buddhistical Annals of Ceylon. Vesali, however, which is considered the same city as Wesali, is referred to a site on the river Gandak, near the Bakra column, or lat, discovered by Mr. Stevenson ; and according to Professor Wilson there is early authority for identifying it with this locality.
The sedate and tranquil life which the Seres led, their unwarlike disposition and aversion to the use of arms, are characteristic of the indolent Assamese, who, inhabiting a rich and fertile country formerly fenced in, or protected against foreign invasion in the manner described by Ammianus Marcellinus, may be supposed to have enjoyed, in ancient times, the undisturbed ease and delightful tranquillity, which the words of the text,
" utque hominibus sedatis et placidis otium est volutabile, nulli finitimo. ram molesti,” seem to express.
The pleasant and salubrious climate, which is attributed to Serica seems to refer to the climate of Upper Assam. “Comparatively speak ing, Assam enjoys a far more peculiarly temperate climate with a greate equality of temperature than is general throughout India. The warn weather is very moderate, and throughout the year the nights are coo and refreshing. The mean annual temperature amounts to 67-2—th mean temperature of the four hottest months amounting to 80, and tha of the winter to about 57."* Mr. McCosh describes the climate o Upper Assam as “cold, healthy, aud congenial to European constitu tions.”+
Serica is described as abounding in groves or forests which are desig. nated “sublucidæ,” an expression which seems intended to describe the effect produced by the myriads of luminous insects in the jungles of Assam. These insects appear to be far more abundant there than in Bengal : they are described as being seen to “glitter at night among the dark and leafy recesses of the forest trees, or flit with varied motions : around their utmost branches, producing an effect so brilliant as to seem almost the effect of magic.”'I
The substance, the produce of the trees of these forests, which, after being sprinkled with water, is described as being spun out into the finest threads, is evidently the indigenous silk of Assam. There are six species of silk worms found in that country, namely, the mulberry worm, the eria, the muga or moonga, the kontkuri, the deo mooga and the haumpottonee. The mulberry worm is supposed to have been originally introduced into Assam from Bengal, but the other five are indigenous to the country. Silk is one of the staples of Assam, and the material of which the clothing of the greater portion of the population is manufactured. The silk from the Eria worm, which is described as being very durable, is worn by the poor at all seasons of the year, and by every class in winter. Dr. Buchanan states “that the native women of all castes, from the queen downwards, weave the four kinds of silk
* Vide Major Jenkins's Account of Assam in the Bengal and Agra Annual Guide and Gazetteer, 1844. + Journal Asiatic Society, Vol. V. p.
195. Vidc Robinson's Assam, p. 125.