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Santagong is 6300 feet above the sea; it is a small village, but the houses are better than ordinary. The surrounding country, especially to the north, is well cultivated, and the villages numerous. The country is bare of trees; almost the only ones to be seen are some long leaved firs, a short distance below Santagong, close to a small jheel abounding in water fowl.
March 29th. From Santagong we proceeded to Phain, descending immediately to the stream, which runs nearly 1800 feet below our halting place. Crossing this, as well as a small tributary, we encountered a steep ascent of 1000 feet. Subsequently we wound along, gradually ascending at the same time, until we reached an inconsiderable ridge above Phain, to which place we descended slightly. The distance was six miles. The country was bare in the extreme, and after crossing the stream above mentioned, villages became rather scanty. Towards Phain the soil became of a deep red colour.
This place, which is 5280 feet above the sea, is a small village, containing six or seven tolerable houses. The country is most uninteresting and uninviting, scarce a tree is to be seen, the little vegetation that does exist consisting of low shrubs. A few villages are scattered about it, and there is some rice cultivation.
We were detained here until the 1st of April, in order that we might repose after our fatigues; but in reality to enable the Punukka people to get ready our accommodations. Wandipore, a well known castle situated in the Chillong pass, is just visible from Phain, below which it appears to be some 1200 feet, and about three miles to the south west. Its Zoompoor, one of the leading men in Bootan, made some ineffectual attempts to take us to Punukka viâ his own castle; various were the artifices he resorted to for this purpose, but he failed in all. Among others, he sent a messenger to inform us that the Deb and Dhurma were both there, and very anxious to meet us, and that after the meeting they would conduct us to Punukka.
April 1st. To Punukka. We descended rather gradually towards the Patchien, proceeding at first north-west, and then to the north. On reaching the stream, which is of considerable size, we followed it up, chiefly along its banks, until we arrived at the capital, no view of which is obtained until it is approached very closely The valley of the Patchien was throughout the march very narrow; there was a good deal of miserable wheat cultivation in it, and some villages, all of moderate size. The country continued extremely bare. The distance was about eleven miles. Punukka, the second capital in Bootan, the summer residence of a long line of unconquered monarchs-Punukka to which place we had been so long looking forward with feelings of de
light, although the experience of Tongsa ought to have taught us better, disappointed all of us dreadfully. For in the first place I saw a miserable village, promising little comfort as respects accommodation, and one glance at the surrounding country satisfied me that little was to be done in any branch of natural history. For a narrow, unfruitful valley, hemmed in by barren hills, on which no arboreous vegetation was to be seen, except at considerable elevation, gave no great promise of botanical success.
On reaching the quarters which had been provided for us, and which were situated in front of the palace, we were much struck with the want of care and consideration that had been shewn, particularly after the very long notice the Booteas had received of our coming, and the pressing invitations sent to meet us.
These quarters had evidently been stables, and consisted of a square enclosure surrounded by low mud walls. Above the stalls small recesses, scarcely bigger than the boxes which are so erroneously called a man's "long home," had been made for our special lodgements; that of the huzoor, Captain Pemberton, was somewhat larger, but still very much confined. Having added to these a roof formed of single mats, an oppressive sun, and a profusion of every description of vermin, Capt. Pemberton determined on renting quarters in the village, and this, owing to his liberality, was soon accomplished; and from the two houses we occupied did we alone obtain comfort among the numerous annoyances we were doomed to experience during our lengthened stay.
The capital of Bootan is for pre-eminence, miserable. The city itself consists of some twelve or fifteen houses, half of which are on the left bank of the river, and two-thirds of which are completely ruinous, and the best of these Capital' houses were far worse than those at Phain or Santagong, &c. Around the city, and within a distance of a quarter of a mile, three or four other villages occur, all bearing the stamp of poverty, and the marks of oppression.
The palace is situated on a flat tongue of land formed by the confluence of the Matchien and Patchien rivers. To the west it is quite close to the west boundary of the valley, the rivers alone intervening. It is a very large building, but too uniform and too heavy to be imposing: it is upwards of 200 yards in length, by perhaps 80 in breadth. Its regal nature is attested by the central tower, and the several coppered roofs of this.
The only cheering objects visible in this capital, are the glorious Himalayas to the north, and a Gylong village 12 or 1500 feet above the palace to the west; elsewhere all is dreary, desolate looking, and hot.
During the first few days of our stay, and indeed until our interview with the Deb, we were much annoyed by the intruding impertinence and blind obstinacy of his followers. They were continually causing disputes either with the sentries or our immediate followers, and it was only by repeated messages to the palace, stating the probable consequence of such a system of annoyance, that Captain Pemberton succeeded in obtaining any respite.
. After many delays, we were admitted to the Deb's presence on the 9th. Leaving our ponies, we crossed the bridge built over the Patchien, which was lined with guards, and defended by some large, wretchedly constructed wall pieces. We then entered a paved yard, and thence ascended by some most inconvenient stairs to the palace, the entrance to which was guarded by a few household troops dressed in scarlet broad cloth. We then crossed the north quadrangle of the palace, which is surrounded with galleries and apartments, and was crowded with eager spectators, and ascending some still more inconvenient, or even dangerous stairs, reached a gallery, along which we proceeded to the Deb's receiving room, which is on the west face of the palace : at the door of this the usual delays took place, these people supposing that their importance is enhanced by the length of delay they can manage to make visitors submit to.
The Deb, who was an ordinary looking man, in good condition, received us graciously, and actually got up and received his Lordship's letter standing; the usual conversation then took place by means of interpreters, and the Deb having received his presents, and presented us with usual plantains, ghee, and some walnuts, dismissed us; and this was the first and last time I had the honour of seeing him, as I was indisposed at the time of our leaving. To return, the room was a good sized one, but rather low; it was supported by well ornamented pillars, hastily hung with scarfs and embroidered silk. The most amusing part of the ceremony was that exhibited by the accountant general's department, who were employed in counting and arranging courie shells really emblematic of the riches of the kingdom-apparently with no other aim than to re-count, and re-arrange them, yet they were very busily engaged in writing the accounts. A day or two after, our interview with the Dhurma took place. He received us in an upper room of the quadrangular central tower: while we were in his presence we remained standing, in compliment to his religious character. The Dhurma Rajah is a boy of eight or ten years old, and good looking, particularly when the looks of his father, the Tungso Pillo, are taken into consideration. He sat in a small recess, lighted chiefly with lamps, and was prompted by a very venerable looking,
grey-headed priest. He had fewer attendants, and his room was less richly ornamented than that of the Deb. Around the room sat priests busily employed in muttering charmed sentences from handsome gilt lettered black books, which reminded me of those used in some parts of Burmah.
Very few of our attendants saw either of the Rajahs, and it was expected that no one would presume to enter the Dhurma's presence empty handed. To some of the sipahis, who were anxious to see him, his confidential advisers said, "Give forty rupees, come into the quadrangle under the Dhurma's window, and then you may see him, or you may not see him; I will not be answerable for any thing, but receiving the forty rupees."
During our protracted stay at this place, nothing particularly worthy of notice occurred. Intrigues seemed to be constantly going on, and the trial of temper on the part of Captain Pemberton must have been very great; it was however soon evident that no business could be transacted with a Bootea Government without being enabled first to enforce abundance of fear, and consequently any amount of agreement from them; messages to and fro passed continually, the bearer being a very great rascal, in the shape of the Deb's Bengal Moharrer. Thus he would come and appoint the next day for a meeting; then he would return and say, that such a place was better than such a place; as evening drew near he would come and say, unless you agree to such and such, there will be no meeting; and after bearing a message that no change in this respect would be made, he would make his appearance and say, all the minsters were sick, and
so could not meet.
My only amusement out of doors was a morning walk up or down the valley. I was prompted to this chiefly by the pangs of hunger, as the Bootea supplies were very short, indeed wild pigeons afforded me at least some relief. During the day I examined such objects as my collectors brought in, for it was too hot to think of being out after 9A. M. I also had a few Bootea patients, most of whom were labouring under aggravated forms of venereal.
The climate of Punukka has but little to recommend it, and in fact nothing, if viewed in comparison with the other places we had seen in Bootan. The greatest annoyance existed in the powerful winds blowing constantly throughout the day up the valley, and which were often loaded with clouds of dust. The mean temperature of April may be considered as 71°.
The maximum heat observed was 83°, the minimum 64°. The mean temperature of the first week of May was 75° 3'; the maximum
80°, and the minimum 70°. The cultivation in the valley, the soil of which seems very poor, containing a large proportion of mica, was during our stay limited to wheat and buck-wheat, but scarcely any of the former seemed likely to come to ear. Ground was preparing for the reception of rice, which is sown and planted in the usual manner. Crops just sown are immediately eaten up by the swarms of sacred pigeons that reside in the palace, so that husbandry is by no means profitable; more especially as there are other means of providing for the crops, such as they may be. Thus we saw several small fields, amounting perhaps to an acre in extent, cut down to provide fodder for some ponies that had lately shared in a religious excursion to Wandipore.
Cattle are not frequent. There were some pigs. The fowls were of the most miserable. description, and very scarce. In spite of offers of purchase and plenty of promises, we were throughout allowed three a day, and they were rather smaller than pigeons. Towards the latter end of our stay, rice became bad and scarce.
We saw nothing indicating any degree of trade worth mentioning. Parties changing their residence frequently passed through from the north-east, generally accompanied by ponies, whose most common burdens appeared to be salt. No direct intercourse appears to exist with Thibet, as even the tea, which they consume in large quantities, is said to come from Paro Pillo's.
There are a great number of Assamese slaves about Punukka; indeed all the agricultural work, as well as that of beasts of burden, appears to devolve upon these unfortunate creatures, who are miserably provided for, and perhaps dirtier than a genuine Bootea himself. During my morning walks I was almost daily entreated for protection. In one case only, and in this by the merest accident, was Captain Pemberton-enabled to get such evidence as authorised him to claim it as entitled to British protection. Connected with this case is an act of black treachery, to which I shall hereafter refer.
We stopt so long here, and we had daily so many instances proving that no confidence could be placed on any thing coming from the palace, that I began at last to despair of getting away. The old Deb was very anxious to see us, and the new Deb still more anxious that we should accompany him when he left Punukka, in the hope that the presence of the Mission would be advantageous to him.
It wa entirely owing to the firmness of Captain Pemberton that we were enabled to avoid such a disagreeable meeting; and the Deb, feeling at last convinced that his views could not be carried into effect, gave orders for getting rid of us as speedily as possible; and on