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this fine purgunnah; the farmers are of the Bhoomia cast; they have been obliged to forsake the lands on account of the serious extortions and acts of injustice inflicted on them by their dissipated and ignorant chief, the Raja of Mohurbhunj. It is much to be regretted that our Government has not the right to exercise more extensive control over the tributary mehauls in general, particularly over this of Mohurbhunj, in which there is so much fine land, that could be brought to favorable account. The ryots cultivate little more than what is sufficient to answer their immediate wants, knowing too well that the production and possession of more, would only afford further grounds and opportunities for their being plundered of all, it is hence that on the occurrence of a bad harvest the poorer people perish from starvation, and its accompaniment, pestilence. I have been told that more than half of the population of all the jungle mehauls has been swept away within the last three or four years from these causes; judging from the scanty population, and the number of deserted huts to be seen in every village, wherever I have travelled, I am inclined to think that there is little exaggeration in the assertion.
It is scarcely necessary for me to add that it would be hazardous for Europeans to take tracts of country, (were the chiefs to give the lease of them) unless the government would protect their rights. There is an Indigo factory at Jáldá near Seersa in the Oopurbaugh purgunnah; but as an instance of the uncertainty of procuring labourers, this factory was nearly at a stand still, during the present season, in consequence of the causes above alluded to, (viz. the desertion of the ryots.)
Whilst touching on the subject of Europeans farming in these mehauls, I must add that although the population is at present so scanty and at all times its number uncertain, I feel confident that were purgunnahs taken on long leases with the guarantee of protection on the part of our government there would be (under proper and equitable management on that of the European farmers) no want of ryots of all classes, Boomiahs or Sontauls, and even Dangurs from the northward, who would flock to them for employment; the wants of these people are few, consequently labour is, and would be, very cheap. The Boomiahs are a powerful and industrious race of people, they are the principal landholders in these parts. The Sontauls are an inferior class, but a cheerful race and make very good labourers; I have frequently seen eight or ten employed on the road, cheerfully dragging timber carts, with one or two of them playing on a kind of flute, made of the joint of a bamboo, as an accompaniment to the songs of the rest of the party.
There are a few guallas located here and there, they generally clan together and have villages to themselves. It would be of great service if some colonies of these useful people (who are usually bearers) were induced to come from the Mogulbundí* near Buddruc and Cuttack, and to establish themselves in different parts of the road, the only obstacle to dawk travelling would then be removed. I should here observe that the only sure means of establishing a good thoroughfare for both merchants and the dawk, would be for government to purchase the land on each side of the road, to the extent of half a mile each way or more, and then to allot it to the dawk runners and bearers, as well as to other persons requiring it; in a very few years every available beegah of ground would be eagerly taken, cleared and cultivated; for the first five years nothing but a nominal rent should be exacted, and ultimately it could be assessed at a low rate. The purchase would not amount to much, and some of the tracts I should think would be readily rented by Europeans, to wit the Bissai valley, which I shall presently describe.
From Bunkatí I proceeded due north for two short marches, when I reached the foot of the pass called "Nittai Maungur," or the "Thacooraní" ghat, from the high hill of that name, which commands it; this hill (as the name implies) is looked upon as a form of the goddess of destruction; all very prominent mountain peaks, caverns and natural curiosities in general, are deified by the benighted inhabitants of the jungles.
In the evening, I ascended the ghat, it is very rugged and steep, we lighted numerous bonfires to scare the wild beasts, and encamped for the night, in the middle of the road, the only level and clear ground we could find; the following morning we marched to Bissai, passing the Kurrumbilla dawk stage, about midway; it was here and on this occasion where I observed a break in the hills to the northward of the pass, that led to the discovery of a defile by which this valley can be entered with a scarcely perceptible ascent, I further discovered that a fine road existed, by which many years ago merchants used to travel, it is now blocked up with fallen trees, and overgrown with high grass, there are several tanks and many mango topes, one of the former is called the Brinjarah's tank. Judging from the vast number of large peepul and banyan trees of great size and age that occur by the road side, together with what information I was able to collect, I think that the road must be of great antiquity, and no doubt much frequent
* The Mogulbundí includes most of the Purgunnahs in the plains which are under our regulations.
ed, the sites of many villages still appear. The people say that some of the former rebel zemindars of Baumunghattí blocked up this road, to compel the merchants to travel by the lower valley and through the town of that name; whatever truth there may be in this, it is equally probable that the thoroughfare was closed to keep out the Marhatta plunderers towards the end of the last century. I have traced this high road as far as the Byeturní and I have no doubt that it continued on to Sumbulpúr and thence to the western coast.
I halted for the day at the village of Bissai, this place, was together with every other in the valley, destroyed by the Coles in 1834-35, it has been partly rebuilt; before its destruction it extended for near a mile in length, but like most towns in Orissa, it had no depth. I continued my march and survey up the valley by the regular dawk stages and halted for a day at Nowagaon, which place I have before mentioned. Many small villages had sprung up since my visit on my march from Sumbulpúr, but every one had suffered more or less from the herd of wild elephants, sixty in number, which infest this valley and the surrounding country; these beasts had thrown down the huts to obtain the small stores of grain, and had destroyed every description of cultivation from one end of the valley to the other. Many people had put bags of poisoned rice in their stores but the sagacious beasts were not to be caught. I was told that since a number were destroyed by a Gosain many years ago, by poison, not one has taken the bait.
Nowagaon is (as I have said before) within a couple of miles of the westernmost extremity of the valley; it has once been a large town and on the old road, the course of which is apparent from the rows of aged peepul, banyan, jaumun, mango, and other trees, there is a place near this village held sacred, it consists of the remains of a temple under a clump of enormous trees of various kinds; to the branches of one of them, are nailed numerous pieces of iron chains of various sizes, which must have been fixed there as offerings to the destructive deity, whom the poor inhabitants suppose to live in a cavern at the top of one of the high hills which tower above the valley on its north side, close to the village; they believe that at night, she comes from her retreat and with the chains fastens up her herd of tigresses for the purpose of milking them. They further relate that whenever the villagers neglect to make the usual offerings of milk, rice, and fowls, she becomes enraged and loosens some of her tigers, who never fail to carry off both men and cattle. The poor zemindar could not understand why I did not make some offering, I could not speak Ooreyah, therefore I was unable to explain the folly of such degrading superstition.
The Bissai valley is evidently a most fertile tract of country, it is about twenty miles or more in length, and averages on the whole about four in breadth; there are several small streams intersecting it, and one large torrent called "Korkaie" which rises in the Seemulpal mountains to the southward, and crossing the valley between Nowagaon and Arjunbilla, winds down its northern face, turns round the base of the Soolapát hill (one of the points in the trigonometrical survey) then passing through the Baumunghattí valley continuing in a north easterly direction, ultimately joins the Subunreeka somewhere near Ghatislla; the water of this rivulet could be made available for sugar mills.
Leaving Nowagaon I proceeded by a narrow defile towards Jushpurgurh, which place I reached in two marches. I passed the Tinderí ghat (which I have already described) to my right, and found myself in another extensive valley, bounded on one side by the Buddaum range, and on the other by the lofty Seemulpal and Selma mountains. The villages here (like those of Bissai) have all been destroyed, the country has become a perfect wilderness but in the immediate vicinity of Jushpur it is open and well inhabited, the cultivation is chiefly rice and oil seeds.
Jushpurgurh is the capital of a large purgunnah of that name, belonging to Mohurbhunj, it is situated at the confluence of the rivulets Krère and Bundun, on a high mound between the two; the place was in former years strongly stockaded, but at present there is scarcely a vestige of the works left. The town is built round the foot of the mound.
The two rivers assume the name of Krèrebundun below their junction, where, for the distance of a mile they flow in a deep and narrow channel as far as a spot called Ram Teerut; at this place the (gneiss ?) rocks stretch across a little below the level of the banks, the Krèrebundun falls over them into a tolerably deep chasm, in which there is a large circular basin; beyond it is a smaller fall into a second pool from whence the river flows over a gravelly bed by a most tortuous course, till it finally empties itself into the Byeturní a little above Jotepúr. The water is considered very good, there are fish in abundance, a very fine Mahasír was caught and brought to me. The mode of fishing here is curious, a net is let down and placed in a circular manner, several persons ply about in canoes and keep tapping the rocks at the bottom with long poles to frighten the fish from under them, the two ends of the net are gradually closed, it is then drawn up and the fish taken out.
There are the remains of a small temple beside the falls, also several strange marks in the rock caused originally by the water: some are
in the shape of a man's foot, others of the hoof of a cow, all have been improved by human skill, and the priests assert that the former are the marks of Ram and Seeta's feet; and the latter those of "Nandì” the bull of Siva.
In examining the nature of the rock and of the shingle bed, I discovered beautiful specimens both of the common and of the precious green serpentine, the natives say it is washed from a small hill above Jushpúr, it is a most beautiful mineral and would make very elegant mantel-piece ornaments; I sent a man to bring me a large quantity, but he never returned.
From Jushpúr I marched through an interminable forest for four days, being misled by the roguery of the zemindar, and the obstinacy of my guard and other attendants. I passed the site of many large villages, and over vast tracts of grass, elephant-high, growing on land where once luxuriant crops had smiled, but all is now a wilderness.
The forest has no underwood, every inch of the land could be cultivated. I left this wilderness, at Sukroorí a large Sassun village near the high road, and which I have mentioned in a former page, it belongs to a junior branch of the Mohurbhunj family styled "Burkonwur," who hold the purgunnah of their kinsman the Mohurbhunj Raja.
We had the misfortune of being overtaken by rain (which set in on the 12th January,) the first march from Jushpúr. We had great difficulty in procuring supplies, and were much tormented by the chicanery of the Zemindars, who were evidently acting under the Raja's orders; the rain fell daily, not a dry spot could be found, consequently every person suffered more or less, sooner or later; we were more fortunate at Sukroorí where there was good ground and plenty of shelter. The natives of the country seemed to take it very coolly, they always construct bowers under shady trees in the centre of which they set fire to huge logs of dry or rotten wood, which are kept constantly burning; at night, all hands sleep in a circle round the fire with their feet towards it, few have any clothing beyond a small piece of cloth, which answers at once the purpose of a dhotí, a covering sheet, and a bag to tie up their store of rice. I am inclined to think that there is a virtue in the dense smoke which is kept up, that it dispels malaria.
We halted three days at Sukroorí, but the rain not clearing, I deemed it expedient to order a move and marched to Gobindpur, the place where I had encountered the fearful tornado on my march from Sumbulpúr, thinking it better for my followers at any rate, to have the advantage of the good water of the Byeturní, I was however mistaken, the incessant rain caused almost every person in camp to catch