A Scotsman in the Himalayas, Part 2


The Ridge and Fort of Jytock
'Views in the Himalayas' , 1820
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Aug 12, 2017 — CANADA (SUN) — Excerpts from the journal of an artist on expedition to the Himalayas.

Interspersed among excerpts from James Baillie Fraser's Himalayan travelogue, we hope the reader will enjoy the paintings in which he memorialized the trip. The collection of Himalayan scenes was published under the folio title, Views in the Himalayas, which comprised a collection of 20 beautiful scenes.

Shown above is plate number 4 from the set, a coloured aquatint made by Robert Havell and son from Fraser's original painting. It shows a hill in the Nahan area of Himachal Pradesh, Jaitak, which was crowned with a fortress built by the Nepalese general Ranajor Thapa in 1810. This was the scene of one of the fiercest battles of the Anglo-Nepal War, when General Ranajor retreated there from Nahan. Fraser personally witnessed the beginning of the Siege of Jaithak.

Journal of a Tour through part of the
Snowy Range of the Himala Mountains, and to the Sources of
the Rivers Jumna and Ganges

by James Baillie Fraser, Esq.
London, 1820


Preliminary observations on the Himala Mountains

Previously to commencing the narrative of a journey through a country so little known as that now under consideration, a few general observations relative to its nature and situation may not be found useless.

That chain of mountains, of which the great Himala range forms the central ridge, and which, stretching from the Indus on the north-west, to the Burrampooter on the south-east, divides the plains of Hindostan and the Punjab from the wilds of Tartary, has been but partially traversed by Europeans; and although the little information that has hitherto been published respecting it is confused and inaccurate, it is nevertheless a very interesting tract.

It is so to the geographer and statesman; as, besides its containing the sources of so many of the majestic rivers that fertilise and enrich Hindostan and other Asiatic regions, and the being inhabited by nations and tribes of a singular character and very warlike disposition, who have for ages defied the arms of the most powerful Asiatic monarchs, it serves as a magnificent and most efficient boundary between two empires of such extent as China, and that which once owned the sway of the house of Timor, but now chiefly the milder rule of the British government.

The portion of this region which was visited by the writer of the following narrative, is that lying between the rivers Sutleg and Alaknunda; the former bounding it to the north-west and north, the latter to the south-east and east, whilst it overlooks the plains of Hindostan to the south and south-west; and on the north-east it partly includes, and is partly bounded by, the mountains of Himala.

This tract of country, considerable in extent, is divided into a variety of large and small states, governed by chiefs more or less dependent, in proportion as they are powerful.

Of these, though far from being equal in population and resources, five may be considered as of the first rank, viz. Gurwhal, Bischur, Surmore, Hundoor, and Kukloor; and these occupy by far the largest portion of the tract in question, whilst the remainder is divided into a great number of petty states, all of which are recognized under the general appellation of the Baruh Thakoorace, or twelve lordships.

Twelve states, however, are more properly implied by this designation, viz. Keoounthul. Koonear. Mechloque, Coteegooroo. Baghut. Bhuggee. Cotee. Theog. Coothar. Dhamina. Kearee. Bughat.

The general extent, value, and position of several of these chieftainships will appear as they occur in the narrative; but as some of them do not come within its scope, a recapitulation of the whole, with an account of the revenue they afforded to the Ghoorkha government, and some few further particulars, will be found in the appendix.

The other petty states are eighteen in number. Of these some are of considerable size and importance, particularly Joobul. All of them acknowledged a degree of dependence on some of the large states, which varied according to the inclination and power of the superior to enforce its sway, and to the political condition of that state, and of the neighbouring countries.

Although the greater states do not in general take rivers for their boundaries, yet as these serve well for outlines in geographical delineation, it may be well to enumerate the principal streams that occur in this tract, and to state the general direction of their course.

Those which principally claim attention from their magnitude, arc, The Alacknunda. The Touse. The Jumna. Bhagirutte. Girree. Pabur. Caligunga. Billung. Sutlej.

Since the tour of Webb and Raper, it is well known that the river Alacknunda takes its rise in a snowy mountain, close to the celebrated Hindoo Temple of Buddrinaath. It flows in a direction nearly south-west to Rooderprag, where it forms a junction with the Caligunga.

The Caligunga rising at Kedarnauth, another celebrated temple in the Kedar snowy mountain, runs to Rooderprag nearly south-south-west.

From this point the Alacknunda holds a more westerly course to Deoprag, where it is joined by the Bhagiruttee; and from hence the united streams receive the name of the Gunga or Ganges.

The source of the Bhagiruttee will be minutely described in the following narrative; all that need now be observed is, that its course for several miles from its source is nearly from east to west; a few miles below Barahat it flows to the south-west; further up, and from a point about forty miles above Deoprag, it keeps a course to the south-south-eastward.

The little river Bitting joins the Bhagiruttee just below Uthoor.

The source of the Jumna will also be found described in the following pages: it holds a general south-west course from fifteen to forty miles distant from the Bhagiruttee, till the point where that river diverges to the eastward as far as Calsee, where it is joined by the Touse. A little lower down the Girree falls into it at Raj Ghat, and soon after it issues a more considerable stream from the hills near Padshaw Bagh.


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