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On The Himalayan Valleys Kooloo, Lahool, and Spiti

On The Himalayan Valleys :-Kooloo, Lahool, and Spiti. By Captain A. F. P. HARCOURT, Bengal Staff Corps.

3rd October, 1870.
Read June 26th, 1871.
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The Himalayan valleys of Kooloo, Lahoul, and Spiti, covering an area of over 6000 square miles, and containing close on 100,000 inhabitants, form a portion of the Kangra district, one of the thirty-two into which the Punjab is divided, and lie on the north-east frontier of that province, being bounded on the east by Ladakh, in the possession of the Maharajah of Cashmere, and below that again by Chinese Thibet. I t is thus the extreme limit of our dominions towards Central Asia; the name Kooloo, I may add, being a corruption of the old term Koolunt Peeth, “the end of the inhabited world,” which it always was considered to be by the Hindoos of the Plains.

Apart from the fact, which geographically is not unimportant, that the Beas and the Chenab, two of the great Punjab rivers, rise in the subdivision; that a third river, the Sutlej, runs for 30 miles along its borders, and that the Ravee, a fourth river, springs from the mountains which close in the Upper Beas Valley-it is to be remarked, that the main Central Asian trade- route winds its nay through the districts of Kooloo and Lahoul towards Ladakh and Parkund, so that, commercially speaking, it cannot be denied that these distant tracts are not unworthy of being brought to the notice of the Members of the Royal Geographical Society, who, from their interest in Central Asla, can hardly be altogether indifferent to a country,

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246 HARCOURT on thee Himalayan Valleys, through which filters nearly all the intelligence that reaches us of what is going on in Eastern Turkestan. But if, geographically and commercially, Kooloo is deserving of attention, it possesses other claims t o our recognition. Its cliniate, varying considerably, is totally unlike anything to be found in the Punjab, and probably in India. Its inhabitants, their customs, languages, and costumes, have each and all their special peculiarities ; its scenery-here so soft and bewitchingly beautiful, and but a fewmiles on so stern and rugged-is certainly unmatchable elsewhere in Hindostaan; and the  religious belief of its people presents but fern points of affinity with the creeds that are followed in other portions of our dominions in the East.

In the Punjab the ninters, as a rule, are cold, temperate, and bracing, while the heats in summer are nearly un~nclurable, and the rainy season is nioist ancl most disagreeably hot, except towards the south-west portion of the province, where the fall averages but 3 or 4 inches in the year. Then the various races that inhabit the Punjab present no very great dissimilarities in physique, feature, costume, or language ; ancl though the Hindoos, the Mahomedans, and the Sikhs (these last being only 2,000,000 of the 19,000,000 who iiil~abited the Punjab in the census of 1867), have all their separate characteristics, yet these are by no means ob\-ious to the casual observer. Again, if come to the matter of scenery, there is not much that can be advanced in favour of the land of the five rivers. From Delhi to Peshawur stretches a vast plain, fairly covered with arable soil, thriving hamlets, and flourishing gardens ; but there is little to relieve the sameness of the estensive table-land, which towards JIooltan, and indeed ovm a very considerable proportion of the country, fades away into a waterless and unprofitable desert.

The subdivision of I of the subdistricts of Kooloo, Lahoul, ancl Spiti; all placed under the immediate charge of an Assistant-Comn~issiom, who has the administrative care and is also entrusted with certain judicial functions.

The three minor divisions of Seor,?j, TTuzeeri Rnpi, ancl the Upper Beas Valley, form ~ 1 1 awe t may term Kooloo; but I propose to confine my remarks for the most part to the latter, namely, the Upper Beas Valley. Not that Wuzeeri Rupi and Seoraj are not also worthy of note-for indeed they are-but because they are perhaps less so than the other tracts I shall touch on ; and I must perforce condense as much as possible.A glance at the map will show how either side of the Upper Beas Valley is hemmed in with mountains, gradually attain a greater elevation as they near tlle Rohtung

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Kooloo, Lahoul, and Spiti. 247

Range that runs athwart it towards the north. The direct road

from the plains of the Punjab, which is also the Central Asian

route, winds from Kangra, at the foot of the Himalayas, through

tlie Kangra district, across the state of Mundee, and descends

by the Bubboo Pass (10,500 feet) into the town of Sooltanpore,

from which point we ascend the Upper Beas Valley. The

Bubboo is a wealth of richest forest to its summit; but in the

other passes, which are more lofty, such as the Malanna (12,000),

and the Humta (15,200), even the scrub-jungle that has fought

for place as long as vegetation was a possibility, dies away alto-

gether, and is succeeded by mighty crests of rock, battlemented

with eternal snow. On the left or west side of the river-way

there are also passes over the mountains, but these are seldom

used even by the people of the district.

The general aspect of the valley is, as you will imagine, some-

thing very unlilie what one may find in the plains of India.

The River Beas, springing from a huge rock of limestone on

the summit of the Rohtung Pass, tears down the mountain side

with impetuous fury, and descending lower, plunges into a deep

chasm, flanked by precipitous barriers of rock, not 20 feet apart,

and often almost touching. Below, at a depth of over 100 feet,

roar the wild waters, as they dash with impotent fury against tlie

sides of the almost subterranean passage that extends for some

300 yards. At the actual foot of the pass the Eeas is joined by

the Beash Khund, called the Serohi in the maps, and from this

point to Sooltanpore, some 25 miles in all, its volume is added

to by many feeders.

The river and the valley are in perfect harmony. Sweeping

down in grand lines come the mountains, covered almost to

their summits with dense pine woods, while ever and anon are

to be seen the hamlets of the peasantry, embowered in groves

of mighty cedars, the Swiss-like architectural details of the

houses bringing to one’s mind scenes very far remote from the

East. From the river’s bank rise successive terraces of culti-

vated fields of rich green rice; but the sameness is relieved by

the luxuriant growth of underwood that breaks the hard lines of

uniformity, and thus the waving crops become but an additional

feature in the landscape. On every side the giant mountains

rear their snowy peaks. To the north, over the Rohtung Pass,

can be seen the jagged twin crests of Gaphan, 19,000 feet above

the sea ; to the north-east are the Humta Spurs, lorded over by

Deotiba, 20,417 feet in elevation; and to the west the Burra

Bunghal heights, never entirely divested of snow throughout the

year. Below, bisecting the valley, sweeps the Beas, bounding

over rock and boulder in noisy strength, its silvery tide fre-

quently quite concealed by the umbrageous forest that adorns

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248 HARCOURT on the Himalayan Valleys,

its banks-here pausing in peaceful quiet or gliding onwards

with a murmuring ripple, and anon racing round some pretty

sylvan island, joining its waters again on the further side ; and

rolling, tumbling, and frothing in many an eddy, whirlpool and

rapid, it fights its way past Sooltanpore, where at last it mode-

rates its impetuosity.

Looking down the valley from Menalee, most enchanting

views nieet us on every sicle. Vountains rise over mountains,

the great army of cedars becoming more and more scattered as

the higher altitudes are approached, till there they disappear

and snowy ridges break the skyline ; nearer, are thick forests of

pine and oak, that hold their own with a tenacious grasp on

every l~noll and coign of vantage, descending in serried pha-

lanxes into the vales beneath, broken or rather relieved by splin-

tered masses of rock, or more pleasantly by picturesclue villages

hiding like coy beauties in the woodland, that veils and yet

enhances their rural charms. Forest, waterfall, headland, and

river are blended together in the happiest manner by the lavish

hand of nature, which seems to have swept all the most winning

aspects from the surrounding districts, but to lavish them on this

fair land.

Leaving the Upper Beas Valley me ascend the Rohtung

Pass-the first serious opposition that meets the traveller on his

journey to Ladakh, or Eastern Turkestan. The ascent from

the Kooloo side is steep, but one can ride the whole way, the

passage occupying about four or five hours. The summit of

the pass is a flat level, half a mile in breadth, and it is the

march across this, over a mile in all, which, at such an eleva-

tion, 13,500 feet, becomes so very trying at certain seasons of the

year. I t mas on th6 Rohtung that, in 1863, about a hundred

labourers engaged on the works on the Lahoul side, mere caught

in a terrible storm when returning to their homes. Numbed

with the icy cold, and buried in the freezing drifts, no less than

seventy-two victims miserably perished. I do not, however,

desire to give an impression that this pass is a dangerous one.

Far from i t ; I have crossed it with ladies several times in ease

and safety, and, with common precautions, there is no cause

for alarm.

We must now enter Lahoul, a very different tract of country

to the one just quitted. Looking downwards from the top of

the Rohtung me see a sterile land lying at our feet, through

which courses the Chnndra or Chenab, that seems, at this

height, witli its chalky tide, to be a mere wreath of snow in the

vale below us. The forests, the hamlets, the terraced ficlds,

have all disappeared, and in their places are precipitous hill-

sides, for the most part even destitute of grass, and furrowed

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Kooloo, Lahoul, and Spiti. 249

deep with the accumulations of ice, which have lapped over

from the tremendous glaciers that join the peaks together with

their adamantine hands.

The mean elevation of Lahoul is about 11,000 feet above

sea-level. A glance at a good map of the regionmill show that

there are two rivers springing from the Bara Lacha Pass-

the Chenab and the Bagha, the latter joining the Chenab at

Tandee after a course of 45 miles. The whole of the interior

space between these streams may not inaptly be termed a vast

ice-bed, broken here and there by lofty heights of impassable

rock and snow. And here the mountains attain to a very consi-

derable height, one of the peaks standing 21,373 feet above the

sea-level, and below this towering pinnacle stretch out two

glaciers, each over 12 miles in length.

But on both sides of the Bagha, as also of the Chenab, the

mountains completely hem in the vales ; and, perhaps, to impart

a correct idea of the country, I cannot do better than follow

the course of the Chenab as it sweeps tl~rough Lahoul. The

Chenab or Chundra, as it is called up there, rises in the Bara

Lacha Pass 16,221 feet above sea-level, takes first a south-

easterly course of over 30 miles, and then turns to the north-

west to meet the Bagha at Tandee, .SO miles from its source.

Leaping from a bed of snow on the south-eastern slopes of the

Bara Lacha, the Chundra is, from its commencement, a stream

of some size. I t passes through a totally barren land, where

there are no signs of life, the solemn mountains clad in eternal

snow lying on its either flank ; and thus ushered into existence

under such awe-inspiring auspices, it dashes its foaming waters

by glacial banks of snow, vast reaches of grand and decomposed

rock, and here stretching into a mighty flood, again subsides to

a more stealthy strength, as its icy tide flow onn~nrd through a

country famed but for sterility, and that colossal grandeur that

can only be imparted by vast mountains. Here no villages

adorn its banks, no attempts at cultivation, no signs of human

life, are to be met with, and nothing greets the eye but the never-

ending and monotonous cliffs, which are lapped by the-fierce

stream as it rushes in wild fury against its banks. Now widening

out, the Chundra passes the remains of the Shigri glaciel; which

some eighty years ago spread across the river and dammed it

up, causing %hat is known as the cataclysm of the Chundra.

Leaving the Rohtung pealis behind, some signs of man’s habita-

tion are at last to be seen, and, as we advance, villages squalid

and forlorn appear, which, on our nearing the junction with the

Bagha, become more worthy of remark, surrouuded as they are

by scanty trees, and a fair proportion of arable land.

The scenery along the banks of the Bagha is so similar to

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250 HARC~URT on the Himalayan Valleys,

that of the Chundra Valley, that it need not he hcre specially

referred to. We hare now seen two of the valleys, and there

remains bnt a third, which I will also briefly notice. Crossing

the Humta Pass from Kooloo, we find ourselves in the Upper

Chundra Valley; and marching up this bleak country, taking

mith us supplies of firewood and provisions to last for a week,

we ascend the Koonzum Pass, 14,800 feet, and, emergicg from

that, enter Spiti, a valley, if anything, more hemmed in by

mountains than even Lahoul-not one of the seven passes leading

out of the country being under 14,000 feet. In Lahoul trees

are to be met mith, and, indeed, it can boast of tao pine-forests,

while the pencil-cedar and the willow are not uncommon ; but in

Spiti we must be prepared for an almost total absence of arbori-

culture. The chief stream is the Spiti, ~vllich, with a very

broad bed, and in many channels, flows far below the alluvial

terraces, that can be fed above by ducts brought from the beds

of snow on the hill-sides. The main elevation of the Spiti

Valley is over 12,000 feet, and several of its villages stand

14,000 feet above sea-level. The landscape views are very grand

and striking. From the valley, nhicll is more open than

Lahoul, the mountains ascend in gentle slopes, the long reaches

of river ancl bare hill-side dying away into indefinable distance,

or being lost in a superb back-ground of snow-capped heights.

Such an extent of barren desolation, so totally wanting in all

the tenderer aspects to be met with in Kooloo, cannot but

forcibly impress the imagination of the tourist, who seems, on

entering this land of apparently utter sterility, to have at last,

penetrated the remotest regions of the inhabited world.

One of the most curious features of Spiti is its inaccessibility,

for it can only be entered by passes; and one of these-the

Yarang La-is the loftiest, I believe, in British territory,standing,

according to the measurement of Mr. Theobald, junior, who

crossed it on August 13, 1861, at 19,132 feet above the level of

the sen. This pass is much used by traders betwen Ladakh

and Spiti, and occasionally by tourists proceeding from Simla

to the Pangong Lake. ” The crest of the Yarang La is,” says

Mr. Theobald, ” a roclcy ridge of vertical limestone strata,

forming a gap betnee11 high snowy peaks on either hand.

Below stretches a fine glacier, that fills up the valley beneath ;

but few crevasses exist in this glacier, which can be crossed

without diEculty, the track afterwards creeping along the

chasni that yawns between the mountain side and the glacier.

The Parang La is open from June till October, but is dan-

gerous at all times, being very liable to sudden and severe


Climate.- The climates of the three valleys, as may bc

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Koolo, Lat~oul, and Spiti. 251

conceived, differ materially. In Eooloo the spring, summer,

and autumn are remarkably genial and agreeable seasons, and

although the winter-snows fall heavily in the upper parts of

the Beas River, in the lower portion of this district the incle-

mencies of winter are hardly known. The soil in Kooloo,

except in the higher tracts, yields two crops annually. The

main crops are opium, rice, tobacco, wheat, Indian corn, barley,

and amaranth ; but almost any description of grain or vegetable

grows to perfection. Fruits-such as the apricot, peach, quince,

apple, walnut, and strawberry-are common, and are all good ;

and there are many others that grow wild, ancl are held in

favour by the people. Nor should I forget to mention the

Kooloo tea-plantations, covering about three hundred acres in

all, the out-turn of these gardens being justly held in high

repute in India, the leaf produced having a flavour quite equal

to the best China samples.

In Lahoul spring commences in April, but the snow lies deep

in the loftier valleys till near the close of that month. The sum-

mer is hot while it lasts, and the rainfall is always very trifling.

I n September the wiuter frosts set in, and from the end of

December till April the entire country is covered with snow,

and almost completely shut out from the rest of the world.

The climate of Lahoul may be considered a very dry and bracing

one, but towards the sources of the Bizgha and Chundra the

winds are bitterly cold, blowing like a hurricane all day, and

subsiding altogether at night. There is only one annual crop

in Lahoul. Wheat is but rarely reared, barley and buckwheat

being the commonest cereals. The Moravian missionaries, whose

mission-house is at Kielung, where they reside all the year

round, and to whose kindly hospitality all travellers can bear

the most willing record, have introduced nearly every kind of

vegetable. Rut the people are too iazy to profit by this good

example, and are content to put up with the tap-roots, and such-

like esculents. Of fruits, there are a few wild strawberries,

cherries, and gooseberries ; and apricots are sparsely grown, as

are walnuts, in the lower Chundra Valley below Tandee.

I n Spiti the seasons are very similar to those in Lahoul, but

here the winter is longer, and the cold more intense ; and, being

out of the range of the regular monsoons, the rainfall is quite

nomind. The climate is a singularly invigorating one, and at

first somewhat trying to those unused to it, and the fierce icy

minds make travelling anything but a pleasure in the more

northerly portion of the district. The main crops in Spiti are

a fine hexagonal wheat, peas, mustard, and two kinds of barley.

Of fruits there are none.

Lalzgzcage.-In l

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2.32 HARCOURT 072 the Himalayan Valleys,

out of Sanskrit, a hill patois, and Oordoo. In Lahoul there

are four languages-lst, the true Thibetan; 2nc1, Boonung,

half Thibetan, but having a grammar of its o m ; 3×1, Nan-

chat, made up of Thibetan, Hindee, and a local patois ; and

4thly, Teenunn, in which are Thibetan, illanchat, Boonung,

and a few Hindu and Persian words. Each of these languages

have their separate localities. In Spiti the dialect is pure

Thibetan, hardly ten men spealziag or understanding Oordoo,

the common language of the Punjab. And even the head man,

or Nono, of Spiti (whose likeness I sketched wllilst in his

district), can only express himself in Thibetan.

Physiognouzy.-The people of Kooloo partake largely of the

distinguishing features of the Hindus of the Plains. The men

are of a medium height, and are strongly built, with intelli-

gent and rather pleasmg faces; but in character the?- are for

the niost part crafty, dissolute, and lazy. The nomen are in

many cases reinarkably pretty, and their picturesque dress scts

off their good looks to great advantage.

The Lahoulees are not a comely people ; both sexes are short,

and the females may be said to bear off the palm for ugliness,

the Nongolian origin of the race being evidenced in many

cases by the oblique eyes, flat face, and large mouth. In Spiti

the men are stout, well-built fellows, and the rTomen are also

strongly framed. The great majority of the Spiti folk resemble

veritable Calmuks, and are, accorcling to our vien s, hideously

ug 1

. – Koolw, the mcn scar a loose grey woollen

coatee, nith nide trousers, and a cap of rolled cloth that

frequently has a patch of red at the top, and this description

of cap is in use also among the women in some of the higher

villages. I n the Upper Beas Valley the costume of the females

is sufficiently peculiar to be deserving of description. The

body dress consists of a large plaid gathered in at the n-aist by

a smaller cloth, and fastened across tlie chest by sl- %ewers con-

nected by chains. The use of the chignon is not yet appre-

ciated anlong these simple niountaineers, but neither do they

despise all adventitious aids to showing off their good looks.

The hair of a rich brown is swept from the face, gathered into

a roll at the back, and then bound round nith fillets of red

worsted. What hangs below is noven into a long worsted tail

that reaches to the ground, and ends in a sort of tassel, but

this tail is caught up and carelessly ~ ~ o u nround a small d light-

coloured cap that is jauntily placed on the head. The women

of the highest castes never wear the cap, their head-gear con-

sisting merely of a brilliant red, yellow, or blue kerchief; but

in either case a great profusion of orname~lts in the nay of

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KooJoo, Lahoul, and Spiti. 233

silver jewellery, and rough stones, are worn. In the summer

neither sex wear shoes. In Lahonl and Spiti the costumes in

use are, as might be expected from the greater rigour of the

climate, much warmer than those adopted in Kooloo. The

Lahoulee men and women dress in a long loose dark-coloured

cloth, and both sexes wear trousers. The women are bare-

headed, but have, by may of ornament, on the top of the head,

a curious small silver saucer, garnished with silver and gold

beads, and with turquoises.

In Spiti the clothing, although rough, is of the very strongest

and firmest material. The men go about in a long grey coat,

turned up in some instances at the sleeves with red, and a

crimson shawl is commonly fastened over the shoulders, the

head-dress being either a skull cap or a species of bag ; speci-

mens of all which I brought home. Trousers are worn by both

sexes, and the ends of these are tucked into very clumsy-

looking leather boots of home manufacture. The women affect

a darker cloth than do the men, and they wear a 7;ery large

quantity of jewellery, besides the perak, a loose flap of red

cloth extending from the forehead to the waist ; this is studded

with coarse turquoises or coral. The hair of the Spiti belle

demands a great deal of her time, and there, instead of it being

the fashion for the ladies to invite each other to spend a long

morning and bring their work, they combine the sociable and

the useful, and profitably spend their spare hours in arranging

their locks, a somewhat troublesome task, consisting as it does

in plaiting out irinulnerttble braids, which are deftly arranged

over the forehead and then caught up behind. Over each ear

is worn a lappet or flap of cloth covered with dyed ~ o o lthis ,

apparatus being fastened to the braids of hair. The Buddhist

monks in Spiti and Lahoul wear a red or yellow dress, according

to their sect, and are generally bareheaded. Each Spiti peasant

carries his steel pipe, brass strike-light called a chuk-muk, and

tobacco-pouch, and in the folds of his coat are to be found his

vooden cup, used in eating, and a sheathed knife.

Houses.-In Kooloo a farmer’s house, made in alternate layers

of timber and stone, is a very picturesque affair, with its gabled

roofs of slate or wood, and overhanging verandahs. Usually there

are only two storeys, the lower one being kept for the stalling

of cattle, a system also adopted in Lahoul and Spiti, the upper

rooms alone being reserved for the proprietor and his belong-

ings. In the early summer the cut corn is to be seen lying

loosely about the courtyards, or dangling in great sheaves from

the verandahs, which are crowded with the overplus of the

ricks below. As summer changes to autumn, the rich greeri

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254 EARCOURT on the Himalayan Valleys,

grass is strenn omr each roof and flat surface, mixed with the

yellow Indian corn, that is spread in ruddy layers on every

house-top. Crowding up from the enclosures, and climbing the

rude scantling, come the pumpliins with their vast emerald-

green leaves and enormous golden flowers, and pausing on the

roof-tree to deposit their tribute fruit, they pass over and

descend by friendly poles and verandahs across the road, to

meet some other greenery of vild beans or vines that may have

trailed up the adjoining tenement. Within, the women and

children are to be seen engaged in household duties, or leaning

over the quaint verandahs eyeing their friends below en~ployed

in turning about the hay, or pounding nith a mill at the rice

cleansing, or pressing oil from the kernels of apricots,

peaches, or 1-egetable herbs.

I n Lahoul there is but little to deserve notice, the ho~xses as

a rule being lloor and meagre-looliiug, and so TTe may pass on

to Spiti. In this bleak valley, where the snow-fall is so heavy,

we find the houscs exceptionally con~fortable and substantial,

the valls being of sun-dried bricks, 1+ feet long, 8 inches wide,

and 6 deep. Belorv they stall the cattle and stack the supplies

of fodder for the winter, and in the upper apartn~ents reside

the goodman arid his family. The roofs are all flat, and arc

covered with layers of dried brushwood for winter use, these

~~ccuinmxlatioi~s of bushes presenting a curious appearance, some-

thing like an abattis. The Spiti men are very kind-hcartecl,

good-humoured, and hospitable, and rank highest of all the hill

people I have met with in good-natured simplicity, thrift in

conducting their affairs, and in faithfulness to those nho have

occasion to utilize their services.

I n Kooloo me find a debased I3induism built up on a super-

structure of Buddhism and snake and tree worship. The

temples that for the most part have their regularly-feed

priests, are of three different sorts: the cone-shaped stone

temple, the pagoda-roofed temple, and the pent-roofed temple.

The former are rery similar to what may be seen in the plains

of India ; and, although of stone, bnt few can claim an age of

more than 250 years; the pagoda temples are, as are probcbly

the pent-roofed cnes, but relics of Budclhism, as is abundaiitly

nlanifested by the lofty poles erected without their malls, that

answer to the same Buddhist symbols in the Ceylon temples of

the present day, and by the Buddhistical carvings of wheels,

animals, and snakes, the worship of which it is known Buddl~ism

incorporated with its own religious services. These two last

descriptions of temples are of great age, and are not a little

curions in an artistic and archeological point of view, being

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Kooloo, Lal~ouZ, and Spiti. 255

very massively put together, and run up with a skill which no

longer can be said to exist in Kooloo, where, indeed all handi-

crafts are in a very backward condition.

In Kooloo, Buddhism has quite died out, leaving, as I have

said, a substratum of tree and serpent worship engrafted on

Hinduism. I n Lahoul, however, there is Buddhism and Hindu-

ism mixed, and with these two creeds is commingled a species

of demon worship termed long paechos, in the r ~ t e sof which

neither Brahmins nor Buddhist lamas will assist. But in Lahoul

the Buddhist believes in Hinduism, and the Hindu in Buddhism,

and in the event of any of the better class requiring the aid of

the supreme power in the matter of a good harvest or a fortunate

speculation in tradinq, the ministers of both creeds are called

upon to invoke the deity. The priests in Buddhistical

countries are, as I suppose most Bnow, termed lamas, or more

properly Zambas, and while the eldest son succeeds to the estate,

every other son becomes a Zafnba, so that the priestly class must

always be in the majority. These lambas are supposed to be

celibates ; but in Lahoul, Buddhism is not strictly acted up to,

and many of the younger sons marry. In Spiti, pure Buddhism

reigns, and here every younger son is a lamba.

In IJahoul there are only seven real lambas who devote them-

selves solely to religion, but there are 1100 lambas in all, who

for the most part are married and are ” religious ” only in name.

I n 1868 there were over seventy nuns in Lahoul, and one of

these could actually calculate an eclipse ! The parents decide

when the girl is young if she is to be a nun, and if she enter

a religious order, her hair is cut short and she wears a red cap,

an& resides during the winter in the monastery, generally

ending by marrying one of the monks !

Narriage in nearly every country is connected with religion,

but in Kooloo marriage is merely a civil contract. I n one

house you may find a man with only one wife, in the next there

may be three wives to one husband. Marriage, in fact, resolves

itself in the main into a question of means; those who can

afford it have more wives than one, for women in the hills are

valuable as farm labourers, and the greater the number of

wives, the more work can be got through.

I n Lahoul, polyandry is a custom in full force, and three or

four brothers as a rule have onIy one wife between them, as is

the case in most Buddhist countries, though strangely enough

not in Spiti, where the husband has only one wife whom he

marries by a regular religious ceremony, whereas in Lahoul

there is no ceremony at all.

I have referred to the Kooloo temples, and I cannot alto-

gether omit mention of the Buddhist monasteries in Lahoul and

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256 HARCOURT on the Himalayan Valleys.

Spiti. I n the former district these are few in number and

small in size, but in Spiti there are five large lamaserys besides

numerous offshoots. The nionastery of Kee, for instance,

accommodates nearly 250 monks, who reside nithin the sacred

walls in winter, and stay during the summer with their parents

or brothers, working in the fields, or employed in carrying

travellers’ goods. These monasteries have their regular heads

or abbots, ancl the higher ecclesiastical titles can only be

obtained by the candidates proceeding in person to either

Shigatzee or Lhassa. The symbols of this strange religion,

which inculcates peace and goodwill to all men, and prohibits

all destruction of life, are numerous ancl interesting, ancl some

of these I brought away with me, together with a some-

what curious box of Buddhist gods which I purchased in Lahoul,

and which I was informed was brought from Lhassa, a city three

months journey from Spiti.

I n close connection with the religion of the people of Kooloo,

to nhich tract I again turn, are the fairs or melas held in

honour of the local gods, which fairs are however utilized more

as a means of affording amuselnent than from any deep sense of

religion. At these gatherings, notliing is sold except a few

bright beads or coloured scarfs ; people do not attend the nlelas

to spend money, but to dance and sing and thoroughly enjoy

themselves ; and, as far as my experience goes, I can affirm

they all manage to do that in such a manner that there is no

room for the reproach launched against us Britons, i. e. that we

take our pleasures sadly.

The scene is a highly attractive one. The village divinity

is brought from his temple or god-house, decked with a gold

mask and tricked out with petticoats, peacocks’ feathers and

flowers ; then, placed in his rat11 or sedan-chair, he is carried

through the dense n,oodland preceded by men beating dru~ns

and breathing villanous music from enormous trumpets.

Behind follow the males in procession, every one being

decorated with garlands. Arrived at the temple, generally

situated in some beautiful dell in the forest, and lying under

the giant cedars, the rath is placed on one side and a space is

cleared for dancing within the sacred precincts. The musicians

set themselves in the centre, and the dancers move round them

in a circle, and as the noise of the pipes and dnlms increases,

the performers work themselves into a proper enthusiasm, and

all following the motior~s of a fugleman, commence a species of

nautch-like movement, the wands with which they are all

provided being waved simultaneously as the leader may direct.

The gestures are not ungraceful; they are the contrary-grace

carried to absurdity, and every dancer endeavours in the most

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SLADEN’S Expedition from Burma to South-Western Cliina. 257

ludicrous manner to excel in pose and the elegance of his

attitudes. All are dressed in their very best clothes, and the

women don every particle of finery they can lay their hands on.

Both sexes are literally covered with garlands, and it is

altogether a very brave show and brilliant spectacle. As the

men dance, the women and children in evident admiration sit

gazing down on them from every house-top whence a good

point of view can be ~btained, and a more striking picture than

is at this time presented can hardly be conceived. Meanwhile

the priests, i. e. Brahmins, are not idle. They take off their

upper garments, advance with a sidelong step, going through

certain mummeries mith incense and naked swords, and after

gently chastising themselves mith chains, taking very good care

not to hit too hard, they are then supposed to be properly

inspired, and stand like Delphic oracles, ready to answer any

questions the gaping crowd may put to them.

X.-Ex~edition from Burma, vici the Irrawaddy and Bhamo, to

Xmth-Western China. By Major E. B. Sladen, H.N. Political

Resident, Burma.

Read June 26th, 1571.

THE Expedition which I had the honour to command left

Mandalay by steamer on 13th January, 1868. One of our

objects in proceeding by steamer was to test the navigability

of the Irrawaddy for steam-traffic beyond or above the capital.

Hitherto no steamer had ever ascended the river as far north as

Bhamo, and the Burmese Government had publicly declared

that no steamer could possibly do so at that time, or during

certain seasons of the year, when the river mas said to be at its

lowest depth. Our steamer, however, the draught of which

did not exceed 3′ feet, reached Bhamo without difficulty of

any kind in river navigation ; and the result of our trip proves

generally that the Irrawaddy is navigable for steamers of

moderate draught at all seasons of the year, as far north as

Bhamo, a distance of 900 miles from our starting-point at the

Port of Rangoon, and 300 miles above the royal capital of


Throughout its whole course from Mandalay to Bhamo the

river presents fresh scenes of ever-varying beauty ; but the geo-

graphical interest of the journey culminates at the gorges or

defiles which occur at two points in this portion of the Irra-

waddy’s mid-course through Upper Burma.