Page images

plain an irregular and hilly table-land of some six miles in diameter occurs. By a table-land, however, I do not mean to convey the idea of any level space, for there is scarcely five-hundred yards of continuous level to be found in the whole tract, but rather a species of main top to the entire mass, from whence many hills of various heights take their rise, the larger of these forming the different peaks of the mountain as seen from the plains below. Ravines and glens of varied description sean this top or table-land in every direction ; small streams flow through the rugged fissures or grassy glades, and here and there culti. vation is carried on with tolerable success. One feels, on arriving at this elevation, a greater freedom of breathing, a more bracing air, and altogether a renewal of that elasticity of the frame, sadly shaken and out of repair from the hot winds and fevered climate of the sultry plains beneath. But one of the chief attractions is the beautiful lake of pure cool water, wbich lies embosomed among these hills. It is abouthalf-amile long, by a third of that distance in breadth, and was formed many hundred years ago, by damming up a marshy hollow with solid masonry and banks of earth (called a Bund in that country). The stream which runs through it escapes, in its downward course, through a small ravine on the main side of the mountain. It is a most lovely spot, surrounded by grassy hills, gently swelling from the water's edge, with here and there a mighty black rock rearing its rugged head in stern and solemn majesty. The hills are covered with fine large trees, or sometimes thickets of wood and jungle, and the white houses of the different European residents, or whiter tents of occasional visitors, give a pleasing and social effect to the park-like scenery. From the foot of some of the hills which descend to the water's edge the earth has crumbled away, leaving here and there a scarped, gravelly, perpendicular fall of twenty or thirty feet into the water, which beneath these small precipices is generally very deep.

It was my good fortune to witness an amusing scene near one of these places. Lying under the shade of a tree one fine morning, and smoking the pipe of meditation as I gazed on the calm lake stretching beneath my feet, I was suddenly startled by a thundering roar not a hundred paces from me. I looked up, and saw that it proceeded from a magnificent Bramahinee bull : he was evidently in a desperate fury, and tore up the turf with head and horn in grand style, making the surrounding hills echo with his hollow bellowing " Reboant syloveque et magnus Olympus," as old Virgil has it. He was the champion in the lists ; nor was his challenge long unanswered. Soon a roar, as deep and as full of rage as his own, was heard in the distance. Nearer and louder it came ; and out of an adjoining thicket rushed another bull, brotherlike, equal at all points, and a worthy antagonist for such a hero. For a second or so each stood proudly at gaze, surveying each other; then down went their heads, and they met with a shock that seemed to me the very image of a knightly joust. Well matched they were, and it was evident the combat would be a desperate one. Save where a shade of black appeared on the curled forehead and on the tuft of the tail, both were milk white, and both carried of course the large hump

--that epicurean dish-peculiar to the breed ; while their ponderous dewlaps, wide-spreading horns, and gallant bearing, produced a grand effect. There I lay regarding this strife with the most intense interest, but without the least alarm ; for, even supposing they had ventured to resent my intrusion on their tilting ground, my double-barrelled gun, without which I rarely stirred, would soon have taught them good manners. Round and round they drove one another, till the grass was beaten down and the bushes torn up in all directions ; but neither gave way until the fate of war brought one with his back to the lake on the slope of the hill which verged to the water. Here position told : his enemy, equal in strength, and being on the higher ground, began to prevail, and to force him backwards. Bravely he battled, but in vain : siill he only yielded to main force ; and with foreheads joined as if soldered to each other, he retreated step by step towards the edge of that treacherous precipice noticed above. I scarcely ventured to breathe as the pair arrived within a foot of the trap, of which they were totally unconscious. Here a more strenuous resistance from the lowermost hero called forth a more vigorous shove from the uppermost, when suddenly (I've no doubt to his utter astonishment) his enemy receded and vanished from his view ; while he, unable to check himself, lunged furiously forward, and following his adversary tumbled headlong into the lake below-" Proceps fertur in hostem.With breathless excitement I rushed to the brink, anxious to see this marvellous catastrophe brought to a close. In a few seconds both emerged from the bottom, puffing like grampuses, and at once made the best of their way to the shore, giving vent to many a fearful bellow. It was evident that the surprise and the plunge had banished all warlike thoughts, for on reaching terra firma they started off at full gallop in opposite directions, with their tails streaming in the air, and making the woods and valleys ring with their panic-stricken roarings.

The green and fresh appearance of the grass and foliage at Aboo was remarkably pleasant : even during the hottest weather dews and morning mists were not uncommon; and though by nine or ten o'clock the sun asserted his power, and caused all vapour to disperse, yet he shone forth with a benign aspect, and did not inflict that “ knock-me-down" heat experienced in the plains below. Through the glens and over the hill sides I used to wander through the livelong day, and each ramble brought me to new scenes of beauty, and made me more and more regret that the talent of the painter was not mine. How exceedingly lovely are the Dillwarra temples ! Situated on the bank of a small stream which flows through a well-cultivated valley, and bounded on each side by wooded hills, the exterior alone is imposing and beautiful ; but the interior is a wonder, the grandeur and magnificence of which are far beyond my powers of description. One enters a large quadrangular court, in the centre of which is the shrine and porch of the deity Parsuatt (I think that is the right name). The shrine and porch are oval in shape, and about one-fourth of the quadrangle is taken up by the former, which is a building admitting no light save from the porch door. A silver key opened this door to us (although unbelievers), and we were honoured with a sight of the deity sitting cross-legged, in white marble, with a lamp or two burning before him, and a great many tawdry ornaments hanging about his domicile. But the porch is the most magnificent work of art. Under the same dome with the shrine, a succession of arches, instead of the walls, is continued round the oval : these arches are of the lightest form imaginable, often serpentine, worked and carved with every sort of device, and all made of the purest white marble: the pillars supporting them are light and tall, and also of white marble, with figures of men and women about two feet high, playing and singing and dancing : these are grotesquely carved in compartments, and in such high relief that one can insert the hand between them and the pillars. The roof, too, is wonderful : the most minute flowers, the most delicate tracery, are all carved exquisitely in white marble ; a thousand different objects are also represented, but it would be impossible to enumerate all. Round the quadrangle runs a verandah supported by a double row of white marble pillars placed at equal distances (about eight feet) from each other, and thus dividing the verandah into a number of imaginary squares between each four pillars ; each square has its roof and its cornice round the lower edge of the roof, while the roofs are of every indescribable pattern, and two are seldom found alike ; the cornices are covered with men and animals in all situations, hunting, battling, dancing, the whole executed in white marble ; sometimes the roof will ascend gradually, narrowing with most elaborate and deep carving to a height of many feet, then the same carting after the same fashion is continued down again, till it looks like a beautiful stalactite depending from the centre of the roof. A second court of the same kind is also shown, and I think a third, but my memory will not allow me to be sure of this last point. The description I have given, though imperfect, will do for all. I must not, however, forget to mention the curious room in which a large figure of a royal personage on horseback, and some twenty or thirty figures of elephants, about five feet high, stand fully equipped with howdahs and trappings, the whole of which are carved most beautifully in solid white marble, and so minutely that even the very strands of the ropes are executed with the utmost fidelity. In fact, the whole thing is so wonderfully beautiful that I despair of doing more than conveying a faint idea of it. These temples are said to be some 800 or 900 years old, and are held in great sanctity as a place of pilgrimage. At a certain season of the year, thousands flock thither, and the Brahmins make a pretty decent thing out of the pious but deluded devotees. I have often wished that they were rooted out, and that I were made Governor of Aboo, with the temples for my palace and the top of the mountain for my park.

The Ghau-Muk, pronounced Gyemook, or cow's-mouth, is another sweet spot on the mountain side ; it is a small marble spout, carved in the form of a cow's head, through which a stream of pure cold water flows into a square tank ; it is a sacred spot to Fakeers and Brahmins, who resort there in great numbers ; but its refreshing waters and the cool shade of the magnificent trees that surround it are far better recommendations to the tired wayfarer, and give him fresh courage to ascend the steep staircase of steps leading from it to the mountain top.

One morning rather early, F. and his friend K., while lying in their tent on Mount Aboo, were aroused from sleep by the solemn tones of the Kitmutgar, or butler, announcing news, which, as a matter of course, mieant game. Out of bed both sprang simultaneously, and soon discovered from the Shikaree that a panther had been somehow entrapped in it neighbouring village, and that the natives wished the sahibs (Anglicé gentlemen) to come with their guns and kill it. Clothes being thrown on, and guns prepared without loss of time, out they sallied into the raw

air of the morning (it was not yet light), and followed the native guide. A smart walk of four or five miles across the mountain top brought them to a little village, or collection of huts clustered upon the edge of a steep bank, which formed one side of a very narrow and rocky valley. Here an Indian hubbub of no ordinary character was going on ; but as we approached, respect for the sahibs soon silenced it. All was now explained : a fierce and huge panther had for some time been the terror of the village ; sheep, goats, calves, and an occasional piccaninny, had been carried off by the remorseless brute. By accident the door of a goat-house, which contained about 18 goats, had been left open during the previous night, and the owner, hearing an uproar, rose to shut it, and only then discovered that he had also shut in the panther among his defenceless flock ; on making this discovery he lost no time in coming to demand the sahib's assistance. F. and K. held a council of war as to the best mode of action ; the goat-house was a round wall of rough stones about three feet high, from the top of which a thatched roof rose to a point in the centre, at about six feet in height above the wallplate ; the rude building had no window, and only the one door, which was so low as only to be entered in a stooping or rather crawling position. At first it was resolved to throw open the door and shoot the brute as he bolted; but this plan was rejected for several reasons : the natives were crowding round on every side, the place was uneven and rocky, and if in his bolt they had the bad luck to miss him, there was a chance of not getting another shot at him, or, if they did, of hitting one of the natives, who would have run in all directions as soon as the panther appeared. At last, F., with more boldness than discretion, decided to try and shoot him from above ; the thatch, however, was too old and rotten to bear his weight, and so a “ charpoy," or frame of wood with cords interlaced across it (used as a bedstead), was procured and laid upon the thatch, and upon it mounted F. and an old grey-headed Shikaree of the village, more like a monkey than a man, whose charge it was to open a hole for F. to shoot through ; this he accomplished with so much good will, but unfortunately with so little adroitness, that in a second or two the already ragged thatch had a hole close to F.'s head, not only quite large enough to shoot through, but also large enough for the panther to make his escape. A sudden execration caused him to desist; but in spite of the large hole, F. could discern nothing in the dark interior, but he distinctly heard the angry purring of the enraged savage, and the flapping of his tail against the ground, which is a sure prelude to a charge. F.'s thoughts were not altogther comfortable as he lay on the thatch, the infuriated and invisible brute being within a short spring of him, and having, no doubt, a clear view of his head and shoulders against the rising light. All of a sudden the glare of the panther's eyes showed like two coals of fire ; to level between them was the work of an instant, but lying on his right side F. was forced to bring the gun to the left shoulder, and as his finger pressed the trigger he found that from habit he was closing the left eye ; rectifying, how. ever, his mistake at once, the explosion followed, and the pest of the village fell dead with a brace of bullets in his brain. It was found that he had killed 11 of the goats, but had not eaten any part of them ; 80 that he seems to have slaughtered them from mere wantonness and the love of destruction. He measured over seven feet from the nose to the

tip of the tail, and was a very fine male specimen of his kind. It is needless to say that the two friends returned to breakfast well satisfied with their morning's work.

The immense plains which stretch from the foot of Mount Aboo are cecasionally broken by low, detached, and rocky hills, covered with dense jungle, that clothes the country for many miles round : several rivers also meander through the expanse, fed either by periodical rains, or by unfailing springs from the mountain range. In this wild country, W and A- , two young officers, had determined to pause for a. day or two during their journey from Aboo to Deesa, and endeavour to obtain some sport among the numerous ferve naturce with which that district abounded. Our two sportsmen had no tent nor any great campequipage with them ; a covered bullock-cart formed their house and bed ; a couple of steady ponies (horses were useless in such a country) their cavallada ; and some three or four servants, with the two shikarees, their retinue. Free and happy is such a life! They hunted when they pleased, eat when they pleased, and slept when they pleased; and, above all, no bugle called them to the dull routine of morning parade. The time of the year was not favourable to woodland shooting; for, after the rains, the grass and seeds grow to such a length as to render parts of the jungle impassable, and the foliage of the trees is so thick as to obstruct the view for any distance ; while water being plentiful in every direction, it is useless to attempt night-shooting at the animals coming to drink. The sport was therefore but indifferent; and on the second day, after a morning and forenoon spent in poking their noses into a number of dark tigerish-looking places without any satisfactory result, although much “ sign” (as our transatlantic brethren term it) was observed, they halted for tiffin on the banks of a small shallow stream, with a canopy of magnificent wild fig trees spread over their heads. Whilst the servants were unpacking the scanty stock of provisions, one of the shikarees approached, and, having made his salaam, begged to inform the sahibs that if they so pleased he and his brother shikaree would provide them some fresh fish for their tiffin. As there were no implements generally used in that sport among the party, the two friends were curious to see how this was to be effected, and the required permission was at once given, with an “ All right, old fellow ! thank you, fire away!” The two shikarees, rolling up the sleeves of their upper garments, now entered the stream, the bottom of which was gravelly and hard ; and, drawing their swords, stood one a little above the other on different sides of the channel, the water reaching to about their knees. Three or four of the villagers, who had joined the party as guides, now entered the water higher up, and forming a line across the stream, commenced wading down towards the shikarees, the two outermost feeling with their feet under each bank as they proceeded. Shortly the frightened fish began to swim down past the shikarees, who, as they passed, dexterously, with a sweep of their sharp swords, severed them in two, seldom missing their aim; while the two halves of each fish at once floated on the surface, and were thrown on the bank by a couple of men stationed in rear of the swordsmen. W- and A followed down the river in a state of the greatest excitement at the novel sport ; and were only prevented from jumping into the water to share it, by the fact of their nether limbs being closely encased in

« PreviousContinue »