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the same relative distances from each other and driving with their powerful current the geological débris of the mountains far into the plains. The rivers to which I allude are, commencing at the Tístá and proceeding eastward, the Dáinha, the Jaldhaka, the Torshá, the Ráidhák and the Sankos. There is an average interval of 20 or 25 miles between each, and for the first 20 or 30 miles after they debouch from the hills, their river bed is well defined, their current very rapid and clear, and the size and shape of the gneiss fragments which strew their channel are sufficient proof of the violence and volume of their waters. Between these streams, the appearance of the country is chaotic. The horizontal patch of jungle which corresponds to the broad Terai of Upper India is cut into 'segments which display the complex nature of the influences at work upon them. The large rivers I have mentioned take their rise, some in the lofty peaks of Bhutan, others in the glaciers of the gigantic snowy range of the Himalayas proper, and others even in the distant table-land of Thibet. The rivulets which fitfully traverse the intermediate regions rise in the lower hills and are dependent for their supply of water upon the local rainfall, and are therefore evanescent. In the rains' they possess a formidable amount, but in the cold weather a thin thread of water amid a wilderness of sand and shingle is all that remains of their abundant stream, and in March and April this frequently disappears altogether. More complicated geological influences are at work upon them, which I cannot pretend to explain, owing to which all but the main outlines of the frontier geography is pretty well effaced in a few generations. Large streams disappear entirely, and leave no trace of their former channel; rivers of half a mile in width divide
into tiny streamlets; others lose themselves in freshly formed morasses.
Between the spurs of one portion of the lower hills rise a multitude of little streams which wander in different directions in a confused and apparently inexplicable manner, drying up at one point and reappearing some miles farther south, mingling their currents, and again deviating from each other. Several are said to flow in a circle, and in the rains to form a swamp. In one spot where was a broad and well-defined river bed, all the water I found consisted of a thin stream which flowed underground during the greater part of the day and appeared for half an hour only at sunrise and sunset. In another place the stream was found at varying distances from the camp, sometimes flowing past the tent, and at other times being three miles distant. A comparison of the map which accompanies Turner's Embassy to Thibet with the survey map of 1865, and of the latter with a map indicating the geographical features of the present day, will assuredly bear out this sketch. Since the date of Turner's mission in 1783-4, three streams flowing apparently due south between Buxa and the Torshá have either disappeared or changed their course beyond recognition, and since 1865 a large stream called the Gharm,' which used to issue from a beautiful mountain gorge six miles west of Buxa, has left but its stony grave well-nigh covered and choked with the Khair-thorns which spring up with almost magic speed in a deserted bed, with here and there a huge fragment of mica, carried down in bygone years from the mountains above. The 'Gharm,' according to Bhutia tradition, has had a short but romantic history. In old times, so runs the story, there was on the hill-side far above the plains a hot spring, which derived its efficacy for skin diseases from the presence
of one of the numerous rock deities of Bhutan. In process of time, however, the place became unholy, owing to the foul slaughter of horses and dogs upon its margin. It was deserted by its tutelary god, who in anger deprived it of its medicinal powers and poured it forth into the plains. Here, after a course of 300 years, it has deserted its channel apparently for ever.
The flora and fauna of the region present as various and singular features. For miles the only vege tation consists of the wild and desolate thorn-bush (Khair catechu) which covers the ground with a network of thin, prickly brambles. These are found in the sandy, gravelly bed of an abandoned river course. In other places there is a section of virgin forest. These are the higher spots forming the water-shed of the uplands, and are generally intersected by deep, narrow, well-defined channels, where there is perennial water. Here are the huge trees which have outlasted generations of the thorn bushes above described. Among them are varieties of the Ficus Indica, the edible-leaved laurel, and several varieties of the chelauni tribe (Gordonia Chilaunea ?), with their characteristic rough bark patched and streaked with cinnamon and brown. Amid the primeval forest glades are sections of high grass, and of the wild cardamum, the thickest and most impenetrable growth of the frontier jungles. These grassy patches are relieved every now and then by the gigantic silk-cotton tree (Bombax malabaricum) and the Phylas or Butea frondosa. During the spring these are the only flowering trees of the Bhutan frontier forests. The scarlet mass of blossoms which adorn the silk-cotton serves as a beacon for miles, and the still more lovely Butea frondosa covers the ground beneath it with a crimson carpet of dead flowers. The white arms of the silk-cotton tree are always free
from the creepers which half strangle the other giants of the forest. The size and luxuriance of these creepers is one of the most startling features on the frontier. They often acquire a girth larger than that of the original tree, which is lost in the convolutions which the parasite, like a huge boa, has wound round its victim. Sometimes an enormous climber succumbs to the jungle fires of which I shall speak farther on, and slowly drops off, leaving the trunk deeply indented with its spiral coils. Towards April and May the climbers bear a profusion of lilac blossoms, and form sweet - scented arches above the forest tracks. For half the year, during the rains, the wild cardamum and dense forest tracts are the home of innumerable wild elephants and the larger sized rhinoceros. When the jungle fires in late autumn and winter lessen the shelter of these labyrinthine lairs, the animals find their way by steep watercourses and wellwooded ravines, routes inaccessible to men, to the highlands of Bhutan, and do not return to the forests until the spring showers have nursed the tender shoots of grass into a formidable and impenetrable mass above the charred stumps of the last year's growth. A little below the actual edge of the hills are found extensive sál forests (Shorea robusta) with their straight stems and large jagged dark green leaves. The sisu (Dalbergia sissoo), another tree almost as valuable as the sál for commercial purposes, haunts, like the khair, the banks and disused beds of rivers. Its abundant small and well-rounded leaves of bright pea green are one of the ornaments of the lower hills.
The jungle fires, to which I have alluded, are of vital importance in the economy of the frontier. They are the agents for ferti lising the land from which the frontier tribes draw their supplies. But for the action of these fires, the
annual cotton crop, the great staple of the frontier, could not be brought to maturity. They are, moreover, largely operative in lessening the malarious exhalations of the forests. The breadth of the area of dense jungle being less, as pointed out at the commencement, than on the Nepal frontier, and the constant change of the hill currents throughout ages having upon the whole tended to denude the Bhutan marches of large-tree forests, the drying up of the rains leaves large grassy tracts which burn with prodigious rapidity. The flames extend into the sál and sisu forests and destroy the undergrowth there also, and only the thickest cardamum jungle and the impenetrable thicket which shelters the python remain from year to year unscoured by fires.
The cultivation of cotton in the Bhutan frontier is inseparably associated with one of the most important of the border tribes, the Meches or Bodos, as to whom we possess minute and wonderfully accurate information in the Essay on Koch, Bodo, and Dhimal Tribes, by Mr. B. H. Hodgson, of the Bengal Civil Service. This essay was, however, printed in 1847, and many changes, slight in themselves, but most significant as regards the ultimate destiny of the frontier tribes, have occurred in the thirty years which have elapsed since that date. I shall briefly indicate those changes as they affect the Koches, and the Meches or Bodos, and shall then pass on to the description of a race which inhabits the jungly tract to the west of the Torshá river, and which has never, so far as I am aware, formed the subject of any ethnological paper.
At the period of Mr. Hodgson's essay, it is noteworthy that the Koches still possessed a language sufficiently distinctive to make it worth his while to publish a vocabulary. Even then, however, it will be seen at a glance that more than
three-fourths of the words are pure Bengali. Mr. Hodgson remarks that his vocabulary is 'that of the converted Koch,' and that he failed to get at the unconverted.' It may be safely said that the 'unconverted' or aboriginal Koch has at this time ceased to exist in Bengal. Before, however, the Koch had commenced the slow and subtle amalgamation with Hinduism, the possible origin of which I shall suggest farther on, it is clear that the Koches or Páni Koches (i.e. Primitive Koches) possessed characteristics common to all or most of the north-eastern Mongoloid Pre-Aryans. Dr. Buchanan, Civil Judge of Rangpur, towards the end of the last century, and though the earliest, one of our most careful observers, has left records of great value on the population, peoples, dialects and customs of North-Easttern Bengal. Among them we find this description of the Koch:
The primitive, or Páni Koch, live amid the woods, frequently changing their abode in order to cultivate lands enriched by a fallow. They cultivate entirely with the hoe, and more carefully than their [Aryan] neighbours, who use the plough, for they
weed their crops, which the others do not. As they keep hogs and poultry, they are better fed than Hindus, and, as they make a fermented liquor from rice, their diet is more strengthening. . . Their huts are they raised on posts like the houses of the at least as good [as the Bengalis], nor are Indo-Chinese-at least, not generally so. Their only arms are spears, but they use iron-shod implements of agriculture, which swine, goats, sheep, deer, buffaloes, rhinothe Bengalese often do not. They eat
ceros, fowls, and ducks-not beef, nor dogs, nor cats, nor frogs, nor snakes. They eat no tame animal without offering it to God [the gods], and consider that he who is least restrained is most exalted-allowing the Gáros may eat beef. the Gáros to be their superiors because This tribe
has no letters, but a sort of priesthood called Déoshi, who marry and work like other people. . . . Their chief gods are Rishi and his wife Jágó.
These extracts from Buchanan's work on Rangpur are quoted by Mr. B. Hodgson (p. 146), and Mr. Hodgson's confession of failure
to obtain a single specimen of the 'unconverted Koch,' in order to ascertain the primitive language of the race, is a sufficient proof of the immense strides made by this race, even at that date, in their approximation to Hinduism. Considering the long period required for the disappearance of a language brought into competition with a more powerful one, and for the absorption or annihilation of the prime characteristics of an unlettered people, I confess I am compelled to regard Buchanan's account of the Koches as not derived from personal observation. If he really met with Bengal Koches in their semi-civilised state during his residence at Rangpur, it is unfortanate that he has not preserved anything of their vocabulary. If, however, Dr. Buchanan's account be intended as a description of a people almost extinct as a separate race, even then what we are required to believe is quite sufficiently marvellous, that is to say the entire disappearance of the original tongue of a population numbering in Mr. Hodgson's time something like a million souls. Most of the two or three score presumably real Koch words, and by this I mean words which are neither Bengali nor obvious corruptions of Bengali, which appear in Mr. Hodgson's Koch vocabulary are unintelligible to Koches of the present day. Towards the west the very term of Koch is looked upon as an insult. This is the region near the Tístá where the Bengalis of Rangpur have long tilled the fertile valley of the Mahánadí and the Tístá, and where the amalgamation with the Koches has been most complete. Far to
the east, however, where roads scarcely existed, and the Meches and Gáros were the predominating element in the population, I found two or three Koch families who still lived near what may have been the primitive haunts of their race, and had seen little or nothing of Bengalis. Among these at an ancient crossing on the rapid Ráidhák river was an old Koch ferryman, who had many tales to tell of Bhutia raids and Bhutia forced labour long before our peaceful reign set in. His dialect excited the laughter of some of the bystanders of the same blood indeed as the ferryman, but whose grandfathers had emigrated to more stirring regions, where old habits and ancient modes of speech became rapidly uncrystallised by contact with the insinuating influences of Aryanism. No doubt the old ferryman looked with contempt on these degenerate Koches, who failed to understand his uncouth patois. Nevertheless the happiest efforts in Bengali of the Rájbansís of Northern Bengal would be as much an unknown tongue to the Bengali of Nadiyá or Bardwán, as the ferryman's idiom appeared to be to his countrymen of the west; both were but varying developments of an antique type, or rather approximations towards a new model. One or two of the ferryman's sentences I preserved as literary curiosities; and though far indeed from being the original language, I yet failed, after a tolerably long and extensive acquaintance with the districts where the Rájbansís are found, to obtain any idiomatic specimens of so archaic a type.1
I saw much of the Koches or
I append one of these sentences, with its Bengali equivalent. It is curious as giving possibly some idea of ancient Koch inflexion, added to the acquired system of language. It does not contain any non-Aryan roots. In answer to an inquiry whether he had attended a fair at Kuch Behar, he replied:
• Mui ná jáng mui ghảtá rong mui Kháng dáng.
Rájbansís of the Western Dwárs, and whether from intermarriage with the Aryan inhabitants of the southern and western districts, or from general improvement in type, I failed to detect much of the large cheek bones, dumpiness, and broadness and flatness of face,' insisted upon by Hodgson as allying the Koch with the Bodos and other Tamulian races,' and distinguishing them from the Aryan. On the contrary, I found the Rájbansí squatters of the Western Dwárs much more nearly allied in appearance with the Hindu cultiva tors of Rangpur and Dinajpur, the two nearest districts, than the latter with the average rustic of Nadiya or the twenty-four Parganás. In religion they are purely Hindus, the only point in which they are still on a par even with Bágdís and Kohibarttos and other Hinduised aborigines who are now classed within the pale, is their retention of fowls as an article of diet. These are only, however, openly and avowedly eaten by the lowest class. The educated and well-to-do Rájbansí eats his fowl stealthily very much as a Brahman of Calcutta whose caste scruples contain only the precept, 'Thou shalt not be found out,' gets his friend's cook to send him a fowl cutlet or curry, which can be passed off as the orthodox dish of goat's flesh. The burlesques and farces which are nightly played to large audiences on Calcutta boards are full of such incidents with their attendant discoveries, and the Davus and Sosia of Terence and Plautus again inveigle weakminded old men and sneer at a dying faith before a sceptical and admiring audience. So it is in Jalpaiguri and Kuch Behar, except that the Rájbansís are at the other end of the social scale, and
are entering on their apprenticeship to Hinduism, while the others are tearing up their indentures and manufacturing, as men will do, beliefs for themselves. Modern Rájbansís would scout Rishi and Jágó, the uncouth deities whom Dr. Buchanan unearthed for the tribe as their principal divinities, and would undoubtedly declare with truth they had never heard of them. There is a temple to Mahadeva (the temple of Julpesh, one of the most interesting antiquities of the Jalpaiguri District) certainly many hundred years old in the midst of the old Koch dominions, erected by a pious scion of one of the most ancient and formerly powerful Koch families, that of the Rájá of Jalpaigurí. The epoch of Rishi and Jágó must therefore be pre-historic.
They have still one indication of their Hinduism being new, or rather of its having come into existence since they ceased to be a separate kingdom. They have no subdivisions of caste. The people are all Rájbansí' or 'of the King's race.' The king himself, who once owned wide sway among the tribes of Northern Bengal, and who still possesses a quasi-independent state, is but 'of the king's race.' In time the inevitable subdivisions will commence, and the higher ranks either be admitted into a great class within the Hindu pale, or form for themselves a new designation less strongly indicative of their origin. This one taint as it were remains to them in common with the savage and lawless barbarians who roam the Lower Assam and Cachar hills, the Lusháis and the Nagas. The Rájbansís were once as these are now. They are probably of the same family, but, as Walter Bagehot teaches, the stationary rather than the progressive is the usual lot of peoples.
Perhaps the happiest parallel I can suggest for the present language of the Koches is the barbarous English spoken by the negroes of the West Indies, who have lost their original tongue and can hardly be said to have acquired another.