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CALCUTTA MONTHLY JOURNAL.
THE KHASSYA HILLS.
We are enabled this day to present our readers with a valuable paper on the climate of the Khassya Hills, from the pen of one in whose judgment the utmost confidence can be placed. It is a subject of much regret, that this region should have been prematurely condemned upon such insufficient evidence. Unfortunately Lord William Bentinck made up his mind definitively on the question of continuing the sanatarium at Cherra, by an implicit reliance on reports which ought to have been received with mistrust, while he rejected the experience of those whom he thought to be baissed in favour of the place; and nothing could afterwards shake his determination. From that period, this spot has been treated with a degree of neglect by the public authorities, from which it can recover only by the slow accumulation of evidence in its favour. If the document we now publish, shall serve in any measure to turn the tide of public opinion in favour, we do not say, of Cherra, but of some of the various spots in its vicinity, which present a favourable site for a sanatarium, the labour of the writer will be fully compensated.
The resources of those hills are begining gradually to be developed, and we anticipate that at no distant period, they will be found to furnish the elements of a valuable coinmerce, which shall carry the blessings of civilized life among those hardy and interesting mountaineers. Up to the 30th of April last, the quantity of India rubber supplied from the hills, and exported from Calcutta to England, exceeded five hundred maunds; but this can
only be regarded as the precursor of a still
larger export. In fact, the India rubber so abundantly found in our eastern provinces, not only on the Khassya Hills, but also in Assam, is so pure in its nature, and so cheap in point of price, that with due cultivation, we may soon expect to bring our caoutchouc exports to a level with those of the South American states. The growing demand for this article in England, and its increasing application to the various purposes of life, will at once afford a plentiful market for any quantity which these rich provinces can supply. The pine apple fibre may soon form another article of export. The sides of the hills
are thickly covered with this plant, reared by the hand of nature; and the numerous cascades with which they are adorned, assord a variety of situations where a simple machinery might be erected, and a series of pedals, worked by the fall of water, for the pounding of the leaf; and where the fibre might be cleansed with ease, and prepared for the market. With due attention, these hills would also supply the metropolis with potatoes, at the season of the year when our own indigenous supplies begin to fall us. And why should we despair of seeing the coal of Cherra, the finest in India, brought down the mountains by human skill and in genuity, and delivered at Calcutta at six annas the maund, at which price it would be cheaper than the Burdwan coal at five annas 2 The supply appears to be ample, and only requires a tenth of the science which has accomplished such wonders in our native land, to be distributed freely over the country. When we consider that all these natural resources are situated in a region which might be reached from Calcutta in seven days, and which enjoys a climate, which, during eight months of the year, has no superior in India, we feel a sensation of deep regret that the station should have been so hastily condemned. Our eastern frontier is again acquiring a degree of importance from the apprehended hostility of the Burmese, and engineer officers, with sappers and miners, have been despatched to form a military road along the foot of the hills to Munipore; when their labours are completed, might they not be advantageously employed, while on the spot, in constructing a good road from Pandua to Cherra, and in examining the locality of the coal-mines, to determine the possibility of transporting this mineral to Calcutta ?— Friend of India, Nov. 16. On referring to a register of the state of the weather and of the temperature, kept from March 22d to October 28th of the present year,
I find the following to be the results.” The observations for the temperature were taken at 3 A.M., at noon, and at 4 P. M. The
* The register was kept by Mr. Sullivan, Surgeon to the Silhet Light Infantry, who very obligingly gave it me for inspection.
thermometer, which was one of the ordinary sort, being placed in a verandah with an eastern aspect.
MARCH. The previous part of this month had been very sine—of the latter 10 days, 5 with occasional showers. The range of the thermometer was from 60 to 66. The mean temperature at noon, 64.
APRIL. 18 days were fine, and two only occurred of sufficient severity to cause confinement to the house.
The rain that fell during the month was considerable, but the fall generally happened at night.
The range of the thermometer was from 56 to 73; the mean temperature at noon, about 65.
- AMAY. Of this month 20 days occurred of fine weather ; 5 of constant rain, the remainder were squally or showery.
Range of the thermometer, 60 to 71 ; mean teamperature at noon, 66.
JUN e. 17 days were fine : 10 of heavy rain. during 6 of which it fell without inter mission ; remainder, showery.
Range of thermometer, 61-74; mean temperature at noon, 67.
JULY. Of this month 5 days were of incessant rain ; 10 of heavy with intermission; the remainder, showery. Range of thermometer, 62-72, mean temperature at moon, 67.
AUGUst. Fine weather occurred for 16 days: rain sell incessantly during 5 days; the remainder were showery, one day being of heavy rain.
Range of thermometer G1-72, mean temperature at noon, 66].
September. In this month 14 days were fine; 6 of very heavy rain ; the remainder, showery. On the 16th and 17th 40 inches of rain were com. puted to have fallen, and in the 17th upwards of 50 inclies.”
Range of thermometer, 68.72; mean temperature at noon, 67.
OCTOBER. In this month we have had 16 days of fine weather, and only one day of continued rain, the remainder have heen partially showery.
Range of thermometer, 63-72, mean temperature at noon, 67%.
It would hence appear that of 213 days, 43 were so rainy as to cause confinement to the house : in other words, exercise could not be taken during one day in five. Now, as October, November, December, January, February, and March, are acknowledged by all the
* It must be remembered, however, that there is no rain guage at the station.
residents here to be fine months, we may fairly ask where is the remarkably evident truth of the data on which Cherra has been condemned 2
The question has nothing to do with the actual amount of rain that falls, for confinement to the house may be just as well occasioned by a fall of hals an inch as by one of ten inclics, -as well by a drizzling misty rain as by a torrent.
The equability of the temperature will be at once evident from inspection of the range of the thermometer; and in very well built houses, if a greater degree were desirable, it might certainly be obtained. The range in the open air for this month is from 45 to 90 ; the average just before sunrise may be estiimated at 50-55.
It may be objected by the enemies of Cherra, who are their own enemies, that these data are not sufficiently minute to entitle them to great considence. It is true that they were not made even with first rate instruments: but it admits, I think, of some doubt, whether a man of good sense and contented mind" may not give a truer account of the weather and of its effect, than one unprovided with these qualities, but provided with delicate thermometers, and all the complicated apparatus, which, however necessary for the furtherance of meteorology, are by no means so in the selection of a sanatarium.
The condemnation of Cherra has arisen from causes of an unprecedented nature. Most people, who are natives of northern Europe, too gladly revert to the idea of enjoying something like their native cold to allow of the consideration of what are in reality minor points. We find no fault attributed to other sanataries; people flock to them, even from great distances, and return benesited in health, or if that be not a desideratun, they return delighted and refreshed in mind: but delightful Cherra lies under a ban; it is almost heretical, at least in Calcutta, to speak a word in its favour. This is strange, (but it is not very singular) because it enjoys a greater amount of advantages, than, perhaps, any other. Perhaps it is too near to be of its true value) for which a steamer one may exchange the heat of the plains for an equable and mild temperature in eight or ten days, and even in ther ordinary slow mode of travelling in twenty or twenty-five.
The public generally requires the testimony of very many before it submits to be deprived of a substantial benefit. But if we apply this to Cherra, what do we find to be the case ? We find it condemned by the few, extolled by the many. It would be an invidious question to ask who are the few : Strange to say the few, with one exception, are members of a class, whose profession is supposed to turn on the axiom of examining before condemning; yet they condemned Cherra, because they were there about ten days; because the
* Here I beg to say I do not refer to myself, though
my words are such as would lead some to suppose that do. -
roads were not quite so good as those of the quantity or quality of the Khassya rain
Calcutta; because good house did not seem
But awaiting a mature examination of documents, let us put aside all considerations of Cherra as a depôt for invalid troops ; let us look at it as affording a safe, agreeable, and invigorating retreat from the “heat oppressed” plains. Even this modicum of a good name has been denied to it. “Rain is the grand evil. Even granting that “it never rains but it pours,” what is the consequence in a place where a fire is looked upon as a necessary comfort 2 Complaints against rain might be tolerated from a native of the Carnatic or the garden of Europe, but from a resident in India, and particularly from Bengal, it is ridiculous in the extreme. Will any one point out in what part of British India, except the Carnatic. June, July and August, are not rainy months? Can any one point out any place of India in which the intervals between the rain are not oppressive in the extreme The mere amonnt of rain is nothing to the point; the grand requisite is the capability of rapid draining, and surely Cherra has a great advantage in this. Rain is inconvenient bacause it causes confinement within doors: it remains to be proved whether there is any thing cither in
tnore productive of confinement than any other
rain. Besides this, the charge of excessive confinement is ridiculous; first, because it is not true; secondly, because a life on the plains is pretty nearly a perpetual scene of confinement.
We have no doubt that a preponderance would be in favour of Cherra over the plains in point of the actual number of days thoughout the year, during which exercise in the open air may be taken; of course no one will attempt to deny its preponderance in enjoyment, for czercise here is always a matter of enjoyment, there of constitutional treatment. We agree, that long confinement to a house is inksome; but which is preferable, confinement for sisteen days, and this is an extreme case, with the thermometer varying from 64 to 68; or vegetating for a similar period, including several days of confinement, with tho thermometer, night or day never below 80?
We are not aware what the exact ratio may he between the quantity of rain at Cherra and that at Simla, or any other place on the Himalayas, on which, however, we have reason for believing it is excessive. The estiinated fall at Cherra is probably exaggerated, for it must be remembered that one excessive fall need not give a general excess; and the probability almost amounts to a certainty, if we contrast it with the sall at other places, which has hitherto been considered excessive.
What has been said of rain applies equally to fogs or rather mists. No one hears of these | at other sanataries, but one does when Cherra is the subject. And yet we doubt their greater frequency at this place. Nor is this all, Cherra has been blamed, in addition to its rain, mists, bad roads, and at that time, sufficiently indifferent houses, for its bad spirituous liquors which were of such a pervading nature, that prisoners in the solitary cells were actually found intoxicated. And this is urged with such gravity, that one would really suppose that it had been the fault of nature, not of the authorities.
Let us consider the advantages and disadvantages of Cherra. The former consist in its possessing a delightful temperature thoughout the year; invariable, cool nights, so cool as to require warm covering; in the enjoyment of coal sires, and the capability of having, as much as is possible in Asia, in an English manner; in its table-land, allowing of the formation of excellent, and not dangerous, roads; its pleasing and certainly novel scenery; in the ease and rapidity with which it is reached” in its proximity to Calcutta, and the capability of taking execise with delight, if on horseback, throughout the day.
Its disadvantages consist in the ertraordinary fact that a great quantity of rain falls in June, July, August and September; and in its mists ; to these may be added that the houses are usually indifferent :
* It can be reached within five hours from Terrya ghat; in this short space one may exchange a temperature of 85-90 for one of 65.70,
These disadvantages are common, with the exception, perhaps, of houses, to all the other sanataries appertaining to the Bengal presidency, and so are many of its advantages. Now, although Simla and Mussoorie, from their greater elevation and higher latitudes, enjoy a larger as well as greater amount of cold, yet we have heard it said that this is counterbalanced by the greater heat. Others, and these are the most valuable, are peculiar to Cherra. I allude to its being situated on a table-land " to its facilities of access; to its proximity to Calcutta. Compare the list of disadvantages of Cherra with those of other sanataries, where we have rain and mists, and difficulty of access. The presence of a terrai where the hills are really hills; consisting of nothing but steep ascents and descents, with no lack of precipices, and where the roads are so dangerous on acconnt of this, that accidents are not very uncommon.
Now on which side does the advantage lay ? We have, to be sure, much grander scenery in the one than in the other, but this is a very minor point. Who can doubt but that the balance is in favour of Cherra, deserted and villified as it is 2 The absurdity for such we do not scruple to call it, of condemning this place on the mere words of a single individual, does not rest here. He who condemned Cherra for its rain, mists, and spirituous liquors, apparently condemned the whole range between Bengal east and Assam; on what grounds he knows best, for it appears that he did not visit all, or indeed, any of the inter mediate stations. My rung, which has doubtless one of the best of climates, and which is the best on this precise line of route, is con. demned because it is on the north side of the Boga Panee, the depth of which ravine is scarcely 1,500 feet. It is condemned because it is three marches distant from the plains, although, as we have said, Cherra is reached in a few hours. We will venture to say, that a paralled case has scarcely occurred, even in India. Whatever the motives of the condemner of Cherra may have been ; whatever the grounds on which he made his statement, he may he pronounced to have been egregiously mistaken. They, who decide on such important affairs, would do well to consider them duly previously to forming a final opinion ; for the depriving a large European community of such benefit may cause, and no doubt has caused, a great deal of distress. Although we might withhold censure from one mistake, we are by no means disposed to do so, when for the alleged faults of a few acres, an extensive range of what may be called table land, forty miles in breadth, is equally, condemned ; and when we find that the same process is apparently going on with regard to the new site, highly spoken of by previous visitors of enlightened minds, because it too
* As has been observed, these hills cannot strictly be called table-land ; yet when compared with other hills, expect perhaps the Neilgheriies they certainly deserve the title.
f Except Mussoorie.
has its fogs and mists and offensive midges to to boot (as well condemn a place because it has musquitoes), because its being a new site there are no roads, strange to say, and because there being no roads, save the bed of watercourses, there is some liability of a delay of the dak, whether the dak is liable to be delayed eight days, or eight and forty, matters little to the European community at large, to whom, at least, such correspondence is not “big with the fate of worlds.”
More of the philosopher and less of the discontented sojourner in India might be looked for in one who is the sole judge, and from whose fiat there would seem to be no appeal. We say it with regret, that the condemner of Darjeling is evidently one of no mental resources; who, else, could allude to the fogs, mists and midges of the Himalavan range, in utter exclusion of all the magnificence displayed by nature in her various works, and which may be enjoyed and looked into although her face be under a mist? Glad are we that the Darjeling philosopher is not reporter general on sanatari, a for what place could possibly supply his desiderata ? He only requires the absence of rain, clouds, midges and spirits; the presence of an excellent climate, excellent roads, excellent houses, and a regular dak.
For our part we say, go to Cherra, and visit likewise the interior, and if you can be delighted with a fine climate, good scenery, indifferently good roads, and a feeling of lightness and joy unknown below, you will forget rain and mists, –midges, there are none,—and look at the arrival of a dak with feelings of apprehension, lest it may contain matter sufficient for your recall. The prejudice, however, against these hills would appear to be so strong, that writing in their favour will probably be of little avail. After what has been said by Captain Pemberton, in his “Report on the Eastern Frontier of British India," and we have reason to know that he paid particular attention to this subject, one might have supposed that fresh enquiries would have been instituted. We would particularly direct attention to the opinion of this officer, who, before giving an extract of an address made by the resident to the head local authority, says, “it may not be without effect, in counteracting a "rejudice against the Cassyah Hills, which, if the opinions of men who speak experimentally be valid, is wholly unsounded.”* We particularly recommend the perusal of the extract from the address alluded to, which may be found at p. 354 of the same work. We fear, however, that nothing but the visit of some very influential icople will persuade the inhabitants of the Indian Metropolis to avail themselves of such a benefit. There is no doubt but that on this exact line of communication with Assam, My rung is the most eligible site. No register has, I believe, been kept to any extent at this place, but by all accounts the climate is remarkably fine. That there is very much less rain, and that it * Report p. 253—part. 76. See Table 19 in Capt. Pemberton's Report.
adapted for a sanatarium ; of course, we cannot speak as to the facility of communication, or as to its supply of water.
is free from mists to a great degree, is universally allowed; and this may easily be explain ed by its centrical situation, and by intervention of two ranges of hills, both nearly 1,5001. The best place is now universally acknowfeet higher than the cantonments of Cherra, ledged to be the site pointed out by Capt. between it and this latter place. Still there Fisher, and subsequently by Capt. Pemberare great objections to its selection on account ton, near Nogundreer. With the same elevaof the want of any eligible level place of any stion as Myrung it has the advantage of being extent, and as, pointed out by Capt. Pemberton, near the Sylhet side, and in its great accessi. scantiness of water; this might, however, be bility, neither the Kala Panee or Boga Panee easily remedied. | requiring to be croossed. In freedom from
The view, too, is bleak and dreary to the rain and fogs it is probably inferior to My rung. west and north-west ; but this is the prevail- For our own part, we decidedly prefer the ing feature. To the east it it more diversified, interior; for delightful as is the feeling one owing to the prevalence of fir trees. There experiences at Cherra, it will bear no compaare some fine woods about it, especially at rison to that felt after passing Surureem. We Nungbree, or Sumbree, consisting chiefly of belive that the difference in the temperature
oaks, chesnut, and magnolias. Its grand charm exists in the beautiful view one has of the Himalayas, which are generally observable during fine weather from 6 to 7 A. M.
The elevation of Myrung, as given by Capt. Fisher is 5,940 feet, but we cannot reconcile this either with our own o' servations or with the elevation of other places given by the officer. Thus in Capt. Fisher's chart the measured height of Sumbrec is said to be 5,914 feet, yet is it obvious to every one who has visited Myrung, that Sumb ree is several hundred feet above My rung itself. The same may be said of the height of Chillon, deo, the high test point in this direction : Cart. Fisher gives this as 6,200 feet ; yet My rung be 5,914 feet; Chillon is certainly upwards of 7,600. From our observations, taking the average of two or three trials, and of three thermometers, one of which has been verified, My rung has an elevation of about 5,100 feet, Chillong 6,200 feet.
The general average of decess in our observations against those of Capt. Fisher, is 300 feet. Thus we find no point on the route between Cherra and Nonklow to exceed 5,600 feet, while Capt. Fisher gives several as exceeding 5,900 feet. We are disposed to place more confidence in those of this officer, than in our own, as his were, I believe, made with the barometer.
The intermediate stage between Cherra and My rung, is Moslong ; bleak and exposed as it is, it is not without its charms to those whose memory recurs to the bleaker spots of the Downs of England, or who greet, as an old friend, the sight of a fir tree.
Between this and Moleem, and all round Moleem, the face of the country improves. About morning the scenery is very pretty, groves of fir trees becoming very common and the ground being diversified by the presence of huge boulders Moleem, which is the pret. tiest place we have yet seen, is situated on the southern slope of the Boga Panee, which is here a very insignificant stream ; its elevation is about 4500 feet, or 500 feet above the cantonment of Cherra. It is in this direction that the best sites are to be obtained. To the north of Chillong there is an extensive and well sheltered plateau, which seen from the
summit of Chillong would appear very well
amounts to five or six degrees.
The withdrawal of the invalids, and the condemnatiou of Cherra, as a sanatarium, has been party counteracted by its having been made the head-quarters of the Sylhet light infantry batalion. It is now resorted to by all the officers, civil and military, of Dacca and Sylhet, whenever an opportunity occurs. Within two years a great improvement has taken place, both in in the houses and the roads ; and, with regard to the latter, the improvement made in the interior is immense, particularly about the most difficult places, the Kala and Boga Panee torrents.
British ascendancy seems now to be complete, and to be approved of, as it always is, by the great bulk of the tribe. Considerable trade is now carried on in iron, the demand for this metal having lately much increased.
The intercourse between Sylhet and Assam which scarcely existed two years ago, is now very considerable ; it consists chiefly in parties of pilgrims and merchants, of which last the bulk are Munnipoories. Every thing indeed tends to shew that the spirit of improvement is abroad.
We will, therefore, conclude by congratulating the condemner of Chorra, &c., on his having escaped from the additional responsibility of having been the cause of injury both to the natives of the plains and the hilis: he has quite sufficient to bear with reference to his own community, and the expense to which Government has been subjected.
The year in which the observations, on which Cherra is said to be so awfully afflicted with rain, were made, was of great severity, such as had not been known in the memory of the oldest inhabitants, it is not from such that philosophical men are accustomed to draw conclusions. Nothing can prove its excessive nature more than the alleged fall during two days in October, which is, as I have said, a fine month. So great is the quantity (225 inches in four months and two days) that a little scepticism is fully allowable. From this single excessive statement much prejudice has doubtless arisen against these hills on the Tenasserim coast; the average fall is probably 180 inches ; instances of a fall of 240 are not