The Library

Views In India, Chiefly Among The Himalaya Mountains

I have beheld nearly all the celebrated scenery of Europe, which poets and painters have immortalized, and of which all the tourists in the world are enamoured; but i have seen it surpassed in these unfrequented and almost unknown regions.

Capt. Skinner's Journal of a Tour in the Himalaya Mountains

Preface

In offering the following series of Views to the public, it would be superfluous to descant upon the extraordinary degree of interest which they possess, illustrating, as they do, a portion of our Indian territories hitherto little known, and comprising the most splendid Mountain Scenery which can be found throughout the world. The Publishers have spared neither pains nor cost in the Engravings, which have been got up at a vast expense (£2,400), from Drawings executed on the spot by an enterprising and accomplished traveller. The difficulties and dangers attendant upon a journey through the Himalaya, to the sources of the Ganges and Jumna, will be gathered from the ensuing pages; and the Views, taken by Lieut. White, in addition to their spirit and fidelity, must be highly valued by all who can appreciate the ardour and energy which could alone have produced them, amid the toils, fatigues, and even perils of his Mountain Tour. The descriptive portion must speak for itself; its accuracy may be relied upon, and it will be found to contain much new and interesting information concerning the alpine regions of the East.

Preliminary Observations
On
The Himalaya Mountains

he Himalaya mountains, signifying the abode of snow, form that tremendous barrier, which, stretching from the Indus on the north-west to the Bramaputra on the south-east, divides the plains of Hindostan from the wilds of Thibet and Tartary. This chain of mountains comprises numerous ranges, extending in different directions west of the Indus; one of its ramifications, running in a still more westerly direction, is known to the Afghans by the name of the Hindoo Kosh, the whole stupendous range being merely broken by the Indus. From the north-east point of Cashmere, it takes a south-eastern course, stretching along the sources of all the Punjab rivers, except the Sutlej, where it separates the hilly portion of the Lahore province from those tracts which have been designated in modern geography, Little Thibet. Still pursuing the same direction, it crosses the heads of the Ganges and Jumna, and compels their currents towards a southward channel. Farther east, the chain is supposed to be less continuous, it being the generally received opinion that it is penetrated by the Gunduck, the Arun, the Cosi, and the Teesta. Beyond the limits of Bootan, the course of the chain, extending into an unexplored country, can be traced no longer; but the supposition is in favour of its running to the Chinese sea, skirting the northern frontier of the provinces of Quangsi and Quantong, and lessening in height as it advances to the east. The portion of this extensive chain which borders Hindostan, rises to an elevation far exceeding that of any other mountains in the world, in some places forming an impassable barrier to the countries beyond, and rendering their extent a matter for conjecture only. The breadth of the snowy chain varies in different parts between the Sutlej and the Ganges; it has been estimated at about eighty miles from the plains of Hindostan to those of Thibet. The heights of this splendid barrier are unassailable by man, but in some places the beds of rivers which intersect it afford access to its wild fastnesses; and as a few penetrate the mighty mass, there is a possibility that the unceasing efforts of scientific persons may force a passage through the rocks and snows of these desert wastes. The ranges of hills extending in a southerly direction from the Himalaya, are divided into numerous principalities, to the eastward of the Sutlej—Sirmoor, Gurwall, Kumaon, Nepaul; and many others are to be found, several of which were unknown to the European inhabitants of India, previous to the Ghoorka wars of 1815, an event which has led to our present acquaintance with this highly interesting country.

There is very little level ground to be found throughout the whole of these districts, which consist entirely of a succession of exceedingly high ridges, crossing each other continually, and presenting a confusion almost wholly indescribable as they branch out from the great elevations beyond. Towards the source, if it may be so called, of the great chain, these mountainous ranges increase in height, the lowest arising abruptly from a long and gentle slope stretching to the plains. These hills are exceedingly steep and narrow at the summit, and they approach each other so closely, that excepting in Nepaul there are very few valleys, the channels that divide them being nothing more than ravines.

We are at present unacquainted with any mountains that exceed the height of the Himalaya; the Andes, long supposed to be the most gigantic in the world, being over-topped by no fewer than twenty of the peaks of these snow-crowned monarchs. Considerable as the estimate taken has been, there is great probability that if the policy of the Ghoorka government would admit of a nearer approach, we should find the heights of some of these peaks to exceed the present computation. The Dhawalagira, or the White Mountain, is supposed to be one of the loftiest; it is situated, according to the common belief, near the source of the Gunduck, and the measurement taken by scientific men employed in the survey, give it a height of 27,000 feet above the level of the sea. Many travellers well qualified to afford a very accurate guess upon the subject, are of opinion that there are peaks in the most northern portion of the Himalaya, which greatly exceed the general calculation. The following table, therefore, the result of a very careful and scientific survey, by Captains Hodson, Webb, and Herbert, may be received with confidence as affording an under, rather than an over estimate of the relative heights of these enormous peaks:—

― More ―