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(60) Great rivers, physical properties, fossile alkali, streams impregnated with minerals, inundations, Hindoo corpses, plague not known in India [[367-387]]

[[367]] The waters of the great rivers have various sources. The Ganges receives almost all the other rivers in its course, from those mountains among which it has its source, to the Bay of Chittagong, where it empties itself into the sea in an immense expanse. The properties of this river we may divide according to the countries through which it passes. Hence the various opinions entertained of its qualities. These have been generally [[368]] mentioned in a loose, indiscriminate manner, without distinguishing the various soils whereby its purity must be affected, in a country where, as in Egypt, annual inundations prevail; or where, at least, such immense rains fall as would astonish a person not habituated to the most impetuous showers.

The Ganges takes its rise at the back of the Kammow Hills, beyond Hurdwar, where it issues forth a narrow but rapid stream from among broken rocks, and soon spreads to some extent in the fertile plains of the Rohilcund district, which it divides from the province of Delhi. The natives of India rarely venture beyond Hurdwar. They have, however, an opinion that the true Ganga, as they term the Ganges, originates at that spot; and considering the cow as the greatest blessing given to mankind, emphatically term it the Cow's Mouth; implying thereby the purity, as well as the value, of the waters.

But those mountains which give birth to the Ganges are likewise the sources of the Barampooter, a river exceeding even the Ganges in capacity. These two immense streams deviate at their origin to opposite quarters: the Ganges proceeding westward, and the Barampooter to the east. The former, after winding at the back of the Kammow and Nagrocote Mountains, passes Hurdwar; and, proceeding in a devious track through the plains of Oude, Allahabad, Benares, Bahar, Jungleterry, Mauldah, Comercally, Dacca, and other subordinate districts, receives the Luckyah, as a branch from the Barampooter, and a few miles below Dacca unites with that river; whence, under the designation of the Megna, they pursue their course for about sixty miles to the eastern part of the Bay of Bengal, forming by their junction a [[369]] volume of water increasing from about seven to twenty miles in width.

In the upper country, the Ganges receives various inferior streams, such as the Doojoorah, the Cally-Nuddy, the Goombeerah, the Gunduck, the Mahanuddy, the Rooee, the Jumma, the Goomty, the Carimnassa, the Gogra (or Dewah), the Soane, the Coosah, and various other streams not vying in extent with the Ganges, but generally equal to the Thames at London. The Gogra, the Soane, and the Goosah are indeed rivers of the second class, as wide as the Thames at Gravesend.

From Sooty, which is in the Jungleterry district, the Ganges throws off a considerable branch. This, widening in a curious manner, under the name of the Baug-Retty, passes Moorshedabad, formerly the seat of the government of Bengal under Sooraja Dowlah, Meer Jaffier, and their ancestors. At length, after a course of about 150 miles, it meets at Nuddeah with the Jellinghy, also detached from the Ganges, whence the two form a large river under the name of the Hoogly which, flowing under Hoogly, Bandel, Chinsurah, Chandernagore, Serampore, Calcutta, and many inferior places, empties itself into the western end of the Bay of Bengal, having previously received the Roopna-riam and the Dummoodah.

In its course from Bagwangolah, which stands near to Sooty, the Ganges sends a great variety of small streams through the Jessore and Mahomedpore districts. These, meeting with large inlets from the sea, form an immense labyrinth of deep waters, intersecting that wild country called the Sunderbunds, in such various mazes as to require a pilot for their navigation.

After detailing the courses of the rivers, some reasons [[370]] should be assigned for their rise and fall, as thereon many physical points of the utmost importance will be found to depend. A description of the different soils through which they pass will also assist in judging more correctly respecting the causes of that variety of character attached, in various parts, to the waters.

The Thibet Mountains, which form the north-east boundary of a long valley stretching from Napaul to Sirinaghur, are covered with snow all the year. Their height is so great that on a clear day they may be seen from the Golah at Patna, though distant little less than 300 miles. From the northwest part of this Alpine range, the Ganges and Barampooter derive their sources, as before described back to back, from the same mountains. 

To the dissolution of a part of the snow which clothes their summits, may perhaps be safely attributed a slight increase that takes place in those rivers about the middle of May, fluctuating more or less at intervals, till the periodical rains set in, generally about the middle of June. Some have ascribed their rise to heavy rains in the countries through which the streams pass; but such cannot be the true cause. I.) Because those rains must be extremely heavy if they tended to swell the rivers; the ground being parched, and requiring great moisture to saturate it. II.) The increase is not attended with any turbid appearance, such as would indisputably result from so heavy rains as after saturating the thirsty soil, to raise such large rivers often a foot or more. III. Because there are other rivers which derive their sources from the Kammow Hills and the Morungs, not so distant from the Thibet Hills but that they might be expected to receive their share of the rains, and to show some increase. Yet the rise is confined to the Ganges and Barampooter, whose sources lie among the snow-clad mountains. [[371]] IV.) Because the increase happens at the hottest time of the year, and the water loses the genial warmth imparted by the solar ray, becomes harder, and in the upper country near Annopshier, about sixty miles below the Cow's Mouth, is found at that particular season to cause acute bowel complaints, which is not the case at other seasons. Add to this, that among the natives of the countries above Hurdwar, the goiture, or wen in the throat, in some measure prevails: a strong symptom of the dissolution of snow.

The following may generally be considered as the soils peculiar to the several provinces through which the Ganges flows, after leaving Hurdwar. The west bank is generally high all the way to Benares. It consists, with little exception, of lime, concreted into irregular masses, much like roots of ginger, or Jerusalem artichokes, of various sizes, some weighing about five or six pounds, others scarcely an ounce. These are of a ginger or ash colour; though some, more mixed with the gravelly part of the soil, are of a yellowish red. This kind of concretion is known throughout India by the name of kunkur; and when burnt, yields a very inferior kind of cement, friable, and not very tenacious in regard to the body to which it is applied, nor hardening so as to resist moisture effectually.

All the rivers, therefore, which issue from the western bank, are more or less impregnated with this kind of lime; while on the opposite bank, the waters partake of a strong solution of nitre, with which most of the plains of Oude, Fyzabad, Gazypore, &c., abound. Such is the abundance that the Company prohibit the importation of saltpetre manufactured in the Nabob Vizier of Oude's dominions. Otherwise, its cheapness (being usually sold at Furruckabad for about two shillings and sixpence per [[372]] cwt.) would destroy the manufactories at Patna, where it commonly sells for double that price.

The country lying between the Ganges and the Goomty (on the eastern bank) from Currah to Benares, is replete with alkali in a fossile state, known by the name of sudjy. This is usually found on the surface, especially at the close of the rainy season, when it begins to show itself very obviously, and is pared off with mattocks; rising in large cellular strata from one to three inches in thickness, and much resembling thin free-stone, though far more porous; in this state it is carried to market, where it is purchased by the manufacturers of soap at Allahabad, Patna, and other places. It is generally combined with oil. At Calcutta it is commonly sold at about fifty per cent. profit. It is made in baskets, is of a dark colour and very moist.

It is remarkable that the inhabitants of these countries have never attended to the effects produced by these substances. On the western bank the people are subject to nephritic complaints, which they generally express under the vague term of kummer-ka-dook (pains in the back); while on the eastern bank, they are troubled with the moormoory (gripes), with which those living inland, especially from their use of tank-water, are severely afflicted.

During the rainy season, these powerful agents combine, and give birth to most alarming and excruciating maladies, which however readily yield to a few gentle cathartics, aided by congee (rice-water), by which the intestines are sheathed. The natives generally use opiates, whereby they often fix the disease. In the dry season, that is, from the end of October to the middle of June, the river water, having deposited the noxious [[373]] particles, is remarkably clear and wholesome; except when the before-mentioned rise takes place, about the middle or end of May. The bed of the river being invariably a coarse sand, occasionally blended with immense sheets of kunkur, whereof the banks are formed for miles in some parts, easily receives the lime and alkali, leaving the running waters clear, and free from those substances.

Europeans, in any situation, never drink of water fresh drawn, it being always left to stand for at least a day; during which a copious deposit takes place; in the rainy season, perhaps a full fourth of the contents of the vessel. Some gentlemen are very particular in having their water boiled.

The low plains of the Shawabad and Buxar districts, situated on the western bank of the Ganges, are chiefly cultivated with rice, while the higher parts produce white corn, opium, sugar, &c. The swamps near Saseram, bordering the range of hills at the western boundary, and which come round to Chunar, are annually in a state of partial corruption, sufficient to occasion malignant diseases. These are prevalent about November, when the sun's power promotes an astonishing evaporation, filling the air with miasma, and spreading destruction among all the living tribes.

But those waters are in themselves highly dangerous, both on account of the putrefaction of the vegetables they contain, and of the powerful coalition of various mineral streams which, having in the rainy season exceeded their ordinary limits, stray into the low country; and mix with the already deleterious mass. Finding a discharge for their redundancy by means of the multitude of fissures, or small channels, everywhere existing, these blend with the purer torrents occasioned by the [[374]] impetuous rains, and cause a fever to prevail, which, in addition to the lime and nitre already afloat, perform wonders in the cause of desolation.

This assemblage of rivulets forms that great river the Soane, which for its short course, not being more than sixty miles from its numerous sources in the hills before noticed, presents an uncommon expanse. It is generally from three quarters of a mile to two miles in breadth; but in the dry season, its stream contracts to a very narrow channel, winding in the most fanciful meanders, and causing, by its waters being dispersed in a very flat bed, more quicksands than are probably to be found in any other river.

It is worthy of remark that in that part of the world, several rivers which have sandy beds appear suddenly to be lost, owing to sand banks thrown up so high during the stream's violence, as to be above the waters when the rains have subsided. The current continues very perceptible; but as the bar prevents the water from going forward, it passes through the intervals of the very coarse grit which forms the bar, and perhaps at the distance of half a mile lower, reappears. The natives, disposed to attribute every thing extraordinary to some invisible agent, never fail to consider this as a curse upon any village that may be opposite to such a bar, under the opinion that the waters ceased to run in its vicinity on account of some known or concealed impiety perpetrated by the inhabitants.

The Gogra, or Dewah, takes its rise in the hills north of Gorackpore, dividing Nepaul from the Company's possessions. Its impetuous course rolls through a country nearly desolate, and its banks are bounded by most extensive forests and wildernesses. The soil is not so impregnated with nitre as in other parts, nor are the streams which form its volume tainted so strongly with minerals. Perhaps, [[375]] owing to the length of its course, which may be about 250 miles or more, the more weighty particles may be deposited; for it is held that this river contains less obnoxious mixtures than any part of the Ganges.

Of lime it may certainly partake, since it runs through some tracts abounding with kunkur; but its course is chiefly through clay, sand, and a species of black potter's marle, of which crockery is made in some parts of north Bahar, in imitation of our Staffordshire ware, through very inferior as to form and finishing. For this the neighbourhood of Sewah is famous.

The province of Bahar abounds in nitre; and every petty rivulet either takes its rise from some swamp strongly impregnated with it, or passes through soils yielding it profusely. Those streams that originate in the Chittrah, Ramghur, Gyah, and Monghyr Hills, are often so highly saturated with deleterious substances as to betray their bad qualities even to the eye. The Mahana, the Mutwallah, and various mountain rivers in that quarter, which rush into the Ganges between Patna and Boglepore, are frequently tinged with copper, of which some small veins are to be found.

This was experienced by the 12th battalion of native infantry marching from Patna to the Ramghur station, when the whole corps were so extremely affected by the water; as scarcely to be able to ascend from the camp, then at Dungaie, to the summit of the Kanachitty Pass; such was the state to which it had, by its cupreous solution, reduced both men and beasts. Fortunately, it was very cold weather, and the use made of the waters had been very limited.

Some officers of the same corps being on a shooting party, during the next year, happened to encamp at Dungaie. The kettle had been put on; the water, indeed, was ready for breakfast; but the gentlemen, on alighting [[376]] from their horses as usual, had water brought them to wash; when the contraction it occasioned in their mouths instantly reminded them of their former escape, and thereby set them on their guard. They found, on enquiry, that either for want of memory, or through indolence, their servants had taken the water from the rivulet running at the foot of the pass, instead of drawing it from a well in the town, which was at no great distance.

Many such streams pour into the Ganges, either singly, or in conjunction with others. As to chalybeate influence, that cannot be wanting; for the whole range of hills in the elevated parts of Ramghur, Rotas, Chittrah, Tomar, Pachete, Berboom, Ragonautpore, Midnapore, &c., may be termed one mass of iron; lying in huge projections exposed to view, and giving the soil a strong rust colour. The natives in those parts fuse immense quantities for

The country from Benares to Patna is generally fertile in the extreme, abounding in rich plains, and affording far purer water than is to be found above that interval. At Gazypore and Buxar the waters receive no additional adulteration, except from the Caramnassa, which certainly is an impure stream. Such it is especially regarded by the natives, particularly by the immense hordes of pilgrims and devotees who cross this river between Saseram and Benares, on their way from the Maharrattah country, to visit the holy Hindoo city of Kassi, which is the name they give to Benares.

A rich man, residing as far off as Poonah, the capital of the Maharrattah empire, near Bombay, bequeathed a large sum of money for building a bridge, thereby to obviate the necessity pious travellers were under of being carried over on the backs of men, who gained a livelihood by transporting those who, from over-nice scruples, would not wade through this stream, as they [[377]] must have done through hundred of others, before they got so near their holy object.

Unhappily for those scrupulous devotees, the bridge has decayed, till it seems unlikely to perform its office. The soil being sandy, and the architect understanding but little of his profession, piers had repeatedly been raised to about seven or eight feet high, but always gave way; so that the poor itinerants must still pay their pence, and ride across as before; unless the edifice be entrusted to European architects.

The Coosah comes down from the Morungs, a wild, mountainous country, replete with impenetrable forests, and containing a few minerals. On that head, however, little is known; the extent of the wilds rendering it impossible to explore the supposed riches contained in the bosom of the mountains. From this quarter, and the continuance of the forest before described, which stretches eastward to Assam, and westward to Peelabeet, or further, the whole of the lower countries are supplied with saul and sissoo timbers, and some firs.

Quitting the country in which it has its rise, the Coosah, after a foaming course of about forty miles, enters the extensive plains of Purneah, through which it passes in a more tranquil state, though ever rapid, till it joins the Ganges a little below Colgong, which stands on the opposite bank, and where the Termahony, a small sluggish stream, in breadth about eighty or a hundred yards, blends its waters with the great river. The Termahony is very deep and, in the rainy season, equally impetuous. Like the Coosah, it flows during its short course chiefly through a flat country, and as the soils in this part are sabulous, the effects of the waters on the inhabitants are not remarkable.

The Ganges may be considered as far more pure [[378]] between Raje-Mahal, in the Jungleterry district, and Mauldah, or Bagwangolah, than for some distance above. During the dry season, it is remarkable for the clearness and lightness of its waters. During the rainy season they are greatly changed, when the immense inundation which prevails throughout Bengal, properly so called, and which, moving in general at a rate not exceeding half a mile in the hour, may be considered as stagnant.

We now lose the great body of sand which in all the upper country forms the bed, not only of the Ganges, but of every river whose course continues uninterrupted during the dry season, though its stream may become insignificant. Here it should be remarked, that sandy beds generally produce the finest beverage, and that the water will be found more pure in proportion as the sand is coarse. Hence the waters in the deep parts of such streams are invariably the sweetest; for the coarse sand will naturally find its way to the greatest depths, at the same time precipitating the impurities. On the contrary, the light floating sands, which every little motion will agitate, set the impurities also in action. Such are generally found on the borders of the stream, whence most persons derive their supplies, and where it may usually be seen in an active state; or, if at rest, blended with slime, or fibrous substances.

We should ever remember the different effects of fine and coarse sand as strainers. Coarse sand allows heavy or coarse bodies to pass through it freely, provided the particles be not adhesive, or too gross for filtration. Thus when such sand is deposited in the bed of a river, the lesser particles of lime, or of minerals and their ores, will sink and remain fixed. Not so with fine sand. This has a greater tendency to compactness and, gradually filling up the smallest intervals, becomes firm, and [[379]] resists all admixture with heterogeneous substances. These substances must of necessity remain on their surface, subject to be taken up by water. Persons accustomed to filtration know that owing to this tendency, fine sand is the best medium to filter through, while coarse sand is preferable for the purposes of precipitation.

The inundation which overflows Bengal, especially in the districts of Nattore, Dacca, Jessore, the southern parts of Rungpore, and a part of Mahomed-Shi, is perhaps one of the most curious phenomena of nature. The wisdom of the Creator conspicuously appears in the appropriation of sustenance both for the human and the brute species, suited to this annual visitation of the waters. However copious the rains in the southern provinces, though they might become boggy, and be partially inundated where the lands were low; yet without the influx of these immense streams, which owing to the declivity of the surface pour down from the upper country, Bengal would, at such seasons, be but a miry plain, or a shallow morass.

The great inundation does not generally take place till a month after the period when the rains have, according to the phrase in use, set in. The thirsty soils of Oude, Coreh, Allahabad, Benares, Gazypore, Patna, Rungpore, Boglepore, Purneah, and all beyond the 25th degree of latitude, require much moisture to saturate them; as do also those parched plains into which they ultimately pour their streams, before any part of the soil can be covered. Indeed, such is the state of the southern provinces, after the cold season, that the rich friable soil in which they abound is seen cake-dried and cracked by fissures many inches broad, as though some great convulsion of nature had been exerted to rend the surface into innumerable divisions.

[[380]] Under the circumstances of a flood which lasts for many months, fluctuating from the middle or end of July to the beginning of October (though in low situations the water does not drain off before the middle of December), the inhabitants may be supposed to suffer all the miseries of a general ruin and subsequent scarcity. The reverse is, however, the case; for unless the rains fall in such torrents as to wash away their habitations, and to occasion a rise in the fluid plain so rapid as to overwhelm the growing rice, the more ample the bursauty (the rains), the more plentiful is the crop, and generally the less sickly the season.

This will appear sufficiently credible on considering that amplitude of inundation serves not only to divide the septic matter contained in the water, but also to accelerate its action, and to cause its proceeding with added impetus to discharge itself into the bay. At this season, rivers are only known by the currents, and consequent swells, which appear amidst this temporary ocean. The navigation, for several months, assumes a new appearance. Vessels of great burthen, perhaps of two thousand maunds (each 80lb.), equal to nearly one hundred tons, are seen traversing the country in all directions, principally with the wind, which is then within a few points on either side of south.

Noted cities, exalted mosques, and populous gunjes, or grain-markets, on the river's bank, are no objects of attention. The boatman, having set his enormous square sail, proceeds by guess, or perhaps is guided by experience, through the fields of rice which every where raise their tasseled heads, seeming to invite the reaper to collect the precious grain. The depth of water is generally from ten to thirty feet, as the country may be more or less elevated.

[[381]] It is curious to sail among these insulated towns. At this season they appear almost level with the surrounding element, and hemmed in by their numerous dingies, or boats. These, exclusive of the necessity for preparing against an over-abundant inundation, are requisite for the purposes of cutting the paddy, rice being so called while in the husk.

When the final secession of the inundation is about to commence, the whole of the boats are in motion, and the paddy is cut with astonishing celerity. It is fortunate that, owing to the country on the borders of the sea being higher than the inundated country, the waters cannot draw off faster than they find vent, by means of the rivers which discharge themselves into the Bay of Bengal. The growing rice would otherwise be subject to various fluctuations unsuited to its nature, and causing the straw to bend. Thus its growth would be injured, even if recovered from its reclined state so as again to assume on the surface a vigorous appearance.

The waters of the inundation, it will be seen, are a mixture of all the streams flowing from every part of the extensive valley formed by the ranges of mountains stretching from Chittagong to Loll Dong, or Hurdwar, on the east and north-east, and from Midnapore to Lahore, on the west and north-west, a course of not less than fifteen hundred miles, and generally from two to four miles in breadth. It may be supposed that by these tributary streams, many impurities must be conveyed, as already particularized. To these must be added the offensive, and certainly not salutary, effect produced by the Hindoo custom of consigning every corpse to the waters of the Ganges, or of any stream that flows into it.

The Hindoo religion requires that the deceased should [[382]] be burnt to ashes on the borders of the Ganges, and that those ashes, with all the remnants of wood used in the pile, together with the small truck bedstead on which the body was brought from the habitation to the riverside, should be committed to the stream. The wholesomeness of such a practice, in a country where, putrefaction proceeding so rapidly, infection and its effects are prodigiously extensive, cannot be disputed. Such an ordinance may vie with the acts of any other legislator, however enlightened.

But either the poverty, the indolence, or the sordidness of the people has converted this wholesome precaution into a perfect nuisance. From fifty to a hundred bodies, in different stages of putrefaction, may be seen floating past any one spot within the course of a day. These having been placed on a scanty pile, and that not suffered to do its office, either on account of hot, cold, or wet weather, have been pushed by means of a bamboo pole into the stream, to the great annoyance of travellers by water, and all persons abiding near those eddies. The nuisance may be kept circling for days, till forcibly removed, or till the pariah dogs swim in and drag the carcase to the shore. It then speedily becomes their prey, or that of carrion birds.

Amidst such a combination of putrid animal and vegetable substance, of mineral adulteration, and of the miasma naturally arising from the almost sudden exposure of an immense residuum of slime, &c.; added to the cessation of the pure sea air, the wind changing after the rains from the southerly to the northerly points, are we to wonder at the malignancy of those fevers prevalent throughout the province of Bengal Proper, from the end of September to the early part of January, when the [[383]] swamps are generally brought into narrow limits, and the air is laden with noxious vapours?

Though it appears that the general sickness prevailing throughout Bengal at this season is induced by nearly the same causes which, according to our best informations, engender the yellow fever in America, yet no symptom of that alarming complaint has ever been known in India, nor does the bilious, or putrid, fever of Bengal at all assimilate as to symptoms with the American malady. It is common to see whole villages in a state of jaundice, and the ravages of the disease are, in some years, truly formidable: but though it may be deemed epidemic, we may at the same time annex an endemic distinction, as to each village separately.

Except in cases of putrid accession, or of obvious typhus, there does not seem any danger of infection; and it has been proved that the malady, by proper care, may be wholly averted. At several civil stations, and at some of the principal military cantonments, formerly considered as the emporium of fever, the inhabitants have preserved an ordinary state of health merely by cutting a few drains, or by banking up such places as formerly proved inlets to inundate plains which now remain sufficiently free from water to allow of pasturage during the whole of the rainy season.

The confinement occasioned by a long term of rain necessarily alters the habit; while the incumbent atmosphere, laden with moisture, at the same moment disposes the system to the reception, or the generation, of disease. The poor native does not change his diet, and probably retains the same damp clothes for many days. In case of illness, his temperate system of living seems to be his greatest aid: those medicines that in him effect a great [[384]] change, being being found comparatively feeble when administered either to one of a dissolute life or to Europeans. These, being accustomed to a mode of living more substantial and stimulant, can be acted upon only by the more potent of the materia medica.

It has often been asked with surprise how it happens that the plague has never visited Bengal. The question was founded on the supposed affinity between that country and Egypt, as to annual innundations, and the narrowness, as well as the filth, of the streets in great cities. These, if the conjecture were correct, would induce pestilence, as the same causes are said to operate in Turkey. The case is widely different in Egypt: though the lands are inundated, rain is scarcely ever known; the floods coming from the southerly mountains. Hence the inhabitants suffer all the disadvantages of a hot atmosphere, during eight months in the year; and for the remaining four, are exposed to the insalubrity occasioned by the inundation, especially when draining off.

As to the narrowness of the streets, and the filth they contain, something may be said in alleviation. The houses in Turkey are much higher than those in India, and built of more solid materials. The inhabitants also, though universally the followers of Mahomed, partake of some of the bad habits of the neighbouring countries; and being in a more variable climate, more pointed attention is paid in their edifices to durability and closeness. In India the utmost jealousy subsists between Moosulmans and the Hindoos, but the latter are most numerous in every place, even in cities where Moosulman princes hold their durbars, or courts.

This jealousy occasions the Hindoos to regard as a contamination every vestige of a Moosalman; and, as ablutions are enjoined by the Hindoo law even more than by the Moosulman's book [[385]] of faith, the Koran, we may consider the person of a Hindoo to be as clean and wholesome as repeated washings can make it. He wears only a small lock of hair, growing from a spot on the crown of the head, about the size of a dollar. His clothes are washed as often as his body; and on the whole, it appears almost impossible for him to contract any disease arising from, or communicated through, a deficiency of individual cleanliness.

The houses of the natives throughout India, if we except about one-third of Benares, a twentieth of Patna, the same of Moorshadabad, and a very small part of the Black Town of Calcutta, are built of mats, bamboos, and straw. In the latter, under late regulations, they have been tiled. The generality of village-huts are built with mud walls. On the whole, however, whether from cracks in the walls, or intervals between them and the thatches, windows, &c., the air finds a free course throughout. To this may be added, that the natives do not sleep on feather beds, flock, &c., but generally on mats of reeds. This of itself may be considered as a preventive against infection.

The fires kept up in the houses of natives in Turkey are in fixed stoves, or under chimneys, which do not answer the purposes of fumigation. Whereas the Indian, by means of a movable stove, unintentionally fumigates the whole house, making the eyes of all smart with the smoke. This fuel is not bituminous but, in every situatioin, either wood, or the dried dung of cattle. Besides, the floor of a Hindoo's house is, perhaps daily, washed with a thick solution of cow-dung, whence a freshness is diffused, not perhaps very gratifying in point of savour to an European's nostrils, but assuredly antiseptic, and answering various good purposes, especially as the walls, to the height of three or four feet, are smeared with the same [[386]] mixture. The use of tobacco is common to both Turkey and India, and may be considered as contributing to resist the damps during the rainy season, as well as infection.

As to apprehensions arising from filth, fortunately they are not better founded than those just noticed, from the narrowness of the streets. This lucky escape from disease is not, however, attributable to attention on the part of the natives individually, or to the fostering care of the native governments. Towns of any importance are generally built on the borders of navigable rivers, which abound throughout the country. The swarms of vultures, kites, crows, and of a large kind of butcher bird, standing at least six feet high, called the argeelah, added to the immense numbers of pariah dogs, generally roving at liberty, and having no owner; together with a multitude of jackals, that patrol the cities, as well as the plains, during the night; all contribute to remove whatever carrion, or putrescent matter, they can discover.

Williamson 1810 vol. 2: ((267)) It would not, perhaps, be so easy to keep cities in a state of tolerable cleanliness in such a hot climate, if the inhabitants subsisted on butchers' meat. The shambles alone would prove highly offensive: it is therefore fortunate that the natives make rice and vegetables their principal food. There being no privies attached to houses in general, is an additional benefit; though accompanied with some small inconvenience, it being requisite to walk to the outskirts of the city, or, eventually, among some ruins, on all occasions.

The privies of the higher orders of natives, and of Europeans in general, are built on a plan which admits of instantly removing the filth; a practice never neglected by a servant, whose office consists only ((268)) in that duty, and in sweeping the house at various times of the day.

The argeelah, just mentioned, may be occasionally seen all the year round, but generally comes with the first showers in June, and stays till the cold season is far advanced. It then retires to breed, into the heavy covers on the borders of the large unfrequented lakes near the mountains. This bird has been fully described in the representation of the Ganges breaking its banks, in the Wild Sports of India. It is by some called the bone-eater, from its peculiar powers of digestion; swallowing whole joints, such as a leg of lamb; and after the meat has been digested, returning the bone as clean as though it. had been boiled for a whole day.

The fitness of this bird to eat the most putrid substances has been sufficiently proved by rubbing an ounce or more of emetic tartar into a piece of meat, which an argeelah has swallowed [[386]] without showing any symptoms of uneasiness, though for hours after very closely watched. From this it may be inferred, that ordinary stimulants do not disagree with the stomach of this unsightly, but innocent and useful, animal.


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