A Scotsman in the Himalayas, Part 6


"Bheem ke Udar"
'Views in the Himalayas', 1820

Sep 05, 2017 — CANADA (SUN) — Excerpts from the journal of an artist on expedition to the Himalayas.

Today's coloured aquatint was made by Robert Havell and Son from plate 7 of James Baillie Fraser's Views in the Himala Mountains. While crossing the mountain pass between the valleys of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, on their way to the source of the latter, Fraser and his party spent a night at this spot. It is named after Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers. Fraser wrote:

"Our encamping ground was ... a cave under a large stone, called Bheem-Ke-Udar; in a dry night it is sufficiently comfortable, but rain would readily beat in. In this cavern, and under a few other large stones around it, there was some shelter, though scanty for our company."

Fraser's travel journal goes on to provide the following details of the region:

"…we descended gradually, passing through the ruined village of Paria, to the confluence of two nullahs, the Doocun-Ke-Gadh, and the Birain, or Bheem-Ke-Gadh. The road was in some places steep, difficult, and bad; and the immediate descent to the beds extremely precipitous.

Doocun-Ke-Gadh is the least considerable in course and size, and takes its rise in Ooncha-Ke-Dhar. Bheem-Ke-Gadh is little inferior to the Jumna in size, and comes from one of the ranges springing from Soomeroo-Purbut, called Bheem-Ke-Dhar [Bheem ke Udar], which we shall pass on our way to the Bhagiruttee. We crossed it here by a temporary bridge.

We now entered on a very steep ascent, to the top of a hill that intervened between us and Bunderpouch, whence a very fine view of the range was obtained. The first part of this is a steep slanting path, on a grassy slope; after which it leads among huge fragments of rock and old and noble forest trees, which form a complete shade, but shut out all view. At length we arrived at an open space, covered with a thick carpet of flowers and strawberries, whence the desired range of vision was fully possessed. We enjoyed it, however, but for a moment; for clouds, as usual, soon concealed all from our sight.

This was a delicious spot; and we remained here a long while: we had not the shadow of trees, nor did we want them. The cold wind, which blew gently off the snow, rendered the sun, which shone bright, rather a comfort than an annoyance.

From this station we had a far nobler and more satisfactory view of Bunderpouch than we had hitherto enjoyed, or would probably have again. It is a prodigious mountain; though, from our close vicinity, and comparatively low situation, we could not conceive its full height. Two lofty and massy peaks rise high above the rest, deep in snow, from which all the other inferior ridges seem to have their origin. These peaks are connected by a sharp neck, considerably lower than themselves.

The south and south-east exposure is the least steep, and bears a great depth of pure unbroken snow. Little or no rock is seen, except a few points at the ridge of the connecting neck, where it is too sharp and steep for snow to lie; and there it appears of a red colour. Here and there lofty precipices are seen in the snow itself, where the lower parts have melted, and masses have given way and slidden down to the ravines below, leaving a face several hundred feet high, that shows the depth of snow which has accumulated for ages.

The formation of the valley through which we have journeyed, and the size and the direction of the ridges, as they spring from this great centre, are here finely traced. From a point to our right, as we looked to the mountain, a ridge strikes off to the southward and westward, which ends in a small nullah at a short distance in our front: this Dhar is called Kylaroo. To the west of this, and nearly north-east of us, another large mass runs down, called Doomun-Kundee, forming between itself and Kylaroo a basin, whence comes the Oonta Gunga.

Further to the westward, a considerable way to our left, a range, consisting of many high and irregular masses, taking its rise from Damaeen, a continuation of Bunderpouch, forms the western side of the valley; and, between this range and Doomun-Kundee, the Jumna is formed from many sources in the snow.

The Oonta Gunga and Jumna unite at the point of a level piece of land, lying at the foot of Doomun-Kundee, which thus, in fact, subdivides the valley into those, giving birth to these two rivers, which are nearly equal in size.

The name of Bunderpouch properly applies only to the highest peaks of this mountain: all the subordinate peaks and ridges have their own peculiar names. Jumnotree has reference only to the sacred spot where worship is paid to the goddess, and ablution is performed. There are said to be four peaks which form the top of Bunderpouch, only two of which are seen from hence; and in the cavity or hollow contained between them tradition places a lake or tank, of very peculiar sanctity. No one has ever seen this pool, for no one has ever even attempted to ascend any of these prodigious peaks.

Besides the physical difficulties, there is one to be encountered far more conclusive than any other… The goddess has especially prohibited any mortal from passing that spot appointed for her worship. A fuqeer [fakir] once lost his way in attempting to reach Jumnotree, and was ascending the mountain, till he reached the snow, where he heard a voice inquiring what he wanted; and, on his answering, a mass of snow detached itself from the side of the hill, and the voice desired him to worship where this snow stopped; that Jumna was not to be too closely approached or intruded on in her recesses; that he should publish this, and return no more, under penalty of death. Indeed, I suspect this prohibition to be unnecessary, to prevent an ascent to or near the top of any of these snowy peaks: even the extreme steepness, the rugged nature of the rock, where it is bare, and the hard slippery smoothness of the snow, are, independent of the immense height and consequent fatigue to be borne, sufficient obstacles to such an attempt…

Bunderpouch signifies "monkey's tail." It is said that Hoonooman [Hanuman], after his conquest of Lunka, or Ceylon, in shape of a monkey, when he had set that island on fire by means of a quantity of combustible matter tied to his tail, being afraid of the flame reaching himself, was about to dip it in the sea (Sumunder) to extinguish it; but the sea remonstrated with him, on account of the probable consequences to the numerous inhabitants of its waters: whereupon Hoonooman plunged his burning tail in this lake, which ever since has retained the name.

Another account relates that Hoonooman laid his tail on the shore, while Sumunder laved water on it, and so extinguished it. There seems to be some confusion between Sumunder and the lake on the mountain top, for which no distinct name is given; but there is none with regard to the name of the mountain, which is universal in the country.

The zemindars aver that every year, in the month Phagun, a single monkey comes from the plains, by way of Hurdooar [Haridwar], and ascends the highest peak of this mountain, where he remains twelve months, and returns to give room to another; but his entertainment must be very indifferent and inhospitable, as may be inferred from the nature of the place; for he returns in very bad plight, being not only reduced almost to a skeleton, but having lost his hair and great part of his skin.


The Sun News Editorials Features Sun Blogs Classifieds Events Recipes PodCasts

About Submit an Article Contact Us Advertise HareKrsna.com

Copyright 2005, 2017, HareKrsna.com. All rights reserved.