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save the space of a few feet: the narrow pent up river, rushing with the rapidity of a mill stream under the influence of the rains and a mere thread as soon as they have ceased, and the wide spread expanse, a genuine sea in the months of July and August, a dreary succession of sand banks, with a few pools of water between them for the remaining months of the year. We have everything, in short, save the clear pebbly streams which are sometimes to be found at the foot of the snowy range to remind us of the trout rivers of Scotland and Wales. It is often hard to ascertain whence these rivers take their rise. Sometimes they seem to run not into, but out of each other, and sometimes they are off-shoots of the great Ganges, the father of the tribe. Here they meet us under one name, and twenty miles farther down they are known by another, without any proof that they have changed their nature in the interim. Their windings, crossings, and different appellations often seem to baffle all correctness in geography or surveying. But large or small, all that are connected with the Ganges or Podma by a remote and intermediate, but regular number of steps, swell and decrease in conformity with their common parent. Fed by the melting of the snow and aided by the rains, the great river comes down" on the plains, gradually it may be, and with due warning of its approach. But once fairly come down" and few barriers can stay its course, every stream within the magic circle feels the impulse, and when they have received their full complement, the plains between come in for their portion. Often places within thirty and even forty miles of the Podma's banks have acknowledged its paramount sway, and the common dinghy, nay! even the ten-oared Bauleah have sailed without obstacle over the plain where five months after their owners might walk dry-shod.
The plains of Bengal, as affected by the rainy season, may be said to consist of three kinds. 1. The high and sandy soils secure from the caprices of streams and quite ready to receive any amount of rain which the clouds may shower down. 2. Those influenced by no streams, but which from their clayey soil and low situation are swamps for at least seven months out of the twelve. 3. Those which suffer from the periodical inundation of large rivers, such as the Podma in the central districts, the Burrampúter to the East, and the Damúda and Rup Narayan to the West. With regard to the first of these little need be said. Light and sandy soils are not always the most productive, but their produce is safe and their first and second crop are gathered in with regularity. For these we can desire nothing beyond a tranquil population, a mild Zemindar, and in the language of the most witty divine of this age, a clear highway, a stout con
stable, and all the other accompaniments of good government. With regard to the second of this class we believe that a good deal might be done in the way of damming or cutting nullahs in direct connection with some river which has a free but not too fierce current in the rains and a moderate one in the remainder of the year. Nearly all streams in Bengal carry a deposit, and wherever ostentation or a worthier motive has dictated an attempt of the kind, most beneficial results have invariably ensued. A khal has been cut : one party, for there will often be a sharp contention before the matter is settled, says, to admit the waters with detriment to the country, and the other to let them out with advantage. But no matter, in the end the stream and the rush of waters have had their effect: an impulse has been given to the stagnant waters, July and August send their fertilizing deposit of ooze and sand, and in four or five years' time, a real metamorphose takes place almost rivalling the imaginary transformations of any Eastern Fairy tale. The jbíl or bbíl is converted into a firm plain : the haunt of the wild Duck and of those myriads of aquatic birds which flock to Bengal, into the regular rice field with its divisional bunds of earth : the tall null jungle is succeeded by the fruit tree: the wretched fisherman's temporary hut of leaves by the neat and regularly raised dwelling place of the grihastha. The earth pays her tribute not in precarious and uncertain quotas, but by the full measure of a regular harvest: man has been fruitful, and some portion of that blessing is imparted which has never failed to wait on those who replenish and subdue the earth.
Thus much for the second class. The third is of greater importance, and more extended in its field of operations, and as such can be but little affected by private munificence. It is a subject on which the highest efforts of human labour directed by unwearied industry and triumphant skill, have been exercised in other ages and countries remote from the banks of the Ganges. Those who have seen the broad ocean leaning against the land, or tossing in impotence against those mighty barriers which the patient Dutchman has erected, may be tempted to speculate for a moment, whether if the destinies of India had been committed to that nation, which at one time seemed almost to dispute with us our footing in Bengal—we should have seen similar mounds towering on the banks of the Ganges, to stem waves of less force only than those of the ocean, or the sluice and floodgate placed in due succession to regulate that influx of waters which cannot altogether be stayed. On this subject, however, it is needless to dwell, as it has been already treated of in a separate paper, in our last number. Such undertakings, it is freely
confessed, are fraught with difficulties sufficient to employ the concentrated energies of a nation; but, if prosecuted with skill and perseverance, the returns may be thirty, or sixty or even an hundred fold. The primary obstacles are always great, and additional difficulties supervene when it is discovered that the bed of the river rises every year so as to be, in time, above the actual level of the surrounding country. Bunds have been indeed formed wherever the vicinity of a station has rendered it necessary, but we must insist upon it, that hitherto they have been generally formed without system or scientific art—and that the plan of a duly regulated series of sluices and floodgates has not yet been sufficiently tried. Those who have seen the fine tracts desolated every year by the inundation of large rivers, will not wonder at our earnestness in again pressing this momentous subject on the attention of Government. Yet good finds its way out of evil. Ormuzd and Ahriman are seen side by side in Bengal as well as in Persia. The Ganges never fails to bring its yearly deposit of sand and ooze, and the Ryots may almost rejoice on beholding the rich layer of mould which remains after the deluge has passed away, available for the cold weather crop
Swamps and Bhíls are not suffered to stagnate without paying some tribute to the Royt. Jungle of various kinds, null, húgla, pati, with sundry others of still more barbarous appellation, flourish in water and mud, and are mainly used for thatching or sometimes for weaving baskets. But with regard to the finny tribe the productiveness of Bengal is most seen, and the population may be termed Ichthyophagous in the strictestand widest
Over abundance of any article of general consumption, it is well said, may be a bar to energy or to invention, and cause prodigality and sloth. On the other hand scarcity of provender tends to a certain extent to sharpen and refine. The savage in pursuit of feathered or four-footed game in some vast jungle where nature conceals her subjects from the hand of man, exerts his ingenuity to capture the creatures that serve for his precarious meal or his scanty covering. His arrow and his hooks are sharp, and his correctness of hand and eye worthy the admiration of the more civilized sportsman with his polished engines of destruction. In Bengal it is just the reverse. The infinite plenty of fish in her tanks and jhíls has a tendency to foster carelessness. The fisherman's craft wants two if not all those great efficients, which, according to political economists, determine the productiveness of labour and the consequent increase of wealth.
It is not directed by any great amount of skill, it is not always exerted with continuity,
and it is certainly not aided by any remarkable power. Why, indeed, should it be, when in the rains at least, fish are to be had in every drain, ditch, pool or puddle of water for the mere catching? Where they come from in such plenty, by what channels they introduce themselves into the strangest and most improbable localities, is a mystery, which at first sight seems inexplicable. But the truth is that all streams and reservoirs which do not fail in the hot weather, hold their myriad tribes. The rains descend, and the tank overflows, the jhíl extends its limits, the rising river runs up every gully and creek with which it has connection, and the liberated fish wander, literally, over the whole face of the country. The Ryot is well prepared to give them a warm reception with very little labour to himself. A common fish weir or basket is put down in a drain by the road side, for a night, with an earthen pot at the end to receive the wanderers, on something of the principle by which elephants are caught in a kraal. In the plain further on, and in the very midst of the growing rice crop, the same sort of fish weir is fixed with perhaps à little more labour and skill, and often in the very middle of the dry season the Ryot may be seen constructing his small trenches, which eventually are to lead the waters and their denizens to the never-failing fish weir at the termination--for as surely as the rains descend, so surely will the finny tribes swarm wherever there is water of three inches in depth.
But a far more slovenly mode of catching fish remains to be told. When the large jhíl is nearly dry or contains only two feet or so of water in its whole expanse, twenty or thirty men station themselves in a line each with a common basket, which they hold in an inverted position. They then march in regimental order steadily across the jhíl, and constantly drop their baskets on the waters, pressing them down to the bottom for the mere chance of finding a fish in the space enclosed. Of course success does not attend their efforts once in twenty times. But still every now and then an internal motion of the basket gives signs that a fish has fallen victim to the doctrine of chances. The labour is not very great, nor the machinery very expensive, and the produce of the hunt, for it is no less, in the end is quite sufficient to supply the Ryots' evening meal or to add something to his purse. We mention the above instances, because it is from peculiarities like these that we can most readily understand how so much plenty and so much poverty, such riches and such debasement mark the population on the banks of the Lower Ganges.
We now turn to a different subject, the intercourse over these
vast and fruitful plains. It is allowed that a facility of intercourse between distant places is one of the grestest helps to civilization, and we need hardly say that without
permanent roads all intercourse must be precarious and limited. The ancient world were practically well aware of this truth. A Roman poet in a pleasing but delusive description of that remote time which his fancy delighted to represent as the golden age, and which sober truth often realizes as one of primeval barbarism-places " the making of long roads” as the first step to civilization and its train of attendant ills. An old Greek legion represents the sons of Vulcan as "road-makers," thus practically carrying out the principles of the great father of all art, and we well know from the evidence of our own country the high value which the Romans set on their aqueducts and roads. The old Roman roads speak for themselves. They were imprinted, as it were, on the physical face of every country subjugated by the she-wolf, just as her laws and institutions were on the moral, and their remains teach us a lesson which should never be forgotten. It is for us to see how far the British Government in India have followed the example of the great nation of antiquity in one of the points where her example is most worthy of imitation. A glance at Tassin's map shows the reader a perfect net work of roads, crossing each other in all directions and passing over low tracts of country and rivers of all sizes with an apparent facility which leads the eye of the imagination to picture to itself embankments and bridges carefully laid down and repaired every season under the vigilance of directing authority. But alas! The above is a pleasing hallucination, and it is not too far from the truth to say that, as a general rule, there are no roads in Bengal. We should say that there are no roads because it is hardly sufficient to mark out a track over the plain by cutting a small ditch on one or both sides some six inches in depth, and raising the intermediate space to a corresponding heighth. Yet such was the plan too often pursued by those who were charged with this important branch of works some thirty or forty years ago. Here and there a little more labour was expended.' Bridges were built at those places where the rush of waters in the rains was considerable: embankments were raised and deep ditches dug on both sides where necessary, and the road itself generally, made some six or eight feet higher than the level of the surrounding country. But roads must not merely be made. They must be kept in that repair which the nature of the climate imperatively demands in addition to the common wear and tear of traffic. Where this has not been done, the