Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small]

from five to twenty-five miles in breadth, separates these countries from the Great Plain of India. This terai is exceedingly fertile. Great forest trees cover it; wild animals haunt it; but men shun it as a place of abode. The climate is so unhealthy that the villagers in its vicinity call it “Mar,” which means death. It is like a dividing wall between the cool uplands to the north and the hot lowlands to the south ; and although it is such a narrow strip, it forms a complete natural barrier between the people living on the one side and those living on the other.

4. The Great Plain stretches from the River Indus on the west to the Assam Mountains on the east, a distance of 2,000 miles, and more. The western portion includes the Plain of the Indus; and the Plain of the Ganges and Brahmaputra forms the eastern portion.

5. The eastern wing of the Great Plain is one of the most fertile and best watered regions in the world. The soil is alluvial, that is, it is made up of deposits brought down in the course of ages by the rivers from the hills. It is said to be so fine that one may go from one end of the plain to the other without finding a large pebble. The Plain of the Ganges is the "garden of Îndia.” It yields great crops of sugar-cane, cotton and indigo, rice and wheat, opium, tobacco, and hemp, and supports a teeming population nearly four times as great as that of England and Wales. The eastern end of this plain consists of a great group of marshy islands, called the Sundarbans, which form the delta of the Ganges. The islands are separated by multitudes of narrow channels, and are overgrown by forest and jungle, the home of the tiger, wild buffalo, wild dog, deer, and innumerable monkeys.

6. The western wing of the Great Plain—the Plain of the Indus—differs very much from the eastern. The northern portion is the Panjab, the country of the five rivers. The flat tracts between the rivers are called 66 doabs.” South of the Panjab for nearly 500 miles is the sandy desert of the Indus, and beyond this, about the Lower Indus, come the dusty plains of Sind. Further

[ocr errors]

south still, on the coast, is a strange tract of country, called the Ranns of Kachh, or Cutch, a level plain 150 miles in length. Vegetation is totally absent from this district. In the dry season it is a firm level plain, saturated with salt. During the south-west monsoon the tides flow over and cover it to the depth of one or two feet.

7. Southwards from the Great Plain the country consists of great table-lands, bounded on every side by mountain ranges.

Those on the north rise from the Great Plain, and those on the east and west at varying distances from the sea.

8. In the north-west there are two parallel chains of mountains running in a north-east direction, from near the Gulf of Cambay to the Plain of the Ganges. These are the Aravali and the Vindhya Mountains. The smaller plateau of Malwa, about 2,000 feet above the sea,

lies between them.

9. The vast plateau of the Deccan is bounded on the east and west by lofty mountains, called Gháts,* and on the south by the Nilgiri, or Blue Mountains, which connect the Eastern and Western Ghats. Between the Gháts and the sea are low strips of level land, varying from five to seventy miles wide, from which the mountains rise abruptly by a succession of great terraces to the table-land beyond. South of the Nilgiri Mountains, these lowlands are joined by the Gap of Coimbatore, and beyond this gap the mountains again rise to a great height, and run in one chain to Cape Comorin.

10. Between the Eastern Ghats and the sea the maritime plain is called the Carnatic, the name being derived from an ancient Hindoo kingdom, “ Carnata.” It is a fertile plain where watered, but suffers from drought in the dry season.

11. The maritime flats between the Western Ghats and the sea are much narrower than the Carnatic. To this region the south-west monsoon brings fearful floods of rain, and, as we shall see in a future lesson, extensive lagoons are formed.

* Viz., gates or passes.

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

The mon

Monsoons.-The word monsoon means a time or a season.

soons are the winds which blow over the Arabian and Indian seas and India. The south-west monsoon prevails from April to October, and, crossing the oceans, carries volumes of rain to the land over which it blows. The north-east monsoon prevails from October to April, and is generally dry. It carries some rain to the plains of the Carnatic and the eastern side of Ceylon from the Bay of Bengal. The shifting of the monsoons does not take place all at once ; in some places there are calms, in others variable winds and tempests. The change is called the breaking up of the monsoons.

LESSON XXIV.

INDIA.—THE WATER SYSTEM -I.

1. Some of the mightiest rivers in the world, and in Asia certainly the most interesting, are in India. The Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus, drain the northern part of the empire.

Almost all the water received on the Himalaya system, whether in the shape of snow or rain, finds its way back to the ocean through the channels of these three great rivers. The Indus and Brahmaputra drain the northern slopes, and the high dreary plateau of Tibet, whilst the Ganges, with its numerous tributaries, performs a similar duty for the southern slopes.

2. A noble river is the sacred Ganges. Its basin includes about half a million square miles, and its length from the snow-field where it rises 14,000 feet above the sea, to where it falls by many mouths into the Bay of Bengal, is 1,500 miles. In its upper course it is a mountain torrent. At Hurdwar, 1,300 miles from the sea, it leaves the mountains, and entering the great plain becomes at once a navigable river. At Allahabad, the Jamna, which has followed a parallel course from the mountains, joins it; and in its course through the northwest provinces, the Gumti and Ghagra. Next, the Son, bringing waters from the northern slopes of the great plateau, unites with it on the right bank, and after Patna is left behind, the Gandak, from Nepal, adds its volume to the great river of India. The Kusi is the next important tributary, and by the time the ruined city of

« PreviousContinue »