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through the "beautiful Vale of Cashmere,” famed in song and story for its picturesque scenery, and noted for its production of the costly Cashmere shawls.
The third great river, the Brahmaputra, also takes its rise in the northern valley of the Himalayas, and,
flowing through hidden passes toward the eastern end of the mountains, makes its way across the eastern slope of India. At a distance of two hundred miles from the sea it joins the Ganges. The Brahmaputra is nearly equal in length to the Indus.
These rivers and their tributaries, as we have seen, are made to rise rapidly during the rainy season, and,
rushing down the mountain sides, they bring vast quantities of earth to be deposited on the plains below, thus year by year enriching the soil. A knowledge of these facts explains the luxuriant vegetation for which India is famous.
There are three seasons in India, — the hot, the rainy, and the cold. During the hot weather, especially on the plains, the heat is so intense that it is not safe for Europeans to be long exposed to it. The hot season extends from the middle of March to the middle of June, when the heat is at its height. This is followed by the rainy season, lasting until the end of September. During this season the sky is hidden by clouds which the monsoon drives towards the mountains; terrific thunderstorms are frequent, and the heavy rainfall refreshes the land after the scorching heat of summer.
The rainy season is followed by a short period of moderate heat; and then come the winter months, November, December, and January. Except in the vicinity of the mountains, the winter can hardly be compared to our idea of the same season, but is, rather, what in our land would be considered moderately cool weather.
The vegetation of India is as varied as the surface and the climate. All the southern slopes of the Himalayas are covered with forests of cedar and spruce, and with the oak, the fir, and the pine. Many of the trees grow to enormous size, and in springtime are festooned with all kinds of beautiful creeping plants and garlands of brilliant orchids. There are hundreds of square miles of rhododendrons with their glossy green leaves. Below these are masses of white clematis, with blos
soms three inches in diameter, and many other varieties of beautiful flowering shrubs. What a delight it would be to gather a Himalayan bouquet !
Here, too, are the jungles. You have all read of these Indian jungles, but do you know what they are like? The word “jungle" comes from a word meaning a desert, but a jungle is not a barren, sandy desert. It is a tract of waste land densely covered with shrubs and tall grasses. Here and there are a few trees, covered with creeping vines and growing in a wild tangle of underbrush.
The variety of grasses is surprising. Gather a bunch of our prairie grasses, or go into the meadows and fields and count the varieties of grass you find. You will doubtless be surprised at the number. Now add many varieties you have never seen, many of them topped with waving plumes, and imagine them all ten or twelve feet high, growing together in densest luxuriance, and you will have some idea of the grasses in an Indian jungle. The undergrowth and thick grass furnish a hiding place for many wild animals.
These jungles are to be found in many sections of India, but the most extensive are at the base of the Himalayas and along the lower course of the Ganges.
No description of the vegetation of India, however brief, can omit the all-important bamboo. On the plains and in the rich valleys the bamboo grows in great luxuriance. A clump of bamboos is a beautiful sight. They remind one of great ostrich plumes, as their delicate, feathery tops bend and wave with every passing breeze.
The bamboo is really a giant grass
rather than a tree. The larger ones are four or five inches in diameter at the base, and grow forty or fifty feet high, with joints two or three feet apart.
Along the coast lands the cocoa palm is abundant, and of great value to the people. It furnishes them food and shelter, and, like the bamboo, it is used for an endless variety of purposes.
Our poet Whittier sings its praises in his poem “ The Palm Tree.”
“Who smokes his nargileh, cool and calm ?
The turban folded about his head
Of threads of palm was the carpet spun
The wide-spreading banyan tree is planted in many parts of India for its grateful shade. Single trees of this species often cover a space over one hundred yards in diameter, and rise to the height of one hundred feet.
There is one plant, very largely cultivated in a portion of India, which is anything but a blessing to the vast multitudes that use it. On the southern slopes of the Himalayas and across the northern plains of India there are acres and acres brilliant with poppy blossoms. It is a beautiful sight, and one can hardly believe that