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ART. I.-Journal of a Journey through part of the Mismee Country,
on the banks of the Brahmaputra River, performed in the Months of October and November, 1826, by Lieut. R. Wilcox, Surveyor, Asam.
I have nothing interesting or novel to describe in the passage from Saddiya to the first hills. Ordinary boats cannot proceed more than one day's journey, nor must the canoes afterwards used, be of large size, both on account of the great delay they would occasion, and of a degree of danger in ascending the numerous rapids. On the fourth day, the mouth of the Kherem nullah is reached, and progress is rendered still more slow by the labor of removing stones at the shallows to make a passage for the boats, but the advantages of this water carriage bad as it is, are lost in two more days, and from the spot whence the want of water compells us to march along the nearly dry bed of the nullah, or through jungles abounding with leeches, one hard day's journey brings us to the little village of Challa. Having arrived here on the 14th, I was detained by the preparations of the Loory Gohayn, and others who were to accompany me, while my own people were employed in constructing the sort of basket used in the hills and yokes somewhat similar to those of the English milkmaids, by which the baskets are suspended to the shoulders (being carried on the back): they are made of thin slips of bamboo and covered with a tough leaf: though sufficiently convenient to the carrier, they have disadvantages for the traveller, for it may be supposed that in addition to ten day's provision, (which I was obliged to start with), their capacity will not allow of much being put into them. Chair, table, or bedstead were out of the question, and I could carry but a limited quantity of those things absolutely necessary.
October 19TH.-We started late in the day, and marched through a belt of thick bamboo and tree jungle to the Lacek Panee: distance miles.
OCTOBER 20TH.-Early the next morning, that is, after breakfasting, we proceeded still on nearly level ground towards the Prabhu Koot,har, but instead of descending to the River, we kept the slippery path on the hill's face, and turned Eastward.
My journey ought to be famous in the annals of Asam, since I was accompanied thus far by the Bor Gohayn, who came to perform ablution in the Koond: an instance of enterprize very uncommon with their great men.
Halting to rest awhile, above the mouth of the Mtee Rivulet, I looked about in vain for a continuation of our path, little suspecting that the perpendicular rock was to be ascended; but here as in other difficult places I found a strong cane made fast above with the help of which we got up one by one.
Here we met my old acquaintance Ghaloom, one of the Taeen Chiefs, who having been apprized of my arrival had come forth to meet me. We ascended a considerable" height, and halted on the Northern face of the hill. Not being accustomed to incline my bed to the angle of health I was obliged to have a small space cut tolerably level, over which a slight covering of branches was erected.
OCTOBER 21st.–My only Hindoostanee servant declared himself utterly incapable of climbing another hill and left me. In the evening however, a Mismee who joined us, reported that he had forgotten his fatigue on the way back.
On ascending the next ridge to the Eastward, I enjoyed a view of the River both ways. That to the N. E. was limited, and the jungle clothed hills had an uniniviting aspect, but on the side of Asam, the view was extensive and beautiful. Heavy rain compelled us to take shelter at 11 o'clock, in a small field hut open to the wind, which, with the Thermometer at 610 we found miserably cold.
OCTOBER 22ND,—The rain continued, but to secure a better lodging, we went round to the opposite hill, and entered the deserted house of the Dilling Gam: here we had defence from the cold wind, but the wet roof suffered no smoke to escape, from which the annoyance soon proved equal to the advantage gained. Received visits from the Gam, and some of his family, who were all wretchedly clothed and very dirty. I understand that Mismees do not think of washing themselves, unless perhaps out of compliment to their more civilized friends when they visit the plains.
OCTOBER 25TH.-Bad weather detained me till the morning of the 25th, when I was glad to run the risk of having no habitation for the night, for the sake of breathnig a pure atmosphere, and moved down the rugged path on the N. E. face of the hill towards the Brahmaputra, the high hill Thumat, heya close on the right. Observed that much snow had fallen on peaks to the Northward. Passed two or three small water falls, and one of great height and beauty, though the quantity of water is trifling. The path is through tree jungle, with now and then intermissions of
comparatively open spots formerly cultivated ; after descending to the Brahmaputra it leads alternately over large boulders of various rocks, or over difficult passes on the precipice above : halted on some sand, and got altitudes of a and n Cephei.
The hills hitherto passed are of gneiss or mica state; here is compact grey limestone, but sienite most abounds in the rolled stones brought down by the stream.
OCTOBER 26TH.-Climbed over a steep and difficult rocky precipice, and at 11 o'clock crossed the Loong Rivulet, by a rude bridge, for which we were indebted to Ghaloom. The cane Sakoo, by which the Mismees pass, consists of 3 canes, stretched tight between opposite trees, and is furnished with a number of strong loops at either end. Into one of these the passenger inserts his body, and bringing it under the loins makes it as fast as he can with his scanty clothing, and hanging suspended in it, he pulls himself across. Leaving the River to the left, we ascended a hill, whence we saw Ghaloom's house apparently at no great distance, but we had another descent, and most fatiguing ascent yet to get over, before we reached it, which we at length did at 5 o'clock, heartily tired. We passed here some cultivation belonging to the village Tharin, on our left.
OCTOBER 27TH.-Early the next morning, there was considerable bustle without, in catching and mastering a fine Mithoon, (the hill Cow), which was slain for a feast in compliment to me, and early in the day, a large party of visitors from the neighbourhood arrived, to whom the meat was presented minced up with muroowa, and cooked in cylinders of leaves. My share was a whole hind leg, but I was left at liberty to dress it after my own fashion. Mudh, (fermented liquor) was circulated freely, but I did not see any one intoxicated, nor were they rude in satisfying their curiosity, with respect to me and my furniture; however they kept my Musical Snuff Box constantly playing.
OCTOBER 28TH.—I was given to understand that my presents were anxiously expected; I therefore gave red cloth jackets and large silver earrings to the three Taeen Chiefs, upon whose management I considered myself dependent for further progress, Kheer song, one of the brothers, was absent a few day's journey to the N. E. where he had gone to assist the Chiboug Gam, against an at-tack of a large party of the crop-haired Mismees of the Dihong. The fate of this party of plunderers is worth mentioning; they came
across in number about 200, before snow had fallen on the heights, and had succeeded in surprising one village, and were carrying off a quantity of moveables, and many captives, when the reinforcement brought by Kheersong approached. He is esteemed a bold warrior, and in this instance he sustained his character, for he pressed so closely on them, killing some few, that they considered it necessary to commit the barbarous act of slaying their prisoners, but being pursued to the snow they found it so deep from the unexpected falls of the last few days, that their retreat by this route was cut off. They then turned Northward, and escaped by the Saddiya side of the range, but not more than 120 of them reached their homes, the rest having perished from privation, or in atempting to pass the mountains.
AFTER the delivery of my presents I observed that several men departed, as if they also had waited in expectation of receiving donations.
The Mismees appear to wear at all seasons the same scanty clothing, cut as narrow as its purpose permits, but it is probably from poverty, as they much esteem gifts of apparel.
The women have a profusion of beads, either of colored glass, white porcelain, or oblong pieces of inferior cornelian ; of the second kind I should think they must sometimes carry a weight of ten pounds; their other ornaments are thin gore shaped plates of silver, for the forehead, and a singular kind of ear-ring worn in the upper part of the ear, and consisting of a ring of brass, 4 inches in diameter, having attached a piece of silver, cut in the shape of a spherical triangle, 3 inches deep. This, remaining suspended in a line with the shoulders, forms a very remarkable ornament.
GHALOOM's house is furnished with a great number of the blackened sculls of cattle, proofs of his hospitality and riches, some hogs, bears, deers and monkeys sculls are also fixed in rows to the wall; it has 12 hearths at intervals of 12 feet, and is therefore about 144 feet, yet in this respect is very inferior to his brother's houses, which are 100 yards in length; in width they are 11 or 12 feet. The smoke having no exit except through the leafy roof is very annoying. Ghaloom has ten wives, of whom two or three are in the house, and others have dwellings of their own, or live with their parents.
The scenery is very fine, T,humat,heya on one side, and the huge Tekut, hout, heya on the other, rising majestically above green slopes. I looked in vain for a village. The houses are few, and scattered on opposite hills; they are known by the names of the occupiers.