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Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge,
For the YEAR 1782.
By James Rennel, Esqi
An Account of the Ganges and Burrampooter Rivers.
F. R. S.
*HE Ganges and Burrampooter ris smoothness and colour of their waters ; branches and adjuects, interfect the coun- islands ; and, finally, in the heights to try of Bengal in fucb a variety of dirçc- which their fipods arise with the perioditions, as to form the most compleat and cal rains. Of the two, the Burrampooter easy inland navigation that can be con- is the largelt; but the difference is not ceived.---So equally and admirably dif- obvious to the eye. They are now well fufed are those patural canals, over a known to derive their sources from the country that approaches nearly to a pers valt mountains of Thibet, from whence fećt plane, that, after excepting the lands they proceed in oppolite directions, the contiguous to Burdwan, "Birboom, &c. Ganges reaching the plains of Hindoftan (wbich all togetber do not constitute a (or In Joltan) by the west, and the Bura fixth part of Bengal) we may fairly pro- rampooter by the east, both pursuing the nounce, that every otber part of the coun: early part of their course througb rugged try has, even in the dry leafon, fome na. vallies and defiles, and feldom visiting the vigable Aream within 2'5 miles at farthest, habitations of men. The Ganges, after and more commonly within a third part wandering about 750 miles through these. of that diftance.
mountainous regions, ifsues forth a deity It is supposed, that this inland aaviga. to the superstitious yet g?addened inbabition, gives conftant employment to 30,000 tant of Hindoftan. From Hurdwar, (or boatmen. Nor will it he wondered at, Hurdoar) in latitude 30. where it gushes when it is known that all the salt, and a through an opening in the mountains, it large proportion of the food consumed by flows with a smooth navigable stream, ten millions of people, are conveyed by through delightful plains, during the rewater within the kingdom of Bengal and mainder of its courle to the sea, (which its dependencies. To these must be add. is about 1350 miles) diffusing plenty in. ed, the transport of the commercial ex. mediately by means of its living produce ports and imports, probably to the amount tions; and secondarily, by enriching the of two millions sterling per annum, the adjacent lands, and affording an easy interchange of manufactures, and pro- means of transport for the productions of ducts throughout the wbole country, the its borders. In a military view, it opens fisheries, and the article of travelling. a communication between the different
These rivers, which a late ingenious posts, and serves in the capacity of a mi. gentleman aptly termed lifters and rivals, litary way through the country; renders (he might bave said twin filters, from the unnecessary the forming of magazines ; contiguity of their springs) exactly resem- and infinitely surpasses the celebrated in; ble each other in length of course ; in land navigation of North America, nher's bulk, until they approach the sca; in the the carrying places not only obstru?
666 Rennel's Account of the Ganges and Burrampooter Rivers. Apr progress of an army, but enable the ad. it, we shall have about 200 miles for the versary to determine his place and mode dillance to which the Ganges expande of attack with certainty.
its branches at its junction with the sea. In its course through the plains, it re Appearances favour very frougly the ceives eleven rivers, some of which are opinion, that the Ganges had its former equal to the Rhine, and none smaller than bed in the tract now occupied by the lates the Thames, besides as many others of and moraffes between Nattore and Jafjeffer note. It is owing to this vast influx fiergunge, striking out of its present course of streams, that the Ganges exceeds the at Bauleah, and pafling by Pootyab.Nile so greatly in point of magnitude, With an equal degree of probability, whilst the latter exceeds it in length of (favoured by tradition) we may trace its course by one third. Indeed, the Ganges supposed course by Dácca, to a junction is inferior in this last respect to many of with the Burrampooter or Megva cear the northern rivers of Aga; though I am Fringybazar; where the accumulation inclined to think, that it discharges as of two fuch mighty streams probably much or more water than any of them, scooped out the present amazing bed of because those rivers do not lie within the the Megna. limits of the periodical rains.
In tracing the sea-coast of the Delta, About 120 miles from the sea, (but 300 we find no less than eight openings, each reckoning the windings of the river) com. of which, without heGtation, one promences the bead of the Delta of the nounces to have been in its time the prioGanges, which is considerably more than cipal mouth of the Ganges; nor is the or twice the area of that of the Nile. The casional deviation of the principal branch, · two welternmost branches, named the probably, the only cause of fructuation in Collimbuzar and Jellinghy rivers, unite the dimensions of the Delta. One ob and form what is afterwards named the serves, that the Deltas of capital rivers, Hoogly river, which is the port of Cala (the tropical ones particularly) cocroach ·cutta, and the only branch of the Gan- upon the sea. Now, is not this owing ges that is navigated by thips. The Cofo to the mud and fand brought down by limbuzar river is almof dry from October the rivers, and gradually deposited, from to May; and the Jellinghy river (although the remotest ages down to the present a ftream runs in it the whole year) is in time? The rivers we know are loaded fome years unnavigable during two or with mud and sand at their entrance into three of the drielt months; so that the the fea ; and we also know, that the ka only subordinate branch of the Ganges, recovers its transparency at the distance that is at all times navigable, is the Chund. of twenty leagues from the coast, which nah river, which separates at Moddapour, can only arise from the waters having and terminates in the Hooringotta. precipitated their earthy particles within
That part of the Delta bordering on that space. The land and mud-banks at the fea, is compofed of a labyrinth of this time extend 20 miles off some of the rivers and creeks, all of which are in it, islands in the mouths of the Ganges and except those that immediately communi- Burrampooter, and in many places rife cate with the principal arm of the Gan- within a few feet of the surface. Some ges. This tra&t, known by the name of future generation will probably fee these the Woods, or Sunderbunds, is in extent banks rise above water, and succeeding equal to the principality of Wales ; and ones pofless and cultivate them. Next is so compleatly enveloped in woods, and to earthquakes, perhaps, the floods of the inselted with tygers, that if any attempts tropical rivers produce the quickelt altehave ever been made to clear it, (as is rations in the face of our globe. Exten: reported) they have hitherto miscarried. live ifands are formed in the channel of Its numerous canals are so disposed as the Ganges, during a period far thort of to form a compleat inland navigation that of a man's life ; so that the whole throughout and across tbe lower part of procels lies within the compass of his ob: the Delta, without either the delay of fervation. Some of these islands, four or going round the head of it, or the hazard five iniles in extent, are formed at the of putting to fea. Here falt, in quautities angular turnings of the river, and were equal to the whole consumption of Ben- originally large sand-bank's thrown up gal' and its dependencies, is made and round the points, but afterwards infu. transported svith equal facility: and here lated by breaches of the river. Others alfo is found an inexhaustible store of are formed in the straight parts of the timber for boat-building. The breadth river, and in the middle of the stream, of the lower part of this Delta is upwards and owe their origin to some obftru&ion of 180 miles ; to which, if we add that lurking at the bottom: whether this bę sf the two branches of the river that bound the fragmeats of the river-bank, a large
tree swept down from it, or a funken ges; and, as a proof of it, the lands in geboat, it is sufficient for a foundation ; neral are overflowed to a considerable and a heap of fand is quickly collected height long before the bed of the river is below it. This accumulates' amazingly filled. It must be remarked, that the falt: in the courfe of a few years it peeps ground adjacent to the river. bank, to the above water; and having now occupied a extent of some miles, is considerably confiderable portion of the channel, the higher than the reft of the country, and river borrows on cach fide to supply the serves to separate the waters of the indeficiency in its bed; and in such parts undation from those of the river, until it of the river we always find steep banks overflows. This high ground is io some on both fides. Each periodical flood seafous covered a foot or more ; but the brings an addition of matter to this grow. height of the inundation within, varies ing ifland; increasing it in height as well of course, according to the irregularities as extension, until its top is perfe&tly or of the ground, and is in some places a level with the banks that include it; twelve feet. aod at that period of its growth, it has Even when the inundation becomes gemould enough on it for the purposes of neral, the river will thew itfelf, as well cultivation, which is owing to the mud by the grafs and reeds on its banks, as left on it, when the waters subside, and by its rapid and muddy stream ; for the is indeed a part of the economy which water of the inundation acquires a blackish nature obferves in fertilizing the lands in bue, by having been so long ftagnant ageneral.
mong grass and other vegetables : nor I come now to the particulars of the does it ever lose this tinge, wbich is a annual swelling and overflowing of the proof of the predominancy of the rainGanges.
water over that of the river, as the flow It appears to owe its increase as much rate of motion of the inundation (which to the rain-water that falls in the moon- does not exceed half a mile per hour) tains contiguous to its source, and to the is of the remarkable Aatness of the coun: fources of the great northern rivers that try. fall into it, as to that which falls in the There are particular tra&ts of land, plains of Hindoftan; for it rises fifteen which, from the nature of their culture, feet and a half out of thirty-two, (the and species of productions, require less fum total of its rising) by the latter end moiture than others; and yet, by the of June; and it is well known, that the lowness of their situation, would remain rainy season does not begin in most of the too long inundated, were they not guardflat countries till about that time. In the ed by dykes or dams from so copious aa mountaios it begins early in April; aod inundation, as would otherwise happen by the latter end of that month, when from the great elevation of the furface of the rain-water has reached Bengal, the the river above them. These dykes are rivers begin to rise, but by very now de. kept up at an enormous expence, and yet grees; for the increase is only about an do not always fucceed, for want of teinch per day for the firft fortnight. It nacity in the soil of which they are comthen gradually augments to two or three posed. inches before any quantity of rain falls in During the swolu state of the river, the flat countries; and when the rain be. the tide totally loses its effect of countercomes general, the increase on a medium acting the stream, and in a great meafure is five inches per day. By the latter end that of ebbing and flowing, except very of July, all ihe lower parts of Bengal, near the sea. It is not uncommon for a contiguous to the Ganges and Burram. Atrong wind, that blows up the river for pooter, are overflowed, and form an in- aby continuance, to swell the waters two undation of more than an hundred miles feet above the ordinary level at that feain width, nothing appearing but villages son; and such accideots have occafioned and trees, excepting very rarely the top the loss of whole crops of rice. A very of an elevated fpot (the artificial mound tragical event happened at Luckipour, in of some deserted village) appearing like 1763, by a frong gale of wind, conspiran island.
ing with a high spring-tide, at a seafon The inuodations in Bengal differ from when the periodical Hood was within a those in Egypt in this particular, that the foot and a half of its bighest pitch. It is Nile owes its foods intirely to tbe rain- said, that the waters rofe fix feet above water that falls in the mountains near its the ordinary level. Certain it is, that fource ; but the inundations in Bengal the inbabitants of a conliderable diftria, are as much occafioned by the rain that with their houses and cattle, were totally falls there, as by the waters of the Gan- swept away ; and, to aggravate their dir.
668 Rennel's Account of the Ganges and Burrampooter Rivers. App tress, it happened in a part of the coun- takes its course eastward, or direally op. try wbich scarce produces a single tree for pofite to that of the Ganges, through the a drowning man to escape to.
country of Thibet, where it is named Embarkations of every kind traverse Sanpoo or Zanciu, which bears the same the inundation : tbose bound upwards a. interpretation as the Gonga of Hindofi an; vailing themselves of a direct course, and namely, The River. The course of it ftill water, at a reason when every stream through Thibet, as given by Father Da rushes like a torrent. The wind, too, Halde, and formed into a map by Mr. which at this season blows regularly from D'Anville, though sufficiently exas for the $. E. favours their progress ; info- the purposes of general geography, is not much, that a voyage which takes up nine particular enough to ascertain the precise or ten days by the course of the river length of its coarse. After winding with when confined within its banks, is now a rapid current through Thibet, it washes effected in fis. Husbandry and grazing the border of the territory of Lafla, it are both suspended ; and the peasant tra- which is the residence of the Grand Lana) verses in his boat those fields which in and then deviating from an eaft to a southanother season he was wont to plow ; east course, it approaches within 220 miles happy that the elevated fcite of the rivero of Yunan, the westeromoft province of banks place the herbage they contain China : here it appears as if undetermined within his reach, otherwise his cattle must whether to attempt a passage to the sea by perish!
the Gulph of Siam, or by that of Bengal; The inundation is nearly at a stand for but seemingly determined on the latter, fome days preceding the middle of August, it turns suddenly to the west, through wben it begins to run off; for, although Aflam, and enters Bengal on the north. great quantities of rain fall in the flat eaft. I have not been able to learn the countries, during August and September, exact place where it changes its name; yet, by a partial cessation of the rains in but as the people of Aflam call it Burthe mountains, there happens a defici• rampoot, it would appear that it takes ency in the supplies necessary to keep up this name on its entering Alam. After the inundation. The quantity of the its entry into Bengal, it makes a circuit daily decrease of the river, is nearly in the round the wellern point of the Garros following proportion : During the latter mountains; and then altering its course half of August, and all September, from to fouth, it meets the Ganges about 40 three to four inches ; from September to miles from the sea. the end of November, it gradually leffens On tracing this river, in 1765, I was from three inches to an inch and a half; no less surprized at finding it rather larger and from November to the latter end of than the Ganges, than at its course pre: April, it is only half an inch per day at a vious to its entering Bengal. This I found medium. These proportions must be un- to be from the east, although all the forderstood to relate to such parts of the river mer accounts represented it as from the as are removed from the influence of the north ; and this unexpected discovery tides. The decrease of the inundation foon led to enquiries which furnished se does not always keep pace with that of with an account of its general course, ta the river, by reason of the height of the within 100 miles of the place where Da hanks; but after the beginning of Odo. Halde left the Sanpoo. I could ao longer ber, when the rain is nearly ceased, the doubt tbat the Burrampooter and Sanpoo remainder of the inundation goes off were one and the same river ; and to this quickly by evaporation, leaving the lands was added the positive assurances of the highly manured, and in a stare fit to re- Alamers, that their river came from the ceive the seed, after the fimple operation north-west, through the Bootan moun. of plowing.
tajus. And to place it beyond a doubt, Similar circumstances take place in the that the Sanpoo river is not tbe same with Jellinghy, Hoogly, and Burrampooter ri- the river of Ava, but that this last is the vers, and I suppose in all others that are great Nou Kian of Yunan, I have io my fubject eitber to periodical or occafional possession a manuscript draught of the swellings.
Ava river, to within 150 miles of the Not only does the flood diminish near place where Du Halde leaves the Noa the sea, but the river. banks diminish in Kian, in its course towards Ava ; togethe same proportion ; fo that in the dry ther with very authentic information, that deafon, the height of the periodical flood this river (named Irrabattey by the peo. may be known by that of the bank. ple of Ava) is navigable from the city
The Burrampooter, which has its source of Ava, into the province of Yunao, in from the opposite side of the fame moun China. tains tbat give rise to the Ganges, tirkt
The Burrampooter, during a course of the waters of a well, which the more they 400 miles througb Bengai, bears so inti- are drawn off, rise with greater clearners mate a resemblance to the Ganges, ex. and in more abundance. But there is an cept in one particular, that one descrip- infatuation in covetoufness ; and very diftion may ferve for both. The exception ficult is it to convince some rich men of the I mean is, that during the last 60 miles truth of this doctrine: A discourse upon before its junction with the Ganges, it charity is but an indifferent entertainment forms a fream which is regularly from to them. There is no sense, they think, four to five miles wide, and, but for its in parting with what they have; but, frelhness, might pass for an arm of the alas! the fatal hour is haftening, when it fea.--Common description fails in an will be too late for them either to believe attempt to convey an adequate idea of or to practise this duty. This divine virthe grandeur of this magnificent object; tue is attended with such peculiar beauty, for
that it does not only recommend us to Scarce the mure
the etleem of others, but highly entitles Dares stretch her wing o'er this enormous us to the mercy of God, who is himself mass
beneficence and love. The whole ChrisOf rushing water; to whose dread expanse, țian religion is in fact an institution of Continuous depth, and wondrous length love, viz. of the love of God to man, of of course,
his fellow-creatures. Our blessed Savi. Our floods are rills.
our so strongly recommends this duty, Thus pouring on, it proudly seeks the that he even looks upon all offices of chadeep,
rity and compassion to the poor, as inWbole vanquish'd tide, recoiling from the Itances of kindness to himself. He even shock,
makes the final fentence of the last judga Yields to this liquid weight.
ment to depend upon it. St. Matthew Thomson's Seasons. XXV. 33, 35. Come, ye blessed of my fa.
ther,' says our Saviour, inherit the kingOn Charity.
dom prepared for you ; for I was an bun[From Letters addressed to two Young Mar- gred, and ye gave me meat, &c. &c.' ried Ladies.]
And again, verle 40 of that chapter, he
says, Inasmuch as ye bave done it unto Nexpreflible is my delight, to see the the lealt of these my brethren, ye have
delicacy with which, my amiable done it unto me.' Many eminent' divines young friends, you beltow your bounty place the duty of alms-giving under the on the distreffed : You indeed rightly head of justice ; as they look upon it as a judge that Charity (if it may be so cal- kind of robbery, to withhold from the Ted) often inflicts a deeper wound by the poor that portion of the superfluities of manner of its being conferred, tban even life to which they are juftly entitled. the most bitter ftings of poverty.' Aju. Inexpressible must be the fatisfa&tion of dicious author remarks, · We are not al. a charitable person in his last hours. Those ways charitable for doing charitable ac- comforts which he gave to the afflicted, to tions. We cannot, indeed, be too quick the poor, and the sick, will then spring up in relieving the distrefied; for what cha- in his own bofom : . Because he delivered sity is it, not to relieve a soul till it has the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and wounded it in the tenderelt part? No. him that had none to help him; because thing can be more cruel, than to depend he was eyes to the blind, and feet to the on the help of that sort of people, who lame, and made the widow's heart to fing relieve merely from a principle of popu- for joy: therefore (be may add) the biel larity and a furdid affectation of applause. fing of him that was ready to perish it To thift off an indigent object from day to now come upon me.' Job xxix. 15, 16, day, is in fact only to mock their suffer- 17. But there are many other branches ings. Our aslistance, in this case, often of charity besides that of alms-giving. comes too late. Our blessed Saviour says We must be candid in judging of the acon this head : « What thou doft, do tions of others. Our blessed Saviour, who quickly. The design of that great mira. was the perfect pattern of this divine vir. cle of the five loaves and two small fishes tue, lays the utmost stress on this part of (after the feeding of five thousand people) our duty, as even necessary to our eternal being multiplied into seven baskets of frag. falvation :- Judge not, and ye hall not mente, was to teach us, that the distri. be judged.' bution of our charity shall be rewarded Never give ear to any little blarkering with a double increase. How beautiful is report, arising from that kind of suspicion that elegant fimile of St. Balil, in his adà which leads one to believe the worst of dress to the rich! who compares riches to every person; and the same principle of