« PreviousContinue »
April becomes severe; a slight diminution of sultriness occurs in September, but the change is only experienced during the night: the sun of Sindh is annoying even during its greatest southern declination.
The situation of Sindh relatively to the Indian Ocean gives it great advantages, which its former and more ancient possessors fully appreciated. Its mouths are accessible from the sea only during five months in the year, but it has always had a port of considerable importance in the Delta or to the westward, which latter communicated with the former great mart and manufacturing city of Tattah for nearly nine months throughout the year. Karrachi is at present the port resorted to for this purpose in supersession to a certain extent of Dharajah or Laribunder, on a western branch of the Delta, now no longer available.
The changeable nature of the river is nowhere more prominently witnessed than in the Delta and the lower part of Sindh, whose geography is thus in the course of a very few years completely altered.
There is every reason to believe, therefore, that all arguments respecting the ancient site, not only of places near, but even of the Delta itself, must be resolved into mere conjecture, since, as an instance, within the memory of many, that is, during even a space of three and a half to four years, the city of Tattah is at least one and a half or two miles
further from the river, than it used to be: older authorities remark the same phenomena at this particular point, and thus in a greater or less degree, according to accidental circumstances, does the same cause work throughout the whole of Sindh. At Sukkur, Rorí, below Hyderabad, and at Jerruk, rocky barriers interrupt on the western bank its progress at those particular spots, but elsewhere it has full liberty to choose its constantly changing course, through an under soil so light and friable, that it cannot withstand the action of such a mighty rush of water even for one hour.
The geographical features of such a country are very peculiar. Towns, once of commercial importance, are now no longer valuable for the objects of traffic: the facilities afforded by the river being withdrawn, and its advantages lost, ports which were resorted to for the whole trade of the Indus are ruined and abandoned; and portions at some periods cultivated and productive, are, in the course of a short space of time, often converted into desert tracts. The natural sloth of the natives of Sindh induces them always to choose their localities near the river, where subsistence is easily obtained, and in this way they often suffer, for whole villages are in the course of a season swept away by its torrent. The noise of the falling banks of the Indus, when heard upon the stream during a calm night, resembles the constant discharge of distant artillery.
The whole surface of Sindh for a greater portion of its extent being cut up into canals and watercourses, its traffic during the inundation of the river is confined to the stream.
There are few roads, and the ordinary land routes are completely impeded during the floods. The poorer natives journeying, therefore, from the upper portion of the river to the lower, are in the habit of committing themselves to the stream, securing their safety by a closed earthen vessel, which they strap round their loins; in this way the Sindhians may be often seen during the height of the inundations, making their way from village to village. It should be remarked, however, that the Míanis and tribes living near the river, are as much at home in the water as out of it; they may really be termed amphibious, for with an inflated goat-skin, or a common earthen jar, they cross the stream during its most turbulent season, or at its greatest breadth.
The huts in some parts of Sindh at this period of inundation are furnished with a raised platform about twenty feet from the ground, on which is a small reed granary for the reception of the grain and seeds, as the only means of keeping them dry, and where also the inhabitants sleep.
There is one evil in Sindh connected with the extent of the overflowing of the river, that must not be forgotten; it is the plagues of gnats, which are engendered by the mud when the inundation
recedes. The torments of these are in places so formidable, that whole villages and communities residing immediately on the river are obliged to migrate, and the largest animals of the country, buffaloes, camels, or horses, would be soon destroyed if exposed to their constant attacks. This insect is a very small sand-fly or midge, far worse than the mosquitoe in its quality of tormentor, for the enemy is too small to resist by ordinary methods, and penetrates irresistibly. Many parts of Sindh are free from this annoyance, but portions of the country subjected to inundations are more or less liable to this species of vexation.
Inhospitable Appearance of the Country Capable of Improvement.-Coast of Sindh.- Harbour of Karrachi. - Principal Towns.-Karrachi.-Crocola.-Tattah.-Vikkur.-Hyder
abad. Mírpúr. Omarkót. Sehwun. Larkhana.
Khyrpúr. Sukkur. - Rorí. — Shikarpúr. — Tundas. — General Description of Sindhian Towns. Bazaars. Routes communicating with Sindh.
THE foregoing remarks certainly draw any thing but a pleasing picture of the climate and general features of Sindh; and in all truth it must be confessed, that while it is undoubtedly a country highly favoured by position, and by the neverceasing causes of fertility in its river, it is at the same time so grossly mismanaged as to its agricultural capabilities, that of its own scanty population a great portion depend for subsistence on the fish so extensively found in the river. Its general appearance is a jungly wilderness: its river, instead of fertilising, overspreads the land like a wild waste of water, and spontaneous vegetation takes the place of cultivation; but it must be remembered, that with a country so situated as the one now describing, much depends on the artificial and mechanical means used to assist nature as well as to counteract its effects. If these were employed