previous next

CHAP. 22. (18.)—THE GANGES.

Some writers have stated that this river, like the Nile, takes its rise from unknown sources,1 and, in a similar manner, waters the neighbouring territory; others, again, say that it rises in the mountains of Scythia. They state also that nineteen rivers discharge their waters into it; those among them that are navigable, besides the rivers already mentioned,2 are the Condochates,3 the Erannoboas,4 the Cosoagus,5 and the Sonus. Other writers again say that it bursts forth at its very source with a loud noise, hurling itself over rocks and precipices; and that after it has reached the plains, its waters become more tranquil, and it pauses for a time in a certain lake, after which it flows gently on. They say also that it is eight miles in breadth, where it is the very narrowest, and one hundred stadia where it is but moderately wide, and that it is nowhere less than twenty paces in depth. The last nation situate on the banks of the Ganges is that of the Gangarides6 Calingæ; the city where their king dwells has the name of Protalis.7 (19.) This king has sixty thousand foot-soldiers, one thousand horse, and seven hundred elephants, always caparisoned ready for battle. The people of the more civilized nations of India are divided into several classes.8 One of these classes tills the earth, another attends to military affairs, others again are occupied in mercantile pursuits, while the wisest and the most wealthy among them have the management of the affairs of state—act as judges, and give counsel to the king. The fifth class,9 entirely devoting themselves to the pursuit of wisdom, which in these countries is almost held in the same veneration as religion, always10 end their life by a voluntary death upon the lighted pile. In addition to these, there is a class11 in a half-savage state, and doomed to endless labour; by means of their exertions, all the classes previously mentioned are supported. It is their duty to hunt12 the elephant, and to tame him when captured; for it is by the aid of these animals that they plough; by these animals they are conveyed from place to place; these in especial they look upon as constituting their flocks and herds; by their aid they wage their wars, and fight in defence of their territories. Strength, age, and size, are the points usually considered in making choice of these animals.

In the Ganges there is an island of very considerable size, inhabited by a single nation; it is called Modogalinga.13 Beyond the Ganges are situate the Modubæ, the Molindæ, the Uberæ, with a magnificent city of the same name, the Modresi, the Preti, the Caloæ, the Sasuri, the Passalæ, the Colobæ, the Orumcolæ, the Abali, and the Thalutæ. The king of the last-named people has fifty thousand foot-soldiers, four thousand horse, and four hundred armed elephants. We next come to a still more powerful nation, the Andaræ,14 who dwell in numerous villages, as well as thirty cities fortified with walls and towers. They furnish for their king one hundred thousand foot, two thousand horse, and a thousand elephants. The country of the Dardæ15 is the most productive of gold, that of the Setæ of silver.

But more famous and more powerful than any nation, not only in these regions, but throughout almost the whole of India, are the Prasii, who dwell in a city of vast extent and of remarkable opulence, called Palibothra;16 from which circumstance some writers have given to the people themselves the name of Palibothri, and, indeed, to the whole tract of country between the Ganges and the Indus. These people keep on daily pay in their king's service an army, consisting of six hundred thousand foot, thirty thousand horse, and nine thousand elephants, from which we may easily form a conjecture as to the vast extent of their resources. Behind these people, and lying still more in the interior, are the Monedes, and the Suari,17 among whom is a mountain known as Maleus, upon which the shadow falls to the north in winter, and to the south in summer, six months alternately. In this district the Constellation of the Greater Bear18 is seen at only one period in the year, and then but for fifteen days, according to what Bæton states. Megasthenes, however, informs us that the same is the case also in many other localities of India. The South Pole is by the Indians called Diamasa.

The river Jomanes runs into the Ganges through the territory of the Palibothri, between the cities of Methora19 and Chrysobora.20 In the regions which lie to the south21 of the Ganges, the people are tinted by the heat of the sun, so much so as to be quite coloured, but yet not burnt black, like the Æthiopians. The nearer22 they approach the Indus, the deeper their colour, a proof of the heat of the climate. After leaving the nation of the Prasii, we immediately come to the Indus; in the mountains of the Prasii a race of Pygmies is said to exist. Artemidorus says that between these two rivers there is a distance of two thousand one hundred miles.

1 So much so, indeed, that its sources were unknown to the learned world till the beginning of the present century, although the Chinese emperor Tang-Hi on one occasion sent a body of Llamas for the purpose of inquiring into the subject. It is now ascertained that the river Ganges is the result of the confluence of three separate streams, which bear the respective names of the Gannavi, the Bhagirathi, and the Alakananda. The second is of the most sacred character, and is the one to which the largest concourse of pilgrims resort. The ancients held various opinions as to the sources of the river.

2 The Cainas and the Jomanes, mentioned in the last Chapter.

3 The modern Gandaki or Gundûk is generally supposed to be represented by the Condochates.

4 Represented as flowing into the Ganges at Palimbothra, the modern Patna. There has been considerable discussion among the learned as to what river is indicated by this name. It has, however, been considered most probable that it is the same as the Sonus of Pliny, the modern Soane, though both that author, as well as Arrian, speaks of two rivers, which they call respectively Erannoboas and Sonus. The name was probably derived from the Sanscrit Hyranyavahas, the poetical name of the Sonus.

5 Supposed to be the same as the river Cosi or Coravaha.

6 The wide diffusion of the Calingæ and their close connection with the Gangaridæ, are shown by the fact that Pliny here calls them "Calingæ; Gangarides," and mentions the Modogalingæ on a large island in the Ganges, and the Maccocalingæ on the upper course of that river. See note 43, p. 42.

7 Called Parthalis in most of the editions.

8 Or castes, as we call them. These institutions prevail equally at the present day, and the divisions of the duties of the respective castes are pretty much as Pliny states them to be, except that the husbandmen and merchants form one class, called the Vaisya, the Brahmins being the ministers of religion, the Kshatriya forming the warlike class, the Sudra constituting the menial or servant class. Pliny here represents the rulers and councillors as forming a distinct class. Such, however, does not appear to be the fact; for we find that the sovereign is chosen from the Kshatriya or military class, while from the Brahmins are selected the royal councillors, judges, and magistrates of the country.

9 He alludes to the Brahmins, who seem to have been called by the Greek writers "Gymnosophists," or "naked wise men." The Brahmin Calanus is a memorable example of this kind of self-immolation.

10 It is extremely doubtful if, even in his own day, Pliny was correct in venturing upon so sweeping an assertion.

11 The Sudra or menial caste.

12 He is incorrect here; these duties devolve on the Vaisya class.

13 Inhabited, probably, by a branch of the Calingæ previously mentioned.

14 Ansart suggests that this may be the modern kingdom of Pegu. He thinks also that the preceding kingdom may be that now called Arracan.

15 These may possibly be the Daradræ of Ptolemy, but it seems impossible to guess their locality.

16 Probably the present Patna. D'Anville, however, identifies it with Allahabad, while Welford and Wahl are inclined to think it the same as Radjeurah, formerly called Balipoutra or Bengala. The Prasii are probably the race of people mentioned in the ancient Sanscrit books under the name of the "Pragi" or the Eastern Empire, while the Gangarides are mentioned in the same works under the name of "Gandaressa" or Kingdom of the Ganges.

17 Hardouin is of opinion that these nations dwelt in the localities occupied by the districts of Gwalior and Agra.

18 The Septentriones or "Seven Trions," in the original. Parisot is of opinion that under this name of Mount Maleus he alludes to the Western Ghauts, and that the name still survives in the word Malabar. He also remarks that this statement of Pliny is not greatly exaggerated.

19 Ansart says that this is the same as the modern town of Muttra or Matra upon the Jumna, and to the north of Agra.

20 Or Clisobora, according to Hardouin. It does not appear to have been identified.

21 In the Indian Peninsula, constituting more especially the presidency of Madras.

22 It is clear that he looks upon the countries of the Indus as lying to the south of the Ganges.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (15 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: