“Though you have seen the Ganges several times, not much has been said about it; and I will tell you a little more concerning it before we leave, not to see it again. It rises in Gahrwal, one of the Hill states, north-east of Delhi. It has its source in an ice-cave nearly fourteen thousand feet above the level of the sea. It is not called the Ganges till it has received the flow of two other rivers, a hundred and fifty miles or more from its lofty source. Just below Allahabad it takes in the Jumna, itself a mighty stream.
“As you have learned, it is the holy river of the Hindus; and it deserves their homage, for, aside from the religious character they give to it, three hundred thousand square miles are drained and fertilized by the Ganges and its tributaries. Of its sanctity, that it washes away sin, and that death in its waters or on its shores is the passport to eternal bliss, you have learned. But it renders a more immediate and practical service to the people; for it is navigable for small craft from the point where it enters the lowlands, seventy or eighty miles north of Delhi.
“The river is 1,509 miles long. Though it rises and falls at different seasons, it never fails, even in the hottest summer; and its inundations render, to some extent, the benefit which the Nile does to the soil of Egypt. Like the Mississippi, in your country, it has sometimes changed its course, as proved by the ruins of cities that were once on its banks.
“Now you have a view of the Ganges for quite a distance, and can see the kinds of boats that navigate it. It is one of the most frequented waterways in the world, though the building of railways and canals has somewhat diminished the amount of freight borne on its tide. About L6,000,000 is needed to complete the Ganges canal, which will reach all the cities through which you have passed. There is a very complicated mythology connected with the river, which it would take me all day to relate, and therefore I will not meddle with it.”
For a couple of hours the passengers watched the boats and steamers on the river, and the scenes on the other side. While they were thus employed, Lord Tremlyn gave to each person a map of Calcutta, intimating that he should soon tell them something about the city; and they all began to study it, so as to form some idea of the place they were next to visit. Of course they could make out but little from the vast maze of streets, but some of them obtained a very good idea of the situation of the city and many of its important buildings.
“People coming from England or America generally arrive at Calcutta or Bombay, the larger portion at the former. From the sea the metropolis of India is reached by the Hoogly River, the most western outlet of the Ganges,” his lordship began. “It is sometimes spelled Hugli. Under this name, the stream is known sixty-four miles above Calcutta and seventeen below. Vessels drawing twenty-six feet of water come up to the city; though the stream, like the Mississippi, is liable to be silted up.”