“India is remarkable for its fertility, and its luxuriant growth of plants of all sorts, from the productions of the torrid zone to those of the temperate in the hilly regions of the north. It is abundantly watered by the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Jumna, the Indus, the Godavari, and other great streams. The Ganges, though it does not vie with the great rivers of America, is 1,557 miles in length. To the natives it is a sacred river, and the land through which it flows is holy ground. To bathe in its waters washes away sin; to die and be buried on its shores procures a free admission to the eternal paradise of heaven.
“The Ganges Canal, constructed in 1854, is 445 miles long, and is used for both navigation and irrigation. Doubtless you will sail upon it, and learn more about it. Near the Indus are two deserts, one 500 miles long, and the other 400, though the grains may be cultivated in the valleys and other low places; and perhaps these regions will be reclaimed by artificial irrigation. In ancient times gold-mines were worked in the south-west, and the currency consisted of this metal instead of silver, as at the present time; but the veins were exhausted, and the Mysore mines are all that is left of them.
“I suppose you Americans have been accustomed to regard India as an exceedingly hot country; and this is quite true of a considerable portion of it. In a region extending from the almost tropical island of Ceylon, nearly 2,000 miles to the snow-capped summits of the highest mountains in the world, there must necessarily be a great variety of climate. India has three well-defined seasons,—the cool, the hot, and the rainy. The cool months are November, December, January, and a part of February.
“The rainy season comes in the middle of the summer, earlier or later, and ends in September. Winter is the pleasantest season of the year; but autumn, unlike England, is hot, moist, and unhealthy. Monsoon comes from an Arabian or Persian word, meaning a season; and you have learned something about it by this time. It is applied to the south-west winds of the Indian Ocean, changing to the north or north-east in the winter. This wind produces rain, and when they infrequently fail, portions of the country are subjected to famines.
“At an elevation of 7,200 feet the temperature is an average of 58 deg. Fahrenheit, as I shall give all readings of the thermometer. At Madras, on the south-east coast, it is 83 deg.; at Bombay, 84 deg.; Calcutta, 79 deg.; and in Delhi, in latitude 29 deg. (about the same as the northern part of Florida), it is 72 deg.. These annual average temperatures will not seem high to you; but I beg you not to form a wrong impression, for the heat of summer is generally oppressive, and the average temperature is considerably reduced by the coolness of the winter months. In Delhi, quoted at 72 deg., the glass often indicates over 100 deg..
“The rain varies greatly in different regions. In the north-east it exceeds 75 inches, and in one remarkable year 600 inches fell at an observatory in north-east Bengal. In some of the western parts it is only 30 inches, while it is hardly 15 on the southern shores of the Indus. I think I must have sufficiently wearied you, ladies and gentlemen.”