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Nadiya that the deity was incarnated in the fifteenth century A.D. in the great Hindu reformer, the Luther of Bengal. At Nadiya the Sanskrit colleges, since the dawn of history, have taught their abstruse philosophy to colonies of students, who calmly pursued the life of a learner from boyhood to white-haired old age.
I landed with feelings of reverence at this ancient Oxford of India. A fat benevolent abbot paused in fingering his beads to salute me from the verandah of a Hindu monastery. I asked him for the birthplace of the divine founder of his faith. The true site, he said, was now covered by the river. The Hugli had first cut the sacred city in two, then twisted right round the town, leaving anything that remained of the original capital on the opposite bank. Whatever the water had gone over, it had buried beneath its silt. I had with me the Sanskrit chronicle of the present line of Nadiya Rajas. It begins with the arrival of their ancestor, one of the first five eponymous Brahman immigrants into Bengal, according to its chronology, in the eleventh century A.D. It brings down their annals from father to son to the great Raja of the eighteenth century, Clive's friend, who received twelve cannons as a trophy from Plassey. So splendid were the charities of this Indian scholarprince, that it became a proverb that any man of the priestly caste in Bengal who had not received a gift from him could be no true Brahman. The Rajas long ago ceased to reside in a city which had become a mere prey to the river. Nadiya is now a collection of peasants' huts, grain shops, mud colleges, and crumbling Hindu monasteries, cut up by gullies and hollows. A few native magnates still have houses in the holy city. The only objects that struck me in its narrow lanes were the bands of yellow-robed pilgrims on their way to bathe in the river; two stately sacred bulls who paced about in well-fed complacency; and the village idiot, swollen with monastic rice, listlessly flapping the flies with a palm-leaf as he lay in the sun.
Above Nadiya, where its two upper headwaters unite, the Hugli loses its distinctive name. We thread our way up its chief confluent, the Bhagirathi, amid spurs and training works and many engineering devices: now following the channel across a wilderness of glistening sand, now sticking for an hour in the mud, although our barge and flat-bottomed steamer only draw twenty inches of water. In a region of wickerwork dams and interwoven stakes for keeping the river open, we reach the field of Plassey, on which in 1757 Clive won Bengal. After trudging about with the village watchman, trying to make out a plan of the battle, I rested at noon under a noble pipal tree. Among its bare and multitudinous roots, heaps of tiny earthenware horses, with toy flags of talc and tinsel, are piled up in memory of the Muhammadan generals who fell in the fight. The venerable tree has become a place of pilgrimage for both Musulmans and
Hindus. The custodian is a Muhammadan, but two of the little shrines are tipped with red paint in honour of the Hindu goddess Kali. At the yearly festival of the fallen warriors, miraculous cures are wrought on pilgrims of both faiths.
I whiled away the midday heat with a copy of Clive's manuscript despatch to the Secret Committee. His account of the battle is very brief. Finding the enemy coming on in overwhelming force at daybreak, he lay with his handful of troops securely lodged in a large grove, surrounded with good mud banks.' His only hope was in a night attack. But at noon, when his assailants had drawn back into their camp, doubtless for their midday meal, Clive made a rush on one or two of their advanced positions, from which their French gunners had somewhat annoyed him. Encouraged by his momentary success, and amid a confusion caused by the fall of several of the Nawab's chief officers, he again sprang forward on an angle of the enemy's entrenchments. A panic suddenly swept across the unwieldy encampment, probably surprised over its cooking-pots, and the battle was a six miles' pursuit of the wildly flying masses.
A semicircle of peasants gathered round me, ready with conflicting answers to any questions that occurred as I read. Fifty years after the battle of Plassey the river had completely eaten away the field on which it was fought. Every trace is obliterated,' wrote a traveller in 1801,' and a few miserable huts overhanging the water are the only remains of the celebrated Plassey. In a later caprice the river deserted the bank, which it had thus cut away, and made a plunge to the opposite or western side. The still water which it left on the eastern bank soon covered with deep silt the site of the battlefield that it had once engulfed. Acres of new alluvial formations, meadows, slopes, and green flats gently declining to the river, take the place of Clive's mango grove and the Nawab's encampment. The wandering priest, who served the shrines under the tree, presented me with an old-fashioned leaden bullet which he said a late flood had laid bare.
Some distance above Plassey lies Murshidabad, once the Muhummadan metroplis of Lower Bengal, now the last city on the river of ruined capitals. Here, too, the decay of the channel would have sufficed to destroy its old trade. But a swifter agent of change wrought the ruin of Murshidabad. The cannon of Plassey sounded its doom. The present Nawab, a courteous, sad-eyed representative of the Muhammadan Viceroys from whom we took over Bengal, kindly lent me one of his empty palaces. The two Englishmen whom His Highness most earnestly inquired after were the Prince of Wales and Mr. Roberts, jun. Indeed he was good enough to show me some pretty fancy strokes which he had learned from the champion billiardplayer. Next evening I looked down from the tower of the great mosque on a green stretch of woodland, which Clive described as a city as large and populous as London. The palaces of the nobles had given place to brick houses; the brick houses to mud cottages; the mud cottages to mat huts; the mat huts to straw hovels. A poor and struggling population was invisible somewhere around me, but in dwellings so mean as to be buried under the palms and brushwood. A wreck of a city with bazaars and streets was there. Yet, looking down from the tower, scarce a building, save the Nawab's palace, rose above the surface of the jungle.
Of all the cities and capitals that man has built upon the Hugli, only one can now be reached by sea-going ships. The sole survival is Calcutta. The long story of ruin compels us to ask whether the same fate hangs over the capital of British India. Above Calcutta, the headwaters of the Hugli still silt up, and are essentially decaying rivers. Below Calcutta, the present channel of the Damodar enters the Hugli at so acute an angle that it has thrown up the James and Mary Sands, the most dangerous river-shoal known to navigation. The combined discharges of the Damodar and Rupnarayan rivers join the Hugli, close to each from the same bank. Their intrusive mass of water arrests the flow of the Hugli current, and so causes it to deposit its silt, thus forming the James and Mary. In 1854 a committee of experts reported by a majority that, while modern ships required a greater depth of water, the Hugli channels had deteriorated, and that their deterioration would under existing conditions go on. The capital of British India was brought face to face with the question whether it would succumb, as every previous capital on the river had succumbed, to the forces of nature, or whether it would fight them. In 1793 a similar question had arisen in regard to a project for reopening the old mouth of the Damodar above Calcutta. In the last century the Government decided, and with its then meagre resources of engineering wisely decided, not to fight nature. In the present century the Government has decided, and with the enlarged resources of modern engineering has wisely decided to take up the gage of battle.
It is one of the most marvellous struggles between science and nature which the world has ever seen. In this article I have had to exhibit man as beaten at every point; on another opportunity I may perhaps present the new aspects of the conflict. On the one side nature is the stronger; on the other side science is more intelligent. It is a war between brute force and human strategy, carried on not by mere isolated fights, but by perennial campaigns spread over wide territories. Science finds that although she cannot control nature, yet that she can outwit and circumvent her. As regards the headwaters above Calcutta, it is not possible to coerce the spill-streams of the Ganges, but it is possible to coax and train them along the desired channels. As regards the Hugli below Calcutta, all that can be effected by vigilance in watching the shoals and by skill in evading them is accomplished. The deterioration of the channels seems for the time to be arrested. But Calcutta has deliberately faced the fact that the forces of tropical nature may any year overwhelm and wreck the delicate contrivances
She has, therefore, thrown out two advanced works in the form of railways towards the coast. One of these railways taps the Hugli where it expands into an estuary below the perilous James and Mary shoal. The other runs south-east to a new and deep river, the Matla. Calcutta now sits calmly, although with no false sense of security, in her state of siege; fighting for her ancient waterway to the last, but provided with alternative routes from the sea, even if the Hugli should perish. Sedet æternumque sedebit.
W. W. HUNTER.
HOME RULE IN NORWAY.
Nationalism is exercising at once a centripetal and a centrifugal effect on the States of Europe. It has been building up Germany and Italy, and at the same time breaking up Turkey, undermining Austro-Hungary, and threatening the integrity of the British Empire. If these States are to be held together, their politicians cannot do better than consult experience, in order to judge whether the rigid and thorough application of the principles of popular government, or the maintenance and strengthening of the powers appertaining to the Crown, is most likely to lead to the desired result. For, as far as politics are not an art, but a science, they consist in an application of the lessons of history. Were it only easier to take into account the modifications of human nature produced by climate, soil, circumstances, religion, customs, institutions, &c., we might indeed hope in course of time to derive from experience positive laws for dealing with every knotty political and social question.
Both Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville have shown their appreciation of this fact by appealing to contemporary events for a confirmation of the policy they recommend. The former statesman declared at Derby that Home Rule was causing Norway and Sweden to grow up together into one compact united kingdom, under the influence of free local government—a method approved by practical political experience throughout the world.' 1 Lord Granville at Hanley (7th of November) also quoted history as bearing out his proposition that office confers a sense of duty and responsibility on leaders of a popular party, and the necessary wisdom for governing their country.
Now I believe that it we examine things closely we shall arrive at very different conclusions. We shall be inclined to think that the predominance granted by the constitution of Norway to a class particularly subject to the influence of demagogues, joined to the recklessness of the popular leaders, has caused incalculable evil ; that it has prevented two nations of the same race and religion, inhabiting the same peninsula, and closely related as regards language and customs, from gradually coalescing into one nation, as the political
· I am quoting from the Standard of the 21st of October 1887,