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Sikicin

feet, sikkim, lepcha, plains, range and mountain

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SIKICIN, with 1600 square miles, consists of the valley of the Tista river, which with its tribut aries drain the whole territory. Its great tribut ary is the Ranjit river, which, at first separated by a mountain range, joins it from the west, flowing for a abort distance parallel to the plains, through a deep ravine not 1000 feet above the sea, to the north of an elevated transverse range. Being opposite to the Gangetic valley, it is open to the full force of the monsoon ; its rains therefore are heavy, almost uninterrupted, and are accom Rhied by a dense fog and a saturated atmosphere. The ra. ny winds sweep almost without interruption up to t base of Kanchinjinga (28,178 feet), the loftiest n ountain and most enormous mass of snow in th world. The snow-level is here 16,000 feet. The two principal sources of the Tista river are the en and the Lachung ; these run in two valleys, whkch are separated by a lofty snowy range projected to the south-west ; the valleys are somewhat shelterqd, and the perpetual snow-line rises to above 18,000 feet. From the level of the sea to an elevation \ of 12,000 feet, Sikkim is covered with dense forest of tall umbrageous trees. At 10,000 feet, on the summit of Tanglo, yew appears. There are Sikkim about 2770 species of flowering plants, and 150 ferns. In the Darjiling district, in addition to the Europeans, Hindus, and 3fuliammadans from the plains, the population • consists of Nepalese ; of the Bhotia from Bhutan, Tibet, and Sikkim ; of the Lepeha and Meehi, who are considered the prior occupants of Sikkim. The Rajbansi of Sikkim are the Koch or Kooch race, of the same descent as the raja of Koch-Bahar, on which account they call themselves Rajbansi. ' In the plains of Sikkim, the Rajbansi and Bengali are iu equal numbers. The Mechi inhabit that portion of the Terai which lies under the hills. They are a migratory race, who live by cultivating the virgin soil. They have no caste distinctions.

The Bhotia race of Sikkim dwell in the valleys approaching the snowy range.

The Mech are the occupants of the Terai or sub-Himalayan range, who retain the manners of the mountaineers. Firing the forest is so easy in the drier months of the year, that a good deal of cultivation is met with on the spurs, at and below 5000 feet, the level most affected by the Lepcha, Limbu, and Sikkim Bhotia. The mountain slopes are so steep that the spurs or little shelves are the only sites for habitations between the very rare flats on the river banks • and the mountain ridges, above 6000 feet, beyond which elevation cultivation is rarely if ever carried by the natives of Sikkim. The varieties of grain are different, but as many as eight or ten kinds are grown without irrigation by the Lepcha, and the produce is described as eighty fold. Much of this success is due to the great dampness of the climate ; were it not for this, the culture of the grain would probably be abandoned by the Lepcha, who never remain for more than three seasons on one spot. The average rainfall at Naini Tal is 88 inches. Naini Tal is elevated 6500 feet on the last spurs of the Gogar, overhanging the plains of Rohil khand. Almora is 15 miles farther than Naini Tal from the plains, and it is 5500 feet, but only 34 inches of rainfall. The fall at Darjiling is 165 inches. Oak trees, maple and other mountain trees, throw out great knots in the places to which the Balanophora attach themselves. These knots are hollowed out into wooden cups by the Lepcha of Tibet. Some of the Lepcha cups are supposed to be antidotes to poison ; they are of a peculiar pale-coloured wood, and cost a great sum, but common cups cost only 4d. or 6d. They are all imported into Tibet from the Himalaya.

Darkling, on the eastern end of the Himalaya, in lat. 27° N., and long. 88° E., is about 7168 feet above the sea. The tribes in and around Darjiling consist of Amatti, Bahir, Bhotia, Brahman, Che pang, Dhanuk, Dhanwar, Dhimal, Dom, Garo, Kewant, Koch, Lepcha, Limbu, Mech, Murmi, Nepalese, Orson, Rajput, Sanwar, Tharu.

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