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THE FIRE FLY. 3
beautiful insects are, I know, not peculiar to Coorg. They have their periods of nocturnal revelry all over India, I believe. But nowhere have I seen them in such astonishing abundance and brilliancy as in Coorg. A thunder-storm, succeeded by a rich shower, has closed a sultry day. The sun has set unobserved. The Western sky is overhung with clouds. In the cloudless East, the full moon rises slowly. The air perfectly pellucid j the stars glittering in fresh glory; not a breath of wind j all still. You turn from the broad red orb of the rising moon to the host of golden stars on the deep azure, from them to the retreating clouds, lit up here by faint lightnings, there by the pale beams of the moon, their bold edges fringed with silver, and wonder at the beauties of the world above, where on the dark blue depths of heaven light seems to vie with light in the illumination of the vast dome, built by the unseen Master. But a scene of strange beauty is spread below. Shrub and bush and tree, as far as the eye can reach, burn with magic light. The ground, the air, teem with lustre, every leaf seems to have its own fairy lamp. The valley at your feet, the wooded hills to your right and left, the dark distant forest, all are lit up and gleam in ever-varying splendour, as if every star had sent a representative to bear his part in this nightly illumination of the poor dark Earth. Whence all at once these innumerable lights? No sound is heard, silently all these shining throngs pass before you in fantastic confusion. Look at this bush, that tree! Myriads of fiery sparks brighten up with red glare through the labyrinth of leaves and branches: a moment and they vanish. Now they flash up brighter than ever, as if this world of phosphoric lustre was animated by pulsa* tions keeping regular time. You sit and look, and think you could sit all night beholding the fairy scene. I have seen nothing to be compared with these dissolving views, except perhaps the phosphoric splendour of our tropical seas, when under a soft breeze your boat glides through the placid waters in a starlight night, throwing out large furrows to the right and left, sparkling with myriads of blue lights, which spread strange brightness around the dark vessel, and gather again in its wake, forming a long line of radiancy to mark its course over the deep.
The thunderstorms during this season are often magnificent. The war of the elements is carried on here in grander style than in the low country. Banks and mountains of clouds move against each other with the order of armies. The sound of heavy cannon is heard from a distance, solitary discharges of the electric fluid shoot through the gloom. Now whole batteries are brought into action, deafening thunders roll over your head, and your eye shuts involuntarily against the dazzling brilliancy of the fire bolts. At last both hosts engage in close combat. The roar of artillery is heard at greater intervals, the lightnings lose their intense and fearful glare, and the rain pours down in torrents.
Towards the end of May the clouds take up a firm position in the Western sky and grow in strength. In June the rapport between the Western Sea and the atmosphere of Coorg is fully established. Rain prevails, descending at times softly, but more frequently with grest violence under heavy gusts of wind. In the beginning of July the great atmospheric rain-battery seems to be in perfect working order. As fast as the sea can raise its steam, and the strong West wind carry the thick masses over the narrow strip of intervening low country to the heights of Coorg, the rain pours down in floods, day and night, in heavy monsoons, with few intervals, all July and August. The clouds seem to be inexhaustible, the rain eternal. A greater
MONSOON. TEMPERATURE. 5
quantity of water descends upon Coorg in one week of these two months, than upon many countries of Europe during a whole year. A flat country would be deluged. But the Coorg Hills after being throughly bathed from head to foot, send the ministering floods, controlled by the steep banks of the rivers, to the East and West, and stand forth in their ancient strength and beauty, when the curtain of the monsoon is withdrawn. The yearly fall of rain in Coorg often exceeds 160 inches. In September the sun breaks through the dense atmosphere. In October the North East wind, strong and cold, gains the ascendancy and clears the sky; in November however it often carries heavy clouds from the eastern coasts, which discharge themselves in showers upon Coorg. The greater part of December is foggy, but towards the end of the month the weather becomes delightful, clear and fresh, in the mornings and evenings often too cold to be pleasant.
As may be expected from the preceding account, the temperature of Coorg is moderate and equable. The daily variation of the thermometer within doors does not exceed G° or 8°, often not more than 2°. It seldom rises higher than 74° or falls below 60°, in the open air. During the dry season the range is a little higher; the daily extremes are from 62° or 63° to 68° or 70°. The annual extremes are probably 52° and 82°. The maximum height of the barometer occurs during the dry weather, when the mercury stands at 26.220 and the lowest in July, when it falls to 25.912 The mean daily range is .050. The diurnal maximum occurs at 10 A. M. the minimum at 5 p. M. The climate of Coorg. accordingly, especially in the more elevated and open situations, is pleasant and salubrious, not much inferior, some think, to that of the Neilgherries. The average temperature is about 60°, the most favourable to health. The nights are cool throughout the year. You are able to take exercise in the open air at all hours almost all the year round, European children in particular enjoy excellent health, and their rosy cheeks contrast most favourably with the pale faces of those of the low country. Though the atmosphere is for a great part of the year loaded with moisture, yet on account of the equability of temperature rheumatic affections, coughs, colds, etc., are comparatively rare. With asthmatic affections, chronic disorders of the liver, and dysenteric complaints, the rarified, often cold and damp air of Mercara, the European head-quartera, does not, of course, agree; but Fraserpett, on the eastern frontier of Coorg, situated at a distance of only twenty miles, and 1,300 feet lower than Mercara, affords a considerable and salutary change.
The climate of the valleys, however, particularly daring the hot months preceding the monsoon, when, as the natives say, the old and the new waters are mixed, fc far from healthy. Fevers, agues and bowel complaints are then Very frequent. For the rest of the year, the natives of the country pronounce the climate to be excellent. (It is worthy of note, that the time aucceedicg the rains, which in many parts of India is the most unhealthy season of the year, has no danger to health in Coorg.) The account which natives of Mysore or from the Western Coast give of the climate of Coorg is much more unfavourable. They have experience on their side. Of the large numbers ef people, whom Tippu sent from Mysore to replace the ancient inhabitants, or who, during the various wars, were forcibly carried off by the Coorg Rajahs from Mysore, to cultivate their lands in Coorg, not many survived the change. Nor do the natives of the Western Coast, who immigrate into Coorg, ever become completely inured to the climate of their new home.
The entire country consists of a succession of lofty
GEOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. 7
narrow ridges having Valleys of various extent between them. The ridges lie parallel to each other, commencing in general witfo a steep abutment to the westward, and running in the general direction of the western ghatts and of the North-western monsoon, i. e. from North-west to South-east, until they terminate in the plains of Mysore and Wynarf. Of these numerous ridges the following are the most remarkable:—
The first to the Northward rises above the Bisli ghatt, and terminates at the Kav6ri, near Ramaswimy Kanawe, and is of no great elevation. It separates the districts of Ye7usavira* Shim6 to the North from the rest of Coorg.
Next to this, with the table-land of S6mavarapettf intervening, is a ridge, the western extremity of which commences by a remarkably bluff peak of great elevation, called PusApagiri or Subrahmanya, well known as a landmark, and which is considered a most holy place, the abode of Gods and Rishis, too holy indeed for a common mortal to set his foot upon it. The Hindus are consequently afraid of ascending the peak. The scenery round its base is bold, rocky and grand, and towards S6mavarapett, it becomes exceedingly picturesque, forming a succession of beautiful grassy downs, open glades, and clumps of forest-trees, resembling the finest park-scenery in Europe.
The next ridge in succession has three rather marked rocky peaks, the sides of which slope abruptly to the North and South, into two deep valleys, through which run the branches of the Svareavati, or Haringi river. The scenery here also is very pleasing.
After this comes the table-land of Mercara, which is terminated on the South, by a sharp declivity of 500
• i. e. a district whioh used to pay 7,000 pagodas a year to Hyder and Tippu. t The village having Monday for a general market-day.