The Library of History

Page 73

Page 73 Food, and likewise as many fit for the feeding of Cattel, of which it would be too tedious to write particularly. And for this reason it's said, that there's never any Famine in India, or want of Victuals; for being that the Land there bears Two Crops every Year, once in the Winter about the time of Wheat-seeding among other Nations, and the other about the time of the Summer Solstice, when Rice, Bosporus, Sesamus and Millet are us'd to be sown; at both these times the Indians reap very plentifnl Harvests. And if one Harvest happens to miss, the other is sure to make amends for it. Besides there are many Fruits which grow naturally of themselves, and the Marishes afford for Mens Food, abundance of Roots of a most sweet and delicious Taste. For all the Fields almost of the whole Country are watered in Summer time with the sweet Waters of the overflowing Rivers, and with the Rains from Heaven, which fall constantly at certain times every Year in the Summer; and the Roots in the Marishes (especially of the Canes) are perfectly boyl'd by the heat of the Sun. There are Laws likewise in India, which conduce much to the preventing of Famine among them. Amongst other People, by Devastations in time of War the Land lies untill'd; but amongst the Indians, Husbandmen (as sacred) are never toucht, so that though the Armies fight and ingage even under their very Noses, yet they are never in the least prejudic'd. For though the Armies on both sides slaughter one another, yet they never hurt the Husbandman, as one who is a Servant for the common good and advantage of them all; neither do they burn their Enemies Country, or cut down their Trees or Plants.

Moreover in India are many great navigable Rivers which descend into the Plains from the Mountains in the Northern Parts (where they have their Spring-heads) and at length all meet together and fall into the River Ganges, which is Thirty Furlongs in breadth, and takes its Course from the North to the South, and so empties it self into the main Ocean; passing by in its course the Nation of the Gandarides lying on the East, where are bred Multitudes of most monstrous Elephants. No Foreign King hitherto ever conquer'd that part of the Country, all Strangers dreading the number and strength of those Creatures. Even Alexander himself, who conquer'd all Asia besides, left only the Gandarides untoucht. For when he came with his whole Army as far as to the River Ganges, and had subdu'd all the Indians behind him, as soon as he understood that the Gandarides had Four Thousand Elephants sitted and compleatly furnished for War, he wholly desisted the further Prosecution of his Design against them. Much like to the River Ganges is that call'd Indus, which runs with a swift Course likewise from the North, and falls into the Ocean, and divides India from the rest of Asia; and in its Course through wide and spacious Plains takes in many Navigable Rivers, amongst which the most famous are Hipanis, Hydaspes, and Arcesines. There are many other Rivers also which pass through several Parts of India which inrich the Country with pleasant Gardens, and all sorts of Fruits.

The Philosophers and Naturalists of this Country give this Reason why there are so many Rivers, and such plenty of Water in India. They say, that the adjacent Countries, the Scythians, Bactrians and Arianians, lye higher than India, whence (from good reason) they conclude that the Rains flowing down by degrees into the lower Countries, so water them, that they make many large Rivers: But above all the other Rivers of India, that they call Silla (which springs from a Fountain of the same Name) has a peculiar property: For this only of all the others will not admit any thing thrown into it to swim, but in a wonderful manner swallows up every thing, and forceably draws it to the bottom.

Moreover India being of the largest Extent of all other by far, is inhabited by many different Nations (of whom none are Foreigners, but all natural Inhabitants:) And they say that no Strangers ever planted amongst them, nor they themselves ever sent forth any Colonies into other Countries; and they tell Stories that anciently the Inhabitants fed only upon Herbs and Roots that grow in the Fields, and cloath'd themselves with wild Beasts Skins, as the Grecians did; and that Arts and other things conducing to the well-being of Man's Life were found out by degrees, Necessity pressing upon a Creature that was rational and ingenious, and had likewise the further helps and advantages of Hands, Speech and quickness of invention to find out ways to relieve himself.

Some of the Learnedst of the Indians have given an account of the Antiquity of their Country, of which it is our part here to say something in short.

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books