Alwar to Siriska, 20 February 1893

For seven days we were to occupy a tent camp  40 km away from Alwar at Sariska — a territory known for its presence of tigers that has already been visited by the Duke of Connaught. The tent camp has been constructed by the government of Alwar to hunt tigers. In the morning it was beautiful and we woke up early to depart soon. But the time of departure was delayed for quite some time. First it was said that we should partly drive partly ride directly to the camp and hunt some chickens on the way until the baggage had time to arrive first at the destination. Soon, however, the message arrived that a tiger had been sighted close to the path so that the hunt could start immediately.

The consequence of these shifting plans was hopeless confusion, an awful turmoil as it seems to occur at nearly every hunting expedition in India. Here a hunter might not immediately find the necessary rifle. There ammunition was missing. Yonder, there were not enough wagons. A gentleman shouted in want of his baggage. Another one sought his photographic apparatus. Finally, we were all ready and the convoy to the camp was underway first in a carriage drawn by a four-horse team, while the hunters and the baggage followed in two-wheeled carts drawn by zebu oxen. The mounted lifeguard and a whole army of camels followed us in a trot, seemingly without any other purpose than to create clouds of dust.

The area we were crossing at speed offered new and welcome sights as we had spent so much time in plains. The narrow valley is enclosed by steep stony hills whose sparse vegetation — crippled trees and thorny impenetrable bushes — is remarkable. The landscape reminds me of Palestine and Syria. But the mountains in those countries are even more bare as those in Alwar. In many villages the whole population stood at the road and men and women sang in one voice some sort of choral which did not sound as unpleasant as the hitherto heard Indian singing.

We stopped at a charming spot, apparently to await news about the reported tiger, in reality to eat breakfast. The ruins of an old temple were visible in the shadow of huge trees, a dark-green harrier was a pleasure to see, steep ridges rise on the right and left. The stop was also a meeting place for all hunting elephants — 14 in numbers — which were beautifully equipped with their mahauts and haudas as well as all horses and baggage camels.

As  we were told to expect news about the tiger only in two hours‘ time, we undertook a hunt of our own into the fields nearby, extended to a small conical hill rising out of the valley and a steep rocky ridge. In the beginning all went well, when we came to the mountain ridge the climb became tough as rocky slates and blocks alternated with thorny bushes. Here too as in Darjeeling I hat to lament the lack of shoes with nailed soles. The number of peacocks was almost incredible. They walked around our feet and flew over our heads but we were unfortunately not allowed to shot one of these peacocks as these are considered holy birds, an idea we hunters did not think of as a unaccommodating idea of the Hindus.

Instead we bagged a number of the smaller long-eared hares as well as Indian partridges common quails, parrots of a species new to us  (Palaeornis cyanocephala), a charming honeysucker (Arachnechthra asiatica) and multiple beautifully colored southern green pigeons (Crocopus chlorigaster). Unfortunately I had with me a rifle I hadn’t used before so that I missed to hit, at a long distance, a  caracal (Felis caracal) which escaped at the edge of a rock and a giant crocodile that had sunned itself at the edge of a temple.Both animals had been splendid specimen and would have graced my collection of catches!

Soon the message arrived at the rest stop that the tiger’s location was uncertain and we should continue on to the camp. Some gentlemen rode, I however drove in an ancient coach with high arched springs. The four horse team was led by two old Hindus with white beards sitting on them and who wore a mixtum compositum of English and Indian uniforms. The valley became ever narrower, the area more romantic. We crossed many now dry river beds in which during the rainy season wild floods are roaring. Soon the kicks and swings from the antediluvian coach proved to be too strong. I then mounted an Arabian mare and covered the distance which still separated us from the camp at high speed.

If the camp at Tandur has already been spectacular, it was surpassed by far by the extent and the luxury of the camp at Siriska where we were catered for everything in a luxurious manner. In green surroundings, a true canvas city has arisen ranging wide and in meticulous order! 46 tents are for me alone and my entourage as well as the gentlemen and civil servants of the hunting party. Another 41 tents are intended for the servants and the cooks. A long path between the tents in whose midst stood my standard on an artificial hill, decorated with flowers, separates the snow-white tents of the gentlemen. The dining tent with a large salon next to it makes up the rear. Behind the dining tent rises another artificial hill, shaded by a large ficus tree and surrounded by facilities, greens, flower beds,  water fountains and basins with goldfish. The edge of the beds is covered with stripes of mosaics out of small colored stones that form bands with sayings and hunting scenes. I had besides my daytime tent also a salon with golden blankets and furniture at my disposition. Each of the gentlemen had his own tent with all desirable comforts — not forgetting to mention the bath cabins. If only the number of tigers whih we will bag is proportional to the splendor used here!

The camp extends itself in the middle of a large friendly valley basin surrounded by rocky hills. Next to the main camp are a number of other camps which each have a large number of animals and men and offer the observer many types and scenes. There is firstly the camp of the hunting elephants, their mahauts and guardians where after a day of work the large animals are fed and then cleaned for which they lay down, brushed and washed. Next to this camp is that of the drivers and camels as well as that of the mounted lifeguard and their horses. The latter ones are lashed together in four rows and are covered with warm blankets against the whims of the weather. The end is made up by the wagon park with numerous baggage wagons and the zebu oxen that draw them.

The number of the hunters, the drivers, the spear and baggage carriers, the elephant guides and guardians, the supervisors for the setup of the tents and all the people necessary for the various services and installations led to a notable total number of 1793 men. 25 elephants, 148 horses and 39 dogs were ready for the hunt. The train of the camp was 84 partly four- partly two-wheeled wagons and carts strong. In the camp are stood no fewer than 25 stalls in which artisans did their job and merchants offered goods of all kind. A troop commanded by a native officer of 40 cavalrymen is charged with the signal and postal services. A detachment of 72 infantrymen is in charge of security.

Links

  • Ort:  Sariska, India
  • ANNO – on 20.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. No new cholera cases in Hungary.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays „Der Störefried“ instead of „Verbot und Befehl“ due to the indisposition of Ms Schratt a.k.a. Emperor Franz Joseph’s mistress, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater presents Donizetti’s opera „Die Regimentstochter“.

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