Bombay, 17 January 1893

A thick fog covered the sea during the morning and only with great effort did the sun finally win. When the veil was lifted, the profile of the city of Bombay and the surrounding hills and mountains became visible in the distance. More and more precisely did the contours reveal themselves, more and more did the tropical light illuminate the image. Soon we could appreciate the view of the wide ranging city with its large public buildings, its numerous towers, its factory chimneys and its imposing harbor which contained uncountable numbers of the largest passenger and good steamboats as well as local coastal ships.

Bombay is the capital city of the regency of the same name. It and the regencies of Bengal and Madras, the Northwest provinces, Oudh, the Punjab, the central provinces in Dekhan, as well as the provinces of Assam and Birma are all direct possession of England. The indirect possessions are the vassal, tributary and interest-free states under the protection and the subsidiary states under protection. Among the protectorates are the Rajputana Agency, the Central India Agency, the local tributary states Baroda, Haidarabad, Maisur, Kaschmir, Sikkim etc.

The multidimensional government of the Indo-British Empire (with the exception of Ceylon and the Molucca Strait settlements) is led by the governor general (vice king). Madras with the Lakedives and Bombay (with Sindh, Aden, Perim) is led by special governors; Bengal, , the Northwest provinces, Oudh and the Punjab are led by lieutenant governors; Assam, the central provinces and Birma are under chief commissioners. British India covers an area of 4,032.141 km2 and counts according tot he 1891 census 287,223.431 inhabitants.

Bombay had been transferred as a dowry of Princess Katharina of Portugal to King Charles II of England in 1661 and has been under English rule since then. The name Bombay is said to be derived from the Portuguese böa bahia — good harbor — while others say that it is derived from Mumbai, the wife of Shiva.

May it be one of India’s protective goddesses or the maritime perspicacity of the Portuguese that has given this important East-Indian city its name, it is beyond doubt that Bombay’s maritime trade and traffic has grown to epic dimensions. In the year 1892, 757 steamers with 1,325.039 t, 410 sailing ships with 54.685 t and 48.602 coastal vessels with 1,393.676 t have entered or left the harbor. The value of total imports of Bombay in the year 1892 was 367,323.303 rupees = 277,329.094 fl. In Austrian currency, that of the total exports was 367,323.303 Rupees = 277,329.094 fl. In Austrian currency. The word rupee comes from Sanskrit rüpya which means beautiful and also silver. The value of a rupee circulating in the Indian possessions of England, a silver currency (à 16 Annas), is equivalent to the value of 75.5 Kreuzer in Austrian currency in the year 1892.

At the moment, the city has a population of 800.000 souls, lies in the south of the 18.4 km long and up to 6.4 wide island of the same name. This island borders in the north on the large island of Sasashti (Salsette) which is connected by dams with it and over which a railway leads from Bombay to the mainland. In the south, the island splits into two hooks which encircle a large bay, called Back Bay. The smaller more Western of these hooks is Malabar Hill, the long extending Eastern one is called Colaba. Malabar Hill which has given its name to the Western hook is the southern end of the western of the two basalt stone ridges that cross the islands on their long sides parallel to the coast. The Eastern hook Colaba is fully flat and ends in the south in reefs which carry lighthouses.

These two hooks and the area that covers the plain north to them up to the plains called “the flats” and stretches out beyond the suburbs of Byculla and Mazagon is the area on which Bombay stands.

On the south-western end of Malabar Hill stands  Government House, then the Walkeshwar temple and at the highest point of the whole peninsula the crowning “tower of silence”. It is the place where many rich Europeans as well as rich natives of Bombay are living where they have constructed charming manors among gardens and trees in a healthy air cooled by the light wind coming from the sea. Part of this city of villas that reaches beyond Camballa Hill faces towards the water surface of the Indian Ocean. Colaba hook is occupied by barracks of an English infantry regiment and fortress artillery.

To the north of this part of Bombay lies, between Back Bay on the one side and the harbour in the east on the other side, the European city called “Fort”. Here the old town encircles in the form of a semi-circle the former now partially dismantled castle as well as the newer city districts among whom it is important to mention Elphinstone Circle (the Green) with the cathedral and the Town Hall and the districts along Elphinstone Road and Mayo Road.

The main ornament of Bombay and the pride of its British citizens is the row of grandiose public buildings in the west of Back Bay. Among these are most prominent: Government (Presidential) Secretariat; University Hall and the large bell tower of the university library; the colossal building of the Courts of Justice; the Public Work’s Secretariat; the Post Office and telegraph building, Elphinstone College. The Royal Alfred Sailor’s Home lies in the harbor with a view towards Bombay’s east close to Wellington Pier (Apollo Bandar). From here rise on the Eastern coast in a northern succession the yacht club, the government docks, the custom house, the armory, the castle, the mint,  the Victoria and Prince’s docks, the P. & O. company dockyards.

Where the relatively small Colaba hook widens towards the north, beyond the esplanade district and Victoria station, the native or black town is situated in the form of a triangle whose shortest side is turned towards the European city. This town, about 15 km north of “Fort”, seems like a world of its own. Black Town, enclosing Crawford Market and Pindshrapol, the animal hospital), constitutes with its strange customs and activities, its color and squalor a stark contrast to the European city with its international business life, its banks, clubs, merchant houses, palaces and squares in the British manner. Here in the European city, as well as in the native district whose narrow living homes offer but the most scare minimum of existence to the most populated areas which is almost unbelievable for our imagination – on 10 km2 live almost 400.000 people creating a enormous range of activities in the streets and narrow lanes. In the bazaars, the small shops, the workshops all kinds of cries, sounds, creaks, hammering, shouts of merchants and coachmen are heard. The colourful crowd is busy at work, enjoys and talks.

The Back Bay which is situated between the hooks of Malabar Hill and Colaba is rather shallow and thus cannot be used by ships. In contrast the harbor east of the city is rather deep and large. In the East of Bombay, multiple islands large and small rise out of the sea. One can also see the bizarre forms of the pointy ridges of the mountains of the mainland.

All warships displayed the full complement of flags (“große Flaggengala”) and saluted the hoisted flag of the entering “Elisabeth”. After we had anchored, the acting officer of the consulate general, vice consul Prumler, came on board and brought the mail.

Two very friendly telegrams from the vice king and governor general of the Indian domain, Lord Landsdowne and from the chief commander of India and commander oft he troops of Bengal, General Lord Roberts were welcoming on Indian territory. Then my entourage supplied by Her Majesty the Queen for my trip presented itself. It consisted of the gentlemen General Protheroe, Captain W. E. Fairholme and Mr. J. A. Crawford.  They presented the program for the next two months that starts with a journey to Haidarabad. At 5 o’clock, the governor of Bombay, Lord Harris, with his entourage came on board for his official visit of me and to offer me an apartment in Government House for my stay. Lord Harris who has been occupying this position for three years was received by the British anthem and all honors and escorted into my cabin where we had an extended conversation.

After the return of the governor back to the mainland, I took leave of “Elisabeth” and its staff for the next two months, I once more inspected the troops and to the sound of the guns and the salutes of all warships in the harbour, went on land at Wellington Pier (Apollo Bandar) which was decorated most festively with flags, cloths and flowers. There I was received by the governor and the heads of all administrative departments. An English honor guard consisting of strong and tall guys with red headdress and ancient rifles presented arms while the fashionable governor’s life guards were waiting by the side of the wagon to accompany us through the city. Many ladies had assembled in a reception tent, small girls were scattering flowers onto my path. Like a victorious triumphator I progressed to the visible pleasure of the governor.

In a government wagon with Australian horses à la Daumont we continued the triumphal procession across the city being everywhere greeted vividly by the crows behind the screen of soldiers along the road. The windows up to the fourth floor were all filled with people which cried out and waved. The part called “Fort” offers the impression of a large European city. The government buildings alternate with large private houses, parks, monuments, cricket fields. The streets are very wide and have very comfortable sidewalks. Everywhere there are tramways – without congestion – and European wagons. Only the strange not always tasteful design of the public buildings, the “Indian style” a mixtum compositum of all the various oriental and European styles as well as the very colorful activities of the members of all the different races and nations made one think of the orient, of India.

The largest part of the population of Bombay is constituted by Hindus, of which there are 543.276. They are divided into a number of castes whose signs in flashy red, yellow or white spots on the forehead can easily be distinguished at considerable distance. The richer wear white clothes, the poor wear only a loincloth with the feet always naked. The head is covered with a turban in numerous colors. The Hindu do not look like beefy. They grow tall, thin and nothing less than muscular. The Hindu women seem to love gems as even the poorest among them who serve as carriers in the city have their noses and ears pierced with small stones with filigrane silver and gold ornaments of often considerable weight. The nose rings disfigure the whole face as they hang down to the mouth which must make kissing a rather uninviting proposition and in any case rather more difficult.

A much nobler class than the Hindus are the Muslims of Bombay, numbering 155.247 persons, which distinguish themselves from the Hindus by always wearing trousers. The very religious women cover their faces but most have given up this annoying custom and look Europeans in the face in a very friendly manner.

The most respected and at the same time richest element of Bombay are the Parsi. As their name indicates they are of Persian origin, they are even assumed to be the first native population of Old Persia. The conquest of Persia by the Arabs in the year 641 and the fanatical conversion of the natives to Islam with fire and sword forced a majority of these adherents of Zorroaster into emigration to Gujarat, a coastal district to the north of Bombay. A small part of Persians remains to this day in the Irak province of Adjemi.

The Parsi are fire worshippers which they worship as the most important purification in contrasting the spirit of the light (Ormusd) to the lord of darkness (Ahriman), according to the moral of good and evil based on the saying of Zoroaster.  The adherents of these doctrines opposed by Islam found refuge and peace in Gujarat. Their ancestral language, however, they switched for a Hindu one and made it so much their own that they prefer to speak it today. From here the Parsi spread out across all of India, namely they constitute a large number among the inhabitants of the rich and large harbor city of Bombay where they have always represented capital and industry. Their main trade is shipbuilding. As director of the naval yard in Bombay up until recently acted a Parsi whose ancestors held the same position since the foundation of that institution. Among all the peoples of India, the Parsi were the first to cooperated with the Europeans and until now still have the closest connection with them.

The dress of the Parsi does not differ much from that of the other Indian natives. In recent times, the fashion of the Parsi dress has approached European styles so that some of them wear clothes completely in the French style. As headdress the men use either a tall strangely pointed cap made out of oilcloth or silk whose form they have adapted from the headdress common in Gujarat, or they use a modernized version of the Persian felt cap with a colorful shawl wrapped around. The women of the Parsi use silk or woolen colored trousers and flashy colored body dresses made out of one piece that is tied around the waist and then thrown across head and shoulders.

Most Parsi women have beautiful eyes but long crooked noses, bad posture, either too flat or two fat forms as well as a gangly, sleepy gait. The girls wear the same clothes as the women with the difference of a plaid reserved to girls of nubile age.

Among the foreign looking Orientals one can see on the streets of Bombay also Arabs and Persians who are engaged in the business of importing horses, peddling Jews from Baghdad and Afghans who work solely as knife grinders in Bombay just as they do in Ceylon.

The so called Portuguese of Bombay are descendants of the Portuguese conquerors and natives converted to Christianity and carry the names of Portuguese noble families as all inhabitants of a village did acquire the name of their new rulers. The occupations of the Portuguese are mostly domestic servants, cooks, as well as some administrative assistants in trading houses. They are a mushy degenerate people, instantly recognizable by their type and their neglected superficial European dress.

Industry and wholesale trading are divided among the three main groups, the Hindus, the Muslims and the Parsi, in rather sharply drawn boundaries. Thus the Parsi are, for example, the owners of the 72 cotton factories of Bombay. The Muslims are the largest importers, the Hindus the largest exporters, the latter one under the mediation of European trading houses. During recent years, the Muslims as well as the Hindus have become more and more emancipated from the Europeans and enter into direct contact with European merchants and factories. This trade can hardly be to the Europeans’ advantage as the commercial ideas of morality and firmness of the Orientals are of the vaguest nature and the European trader will find it hard to procure legal assistance in an emergency than Europeans located in Bombay.

By Queen’s Road, a very broad road close to the sea, we drove to Malabar Hill where, as mentioned before, are situated a number of villas, small airy bungalows, half hidden in cleanly maintained gardens under palm trees, tamarinds and numerous blooming climbing plants. Right at the top of the hook lies Government House, a row of single story bungalows in whose midst stands a somewhat taller building which serves only as a dinning and ball room and which is enclosed by an airy veranda. The governor and his family as well as a number of secretaries and adjutants are living there, almost each of which has his own bungalow equipped with all comforts. Fitting to the local climate, these bungalows are constructed very airily, the walls are made out of paper, doors, windows and verandas everywhere so that time and again I imagined myself to be in a big bird cage. If these bungalows can not provide enough space for a larger number of guests, tents are pitched which turns Government House and all its annexes into a large tent city below large tamarinds and ficus trees.

A couple of servants in scarlet livery were assembled in a row up to the veranda where we were received in a most pleasant manner by Lady Harris and two of her lady friends, Lady Brodrick and Miss Smith. After a longer lively conversation during which I answered the ladies a number of questions (why I wasn’t yet engaged, when I intended to marry etc.), we retired to our various bungalows to change into dress uniforms for dinner. This was set for half past eight o’clock according to English custom. Lord and Lady Harris were waiting for me in the antechamber to accompany me to the reception hall where all invited guests stood in rows alongside the walls. In total, there were 54 persons invited to the dinner, numerous ladies, among them also a Parsi lady peppered with diamonds, the highest dignitaries and the commander general of Bombay, various higher officers, judges, municipal and government employees, all consular agents located in Bombay and the captains of all warships currently at anchor in Bombay. Soon after all the invited had been presented to me, we entered the hall to the sound of the Emperor’s Hymn. The table was tastefully ornamented with flowers, black-yellow ribbons and silver decorations.

The continental protocol requires that, during an official dinner given to a member of the ruling family of a foreign power, the toast is mostly given to salute the health of the sovereign of the guest. The British protocol, however, differs in this custom as I could observe with curiosity during the dinner in Government House in Kandy. At least, Lord Harris asked me first to toast to the health of Her Majesty the Queen and then he himself announced a toast to the health of His Majesty our Emperor.

The dinner was followed by a long reception. After its end, tired from all the new impressions of the first day in India, we went to look for our place to rest.

Links

      • Location: Bombay, India
      • ANNO – on 17.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. Baroness Bertha von Suttner who died just before the start of the First World War has given a speech „Down the arms!“ at the Hotel Intercontinental. Budapest is reporting two new case of cholera. The German Emperor is slightly ill as well and thus could not accompany the Empress on official duties. Northern Italy has been blanketed by a mass of snow too, interrupting traffic, while Trieste is experiencing a severe storm. The Banque de France continues to be in turmoil.
      • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing Gustav Freytag’s comedy „Die Journalisten“, while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater is playing Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida.

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