Calcutta, 5 February 1893

In the Roman-Catholic cathedral of Moorgheehatta, dedicated to the Virgin Mary of the Holy Rosary, we assisted a festive mass celebrated by the archbishop Paul Goethals, a Belgian by birth and a member of the Jesuit order. In front of the church stood a honor guard company with a music band and the pupils of the Moorgheehatta orphanage who pleased me with a rendition of our anthem. „Gott erhalte“ was also sung by the choir in the church. The whole church was filled with believers among them I also discovered Braganca who had arrived that morning in Calcutta to spend a few months in India. We left the church to the sound of „O. du mein Österreich“.

I said good-bye to the archbishop, a most kind person, and drove to the St. Xaver Jesuit college where 800 students from various nations and religious creeds are taught the gymnasium curriculum. The numerous schools and colleges owned by the Jesuits in India are very popular among the natives. Attendance is growing year by year and even the English unanimously declare them to be the best schools in the country. The Jesuits follow the principle of not proselytizing for the Catholic religion in school but let them observe the creed of their fathers and only strive to train educated and honest men; a process in which they decisively defeat timidity and suspicion. The Fathers are almost all Belgians. The building is very large and contains a chapel, large school rooms, numerous living rooms for the Fathers etc. A large playground allows for recreation and physical training of the youth something the Jesuits rightly consider very important  The physical cabinet deserves a special mention. Its Rector, Father Lafont, demonstrated the instruments he has collected over the years with great enthusiasm. Among them are dynamos and multiple steam machines as well as a small phonograph which is the object he is most proud of and which played „Gott erhalte“ without any errors.

As the train to Darjeeling would depart only at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the vice-king proposed to visit his countryside retreat in Barrackpur north of Calcutta. I accepted this proposal with pleasure. We embarked near the High Court on the steam launch „Maud“ and drove up the Hoogly amidst numerous ships, passed the large bridge, then the burial places where just three Hindus were transformed into ashes and then found ourselves soon between green smiling banks on which small villages and quite a number of modern Hindu temples alternated, as well as a few country houses of rich people from Calcutta which were partly visible through the rich green of the trees.

The Hindu temples are built in most varied forms. Some are round sugarloaf-like buildings, others are complexes of a number of smaller temples and structures whose individual parts resemble the dome-shaped roofs of Moscow’s churches. All temples have large open stairs that lead directly to the water of the holy Ganges river and are used by the believers to perform religious ritual cleansing at the foot of the stairs.

For quite some time we moved up the river. then „Maud“ landed at the park of the country retreat. Through a thick bamboo alley where I discovered a mongoose sitting near the road we reached the residence of  Barrackpur built by governor-general Marquis of Hastings. It is in Richmond style, characterized by its park of meadows and singly spaced trees.

Lord Landsdowne unfortunately suffered from a strong case of neuralgia which forced him to retire while we ate lunch with Lady Landsdowne and the wife of the personal physician  under a large Ficus religiosa tree. We had barely taken our seats when hundreds of red kites appeared and demanded to be fed on the spot and with such intensity that they had to be kept at bay with poles. During the lunch we fed the red kites with meat and enjoyed watching their ability to catch the pieces thrown in flight and also how tamely they took meat from our forks.

Naturally, there was the inescapable photographer present and only after countless takes we could say good-bye to Lord and Lady Landsdowne who had gained my complete sympathy by their kindness during my short stay in Calcutta. The vice-king used to be governor of Canada and resides now for four years in India and desires to return next year to his estates in Ireland when his regular term of five years ends. The office of governing and administering all of the Anglo-Indian Empire demands his fullest attention and he undertakes an annual inspection tour through the major cities of India and to the Maharatas, the hot season he spends at Simla at about  2700 m in North-western India in Punjab. He seems to be a passionate gardener and knows much about botany so that our conversations often were about the art of gardening and farming, areas he covers with much pleasure. Lord and Lady Landsdowne have two children who I also met. The son usually studies at Oxford while the daughter blossoms as a charming presence in Government House.

At 4 o’clock in the afternoon we departed from Calcutta. We left Barrackpur with the Eastern Bengal Railway, which crosses the Ganges plain in North-eastern direction and terminates at Damukdia Ghat on the right bank of the Ganges as a normal gauge track.  On a large steamboat we crossed the river and again used the Eastern Bengal Railway at Sara Ghat which leads from here in a northern direction to the foot of the Himalaya mountains on a narrow gauge track. To cover the distance from  Damukdia Ghat to Sara Ghat station is dependent on the season which influences the currents of the Ganges. Under favorable conditions it takes 20 minutes to cross. We used this time to eat dinner and, back on the railway, went to sleep early as far as the unfortunately also narrow gauged beds permitted. From Siliguri on, the Eastern Bengal Railway connects to the mountain railway to  Darjeeling.

Links

  • Location: Siliguri, India
  • ANNO – on 05.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Austrian annual government plan is revealed to the public and discussed in the press.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays a comedy “Wehe dem, der lügt” in the afternoon and another comedy in the evening „Der Veilchentreffer“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Opermtheater is performing once again “Die Rantzau”.

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