Hydarabad, 26 January 1893

After the numerous festivities of the previous days, today’s morning was devoted to hunting. At dawn we left Bashir Bagh lead by Major Alfsar Dschang in a large coach to the plains surrounding Hyderabad, the Nizam’s hunting grounds.

The first catch I made that day already on the way were some flying squirrels which we saw hanging in the trees in their thousands in front of the palace of the English resident. Consul general Stockinger undertook the mission of informing the occupants of the palace about the shots in order not to scare them and believe in the start of a revolution. I shot four squirrels which made the rest of them come alive. They rose and cried fluttering around like ghosts above our heads.

At the hunting ground, — near Sarur Nagar — about 10 km distant from the city our hunting cheetahs were expecting us, as well as many falcon hunters and our riding horses. After a prolonged discussion and much shouting it was decided to hunt first with falcons. In want of other game to hunt which would have required time to track down, a recently captured stork was liberated and after some time, the falcon was launched into the air. We galloped after it and saw after a few minutes how the falcon attacked the stork and fell with him to the ground. All this happened in a glance. A second stork did not want to lift off, wild herons did not show themselves and so the bird hunt had to be terminated.

Now it was the cheetah’s turn. Two of them with bound eyes were on a small ox-drawn cart. We rode behind the cart until a herd of black bucks was discovered. with two strong bucks among them. We riders kept ourselves a bit back while the shikaris with the cheetahs drove in a diagonal direction towards the unsuspectingly grazing antelopes.Then at a distance of around 100 paces, the does fled but the two bucks can still be approached more closely. Finally, the cart had come to within about 80 paces of them, when they started to flee too. At the same time, the shikaris removed the covers from the cheetah’s eyes and released them. In a giant leap does it jump from the cart and pursues with the tail held high one of the black bucks that had separated itself from his colleague. The pursued aware of the danger is in full but futile flight. After only a few jumps the cheetah is on the buck’s back, forces it down and bites it in the neck in one moment, so that when we came running the animal had already died. Greedily, the cheetah was tasting the ample blood and did not want to relinquish its prey. Only with much effort did the shikaris manage to control the cheetah again.

So we learned about this interesting new method of hunting and decided to use the remaining time to hunt black bucks. We split into three parties and each tried its luck in a different direction. I went towards north with Alfsar Dschang and Kinsky.  The hunting location was a plain with only some small hills and undulating ground on which were palm groves, thorny jungle as well as moors covered for the most part with withered yellow grass. This is the favorite spot of the black bucks.

Soon I had tracked two large herds which were grazing in the high grass and approached them by a small crack in the earth up to 120 paces from the next herd which counted among 100 animals. United stood — a beautiful picture — strong bucks with their long winding horns, old females and many young animals. At this moment one of the females got wind of me and fled with a number of younger animals — it was time to start shooting. I aimed at the strongest buck and fired; The shot wounded it hard like a piece of big game touched but it still fled with the rest of the herd. In this moment I shot a second moving capital buck. A third one shocked by the fall of the second ran towards me. I quickly pushed a  new round into the barrel and had good luck of hitting it in full flight. The bagged bucks with their dark brown and snow white fur, their racious heads and feet as well as their beautiful horns were quickly given over to the masterful hands of Hodek. As soon as the herd was within sight it kept fleeing without interruption until it disappeared into a thick jungle.

I now rode towards a higher ridge looking for new game. I thought to be successful in such terrain and indeed discovered a herd behind a rock. The herd was very timid, however, and fled quickly despite my careful approach so that I only managed to bag a female goat.

In the high grass jumped many hares which are similar to ours but smaller and with longer and more transparent ears. There were partridges and quails in great number. After striving for quite some time, I found another herd close to the border of the Nizam’s hunting grounds. Of the large number of bucks  I shot one.

The sun was burning hot upon us and the shikaris showed signs of being tired. Thus we rested an hour under a large tree.

After we resumed the hunt, I decided to revisit the herd we shot at in the morning and after we searched for half an hour, we found it in a bare moor. I tried to sneak up on them as near as possible but had to fire from so far away that I only struck a buck in the flank. Now I wanted to bag him under any condition as he seemed very strong. I only succeeded with quite some effort spent and after having shot another healthy buck during the pursuit.

It had not been a delusion: The wounded buck had been extremely old and had gray and sparse hair and two worn broken horns. The difficulty of bagging such a badly wounded animal which always escapes out of shooting distance in such an open space under time pressure while seeing its pain and having no dogs around  can only be appreciated by a hunter who is capable of solving a similar task in a similarly difficult situation.

It was time to return to the country house of the minister in Sarur Nagar, where we were expected to change our clothes for a sporting event in the afternoon. On the way I shot two more, a buck and a goat, and galloped to the country house  were an opulent breakfast was awaiting us. This house is the favorite summer retreat of the minister which resembles Bashir Bagh palace very much, and serves as the domicile of the minister’s five year old son which he presented to my as a proud father.

In the courtyard five one year old tiger were kept in chains which the minister had captured the year before after having killed their mother. They look very nice, rather large and play just like cats. We could pet them which was a real joy. With my great pleasure I learned that the kind owner presented me two as gifts which I intend to bring home alive and healthy.

As Kinsky was again struck down by a fever attack, he had to return home with Mr. Stevens. We drove with a gorgeous team of six white horses which was driven by the Nizam’s outstanding equerry from the coachman’s seat to the sporting event in Malakpett, an open space about 3 km out of Hyderabad with all kinds of sportive activities such as running, tent pegging, shooting on glass balls etc. A spacious decorated tent and a large tribune had been erected for the large audience consisting mostly of Englishmen and Nawabs. Infantry and cavalry stood in ranks beside the road.

The first event was tent pegging which I had already learned about in Parel, picking up wooden pegs rammed into the ground with lances with the riders approaching at full speed and the goal of picking up all pegs without missing or dropping a single one.  Both natives and Englishmen performed in this difficult activity which an Indian officer won.

Very funny was the elephant race, in which eight of the thick-skins started and ran the distance at an incredibly fast trot incited in a friendly way by their driver with shouts, hits and pricks. Not less original was a camel race.

New like these two numbers was the horses‘ fight. Two groups of ten riders of native cavalry regiments on naked horses rode at the signal of the starter towards each other and attempted to draw their opponents from the horse. The riders only wore a shirt and trousers and wore different sashes. The horses only had bridles. With monkey-like agility the riders managed to stay on their horses, some of the larger riders closed their feet under their horse’s belly and were safe from being dislodged even when two or three opponents tried to unhorse them. One man had already been pushed off the back of the horse but held on the horse head for many more minutes until the horse stumbled over. One must admit that all these people display great endurance and bravery.

At another event, riders were tasked to cover a certain distance and ride around a flag first in gallop and then ride through a paper wall with the horse. The first one who breached the paper wall was declared the winner. Unfortunately, this competition could not take place as the strong wind tore the paper wall in two. From the equestrian point of view, it would have been interesting to observe how long it would take for a pony to decide to run through the wall.

As a replacement of this number, a footrace among soldiers and a race of ponies were organized. The latter one was won by the adjutant of the resident.  For the prize shooting competition, they wanted to wait for the arrival of the Nizam as he is used to participate in this sport. But hour upon hour passed so that they finally started it without the Nizam,

The prize shooting competition opened with a shot on thrown bottles in which many  Nawabs, the Nizam’s adjutant and an English officer participated. I too was asked to compete but I shot badly as I did not find the necessary quietness for a shooter which always happens in front of a large audience. In any case, worse than the day before as I was second in the shot on bottles and third in the shot on clay balls.

When the two competitions had been decided, the Nizam appeared and participated too in the shooting. It was not difficult for him to win. I had an exceedingly bad day. In the match of shooting rupees, the Nizam beat all competition.

The final was composed by a new kind of shooting at a swinging bottle on a string. I tried this feat for the first time; the Nizam, however, seemed to have been well practised in such shooting, as he expressed his pleasure with the program and offered directions with words and gestures about the distances and the rules. He let me shoot first; with four of six shots I hit the bottle. The Nizam achieved the same result so that we had to decide the issue. We shot the bottle five times in a row. During the sixth shot I was disturbed by the loud applause and shouts, so I failed while the Nizam scored and won.

During the distribution of the prizes I became my duty as a guest to hand the prizes over to the winners where the Nizam was especially proud to receive his. The sun had already set when we left the scene of the festivities to undertake the journey of 14-5 km lto North Trimulgherry to where we had been invited to a dinner with the officers of the 21st Hussars regiment. The moon was shining but the drive across the plain did not offer many enchanting views as we were also covered in thick clouds of dust.

In front of the officers‘ barracks was lined up a mounted squadron. There we were expected by Colonel Martin with his corps of officers, the Nizam, his ministers and the adjutants, the resident, Mr. Trevor C. Plowden, and all higher commanders of the garrison. The officer corps wore a fancy so called mess dress, some sort of dinner costume. Due to illness and vacations of many of its members only about 20 gentlemen were present.

The mess had been practically located for a hot climate and consisted of two large and high ventilated parlor-like rooms, one of which served as a reception and smoking room while the other serves as a dining hall. The walls of both rooms are covered with paintings about the regiment’s history, decorated with battle pictures and hunting trophies among them capital buffalo skulls.  At the topside of the dining room hangs the portrait of the Duke of Wellington who commanded the regiment which can look back on a history of more than 120 years in the year 1797 during the Indian fights against Tippu Sahib, the Maharattas and the French.

Black and yellow bands, our colors chosen in our honor, decorated the table between flowers while valuable silver and gold cups that the regiment had won in various sports such as running, polo, cricket or had received from departing officers served as fixtures. On my right sat Colonel Martin, a charming man with whom I talked much about cavalry which he offered special tribute. On my left sat Lieutenant Pirie, a brother of my hunting companion in Kalawewa on Ceylon. The dinner passed in a vivid and relaxed atmosphere. After toasts to the Queen, is Majesty, me and the Nizam, all officers sang the song „He is a jolly good fellow“. After the dinner we went to the veranda where the regimental band played and offered a few more „wild“ toasts to our army as well as every individual of my entourage. Later the festivity turned into a musical production where everyone gifted with a voice or not had to offer his best in song. We too had to sing the „Prinz Eugen Lied“ and the „Liechtensteinische Lied“ and many other soldier and rider song.

When the hilarity was at its highest point, the English officers jumped upon me and my entourage and carried us under large applause on their shoulders across the room. The Nizam watched this in silence. His astonishment knew no bounds, however, when suddenly some Hussar officers grabbed him too and carried him around in triumph. Such an adulation had never been given to him before but he took it in good strides even though we feared he might not do so. The resident had watched the proceedings not without concerns but was satisfied to see that the Nizam thanked for the ovation with a bow.

This funny symposium constituted the end of the festivities and the stay in Hyderabad territories. At the advanced hour the Nizam and I took leave from each other and our entourages. The Nizam kindly presented me with a golden inkstand  and a gorgeous blanket laced with gold as a souvenir. One of my gentlemen took the inkstand into their care and put it into a bag. The minister of the Nizam who had observed this immediately notified Wurmbrand of this action and insisted that the inkstand had already disappeared in a stranger’s bag — apparently misapplying his oriental experience to our customs, a forgiveable mistake.

Special presents were not necessary from the Nizam’s part, as an enduring and thankful memory of him and his country is assured. The days in Hyderabad were transformed by the hospitable Nizam’s gesture into a wonderland of an Indian fairy tale with unexpected luxurious magnificence out of the deep sleep to be displayed before me in enchanting glory and linked to my lifespan by magic!

The Nizam returned to Hyderabad;  for us the snorting iron horse of the special train was expecting us with impatience since one hour. We said good-bye near midnight also to our comrades of the 21st Hussars regiments, in whose midst we spent a happy evening reminding of home, and entered the train.  The younger officers offered a tribute by removing the horse team of my carriage and drawing the carriage themselves for a certain distance. After three rounds of hurrah, drawn by fast horses we flew to the railway station in Sikandarabad, towards the place of prose, which made fairy tales flee ….

Links

  • Location: Hyderabad, India
  • ANNO – on 26.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers, The Tsarevich is abroad too, attending his youngest sister’s wedding in Berlin.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is performing Shakespeare’s „Much ado about nothing“, while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater is playing the opera „Der Vasall von Szigeth“.

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