Jaipur, 3 March 1893

The festive receptions in India follow one another: but the resemble one another as little as do the cities. Each reception offers a new spectacle of oriental splendor and originality in which the characteristic peculiarity of the state or its ruler are expressed. On the platform of Jaipur were waiting the maharaja Sir Mahdo Singh Bahadur, the vice-royal agent of Rajputana Colonel Bradford, the resident of Jaipur Colonel Peacock and the state dignitaries. After the mutual salutations and presentations we drove in a ceremonial wagon for a half hour through one of the strangest and interesting cordons.

The maharaja does not provide any troops for the Indo-British government. There also is no English garrison in Jaipur. In case of war, however, the state has the obligation to provide 400 two-wheel transport wagons with a 1000 well trained ponies and 666 men. A detachment of this train had been organized next to the station —  the men in green uniforms — to form the cordon.

The infantry and cavalry of the maharaja which continued to form a cordon are a ludicrous and colorful horde. Among the infantry stand next to teenagers old men with silvery beards; the guns some of which carried on defective straps others on ropes were some of the most ancient almost incredible systems, even including flintlock and wall guns;  the uniform which is designed after European troop patterns was noticeable by a state of pitiful deterioration into rags despite the occassion of a parade. The officers  looked — if this was possible — even worse than the men; the orders did not seem to make much impression on the detachments. The state of the cavalry was not better, the horses small and badly kept, the saddles nearly desolate in condition, The look of the troops of the maharaja tells at first sight that he, despite being a Rajput, shows no interest in his army. He prefers to spend all his time, it is said, in the harem.

A splendid impression, however, did make the entourage and servants of the maharaja which wore very colorful clothes and carried sticks with flags which had stripes in various colors. My question about the meaning of the different colored stripes was answered that they are marks of victories. For every victory achieved by a Rajput prince he received from the Grand Mughal the right to decorate the emblems and flags with special clearly defined color stripes to commemorate the victories won. These stripes are thus something comparable to the honorful decorations of the German heraldry or the special decorations that ornament the flags of some of our regiments.

After the servants came around 300 court musicians who made hellish noises with a great variety of instruments. Especially prominent was a choir of a mounted wind section some of whose tubes were over 3 m in length — true trumpets of Jericho. Then followed the court shikaris and the servants in charge of the menagerie,  in green uniforms armed with rifles; plus the court armorer with the rifles of the maharaja and the most splendid pieces from the armory — precious guns, gorgeous lances, spears, horns etc. The procession concluded with the stable: numerous, glitteringly attired well fed horses, mostly beautiful Indian stallions, fantastically painted and decorated elephants with gilded haudas and precious blankets. Finally in great number, „court camels“ and as teams for wagons „court oxen“. The latter ones were covered in green or red blankets and ha their horns gilded for the occasion or wrapped in green cloth. Multiple music bands placed in different spots rendered our anthem in all kinds of key and tempi.

To the sound of the thunder of a three-cannon battery we entered the English residence where we set up our quarter as guests of the maharaja. In front of the gates of the palace stood an honor guard — consisting of thieves. This elite formation of Jaipur has been recruited from among the robbers who terrorized the land. The maharaja could only end this terror by transforming the thieves into an uniformed life guard, a process that is not without analogy in some places at home which shows that poachers can become forest rangers.  The Jaipur thieves discovered that their new job offered a reasonably pleasant life with little hardship and relinquished their former trade and now stand guard in front of public buildings.

In the residence I was received by Mrs. Peacock, the wife of the resident, with her two daughters and their educator. I and Wurmbrand were housed in the palace itself while the other gentlemen had a tent camp near by. With respect to the understandable desire for more comfort and greater quietness I would have preferred to join the others in the tent camp, but this was not according to Mrs. Peacock’s wishes who did want to take charge of our hospitality and common entertainment. This probably means we will be forced to spend the evening in the awful dress coats, after we have returned tired from the hunt, and dine and talk with the ladies dressed in grand gala according to the English style instead of being able to chat with the gentlemen in an open atmosphere about the day’s events.

The maharaja had escorted me to the residence and wanted to pay me his official visit after a short break which he used to make a tour of the garden. This could only take place after a short delay as the reloading of the three-cannon battery under whose thunder the visit should happen took longer than expected. Finally the first shot rang out. The maharaja arrived and the ceremony of offering attar and pan as well as the garlanding proceeded as usual.

Tall and of a hearty stature, the maharaja is an impressive man which was even made more apparent by the rich clothes and the gorgeous jewels — he wore besides other precious gems a gorgeous sabre sprinkled with large diamonds. The physiognomy of the prince however showed an expression of complete passiveness. I missed the fire in his eye which the smart eyes of noble Rajputs tends to sparkle and believed those willingly who said that the maharaja was a compliant tool in the hands of England. Adopted by his predecessor Ram Singh (1835 to 1880) the current prince of Jaipur, from a sideline of the ancient dynasty of the Kachwaha-Rajputs,  he has inherited their blood but not their drive.

The earlier Kachwaha princes still knew how to conquer by arms the territory that their tribe ruled over since 967, to enlarge and preserve it as well as to improve the capitals of the land, Amber and Jaipur, by the peaceful arts to metropoles whose buildings can compete with the most famous works of Indian architecture in size and beauty. Thus the splendor of Amber, once the seat of the Minas and after their subjugation for nearly seven centuries (until 1728) the capital of the territory that is now called Jaipur,  created by the marble buildings of Man Singh and Siwai Jai Singh was the envy even of the Grand Mughal Shah Jehan. Jaipur built by Jhai Singh II., „the astronomer“ (1699 to 1742) is one of the most beautiful places of India thanks to its elegant beauty — due to the regularity of its layout and due to the luxurious buildings, palaces and gardens.

The history of the land tells about countless feats of arms as well as of many smart and brave princes. Finally conquered by the superior forces of the Grand Mughals, the princes of the kingdom Amber-Jaipur knew to sustain their power in becoming the key commanders of the Mughals whose armies they led to victory which are remembered today as we learned during our arrival by the flags of the Jaipur troops.

Later Jaipur, whose princes had become tired of the rule of the decadent Mughals, asked the maharattas to come as liberators into their lands and was involved in the long feuds which ended only with the subjugation of the maharatta states by the English. Already in the year 1803 did the maharaja of Jaipur notice the shift in politics and enter into a relationship with the Anglo-Indian power. British troops helped the Rajputana states to liberate themselves from the rule of the maharattas.

Thus at least returned to independence in a way  the state of Jaipur has been a welcome ally at the side of England and entertains the best relations with the Anglo-Indian crown since the government of Ram Singh and clearly since the accession to the throne of the current maharaja. At present Jaipur provides, as stated previously, only supply troops to the contingent of the Anglo-Indian army. The local armed forces — around 1000 artillerymen with 281 cannons of all kind in 31 forts, 16.000 infantrymen and 4500 cavalrymen — are as the keen eye already observed during the arrival badly armed, clothed and mounted. At least they could defend their territory with these troops in case of a war and given the size of the population and the rich means of the land they could be easily increased in size and better equipped.

On an area of 39.500 km2 with two million inhabitants, Jaipur is thanks to a thoroughly plain landscape well supplied with water and thus very fertile. Thanks to its numerous industrious and mercantile population it is one of the most booming states of Rajputana. The annual income of the maharaja is said to be 4.5 million guilders in Austrian currency.

As soon as the maharaja had left with a silent greeting I drove, having again waited for the firing of the cannons, guided by the sound of their thunder to the city to the palace of the prince where I had to pay my return visit. As the way to the palace was quite long and lead in an avenue to the city gate as the residence was located at considerable distance outside the city.

Jaipur is located at the foot of a range of hills which are part of the spurs of the Arawali mountains. This range of hills encloses the city on three sides. The city stands on the ground of a former sea basin that borders to the south first on irrigated gardens and then on sandy terrain. Here a steep incline protects the city by an elevated fort, the hill range descends towards the norths and holds at the edge of a wooden gorge the old residential city of Amber. The location of Jaipur in the valley basin open to the south offers the nearly 160.000 inhabitants of the city enough space for further expansion. The river in the west of Jaipur that leads into the Chambal river, the large pond Man sagar, artificial water containers and fountains supply the city and its green surroundings with drinking and industrial water. The water of the upper river, the favorable climate, the cleanliness of the broad flagstone roads, the numerous gardens, the large squares, the road illuminations — all these advantages combine to make Jaipur a very healthy city.

In Jaipur that was like all Rajput cities was heavily fortified and enclosed by a tall wall two strange aspects are remarkable: namely the broad streets built at right angles which seemed to belong more to a modern city than here and the shared rose colored paint of the houses. The latter tastelessness dates back to the visit of the Prince of Wales when on the order of the maharaja all buildings had to be painted in the same color, even though, it is said, many houses had had interesting old frescoes. Thus the maharaja Ram Singh’s preference for rose or more correctly strawberry colors has soiled the whole city. Also of poor taste is a sign of „Welcome“ that is visible from every spot in the city and had also been painted for the honor of the Prince of Wales into the mountain side in giant dimensions with white rocks and white oily colors. For my honor, the sign had been refreshed.

O the day of our arrival colors by the way played a role in another aspect in Jaipur. They celebrated at the moment over several days the so called Holi feast, a spring feast of the Hindus that starts with masquerades and dances and often escalates into real orgies in which huge quantities of alcohol are consumed. The activity of the feast consists mainly in the citizens throwing a red powder called  phag or abir at each other — the left overs of the colors used by the priest to decorate the idol of Krishna during the feast. The consequence is that the majority of the population presents itself with their faces and clothes covered in red powder. Even though the color red is preferred in this joke, dark-blue, green and yellow are not frowned upon either. One can even see boys during the Holi feast covered in hideous manner in all colors of the rainbow go from house to house in the company of music bands. The maharaja uses to participate on the first day by personally throwing powder in the streets.

It is told that the maharaja of Indor tested a very strange summary practice during the last feast of Holi to provide his women the pleasure of being dusted with red powder at the same time. He had the women led to a courtyard, loaded a cannon with red powder and fired it into the poor beings of whom around twelve died for this „joke“.

The maharaja received me, expecting my return visit, surrounded by his dignitaries in an open hall of pillars of the palace. At the court of Jaipur, they have this laudable practice of having lots of dancers perform in front of the throne chairs during state visits. A spectacle that attracts naturally all attention of the people present and thus permits to limit the exchange of courteous phrases to the minimum necessary.

Still during the performance, a message arrived that confirmed the presence of a tiger close to the city and that we should make haste to go to the hunting ground. Quickly we made our compliments to the maharaja and rushed to the residence to get rifles and hunters and then drove South-east for about 7 km beyond the city to a spot where horses were waiting for us. On the way we drove past numerous ruins of temples and palaces among which that ancient one that rises out of a pond is particularly noteworthy.

Following a well maintained road on horseback we crossed the picturesque hilly countryside. In the first valley which we entered after going over a ridge of the hill range is a pond enclosed by tall trees in a nice manner. The pond is closed by an embankment that holds back the water coming down from the hills. Above the pond, on an incline of the wooden hill rises the now deserted palace built by Man Singh in the year 1600 at the time when Amber still was the capital of the kingdom and was inhabited by the maharajas. The short time left did not allow us to visit the interior of this famous building, its courts, halls and pavilions. From outside we could only observe the huge dimensions of this princely palace with its long multi-storeys that reminded me of the buildings in Jodhpur and Gwalior.

The city of Amber, located at the western end of the pond,  is destroyed in the largest part today and bare, only a few priestly families live around a few of the numerous palace and temple ruins that are grouped picturesquely between leafy trees. Their pointy domes, pillars, small towers and terraces are characteristic for the former greatness and beauty. Almost completely preserved are the ancient city gates as well as the fortifications which run in a zig-zag from strategically selected points in the back of the city on the hills.  These forts with their numerous small works and watch towers which send their flanking walls with crenellated watchtowers out into the valley look down as if in proud grief upon the remains of the once so splendid Amber, which now is dead and deserted, a solemn monument to the spectator about the fate of large cities.

The road became worse and more stony so that we could advance only step by step until we finally arrived at the hunting ground where we mounted elephants. The location of the drive — a jungle-like overgrown mountain side that led into some sort of valley basin — was promising; less attractive were the artificial preparations made and which were not fit for a tiger hunt. There were two large hunting platforms made out of tall planks to which led a small sand covered foot path that had been slashed into the thick jungle. If one considers how long the natives must have used in their usual laggardness to construct such an installation and the noise they must have made in doing so must have reverberated across the valley. Thus there was no doubt that any tiger living here must have been disturbed greatly. It will also have had ample time to inspect those artificial installations closely so that it will never be in their proximity again.

The terrain was well enclosed; on the one side there was an old fortress wall on the other a rocky ledge and in the valley it was closed by a long row of elephants. The result of the drive went according to my misgivings. A large number of drivers had been used; among them multiple hundreds of soldiers which thrashed through the jungle with their sabres. Everywhere there was much shouting, small rockets were fired, music bands were playing — but the tiger made no appearance near the platforms on one of which I had taken up position while the other gentlemen were on the second one. For one moment, there had been a great commotion among the drivers. It was said that the tiger had escaped towards the rear. The drivers were sent back and forward again which they did at an even slower pace and with more prudence than before but with the same negative result as during the first time. When the drive ended, I bagged a sambar deer fleeing from the drivers nearby.

In the most wonderful moonshine we rode home. Like in a dream the quiet lake lay in front of us below the mountain castle and the ruins of the city — a view that partly compensated for the hunting failure.

Links

  • Location:  Jaipur, India
  • ANNO – on 03.03.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Emperor and the Empress paid a visit to beautiful Chillon castle in Switzerland. The Empress shopped a lot, considered habitual by the reported.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays a drama „Deborah“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater presents again Gounod’s „Margarethe (Faust)“.

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