Jaipur, 6 March 1893

Jaipur is famous for its animal fights which has an eager supporter in the person of the maharaja. He keeps a complete stable of animals for this sport which are specially trained for these activities. In earlier times, these fights only ended by incapacitation, until one of the contestants had been completely succumbed, but nowadays this has been changed by the English influence which tried to strip the fights of their bloody and cruel character so that the animals are separated just before the decisive moment. In our honor, a whole series of fights of varied kinds were organized.

In the courtyard where the day before the horses of the stable had made their show, now stood various animals ready for the fight. As before in Alwar, feathered fighters were set against one another — quails, partridges, rock partridges and common chicken. The most wild ardor of these partly extremely delicate fighters was, like in Alwar, worth a look and the calls of the eternal females, hens in cages, ablaze.

Multiple pairs of black-bucks, gazelles and Indian hog deer — the last ones especially fierce fighters, madly crashed into one another so that the shock of the antlers clashing could be heard widely — and fought fiercely. Rams and might sambar deer too that could only be separated again with much difficulties as well as buffaloes, storming into the arena like wall breakers, entered the place. A highlight of the spectacle was the fight between wild boars which were fighting in all age classes from the young boars to the capital eight-year-old boar. The latter one fought with the same determination as one can observe in our zoos during the rutting season.

To our great surprise two elephants were sent to fight against one another in the courtyard of the palace. For the organization of such fights, the maharaja keeps around twelve untamed elephants, all of which wear chains on their four feet and are housed in a separate stable. These wild fellows are not to be in contact with the tame animals. Elephant fights are reserved for especially important festivities for which the fighters are incited to a vicious mood with all kinds of techniques. Furthermore, the elephants are painted red. This color is said to have the same effect on them as on bulls. For these fights the enclosed courtyard has been covered with a very fine sand. The maharaja enjoys the spectacle from a raised pavilion on one side, while within the arena, galleries had been installed below which the people can lie safely behind a narrow door who have been tasked to incite the animals to fight.

On a sign by the maharaja the door was opened and a giant elephant armed with huge tusks entered the courtyard, looked around in surprise and started to follow the people in red who tried to infuriate the animal with shouts, stone throws and swinging of clothes but ran for cover as soon as the animal approached. Finally the smart animal accepted that all efforts were in vain and stood quietly in the middle of the courtyard. Now another elephant became visible out of another gate and quickly the two animals charged each other at a canter with raised trunks and ears extended. The crash of their two heads resounded, they tried to catch one another with the trunk, attacked one another with the tusks into the flank so that one nearly managed to lift the other into the air and chased each other around the courtyard.

Our excited expectations about the next stages of the fight was ended prematurely as the maharaja caring much about the animals‘ health had the two animals separated as soon as the fighting became more intense. This was achieved only at great effort and with the use of firecrackers thrown in between the fighters. These spectacles, by the way, tend to end not always so smoothly. At times, one has to lament the loss of life of a human as angry animals succeed from time to time to catch one or another of the guardians. Only a short time ago many people had been thus killed.

Still during the spectacle news arrived that about 19 km outside of the city, a tiger had been confirmed. We soon took off, covered the same way partly in the wagon partly on horseback on the same road we had taken the day before until we reached the ancient city of Amber and then turned right into a side valley where thanks to the good ground we could cover the remaining 16 km almost completely at a gallop. The hunting ground — a covered plain which was to be driven against the defensive line up on the ridge in the distance — is similar to that of the first unsuccessful tiger hunt. Today too I noticed to my horror the same artful preparations with high seats and park grounds as during the first hunt so that I braced myself for a similar result. The drive took a long time without the tiger making any appearance. I only saw a hyena, the first in India an the only intermezzo of the hunt.

A quick ride brought us back to the residence just in time for us to dress up in formal wear for the banquet of the maharaja at 8 o’clock. I had asked to cancel this festivity but the maharaja insisted not only because princes whom I had visited before had treated me to one too but especially as he felt compelled to compensate me for the unsuccessful hunts.  Crossing the palace’s courtyard illuminated like daylight by lampions and small oil lamps we entered the spacious hall of pillars in which a table had been set and where I was received by the maharaja. Unfortunately he retired after the greeting as his religious obligations did not permit him to share a meal at a dinner where I sat between Mrs. Peacock and one of her daughters. He only returned for the black coffee to the hall. Then four of the usual toasts were given — in the maharaja’s place spoke his minister.

After the dinner the whole ballet corps of Jaipur presented itself in its monotone dances and songs in front of the glittering illuminated courtyard.  The burden of governing doesn’t seem to impact the maharaja much. One should rather believe that his army of women living in a separate part of the palace, it is said 5000 in numbers, creates much more vexing sorrows. Still he seeks and finds his distraction there so that every evening until dawn he attends the productions of his dancers in one of the courtyards.

A firework marked the end of the feast. Smilingly the maharaja enjoyed watching the rockets, bangers, suns, Bengal lights, the cracking, spaying and whizzing of the illuminated sky and in the best of moods he pointed out pyrotechnical effects he liked particularly well.

Then we took leave of the charming hospitable maharaja, not without having to sacrifice another handkerchief to the sandalwood oil and the uniform to the wet flower garlands that were especially unkind to its golden lacing.

Links

  • Location:  Jaipur, India
  • ANNO – on 06.03.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Emperor heard mass in a small chapel in Montreux, Switzerland. Spain is having elections.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays „Fromont junior und Risler senior“,  while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater presents Massenet’s opera  „Werther“.

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