Jodhpur, 1 March 1893

While the larger part of our group rode out for a morning pigsticking, I wanted to hunt close to Jodhpur with Wurmbrand on the advice of a few shikaris. We drove about 3 km outside the city in the company of the resident who did not participate actively in the hunt due to his fragility. There we were received by the drivers and the hunting master, a very young man whose disheveled looks made him half a shikari but we later learned that he occupied the position of a commander of all the infantry in Jodhpur.

The hunting ground was a sandy moor with sparse bushes. Only now and then there was a field or ein dry area with high grass. At first we met only an incredible number of reddish brown rats that had their burrows in the sand and hurried around without interruption. Then there were numerous quails in the high grass of whom I shot quite a few. Otherwise it looked quite bleak in regard to the promised game. I then shot some eagles and falcons that were of species unknown to me.  Finally not even the quails made their appearance any more so that after wading for over three hours I was returning not much satisfied to Jodhpur when a herd of chinkara gazelles became visible in the distance. We quickly decided to appropriate a wagon with a zebu ox team in whose cover we approached the shy game so that I could bag a strong male.

Excited by my hunting success, the shikaris now led us to a new hunting location where we met a number of gazelle herds and shot some bucks and females at a distance. In the heat of the hunt, the hunting party had spread out so that the individual shooters were no longer aware of the others and fired vividly at the gazelles but in the direction of the other hunters.  This resulted in bullets criss-crossing the air and everyone, even those that might be great heroes otherwise, thought their safety in flight.

After this cheerful episode, I drove to Mandur, located about 5 km to the north of Jodhpur in the hillside. Once the prosperous residence of the princes of the kingdom of Marwar,  the city decayed having been devastated repeatedly during the wars of the Rajputs since Rao Jodha had shifted his residence to Jodhpur. Today only parts of the former palace and fort as well as the burial grounds and grave monuments of the princes remain. Eight of those grave monuments are in good condition. They lie close to each other and display a mix of different styles, reminding me of Sas Bahu temple in Gwalior in their main style. These are Jaina buildings on whose exteriors everywhere appear numerous figures from the Indian sagas.

On the spot where those mausoleums stand is the place where the princes after their death and their wives were burnt. The 120 wives of the maharaja Jaswant Singh, however, are said to have regarded the fire death as a holy duty so that they marched on foot to the distant Kabul where their lord and master had died to be burnt there as the saga tells it. The most outstanding cenotaphs are that of maharaja Takat Singh (died 1873), on whose grave the princely family and the dignitaries offer sacrifices and presents twice per year as well as those of Rao Maldeo, Mota Radscha Ude Singh, Sur Singh and Dewal (sanctuary) Ajit Singh, remarkable by its beautiful architecture and size .

Between the fruit gardens one sees the remains of the former palace. There stood surrounded by high shadow giving trees a sort of pavilion decorated with cut out ornaments from Agra. Then followed parts of buildings and temples with deep now ruined water basins. A certain contrast to the otherwise quiet places and rooms is formed by a temple still visited by believers today which has awfully painted high reliefs in vermilion and gold leaves of the faces of the goddess Kali, Krishna and the elephant god. A wild looking fakir with a mane sits here chanting renouncing the world on a raised stone, living from alms.

The temple continues the well conserved gallery of gods and heroes with images of the first Rajputana princes in larger than life lightly painted high reliefs made out of plaster which is glazed over by stone ware. All princes have fierce expressions and are on horseback with rich weapons as well as various attributes of their power. The creator of these works of art seems to have made a mistake in the coloring of the horses as all horses are either sky-blue or rose-red. Of interest is the observation that the clothes, weapons, jewelry and armor of the riders who used to wear them hundreds of years ago differ but little from those in use today.

While the pulsating life of people in western countries brings change at a fast pace that lead to deep changes in various areas, the native culture and art in India changes but little even during the passing of centuries.  This slow progress of the popular culture rests both on the reason that culture and art have deep roots dating back to ancient times and that the Indians cherish their traditions and customs partly due to their deep connection with religion partly due to the caste system which transmits everything from generation to generation.

On the way back to our camp we were approached by a brother of the maharaja, Kishur Singh, a very jovial gentleman with a friendly smile in front of his country house. He greeted us which made me sacrifice another handkerchief to the sandalwood oil and I was finally covered with flowers and garlands like an opera diva by Kishur and all his entourage.

In the evening the full moon spread its mild light over our camp, the fort and the many surrounding fortifications which rose in ghostly shapes on the horizon. A deep quietness only now and then broken by the howls of a jackal or the chirp of a little owl. After I had completed the letters to be sent home, I wandered around for a long time in thoughts and dreams among the outworks of the fort.

Links

  • Location:  Jodhpur, India
  • ANNO – on 01.03.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Austrian Emperor is travelling incognito as a „Bavarian Prince“ to Switzerland to meet the Empress. After a short stop in the morning in Zurich, the Emperor arrived in Territet at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The Emperor will probably stay there until the 5th of March. Arm in arm, the Emperor and the Empress walked to the Hôtel des Alpes.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays a drama „Die Ahnfrau“ (as a replacement), while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater presents „Der Postillon von Longjumeau“.

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