Next to Ajmer the railway meets the spurs of the Arawali mountains that constitute the western border of the huge plain of the Ganges river. Composed out of shale, quartz and gneiss, the Arawali mountains is remarkable geologically through its folds, geographically due to its separator role between East Rajputana and the plains of Marwar which already are part of the desert or more correctly the basin of the Thar desert. The ridge of the Arawali may once in an earlier era have constituted the sea coast in which the hill lands of Jodhpur may have been an island. Scarcely cultivated and inhabited, poor in water and rich in sand, this part of West Rajputanas we were crossing apparently has the same landscape character as the land around Alwar. The valley of a width of 16 to 24 km seem to be enclosed by mountain ridges; cultivated land alternates with extended areas of moors that offer domicile where sweet water and bushes provide drink and cover to whole packs of wild boars as well as gazelles and black-bucks.
From far away we could already see, across the empty plain, the sandstone hills, the castle hill, the fort and individual palaces of Jodhpur. At 9 o’clock in the morning our train rolled into the station.
On the platform we were received by Jaswant Singh Bahadur, the maharaja of Jodhpur or as his reign is also called of Marwar, the British resident Colonel Abbott and the dignitaries of the powerful Rajput princes. All wore their fashionable national costumes; the dress of the maharaja was decorated with precious emeralds and rubies. The reception was sparkling in any dimension. Outside the station a large crowd was expecting us while troops formed a cordon. These soldiers as well as our escorts were part of the cavalry regiment which the maharaja provides to the English government. Richly decorated elephants with valuable gild-embroidered blankets and the princely stable have also been present en pleine parade. The cavalry regiment looks splendid and is the most beautiful I have yet seen in India. Made up of through and through well bred persons on excellent mostly local horses. The uniform consists of a white coat with salmon red belts and white trousers, light gray turbans with a silver aigrette; the armament were lances with pennons and carbines – a picturesque sight.
The conversation with the maharaja, who seems to be around 50 years of age and has a shaggy black beard and looks sinister into the world, was dragging itself out as Crawford had to translate every word into Hindustani.
The Rajputana state Marwar or Jodhpur, apparently founded by Rao Siaji, a nephew of maharaja Jaj Chands, king of Kanauj on the right bank of the Ganges river. Founded in the year 1211 AD it has since been conspicuous for the bravery of its princes and warriors.
Among the princes of Jodhpur are most remarkable: Rao Jodha, the founder of the new capital named after him, Jodpur (1459); Rao Maldeo, during whose reign the Grand Mughal Akbar made war on Marwar (1561); Rao Maldeo’s son, Chander Sen who resisted the Grand Mughal for 17 years; Rao Ude Singh, who was given the title of Mota Raja and new lands by the Grand Mughals; Sur Singh (died 1620) and Gaj Singh, whose son (died 1638), called Dalthamban, »the defence of the enemy«, both great warriors; the equally learned and militant Jaswant Singh who came to power in 1638 and was feared even by Aurengzeb, and finally Takat Singh (died 1873), of a side line of the ruling dynasty who chose the English side during the uprising of 1837. The son of Takat Singh is the ruling maharaja, under whose government Jodhpur, with a few cloudy exceptions, has been associated with England by a peace treaty in the year1803 and remains faithful to the British crown, has undertaken modern reforms and continues to bloom in a peaceful manner.
We saw then the descendant of the Rathors, Jaswant Singh, a principal tribe of the old Aryan sun dynasty, a great nephew of the sun kings whose actions are sung about in the national epic Ramayana, whose cities and residences used to fill the area of the two rivers Ganges and Yamuna in the distant past. The not especially numerous Rajputs are of a noble blood and are not only acknowledged by the people but also by old English genealogical works as the descendants of the glorious dynasty of the very ancient sun kings.
The house of Jaswant Singh is among the blooming powerful and respected royal houses of Rajputana and is able to trace his lineage to truly royal blood. Still despite the marriage arrangements between the members of the house and the Mughal dynasty there have been repeated conflicts and wars between Jodhpur and Udaipur as the ruling family of Udaipur, also proud about its pure blood lineage, considered any relation with the Jodhpur dynasty that was now related to the house of the Grand Mughals as a misalliance. This conflict could only be resolved in the manner that the sons from marriages with princesses from the house of Udaipur were given precedence in the succession among the princes of Jodhpur.
The state of Jodhpur covers around 95.000 km with about three million inhabitants among which are 86 percent Hindus, in the majority Rajputs, 10 percent Jainas and 4 percent Muslims. Grain, opium, some cotton, tobacco and sugar cane, fruit, cattle, hides and wool, marble ware from Makrana, as well as salt are the main product of the land. Great salt deposits are at the bottom of the basin which are laid bare by weathering out. During the rainy season the basin forms the Sambar lake of 480 km2. The commercial exploitation of these deposits that produce on average 300.000 English tons of table salt annually has been transferred to the English government in the year 1870. It manages and exploits this largest of all Indian salt works in a rational manner.
A few irregulars excepted, the army numbers 256 artillerymen with 75 usable guns, 3162 cavalrymen on horses and camels and 3653 infantrymen. Plus the maharaja provides a regiment of 600 cavalrymen for the use of the English government — perhaps the best mounted and equipped troops in the Imperial Service Troops in India, the contingents of the Indian princes under supervision by the English government.
Besides the ceremonial carriage on the right rode the maharaja’s brother, Maharaj Adhiraj Colonel Sir Pratap Singh, the all powerful reformer of Jodhpur who combines an number of titles in his person. He is the first minister (Awal Musahib) in charge of the administration and commands also all the troops of his brother whose advisor he is in all manners. An energetic, expressive face confirms the chancellor and generalissimus of Jodhpur’s capabilities in all his jobs. He rode a beautiful English thoroughbred that he has bought on the occasion of the jubilee of the queen in England. On the left of the carriage rode Harji Singh, an adjutant of the maharaja, an exceptionally beautiful young man who excels in all kinds of sports, namely at polo and pigsticking, as a true Rajput confirming edginess and endurance an is said to be unsurpassed in his performance. A born rider, he makes an excellent figure in the saddle has enviable posture and seems to have merged with his horse.
In some kind of garden, Paota Bag, close to Rai-ka Bag, the residence of the maharaja in the East of the city, a tent camp had been set up in Indian splendor and waste of space that formed a small city of its own, like the others already used. In my house completely covered with precious rugs I found a number of Geneva play clocks and works which seemed to be a special preferred toy of the maharaja. In front of the tent camp a park-like avenue with water fountains, marble statues and shade-giving trees; everywhere stood wagons, riding horses even bicycles at our convenience; complete caravans of camels carried without interruption water in large gourds to bind the nasty dust.
A half hour after my arrival the maharaja appeared in a sparkling attire surrounded by dignitaries and his personal guards to pay his official visit to me which went according to the local protocol. He and I on two throne chairs. On the right of us the European, on the left of us the Indian entourage; some translated phrases as a binder. During an artificial break, the English resident rose and presented me to the Indian courtiers. I then handed attar and pan to the maharaja, garlanded him with flowers and offered him a few drops of the mean sandalwood and rose oil on his handkerchief. Official visits are usually the only occasion for Indians to use this object of civilization. Usually they are satisfied with simpler means.
The visit had to naturally be followed by a return visit, to which I was escorted by two native gentlemen to the residence of the maharaja under the uninterrupted saluting thunder of the batteries at the court of justice, a building constructed only recently in Indian style.
This palace is a strange round building with also round projecting towers which resembles a greenhouse or an exhibition pavilion. The glaring white paint blinds the eye by its reflection of the sun light. In the souterrain were open galleries for horses. On a very steep stone ramp without steps which led directly to the first floor, my friend Jaswant Singh received me, while his soldiers presented arms in the courtyard and a regimental band played our anthem as a quick polka. The first floor of the palace contains only a round reception hall with small side rooms which are decorated with rather tasteless European images and knick-knacks. The return visit differed from the visit to the maharaja only that it was my turn to suffer in that I was marked with sandalwood oil and chewed betel for the first time accepting the danger of having my teeth turn red. I found it incredibly hot and tasting acerbic as well as making thirsty.
Among all the natives of India which I have seen up to now I prefer the Rajputs of which only relatively few are of pure blood descent whereas every other Hindu who has come into wealth and honor tries to add to his luster by an apocryphal Rajput pedigree. The men are tall, strong, lean with black mustaches and full beards which they brush upwards in an original manner and even bind around their ears. They have a martial, soldierly posture differing positively from the rest of the mostly flabby and casual Hindus. Their bearing is striking at first sight and is probably due to their century-old occupation in wars. Always the various princes and tribes, even neighboring villages, have lived in wild feud amongst one another. Always there was war, raids and bloody enterprises. Even today where not even ten thousand true Rajputs are serving in the English Sepoy army, every male Rajput carries his sharp sword. Even the coachman on his seat carries a sword in his belt. Also the character of the land is witness to the struggles of times past as every city, even every small village, every palace is fortified with walls, ditches and bastions in the most inventive way. On numerous mountains one can still see ring walls and observation towers as well as small castles which the individual princes had built against the raids of their unruly neighbors.
The martial character of the Rajputs is apparently linked to their excellent riding skills. Nowhere have I seen such skilled natural riders, so good and well kept horses as in Jodhpur. During the present peaceful time the Rajputs are devoted to riding sports and are keen in pigsticking, as well as polo in which they beat all Englishmen thanks to their riding skills. Most prominent in riding activities are Sir Pratap Singh and Harji Singh, as well as Major Beatson, a charming and brave officer who has assimilated to the local customs and passions, rides together with the natives and enjoys their special confidence and respect. He has been sent to Jodhpur three years ago to organize the Imperial Service Troops of this state. Major Beatson told me that it was a true pleasure working with the people of Jodhpur. They had shown so much goodwill and it had been very easy to build an excellent troop.
The rest of the day was spent in visiting the city and its sights. The city has around 60.000 inhabitants and is situated on the southern foot of the mountain ridge which rises out of the plain. It is enclosed by a long wall with seven gates. First I guided my steps to the bazaar, the place in Indian cities where the soul of the people displays itself in its original manner and offers rich material for the ethnographic collector.
Jodhpur is remarkable as the location of a developed commercial activity which is performed by a notable part of the inhabitants as overall an important part of the population of India is actively seeking employment in the enterprises of various industries.
Trade of all kind, from the trade in field products against simple goods up to the speculation in world trade goods and railway stocks, mortgages and bills of exchange is the job of around ten million Indians of different races, castes and confessions. The merchants who deal wholesale and do money-lending are since ancient times Mahajan, »big men«, as are the grocers, traders, marketeers, peddlers all organized in castes according to industry and united in guilds and associations. The influence of them in commerce is so important that for the main trading spots even European firms join them.
Ranked below the Brahmins and the Rajputs, the nobles, the bankers (Parikh) as well as the merchants (Rakam bechnewala) and money changers (Sarraf) play as an important role in the cities as the retail traders (Churdafarosh), the resellers, the shop keepers and the money lenders do in the plains. The kings of the Indian trade are the Parsi merchants whose bills of exchange are respected in the Anglo-Indian empire as well as in London and in the Chinese harbors. For the wealth and the munificence of these Parsis numerous public buildings and foundations are testimonies. The most numerous of the traders‘ castes are those of the Baniyas who mostly engage in export. The most original figures are among the Bandscharis, a sort of freight handlers who are well armed and brave and travel across the country in ox caravans.
Across Thar desert on whose edge lie the growing cities of Rajputana move from Afghanistan, Herat, Kabul, Ghasna, Kandahar and from Kelat in Baluchistan trading caravans to the enticing rich lands between the rivers of Hindustan, guarding their wares, their animals and women with care and looking in the sandy hills for fountains, bushes and prairie grass; making a stop where peasants in the scarce villages have dug for drinking water to irrigate gardens and offer a drink to humans and the animals. Hyenas and wolves are criss-crossing the plains of Thar; more dangerous than the predators are the Rajput thieving knights for the caravans and the herds in their meadows. Living in their tiny old castles and ambushing with their men and ambushing the retail traders and the shepherds to plunder them.
How important the development of the trading spirit in Marwar has been since ancient times, is shown in the name of all traders in North-western India which are called Marwani, derived from Marwar (Jodhpur). Today, however, Marwar has long lost its importance as a focal trading location in North-western India. Instead it is neighboring Ajmer with its Jaina merchants and its famous bazaar palaces which is reputed to be the main money market of Rajputana.
Still there is much activity going on in the bazaar of Jodhpur among sellers and buyers, whereas the sellers are divided into categories in the different parts of the bazaar or more precisely in their own bazaars. We walked through the bazaar of the cobblers and tanners, situated outside the city gate. The cobblers and tanners are among the lowest castes as they are considered unclean due to them treating the hides of holy animals. Furthermore we visited the bazaar for metal wares, that of the money changers and the food sellers etc.
In the middle of the city I had multiple opportunities to admire the rich ornaments on the fronts of the stone house as well as the beautiful gates decorated with metal. Nearly every house looks like a work of art. Multiple larger palaces of rich Rajputs are notable by their extensive ornamentation and which often includes on the right and left side of the gate stone elephants with mahaut and hauda at an impressive size. Many days one could spend to observe the original and interesting forms of the houses and memorize them.
My sightseeing led me, accompanied by a cheering and shouting crowd into a side street where a native made a sign to approach to show us an old strange fountain which is built in three levels one on top of the other formed by pillars and whose water levels leads through fifty steps. The water seemed bad and foul. That, however, did not hold back a number of Hindu women to bath in the fountain in very airy costumes and to wash their clothes. In this activity, these naiads of Jodhpur were not only disturbed in their activity and work but had to endure the sneering laughter of the crowd which had followed us to the fountain.
One peculiarity of Jodhpur is the small number of religious buildings. A few larger temples apart, among which it is worth to mention the temple that contains the university of Telaiti-ka-mahal, one can see only now and then small house chapels dedicated to the elephant god. The reason for this is the character of the Rajputs who despite religious beliefs were opposed to the creeping influence of the Brahmins and therefore did not encourage the construction and maintenance of temples.
In this the inhabitants of Jodhpur are supported by their current minister Maharaj Sir Pratap Singh who is trying to limit the bogus activities of the Brahmins who are intent on exploiting the believers.
Sir Pratap Singh, a widely travelled man who had visited also our own imperial city and knew to talk about it with pleasure displays a keen knowledge of human nature, a clear view and practical sense. It is due to him that the pomp of the marriage ceremonies that used to take days and vere always very costly even ruinous even for very wealthy families has been forbidden by the government and the act of marriage made into a simple procedure. For the execution of this reform, Sir Pratap Singh himself gave a good example by having his daughter marry without festivities and on the day of marriage had the groom and bride kneel and gave them his blessing and declared them man and wife. This clearly simple procedure served as a drastic example for the population in combination with the general prohibition, so that the wasteful and often quite raw traditional marriage feasts in Jodhpur have come to an end.
Through various small alleys in which always curious faces stared out of the houses, we came to the foot of the mountain on which lies the fort with its towers, walls and palaces proudly looking down upon the city. Majestically it rises a nearly impregnable castle with 100 m high walls and strong towers on stone cone. whose northern face falls almost vertically to the plain. A steep, paved path covered by the gates led close to the dropping sides of the stone in numerous curves in a zig-zag manner up to the fort. Every gate on this ascent has living quarters for the guards and is armed with antiquated guns. Some of the external gates are covered with iron spikes like in Gwalior which also serve the purpose to defend against charging elephants during a siege.
As my companion, Major Beatson, a thorough expert on the history of Jodhpur, told me that in an earlier attack on the fort it proved futile to crash one of the gates due to these iron spikes. Finally a number of courageous Rajputs had bound cloth around the eyes of their horses to get past this obstacle and rode with force against the gate and the lower iron studded planks and crashed through even though it crushed horse and rider in the breach.
On the walls of the uppermost gate through which one enters the interior of the fort one can see the impression of tiny female hands. These hand signs covered in golden and silver colors is a reminder of a sad chapter in India’s moral history, about Sati or the burning of widows whose incredible practice is derived from the the voluntary death in the fire of Sati the niece of Brahma and is considered so holy by orthodox Hindus even today so that despite the actions of the English governments which punishes promoters of Sati as murderers a case of widow burning happened not long ago. Here in the castle of Jodhpur every widow of a maharaja put her hand colored red upon the white washed wall before she went up to the pyre. These only marks of their earthly presence of their female being destroyed by fire was seen as a sign of marital fidelity and embellished with gold and silver for the highest veneration. What horrible pain of death had these poor victims of fanatical blindness to endure on their last walk. What anguish had these youthful hearts of these poor women to go through in view of the burning pyre amidst a shouting crowd, whose hot flames would soon consume her cruelly and turn her into a heap of dead ashes!
After our pass through the gate we met a guard consisting of artillerymen. From here it continued between high walls to the palace which was inhabited from the time of Rao Jodha, the founder of the fort (1459), to Takat Singh (died 1873) by the maharajas. The exterior of this sandstone building has been richly decorated with ornaments whose delicate patterns reminded me of the wall ornaments in Agra. The interior of the palace holds rich treasures, precious weapons, gems and jewels.
Even though the weapon collection is displayed in a semi-dark room, we were still able to survey the weapons collections, especially the very rich and interesting collection. Next to the entrance all, the visitors to this admirable collection will notice that strangely formed lances and beautifully carved powder horns made out of ivory or sea shells. Furthermore there were multiple splendid specimens of those characteristic Rajput swords in numerous display cases. Plus outstanding blades richly in-laid with gold as well as knives with beautiful stone grips. A completely gilded armor reminds one in the construction and the painting of the desired kind reminds people that they were promised certain advantages.
The most valuable in the armor hall are the rifles which show the development of guns in Rajputana from ancient times to the present. Arquebuses of the most primitive kind with narrow short barrels are examples of the first guns. Then followed a number of muskets with flintlock mechanisms and strangely crescent-shaped barrels of whose form I was unaware. The rifles used by the maharajas for hunting are decorated over and over especially on the locks and the barrel with rich gold ornaments. From the smallest carbine to the long duck hunting rifles, all types and all kinds of Indian guns are represented. Among the newer hunting rifles one finds many European makes here which despite its oriental splendor have been crafted in London or Suhl. Finally there also shields, spears, lances and strangely shaped maces.
Remarkable is the content of the safely kept treasury. The range of the collected valuables can be explained by the fact that the maharajas of Jodhpur, despite ruling over only a small territory, have participated in the campaigns across half of India under the Grand Mughals Akbar, Jehangir, Aurengzeb and temporarily have been vice-kings of Dekhan, Mahva and Gujerat. As mighty warlords, governors and courtiers, the maharajas acquired partly as spoils of war partly as gifts these treasures which would be the pride of every imperial palace. The value of the precious stones, jewels and pearls in the treasury of Jodhput is said to be many millions but remains unknown as the superstitious belief of the Rajputs prevents the creation of an estimate which is said to bring ill luck. A single collier of emeralds and pearls with diamond drops in the size of dove eggs which the son of the maharaja wore during my reception may be worth 400.000 to 500.000 guilders. Of such colliers, the treasure counts at least a dozen. At its side are sparkling a number of diadems one of which, decorated with gorgeous diamonds and rubies, was particularly impressive. Furthermore there are six display cases filled with the most valuable agraffes, bracelets, braces, rings and jewels of all kinds. Marked by the clarity, fire, color, pure water, in short all the advantages, the precious stones held here gain in value and beauty by their tasteful fittings. Shields, dinner services and fittings out of pure gold, real gems of the enamel industry of Jaipur, ceremonial harnesses made out of silver for horses and elephants, silver and golden tent poles complete the glittering collection of the treasury whose splendor and pomp is characteristic for the court of Jodhpur.
The remaining rooms of the castle palace whose architectural and ornamental decoration is due to the maharajas Takat, Ajit and Abhey offered our now already quite demanding eyes not much that is remarkable. Only a thoroughly in gold decorated chamber with facet mirrors whose wall ornaments should drastic scenes from Indian sagas and the lives of the maharajas is worthy of mention here. A true joy was the panoramic view from the flat roof of the palace over Jodhpur and the surrounding area. Towards the south and east one can see the sharply delineated bare mountains covered in walls and castles. Towards the north and west extends the plains of the Thar region in whose yellow glittering area cone-shaped hills surrounded by areas of blue air emerge like giant mole hills. At our feet, all around the abruptly falling sides of the castle hill is the city of Jodhpur.
The sight from there is captivating and unique. We miss the grandiose lines, the audacious profiles, the melting colors of the high altitude mountain panoramas, but it still makes a strong impression on us by its immense area and its moody colors. Painted yellow in yellow, criss-crossed by glowing points, the melancholic plain extends as far as the human eye can see.
We watched the streets of Jodhpur and the houses and the stone walls with their bastions which encloses the city. As the main fortification, like an eagle’s nest in the midst above the city towers the castle hill which rises opposite but still within the enclosing walls in the north of the fort where a high stone ledge rises that has been integrated into the system of fortifications as from that position the fort on the castle hill can be taken under fire and has been damaged. In consideration of this and the fact that more modern further reaching guns can threaten the fort from that knoll, the ruling maharaja has given the order to level the knoll. During our visit in Jodhpur the execution of this gigantic task had already been started. To completely secure the fort, a battery is being built on the northern side which fully covers its area.
Between the knoll and the castle hill lies a small lonely valley in which a large number of undecorated grave monuments are visible — these are the monuments of brave warriors killed during the sieges of the fort, enemies and friends alike have been buried there. The struggle which has cost those men their lives was about water, which broke out about the pond in that valley, apparently valuable enough to spill blood to gain water in this area with scarce sources of water.
Military memories were awakened by the main battery of the fort situated on a small rock ledge which is called „peacock tail“ due to its form (Mordhaj) ; as here on the platform of the main battery there are laying under the open sky all kinds of strange guns from Ahmedabad, Ghasipur and elsewhere. Each of these guns has a different caliber, an element which must have complicated their use. Similar is only their „beautiful“ pitch black paint. There we were also presented also some kind of mitrailleuse or infernal machine which looked like a peaceful seeding machine. The native artilleryman told me with a smile that the firing of these guns is difficult and may prove more damaging to the crew than to the enemy. Despite all of this, the maharaja is said to be very proud about his battery.
We could observe closely the activities and the swarming in the city below from this spot as the air was completely clear despite the considerable height we were in. We could even hear the usual shouts and noises of the citizens of Jodhpur common to all Indian cities.
Really impressive are the round bastion-like buttresses of the palace that descend below the windows down into the valley. On one of these round pillars I was shown the spot where the maharaja had climbed down on a rope during the night to secretly go to the city while he was still being under close supervision by his educators. For the return to the fort, the palace of his fathers, he used the same means of communication. Given the height difference of around 150 m between fort and valley which the young gentleman managed to cross with only a rope, we congratulated the climber on his imperturbability. The strings that attracted him so powerfully to the city so that he did not fear from such a daring undertaking must not have been less strong than the rope which held him during his descent and climb.
On a less strange serpentine road than the one we used in the ascent to the fort we descended to the city, crossed Jodhpur and went to a large field of grass outside the city walls where a game of polo was to be played in my honor. I was fascinated and enchanted by the skill of the local players and some of the Englishmen living in Jodhpur. Among all, the riding skills of Harji Singh and minister Sir Pratap Singh who counted more than fifty years but sent his horse flying like a young man and Major Beatson were all outstanding.
Despite the sharp turns and parades at the quickest pace, the players did not handle their horses roughly. They instead guided them with an astonishing smoothness and skill. We watched the captivating game for more than an hour and half.
Then it was time to return to the camp as the maharaja had announced his presence at a gala dinner at my place but he did not eat with us as a devout Hindu but only appeared at the end of the dinner when the mutual toasting started. Here the toast of the maharaja was not said by him personally as he did not speak English but by minister Sir Pratap Singh in his stead. An interpreter also translated the exciting conversation I had with the maharaja who despite his gruff exterior proved to be a friendly and witty gentleman.
After the dinner a large „nach“ feast surprised us. For that purpose a huge tent of a diameter of nearly 60 m had been set up in which the dancers performed in torch light and to monotonous music their not very moving art. The usual nasal singing was also not missing. The maharaja keeps a whole legion of dancers whose beauty is highly questionable. Age-wise all stages are represented in the court ballet corps of Jodhpur from children to matrons. In one aspect these ladies are different than the other representatives of dance in India, namely by them wearing an almost frightening number of skirts that turns their appearance into moving bells and that swirl around during the dance. Very comical was the enthusiasm of an elderly chief director or dancing master who pushed those ladies who wanted to take a break due to their exhaustion back into the round dance.