Schlagwort-Archiv: sightseeing

Alwar, 19 February 1893

At 7 o’clock in the morning I was awakened with the news that we would soon arrive in Alwar. I dressed quickly and observed the changed landscape through the window of my compartment — steep hills rising out of the plain everywhere. They are stony and only covered with little vegetation. Some have sharply marked forms and contours. In the fields beside the railway tracks are prancing around numerous holy peacocks.

The state of Alwar ruled by a prince dependant on the British is one of the states of Rajputana, that large territory in the Northwest of continental India between the Yamuna and Indus river which reaches to the Tharr desert, the „Indian Sahara“, on whose border important developments took place. Among the nineteen protectorates of Rajputana, divided into seven British agencies, I name as especially remarkable: Jodhpore, Marwar, Jaipur, Mewar, Bikanir, Dholpur, the already mentioned Bhartpur and Alwar. Ajmere is already part of British territory.

Alwar, located in an area lacking water at the foot of a 400 m high conical hill topped by Fort Alwar and covered by a pointy mountain range has been founded at the end of the last century by Pratap Singh — from the house of Naruka descended from Udaikaran of Jaipur (1367 to 1388) — a vassal  prince of the maharaja of Jaipur. Insubordinate and ambitious, Pratap Singh emigrated and fortified himself on the spot where now stands Alwar and founded the still existing state after the Grand Mughal of Delhi had granted him a charter. Alwar’s princes are part of the parvenus and can not claim, though of noble blood, famous ancestors like for instance the Maharaja of Jhodpur who can apparently trace his lineage back to the  fourth century or like the prince of Udaipur whose ancestors have verifiably ruled already in the eighth century.

The states of the Rajputana agency are as stated guided by the English. But this is exercised in a mild, considerate and friendly manner as the princes of Rajputana  (royal sons) in general look kindly upon England and namely because their territory filled with warriors acts as a buffer towards the wild Afghans.

The current ruling maharaja of Alwar, Jai Singh, the son and successor to Sawai Mangal Singh (died 1892), famous both as a rider and tiger hunter and as a competent ruler and soldier — the last quality has made him a colonel in the English army — is a  Rajputan from the „sun family“ of that Kachwaha tribe which has founded the throne in Gwalior and still prospers today in Doäb in the land between the rivers Ganges an Yamuna.

Jai Singh is said, even though he is only about twelve years old, to have behaved very dignified and highly energetically after the death of his father and the accession to the throne. There exists here the strange custom that the ruler has to shoot a hare at the accession to the throne in front of the assembled people; if he hits, this is considered good fortune. Should he miss, however, this would be a bad sign. At this oracle-like inauguration of his government, Jai Singh knew how to control himself despite the stress that overcomes such a young boy in such a case so that he succeeded in his prophetic master shot.

At Alwar station I was received by the youthful hero of that episode and also by the English agent in Alwar, Colonel Fraser, who supervised the government of the country during the minority of the prince together with a council of local dignitaries.  Members of the council were present too at my festive reception. Jai Singh is a handsome boy with an intelligent open face whose character can in my opinion best qualified as „nice“.

Outside the station a honor guard company of giant Rajputs with full black beards, a squadron of cavalry — the soldiers of both units in red coats and turbans  — and a music band had taken up position. The Rajputs were well selected representatives of the warrior-like beautiful men of the country who not so long ago performed martial fights in the manner of our medieval tournaments but have proved themselves as an excellent unit in the modern sense among the new Anglo-Indian direction. The army of Alwar numbers around 8000 men who are under the command of English officers. A whole row of splendidly ornamented government elephants with rich gear, colorful blankets and gilded haudas was also present. Next to them stood strange wagons from the maharaja’s stable, actually two wheeled carts with pointed roofs covered with colorful fixings and zebu oxen as teams.

Opposite of them, splendid horses were parading, on long leashes, with well coiffed manes and tails. Mostly stallions from the ranch nearby. Also a number of court shikaris some with ancient lances some with brand new English rifles had formed up to embellish the festivities. Furthermore there was a troop of camels that had, as I noticed for the first time, cannons or strong charges intended for trombones packed onto their humps. These cannons were later fired during our trip. A colorful vividly moving procession with true Indian pomp and circumstance!

The honorable archbishop of Agra had the kindness as it was Sunday to send me a Capuchin to read mass in a small Catholic chapel. The Catholic community of Alwar state counts all of eleven heads. The good Capuchin was a former subject of Our Majesty the Emperor — he had been born in the Venetian lands at the time of Austrian rule —  gave a simple warm speech after the church service  in which he praised our country and asked for the Lord’s protection for our monarch. I have to admit that it moved me to listen to a priest of my creed in the midst of deepest India, amidst millions of Hindus and Muslims, in a chapel of only a few square meters ch  and hear him pray for Our Majesty.

After the service we drove to the palace of Banni Bilas built by the third ruler of Alwar, Banni Singh, from the house of Naruka. The palace had been given to our disposition. This garden palace outside the city makes a good impression from outside and differs favorably from the otherwise tasteless palaces of the modern Indian era. In the middle of a well maintained park it combines different styles harmoniously  and is notable for the good arrangement of the numerous verandas and bays which make the building look graceful. In front of the main facade of the palace stands  a large marble basin in whose midst rises a kiosk-like marble balcony. The interior of the palace is naturally European in character and displays little taste. From the balcony of my room I had a nice view on the tops of the trees in the park and the stony mountains around the palace with their ruins and forts.

After many days of bad weather the sky had finally turned blue again and the sun was smiling down and warmed the frozen sons of the earth.  As the official program of the morning was complete I used the pause to write letters home. Towards noon I was presented a number of horses from the stable of the  maharaja, products of Indian breeding that is Marwari and Kattywari, the latter one nearly all foxes with tiger stripes on the legs and a dark eel strip on the back. The horses looked splendid, showed good posture, namely beautiful heads and had good but too small feet for their heavy bodies. A rider of the maharaja, a black Rajput, presented the horses and performed with each a small feat of high dressage: one piaffed, the other marched in lancades,  the third stood up on its rear legs, a fourth knelt down and other jokes of this kind.

In the afternoon I paid a visit to the maharaja in his palace called by the English „The Royal Palace“ or „The City Palace“.

Alwar too has, like all the cities seen in India, its peculiarities in its setup and way of construction. new or newly used motifs in decoration of the buildings, which gives the city a peculiar appearance. The variety of the impressions which the visitor receives from these different cities is an important attraction of the Indian city landscapes.I would like to compare it to the attraction of a changing variation of a theme. Especially notable is the palace built by Jeodan Singh (died 1874), the son of Banni Singh, which now serves for the widows of the former one. That palace has numerous small additions and porches with windows as well as delicate ornaments that look like carved ivory.

The youthful ruler received us amidst his dignitaries. In the usual manner we sat together for some time on richly ornamented gilded chairs opposite one another when the maharaja dedicated a copy of the monograph by Th. H. Hendley „Ulwar and its Art Treasures“ (London, W. Griggs 1888) to me, a splendid work which includes illustrations some in color of among others the most precious pieces of the weapon collection, the library and the treasury of Alwar.

On the suggestion of the resident, the maharaja showed me the weapon collection where an old custodian demonstrated the pieces in a comical way. He not only dressed up in them but performed opera-like fighting poses in them. We saw splendid swords with precious blades and gilded handles that had once cost 20.000 rupees as well as small hunting knives, daggers and chainmail shirts.

The largest treasure by far of the palace is the old manuscript collection of the library which have a gild foundation under the writing and include like our old bibles gorgeous miniature illustrations.  The latter ones are so delicately painted and so fresh in color that one finds only in the most outstanding of our medieval manuscripts. Yes, I might in some aspect place those higher as the perspective is realized much better, the understanding much deeper than the artworks produced at the same time at home. With special pleasure I looked at numerous pictures that illustrated legends of the gods or lives of earlier maharajas which showed feasts and precious hunts, battles and campaigns. The most valuable piece of the whole collection is a manuscript dating from 1848, a copy of „Gulistan“ („the rose garden“, one of two main works by the Persian poet Sadi from the 13th century), whose production cost more than 120.000 fl. in Austrian currency,  in part is artfulness is attributed to the skills of a German.

The special circumstance of European influence can confuse the native sense of beauty I could observe in the treasury where the custodians presented as their most outstanding piece a clock in Empire style similar to those built in Geneva. This one contained a singing hummingbird and stood on a silver table over which the imitating floods of water flowed over artificial fishes — an ugly  bauble.

Not much better is the situation of the paintings and ornaments of the palace rooms. While some walls are decorated with impressive portraits of the maharajas, one finds only European common pieces. In the first floor of the palace one is proudly presented a room that contains small mirrors an mosaics of painted ornaments.  Despite its small size, it took thirty years to complete the ornaments of the room.  The artistic work in another room has been going on for more than twelve years without a visible end in sight; even during the visit there were artists present who scraped and painted on their masterwork. Given the work-shyness of the Hindus one could not be surprised by the slow progress of the work. If the work is finally completed, it is praised not even by its maker as its effect is nothing more than handsome and can only be called somewhat exceptional.

What an agreeable contrast to those glittering artificial works is the view from the platform of the palace on its surroundings! Below us the pond of Pratap Singh with wide stairs leading to the water surface and ten kiosks standing on pillars rising out of the water which are connected by runways with the terraces at the edge. On the left side of the palace, the south side of the water basin, stands the delicate mausoleum of Bakhtawar Singh (died 1815); in the West is a Vishnu temple leaning on the castle hill as are the small sanctuaries on the Northern side which are shaded by trees; finally, the charming architectural impression is completed by the fortress walls and the glittering white towers of the castle hill. Steep hill sides with rocky parts and mighty blocks of stone in the background and above it the deep blue sky unite to create with all these buildings a new attractive scenery. Unfortunately we could not enjoy the view on the palace itself and the city as that platform would have offered a view into the women quarters too.

The maharaja accompanied me to the carriage in the horse breeding farm, a large courtyard-like building where multiple hundred stallions and mares, mostly in free range, are held. The animals are bound with rope on their rear legs which is a common custom in India and often leads to rope wounds on the legs and illnesses caused by this custom like hedgehog foot, mallenders etc. Among the horses there are numerous races present from Arab purebloods to the most common nag but for breeding purposes they use almost exclusively Arabs and Kattyvvari. The breeding mares are all bred locally, country stock.

During the visit to the horse breeding farm we were shown animal fights of all kinds, a favorite entertainment of the Rajputs.  Partridges, cocks, rams, which were especially selected strong and mean animals that fought with determination as well as back-bucks that fought one afte the other. Even quails were set up to fight and proved their mettle as the cocks incited by the display of a hen in a cage attacked each other hotly and hit each other with their beaks so that their feathers flew apart. The piece de resistance was however the fight between two buffalo bulls that attacked in blind fervor and tried to pierce one another with their strong curved horns. One of the combatants was soon wounded and bled strongly which made them even angrier. In the decisive moment, the two combatants were separated by the wardens so that the fight ended in a draw.  Very beautiful was the final to this bloody spectacle, the production of trained parrots that could truly do remarkable tricks; one of these smart birds performed like a rope artist while the other arranged glass pearls in a row on a thread. A third one loaded a small cannon and fired it on its own. I admired the courage of the small artilleryman who stood on the barrel in the smoke of the powder.

Similar to the pigsticking, a panther sticking was arranged where a panther caught shortly before in the surroundings of Alwar was to be chased an killed with lances. To this purpose we moved on horse to a large open moor at the limit of the city where the panther was waiting in a cage. It took a long time before he left this protective shell and sneaked outside to flee in small jumps. Soon all riders took up pursuit but after only a few seconds an English captain pierced it in the flank before it could run at full speed. Now the animal crouched like a cat and tried to jump at the circling riders. A skilled strike with the lance by Prónay wounded it so strongly that it perished amidst further strikes. The English gentlemen stood around the poor panther with satisfaction while I could find no pleasure in such a way of hunting. There will never be a running pursuit as the panther will always crouch and be an easy target for a lance. But the English have a predilection for the chase and every kind of animal from the large nilgai to the jackal is chased. Had the panther perished by a bullet of mine I would have felt satisfaction as a hunter while the lance sticking brought out only laments in me about the destruction of a beautiful skin of the animal.

To inspect the two and three year old horses we rode away from the hunting ground to the courts of foals of the ranch. At the signal of a trumpeter a herd of 250 to 300 animals stormed out at full pace out of a pen, jumped over a high clay wall and ran up to the bar where the animals are fed barley, carrots and clover in the morning and the evening. Despite the apparently sufficient food, and all products of the stallion inspected earlier, the animals looked bad and namely thin; some are also, due to the non-noble blood of their mothers, underdeveloped and disfigured.

After our dinner at our palace to which all Englishmen living in Alwar attended, the illumination of the park and the ignition of a firework concluded the day.

Links

  • Ort:  Alwar, India
  • ANNO – on 19.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays „Medea“ and „Der Hexenmeister“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater presents the opera „Mephistopheles“.

Delhi, 18 February 1893

I had asked to visit an Indian prison. A wish that was granted most willingly by offering me the opportunity to visit a prison in the south of Delhi. We passed the Delhi gate, one of ten gates which are set in the 8,8 km long ring wall around the city. After a short ride through the field of ruins of old Delhi we arrived in front of the prison occupied by around 500 prisoners.

By a double lock gate which is comparable to a double wall we entered the interior and saw something like a formal city quarter of small ground floor buildings intended for housing the prisoners who are separated from each other so that no communication can take place among them while they are under precise supervision from certain central locations.

Generally it is the practice of keeping prisoners isolated for some time to get to know them, I might say, to study their character. In the individual cell the prisoner has to work, namely he has to fulfil a daily quota of grinding corn in a primitive way with two millstones and their hands.  Is he behaving well, he enters into a group cell and work. In the opposite case or if it is clear that the prisoner has a negative influence on his fellow prisoners, he will have to spend all his time in individual cells. Especially hard criminals and those who have escaped before are shackled with heavy iron bars on their feet and kept almost like wild beast in open iron cages on whose end is found a cell with an open hard bed. In one of those cells sat an old man who has broken out already thrice. He devised means to cut the thick iron bars — using wool threads and a mixture of oil, sand and glass splinters which he managed to procure. He rubbed a part of the iron bar for so long until he had worn it out and he could escape. Probably one of the greatest exercises in perseverance! Twice he was successful but the third time he has been caught. Another prisoner had built a key out of discarded lead within three months. But the artful tool has been discovered at the latest moment. An especially wild impression made two Afghans one of which was accused of murder. The other had been sentenced to 37 years of hard labor for a similar crime.

The individual cells contain a bed made out of clay with a stray mat and two covers. The rest of the equipment is a cup and the already mentioned millstone.

One part is reserved for boys among which one can see true rascals. Another part is for habitual criminals who have entered this holy halls repeatedly. A third part, finally, is for women among whom are a number of truly ugly and depraved ones.

The prisoners‘ dress is uniform: It consists of a covering cloth worn over a piece of linen wrapped around the middle of the body. To eat they receive from our point of view a very small ration  of two flat unleavened breads in the morning plus one eighth of a liter Dal (a type of bean) with butter and condiments, at noon a handfull of roasted wheat and in the evening green vegetables with two breads. And still the prisoners are well and look good.

According to the opinion of the prison director the only fault of the prison is treating the prisoners better than their life would be outside. Laments such as those made by the director can be heard also at home where comparisons are often made between the nice life in prison even for hard criminals compared to the life existence of our soldiers in their barracks. I can not really find fault that the humane treatment of hard criminals has gone too far and has lessened the impact of punishment.

I inspected all workshops where the prisoners execute tasks together with the simplest of tools. They produce cartonnage and earthenware, rugs and mats made out of reeds which grows near all rivers. I ordered a great number for the corridors of Konopiste. Their own clothing has to be produced by the prisoners themselves too.

After my return to the city, valuable time was lost in my misleading visiting the city museum of the institute which is in a desolate condition and stood next to Chandni Chowk street. It is difficult to present an overview of all the dirt, the overwhelming desolation an mixture of the motley mammals, birds, cloths, household items and other ethnographic objects. At least one could learn to see what a museum should not look like.

On revient toujours …  also once again paid a visit to Tellery to do some shopping, namely rugs.

Then we watched cock fights organized by natives in out hotel. As cruel this entertainment may be, it isn’t without attraction: with astonishing bravery and combativeness, even rage, the two brave roosters hit one another with beaks and spurs until one of them succumbed.

In the evening the train took us to Alwar, Northwest of Agra, Southwest of Delhi, which lies on the Rajputana-Malwa Railway including Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway that runs by the way of Ahmedabad to Bombay.

Links

  • Location: Alwar, India
  • ANNO – on 18.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The newspapers are gearing up to Pope Leo XIII’s 50th anniversary of consecration as a bishop (and 15th anniversary as pope) on 19th February.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing a comedy „Verbot und Befehl“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing Jules Massenet’s „Manon“.

Delhi, 17 February 1893

As many artillery horse teams had been sent from a neighboring town for pulling our wagons I used this fast means of transport to explore the ruins of Delhi and especially the famous Qutb Minar (Tower of Qutab).

The whole surrounding area of Delhi is a city of ruin composed of the ruins of former palaces and other buildings. Hard to grasp is the number of destroyed mosques, temples and living quarters whose traces and foundations are distinctly visible amidst the trees and bushes. It is the ninth city that rose since the Aryan immigration, always out of the ruins of the precedent city as each of the many conquerors first destroyed what had been there and then created a new and more important city in splendor and expansion. Out of the ruins rise rather many still halfway preserved buildings from the time of the Mughals. Mostly mosques, forts, now and then beautiful grave monuments and parts of palaces. Everywhere dome constructions rule and many of the domes are covered with predominantly blue glaze tiles.

The most beautiful among the monuments is the grave of Emperor Humayun (died 1556), a large building which has a dome in the middle and in the corners eight-sided non-equilateral towers. Among the grave stones, the one of Humayun is notable for its simplicity, a white marble kenotaph without inscription. Close to the grave stands another well preserved beautiful mausoleum which according to legend Humayun had had built for his favorite barber.

As far as history is concerned, the place in front of the mausoleum of Humayun is interesting as the last titular Grand Mughal Bahadur had surrendered there to the English during the rebellion of 1857. The death penalty for Bahadur was transformed into lifelong imprisonment in consideration of the advanced age of the last of the Grand Mughals who died in 1862. The two sons of Bahadur who were captured as well were killed during their transfer to Delhi as the officer in charge of the escort decided to shoot them personally with his pistol given that these important prisoners were on the verge of being liberated by the huge crowds surrounding the wagons.

The whole drive of 17 km from Delhi to Qutab Minar is lined with ruins, as mentioned, so that we looked around the whole time and were attracted by new views all the time.

Already from a distance Qutab Minar is greeting us from a small hill. From afar it looks like a giant factory smoke stack. Up close it causes amazement due to its gigantic forms which have survived soundly through so many centuries. The tower in the form of a round pillar is 84 m, the diameter at the base is 14,3 m, at the top only 2,7 m which can be accessed by a stair of 378 steps. The tower is segmented into five parts marked by galleries; the three lower ones, made out of red sandstone are grooved shafts, the upper two are made out of white marble ornamented with simple grooves. The base of the tower seems to be ornamented with chiseled out koran sayings that cover the grooves up to the first gallery.

About the origin and the purpose behind the construction of Qutab Minar multiple opinions exist. According to one version the tower was intended to serve as a mazina (tower of the muezzin) of the nearby but now ruined mosque Kutab-elIslam (»Pole of Faith«). Others proclaim to know that the tower was built at the end of the 12th century by a prince named Rai Pithora, so that his daughter could watch the holy Yamuna river from the top. An explanation which would be a tribute to the fatherly love of the builder. Another tradition says that Qutab Minar was built by the Hindus and later altered by the Muslims. The presence of numerous ruins of Hindu temples around the tower gives credence to the latter hypothesis, even though one has to note that the tower started by king Kutab-ed-din-Aibak (died 1210) was completed by his favorite slave and inheritor to the crown Altamsch.

Near the already mentioned ruins of the Hindu temples one focuses on  a splendid richly decorated gate constructed by  Ala-ed-din (1295 to 1313), once the entrance to the Kutabel-Islam mosque. Remarkable about this gate is the combination of Hindu architecture with the Muslim style in such a manner that the reliefs dating from older Hindu or Jaina temples are inserted into arches and freezes of the Indian-Saracenic style. Here the sentiment for art has surpassed racial hatred!

A strange object is the famous but controversial „iron pillar“ which is almost 7 m tall and apparently a composition of iron, copper, gold and silver but according to Thompson’s view actually made out of wrought iron. The inscription placed at half the the height of the pillar in Sanskrit preserves the name of the victorious raja Dhawa for all eternity who is said to have erected this „arm of his glory“ in the  4th century. Probably the pillar had once borne a Vishnu statue. A second inscription with the name of Anang Pal, the founder of the Tomara dynasty has originated the common tradition that the „iron pillar“ has been created in 1052 by Anang Pal.

I mention too the small grave with splendid ornamentation of Altamsch and the mausoleum of Adam Khan, a high eight-sided building covered by a dome. This Adam Khan, a descendant of the Timurides and one of the most outstanding generals of Akbar is said to have murdered the father-in-law of the Emperor before his eyes and to have been thrown from the terrace of the palace as a punishment for the crime. In consideration of Adam Khan’s service at the conquest of Sarangpur Akbar is said to have motivated him to construct this monument for his cousin who might have been executed too hastily.

We profaned the building by eating breakfast within its walls. Then we marched through the stony and thorny area to hunt. We split into two parties. Prónay, Stockinger and I chose the hill around Qutab Minar, while the other gentlemen followed a local shikari who had a charming tame gazelle with him to attract game.  The advance in these ruins proved difficult because of the sharp stones, the walls and the copious sharp thorns but our perseverance paid off. I bagged several Indian grey partridges (Ortygornis pondiceriana), as well as four painted sand-grouses (Pterocles fasciatus). After a long march, actually a continuous steeple chase over walls and stones, I returned home with our formidable artillery horse teams  to devote my evening to my writing. To this purpose a warming fire was flickering in the chimney while jackals howled outside my window in a strange concert.

Links

  • Location: Dehli, India
  • ANNO – on 17.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria whose upcoming nuptials was noted yesterday, is sick in bed in Vienna and will be confined to the bed during the next days. The crisis in France fills another three columns of text.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing a combination of three small pieces, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Excelsior“.

Delhi, 16 February 1893

After a night not spent in comfortable warmth we arrived early in the morning in Delhi while it was raining and cold. O, often praised and often rebuked heat of India, where are you?

Delhi, „the Rome of Asia“, is the oldest, largest and also the most sparkling city of the Punjab, of India even, and had been the pompous residence of the Grand Mughals. Since 1803 under British rule it is considered holy by the Hindus by the Yamuna river, to be venerated by Muslims for the spectacular Shah Jahan mosque. Modern Delhi, North-northwest of Agra, on the right bank of the Yamuna fills in the wide fertile and climatically favored plain towards the north which is surrounded by the Mewat hills on the one side and the river on the other. Since ancient times, this urban, strategically and commercially important place has been settled.

These settlements have switched their location during the centuries — soon filling this, soon that part of the plains — and have been abandoned time and again to decay so that modern Delhi , a city of around 200.000 inhabitants, represents but a small part of all that what constituted Delhi during the different periods. The circumference of the Delhi is no less than 155 km!

Even though Dehli is the junction of multiple railway lines, on a navigable river and close to well irrigated lands and even though it is today the most active and largest trading and industrial city of the whole Punjab, it has nevertheless been pushed down to the status of a provincial city by the British government probably due to political considerations from the fatal insurrection of 1857.

The downpour which came to greet us with many tears did not prevent us after a short rest in our quarters, the Metropolitan Hotel, to undertake a sightseeing tour of the city The city forms nearly a semi-circle where the part of the river forms the  diameter.

We first turned to the fort which contains the old palace of the Grand Mughals. It is situated in the eastern part of the city high above the Yamuna and is so similar ot the fort at Agra that it can be called a miniature copy of it. It is built out of red sandstone and enclosed by a 2,5 km long wall and a ditch and ornamented with beautiful gates. The highlight is naturally that part of the interior which contains the palace of Shah Jahan. While Akbar mostly took residence in Agra and Lahore, Jahan transferred his residence to Delhi, where he lived in the north of the city where also his ancestor Humayun had lived and founded a new Delhi which he called Shah-Jahanabad.

Like the fort of Agra, the one in Delhi also contains splendid palaces, halls, rooms and mosque. But their number is much smaller than in Fort Agra as the English destroyed, after the suppression of the great rebellion of 1857 which had started in Delhi with the murder of the local Europeans by Shah Bahadur, a large part of the buildings of the fort to build barracks and batteries in their stead.

Entering through the music hall (Nakar khana or Naubakhana) we first saw the two rooms intended for receptions The large reception hall Diwan-i-Am is open on three sides and carried by pillars made out of red sandstone. It is decorated everywhere especially the throne and the wall behind it and rises out of a niche are decorated with painting and delicious mosaics.

I can’t approve the renovation undertaken by the English government recently on many of the walls on this and other monuments  Even if the motif of this beginning is to be applauded, it seems to go too far. In my view the original old surface decorations, if painted if mosaics,  and may it already be much damaged should be left in the otherwise unchanged halls and has more style than the imitations with their fresh gold splendor and their loud color which replace the faded and crumbling but original ornamentation. But the question how far a renovation of damaged art may go is continually debated by the experts which are for the complete restoration of the original form and the subconsciously not less sensitive layman. I recall here the clean-up of the patina from the inner walls of St. Stephen’s cathedral. This restoration has awakened the desire of a large crowd for the return of the former almost mythical darkness which gave the cathedral a strange quiet beauty. Likewise I would consider it a sacrilege to add the missing arm to the statue of the Venus of Milo as has been planned.

The small reception hall, Diwan-i-Khas, in the fort of Delhi is a open pavilon completely made out of marble and decorated with golden ornaments and pietra-dura. On its east side once stood the famous golden peacock throne covered with precious gemstones (Tacht-i-taus), which Nadir Shah, the Persian conqueror of Delhi, has taken away as the proudest piece in his war booty in 1739. In the same area are the Grand Mughal’s private chambers and the female quarters filled with marble as well as the baths.

On the west side of Diwan-i-Khas stands a gracious building. the pearl mosque (Moti Mesjid), very artfully built out of gleaming white marble and ornamented with reliefs and delicate ornaments., despite its small dimensions. But its artistic creation and the wealth of its decoration makes it highly remarkable. The bronze gate of the mosque is a repoussé master work, a craft still very successful in India.

It would not have taken much guesswork by the company S. J. Tellery & Co. which has its main subsidiary and manufacture of art objects here that we would come and visit them. Above the gate of the company was a triumphal arch decorated with bands in Austrian and Hungarian colors as well as sentences which proclaimed in large golden letters“Hoch“ and „Eljen“. We found here mostly the same objects which we had already seen in Bombay and Calcutta, art objects and curiosities from all Indian regions but of such diversity and choice that the shopping urge was triggered to the utmost and turned into an insatiable craving.

I used the afternoon to visit the famous mosque Dschama Mesdschid in the southern part of Delhi. It is the largest and most beautiful Muslim place of prayer in India. Mighty open stairs on whose steps linger all kinds of merchants and agents lead to the grand gates which allow access to the foreyard of the mosque. This foreyard is a square of 99 m lengthwise and is enclosed on three sides by pillar pathways with corner kiosks which form from the outside seen the first floor of the high wall built out of red sandstone. The fourth side of the courtyard is the mosque itself on an area of 2243 m2. The gates mentioned above bear above the keel arch of the entrance galleries and pointed domes above which rise lean marble minarets with pointed peaks.

The mosque was built in 1658 in the same style as the one in Agra and here too are above the facade three domes with minarets  while the main part is built out of red sandstone. The domes and the peaks of the two high minarets are made out of marble. The sometimes inharmonious mixture of red and white lessens the total impression considerably; I particularly disliked that the white marble plates of the domes alternated with rows of black stones. A motif I hadn’t seen before I found on the minarets as the foot of each was formed by a marble flower calyx out of which rises the lean tower which is patterned along its whole length by vertical stripes that end at the top in a leafy crown.

In one corner of the pillar hall of the mosque we saw the actual sanctuary, a delicate marble shrine with the relics of the prophet. In artless containers that resembled those used by insect collectors to store their beetles are here preserved: a fire-red hair from the prophet’s beard, the worn slippers of Mohammed, lines from the Koran in the handwriting of the Imams Hussain and Hassan and — as we hunters would call this — the „track“ of Mohammed, i.e. his foot print in clay.

From the mosque we marched through the main street of Delhi, the long Chandni CHauk, where shop follows shop, shouts, noise of every kind, pitches and bargaining is heard everywhere so that the senses my be numbed.

The bazaar has like the whole city and like Agra an unmistakable Muslim appearance. The vivid streets of Delhi presents us with types and dresses which we could not find in Calcutta for example. The main contingent of the crowd in the bazaar are Muslims with colorful turbans and embroidered kaftans, veiled Muslim women with colorful pants and colorful cloths. In between these figures move Hindus and in noticeably large numbers Afghans. It was interesting to see this tall, strong figures, those energetic even sullen faces of the bearded Afghans. The confident demeanor, the strong posture of these highland sons made it believable that each man of this untamed, predatory and war-loving people has as little respect for his own life than that of other men and if fate demands it will step forward quietly to either murder or be executed.

At Tellery’s, where I returned after the end of the glittering bazaar, I visited the workshops in which the art objects were made by hand without assistance of any machine by very skilled native workers in a relatively short time. I would not have expected to see such effort and skill among the otherwise quite indolent Indians. It is however, a compatriot from Vienna who leads the enterprise with a strong grip. In the workshops for rugs eight to ten-year-old Hindu boys produce the most beautiful textiles, while in a separate room out of various wood types are carved wonderful works completely in free hand style. Metal workers produce gorgeous containers out of silver, copper and bronze.The clay modelers perform miracles without having gone to school. They form all types in India plus the scenes, processions and groups from the life of the different native populations in beautiful clay figurines. The individual figurines are truly artistically completed and of a highly naturalistic manner. Every fold in a cloth, every vein in the skin is fully life-like formed.

The evening saw us reunited in the Metropolitan Hotel, which left much to be desired, at a indigestible dinner in rooms which were rich in doors, windows and draft.

Links

  • Location: Dehli, India
  • ANNO – on 16.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria has found a bride during his visit of Europe’s courts: Princess Marie-Louise of Bourbon. Franz Ferdinand’s journey does not offer similar opportunities. The Austrian and Hungarian manufacturers have decided to raise their prices of candles and soaps. The excuse are pig fat production capacity problems in the United States.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays a comedy “Die Biedermänner“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing Rossini’s „Der Barbier von Sevilla“.

Agra, 13 February 1893

The morning was again rather harsh, cold and rainy, very different from what one expects from „Indian weather“ so that we were clad in thick clothes and overcoats and still were cold in our cage palace.

We intended to go to Fatehpur Sikri and took along our rifles as the distance was 36 km, a decision we did not regret. The drive itself offered few attractions;  the road led through a monotonous flat land, now and then we drove through a poor native village and otherwise only saw a tree here and there in the fields so that we started counting the number of mile indicators to track the progress to our destination.

The fauna compensated the monotony of the landscape. Immediately after we had left the city, I shot a couple of large vultures (Gyps indicus and Gyps bengalensis) out of the carriage, also one of the often seen Egyptian vultures and some pariah kites. Shortly thereafter, still within the sights of the city, I bagged an eagle which I shot close to its nest; we identified it as an Aquila mogilnik, a so called Russian eagle. Also from its nest built on an avenue tree I shot a specimen of another eagle species, namely an Asian Tawny Eagle (Aquila vindhiana). Also two  honey buzzards (Pernis ptilonorhyncha), similar to our wasp buzzard, made their way into the rucksack. At a puddle on a tree sat two painted storks (Tantalus leueocephalus), which I took down with a lucky coup double. They were very beautiful large specimen with remarkbly pink red feathers on their wings. During the remainder of the journey I bagged common coucals (Centropus rufipennis), one Sirkeer Malkoha (Taccocua sirkee) and two white-eyed buzzards (Butastur teesa).

We finally reached Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar’s palace city, having followed the road that leads straight in a south-western direction. The foundation of the city in the year is explained in the following legend: Wandering in thoughts from Agra to the sandstone hill on which now stands the palace city, Akbar met there the fakir Selim Chisti, a sage and pious beggar who noticed the sad mood of the Mughal which was incomprehensible to the otherworldly hermit and looked for a reason why the mighty ruler was so sad. Akbar lamented that even though he was a mighty prince his reign was bound to disappear after his death. All the sons borne by his wife died soon thereafter in the child bed. „Build“, said the prophetizing fakir, „your palace on this holy hill sanctified by my prayers and make it your domicile. Nine moons after your entry through the gates of the new palace, you will have a heir whom heaven has promised long life, force and power. Your son will succeed you on the throne of the Grand Mughals.“  The prophecy came true. In the new palace of  Fatehpur Sikri was born Jehangir, Akbar’s heir.

With the exception of the parts of the palace city maintained by the British government, Fatehpur Sikri  is a ruin out of which rise walls, pillars, parts of halls and rooms and other decaying buildings — on the spot where Shah Babur had defeated the princes of Rajputana in open battle in the year 1527. As a sign of commemoration of the former size and beauty of the palace city it is enclosed by a high, crenellated wall of over 11 km in length, completely surrounding the hill of Fatehpur Sikri.

The main reason for the rapid decline and decay of Akbar’s palace city, a giant endeavor said to have employed thousands of men during many years — in contradiction of the legend which speaks of a fast construction of Fatehpur Sikris, is said to be that Akbar’s son did suddenly find the water and the air unpleasant and left the palace behind to the destructive powers of wind and weather. Fortunately under the Indian sky the decay of the buildings isn’t happening so fast that we couldn’t still see parts of Fatehpur Sikri in good condition.

Like other princely residences in India, there is true profligacy  in space and precious construction material. First entering Diwan-i-Am, we viewed the grand platforms and terraces enclosed by pillar halls that once had been the location of festive processions and shining receptions.  Near Diwan-i-Am is a platform that is said to have served for the Pachisi game. There are many mosques, ceremonial halls and living quarters of all kind which are constructed out of Fatehpur Sikri’s local red sandstone.

The most beautiful examples of how the artisans have used and decorated sandstone in the palace city is the House of the Turkish Queen (Stambuli Begum). Here there is no wall, no pillar, no space where there aren’t the finest of ornaments chiseled in. Not far away is the House of the Christian woman (Bibi Mariam Zumani); today without decoration, it once was called Sonahra Makan, that is the „golden house“ as it was painted and gilded inside and outside. Between the two houses of the women stands Chab Ghar, Akbar’s House of Dreams which has in its upper floor the simple sleeping chamber of the Grand Mughals.

North of Miriam’s house stands Panch Mahal,  storied terraces rising , original pillars, ornamented colonnades and the Diwan-i-Khas of Akbar. On the giant capital on the high splendidly chiseled pillar and ornamented with pilasters that rises in the middle of the hall is said to be the place of Akbar’s throne. This pillar is connected by a small stone stair to four sitting places in the four corners of the hall where the four viziers of Akbar would have taken their seats when Akbar spoke from his throne on his pillar. I could not resist imagining the comical situation of Akbar up on the small stair in the middle of the hall balancing on his pillar while the four viziers are cowering in their corner seats. As ridiculous as this appeared I could not forget that in this hall the well-being and woe of whole peoples was decided, that here many decisions were taken whose influence continues to be relevant today.

Most remarkable is furthermore a long covered corridor which leads from the female quarters to a rather distant gate from which the women of the Mughals could view the land of their lord and master, when he went out into the plain before the palace to hunt. Perhaps this activity would be artificially adapted to have more prey and be more interesting by overeager courtiers in similar manner to the Mughal’s fishing in Fort Agra …

A small snack we took in the former study of the Mughals and a short rest made us ready for new visits to the sights of the palace city. I would here raise the problem among the knowledgeable of aesthetics in relationship to the human physiology that nothing makes one as hungry and tired as a detailed visit of a large number of art objects.

Especially beautiful is Birbal’s palace — a Hindu minister of Akbar — a small two-storey building that has been so decorated inside and outside that it is either the smallest of all palaces or the biggest of all jewel chests according to Victor Hugo.

Much bigger but not less ornamented is the palace of the princess Jodh Bai in the middle of the palace city. She was a wife of Akbar and the mother of Jehangir. Without having to describe all the remaining monuments in and around the walls from the heyday of the Mughals, I still must mention the Dargah, the „holy square“ which contains the tomb of Sheik Selim Chisthi as well its mosque.

The Dargah, a rectangle, is enclosed by arched halls in whose midst is a pool. On the Northern end of the rectangle stands the tomb of Salim Chishti, the fakir whose prophecy has caused Akbar to build the palace city. While almost all buildings in the palace city are made out of red sandstone, the tomb is gleaming, a true miniature of the Taj of Agra, in blinding white marble so that I had to admire the beauty of the chasing, the splendid work of the cut marble lattices of the mausoleum. The lattices carry colored bands and colorful clothes given by pilgrims asking for children at the tomb of Selim Chisthi.

On the Western side of Dargah, it connects with the about 23 m high mosque. For the wealth of its ornamentation and its tasteful execution of the curved and interlaced ornaments of this mosque speaks the fact that I found a painter standing within who was copying these unique spatial decorations for a work which the British government will publish about the pearls of the Indian art.

When I left the mosque, an old muezzin, eager for baksheesh, gave an incomprehensible strange speech, shouted and gesticulated.

South of Dargah rises the famous 43 m tall victory gate of Buland Darwazab on a hill accessible by an open stair. A remarkably large number of wasp nests prevented our ascent to the battlements of the gate which is said to offer a great view.

At the foot of the gate, outside of the wall, is a walled basin close to the ruined baths to which every foreigner is led to assist productions which consist in natives jumping fearlessly and not without danger from the rim top to dive into the basin filled with water. Two days before our arrival, one of the natives was killed by performing a similar dive jump.

The surroundings of the mosque offered me ornithological catches. In the ruin field, I bagged a Laggar falcon (Falco jugger) and a rare Indian grey hornbill (Ocyceros birostris). The number of striped squirrels was astonishing. They scampered around on the stones and the trees.

The return drive was much more pleasant than the journey there as the weather had improved a bit and the sun peeked friendly from behind the clouds. On the return trip I shot, besides some vultures, a metallic gleaming stork with a white neck (Ciconia leucocephala) which resembles our black stork very much, as well as two marabous, one of which was an old male with snow-white breast and long fuzzy feathers.

In the palace at Agra I was expected by the archbishop Monsignore van den Bosch, with two of his priests, who paid me a visit. Belgian-born he has been working in India for a long time.

Links

  • Location: Agra, India
  • ANNO – on 13.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Emperor has given 10.000 francs for the relief of the victims of the earthquake on Zakynthos.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays a comedy “Verbot und Befehl“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing a comical opera „Gute Nacht Herr Pantalon“.

Agra, 12 February 1893

The railway crosses the holy Yamuna river over a large lattice bridge and ends at the so called Fort Station. Already from the station one can see in the East looking back towards the Yamuna river the skyline of the wide-ranging forts, lean towers and minarets.

Crossing Agra in a half hour carriage drive to reach our quarters in a palace provided by the Maharaja of Jaipur, we were wondering from time to time where exactly the city was.  Enclosing an area of around 28 km2 within its walls and numbering around 165.000 inhabitants, the old town of Agra, once the capital city and residence of the Grand Mughals and still today after Dehli the largest city on the upper Ganges plain, offers a strange view. Numerous single buildings alternated with small housing complexes, then a pile of debris and ruins, followed by gardens, fields and extended heathlands.

The reason for this strange shape of the city lies in the fact that on the one hand the history and importance of Agra can only be traced back to the Grand Mughals Babur (1494 to 1530) and Akbar (1556 to 1605),  who had intended the city to be more extensive, according to the original plans of its builders, than the course of its actual development. On the other hand, an important part of the city lies in ruins. Thus it turned out that Agra with the exception to the groups of houses that line the main avenue and the bazaars has only dispersed single houses distributed over a large area.

The palace we are living in occupies a wild park full of peacocks and parrots as these colorful but loud animals are fed daily in the park on the order of the maharaja. The palace’s exterior is bland but the interior is remarkable by the fact that not a single of the many rooms have a window but are only illuminated by a skylight that scarcely offers a bit of light. During the hot periods of the year this may be practical to keep the rooms relatively cool. During the present time and especially in the exceptionally cool Indian winter temperatures of 1893, we were freezing miserably in these strange prison cell like rooms of the palace.

This aspect which justified my christening the palace in Agra the „inhospitable palace“ confirmed our intention to undertake the planned sightseeing trip in the Agra area as soon as possible. First we went to Sikandra, the grave of Akbar, situated in the Northwest of Agra.

The ride offered us an overview of the location and plan of the city. Located on the right Western shore of the Yamuna, this river rich in water and creating fertile alluvial plains, Agra is today divided into the following parts: the old town, which used to be twice as populated under Akbar as it is today and which only contains a limited number of sights from that period when Agra (1568 to 1658)  was the residence of the Grand Mughals of Hindustan; the almost completely ruined suburbs, the English barracks to the South, the civil lines with the high court, the administration, the government college and the central prison in the North; finally at the south-eastern end beyond the old town and next to the station, the fort built by Akbar.

Agra’s history is compressed into a relatively short era, especially for India with its millennial empires. In the year1527, Agra, up to that time a residence of the Muslim house of Lodi, was captured by  Zehir ed din Mohammed called Babur (the tiger), the first Grand Mughal of India. Babur is the founder of the dynasty that can be traced back to Timur Leng (Tamerlan) and Ghengis Khan — Muslims of Mongolian descent — who with sword in hand had defeated the princes of India with their hordes of riders and set up the empire of the Grand Mughals which gained great power under Babur, Akbar, Aurengzeb but finally succumbed to the English. Since the period the titular kings became English tributaries but continued to intrigue and rebel against the rapidly growing British supremacy, the Grand Mughals de facto bereft of their power but not of all influence have had an erratic life. The death of Shah Bahadur (1862), the last „Emperor“, a old man of eighty, an the execution of all his offspring after the capture of Dehli by the English  (1857) has pushed the dynasty of the Indian Timurids quickly into oblivion.

The heyday of the Mughals were under the rule of Babur, Akbar, Dschehangir, Shah Dschehan and Aurengzeb. Under these princes the splendor of the court attracted ambassadors, scholars, artists, priests from all countries everywhere and their area under their rule and their power was at its peak of all Grand Mughals. The era of decay is characterize by a number of episodes: On the one hand, the rise of British power and the occupation of the lands of the Mughals by the English. On the other hand intrusions by the neighboring princes into the area ruled by the rapidly declining Timurids; intrigues of political nature; excessive luxury, senseless waste and the financial calamities this caused; court cabals, plots and dark deeds in which poison and daggers played their deadly role. All these episodes and many others are proof of the decline of their external power and the inner decadence of the once great dynasty of the Timurids which led to the fall of the Mughal empire and the political end of its dynasty.

I now return to the topic of Agra and the remains of its splendor. The old town offered few attractions during our drive. Still a few mosques and temples as well as the activity of the inhabitants received our attention. When we had passed the old Dehli gate and the bastion  and started following the „road of the Mughal Empire“ with its old mile indicators (Kos minar) in the direction of Lahore and Kashmir towards Sikandra. numerous grave monuments and so called Baoli (stepwells with tiny resting places) became visible on both sides of the road. Also I have to pay tribute to a more modern enclosing wall decorated with frescoes whose ornaments showed processions, fights and hunts with elephants playing a big role in them.

All this pales in comparison to the destination of our trip, the tomb which holds the ashes of Akbar. This impressive mausoleum is surrounded by a caravanserai in the form of a wide square. On the exterior it resembles a fortress wall which is interrupted by four giant gates and multiple minarets bereft of their peaks. The caravanserai served as the well known name to us indicates a place for pilgrims and travelers. The gates offer entrance to the inner space enclosed by walls, a well kept garden with palm, mango and banana trees in whose midst stands the mausoleum. If even the view of the gates. high, elegant and profiled buildings with numerous niches and towerlets as well as the mosaics on the stone facades, catches our attention, then we are the more astonished and full of admiration, as soon as we stepped through one of the gates into the inner space and have walked the long straight path of flag stones that is interrupted by large water basins.

There rises the tomb of Akbar; an image of august greatness, clear and calm, despite all the pillars, halls, buttresses, kiosks and artificially inserted facades which decorate the proud building in a lavish style without the decoration disrupting its nature. From the platform made out of white stones that serves as a foundation rise five floors as stepping pyramids whose platforms due to its stair-like construction of the whole building creates open space as terraces on each platform. Around each of these terraces, with the exception of that which covers the top of the square building, runs a domed open gallery with fluted pillars and ogival arches which create at regular intervals square buttresses. Each of these buttresses is covered by a baldachin-like kiosk on a square base whose flat dome and widely cantilevered ceiling stands on ogival arches and pillars with Indo-Corinthian capitals. Protruding balustrades and all kinds of ornamental decorations make the profile of the buttresses all the richer.

The magic of color — the four lower floors consist of red sandstone, all its galleries, kiosks and balustrades and the the top floor are made out of exquisite snow white marble — the fantastic play of ornaments, the delicate grace of the decorations, the splendid masonry of the balustrades cut like laces: All this with its intimate charm creates a fine distinction to the grandiose dimensions and to the overall severe nearly anti-climatic linear arrangement of the rising pyramid of the mausoleum.

Having regained, after the first moments of bliss, the rightful prose of life, I asked where and how the construction material came from that was used to build the splendid tomb which Jahangir, Akbar’s son has erected for his father. The sandstone of Fatehpur Sikri near Agra  — and this one has been used to build the mausoleum — is different from its European relatives by its remarkable hardness which permits to cut out very fine meshes out of fine plates. It is speckled with red and yellow or set with yellow veins. The glittering highly resistant white marble of the tomb is from Makrana near Jaipur.

As far as the dimension of the building are concerned it is 33 m high, each of the four fronts is at its base 100 m long. In the middle of the building is a subterranean room accessible by an inclining ramp which holds Akbar’s sarcophagus, made out of white marble and covered with Arab inscriptions. Here lie Akbar’s ashes at rest while in the top floor of the mausoleum stands according to Asian custom a cenotaph, an empty facsimile of the subterranean sarcophagus. In front of Akbar’s cenotaph we discover a small postament which once carried the legendary  Koh-i-noor, „mountain of light“, one of the largest diamonds in the world which was handed for three centuries from the Indian treasury to the next, from Akbar’s tomb into the hands of Nadir Shah, the despotic usurper and finally to the East Indian Company until it was incorporated into the British royal treasure in 1850.

On the ground floor are buried four Muslim of Akbar in splendid richly carved and inlaid sarcophagi each of which stands in its own hall covered with marble mosaics and Arab inscriptions.

Each of the already mentioned terraces on the exterior of the mausoleum which can be reached by a small staircase offers something characteristic. The uppermost marble terrace is the most beautiful and truly amazing as it is surrounded by lattices chiseled out of marble plates and turned into arabesques. These lattices show in each piece another drawing of the most rare delicacy. With the exception of the red sandstone of the lower floors everything is out of glittering marble: the lattice, the floor, the galleries, the kiosks and the sarcophagi.

Enchanted by this place of memory to the old splendor and pomp of the Grand Mughals I left the mausoleum to drive to the bazaar of Agra and look for acquisitions for my ethnographic collection as was my custom. The street which constitutes the bazaar is narrow, set with large stone plates and remarkable for the charming fronts of the houses. Nearly every house has artfully carved balustrades, lattices and pillars that are the characteristic sign of Agra. In the rich and active bazaar I found, after much haggling, many outstanding things which will be sent home, well packaged.

As the English commissioner had arrived in the mean time we undertook a visit to the forts and the Taj Mahal in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the weather had turned cloudy. A strong rain drained our joy to see both these buildings in sunshine.

The Fort is a fortified palace of the Mughals and has been built at the end of the 16th and during the 17th century in a large part by Shah Jahan, the son of Jehangir. An extraordinarily strong crenelated wall made out of giant sandstone building blocks with many round corner towers is enclosing the fort. Around it runs a broad water filled moat. The massive external gates with towers allow only entrance through angled side gates of the main wall to the fortification of Agra which now hosts an English garrison.

Entering from the west through the Delhi gate, the first thing one sees are case mates, batteries and in an open space an arsenal of scraped cannon barrels of different weapon systems. Having passed this arrangement of the art of war, one reaches the actual palace of the Mughals which is in relatively good condition and displays elements of the former almost luxurious splendor and pomp. The palace is not a uniform building according to our understanding but rather a row of representative buildings, open halls, verandas, platforms, courtyards, mosques, baths etc. which cover a large area and are connected by paths and stairs. If one takes into consideration that all these buildings if the local red sandstone has not been used, consist of clear white marble which is decorated in gold, paint and artful mosaics made out of semi-precious stones one can imagine approximatively how luxurious this place once has been.

First we were shown the large audience hall Diwan-i-Am in the newer parts of the palace, completed under Aurengzeb and 70 m in length from north to south, a hall open on three sides whose ceiling is borne by three rows of strong pillars which have at the base and the capitals strange ancient Indian forms. On the rear wall of the hall rises in a niche a marble base on which once stood the Mughal throne. Above the niche whose walls are decorated with pietra dura works and reliefs is a marble baldachin inlaid with precious stones. Here the Mughals used to hold court in a grand manner and receive delegations and representatives of foreign princes.

In the courtyard enclosed by a gallery next to the audience hall which on the first floor contains the simply decorated women’s chambers, the Mughal used to fish as a hobby. The water of the fish pond had to be carried there. Later it was pumped up by a special mechanism. A balcony in the gallery of this quiet courtyard used to be the favorite spot of the Mughal ruler who year after year exchanged sword and scepter with the angler’s hook to capture fish in dreams, while the clamors of war were raging and the most royal splendor was offered. He, the tumultuous, a patient angler, he whose crown jewels and booty in the treasury were filled up to the brim, a man content with his floundering catch. And even during these hours of quiet humble joy of the princes, the intrigue of the courtiers and sycophantic treachery seeped in. The chronicle noted that a sycophant of the Mughal had, in order not to cloud the mood by failure, handy swimmers dive and hook up the largest fishes to the bait, a practice known from Nero’s palace baths in Capri.

A beauty is the marble private audience hall Diwan-i-Khas, „the hall of the selected“, that has been built in a smaller scale in a similar manner to the large audience hall but surpassing it in decoration, in the richness of its mosaics and in the elegance of its forms by far. In front of the audience hall is a large platform from where one can view the river towards the east and south, a fertile area and smiling fields on which the Taj Mahal, in spite of the bad weather, makes quite an impression by its majestic calm posture. From this terrace the Mughals could watch tiger and elephant fights that were arranged in the ditch of the wall, protected against any attacks from the excited animals by a high wall.

The throne on which the Mughals rested during these fighting games — a large black stone block burst in the middle — has been conserved and there is a second one opposite it on the same terrace but all in white marble. Superstitious and fantastical as all orientals, the inhabitants of this empire connected the crack in the middle of the plate of the black throne with fairy tale like stories from the military history of the fort of Agra. „Sooner will this hard stone break into pieces“, one of Mughals claimed, as has been told, „than I will break my word.“ But the Mughal’s word was not as firm and the stone sprang in two on the day the Mughal broke his word. Others claim that the crack came from that miserable day when Jowahir Singh, Raja of Bhartpur, having conquered Agra, dared to sit down on the throne of the Timurids.

Even the most recent era of Indian military history has left marks in the disputed stone plate of the black throne of Agra: the remnants of an English cannon ball fired during the siege of Agra in 1857 which lodged itself here, by ricochet it continued and pierced a splendidly carved lattice next to the audience hall. Also on other parts one can identify damage from cannon balls in the ornaments and carvings.

Besides the audience hall are a long row of rooms, paths of pillars and platforms which are parts of the private chambers of the Mughals. To describe them individually would go too far. One could fill volumes about their splendor, their opulence of marble, gold and mosaics, about the histories of the competence, the effort and the sense of forms of the artistic workers and the artistically sensitive artisans who hired by a builder loving luxury had been instructed by domestic and foreign masters to create Agra’s glory as a treasure chest of India’s art of construction and decoration.

The skill for inlaid marble works with arabesques and flower motifs has been preserved by Agra’s artisans to the present day. That foreign artists have influenced the design and decoration of the buildings in Agra and namely Austin de Bordeaux has been at work here in an outstanding manner under Shah Jahan  is confirmed by the still existing construction history of the Taj. Despite the strangeness and the original even baroque forms and the oriental opulence in ornamentation in the buildings in Agra, nothing seems to be overladen here or displeasing to the eye. Quite the contrary, everything has been executed in an artistic manner and in unique beauty.

On one of these platforms of the palace I found in the marble floor composed squares and signs made out of differently colored stones. Upon my question, it was answered that the Mughals used to play here a game similar to chess called Pachisi where living humans, most beautiful girls, played the part of the figures. The figures stood on one of the squares and had to move according to the orders of the rulers, move by move.

I may not forget to mention a particularly beautiful protruding bay above the wall that overhangs a kiosk and has been one of the favorite spots of the Mughals. In this place, the ruler tended to accept all pleas without complaints; a circumstance which led to the practice that the  petitioners from the people set themselves up in the fortress ditch and pleaded their case to the ruler standing quietly in his bay.

Notable are the the baths in Shish Mahal, „mirror palace“; these are completely without windows amd contain in the middle large marble basins with waterspout fountains and water games while the walls are decorated with grotesque arabesques which are laid out in countless small mirror plates in mosaics.

Still further down than the baths are some sort of caves, the so called summer apartments, dark rooms connected by corridors, which was inhabited by the Mughal and his seraglio during the hot summer months. Small openings in the thick walls offer a bit of light in these rooms.

As in any old palace and fort there was a torture chamber, a dreadful and completely dark room equipped with a cross beam on which delinquents were executed. The body of the executed fell into a pipe-like canal which led to the river as meat for the ravens and vultures.

It seems hardly possible that the Mughals managed to construct such luxurious buildings in a comparably short time with only the primitive technical means of former centuries. It can only be explained by the fact that the princely builders could command thousands of people even if it required it all the working population of a province to assist in the construction of the building and thus had numerous and cheap workers for the task — and that everyone had to comply to the iron will of oriental rulers in view of the the death penalty. For that matter, the Mughals were reasonable and understanding men who hosted many European artists at their court to profit from their knowledge inventive gifts and skills and did not shut themselves off from European culture and art.

The oldest part of the palace is a square building in red sandstone enclosing a large courtyard. Its construction style as well as its pillars, gables and capitals are remarkable as they are imitating the construction of raw wood frames and wood carvings and roof beams. In this courtyard should have taken place that strange audience in the year 1700, in which the first representative sent from England to the court of the Grand Mughals had to approach the Mughal majesty crawling on all fours according to the then current protocol. Since then much has changed in India and the role of the Indian rajas and the British residents has completely switched. Albion’s representative two hundred years ago was forced to approach the palace and court of the Mughals in the manner of a quadruped, one can now see, metaphorically speaking, the heirs of the proudest names of Hindustan bow before the English ruler, truly with a contained fierceness and perhaps in the secret hope in the breast that one future day the wheel of time will turn the history of India again towards the side of the rajas.

This palace too has its ow mosque only is this one, given the splendor of the whole, especially beautiful and mighty. Its name is  „pearl mosque“ (Moti Mesdschid), a name which either indicated the preciousness of the mosque or might be derived from the silver color of its domes and pillars. The construction of this mosque is similar to all those buildings in India. Surpassing the walls of the fort by far, constructed by Shah Jahan and ornamented inside with delicious white, blueish and gray marble, the mosque has on its front side a wide courtyard enclosed by an arched hall borne by triple rows of pillars above which stand three domes. The white marble of the domes with golden peaks, the red sandstone of the exterior walls and portals, the decorations, the masonry, the inscriptions inside, its high elevation — everything is united to create a unique attraction to this gem of the Saracen art of building. Inside, everything is white in white what isn’t part of a mosaic, an inscription table and or niches in other colors. Even the floor of the great forecourt is covered with marble plates. Architecturally remarkable is the fact that the great pillar hall sogar with its rows of three pillars and its floor as as smooth as glass. In this floor are inlaid praying places in the direction of Mecca for the believers which in their form as marble mosaics imitate prayer rugs.

I went on the roof to appreciate the view on the numerous beautiful buildings of Agra despite the bad weather. When I looked down on the monuments of a great era which lay at my feet I thought about the changing fortunes of human actions, about the contrast between the „good old times“ of Agra to the present still life of decaying residences of the former courts and palaces. Where once stood the proud Grand Mughals in the splendor of their power, basking in the glittering shine of their court, where colorful, splendid life and strive ruled, mixed in with genial artistic creation: now there are within the secure area of the golden and marble palaces modern batteries of English guns. Silently British soldiers march up and down at their post. One can hear the locomotive’s shrill whistle from the station nearby. For a baksheesh, every foreigner may intrude into the fort and courtyard with a talkative guide, into the secret chambers and into the mosques of the once taboo residence of the Grand Mughals, may dig among the ruins of the niches and pillars, touch everything and look everywhere …. Tempora mutantur!

Out of my thoughts and dreams only one thing awakened me, something that is not difficult to guess, something that haunts all of India today and seems inescapable as if it was a creeping sickness – namely the taking of a picture by a photographic apparatus that had been set up. The owner of this modern torture instrument stood in front of us and pointed out in words the inescapable necessity to have me and my companions in the mosque set as a group for posterity. While one may discuss whether the warning in the Koran „You shall not create an image of the human body“  is applicable to photographic portraits, the proposal of the Muslim photographer to take the picture in the mosque as if we were pious Muslims must have been even more illogical. There was no way to escape the obnoxious artist than to give in to his wish.

After we had seen the fort we were set to see the pearl of all buildings in India, the most charming of all architectural world wonders, the most distinguished destination of all travelers who enter Hindustan, the world famous Taj Mahal (Taj = crown, Mahal = palace, i.e. the „home of the crown“).

Erected on the spot of where Shah Jahan had his pleasure garden on the right bank of the Yamuna stands the Taj Mahal also known as Taj bibi ke Rosa (the tomb of the crowned woman), the mausoleum of the wife of Shah Jahan. When she, Arjumand Banu Begum called  Mumtaz-i Mahal, i.e. „the chosen one of the palace“, died in labor giving birth to her eighth child, the prince started building a tomb in the memory of his beloved wife in the year 1630, in which he too wanted to be laid to rest at her side in eternal sleep. The will of Shah Jahan, to consecrate a monument to Mumtaz-i Mahal  that is more beautiful as everything else on this earth, speaking in eternity to all about the dear departed, has been completely fulfilled . . .

Nothing seemed too precious, nothing too beautiful to honor the dead. Foreign artists such as the Venetian Gieronimo Verroneo, then Austin de Bordeaux and a Byzantine master have contributed in conjunction of the knowledge and practice of the best local artisans on this building.

During about two decades twenty thousand laborers should have been at work continuously  here. The cost were said to have been at 40 millions guiders according to local sources, an incredible sum during that time — even if many of the building materials, many gems and objects of jewelry which decorate the tomb have been contributed voluntarily by the Rajas and Nawabs and the artisans and laborers probably only paid meagerly. Despite all the effort in energy and money invested it appears to everyone who visits the details of the building and considers the enormous difficulties to surpass as a wonder that it could be completed within a time period of two decades.

Who doesn’t recognize the image of the Taj, this snow-white building, its arched gate, its dome, facades and minarets? If the traveler who has seen a hundred times the Taj on canvas and in woodcuts, image and word wood sees the building itself how it rises towards heaven, incredibly beautiful, enclosed by rich green, everything seen up to now pales, stammeringly words fail to describe the building, the pen falls to the ground and the spectator turns silent.

Equipped with the full power of our most splendid buildings, clear like the structure of our most Gothic cathedrals, noble like the most distinguished flowers of the Italian renaissance, impressive like the pearls of Venetian art which enchant simultaneously in the East and West, ornamented with every form of magic which was granted to mankind to give expression to the highest and clearest beauty — the Taj overcomes every mortal who looks upon it.

„A marble dream“, so stands the mausoleum of Shah Jahan in front of us. August images, impressions, feelings rush through the soul of the spectator who can’t get enough views of this human created but not deemed possible even in the wildest fantasy. And this quiet calmness, this supreme harmony of the whole despite the audacity of all forms, this white clarity of the stone. No statue, no image, no altar, no carpet is visible, only stone and stone again, but this stone alone decorates the whole more than any other precious ornament. It is as if the the stone was blooming, living, talking . . .

The Taj stands on an elevated platform which measures 95 m in the square, and has a square foundation with truncated corners (octogon with four longer and four shorter sides), topped by a mighty dome below which are set four smaller domes. Die arched gates and window niches in Moorish style are bordered with chiseled sentences from the Koran and the facades are also decorated with inlaid stones, especially at the bases. On the four corners of the platform stand high minarets. The highest peak of the dome stands 74 m above the garden paths.

Similar to Akbar’s tomb one meets first a high mosque-like gate built out of red sandstone decorated with fine marble mosaics that remind one of a veil. Then follows the splendid park with dark-green trees, blooming flowers and a really straight row of water works and waterspout fountains, which lead from the entrance gate to the stairs of the mausoleum. Very effectively used is an avenue of cedars which frames the white building of the Taj while the sky provides the conclusion.

Probably everyone who enters this splendid building, this monument to sorrow, is overcome by a feeling of melancholy. A mystical semi-dark encloses the two cenotaphs, a quiet echo reverberates the voices. Here too, in the octogon’s hall, no other decoration than stone which is distributed so wonderfully that it looks more decoratively, more dignified and attractive than many paintings and statue. The interior of the mausoleums does in no case give a cold and hard impression, quite the contrary instead, it looks warm and respectful.

The splendor and delicate execution is really amazing. The meshes around the cenotaph made out of huge marble plates are as fine as a spider’s web chiseled out. On the pillars we admire the most beautiful mosaics that can be produced, the most delicate flowers and arabesques made out of semi-precious stones like Carneol, Lapis lazuli, Achat, Jaspis, Malachit. In a subterranean crypt stand marble sarcophagi which hold the mortal remains of Shah Jehans and Mumtaz-i Mahal while the empty cenotaphs in the octogon are copies of the sarcophagi in the crypt.  The custom of setting up two stone coffins for princes, a cenotaph and sarcophagus which holds the body, has been respected here as at Akbar’s tomb.

Over a small stair I came to the platform which surrounds the main dome and from where one has a good view on the two mosques that stand between the minarets of the Taj’s long side. Each of these mosques is a precious building of its own but in the proximity of such a marble wonder they are almost completely pushed in its shadow. The material for the two domes is the common red sandstone decorated with marble mosaics.

I returned to the garden to memorize the inscription of the Taj on all sides and all its splendid forms.

An armed walk in the park at Agra should offer me some relief as all the things seen and  which had challenged my mind have stressed me. In the morning I had seen marabous (Leptopilus argala) on one of the trees outside the park, These ugly birds, notable by their enormous size and their wing-span as well as their beautiful plumage while their bare heads with the canker and their way of feeding are less beautiful and agreeable. We approached them by the bastard tamarinds an shot six of them two of which are to be marked on my account.

Kinsky suffered again from a fever attack that day and will have to keep to his bed.

Links

  • Location: Agra, India
  • ANNO – on 12.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays a drama “Der Traum ein Leben“ in the afternoon and „Dorf und Stadt“ in the evening, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater  is hosting a carnival ball „redoute“.

Benares, 11 February 1893

In the morning I again walked through the streets along the temples and the river — the same images, the same effect.

Towards noon the Maharaja of Benares, Brabhn Narain Singh Bahadur, paid me a visit. As splendid the gentleman was decorated with precious stones, his overall appearance was less than princely: His state carriage and especially his body guard which sat on discarded horses and partly wore old English uniforms looked really miserable. He is a charming friendly old fellow and apparently a passionate hunter who is never separated from his  express rifle carried along by a servant event to all his visits and public events. In response to my question he answered that he had killed 60 tigers in his state. That a group picture was taken by a photographer in front of the palace hardly needs a mention.

The return visit I paid in another of his palace which was in a deserted and deplorable state. On that occasion the Maharaja wore even more beautiful diamonds. The palace only contained a gallery of Europe’s crowned heads, ugly lithographs, which constituted the main decoration of the reception hall where the Maharaja and I sat down for a few minutes on some sort of throne.  After we had exchanged our photographs, the prince gave me an ivory carving he considered of being of very high value. Finally we went to the station accompanied by the Maharaja.  Our train would take us on the East Indian Railway to Agra by the way of Allahabad and Kahnpur.

Links

  • Location: Benares, India
  • ANNO – on 11.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Wiener Salonblatt spares but one sentence for Franz Ferdinand’s Indian adventures in its issue of 12 February 1893, p. 3.
Wiener Salonblatt, 12 February 1893, issue 7, p.3: Franz Ferdinand in India

Wiener Salonblatt, 12 February 1893, issue 7, p.3: Franz Ferdinand in India

  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays a drama “Eine vornehme Ehe“ by Octave Feuillet, while the k.u.k. Hof-Opermtheater offers Jules Massenet’s “Werther”.

Benares, 10 February 1893

Whoever arrives directly from the majestic cold of the Alpine world to Benares will believe to be in a madhouse. Gods and humans, religion and madness; mysticism and superstition; asceticism and luxury, echoes of deep truths and denial of common sense, godly praying men and crazy fakirs, burning Hindus and dancing bayaderes: all of this is grouped at the river in a hundred varieties and forms, bottles up the streets of the city, rushing, squeezing, pushing, driving — united in a maelstrom and vortex which threatens to envelop the starring stranger made speechless out of astonishment. Only slowly is it possible to collect, observe and think in the midst of this huge human aberration and the infectious manic force.

Benares, the holy city of the Hindus, is the largest place of an annual pilgrimage in India visited by a few hundred thousand pilgrims. It lies on the left, northern bank of the holy Ganges river an covers a large area — containing 222.000 souls — which is filled mostly by temples, mosques and palaces of Indian princes. There are, besides other religious buildings, 1454 Hindu temples and 572 mosques. The city, an ancient site of Brahmin erudition, was originally only dedicated to Buddhist believers until that was displaced by Brahmanism. In the middle of the 17th century incorporated into the Mughal empire its place as a holy city of the Hindus was temporarily lost, namely by Aurangzeb, as eager a believer in Islam as a persecutor of Brahmanism, who had all temples destroyed, scorning the Hindus, and erected partly on the ruins of these temples a large number of mosques along the shores of the Ganges. After the fall of the Mughal reign, having regained their strength, the Hindus built nearly one thousand five hundred new temples displacing the mosques. Even if their number and style might astonish us, we still notice a certain uniformity of style, a feature explained by the fact that all Hindu temples currently standing in Benares date back no longer than the 17th century.

The sun had hardly pieced the morning mist hanging over the holy Ganges when we were already at the shore of the river. Here we rented a short rowing boat and had us rowed up and down the river in order to gain an overview of the palaces and temples and life at the shore. Above the shoreline are a number of palaces that Indian princes such as the Maharajas of Nepal, Jeypore etc. had constructed as local residences for the large number of annual pilgrims from their state. Galleries with ornamented fronts flanked at both ends with massive corner towers are common. Between these palaces stand here and there many Hindu temples, some well maintained some in ruins many of which have been undermined by the active river while others incline so strongly that the difference to the vertical is way beyond that of the leaning tower of Pisa.

Everywhere large open stone stairs (Ghats) lead down to the water in front of the continuing rows of buildings. On these stairs there is a lot of activity going on in the morning which at first seems surprising to a spectator and defies description. Here the pilgrims and the majority of the population of Benares congregate to bathe in the holy river and thus receive absolution for all their sins. Here, the religious life, thinking, feeling and striving of the Hindus are pulsating. Here the scrupulous observation of religious obligations is transformed into crass fanaticism, indolence into enthusiasm. Laymen and priests, men and women of all ages, boys, girls and children push in masses to the get into the water. There a poor old man with snow white hairs, freezing from the cold, submerges himself in the water. Here a group of Brahmin take an expurgating bath. A grandmother old as the hills led by her nephew approaches the river. There a group of bathing girls whose joy is not suffocated by belief. Fidgety crying children are doused with water or dunked into the muddy broth by their parents. Everywhere, however, modesty is preserved and even in the water the light linen cloth are never removed.

The morning was very cool — we were sitting in overcoats in our boat — but the severe cold id not in the least impede the faithful in taking their bath or to remain in the water for extended time. The bathers drank from the disgusting water which has the power to absolve the mortal human of his sins thanks to Shiva’s grace. They sacrifice flowers and rice and other agricultural products. The Brahmins are performing their holy rituals especially festively and glance at the sun, murmur their prayers and offer their sacrifices in strange ceremonies. Pilgrims take the holy water of the Ganges home in large copper containers. The water is also sent out in all parts of the country. In all of Benares one can see carriers of this holy liquidity in the streets.

Just above the bathing places on the Ghat are pillars on stone slabs on which Brahmins are sitting who paint caste signs with diversely colored sandalwood paste on the front and cheeks of the returning bathers. Barbers too had set up their business and were hard at work.

The most terrible spawn of religious paroxism, true caricatures of mankind, however, are the fakirs who are legion in Benares. They sit motionless on the Ghats or on planks swimming in  the river, mostly naked, smeared in mud or ashes. Their livelihood is provided by the charity of the believers.

Amidst all the bathing places are the burning locations where numerous Hindu bodies are daily transformed. It is said to be especially godly to be turned into ashes or even die at the shores of the Ganges and serves as a pledge of entry into heaven. For this reason many dying have themselves carried from far away places to the holy river by their relatives to exhale their last breath in view of the flowing river. If death doesn’t strike quickly, the caring relatives will probably assist the process to be able to return home soon. The bodies are handled without piety according to the custom of the land. They are first shaved and washed under the open sky and then put on a wood pile and quickly burned while the relatives quietly and without involvement watch. Finally the remains are thrown into the Ganges close to the places where humans are bathing and drinking the murky water oblivious to the human body parts Vultures, dogs and ravens fight eagerly for so many half-burnt bone.

For a long time, I watched this activity as if to assure me that these disgusting acts were truly happening and not a dream — then I turned myself away with revulsion even ill will from this grizzly spectacle that scoffed human dignity.

Out of the skyline of temples and palaces, the large mosque of Aurangzeb with its large round dome and two thin minarets that tower over the whole city stands out. The mighty conqueror had built the mosque on this especially holy location of the Hindus. On steep dirty stone stairs we went up to the forecourt where a muezzin received us with bows and humbly invited us to go up to the top of one of the minarets. From the first platform, the mosque’s ceiling swarms of parrots and pigeons took off  terrified from our unexpected appearance. The further ascent was difficult as one could only advance at a snail’s pace in the narrow space with incredibly steep steps. The grand view over the whole city an the holy river, however, compensates for the effort. The numerous domes of the temples are glittering in the sunshine. A sea of houses lies at our feet. Majestically the mighty river flowed past as if he disdained the maniac actions of these humans moved like puppets by a dark force.

A walk through the praying crowd led us past holy cows, donkeys, goats, sheep and dogs. All those animals stand around in the pushing crowd — truly a drastic background of an image confusing the senses! A large number of vultures and red kites is sitting on the roofs or between the pedestrians eating all garbage on the ground. Goats and sheep intrude into the temples and small temples and eat the sacrificed flowers and wreaths from the idols. We reached a spot where a very holy fakir was mumbling prayers without interruption, having sat there for many years and being supported by alms from believers. Fanatics who want to become dignified fakirs try to obtain the first grade of deadening their senses by holding their breath until they turn blue and green and nearly suffocate. Day after day this procedure is repeated and continued until a state of perfection is attained to reach the desired goal.

A cistern,  the holy Manikarnika fountain, 12 m square, with steps that lead down to the water — said to be built in the form of a mythical pond in the Himalayas — is a place of special veneration for the believers. For us it is horror. Here the believers were bathing before they submerged themselves in the Ganges — or more precisely they wallowed in the manure and drank from the foul slurry of decaying matter, old dirt and  ill-smelling water.

Over steep stairs along a narrow road we walked to the main Baleshwar temple dedicated to Shiva — called the „golden temple“. The incredible turned into reality: as in the streets and even more in the temples the action of the pilgrim became still crazier than at the riverside. The streets consist mostly of a never-ending row of temples with beautiful and original architecture, proof about a fine taste in art and beauty. Temples and images of the elephant god Ganesha, the monkey god Hanuman, Shiva, the holy bull Nandi, — the Indian Apis — the Lingam in all possible forms and sizes followed one another in a colorful sequence. All holy places were decorated with wreaths by the pilgrims, sprinkled with Ganges water or turned into places of sacrifice of butter and rice. In between merchants were offering with great clamor praying books or small images of the gods while unemployed Brahmins approach to offer their services as guides. The closer we get to the golden temple the denser the pushing and shoving.

Passing by a large symbol of a bull which was being watered eagerly with the Ganges water, we reached the „fountain of insight“ (Gyan Kup), into which during the conquest of Benares by Aurangzeb, according to legend, the guardian of the most noble Hindu temple had thrown  the image of Vishnu which had been placed under his protection.Today, this fountain only offers foul water of which every pilgrim will receive a spoonful from a Brahhmin in exchange for a suitable baksheesh.

The Golden Temple which we could see very well from a balcony in a building opposite it, is around 200 years old, made completely out of red sandstone and with gilded cone-shaped ceilings paid by Maharaja Ranjit Singh from Lahore. This ornament has given the temple its name of „golden“. Within and outside, the temple is a true pandemoniums of religious ecstasy that drives the lives of the pilgrim to the highest pitch. A complete crash of human rationality is demonstrated by the behavior of the believers. Even though admission to non-believers is strictly prohibited, we nevertheless entered as far as the threatening means of the pilgrims allowed, guided by a Brahmin supplied copiously with baksheesh. What I have seen is sufficient to give a true image of the interior of the largest an most holy temple of the Hindus, to see the night of madness that overcomes those. The main idol in rich majestic surroundings is an object of a creative force, a Lingam, around which dance a fanatical crowd of beggars, women and men which garland, sprinkle and anoint it without interruption.

In between bells were ringing which were rung by the believers walking among torn flowers, Ganges water and excrement of the holy cows. Arranged around the main idol is a formal museum of other images and idols each of which has its own believers who shout and make noises to perform their rites. Even though we were inside this holy place for only a few minutes I felt dizzy from the relentless impression of so unexpected views. Back in the open air I breathed deeply. The surrounding of the temple is filled with countless lamentable, disgusting, crippled, leprous beggars of both sexes which ask for charity.

Even more horrible, if this was possible, is the temple of Annapurna close by, the temple of the nourishing goddess. All around stand cows considered so holy by the believers that they eat a mixture of all products from the temple cows to be absolved of their sins. Truly a horrible creation of a feverish religious delusion! What a crying hurtful contradiction — here too beautiful architecture, the proof of a blooming human mind, enclosed by dirt, garbage, madness. In the middle of the temple, on some sort of pediment stands a bed, lovingly prepared even with mosquito nets which, according to Hindu beliefs, is used every night by Vishnu’s wife, the goddess Lakshmi, for rest.

I turned to the bazaar and watched some architecturally fascinating facades as well as apparently less intensively visited temples on the way. We were often stopped by the pushing crowd, a true hellish impression in the manner of Brueghel. Here comes a group of pilgrims wet from their bath, there a group of women with Shiva symbols asking god for numerous children, fakirs in their horrible attire and leprous beggars asking for charity. Shrews instructed children on the street in the mysteries of the Hindu religion. Brahmins receive baksheesh from the pilgrims. Noble rajas pass in festive processions, followed by groups of servants and musicians, to the Ganges. Human body upon body only covered with light cloth are carried past me — an interminable change of scenes and images which only the orient an offer in its rich and ugly imagination. Aversion even disgust rose in me and crushed me. Overwhelmed by these impressions and tired, I rushed home to rest.

Newly refreshed I visited the monkey temple in the afternoon. This temple is dedicated to the god Hanuman and offers shelter to countless monkeys which walk around funnily in the interior of the building on its pillars and pediments, fed by believers with sweets and fruits. Only a short time ago there were many thousands of holy monkeys. But their tricks became too much even for the religious Hindus as they caused destruction in all neighborhoods and spared no object from their thievery. This was solved by capturing over a thousand of monkeys, put them in a railway wagons of a special train and drove them off into the countryside and set them free in the jungle. Thus the believers got rid of their tormentor without sinning against the holiness. In the middle of the temple stands a golden figure of the god Hanuman which is visited by both monkeys and pilgrims and is not free from the common dirt.

Here two snake charmers were displaying their art with a number of cobras and pythons. This spectacle repeated itself after our return to the palace when a conjurer presented an interesting fight between a large snake and a small animal looking like a polecat, the so called mongoose. The latter remained victorious. He had very skilfully jumped  at the snake’s head and bit off the animal’s head, even though his opponent fought back hard and had embraced it closely. It deserves to be remarked that entertainers and conjurers play an important role in all of India and distinguish themselves favorably in comparison to their European colleagues in performing their stunts without any preparations.

The dancers performing in the palace after the dinner were quite bitterly disappointing. They lacked all beauty, their dances were very boring so that we became very sleepy soon.

Links

  • Location: Benares, India
  • ANNO – on 10.02.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays the comedy “Schach dem König“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Opermtheater offers Weber’s “Der Freischütz”.

Bombay, 19 January 1893

Early in the morning we drove in gala coaches of the governors, escorted by a part of the guard, to the docks to inspect the Lloyd ship „Elektra“ which arrived two days ago. The docks built and owned by trading companies are impressive structures both in their extent as well as their requirements for the installation of the necessary equipment for the transport of goods. It is a testament to entrepreneurship which makes one feel meek if one compares it to home. Beside the docks stand warehouses through which the stream of arriving and departing goods flows: As the blood flows without interruption in the numerous branches of the veins in a human organism, bringing blood to the heart and moving it away again, so here barrels and bales roll without interruption on rails to and from the warehouses. In these grandiose warehouses on can feel the pulse of moving goods. The steam cranes look like the arms of a giant working for mankind — Gulliver among the Lilliputians —  lifting the heaviest burdens like child’s play. Without rest and recovery, in constant motion, the dock acts as the motor of the goods trade; seemingly chaotic it is still obeying a very strict order built by the organizing force of the merchant …

„Elektra“ arrived from Shanghai  filled with tea and hides, and added cotton to its load for Trieste. The mighty ship had hoisted the flags, like all the ship the dock, and presented itself in all her glory. Having inspected the „Elektra“ closely, I can recommend the well known comfort of the Lloyd ships as they continue to set standards in friendliness and cleanliness. It is joyful to hear that Englishmen too prefer to make use of the Lloyd ships. Certainly a moment that looks very favorably to our Lloyd, especially as the competition among the different shipping companies is such that it goes beyond the true demand and poses risks for real enterprises that continue to preserve outdated traditions and specific manners of a local character. Where this goal is questionable to achieve, one may not refrain from even larger government subsidies than at present, as these subsidies will be rewarded with golden fruits by a management that appreciates the importance of the enterprise not only for the shareholders but also the national production and the monarchy’s reputation whose flag is represented by Lloyd ships in all oceans. With the warmest wishes for a happy completion of the journey I left the Lloyd ship „Elektra“ not without adding greetings for home to her cargo.

In Victoria Park which we visited next and which is maintained by the municipality, Bombay has a zoological-biological garden — a tropical Schönbrunn — that merits the fullest praise even it can not match Peradenia garden on Ceylon. Tigers, bears, panthers, gazelles and antelopes, ostriches and monkeys were mourning their loss of liberty in small iron cages that were grouped between tastefully arranged bushes. Special consideration is given, according to English taste, to the grass which due to intensive sprinkling presents itself in a lush green, like a velvet carpet.

Having plundered Tellery’s treasures again we undertook a shopping trip through the most bustling streets of the native district.

The houses which are inhabited up to the roof, even overfilled what has a very detrimental effect on cleanliness. On the ground floor one finds always merchant shops and bazaars: here all kinds of goods are sold, many European ones among them, always surrounded by a shouting crowd. It is a pleasure to see many of our national goods in these shops, namely paper, perishable goods, hardware, glassware, woolen blankets and hats, the latter all from Strakonitz in Bohemia. A bustling trade is happening also with Austrian cologne which the Hindus drink as a replacement of the forbidden wine – a fact that speaks to the excellent quality of the local stomachs as well as to that of the product.

Some of the old houses with about two hundred year old wooden decorations, small gables, bays and pillars made out of indestructible black wood as well as small mosques and Hindu temples interrupt picturesquely the long rows of houses. Especially Kalbadewi temple with its color and statues of monkeys and fakirs attracts the eye.

The noisy crowd in the street is composed of the peoples of Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania, a moving tower of Babel. Colorful images are moving past the eyes of the visitor. The largest contingent are naturally the Hindus. Among them move busily Parsis and Muslims, silent Arabs in black burnooses ride by coming from the horse market. Sometimes one can see an Afghan and begging Tibetan monks.

Remarkable is the courtesy of all natives towards the Europeans to which they always approach in friendliness. Out of the mass stand out the fakirs that is all kinds of religious beggars without distinction, although the Indians use this word only for Muslim beggars while they use a different word for Hindu caste ones, namely Goswami (Gosain), Jogi for the adherents of Shiva, Bairagi for those of Vishnu. These fakirs who abstain from the world and all its pleasures demonstrate their abstention outwardly by covering their body with yellow or gray clay and paint their front with sandalwood and vermilion powder. These ascetics and penitents move in this hideous attire, a consequence of a fanatical belief, from house to house. All too often the supposed abstention of the fakir is but a cover for a carefree life without toil. The Hindus give the fakirs always a helpful hand and offer them unlimited hospitality, sharing everything with the beggars – often even the wife. Under the mask of a fakir one even finds hard criminals who thus evade the watchful police or are safe from them as, due to the fanaticism of the Hindu, a native policeman can hardly dare to lay hands on a fakir. Native police have blue uniforms with light yellow lapels and caps and are said to perform with distinction.

All kinds of vehicles are moving in the roads from native small wagons drawn by two zebu oxen and whose sides are most often painted to the elegant European Landau carriages.

The native drivers treat the fast zebu oxen incredibly harshly: To get them to move fast, they wind their tails in circles. This barbaric practice may even break the tail bone. The fate of a local horse team seems to be comparably fine compared to the sorry zebus.

After lunch in Government House where I met the promising son of my host, temptation was approaching in the form of one of the largest jewelry dealers of Bombay, Harichands. prime supplier to all Rajahs. Treasures valued in millions were laid out in front of us: diamonds as large as a dove egg. rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls, partly loose partly as necklaces, rings and diadems. The sparkling, glimmering, glittering, the shine, flame and flare of fire splitting in all colors created an irresistible attraction that overwhelmed all senses. I have not seen something of equal quality in Europe and believe no crown jewels can match the treasures of Harichands. The man is literally rich in stones and asked for prices so high that we were unable to come to an agreement, thus I resisted temptation, largely out of necessity and not out of desire.

At 5 o’clock in the afternoon, a garden party in Parel  — a summer retreat of the governor about 4 km out of Bombay — was on the program. There on the road one could see all the inhabitants who welcomed us warmly. On the green meadow in the midst of the park stands a dais covered in red cloth. On the dais sat the high society of Bombay: Officers, dignitaries, eminent Parsis, Hindus and Muslims.

In front of the dais was laid out a large square, some kind of riding school in which the life guard of the governor rode a quadrille on their Australian service horses. The members of the life guard is composed solely of Sikhs, descendants of those fanatical warriors whose lands in Lahore and all of Penjab had been made part of British India after a tough fight in 1849. The Sikhs are beautiful, tall people in fashionable uniforms, long red tunics with a row of brass buttons and steel chain epaulettes with white trousers, top boots and a large red turban on the head, wrapped in a colorful cloth. The saddles, bridles and horseshoes are European and in excellent condition. The horses look well even though many among them are rather old. The well prepared quadrille was performed with high precision: especially well executed were moulinets, deployment and various difficult winding tours with turns. At the end the riders as well as the arrangeur Captain Gordon were applauded by all.

During a break the governor introduced me to a number of ladies as well as eminent Muslims and some local Rajas sparkling with diamonds.

The second part of the equestrian production consisted of a tent pegging, a lance game in which four pegs are pushed into the ground which have to be picked up with a lance by the riders approaching at full speed. Again, they demonstrated their skill and aptitude in horsemanship.

At the end of the party, the governor showed me the park of the palace of Parel. The building is not beautiful, a former Portuguese monastery. The park has a large immured pond at whose rim we appreciated the glorious sunset.

The evening was completed by a large gala dinner and a musical soirée in Government House. Some ladies made an attempt to sing multiple love songs after which a violin player performed an undefined piece. Finally a conjurer offered some tricks, some of which might have attracted the most vivid hilarity of our amiable house wife.

Links

          • Location: Bombay, India
          • ANNO – on 19.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse informs about the struggle among Italian, Croatian and German speakers in Istria. With German being the official language for government matters, the  other two at least have a common enemy. Trieste is also battling with the snow.
          • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing a comedy „Gönnerschaften“, while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater presents the comic opera „Gute Nacht, Herr Pantalon“, followed by a ballet „Die Sireneninsel“.

Bombay, 18 January 1893

At 6 o’clock came the wake-up call. The morning was fresh and nice. The inhabitants of the villa district Malabar Hill through which we were driving seemed to be still in deep sleep as everything was quiet in the villas and gardens. The destination of our drive was the cemetery of the Parsi, the famous “Towers of Silence”. One of the most respected Parsi, Sir Jamsedji Jijibhai Bart., as well as Mr. Nüsservanji Behramji, received us at the foot of the hill and guided us over long stone stairs to a blooming garden that did not disclose the presence of a cemetery nearby. Close to the entrance gate sits a dog that has two supplementary eyes in color above the natural ones. The dog’s comportment according to the Parsi beliefs depends whether the dead enters the other world under good or bad auspices. If the dog looks at the dead person, this is regarded as a good sign while the opposite is seen as ill fortune. Just at the entrance to the garden stands a temple in which the whole fire is burning which, they say, the Parsi have brought from their ancestral homes and which has been kept alive ever since.

Tower of Silence, p. 102

Tower of Silence, p. 102

Continuing on the garden, one meets five flashy white towers round as a circle. The tallest is 7.5 m high and has a circumference of 90 m. On its rim sit a legion of vultures and ravens. Up a few steps lies the entrance by a small iron door. One is allowed to approach the temple only up to 30 m but a model in the garden offers information about the interior of the burial place. Within the towers constructed with much effort – the largest is said to have cost over 360.000 fl in Austrian currency – is a cone-shaped platform terminating in a duct separated into ring-formed divisions. The outer division is intended for men, the middle one for women and the interior one, closest to the duct, for children. Four guardians, the only people allowed to enter the temple, undress the dead and lay them out in the proper division. Immediately hungry vultures set upon their prey and within an hour the body has been consumed except fort he bones. The sun dries the skeleton which is then lowered down the duct and poured over with water and chalk. The duct leads to four radial canals equipped with coals and sand filters ending in large pits where the last remains of the skeletons are left to their fate.

“Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.” (1 Kings 21:24). What the prophet Elias said to the king who had laden himself with a large guilt through his wife Jezebel, as a punishment has here become a horrible reality, a terrible truth. The birds of the sky eat the dead, devour the just and the unjust, nobles and inferiors. “Erectos ad sidera vultus“ all those who lived are now in death carrion for the birds.

From this place of human abasement bereft of all piety, where the winged gravediggers croak a dark “Lasciate ogni speranza”, thoughts are fleeing to the churchyard in the native mountains. Here, the precious dead lie in the earth that covers them protectively in order to fulfil the word: “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Over the graves are set crosses, simple wooden crosses but built and erected with care, with the love the living have received with a smile and now with tears speaks to the dead: “Rest in peace.” Thus in thoughts, we departed from these eloquent Towers of Silence.

The next visit was to the animal hospital Pindschrapol which was founded by rich Hindus. A complete aberration of religious sentiment! Innumerable animals without owners, sick, covered in hideous eczema, with wounds of all kinds are spending their time until death – more merciful than those men in their aberration of the prohibition of spilling blood out of a feeling of pity – takes them away. In a courtyard stood, like biblical sisters announcing a famine, about four hundred cows. In the next courtyard, horses, real nags, in a third courtyard behind bars, dogs, monkeys, sheep, parrots, chicken, doves, myriads of flies and gadflies buzzing in a choir of pain and plague.

A more pleasant view was the large Crawford Market halls. They are said to cover with courtyards and gardens an area of 60 hectares and are built in the European manner out of stone, iron and glass. They are divided by a central hall with a 43 m high bell tower into two wings and a row of individual market places. The right wing of the market halls is for flowers and fruits, the left one for vegetables and spices. There our attention was caught by majestic roses, Chrysanthemum, Jasminum, a variety of exquisite bananas, trees with apple-like fruits, and mangoes. Also the strangely colored and formed pumpkins and cucumbers, Curcuma roots, Cardamom as well as spice mixtures well known to the European gourmets as curry powder. Also samples of the local smoke and chewing tobacco etc. In special halls are offered fish, cow and sheep meat as well as chicken. The large fish market displays hundreds of sea fruit, from the small Bombay ducks (Bombil) to vast monsters which the local palates will still find tasty. Living animals are sold here too. We took this opportunity to increase the ship menagerie with mynas, parrots and a green leaf bird but we could not come to terms easily with the local merchants.

While the scented, rich market hall full of vegetables of all kind with its diverse activities of supply and demand presented a picture of life, so the next encounter we witnessed, a Hindu burning, was a dark counterpart for us. Seeing the destruction of a body bereft of all sensual matters, the dissolution of matter in a handful of ash.

Mr. Tribhowandas Mangaldas Nathubhai, President of the “Bombay Hindu Burning and Burial Ground Committee” and a number of its members received us when we entered the burial place. The location and even more the behavior of the mourners at the ceremony does not show any form of piety. In an oblong courtyard on whose end stand banks and chairs are moored four iron poles a meter high in a distance of every ten meters. In between, the wood for the burning of the body is stacked. Out of the rest of one of the burnt pyres, two Hindus were collecting ash and burnt bones with complete indifference to dispose those scarce remains of a human body in a vase decorated with flowers that is then thrown into the sea.

I just wanted to go when I heard singing and cymbals. A funeral procession was entering the courtyard. In front marched singers and musicians, then on two bamboo sticks, only covered with some bands, the body, borne by four men. Relatives made up the rear of the procession and showed no exterior sign of emotion or compassion, not even as lucky heirs – only indifference, terrible indifference. The music which was insulting to the ears starts even during the final hours of the dying as it is intended to assist the magic to drive away bad demons of sickness. What failed to work against these might nearly have driven us away. But we were asked to take a seat on the banks and could now observe closely the act of burning the body. The body of a very tiny young woman was covered completely in red cloth, sprinkled with a red powder and decorated with flowers. The poor woman must have died only hours ago as the body had not become stiff.

It is Hindu custom to burn the body only shortly after they had expired, a practice which makes the job of the district coroner harder to note deaths, especially in the case of high numbers during cholera epidemics when it even becomes impossible. Often Hindus only inform the authorities of a death after the burning of the body has taken place. A cholera epidemic is often a good opportunity for Hindus to poison an obnoxious person with arsenic ,which triggers symptoms similar to those of cholera, or opium, burn them quickly and announce it as a cholera death. During earlier times when the authorities were not used to examine with vigor, the killing of girls with opium was a common practice which resulted in a huge scarcity of women in some parts of India so that the remaining few resorted to polyandry.

The body of the young Hindu woman was laid on the earth, water was poured over it and carried three times around the prepared pyre by the husband and a relative, then the mourners laid down wheat and sugar on the body and set it down on the pyre with the head towards the east where she was covered with six large logs. With a fire carried along from their own hearth in an urn  the husband ignited sandalwood, walked three times around the pyre carrying the burning wood and touched each time the toes of the body which lay exposed from the shroud and finally set the kindling and the bundles of straw at the head of the dead on fire, igniting the pyre. In that moment, the husband cried out with hurt emotion, perhaps more for us than for his own feelings until his apparently less emotional relatives took him away. The pyre was burning, crackling, smoking. Eagerly the fire consumed the victim as if it wanted to take it away from the indifferent glances of the humans.

A second funeral procession approached. Again the dead was a young woman, apparently from a rich family of higher caste. Without a veil, the young deceased lay on the bier. The rosy tint on her cheeks indicated that she had only recently passed over to the empire of death.

Having seen enough of this cruel spectacle, I turned to go. At the exit of the burial place there is a house in which rich mourners of the highest caste wait for the ceremony to end and often call for dancers to shorten their waiting time – a revolting want of tact.

Quickly the dead must pass on into nothingness, making way for the coming generations: The Parsi devoured by the birds, the Hindu by the fire and thrown as ashes into the sea – in the animal hospital however the poor animals are kept artificially alive in their suffering, for them earth offer space and humans compassion.

To fully make use of the morning we visited also the Natural History Society’s museum which offers under the direction of Mr. Phipson a vivid image of India’s fauna. Right at the entrance crocodile hides, giant buffalo skulls and some living Indian squirrel catch the eye. Numerous cabinets hold the most important specimen of birds as well as countless butterflies. In containers filled with alcohol swim hundreds of different snakes and scorpion species, spiders, beetles and walking leaves which are part of the locust family. Numerous abnormalities and rarities are special attractions. Antlers of capital Sambar deer, abnormal horns of gazelles and black bucks, various skins of bears, tigers, panthers, snow leopards and other already bagged Indian cat species. A Hindu boy’s foot recovered out of the stomach of a crocodile, giant snake hides (python), scorpion twins, a collection of living snakes, a green whip-snake and two cobras that constantly start off against the walls of their glass enclosure. Special recognition is due for the installation of the objects according to the needs of science but also out of love for nature which goes beyond dry annotation and classification and always strives to bring all objects closer to the viewer’s understanding through placing them in a systematic and tasteful context, and by alternating them with trophies, pictures and photographs comprehensible to the layman.

Mr. Phipson offered kindly to supply me with a number of spare birds for my collection, an offer I gladly accepted.

Vividly satisfied from the impressions of the exhibition I drove to Mr Tellery (S. J. Tellery & Co.), a compatriot in whose shop all industrial art products of India are represented. This place is a real temptation for the eager shopper. Everything manufactured in Bombay, Madras, Haidarabad, Maisur, Agra, Dehli, Benares, Calcutta, Afghanistan and Birma has been made accessible there. Statues of gods and idols in bronze, silver and marble; vases, plates, cups made out of copper or gilded bronze, carvings in ivory, inlaid sandalwood boxes, Kashmir blankets, Fulkaris from Penjab, cloth with designs with applied wax glitter from Peshawar, printed calico from Madras with illustrations out of the great Indian epics Rämäyana and Mahabharata, tulle for dancers woven in Dakka, rugs from Bijapur with the famous peacock and shikan pattern, weapons and signs, elephant spears and halberds, musical instruments, small tables and Qur’an stands – a complete chaos of the most enticing things. Soon I gave in to temptation – a whole wagon-load was brought back on board which made the responsible officer despair.

With loving care for our material health, consul general Stocking invited me and my entourage to lunch in the house of the Bombay Yacht Club, an enticing call we willingly followed. The yacht club is situated within the “Fort” in an airy house at the edge of the harbor on Apollo Bandar, within a garden and having a lovely view on the harbor and the islands on the opposite side. This made the lunch even spicier and the rest afterwards sweeter.

Refreshed we drove in the afternoon with a fast steam launch of the navy yard from Wellington Pier across the harbor to the 10 km distant island Elephanta, famous for its rock temple.

During the trip one can enjoy the view of Bombay , of the islands and thanks to the intense light the contours of the mountains on the mainland. Going on land at Elephanta causes some difficulties as one has to transfer first into smaller boats and has to balance over different smooth and slippery concrete blocks. A non-punishing walk under palm tree brings one, after climbing long stone stairs, to the temple of Elephanta. Lingering young Hindus make up the living background and offer for purchase nests of bayas to the travelers as well as matchboxes with various beetles and cherry stink bugs that shine gloriously metallic.

Elephanta island, also called Gharapuri, city of caves, is worth a visit alone for its rich vegetation that displays itself to the visitor’s eyes drunk in colors. This island is full of palm trees, lianas, tamarinds, banana trees, bushes and flowers enchantingly formed and colored, with rare butterflies, glimmering beetles, flashy birds flying around. Even though nature has richly given treasures of the fauna to this small gem of the archiple of Bombay, the main destination of this trip to this island is an ancient home in the midst of the island for those gods that create, maintain and destroy.

The island owes its name to the ancient colossus hewn into stone in a distant time. These statues now stand in Victoria garden next to the Bombay museum, weather-beaten into chunky masses so that one can barely recognize the famous masterwork – a giant elephant fighting with a powerful tiger. The large temple caves still exist in whose shadowed light are kept safe many holy artifacts of Indian gods all with Brahmin legends of their own. Guided by an English veteran soldier with a medal of honor who serves here as Cicerone, we went down into the temple caves. Like the elephant colossus, once the guardians of the temple entrance, the lobby has become a victim of the elements during the centuries too.

Only the temple itself, guarded by mother nature herself, still exists. It is divided into different parts. The first is dedicated to the god of earth Shiva (Mahadewa), creator and destroyer at the same time. On the opposite side to the entrance to the main temple borne by a double row of pillars stands the decorated pillar of Trimurti (trinity) which shows Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. As symbols, this trinity is carrying a drinking vessel, a mythical lotus flower and a poisonous spectacled cobra. The walls of the temple are covered with sculptures showing scenes from the life of Shiva, his birth, the marriage to Kali (Parvati) and other sometimes frightening scenes. Three smaller square domed buildings contain each a lingam, a symbol of nature created. On the left side of the main temple lies the temple of the elephant god and god of erudition, Ganesha, whose sanctuary is decorated with images of his many wives.

All pillars are arranged symmetrically and the pictures pay much respect to the anatomical relations and are in part artfully done so that the completion of these works and even more the construction of the enormous temple halls make us marvel. The rooms, covering an area of 1564 m2 constructed during a time without modern technology, machines or explosives, had to be excavated out of the hard granite rock only with hammer and chisel. A few hundred years ago these holy halls were inhabited by Brahmins, their followers and the dedicated temple singers and dancers. Without interruption, multitudes of believers, namely women seeking fertility, came and went. The Portuguese in their holy fervor chased the “tax collectors and scribes” out of the temple during their occupation of East India. If one believes the stories, they even tried to destroy the temple with cannon shots, obviously overkilling it, and thus damaging the ancient art on this monument, in part even destroying it.

Today, pious Hindus still make a pilgrimage with their families from time to time to Elephanta temple on holy days, to that witness of a majestic past. Much more eagerly are these impressive remains of a glorious art work observed by the foreign traveler who will find knowledge and pleasure there.

The end of the day was devoted to the attendance of grand official festivities in Government House. The dinner was followed by a ball to which the high life of Bombay was invited. For me this assembly of the leaders of the “upper ten” was not only interesting from a social point of view but also as a choreography because the English custom of pleasure dancing is different from the one we use. Especially one imported dance called a barn-door dance, accompanied by monotone music, straddles the middle between a haltingly dance mazurka and a bear dance. A honorary quadrille that I performed with Lady Harris did not really work as the figures performed were unknown at home. Lady Harris did not really appreciate this, while Lord Harris found the funny aspect in this situation. As in our square only the wives of the highest dignitaries and the civil servants of the top salary class were invited, multiple centuries were present in a small space, so that I thought longingly about a quadrille I danced at home. For the rest, I abstained in view of the challenges of the coming days. After midnight, a supper was served during which I had to pull crackers with Lady Harris in the center of the hall to the amusement of all.

Links

      • Location: Bombay, India
      • ANNO – on 18.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. Back in civilization in Bombay, the readers of the Neue Freie Presse are informed about Franz Ferdinand’s activities of almost the same day.
Notice about Franz Ferdinand's arrival in Bombay in Neue Freie Presse, 18 January 1893, p. 5

Notice about Franz Ferdinand’s arrival in Bombay in Neue Freie Presse, 18 January 1893, p. 5

      • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing Schiller’s „Maria Stuart“, while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater is repeating „Romeo und Julie“.