Tandur to Hyderabad, 24 January 1893

Today is my sister’s wedding day! With feelings of innermost love I thought about her who is taking the most decisive step in her life, moving out of her parent’s home into a new one, in a new country. May this step lead her to a new, pure, clear good fortune! Heaven shall bless and guide her! The glittering and dazzling festivities in Hyderabad could not prevent my thoughts from flying away from the Nizam’s court towards home to be reunited in spirit with my loved ones when in a last embrace by the parents and the siblings the band of love to a daughter and sister is tied anew and stronger.

At the same time I wanted to justify my stay abroad on this day to myself, repeated all the reasons that made it impossible to start the journey only after the wedding. I am already looking forward — God willing — to meet my sister again in Stuttgart as the first family member on the way home.

Because of yesterday’s dispositions we set the time for departure from the hunting camp at half past 5 o’clock: In spite of this, it took a full hour before our coach with 13 passengers started to move. The faithful artillerymen drove over every stone within sight so that near to Tandur a spring of the coach broke and the rest of the journey had to be completed at walking speed. The vicar ul-Umra, a man who had won my heart by saying the we Austrians are very jovial people who know how to hunt and ride and thus to his liking, had ridden to Tandur in advance and was expecting us at the station where we took our special train to Hyderabad.

Truly strange are the rocky ridges and stone hills visible on the approach to Hyderabad. They consist of large round boulders which sit there motionless in piles of three or four one on top of the other. Often one can not understand how these lopsided interposed and seemingly hanging colossi can keep their balance. On the way into Hyderabad, the glance of the eye is caught first by a pond glittering in blue which supplies water to the whole city while palaces and mosques were taking a peek from between the trees.

On Hyderabad’s station platform stood, surrounded by dignitaries and adjutants brimming over in gold, the Nizam and the English resident Mr. Trevor C. Plowden. The Nizam, still the first in rank and power among the tributary princes of India, stood under British protectorate as the numerous British troops in the fortified camp of Secunderabad outside of the gates of Hyderabad showed. This kept any tendency of any selfish activities against England’s interests at bay. The ruler of Hyderabad carries the title Nizam ul-Mulk (marshal of the state) which had been awarded by Aurengzeb,  Grand-Mughal of Delhi (1658 to 1707), to one of the Nizam’s ancestors. The Nizam’s family is of Arab origin. He and the leaders of the kingdom are Muslims while the largest part of the rural population are Hindu. The Nizam is 28 years of age, of small and thin stature, carries a sparse black beard and long hair that reaches his shoulders. His complexion is yellowish, the small eyes sparkle smartly.

In contact with Europeans he is very guarded even really timid and very silent. Towards his own people, however, it is said that he could present himself quite energetically. He always wears European dress, most of the times he is in a black frock coat and the only native piece preserved in his costume is a turban-like cap made out of yellow cloth with a golden tassel. He never takes off this headdress, Similar to his preference for European dress he also seems to love European customs and has adopted them according to his own style even though he doesn’t like Europeans in general all too well, something one can not hold against him considering the experiences he had had.

Asman Dshah, first minister of the Nizam and at the same time his brother-in-law unites almost all portfolios in his hands; he is an intelligent man with a smart face and is important at court because he acts as an intermediary between on the one hand the English and the native government and on the other hand the Nizam and the local administration. Asman Dshah possesses impressive incomes as he has an annual income from his own land and property of 1,000.000 fl. in Austrian currency and draws also a salary of 230.000 fl. in Austrian currency. The minister owns in the city of Hyderabad and also in the country many luxurious palaces such as Bashir Bägh palace which served as our accommodation during our stay.

The worthies of the kingdom, Nawäbs or Nabobs, usually relatives of the Nisam, occupy the most important posts in the administration and are notable for their wealth, especially large land holdings. Some of them are always living in the city of Hyderabad and appear at the Nisam’s side on all court events. Nawäb means „representative“ and has originally been the title of administrators in the empire of the Mughals, then the title of noblemen of lesser power as English vassals until finally the title of Nawäb oder Nabob became common for people in East India who had made a big fortune. Usually this title is given in Hindustan to any honorable man similar to „Eccellenza“ in Italy.

After the introduction of the dignitaries and higher officers present and after the inspection of the honor guard, the Nizam, I and two adjutants entered into a yellow spring mounted carriage drawn by four gorgeous white horses in the Daumont manner.

In front of the railway station stood the English 21st Hussars regiment which escorted our carriage with two squadrons each in front and behind. This regiment made a very favorable impression. The uniform consists of a black Attila, black pants with rich laces, yellow for the soldiers and golden for the officers, as well as white helmets. The horses, all from Australian stock, are very tall compared to our service horses and beautiful and were in fine condition despite their having just completed a maneuver, A remount’s price is 720 fl. in Austrian currency.

From the station to our quarters, Bashir Bagh palace, soldiers stood on the sides of the road. They were from the mounted African life guard of the Nizam, two regiments of uhlans, three infantry regiments and the infantry brigade from Golkonda which consists of the Golkonda and Myseram regiments.

Bashir Bägh palace usually serves to accommodate guests as well as to hold great festivities  which the minister tends to organize annually. The building is rather big and located in the middle of a bare, unattractive garden and equipped with a small private mosque out of which the muezzin sends out his uniform song. The interior design of the palace is of European origin but not harmonious even put together like a conglomerate. Partly it is decorative equipment of the strangest kind: a glass billiard, tables covered with mechanical gadgets, color prints with fish and game motives of the kind one finds in our fairs and hunting lodges, Japanese rugs, a number of different objects made out of gold, silver and other metals, in between wax statues of Amor, colorful papers, numerous mirrors — all this creates an unsettled almost dizzying impression. The owner of the palace seems to be particularly fond of clocks as in every room the no fewer than ten clocks of different types struck the hour completely independent from each other, Bashir Bagh would not work well for rheumatic persons, as not a single window and not a single door could be closed fully, so that in the rather cold night, the draft became rather noticeable.

The Nizam accompanied me up to the parlor with a visibly awkward expression and seemed very relieved when I permitted him to shorten his visit and retire again. We now made ourselves comfortable in our rooms and prepared for the official visit of the Nizam whose appearance was announced for half past one o’clock, The visit proceeded according to a secret and highly detailed but naturally uncommon protocol.

Clam and Crawford drove at one o’clock to the Nizam’s residence to get the prince. When he arrived in the company of a galloping squadron of his life guards I stood expecting him in gala uniform with all its decorative stars next to the portal of Bashir Bagh near a rug as even this detail had been predetermined. After the Nizam and I had entered the palace we sat down on two throne-like chairs set side by side. At the right of the Nizam stood his entourage while to my left my entourage took its place so that it ended up with a half circle of people. I and Kinsky kept up the conversation in talking about our agreeable stay in Tandur, about Hyderabad and its army but never managing to get the Nisam to break his silence as he only uttered a few times „Yes“. After the conversation had died completely and the situation had become rather uncomfortable, the resident helped out by presenting the member of the entourage of both sides. Following his protocol, the Nizam presented „attar“ and „pan“ (rose water and betel nut leaves) out of a large cup which were given by a servant to the dignitaries. Then everybody stood up, the ceremony came to a end. Saluted by a gun battery which had fired its guns all day the Nisam returned to his own palace.

Two hours later I returned the visit of the Nizam at his residence, Tschaumahala palace. A four horse team of gorgeous foxes guided by an equerry fetched me. Two squadrons of English hussars and two squadrons of native Madras cavalry escorted the carriage through the district which we had seen already when we entered the city of Hyderabad and so we moved past the English resident’s fortress-like palace and over the river to the city of the natives. This area conserves the highly original character of the old Indian cities which must have existed for a very long time; narrow streets full of humans, small dirty one story buildings with numerous wooden ornaments, shops and bazaars. At the crossing of the four main streets enclosed at their end with tall stone gates stands a square building „Tschar Minar“ with its famous four minarets. Everywhere there stood saluting guards and soldiers behind them the pushing crowd.

On a street enclosed by two high walls we finally reached the gate of the palace, a conglomerate of numerous but low buildings which had the appearance of a defensive place. At the entrance were posted many guards. At the foot of the main stairs I was received by the Nisam and the dignitaries of the kingdom in whose company we walked through a small winding corridor until we suddenly entered a gorgeous square courtyard. On two sides were two large reception halls or more precisely palaces with large pillars, with valuable furniture, mirrors and rugs while on the other two sides were luxurious guest chambers in front of which stood colonnades. He courtyard is decorated with a garden kept at a low height and a high placed pond extending for about 100 meters.

The Nizam’s palace enclosed by walls covers with its labyrinth of houses, pavilions and annexes, harems and parks an area of over 1000 hectares and takes up a quarter of the area of Hyderabad. The inhabitants of the palace are said to be 7000 persons according to a good source; there are more than 3500 ladies whom the Nizam has to support, among them almost 3000 wives and relatives of the previous Nizam while the rest of the female inhabitants oft he residence is composed of the women and slaves of the ruling Nizam as well as a corps of a hundred Amazons who serve as palace guard of the harem. These Amazons can not be seen by strangers but they are said to be extremely ugly according to an English lady who had met this elite guard. If the Nizam enters the Zenana, which the harem is called in all of India, the main guard of the Amazons will present arms and salutes. To my eternal disappointment, we could not take a glimpse of this spectacle.

In the large reception hall stood two throne chairs under a richly embroidered baldachin on which the Nizam and I took our seats. Then the protocol which we had experienced in Bashir Bagh was repeated with the difference that the official reception was even quieter as the Nizam did barely or not at all talk and that the betel nut leaves were offered to us in beautifully made silver vases of which I asked to keep one as a souvenir.

After the gala we had changed into comfortable civilian dress and a picture of us was taken by the Nizam’s own photographer. Then a elephant ride through the city was on the program. We thus mounted with our entourage a number of elephants that were all decorated with rich yellow silk blankets, the favorite color of the Nizam. This ride will forever live in my memory. It offered the most colorful and moving picture one’s rich fantasy could imagine of piece of ancient Indian life still untouched by civilization, an expression of archaic pleasure for luxurious exhibitions and parades. From my considerable height of my court elephant I could observe it from almost a bird eye’s perspective: In the long streets that led from the palace through the city stood head to head a huge compact crowd which was pushed back step by step by policemen who beat the men without mercy. The numerous turbans and the gaudy colors of the native costumes, mostly red, yellow and white, created a picturesque scene.

The ride was led by the irregular African life guards oft he Nizam which sang without interruption and performed wild war dances and wielded its weapons. It seems customary for both the Nizam as well as all higher Nawabs to have African life guards, a rabble composed out of numerous different African tribes, namely Somalis, whose rowdiness caused much rampage and many fights in Hyderabad. One could detect many thieves and devils among this life guard whose members did not wear uniforms but their own clothes and also carried their own weapons, mostly long East-African or Arabian rifles inset with decorations. They carry broad waist-belts with the various different powder horns, pistols and knives.

Just in front of the elephants marched the uniformed life guards and rode the adjutants in their local costume. This advance guard kept up the public order while some squadrons of cavalry made up the rear. Without interruption and despite the daytime hour, rockets were sent up into the air, without stop, the batteries on the surrounding hills thundered out their salutes. All windows and all roofs were full with curious people. Even from the women’s quarters curious faces looked out. Finally our parade, a colorful Tohuwabohu, arrived at the end of the capital: The life guards in front of us forced the people into the side streets and I and the Nisam descended from the Hâuda.

Accompanied by the 21st Hussar regiment which was expecting me here, I returned to Bashir Bagh.

Unfortunately Kinsky had another fever attack and could not attend the Nizam’s gala dinner that was set for 8 o’clock. When we approached the palace, the walls that surround it and the park were shining, especially the entrance portal was illuminated by lights in a star formation. I believed to have been transported into the splendor of an Indian fairy tale world when I entered the courtyard illuminated by 40.000 lights, bright as daylight; every step, every cornice, every pillar, every tree, every bush carried an attached firefly, hundreds of lamps. In between were installed large bows with lights tightly set. In a marble pond swam  bright sparks as if it mirrored the stars, a sea of red, green, blue and white lights which combined themselves into an enchanting symphony of light effects.

In the inner large reception hall the Nizam and I were expected by the guests among them also many English ladies. After a short circle, every one of us offered our arm to one of the ladies and we marched into the dining room. With great astonishment I noticed that we came to another reception hall in the second courtyard which was as large as the first one and, if this possible, even more brightly illuminated, aflame, seemingly glowing in colorful fire. Onto the gravel paths were laid rugs and we marched into the dining room behind an escort of adjutants. The dining room is open to one side with a view on the fairy tale like radiance of the illuminated courtyard. 85 persons participated in the parade dinner.

A strange view, those many local dignitaries in sumptuous golden dresses beside our and the British uniforms and the dresses of the English ladies as well as the costumes of the native officers. The table was truly opulently decorated with gorgeous golden trappings, colorful flowers and huge candy boxes.

A regimental band of the Nizam’s regular troops provided the music to the dinner which did not match the surrounding opulence at all. I had made the observation that European music is rather neglected at Indian feasts as most Indians seem to have little understanding of it but display a preference for false clarinet and flute cants. Furthermore, a feeling for rhythm was missing, at least a few of our music goblins were in advance of their colleagues by a number of bars without seeming to be bothered in their mind about this at all.

During the outstanding dinner enriched by much wine I toasted to the health of the Queen of England which was answered by the Nizam’s toast to Her Majesty the Emperor and to my own health answered in turn by my toast to our host. Every toast was accompanied by the respective anthems but our glorious „Gott erhalte“ was barely recognizable. I felt pity and compassion for my neighbor, the Nizam. The requirement of toasting seemed not to be pleasant for him. Just after the soup, he took a long paper with his text out of his dress and memorized it with trembling hands during the whole dinner. With my own rather tiny predilection for the custom of toasting, the fear and discomfort of my neighbor provided some relief as I now had a fellow-sufferer who experienced even greater pain, if this was possible, for this thing.

At the end of the dinner every guest was served cake and when we cut it open, a flock of tiny colorful birds emerged which soon spread themselves out all over the hall — an oriental joke appreciated especially by the English ladies. The black dress the Nizam had on for the dinner had tremendously large diamonds in place of buttons which made me express my admiration of it to the Nizam who smiled back nicely.

Cigarettes and coffee were served at court where we had settled on divans in gold and silver. Then a colossal firework with three fronts was started from the roof of the opposite building. The volleys of rockets, missiles, suns and parachutes went up into the sky. Large burning ships with their rigging aflame appeared and at the end the whole front was illuminated in the most colorful light with the text: „Welcome to His Imperial and Royal Highness the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Este“.

This concluded the oriental wizard feast. With many words of thanks I recommended myself to the Nizam and returned with my African guard to my palace.

Links

  • Location: Hyderabad, India
  • ANNO – on 24.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers, The newspapers are filled with information about all aspects of Franz Ferdinand’s sister Margarete Sophie’s marriage to Duke Albrecht von Württemberg. Up to the marriage, Margarete Sophie had served as an abbess. She died early at 32 after giving birth to seven children. Her husband never remarried and later served ably as a commander on the Western front in the First World War.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is performing two comedies „Fräulein Frau“ and „Der sechste Sinn“, while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater has Wagner’s „Die Walküre“ on the agenda but performed Verdi’s „Aida“ due to another indisposition.

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