Tour Of India - The Rajput Cities And Ahmedabad
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Cost of travelling—An alarm at the Investiture—Jaipur—Amber—A Brahman A.D.C.—Ajmere—The Dargah—Pushkar Lake—Udaipur—ii Chitor—Ah m edabad—T he I.C.S.--Famine work—Difficulties—The camels and the trees—Politeness unrewarded—The chief constable and the dacoits—Difficulty of obtaining evidence.
December 18, 1911, JAIPUR.-I enclose a sketch-map with my proposed itinerary marked in ink ; it is a great deal of ground to cover. The first tour, which I am doing now, and which lasts till I get back to Bombay on January 8th, means over two thousand miles of railway travelling. I think travelling here is a little dearer than in Europe, as one must always go first-class and do one's sight-seeing in a carriage, and a servant really is necessary. On the other hand, one gets a good deal of hospitality here and there. Apart from the Durbar, I think it will work out at about twenty rupees a day, which equals twenty-seven shillings but I shall know better at the end of the month.
The only incident at Delhi after the last mail left was a momentary alarm of fire at the Investiture. A tent, only four tents off, was burnt down, and the noise of the fire-engines, etc., made it seem as though it was our huge tent that was on fire, and some one cried " Fire ! " Every one rose to their feet, except the King and his entourage, who went on calmly investing. Three thousand people in a tent with only one exit to the open air—a tent which would not have taken ten minutes to burn —it was a blood-curdling moment. Then some-one said sternly, " Sit down !" and the men did so, the women kept quiet, and every one soon realized that the fire was a little way off.
I left Delhi on Friday night ; the station was an indescribable pandemonium. Thousands of natives blocked the entrance, all shouting, and it took nearly half an hour to get to the platform, and only then because I was white, and the native next you always gives way when he sees you are white.
This place is one hundred and ninety miles south-west of Delhi, and a good deal warmer. At Delhi I wanted my thick overcoat till ten o'clock, if sitting still, and again after five but between twelve and three it was unpleasantly hot to walk, though in the shade it was never more than 700 (I should say), and at night it was very cold. Here it is like Nice in April, without the cold spells.
Jaipur is a purely native city, not very old (eighteenth century), but most picturesque, with all the houses pink-washed a warm rose-colour and very wide main streets, like boulevards. These are brimfull of leisurely moving people in bright colours —a main industry here is dyeing muslin brilliant reds and orange—and equally leisurely animals, all as tame as can be—dogs, goats, pigeons (in great flocks), monkeys (very tame), but chiefly cows and bulls. When any rich man dies he lets loose a bull on the streets, where it wanders for the rest of its days, fed by the charitable. It is very touching, but rather delays the traffic, as there are scores of them in every street.
The show buildings are disappointing and less worth seeing than the streets. The only really fine one is the Albert Museum, built by Sir Swinton Jacobs. There is a church, but apparently no clergyman.
The chief sight is seven miles away, the old deserted capital, Amber, built on the side of one of the steep hills which overlook this town on three sides. It has a palace of the great Moghul period (163o), but in an entirely Hindu version of that style.
Far the finest thing in it was a set of rooms panelled and celled in that mica and plaster mirror-work which I described at Agra ; but this one was much more beautiful. I have got a photograph of it which shows the design, but not, of course, the light effects.
We made the expedition to Amber partly in a carriage and partly on an elephant, conducted by a Brahman A.D.C. of the Maharajah's. He was well-read in English literature and talked a good deal about it ; but what interested me most was his attitude to the Presbyterian mission here. He was warmly in favour of it, on the ground that it educated the children and " did excellent medical and moral work," and never converted any one, except "sweeper-caste and such-like," who had something to gain by abandoning Hinduism. I wonder if the exception is as negligible as he seems to think.
Tuesday, 19th, AJMERE.-I got here safely last night. This morning I went to see the Dargah, where there is the tomb of another saint of the Chishti family. Round it pious princes have built courts, mosques, pavilions, tanks, and gateways, in marble or whitewashed stone : several of them good, but none very good. Behind it was a huge pit or ravine with water at the bottom (a hundred feet below), which I was told would cure all my complaints ; but I preferred my complaint. This tank is called the Jhalra: it is the scene of the Breaking of the Pitcher in the Broken Road.
Much finer was the ruined mosque of Kutabud-din, very like his mosque near Delhi I saw last week. Here the only thing left was the mosque itself, the cloisters having disappeared. The arches were extremely fine and beautifully inscribed.
After lunch I went to a little lake where there is a very handsome marble embankment, with Shah Jahan pavilions along it, restored by Lord Curzon.
Then I went on to the Pushkar Lake, seven miles out. This is the most sacred lake in India, and the drive to it is through the first picturesque scenery I have found since leaving Bombay. The plain of Ajmere is surrounded on all sides by hills of the size and shape of the hills in the AEgean, but a dull brown colour. I drove over a nek between two of these and down into a straggling valley between steep hills, and at the end of it was the lake.
It is quite small, about four hundred yards by three hundred, and nearly rectangular, with a kind of overflow lakelet. Two entire sides are em-banked, and have alternately houses built right into the water and temples with ghats—broad flights of marble steps leading down into the water. On the other two sides there are a few temples. In the evening sun it looked quite lovely, with its background of hills. The foreground was much enriched by the animal life : innumerable fishes which jumped in shoals at the food which pilgrims were throwing them ; parties of cormorants which dived and rose in unison, looking very odd ; bitterns and a pale-blue kingfisher, pigeons and numbers of peacocks sunning themselves on the walls and steps ; and a huge old crocodile, which came quite close to me to have a look, or expecting food.
I successfully got rid, after struggles, of the guides, who tried to tell me which rajahs had built which temples, as if that mattered, and enjoyed the scene hugely till nearly sunset.
Wednesday, UDAIPUR.—Owing to the Durbar disorganization we missed our connection this morning at Chitor (Chitor Fort looks splendid from the railway : I shall try and see it on my way back from here), and only got here at 4 p.m. instead of 10 a.m.
This city is generally said to be the most beautiful in India, and I can quite believe it, so far as situation goes, from the little I've seen. It stands on the steep bank of a lake—a lake about a mile across at the widest, and shaped like an irregular triangle and surrounded by rugged, jungly hills on all sides. The city slopes steeply down right into the water, which is bordered by embankments, temples, and ghats, and at one end rises the pile of the Maharana's palace. Every building is either whitewashed or marble, and ornamented in the usual way with balconies, screened loggias, cupolas, and domes.
There are also two islands on the lake with white palaces on them and tall palms The whole picture at sunset, the city lit up, the mountains silhouetted, the lake reflecting the gold and purple of the clouds, was unbelievably beautiful ; and when the sun was set the city seemed to grow whiter and the trees greener, and every moment gave it a new charm. The mail is going.
December 28, 1911, AHMEDABAD. --The last morning at Udaipur I got up early and was rowed about the lake from eight to half-past nine. It was delicious. I went to the far end and got fairly close to the feeding waterfowl. Altogether I made out twenty-three different kinds, including five ducks and two kinds of geese, one in great numbers.
I travelled down again on Friday and slept at Chitorgarh. Here Peer Mahomed (my servant) showed me a bad place on his foot : he had scratched a flea-bite and it had inflamed all up his leg. So I opened the place with my razor and squirted in perchloride of mercury (one in fifteen hundred) with my syringe. He whistled a bit at the time, but the operation, plus a cold compress, proved a great success, and next morning the inflammation was almost gone and he hardly limped.
I got up very early and drove up to Chitor Fort. It looks fine from below, rising five hundred feet steeply to a long ridge from the plain. It made an imposing silhouette against the sunrise. When I got up, I found it too much in ruins to be easily taken in, except the great Tower of Victory, built in 1400 odd. It was a curious polygonal shape, each story with its angles over the sides of the one below it. It is nine stories high and full of re-entrant angles which give great play of light and shade. Every inch inside and out is elaborately carved and very well: but the carving is subdued, so as not to spoil the general unity (as it so often does here). It is all of a rich golden-brown sandstone.
From Chitor I had to go back to Ajmere, where the Queen's visit had thrown the trains into hopeless confusion. Mine was nearly three hours late : however, I got away at last at midnight and arrived here (it is fifteen hours from Ajmere) at three o'clock on Sunday, Christmas Eve.
I have stayed here four days, partly to get a peaceful Christmas and partly to see a University friend.
I have done a certain amount of sight-seeing, and there are several good temples and mosques here, though the only alpha plus things are two windows in a mosque, entirely filled with stone tracery like the most delicate lacework. They are said to be the best in all India.
But the chief interest of staying here is the glimpse I have got of I.C.S. social life. I am enormously impressed by the I.C.S. spirit and work altogether. It breeds a self-reliance which we see only in the navy. My friend, for instance, left oxford just a year ago : he has already been six months in charge of a sub-district, a place of about the area and population of Hertfordshire. Here he is the sole responsible white man ; big things he has to refer to his collector ; but he does all the ordinary administration on his own. He goes round visiting every village, audits the accounts and registers, tries all cases up to six months' imprisonment, hears complaints, arbitrates disputes, inspects the wells, roads, and sanitation. If there is any crime or distress, it is he on whom the population depend for succour. Left to themselves they are quite helpless.
Just now he is double-worked by reason of the famine. His district is the centre of it. They had seven inches of rain instead of a normal forty, and crops in proportion. He has to go round ascertaining how many men are out of work by reason of the failure of the crop. Where--ever necessary, he opens relief-works of well-digging, and puts those who can't work on to the free dole list. The whole district has fifty thousand men on relief-works and nineteen thou-sand on the free doles. Then he has to save the cattle, either concentrating them and sending food to them, or transporting them to districts where fodder is plentiful.
These cattle are a great difficulty and expense: every peasant has two or three of them. To kill them would so outrage Hindu feeling as to make further work impossible—indeed, it would raise rebellion. If you leave them with their owners, they are fed, but the owner and family starve, especially the family. He will spend his relief wages, first on cattle and self, secondly on wife and children, and thirdly on father and mother.
Another thing the Government does is to advance money to the landlords and farmers to enable them to keep their men employed and at least sow next year's crop. The danger nowadays is not actual scarcity of grain, since that can be brought by rail, but acute unemployment. No monsoon means no harvest, and so no wages for the coolie, and no capital for the ryot to start next year's work with.
I have heard a lot here about the difficulties of policing the districts. The two great obstacles are, first, that you can never be sure your police are straight: they are always liable to be suborning false evidence and blackmailing innocent people, or else to be bribed by the criminals to mishandle their case. Secondly, the people will never give evidence if they can help it, and will often swear to the innocence of criminals whom they have actually seen committing the crime. Of the numerous yarns I heard on the subject (all from the personal experiences of district officers), three just illustrate these particular difficulties.
The first happened to a collector in Sindh. He was riding along one morning when a man came up to him very much excited and in great distress, crying for justice. The collector asked him what was the matter, and he said his camels had been impounded by a policeman for no just cause. " You're lying," said the collector, from politeness or habit but the man persisted, and so the collector rode with him to the pound, where, behold, were seventy-six camels.
The collector then found the policeman and asked him why he had impounded them. The policeman replied, " Sahib, these camels were trampling and spoiling the young trees planted by the canal-side, and this rascal refused to restrain them." So the collector turned crossly to the man and said, " What the deuce do you mean by complaining to me ? " or vernacular to that effect. But the man shook his head sadly and said, "There were no trees." Thinking this little discrepancy rather curious, the collector rode down to the canal, taking both parties with him, though the policeman remembered an urgent engagement else-where. Arrived at the canal, no sign of a tree. So the collector freezingly inquired where the trees that had been trampled were. " Oh, sahib, the trees which this accursed man's camels have trampled are to be planted next spring! "
A remark like that shows up a little of the difficulty there must be in administration on Western lines where the most elementary western presuppositions can't be relied on. If that case had been sent up to the collector on paper, he would probably have believed the policeman against the camel-man. As it was, he tried to get the policeman sacked.
I must say I thought the police at Delhi were rather ruffians. They knocked native drivers about far more than the white Tommies did. The worst of it is that the natives regard oppression as the normal conduct of a Government official, and won't grasp that the Government is on their side.
Another demoralizing fact is that the worse you behave to them the better they behave to you. I heard a story from Cocks, in Bombay, which illustrates this. Some years ago he was in the bazaar at Calcutta and wanted change for a fifty-rupee note. There was a whole row of squatting old merchants, each with piles of money by him : so he politely asked one of them if he would change his note. The man only refused surlily and spat. All down the line it was the same, rudeness and expectoration till suddenly a big negro sailor who was watching came up to him with a grin and said, " Sah, you too dam civil to these chaps : you gib me de note." Fie then took the note and went up to the nearest merchant and shook his fist in his face. Result, note cashed in less than no time.
But, to return to the police, the second failing I mentioned is brought out by this story, which I heard from the man it happened to. A dacoity occurred in his collectorate. (A daocity is robbery with violence by a gang.) The chief constable was on the track of the dacoits, but appealed for help. So the collector got together some mounted police and rode all day, covering seventy miles in a fruitless effort to catch up. He had just dismounted at sunset, when a man rode breathlessly in to say that the constable had rounded up the dacoits on a hill some four miles away and urgently needed help. So they all remounted and pressed on. Arrived at the hill, they found the constable and his men alone.
" Where are the dacoits?" cried the collector.
"Dacoits? There are no dacoits here, sahib."
" But you sent this man to fetch me and help you catch them."
" No, sahib, that fool has made a mistake. There were some peaceful travellers here, whom I questioned and found to be quite harmless. That is all."
So the collector had to sleep there and ride home again next day. He had not gone far when the " fool " appeared cautiously out of the jungle, and said : " There was no mistake, sahib. I did not deceive you. I gave the message as the chief constable gave it to me. But while I was gone, the dacoits gave him half the booty and he let them go."
Inquiry proved this to be the truth: and this was a chief constable, a man who had risen by years of service and was responsible for the policing of a district as large as a county. Apparently you can never be sure that your own police won't betray you like this : so naturally the English civil servants feel rather aggrieved that when these scandals come to light abuse is heaped (by English M.P.'s) on them, though all their efforts are directed to wards trying to keep their native subordinates straight.
What astonishes me is that the same M.P.'s who dilate on these abuses are in the same breath urging the supersession of English officials by Indians.
As to the difficulty of obtaining evidence, the following example is one of many. A leading man in a village openly cut off the head of another before the eyes of a Government clerk and ¬ pati-wallah (i.e., messenger) and a score of villagers. He threatened to kill any one who gave information. No villager said a word. The clerk, after five days' hesitation, told, not his own native superior, but another. The latter, being an enemy of the clerk's superior, refused to believe the story. No white official heard of the matter for nine months, and it was a year before the man was brought to trial. Even then the evidence was hopelessly conflicting. The judge, an Indian, was glad to find this ground of acquittal, and the murderer got off.
In another case of the same sort a father had seen his son murdered, and then swore it wŕs an accident, for purely sentimental reasons, because the murderer was his nephew. Sometimes this reluctance is due to intimidation ; but more often because the frame of mind of the average man is not, as in England, " I may be the next victim : therefore I will help the law " ; but " I may be the next murderer ; therefore I will . thwart the law." The whole tradition of the people is that the Government's interest is not theirs, and this attitude makes civilization next to impossible, as it does in schools. They have no glimmering of the boon that security of life and property is : and consequently they haven't got it, as they might easily have if they wanted it.