The industrious one had seen no sahibs at all pass by. This was a blow, and Jane and I sat down to review the situation. We finally decided that the son of the soil was indulging in what the great and good Winston Churchill has called a "terminological inexactitude," as the others must have gone by one of the two roads; so, putting our fortunes to the touch, we took the left-hand path, and were in due time rewarded by reaching Sogul, and there finding our pioneers peacefully seated under a tree, and breakfast ready.
Leaving Sogul, we skirted for some miles a bare ridge which rose on the right, and which looked an ideal ground for chikor, and then turned into a beautiful valley drained by the Pohru, now quite a small and insignificant stream.
Drogmulla, our objective, lies about fourteen miles from Harwan, and the forest house is a full mile beyond the village, at the end of a somewhat steep and winding path.
A welcome sight was the snug rest-house, perched upon a hillock above a fussy little stream and surrounded by a fine clump of deodars.
A tiny lawn in front was decorated with an artificial tank full of water-plants, and through the opening, among the trees, we saw the snowy crest of Shambrywa and the Kaj-nag rising over the deeply-wooded foothills.
Drogmulla was so fascinating a spot, and the weather was so remarkably fine, that we made up our minds to remain here for a few days. That old red-bearded snake, the shikari, has sent the Colonel into a seventh heaven of anticipation by pointing to the encircling forest with promise of "pul-lenty baloo, sahib, this pul-lace." We straightway ordained a honk.
Our sick soldier is so much better since leaving Gulmarg that he is able to hop "around" with considerable activity on his crutches.
Saturday, September 30, 4 P.M.—Walter and I have been bear-honking all day in a district reputed to be simply crawling with bears. I love bear-honking; it is such a peaceful occupation.
After a stiff and very hot scramble up a rugged hillside covered with the infuriating scrub through which nothing but a reptile could crawl easily, the spot is reached within short range of which (in the opinion of the "oldest inhabitant," backed up by the "Snake") the bear must pass.
Here the battery of rifles and guns is carefully arranged, and I proceed to wipe my heated brow and settle down to the calm enjoyment of the honk. Drawing forth my cigar-case, I am soon wreathed in the fragrant clouds engendered by the incineration of a halfpenny cheroot, and, with a sigh of satisfaction, I spread out my writing or sketching materials and proceed to scribble or paint, calm in the knowledge that nothing on earth is in the least likely to disturb the flow of ideas, or interrupt the laying on of a broad flat wash. Now and again, lazily, I lean back to watch the witless hoverings of a big butterfly, or sleepily listen to the increasing sound of the tom-toms and the yells of the beaters, whose voices, as those of demons of the pit, rend the peaceful air and add to my sense of Olympian aloofness!
A feeling of drowsiness steals over me; that succulent cold chikor, followed by a generous slice of cake upon which I so nobly lunched, clouds somewhat my active faculties, and the article—"A Bear Battue in the Himalayas"—which I am engaged in writing for the Field—seems to flag a little.
Come, come! Begone dull sloth—let me continue—
"As the sound of the beaters swells upon the ear, and the thunder of the tom-toms grows more insistent, the keen-eyed sportsman grasps more firmly the lever of his four-barrelled Nordenfeldt and prepares to play upon the bears his hail of stinging missiles. Hark! The plot is thickening, behind yon dense screen at the end of the cover the ph—— bears are beginning to crowd, the pattering of their feet upon the dead leaves sends a thrill through the beating heart of the expectant sportsman. A few bears break back amid wild yells from the coolies. One or two odd ones dart out here and there at angles of the covert. Steady! Steady! Here they are, following the lead of yon fine old cock; with a whirr and a rush the bouquet is upon us. The shikari, mad with excitement, presses the second Gatling and the light Howitzer into our hands as he screams: 'Bear to right, sahib!—Bear over!!—Bear behind!!! Bang—bang!'"
"Eh? What? Oh, all right, shikari. Honk finished? Is it? Saw nothing? Dear me! how very odd. Very well, then gather up my guns and things, and we'll go on to the next beat."
Sunday, October 1.—To-day being Sunday, we have been idle and happy—sketching, loafing, and enjoying the scenery and the glorious weather. Our bear-honk yesterday was only productive of annas to the beaters, but we picked up some chikor on the way home, and we have found mushrooms growing close to the hut, so that our lower natures are also satisfied. After lunch I mustered up energy sufficient to take me down to the village to sketch a native hut which, surrounded by a patch of flaming millet, had struck me on Friday as an extraordinary bit of colour. Jane and Walter, after many "prave 'orts" about climbing the ridge behind Drogmulla, contented themselves with a minor ascent of a knoll about fifty feet high, while the Lancer, reckless in his increasing activity, managed to trip over his crutches and give himself an extremely unfortunate fall.
Monday, October 2.—There was a man who, during our bear-honk on Saturday, rendered himself conspicuous, partly by reason of his likeness to my shikari, and also because of his complete knowledge of the whereabouts of all bears for many miles around. He was quite glad to impart much information to us, and so won upon the sporting but too trustful heart of the brave Colonel, that he was retained by that officer in order that he might show sport to the Philistines, and annas and even rupees were bestowed upon him; and he and the old original "Snake" were sent forward on Saturday evening, as Joshua and Caleb, to spy out the promised land in the neighbourhood of Tregam.
Lured by rumours of many bears, Walter and I set forth at daylight for Tregam, leaving Jane and the youthful Lancer (once more, alas! reduced to stiff bandages and a painful relapse) in possession of the hut. We "hadna gane a mile—a mile but barely twa," when the old shikari met us with the painful intelligence that two sahibs were already at Tregam, and had killed many bears there, grievously wounding the rest; so we altered course eight points to port, crossed the Pohru, and made for Rainawari.
A sharp climb over a wooded ridge (on the top of which we halted for breakfast), followed by a steep descent, brought us into a flat and well-cultivated plain, which sloped gently from the foothills of the Kaj-nag to the bed of the Pohru. Everywhere, in the glowing sunlight, the villagers were busily engaged in reaping the rice, which lay in ripe brown swathes along the little fields. The walnuts, of which there are a great plenty in this district, have been lately gathered, some few trees only still remaining, loaded with a heavy crop, but the main produce lay drying in heaps in the villages as we rode through.
The road to Rainawari seemed curiously devious. A Kashmiri track seldom shies at a hill, but pursues its way, heedless of gradient, for its objective; but this path imitated a corkscrew in its windings, and reduced us to the utmost limit of our patience before, passing through a small village whose dull-coloured houses were enlivened with gorgeous festoons of scarlet chilies, we climbed a steep little hill and found ourselves upon a park-like lawn or clearing, and facing the cluster of rough wooden shanties which compose the Rainawari forest bungalow and its outhouses. Behind the huts the densely-wooded hill drops sharply to where a stream of good and pure water riots among the maidenhair and mosses.
A large and inquisitive company of apes came up from the wood to take stock of us, and I sat for a long time watching them as they played about quite close to me, feeding, chattering, and quarrelling, entirely unconcerned by the presence of their human spectator.
Friday, October 6.—All Tuesday was spent in honking bear in the lower woods which stretch far towards the Pohru. The high hills which rise above, covered with jungle, are said to be too large to work, and I can well believe it! For the first drive I was posted on a steep bank overlooking a most lovely little hollow, where the shafts of sunlight fell athwart the grey trunks and heavy green masses of the pines, lighting up the yellow leaves of the sumachs till they glowed like gold, and casting a flickering network of strong lights and shadows among the tangled mazes of undergrowth. A happy family of magpies, grey-blue above, with barred tails and yellow beaks, flitted about in restless quest, their constant cries being the only sound which broke the peaceful stillness, until the faint and distant sound of shouts and tom-toms showed that the first act of the farce had begun.
Towards the end of the third beat, while I was drowsily digesting tiffin, and, truly, not far from napping, I was electrified by the report of a rifle, followed by yells and a second shot! The beaters redoubled their shouts, and the tom-tommers seemed like to burst their drums.
My shikari, writhing with extreme excitement, hissed, "Baloo, sahib, baloo!" and began aimlessly running to and fro, apparently hoping to meet the bear somewhere. It was truly gay for a few minutes, but as nothing further occurred, and the beaters grew very hoarse with their prodigious efforts, I hurried on to Walter's post to learn what had happened.
A bear had suddenly come out of the cover some 40 yards off, and stood to look. The Colonel missed it, whereupon it dashed forward, passing within a few yards of him, and he missed it again. It departed at top speed across some open ground behind him, and gained the great woods which stretch away to the Kaj-nag, and never shall we see that bear again! The Colonel was much disgusted, and if language—hot, strong, and plenty of it—could have slain that bear, he would have dropped dead in his tracks.
The beaters brought up a wonderful tale of how another bear, badly wounded in the leg, had charged through their lines and gone back. They stuck to their story, and either a second bear actually existed or they are colossal liars. I incline to the latter theory.
We had wasted all our luck. No more bears came to look at us, and so, late in the afternoon, we sought the rest-house and consolation from Jane and Hesketh, who had arrived from Drogmulla.
I had occasion to deplore the bad manners of the rats at Harwan, but their conduct was exemplary compared with that of the rats of Rainawari! I had been writing my journal, according to my custom, before going to sleep, and hardly had "lights out" been sounded than a rat went off with my candle, literally from below my very nose. Then, from the inadequately partitioned chamber where the invalid vainly sought repose, came sounds of strife—boots and curses flying—followed by an extraordinary scraping and scuffling. A large rat, having fallen into the big tin bath, was making bids for freedom by ineffectually leaping up the slippery sides. At last he contrived to get out, and peace reigned until we managed to get to sleep.
Wednesday was spent honking in the forlorn hope of a bear, I have now spent more than fourteen days in pursuit of black bear, and I have only seen one. Every one said to me in spring, "Oh, go to the Lolab, it's full of bear," I went, and was informed that it was a late season and I was too early—the bears were not yet awake. I was consoled by learning that later on, when the mulberries were ripe, the berry-loving beasts jostled one another in the pursuit of the delicacy so much, that they were no sport I went down from Gulmarg for three days, honking among the mulberries, but saw none. Then I was told the maize season was undoubtedly the best. Now the maize is full ripe; the maize fields are tempting in their golden glory, and the only thing wanting to complete the picture is a big, black bear.
Either my luck has been particularly bad (and I think it has, as the Colonel got a fine bear below Gulmarg, and had another chance at Rainawari), or else there are not so many bears in real life as exist in the imaginations of those who know. My own theory is, that, unless he has remarkable luck, a stranger, in the hands of an ignorant shikari, and knowing nothing of the language, has but a remote chance of sport. If the shikari does not happen to know the district thoroughly, he is necessarily in the hands of the villagers, and has to trust to them to arrange the beats and place the guns. The villagers want their four annas for a day's shouting, but do not know or care if a bear is in the neighbourhood, so, having planted the gun (and shikari with him), they proceed to beat after their own fashion, in other words to stroll, in Indian file, like geese across a common, along the line of least resistance, instead of spreading out and searching all the thickest jungle.
Much yelling serves both to cheer the sahib, and frighten away any bear which might otherwise haply frighten them.
I cannot say I regret the time I have spent looking for bear. The scenery has always been fine—sometimes magnificent, and there has always been a certain cheering hope, which sustained me as I lay hour after hour in the Malingam Nullah, or sat expectant amid ever varying and always beautiful glades and passes, watching the bird life, and storing up scenes and memories which I know I shall never forget.
Alas! we have but a very few days yet before us in Kashmir, and it is lamentable, for now the climate is simply perfect, the air clear and clean, and without the haze of summer; the first crispness of coming autumn making itself felt most distinctly in the early hours of morning ere
"Nor dim nor red, like God's own head, The glorious sun uprist;"
and each dawn saw us up and out to watch these sunrises, whose splendour cannot be expressed on paper. This morning it was more than usually wonderful, the whole flank of Nanga Parbat and his lesser peaks, turning from clear lemon to softest rose, stood radiant above the purple shades of the great range which lies around Gurais. In the middle distance, rising above the level yellow of the plain, still dim and shadowy below the morning light, rolled wave upon wave of the blue hills which hold in their embrace the fruitful Lolab. At our feet the deodars, still dark with the shadow of night, crept up the dewy slope upon whose top we stood. Then suddenly
"The sanguine sunrise, with his meteor eyes,"
flamed over the eastern ridges, and in a flood of glory the soft shadows and pallid lights of the dawn became merged in the brilliance of a Kashmir autumn day.
Our march yesterday from Rainawari to Kitardaji was charming. I had no idea that this Machipura country, which is not much visited by summer sojourners in Kashmir, was so fine. The district lies along the lower shoulders and foothills of the Kaj-nag, and, while lacking the savage grandeur of the Lidar or Upper Sind, yet possesses the charm of infinite variety and, in this early autumn, a climate in which it is a pure joy to live. On leaving Rainawari we followed up a river valley for some distance, and then wound through richly cultivated hollows and past well-wooded hills, where the dark silver firs and the deodars were lit up by splashes of scarlet and orange, and the deciduous sumach and thorn-bushes hung out their autumn flags. Walnuts—the trees in many places turning yellow—were being gathered into heaps, and the apple trees, reddening in the autumn glow, hung heavy with abundant fruit.
Turning into a narrow gorge, where the trees overhung the path and shaded the wanderer with many an interlaced bough; where ferns grew in great green clumps, and the friendly magpies chattered in the luminous shade, I hurried on, having stayed behind the others to sketch. Up and up, till only pines waved over me, and the track, leading along the edge of a deep khud, opened out at last upon a plateau, hot and sunlit; here an entrancing panorama of Nanga Parbat and the whole range of mountains round Haramok caused me to stop "at gaze" until a mundane desire for breakfast sent me scurrying down the dusty and slippery descent to Larch, where I found, as I had hoped, the rest of the party assembled expectant around the tiffin basket, while the necromancer, Sabz Ali, had just succeeded in producing the most delightful stew, omelette, and coffee from the usual native toy kitchen, made, apparently, in a few minutes with a couple of stones and a dab of mud!
It has been an unfailing marvel to us how, in storm or calm, rain or fine, the native cook seems always able to produce a hot meal with such apparently inadequate materials as he has at his command. Give him a fire in the open, screened by stones and a mud wall, a batterie de cuisine limited to one or two war-worn "degchies," and let him have a village fowl and half-a-dozen tiny eggs, and he will in due time serve up, with modest pride, a most excellent repast.
The remaining half of our twelve-mile march lay along a continually rising track, which finally brought us to Kitardaji, a cosy pine-built hut, perched upon a hill clothed with deodars, at the foot of which ran the inevitable stream.
This, alas! is our last Kashmir camping-ground, and it is one of the most charming of all.
At 8.15 this morning we bade farewell to Kitardaji. We had got up before dawn to see the sunrise, but afterwards took things leisurely, as the march is short to Baramula, and our boats were to be in waiting there, and we had made all arrangements for a landau and ekkas to be in readiness to take us down to Rawal Pindi, while the Colonel returned up the Jhelum for more shooting before rejoining his wife at Bandipur.
The march of about thirteen miles from Kitardaji to Baramula is fine—the views of Nanga Parbat in the early hours, before the sun's full strength cast a golden glow over the distance, were magnificent, and long we lingered upon the last ridge, gazing over the great valley, ringed with its guardian mountains, ere we sadly turned our backs for the last time on the scene, and wended our way downward to Baramula and our boats.
Kashmir seems to be as difficult to get out of as to get into! What was our amazement and disgust to find neither landau nor ekkas, nor, apparently, any chance of getting them!
Baramula was in a ferment, and wild confusion reigned because the Viceroy, having somewhat suddenly determined to come to Jammu, the Maharajah and all his suite, together with the Resident and his belongings, were to start down the road at once, and all transport was commandeered by the State. Here was a coil! Officers innumerable, who had stayed in Kashmir until the limit of their leave, were struggling vainly to get on, and had got to Baramula only to find all transport in the hands of the State officials. Some few had, by fair means or foul, got hold of an ekka or two and hidden them; others had seized ponies, but nothing to harness them to. A few of the younger men set forth on foot, and others had their servants out in ambush on the roads to try and collect transport.
It was most important that we should get on, as Hesketh had to be in Pindi to go before a medical board on the 14th, in order to be invalided home to England; and as he was most anxious to catch a steamer sailing on the 25th, he had no time to spare.
I telegraphed to Sir Amar Singh for authority to engage ekkas, and I sent for the Tehsildhar of Baramulla to complain of my ekkas being taken. He appeared in due course—a somewhat pert little person—who promised to do what he could, which I knew would be nothing. A farewell dinner on board Walter's ship concluded a fairly busy day.
Saturday, October 7.—A strenuous day, to say the least of it. Sir Amar Singh most courteously met my wishes, and himself directed the local authorities to assist me. Armed with this power, I again sent for the Tehsildhar, who promised many ekkas, but appeared to have some difficulty in fulfilling his promises. I spent the forenoon in hunting transport, sending out my servants also in pursuit. The Tehsildhar produced one ekka with great pomp, as earnest of what he could and would do later on.
During the afternoon the landau turned up from Srinagar, and at 6 P.M. one of my myrmidons rushed in to say that two ekkas had arrived at the dak bungalow.
It was but a few yards away, and in a couple of minutes I was on the spot. The ekkas had come up from Pindi, and the sahib who had lured them to Baramula seemed astonished at my method of taking them over. In an uncommonly short while the ekkas were parked, with the landau, close to the boats and under strict watch, while all harness was brought on board my dounga, just in time, as native officials of some sort romped up and claimed the ekkas, and threatened to beat my servants. It was explained to them gently, but firmly, that if they touched my ekkas or landau they would taste the waters of the Jhelum. We were then left in peaceful possession.
Tuesday, October 10.—On Sunday morning we really saw our way to making a start. We had three ekkas collected, and the Tehsildhar produced a fourth with a great flourish, as though in expectation of a heavy tip. The landau was being piled with odds and ends while the last bits of business were being got through. Juma and his crew were paid and tipped (grumbling, of course, for the Kashmiri is a lineal descendant of the horse-leech). The shikari went to Smithson, and the sweeper and permanent coolie were transferred to the assistant forest officer, while Ayata (in charge of Freddie, the blackbird) scrambled into the leading ekka.
By noon all was ready, and amid the rattle and jingle of many harness bells and the salaams of the domestics, we bowled out of Baramula, and set forward down the valley of the Jhelum.
DELHI AND AGRA
The journey down was uneventful, and quite unlike the journey up, when we had been briskly occupied in dodging landslips for days. A good road, white and dry, and sloping steadily downward; a good pair of ponies, strong and willing; a roomy landau, wherein Hesketh—still suffering from his fall at Drogmulla—could stretch himself in comparative comfort, combined to bring us to Kohala this afternoon in a state of excellent preservation. Here we crossed the bridge, which brought us to the right bank of the river—from Kashmir to British territory.
Kohala is the proud possessor of one of the very worst dak bungalows yet discovered. This seems disappointing when stepping under the folds of the Union Jack full of high hope and confidence.
Climbing up through a particularly noisome bazaar to the bungalow, I was met with the information that it was already full. I said that was a pity, but that room must be found for my party.
Room was got somehow, a dak bungalow being an extraordinarily elastic dwelling. Hesketh was stored in a little tent. I lodged in the dining-room, and Jane took up her quarters in a sort of dressing-room kindly given up by a lady, who bravely sought asylum with a sister-in-law and a remarkably strong-lunged baby. I believe more travellers arrived later, for—although, thanks to Sir Amax Singh and good luck, we gained a good start at Baramula—now the tongas are beginning to roll in and the plot to thicken.
I cannot think where the last arrivals bestowed themselves—not on the roof, I trust, for a thunderstorm, accompanied by the usual vigorous squall of wind, fell upon us during the night, and raged so furiously that I was greatly relieved to see the Lancer's little tent still braving the battle and the breeze in the morning.
We had a long day before us, so started in good time to make the tedious ascent to Murree. It rained steadily, and a cold wind swept down the river valley as we began to make our slow way up the long, long hill.
I never knew milestones so extraordinarily far apart as those which mark the distance between Kohala and Murree. There are twenty-five of them, distributed along a weary winding road which extends without an apparent variation of gradient from Kohala to the Murree cemetery. The rise from the river level to Murree is 5000 feet, and this, in a heavy landau over a road often deep in red mud, is a heavy strain on equine endurance and human patience.
We had a fresh pair of horses waiting for us half-way up the hill, but they proved absolutely useless, being obviously already dead tired and quite unable to drag the carriage through any of the muddier places even with every one but the invalid on foot. So we apologetically put the gallant greys in again, poor beasties, and they took us up well.
From the cemetery the road runs fairly level to where, upon rounding a sharp corner, the hill station of Murree comes into sight, clinging to its hill-tops and overlooking the far flat plains beyond Pindi.
I cannot imagine how anybody would willingly abide in Murree who could go anywhere else for the hot weather. There being no level ground, there is no polo, no cricket, and no golf. There is no river to fish in, and I do not think that there is anything at all to shoot. Doubtless, however, it has its compensations. Probably it abounds in pretty mem-sahibs, who with bridge and Badminton combine to oil the wheels of life, and make it merry on the Murree hills.
Leaving the station high on the left, we dipped in a most puzzling manner down a slope through a fine wood giving magnificent views towards the hills of our beloved Kashmir, and presently came to "Sunny Bank," whence a steep road seemed to run sharply hack and up to Murree itself. It was late, and both we and our unfortunate horses were tired, but a hasty peep into the little inn showed it to be quite impossible as a lodging, and a biting wind sent us shivering down the hill as fast as might be to seek rest and warmth at Tret.
The good greys took us down the eleven miles in a very short time, and we pulled up at the dak bungalow at 7.30, having been just twelve hours doing the forty miles from Kohala.
The dak bungalow and all the compound in front was crowded, detachments en route, from Murree to Pindi having halted here for the night. Hesketh was lucky enough to share a room with a brother Lancer, and a mixed bag of Gunners and Hussars made up a cheery dinner-table.
The only member of the party showing signs of collapse was the unfortunate Freddie, who, shaken up in his small cage for three days in an ekka, seemed in piteous plight, feathers (what there were of them) ruffled and unkempt, and eyes dim and half closed. Poor dear, it was only sleep he wanted, for next morning he showed up, as his fond owner remarked, "bright as a button!"
12th.—The road from Tret to Pindi seemed tame to us, but probably charming to the horses, first down a few gently sloping hills, and then for the remainder of its six-and-twenty miles it wound its dull and dusty length along the level.
We halted for our last picnic lunch in a roadside garden full of loquat trees and big purple hibiscus. The only curious thing here was a pi-dog which refused to eat cold duck! Certainly it was a very tough duck, but still, I do not think a pi-dog should he so fastidious.
A few more level dusty miles, and we rattled into Rawal Pindi, where, after depositing our sick man safely in his own mess precincts, we proceeded to ensconce ourselves in Flashman's Hotel, which is certainly far better than the Lime Tree, where we stayed before. Indian hotels are about the worst in the world. We have sampled rough dens in Spain, in Tetuan, and in Corsica—especially in Corsica, but then they are unpretentious inns in unfrequented villages, whereas in India you find in world-famous cities such as Agra or Delhi the most comfortless dens calling themselves hotels—hotels where you hardly dare eat half the food for fear of typhoid, and will not eat the rest because it is so unsavoury!
It may be argued that the hotels, if bad, are cheap, and that one cannot reasonably expect much in return for five or six rupees per day; it seems, however, that in a country where food and labour cost next to nothing, a good landlord should be able to "do" his customers well upon five rupees, and make a substantial profit into the bargain.
Probably, as the facilities for travel are rapidly increasing, and India is now as easy to reach as Italy was in days not so long by, the hotels will soon improve. Hospitality, which is still to-day greater in the East than in our more selfish Western regions, and which has, until quite recently, obviated for strangers and pilgrims the necessity for hotels, is now unable to cope with the increasing flood of visitors and wanderers; as the need becomes more pressing, so will the supply, consequent upon the demand, improve both in quality and quantity; and we have already heard of the new Taj Mahal Hotel at Bombay, the fame of which has been trumpeted through India, and which is said to rival in luxury the palaces of Ritz!
The real and serious difficulty, and one which at present seems insurmountable, is to secure cleanliness and safety in that Augean stable—the cook-house. Until the native can be brought to understand the inadvisability of using tainted water and unclean utensils, and of permitting the ubiquitous fly to pervade the larder—until, I say, that millennium can be attained, the danger of enteric and other ills will always be very great in Indian hotels.
Friday, October 13.—Lunch with Dr. Munro, who surprised us somewhat by having married a wife since we played golf and bridge together at Gulmarg only a few weeks ago. Tea, a farewell repast with our invalid—who goes before a medical board in a few days, and who will then be doubtless sent home on long sick leave—and the despatch of our heavy luggage direct to Bombay, occupied us pretty fully for the day; and in the evening, after dinner, we took up our residence in a carriage drawn up in a siding to be attached to the 6.30 mail in the morning. Our last recollection of Pindi was a vision of the faithful Ayata, paid, tipped, and provided with a flaming "chit," flapping along the road in the bright moonlight, with all his worldly possessions, en route for Abbotabad and home.
Saturday, October 14.—A prodigious amount of banging, whistling, and yelling seemed to be necessary before we could be coupled up to the early train, and sent flying towards Lahore. It was impossible to sleep, and I was peacefully watching the landscape as it slid past, first in the pink flush of early dawn, and gradually losing colour as the sun, gaining in strength, reduced everything to a white hot glow, when, scraping and bumping into a wayside station, we were suddenly informed that, owing to hot bearings or heated axles or something, we must quit our carriage at once, and so, half dressed and wholly wrathful, we were shot out on a hot and exceedingly gritty platform, with our hand luggage and bedding all of a heap, and with the whole length of the train to traverse to attain our new carriage. Sabz Ali being curled up asleep in an "intermediate," was all unwitting of this upheaval. The officials were impatient, and so Jane and I were in a thoroughly unchristian frame of mind by the time we were stowed, hot and greatly fussed, into a stifling compartment, whose dust-begrimed windows long withstood all endeavours to open them.
We reached Lahore about noon, and, having some six hours to dispose of there, we spent them in calm contemplation, sitting on the verandah of Nedou's Hotel. It was really too hot to think of sight-seeing.
Thursday, October 19.—Another night in the train brought us to Delhi at dawn, and we drove up to the execrable caravansary of Mr. Maiden. I do not propose to write much about Delhi. Every one who has been in India has visited the capital of the Moguls, whose wealth of splendid buildings would alone have rendered it a supreme attraction for the sight-seer, even had it not played the part it did in the Mutiny, and been memorable as the scene of the storming of the Kashmir Gate and the death of John Nicholson.
We, personally, carried away from Delhi an uncomfortable sense of disappointment. It was very hot, and Jane fell a victim to the heat or something, and took to her bed in the comfortless hotel, while I prowled sadly about the baking streets, and tried to work up an enthusiasm which I did not feel.
As soon as Jane was fit, we joined forces with a young fellow-countryman and his sister, who were the only other English people in the hotel, and drove out to see the Kutab Minar. On arrival we found a comfortable dak bungalow, and, having made an excellent breakfast, sallied forth to view the Kutab. May I confess that I was again a little disappointed? I do not really know exactly why, but the great tower, whose fluted shaft, dark red in the sunglow, shoots up some 270 feet into the air, did not appeal to me. It is like no other column—it is unique, marvellous,—but it leaves me cold.
The splendid arch of the screen of the old temple, and the lovely columns of the Jain temple opposite, attracted me far more than the Kutab Minar.
Jane and young Buxton went off to see a native jump down a well fifty feet deep for four annas. The performance sounded curious, but unpleasant. The sightseers were much impressed! Meanwhile, Miss Buxton and I discovered a very modern and exceedingly hideous little Hindu temple, painted in the most appalling manner—altogether a gem of grotesqueness, and truly delightful and refreshing.
Tea in front of the dak bungalow, in a corner blazing with "gold mohurs" and rosy oleanders, while the driver and the syce harnessed the lean pair of horses, a final visit to the Kutab and the great arch, and we fared back over the eleven bumpy miles that lay between us and Delhi.
A good deal of my spare time, while Jane was hors de combat, was spent in the jewellers' shops of the Chandni chowk, the principal merchants' quarter of Delhi. I do not think that anything very special in the way of a "bargain" is to be obtained by the amateur, although stones are undoubtedly cheaper than in London. I saw little really fine jewellery, probably because I was obviously unlikely to be a big buyer, but many good spinels, dark topaz, and rough emeralds. The stones I wanted I failed to get. Alexandrites were not, and pink topaz scarce and dear. The dealers generally tried to sell pale spinels as pink topaz. Peridot are cheaper, I think, at home, and certainly in Cairo, and the only amethysts worth looking at are sent out from Germany. The pale ones of the country come from Jaipur. By-the-bye, the best-coloured amethysts I ever remember seeing were in Clermont Ferrand.
Delhi has always been connected with gems in my mind. I am not certain why. Partly, perhaps, because the famous Peacock Throne of Shah Jehan stood in the Palace here. I cannot resist giving the description of it in the words of Tavernier, who saw it about 1655, and who describes it as follows:—
"This is the largest throne; it is in form like one of our field-beds, six foot long and four broad. The cushion at the back is round like a bolster; the cushions on the sides are flat. I counted about a hundred and eight pale rubies in collets about this throne, the least whereof weighed a hundred carats. Emeralds I counted about a hundred and forty."
"The under part of the canopy is all embroidered with pearls and diamonds, with a fringe of pearls round about. Upon the top of the canopy, which is made like an arch with four paws, stands a peacock with his tail spread, consisting entirely of sapphires and other proper-coloured stones; the body is of beaten gold enchased with several jewels; and a great RUBY upon his breast, to which hangs a pearl that weighs fifty carats. On each aide of the peacock stand two nosegays as high as the bird, consisting of various sorts of flowers, all of beaten gold enamelled."
"When the king seats himself upon the throne there is a transparent jewel, with a diamond appendant of eighty or ninety carats weight, encompassed with rubies and emeralds, so hung that it is always in his eye. The twelve pillars also, that uphold the canopy, are set with rows of fair pearl, round, and of an excellent water, that weigh from six to ten carats apiece."
"At the distance of four feet, upon each side of the throne, are placed two umbrellas, the handles of which are about eight feet high, covered with diamonds, the umbrellas themselves being of crimson velvet, embroidered and fringed with pearl."
"This is the famous throne which Tamerlane began and Shah Jehan finished; and is really reported to have cost a hundred and sixty millions and five hundred thousand livres of our money."
One can picture the enraptured diamond merchant examining this masterpiece of Oriental luxury with awe-struck eye, appraising the size and lustre of each gem, and taking the fullest notes with which to dazzle his countrymen on returning to the more prosaic Europe from what was then indeed the "Gorgeous East!" This world-famous throne was seized by Nadir Shah, when he sacked Delhi in 1739, and carried away (together with our Koh-i-noor diamond) into Persia. Dow, who saw the famous throne some twenty years before Tavernier, describes two peacocks standing behind it with their tails expanded, which were studded with jewels. Between the peacocks stood a parrot, life size, cut out of a single emerald!
Friday, October 20.—Yesterday at 6 A.M. we spurned the dust of Delhi, hot and blinding, from our feet and clambered into the train, which whirled us across the sun-baked plain to Agra.
There has been a woeful shortage of rain in the Punjab and Rajputana, and a famine seems imminent—not a great and universal famine, as, the monsoon having been irregular, only some districts have suffered to a serious extent, and they can be supplied from elsewhere, whereas in the great famine of 1901 the drought parched the whole land, and no help could be given by one State to another, all lying equally under the sun's curse. Not a great famine, perhaps; yet, to one accustomed to the genial juiciness of the West, the miles and miles of waterless hot plains, stretching away to where the horizon flickered in the glare, the brown and parched vegetation, the lean and hungry-looking cattle, tended by equally lean and famished herds, caused the monotonous view from the carriage windows to be strangely depressing.
This is the very battle-ground of Nature and the British Raj. We have given peace and, to a certain extent, prosperity to the teeming millions of India, and they have increased and multiplied until the land is overburthened, and Nature, with relentless will, bids Famine and Pestilence lay waste the cities and the plains. Then Science, with irrigation works and improved hygiene, strives hard to gain a victory, but still the struggle rages doubtfully.
Agra we liked as much as we disliked Delhi. To begin with creature comforts (and the well-being of the body produces a pair of couleur de rose spectacles for the mental eye), Laurie's Hotel at Agra is very much more comfortable than the den we abode in at Delhi, and after a good tiffin we set forth with light hearts to see the Fort.
This, the accumulated achievement of the greatest of the Mogul Emperors, is a magnificent monument of their power and pride. The earliest part, built by Akbar, is all of rich red sandstone. The great hall of audience and other portions show his broad-minded tolerance and catholicity of taste in being almost pure Hindu in style and decoration. Later, with Jehangir and Shah Jehan, the high-water mark of sumptuousness was attained in the use of pure white marble, lavishly inlaid with coloured stones.
As we wandered through halls and corridors of marble most richly wrought, while the sun-glare outside did but emphasise the cool shade within, or filter softly through the lace-like tracery of pierced white-marble screens, one longed to reclothe these glorious skeletons with all the pomp of their dead magnificence—for one magic moment replace the Great Mogul upon his peacock throne, surround him with a glittering crowd of courtiers and attendants, clothe the wide marble floors upon which they stand with richest carpets from the looms of Persia and the North, and drape the tall white columns with rustling canopies of silk.
Before the great audience hall let the bare garden-court again glow with a million blooms; there let the peacocks sun themselves, their living jewels putting to shame the gems that burn back from aigrette and from sword-hilt; see and hear the cool waters sparkling once again from their long-dried founts, flashing in the white sunlight, and flowing over ducts cunningly inlaid with zigzag bands to imitate the ripple of the mountain stream.
The dead frame alone is left of all this gorgeous picture. The imperishable marble glows white in the sunlight as it did in the days of Shah Jehan. The great red bastions of the Fort frown over the same placid Jumna, and watch each morning the pearly dome of the Taj Mahal rise like a moon in the dawn-glow, shimmer through the parching glare of an Indian day, and at eve sink, rosy, into the purple shadows of swiftly-falling night, as they did when Shah Jehan sat "in the sunset-lighted balcony with his eyes fixed on the snow-white pile at the bend of the river, and his heart full of consolation of having wrought for her he loved, through the span of twenty years, a work that she had surely accepted at the last."
We spent a long afternoon in the Fort, and drove out finally through the monstrous gateway in a little Victoria, feeling all the time that none but elephants in all their glory of barbaric caparison could pass through such a portal worthily.
The moon was full almost a week ago, unfortunately, so we determined that, failing moonlight, our first visit to the Taj should be at sunset.
The two miles' drive along an excellent road was delightful, and the approach to the Taj has been laid out with much skill as a beautiful bit of landscape garden. This care is due to Lord Curzon, who has taken Agra and its monuments into his especial keeping.
A very small golf-course has been laid out, and the familiar form of the enthusiast could be seen, blind to everything but the flight of time and his Haskell, hurrying round to save the last of the daylight.
Beneath a tree was laid out a tea equipage, and a few ladies indolently putting showed that, after all, the game was not taken too seriously.
I have no intention of trying to describe the Taj Mahal. The attempt has already been made a thousand times. I may merely remark that the detestable Indian miniatures, and little ivory or marble models that are, alas! so common, are incapable of giving an idea, otherwise than misleading, of this wonderful building, which is not—as they would vainly show it—glaring, staring, and hard, nor does its formality seem other than just what it should be.
As we saw it first—opalescent in the soft, clear light of sunset—the chief impression it made upon us was that of size; for this we were quite unprepared.
As we approached it from the great red entrance arch, along a smooth path bordering the central stretch of still, translucent water, the lovely dome rose fairy-like from the masses of trees that, in their turn, formed a background of solemn green for gorgeous patches of colour, in bloom and leaf, which glowed on either side as we advanced.
Ascending a flight of steps to the wide terrace, all of whitest marble, upon which the Taj is raised, we realised that the detail of carving and of inlay was as perfect as the general effect of the whole.
High as my expectations had been raised, I was not disappointed in the Taj, and that is saying much, for one's pre-formed ideas are apt to soar beyond bounds and to suffer the fate of Icarus. At the same time, I cannot agree with Fergusson that the Taj Mahal is the most beautiful building in the world. I do not admit that it is possible to compare structures of such widely divergent types as the Parthenon, the Cathedral of Chartres, the Campanile of Giotto, and the Taj Mahal, and pronounce in favour of any one of them. It is as vain as to contend that the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is a finer poem than Keats' "Eve of St. Agnes," or that the "Erl Konig" is better music than "The Moonlight Sonata."
Perhaps it is not too much to say that it is the loveliest tomb in the world, and the finest specimen of Mohammedan architecture in existence. If I dared to criticise what would appear to be faultless, I should humbly suggest that the four corner minarets are not worthy of the centre building, reminding one rather of lighthouses.
We spent a second day in Agra, revisiting the Fort and the Taj rather than seeing anything new. We could have hired a motor and rushed out for a hurried visit to Fatehpur-Sighri, and there was temptation in the idea; but we decided to content ourselves with the abundant food for eye and mind which we had in these two wonderful buildings, and in the evening we took the train for Jaipur.
Saturday, October 21.—One is apt to be cross and fussed and generally upset on being landed on a strange platform in the dark at 5.30 A.M., as we were at Jaipur, but much solace lay in the fact that a comfortable carriage stood waiting us and a most kind and genial host received us on the broad verandah of his bungalow, and the cheering fact was borne in upon us that we shall have henceforward but little to do with Indian hotels.
How one appreciates a large, cool room, good servants, good food, and last, but not least, the society of one's kind, after two or three weeks of racket and discomfort by road and rail.
A restful morning enlivened us sufficiently to enjoy a garden party at the Residency in the afternoon, where not only the English society, but a large number of native gentlemen, were playing lawn-tennis with laudable energy.
After Kashmir, where Sir Amar Singh is the only native who mixes at all with the English, it was interesting to see and meet on terms of good-fellowship these Rajput aristocrats.
Sunday, October 22.—The city of Jaipur is, I think, principally interesting as being modern and enlightened among those of the native states.
When the ancient city of Amber was abandoned, principally on account of its scanty water-supply, Jaipur was built upon a regular and prearranged plan, having a great wide street down the centre, crossed by two large thoroughfares at right angles, thus dividing the town into six rectangular blocks.
We drove into the city in the afternoon, and were much impressed by its airiness and cleanliness. The houses are all coated with pink stucco, picked out with white, which, in the bright atmosphere, has, at a little distance, a charming effect. On closer inspection the real tawdriness and want of solidity of the work become painfully apparent, and the designs in white upon the pink, in which the wayward fancy of each householder runs riot, generally leave much to be desired, both in design and execution.
The broad, clean main streets were a perfect kaleidoscope of colour and movement. Men in pink pugarees—in lemon-coloured—in emerald green; women in blood-red saris, bearing shining brass pots upon their heads, all talking, shouting, jostling—a large family of monkeys on a neighbouring roof added their quota of conversation—calm oxen, often with red-painted horns and pink-streaked bodies, camels, asses, horses, strolled about or pushed their way through the throng. No Hindu cow would ever dream of making way for anybody. Yes, though! Here comes an elephant rolling along, and the holy ones with humps discreetly retire aside, covering their retreat before a force majeure by stepping up to the nearest greengrocer's stall and abstracting a generous mouthful of the most succulent of his wares.
Rising in the midst of a lovely garden, just outside the city, is the Albert Hall, a remarkably fine structure, built in accordance with the best traditions of Mohammedan architecture adapted to modern requirements by our host, the designer. It contains both a museum of the products of Rajputana, and also an instructive collection of objects of art and science, gathered together for the edification of the intelligent native.
We would willingly have spent hours examining the pottery and brass work for which Jaipur is famous, or in making friends with the denizens of the great aviary in the garden, but time is short, and even the baby panther could only claim a few minutes of our devotion.
The Palace of the Maharajah is neither particularly interesting nor beautiful, and we did not visit it further than to inspect the ancient observatory built by Jey Singh, with its huge sundial, whose gnomon stands 80 feet above the ground! What we are pleased to call a superstitious attention to times lucky or unlucky has given to astronomical observations in the East an unscientific importance which they have not had for centuries in Europe. A slight attack of fever prevented me from going to Amber; so I stayed at home, peacefully absorbing quinine, subsequently extracting the following from Jane's diary:—
"'Tea ready, mem-sahib.' The familiar and somewhat plaintive sound of Sabz Ali's voice roused me, as it so often has in tent, forest hut, or matted dounga;"
but this time I was really puzzled for a moment, on awaking, to find myself in a real comfortable spring bed, white-enamelled and mosquito-netted, while for roof I only saw the clear, pale, Indian sky. Then it was I remembered that, at my host's suggestion, my bed had been carried out into the shrubbery, and that I had fallen asleep, lulled by the howling of the jackals and the rustle of the flying squirrels in the gold mohur-tree overhead.
"Springing on to the cool, grassy carpet, and dressing quickly, to gain as much time as possible before the rising of the hot October sun, I was soon ready for breakfast, which Miss Macgregor and I had in the garden among the parrots and the pigeons, and the dear little squirrels. We were ready for the road before seven, and were soon trotting along between dusty hedges of gaunt-fingered cactus, shaded here and there by neem trees and peepuls."
"Our smart victoria was lent by a Rajput friend of Sir Swinton's, and he had also sent us his private secretary as guide and escort—a very thin young man in a black sateen coat and gay-flowered waistcoat."
"Through the pink-stuccoed streets of Jaipur we threaded our way—slowly, on account of the holy pigeons breakfasting in thousands on the road, and the sacred bulls, who barely deigned to move aside to let us pass."
"It appears to be the custom, when a man dies, for his relatives to let loose a bull in memoriam, and the happy beast forthwith sets out to live a life of sloth and luxury. The city is his, and every green-grocer in it is only too much honoured if the fastidious animal will condescend to make free with his cabbages."
"Once clear of the crowded streets, we got on quicker, and about six miles out we found the elephant which had been sent out from the royal stable to carry us to Amber. We climbed upon her (it was a lady elephant) in a great hurry, by means of a rickety sort of ladder, as we were told that an elephant, if 'fresh,' was apt to rise up suddenly, to the great detriment of the passenger who had 'not arrived.' She was a very friendly-looking creature though, and her little eyes twinkled most affably; her face was decorated in a scheme of red and green, and her saddle was a sort of big mattress surrounded by a railing."
"I am no judge of the paces of elephants, but this one seemed uncommonly rough; and we held on vigorously to the railing until we reached a ridge and saw the dead city of Amber before us, dominated by the white marble palace, standing on a steep cliff, and reflected in the water of the lake which laps its base."
"Up a steep and narrow path we mounted until we reached the courtyard of the ancient palace of the ruler of Amber, and there we alighted from our steed, and set out to explore the ruins. First we came to a small temple, ugly enough, but interesting, for here a goat is sacrificed every morning to Kali—a particularly hideous goddess, if the frescoes on the walls and the golden image in the sanctuary are in any way truthful! Formerly a human sacrifice was customary, but the unfortunate goat is found to fulfil modern requirements, since goddesses are more easily pleased or less pampered than of yore."
"The Palace, which dates from the seventeenth century, is chiefly remarkable for its magnificent situation, and for its court and hall of audience of marble and red sandstone."
"This work was so fine as to excite the jealousy of the Mogul Emperor, so the Prince of Amber had it promptly whitewashed—and whitewashed it remains to this day. Some of the brazen doors are remarkably fine, as also those of sandal-wood, inlaid with ivory, in the women's quarters."
"We climbed to the marble court on the roof, where, canopied only by the sky and lighted by the moon, nocturnal durbars were held. Now, in the glare of the noonday sun, we fully appreciated the value of an evening sitting, for it was impossible to remain grilling there, even though the view of the silent city below, falling in tier after tier to the lake—the glare only broken here and there by patches of green garden—was superb. On either side rose the bare, rocky ridges, fort-crowned and looking formidable even in decay, while in front the dusty road stretched away into the haze of the dusty plains below. Of course, we should have visited the great Jain temples and other things worthy of note; but, alas! a green garden, whose palms overhung the lake, proved more attractive than even Jain temples, and a charming picnic on fruits and cool drinks strengthened us sufficiently to enable us to face the hot road home, buoyed up each mile by the nearer prospect of a tub."
* * * * *
Jaipur is celebrated for its enamelling on gold, so our host kindly sent for an eminent jeweller to come and show us some trifles. Expectant of a humble native carrying the usual bundle, we were much impressed when, in due time, a dignitary drove up in a remarkably well turned out carriage and pair. His servants were clad in a smart livery, and he himself was resplendent, with uncut emerald earrings, and the general appearance of a certain Savoy favourite as the "Rajah of Bong"!
Our spirits sank as he spread himself and his goods out upon the drawing-room floor, which speedily became a glittering chaos of gold and jewelled cups, umbrella handles, boxes, scent-bottles, and necklaces. Jane divided her admiration between a rope of fat pearls and a necklace of uncut emeralds, either of which might have been hers at the trifling price of some 7000 rupees, but we finally restricted our acquisitions to very modest proportions, and the stout jeweller departed, apparently no whit less cheerful than when he came.
The modern brass-work of Jaipur is somewhat attractive, and we bought various articles—a tall lamp-stand, an elephant bell, and a few ordinary bowls of excellent shape.
I have remarked before on the extreme tameness of, and the confidence shown by, wild creatures out here. A titmouse came and perched on the arm of my chair while sitting reading on the verandah at Gulmarg.
The rats and mice, who own the forest houses in the Machipura, have to be kicked off the beds at night. But the little grey squirrels in Sir Swinton Jacob's garden are—facile princeps—the boldest wild-fowl we have yet encountered.
Every afternoon about three, when tea was toward, the squirrels gathered on the gravel path, and prepared to receive bread and butter.
After a few nervous darts and tail whiskings, a bold squirrel would skip up close, and, after eating a little ground bait, would boldly come up and nibble out of a motionless hand. In two minutes half-a-dozen pretty little creatures would be fidgeting round, eating bread and butter daintily, neatly holding the morsel in their little forepaws and nuzzling into one's fingers for more.
A handsome magpie, and, of course, a contingent of crows, made up the fascinating party; while in the background, among the neem trees and the flaming "gold mohurs," the minahs and green parrots sustained an incessant and riotous conversation.
Wednesday, October 25.—Gladly would we have accepted the Jacobs' invitation to stay longer at Jaipur. We would have liked nothing better, but time was flying, and the 5th November—our day of departure from Bombay—was drawing rapidly near. So yesterday evening we took the 6.30 train for Ajmere, and, reaching there at 10.30, changed into the narrow-gauge railway for Chitor. We are becoming well accustomed to sleeping in an Indian train, and Sabz Ali had our beds unrolled and our innumerable hand luggage stowed away in no time, including four bottles of soda-water, which he has carefully garnered in the washstand, and which no hints, however broad, will induce him to relinquish.
 "Au dessus du ciel qui est faite en voute a quatre pans on voit un Paon, qui a la queue relevee fait de Saphirs bleus et autres pierres de couleur."—TAVERNIER, livre ii. chap. viii.
 The Web of Indian Life
 I fear this is somewhat misleading. Jey Singh was, par excellence, an astronomer, not an astrologer,—T. R. S.
We arrived, very sleepy and gritty, at Chitor at 5.30 A.M., to find an unprecedented mob of first-class passengers en route for Udaipur, and only one very minute compartment in which to stow them.
The station-master—a solemn Baboo, full of his own importance, becomingly clad in a waving white petticoat, with bare legs and elastic-sided boots, surmounted by a long cutaway frock-coat, topped by a black skull-cap, and finally decorated by a pen behind his ear—seemed totally unable to cope with the terrible problem he was set to solve.
I suggested that another carriage should be put on, but he had none, nor any solution to offer; so we cleared a second-class compartment and divided the party out, and then, with five people in our tiny compartment, we set out on the fifty-mile run to Udaipur.
Five people in a carriage in Europe is nowise unusual, but five people in an Indian one (and that a narrow, very narrow gauge), accompanied by rolls of bedding, tiffin-baskets, and all the quantity of personal luggage which is absolutely necessary, not to speak of a large-sized bird-cage (which cannot, strictly speaking, be classed as a necessary), requires the ingenuity of a professional packer of herrings or figs to adjust nicely!
By cramming the toilet place with bedding, khudsticks, a five-foot brass lamp-stand, and the four soda-water bottles, we made shift to stow portmanteaux, bags, tiffin-baskets, &c., under the seats and ourselves upon them, and then arranged a sort of centre-piece of Jane's big tin bonnet-box, surmounted by Freddy in his cage. The other passengers were very amiably disposed, and not fat, and they even went so far as to pretend to admire Freddy—a feat of some difficulty, as he is still very bald and of an altogether forbidding aspect. This admiration so won upon the heart of Jane, that in the fulness thereof she served out biscuits and a little tinned butter all round, while Freddy cheerfully spattered food and water upon all indiscriminately.
About eighteen miles from Udaipur we passed the ruins of Ontala. Here, in the stormy time when Jehangir had seized Chitor, there happened a desperate deed.
The Rana of Mewar, expelled from his capital, determined to attack and retake Ontala. Now, the Rajputs were divided into clans as fiery as any of those whose fatal pride went far to ruin Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden. The Chondawats and the Saktawats both claimed the right of forming the vanguard, and the Rana, unable to pronounce in favour of either, subtly decided that the van should be given to the clan which should first enter Ontala.
The Saktawats then made straight for the one and only gateway to the fortress, and, reaching it as day broke, almost surprised the place, but the walls were quickly manned and defended. Foiled for a moment, the leader of the Saktawats threw himself from his elephant, and, placing himself before the great spikes with which the gate was protected against the assault of the beast, ordered the mahout to charge; and so a crushed and mangled corpse was forced into the city on the brow of the living battering-ram, in whose wake the assailants rushed to battle.
Alas! his sacrifice was in vain. The Chondawat chief was already in Ontala. First of the stormers with scaling-ladders, he was shot dead by the defenders ere reaching the top of the rampart, and his corpse fell back among his dismayed followers. Then the chief of Deogurh, rolling the body in his scarf, tied it upon his back, fought his way to the crest of the battlements, and hurled the gory body of his chieftain into the city, shouting, "The vanguard to the Chondawat!"
It is further told how, when the attack began, two Mogul chiefs of note were engaged within upon a game of chess. Confident of the strength of the defence, they continued their game, unheeding the din of battle. Suddenly the foe broke in upon them, upon which they calmly asked for leave to finish their interesting match. The request was granted by the courtly Rajputs, but upon its termination they were both put to death.
Udaipur lies in a well-cultivated basin, shut in by a ring of arid hills. After skirting the flanks of some of the outlying spurs, we bustled through a tunnel and drew up at a bright little station, draped with great blue and pink convolvulus. And this was Udaipur.
We were picked out of the usual jabbering, jostling, gibbering crowd of natives by our host, who, looking most enviably cool and clean, took his heated, dishevelled, and unbarbered guests off to a comfortable carriage, and we were quickly sped towards tiffin and a bath.
The station is a long way from the town, as the Maharana, a most staunch conservative of the old school, having the railway more or less forced upon him, drew the line at three miles from his capital, and fixed the terminus there. One cannot help being glad that the prosaic steam-engine, crowned with foul smoke and heralded by ear-piercing whistles, has not been allowed to trespass in Udaipur, wherein no discordant note is struck by train line or factory chimney, and where everything and every one is as when the city was newly built on the final abandonment of Chitor, the ancient capital of Mewar.
Here in the heart of the most conservative of native States, whose ruler, the Maharana, Sir Fateh Singh, claims descent from that ancient luminary the Sun, we found novelty and interest in every yard of the three miles that stretch between the station and the capital. The scrub-covered desert has given place to a wooded and cultivated valley, ringed by a chain of hills, sterile and steep. The white ribbon of the road, through whose dust plough stolid buffaloes and strings of creaking bullock-carts, is bordered by tall cactus and yellow-flowered mimosa on either side. Among the trees rise countless half-ruined temples and chatries; on whose whitewashed walls are frequent frescoes of tigers or elephants rampant, and of wonderful Rajput heroes wearing the curious bell-shaped skirt, which was their distinctive dress.
The people too, their descendants, who crowd the road to-day, are remarkable—the men fine-looking, with beards brushed ferociously upwards, and all but the mere peasants carrying swords; the women, dark-eyed, and singularly graceful in their red or orange saris, and very full bell-shaped petticoats. Upright as darts, they walk with slightly swaying gesture, a slender brown arm upraised to support the big brass chatties on their heads, revealing an incredible collection of bangles on arms and ankles. These women are the descendants of those who, in the stormy days of the sixteenth century, while the Rajput princes still struggled heroically with the all-powerful Mogul emperors, preferred death to shame, and, led by Kurnavati (mother of Oodi Singh, the founder of Udaipur), accepted the "Johur," or death by fire and suffocation, to the number of 13,000, while their husbands and brothers threw open the city gates and went forth to fight and fall.
As we drew near our destination the towers of the Maharana's Palace rose up above the trees, gleaming snowy in the cloudless blue. The brown crenellated walls of the city appeared on our left, and, suddenly sweeping round a curve, we found ourselves by the border of a lovely lake, whose blue-rippled waters lapped the very walls of the town. In the foreground a glorious note of colour was struck by a group of "scarlet women" washing themselves and their clothes by the margin.
Up a steep incline, and we found ourselves before a verandah, blazing overhead with bougainvillea, and our hostess waiting to receive us beneath its cool shade.
In the afternoon, refreshed and rested, we went down to the shore, where our host had arranged for a state-owned boat and four rowers to be in waiting. Armed with rods and fishing tackle, we proceeded to see Udaipur from the lake which washes its northern side. First crossing a small landlocked bay bordered on the left by a long and picturesque crenellated wall, and passing through a narrow opening, we found ourselves in a second division of the water; on the left, still the wall, with a delightful-looking summer-house perched at a salient angle; on the right, small wooded islands, the haunt of innumerable cormorants, who, with snaky necks outstretched, watched us suspiciously from their eyrie.
A curious white bridge, very high in the centre, barred the view of the main lake till, passing through the central arch, we found ourselves in a scene of perfect enchantment. Before us the level sheet of molten silver lay spread, reflecting the snowy palaces and summer-houses that stood amid the palms and greenery of many tiny islands. On the left the city rose from the water in a succession of temples and wide-terraced buildings, culminating in the lofty pile of the Palace of the Maharana. Here, on this enchanted lake, we rowed to and fro until the sun sank swiftly in the west and the red gold glowed on temple and turret.
Then, with our catch, about 15 lbs. weight of most excellent fish, we rowed back past the white city to the landing-place, and, in the gathering dark, climbed the hillock upon which stood our host's bungalow.
We spent a week at Udaipur—a happy week, whose short days flew by far too quickly. The weather was splendid; hot in the middle of the day—for the season is late, and the monsoon has greatly failed in its cooling duty—but delightful in morning and evening.
Rising one morning at early dawn, before the sun leaped above the eastern hills, we took boat and rowed to one of the island palaces, where, after fishing for mahseer, we breakfasted on a marble balcony overlooking the ripples of the Pichola Lake, which lapped the feet of a group of great marble elephants.
Not the least interesting expedition was to the south end of the lake one afternoon to see the wild pigs fed. Traversing the whole length of the Pichola, past the marble ghats where the crimson-clad women washed and chattered, while above them rose the roofs and temple domes of the fairy city culminating in the walls and pinnacles of the palace—past the fleet of queer green barges wherein the Maharana disports himself when aquatically inclined, we left the many islands marble-crowned on our right; and finally landed at a little jutting ledge of rock, whence a jungle track led us in a few minutes to a terrace overlooking a rocky and steep slope which fell away from the building near which we stood. The scene was surprising! Hundreds of swine of all sorts and sizes, from grim slab-sided, gaunt-headed old boars, whose ancient tusks showed menacing, to the liveliest and sprightliest of little pigs playing hide-and-seek among their staid relatives, were collected from the neighbouring jungle to scramble for the daily dole of grain spread for them by the Maharana.
A cloud of dust rose thick in the air, stirred up by the busy feet and snouts of the multitude, and grunts and squeals were loud and frequent as a frisky party of younglings in their play would heedlessly bump up against some short-tempered old boar, who in his turn would angrily butt a too venturesome rival in the wind and send him, expostulating noisily, down the hill!
Beyond the crowd of swine on the edge of the clearing, a few peacocks, attracted by the prospect of a meal, held themselves strictly aloof from the vulgar herd.
The whole city of Udaipur is a paradise for the artist—not a corner, not a creature which does not seem to cry aloud to be painted. The only difficulty in such embarras de richesses of subject and such scantiness of time, is to decide what not to do.
Hardly has the enthusiastic amateur sat down to delineate the stately pile of the palace, soaring aloft amid its enveloping greenery, than he is attracted by a fascinating glimpse of the lake, where, perhaps, a royal elephant comes down to drink, or a crimson-clad bevy of Rajputni lasses stoop to fill their brazen chatties with much chatter and laughter.
Bewildered by such wealth of subject, one is but too apt to sit at gaze, and finally go home with merely a dozen pages of scribbles added to the little canvas jotting-book!
The Palace of the Maharana is a very splendid pile of buildings, as seen from some little distance crowning the ridge which rises to the south of the lake, but it loses much of its beauty when closely viewed. It is, of course, not to be compared architecturally with the master-works of Agra and Delhi, and the internal decorations are usually tawdry and uninteresting. The entrance is fine; the visitor ascends the steep street to the principal gate, a massive portal, strengthened against the battering of elephants by huge spikes, and decorated by a pair of these animals in fresco-rampant. Beyond the first gate rises a second or inner gate. On the right are huge stables where the royal elephants are kept, and on the left stand a row of curious arches, beneath one of which the Maharanas of old were wont to be weighed against bullion after a victory, the equivalent to the royal avoirdupois being distributed as largesse to his people!
Within the gates, a long and wide terrace stretches along the entire front of the Palace, on the face of which is emblazoned the Sun of Mewar, the emblem of the Sesodias. This terrace was evidently the happy home of a great number of cows, peacocks, geese, and pigeons, which stalked calmly enough, among the motley crowd of natives, and gave one the impression of a glorified farmyard. The building itself, like most Indian palaces, is composed of a heterogeneous agglomeration in all sorts of sizes and styles. Each successive Maharana having apparently added a bit here and a bit there as his capricious fancy prompted.
Jane visited the armoury to-day with the Resident, who went to choose a shield to be presented by the Maharana to the Victoria Museum at Calcutta. I chose to go sketching, and was derided by Jane for missing such a chance of seeing what is not shown to visitors as a rule. She whisked away in great pomp in the Residential chariot, preceded by two prancing sowars on horseback, and subsequently thus related her experiences:—
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"We really drove up far too fast to the Palace, I was so much interested in the delightful streets; and we just whizzed past the innumerable shrines and queer shops, and frescoed walls, where extraordinary lions and tigers, and Rajput warriors, riding in wide petticoats on prancing steeds, were depicted in flaming colours. I wanted, too, to gaze at the native women, in their accordion-pleated, dancing frocks of crimson or dark blue; but it seemed to be the correct thing for a 'Personage' to drive as fast as possible, and try to run over a few people just to show them what unconsidered trifles they were. Well, we were received at the entrance to the Palace by one of the Prime Ministers. There are two Prime Ministers—one to criticise and frustrate the schemes of the other; the result being, as the Resident remarked, that it is not easy to get any business done. Our Prime Minister was dressed in a coat of royal purple velvet, on his head was wound a big green turban, and round his neck hung a lovely necklet of pearls and emeralds, with a pendant of the same, he had also earrings to match. It was truly pitiful to see such ornaments wasted on a fat old man."
"Going up a narrow and rather steep staircase, we came to a small hall full of retainers of his Highness, waiting until it should please him to appear and breakfast with them, for it is the custom of the Maharana to make that meal a sort of public function. In the middle of the hall reposed a big bull, evidently very much at ease and quite at home!"
"A few more steps brought us to the door of the armoury. This is small and badly arranged, which seems a pity, as there were some lovely things. Chain armour and inlaid suits lay about the floor in heaps; and we were shown the saddle used by Akbar during the last siege of Chitor. The most remarkable things, however, were the Rajput shields, of which there were some beautiful specimens. They are circular, not large, and made, some of tortoiseshell, some of polished hippo hide, &c. One was inlaid with great emeralds, a second had bosses of turquoise, and a really lovely one was inlaid with fine Jaipur enamel in blue and green. There were swords simply encrusted with jewels—one with a hilt of carved crystal; another was a curiously-modelled dog's head in smooth silver, and I noticed a beauty in pale jade. Altogether it was a most fascinating collection, different from, but in its way quite as interesting, as the fine armoury at Madrid."
Thus did Jane triumph over me with her description of what she had seen and what I had missed; and I had been trying to delineate the Temple of Jagganath, and had been disastrously defeated, for it is indeed a complicated piece of drawing, and the children, both large and small, crowded round me to my great hindrance. Therefore, it was not until I had been soothed with an excellent lunch, and the contents of a very long tumbler, that I felt strong enough to take an intelligent interest in the contents of the Maharana's curiosity-shop!
Monday, October 30.—The more we see of Udaipur the more we are charmed with it. The whole place is so absolutely unspoilt by modernism, is so purely Eastern—and ancient Eastern at that—that we feel as though we were in a little world far apart from the great one where steam and electricity shatter the nerves, and drive their victims through life at high pressure.
Ringed in by a rampart of arid hills, beyond which the scrub-covered desert stretches for miles, the peaceful city of Udaipur lies secluded in an oasis, whose centre is a turquoise lake. High in his palace the Maharana rules in feudal state, and, like Aytoun's Scottish Cavalier,
"A thousand vassals dwelt around—all of his kindred they, And not a man of all that clan has ever ceased to pray For the royal race he loves so well."
For to his subjects the Maharana is little less than a divinity, for is he not a direct descendant of the Sun? Likewise is he not the chief of the only royal house of Rajputana, who disdained to purchase Mogul friendship at the price of giving a daughter in marriage to the Mohammedan?
There are greater personages among the ruling Princes of India, according to British ruling—Hyderabad, for instance. And in the matter of precedence and the number of guns for ceremonial salutation, the Chief of Mewar—like other poor but proud nobles—is treated rather according to his actual power than the cloudless blue of his blood. Hence he is extremely unwilling to put himself in a position where he might fail to obtain the honour which he considers due to him. He was most averse from attending the Delhi Durbar, but such pressure was put upon him that he was induced to proceed thither in his special train running, as far as Chitorgarh, upon his own special railway. He reached Delhi, and his sponsors rejoiced that they had indeed got him to the water, although they had not exactly induced him to drink. As a matter of fact, the Maharana, having gone to Delhi to please the British authorities, promptly returned to Udaipur to please himself, alleging a terrific headache as reason for instant departure from the capital, without his having left his very own specially reserved first-class compartment!
He may not be a willing guest, but he is evidently disposed to be an excellent host, for great preparations are toward for the reception of the Prince of Wales, who is expected in the course of a fortnight or so.
The Residency, too, is being swept and garnished, the garden already looking like a miniature camp, with tents for the suite all among the flower-beds.
Tuesday, October 31.—A day or two ago we arose betimes, and before sunrise embarked in the State gig (which was always, apparently, placed at our host's disposal on demand), and set forth to catch fish for our breakfast, and then proceed to eat the same on one of the island palaces on the lake. We did not catch many fish—the mahseer were shy that morning—but fortunately we did not entirely depend on the caprices of the mahseer for our sustenance, and a remarkably well-fed and contented quartette we were when we got into the gig while the day was yet young, and rowed home as quickly as might be in order to escape the heat which at noonday is still great.
This afternoon we went for a (to us) novel tea picnic. A State elephant appeared by request, and we climbed upon him with ladders, and he proceeded to roll leisurely along at the rate of about two and a half miles an hour towards the foot of a hill, on the top of which stood a small summer palace.
The afternoon was warm, and the rhythmic pace drowsy, but our steed was determined to amuse us and benefit himself. So he blew great blasts of spray at his own forelegs and chest to cool himself, and now and then made shocking bad shots at so large a target, and, getting a trifle too much elevation, nearly swept us from our lofty perch.
Fortunately his stock of spray gave out ere long, or he found that the increasing gradient of the hill took all his breath, for we were left at leisure to admire the widening view until we reached the top.
Here we had tea in one of the cool halls, and then sat watching the sun sink towards the hills that stretch to Mount Aboo.
To the south-east lay Udaipur, milk-white along the margin of its "marled" waters.
On our way home we met with an adventure. While prattling to my hostess, I observed that our toes were rising unduly, the saddle or howdah being seated somewhat after the fashion of an outside car. Glancing over my shoulder I descried Jane and her partner far below their proper level. The howdah was coming round, and our steed was eleven feet high! Agonised yells to the gentleman who guided the deliberate steps of the pachyderm from a coign of vantage on the back of his neck, awoke him to an appreciation of the situation. The elephant was "hove to" with all possible despatch, and we crawled off his back with the greatest celerity. We then sat down by the roadside and superintended the righting of the saddle and the tautening of the girths by several natives, who "took in the slack" with an energy that must have made the poor elephant very "uncomfy" about the waist! I secretly hoped it was hurting him horribly, as I had not forgiven him for his practical jokes on the way up.
We had no more thrills. Resuming our motor 'bus, in due course, we were landed opposite the top of our host's verandah, whereupon the beast shut himself up like a three-foot rule, and we got to ground.
The inexorable flight of time brought us all too soon to the limit of our stay at Udaipur. Early on Wednesday the 1st November, therefore, we bade adieu to the capital of the State of Mewar, and, accompanied by our kind host and hostess, set out to spend a day in exploring the ruined city of Chitor before taking train for Bombay.
As we drove to the station, we passed the group of ancient "chatries" or tombs of dead and gone Ranas of Mewar, and halted for a short inspection, as, the train by which we were to travel to Chitorgarh being a "special," we were not bound to a precise moment for our appearance on the platform.
Jane, who is perfectly Athenian in her passion for novelty, decided to travel on the engine, and proceeded to do so; until, at the first halting-place, a grimy and somewhat dishevelled female climbed into our carriage, and the next half-hour was fully occupied in scooping smuts out of her eyes with teaspoons.
It had been arranged that an elephant should await our arrival at Chitorgarh to take us up to the ancient city, but a careful search into every nook and cranny failed to reveal the missing animal.
So my host and I set out on foot to cross a mile or so of plain which spread in deceptive smoothness between us and the ascent to the city. What seemed a serene and level track became quickly entangled in a maze of rough little knobs and nullahs, and we took a vast amount of exercise before arriving at the old bridge which spans the Gamberi River.
Meanwhile, towering over the scrubby bushes and surrounded by a dusty halo, the dilatory pachyderm bore down upon us, and, after the mahout had been interviewed in unmeasured terms by my host, went rolling slowly to the station to pick up the ladies.
The ancient city of Chitor lies crumbling and desolate on the back of a long, level-topped hill, which rises solitary to the height of some five hundred feet above the far-stretching plain. Kipling likens it to a great ship, up the sides of which the steep road slopes like a gangway. At the foot lies the modern village, squalid but picturesque.
As we toil, perspiring, up the long ramp which for a weary mile slopes sidelong up the scarped flank of the mountain, and pass through the seven gates which guarded the way, and every one of which was the scene of many a grim and bloody struggle, I will try to sketch the outline of the history of the famous fort, for many centuries the headquarters of the royal race of Mewar.
The Gehlotes, or (as they were afterwards styled) the Sesodias, claim descent from the Sun through Manu, Icshwaca, and Rama Chandra, as indeed do the other Rajput potentates of Jaipur, Marwar, and Bikanir, the Rana of Mewar, however, taking precedence owing to his descent from Lava, the eldest son of Rama.
The ancient dynasty of Mewar has fallen from its high estate, but the history of its rise is lost in the mists of grey antiquity.
"We can trace the losses of Mewar, but with difficulty her acquisitions.... She was an old-established dynasty when all the other States were in embryo." Long before Richard of the Lion-heart fared to Palestine to wrest the Holy City from the infidel, "a hundred kings, its (Mewar's) allies and dependants, had their thrones raised in Chitor," to defend it against the sword of the Mohammedan; while overhead floated the banner displaying the golden sun of Mewar on a crimson field.
Some centuries later the Crusaders brought to Europe from the plains of Palestine the novel device of armorial bearings.
Chitor itself appears to have been in possession of the Mori princes until, in A.D. 728, it was taken by Bappa, who, though of royal race, was brought up in obscurity by the Bhils as an attendant on the sacred kine. This shepherd prince, ancestor of the present Rana of Mewar, became a national hero, and many legends are still current concerning him and his romantic deeds. The story of his "amazing marriage," by which he succeeded in wedding six hundred damsels all at once, is one of the most curious. Bappa, while still a youth, was appealed to, one holiday, by the frolicsome maidens of a neighbouring village, who, led by the daughter of the Solankini chief of Nagda, in accordance with the custom upon this particular saint's day, had come out to indulge in swinging, but who had forgotten to supply themselves with a swinging-rope. Bappa agreed to get them one if they would play his game first. This the young ladies readily agreed to do; whereupon, all joining hands, he danced with them a certain mystic number of times round a sacred tree.
"Regardless of their doom, the little victims played,"
and finally dispersed to their homes, entirely unconscious that they were all as securely married to Bappa as though they had visited Gretna Green with him.
Some time afterwards, upon the engagement of the Solankini maiden to an eligible young man, the soothsayer, to whom application had been made with regard to fixing a favourable and auspicious wedding-day, discovered from certain lines in her hand that the girl was already married! Thus the whole story came out, and no less than six hundred brides assumed the title of Mrs. Bappa.
He seems to have had a passion for matrimony, for when an old man he left his children and his country, and carried his arms west to Khorassan, where he wedded new wives and had a numerous offspring. He died at the age of a hundred!
From the days of the very much married Bappa, until the time of Samarsi, who was Prince of Chitor in the thirteenth century, the city continued to flourish and increase in power and importance. Samarsi, having married Pirtha, sister of Prithi Raj, the lord of Delhi, joined his brother-in-law against Shabudin. For three days the battle raged, until the scale fell finally in favour of Shabudin, and the combined forces of Delhi and Chitor were almost annihilated. "Pirtha, on hearing of the loss of the battle, her husband slain, her brother captive, and all the heroes of Delhi and Cheetore 'asleep on the banks of the Caggar in a wave of the steel,' joined her lord through the flames."
From that time forward the history of Chitor is but a tale of sack and slaughter, relieved in its murkiest days by flashes of brilliant heroism and self-sacrificing devotion while the chivalrous Rajputs struggled vainly against the successive waves of the Mohammedan invasions, which in a fierce flood for centuries swept over India, and deluged it with blood.
In the year 1275 Lakumsi became Rana of Chitor. His uncle Bheemsi had married Padmani, a fair daughter of Ceylon, and her beauty was such that the fame of it came to the ears of Alla-o-din, the Pathan Emperor.
He promptly attacked the fortress, but without success for a long period, until he agreed to a compromise, declaring that if he could merely see the Lady Padmani in a mirror he would be contented and raise the siege.
His request was granted, and, trusting to the honour of a Rajput, he entered the city unattended, and was rewarded by a sight of this Eastern Helen reflected in a mirror. Desirous of showing equal faith in a noble enemy, Bheemsi accompanied Alla back to his lines, but there he was captured and held to ransom, Padmani being the price.
Word was now sent to the Emperor that Padmani would be delivered to him, and seven hundred covered litters were prepared to convey her and her ladies to Delhi, but each litter was borne by six armed bearers, and contained no "silver-bodied damsels with musky tresses," but only steel-clad warriors, who, upon arrival in the Moslem camp, sprang from their concealment as surprisingly as Pallas from the head of Zeus.
Alla-o-din was, however, not to be caught napping, and, being prepared for all contingencies, a fierce combat took place, and the warriors of Chitor were hard put to it to stand their ground until Bheemsi had escaped to the stronghold on a fleet horse. Then the devoted remnant retreated, pursued to the very gates by their foes. The flower of Chitor had perished, but they had achieved their object. This was called the "half sack" of Chitor.
Fifteen years later, Alla-o-din once more attacked Chitor, and this time the assaults were so deadly that the garrison was decimated and utter annihilation stared the survivors in the face. Then to the Rana appeared the guardian goddess of the city, who warned him that "if twelve who wear the diadem bleed not for Chitor, the land will pass from the line." Now the prince had twelve sons, and, in obedience to the goddess and in hope of eventually saving their dynasty, eleven of them cheerfully headed sorties on eleven following days, and were slain, until only Ajeysi, the youngest, was left alive. Then the Kana prepared for the end. He sent the boy Ajeysi with a small band by a secret way, and he escaped to Kailwarra, so that the royal race of Chitor should not become extinct. Then the women of the city, with the noble Padmani at their head, accepted the Johur; "the funeral pyre being lighted within the great subterranean retreat," they steadfastly marched into the living grave rather than yield themselves to the will of the conqueror. All being now ready for the last act of the hideous drama, the Rana caused the gates to be opened, and with his valiant remnant of an army fell upon the foe only to perish to a man, and then, and not till then, did the victorious Alla set foot of a conqueror within Chitor, where now no living thing remained to stay him from razing her deserted temples to the ground. The palace of Padmani alone was spared in this, the first "saka" of Chitor.
The wrecked stronghold remained an appanage of the Mogul until Hamir, who, though not the direct heir of Ajeysi, had gained the chieftainship through his valour, and who, having married a ward of the Hindu governor of Chitor, by her help regained possession of the fortress.
Defeating the Emperor Mahmoud, Hamir entered Chitor in triumph, and once again the standard of the Sun floated over its blood-stained rocks. The Emperor Mahmoud himself was led captive into Chitor, and kept prisoner there for three months until he regained his liberty by surrendering Ajmere, Rinthumbore, Nagore, and Sooe Sopoor, with fifty lacs of rupees and a hundred elephants. By this victory Hamir became the sole Hindu prince of power in India; and the ancestors of the present lords of Marwar and Jaipur brought their levies and paid homage, together with the chiefs of Boondi, Abu, and Gwalior.
Then ensued for Chitor a period of splendid prosperity, during which rose many noble buildings, amongst the ruins of which the great Tower of Victory still soars supreme. This splendid monument was raised to commemorate the victory gained by Koombho over Mahmoud, King of Malwa, and the Prince of Guzzerat, who in A.D. 1440 had formed a league against Chitor. The Rana met them at the head of 100,000 troops and 1400 elephants, and overthrew them, and the commemorative tower was begun in 1451 and finished in ten years.
The State of Mewar reached the zenith of her glory in 1509, when 80,000 horse, seven rajas of the highest rank, nine raos, and 104 chiefs bearing titles of rawul or sawut, with 500 elephants, followed Rana Sanga of Chitor into the field.
The Mogul Baber, who captured Delhi in 1527, was yet unwilling to face the ordeal of battle with the warlike Rajputs, but in the following year Sanga marched against him at the head of the princes of Rajast'han. A terrible battle ensued, which long inclined in favour of the Rajputs, until, through the treachery of a Tuar chief, they were defeated, and the star of Mewar began to decline, although so severe had been the struggle that Baber dared not follow up his victory.
In 1533 Chitor suffered her second "saka" at the hands of Buhadoor or Bajazet, Sultan of Guzzerat, who, after a grim struggle, obtained a footing at the "Beeka" rock, and, springing a mine there, blew up 45 cubits of rampart and killed the Prince of the Haras, with five hundred of his kin. Then the Queen-Mother, Jowahir Bae, clad in armour, headed a sally, and was slain before the eyes of all.
The entrance to the city being forced, the heir of the Sesodias, the infant Oodi Singh, son of Sanga, was placed in safety, while Bagh-ji, Prince of Deola, assuming royalty, prepared to die, for Chitor could only be retained by the Rajput princes while guarded by royalty.
The horrible Johur was decreed, and 13,000 women, headed by Kurnavati, the mother of Oodi Singh, marched to death and honour through the "Gau Mukh," or entrance to the subterranean tomb; while the city gates were thrown open, and the defenders sallied forth. "Every clan lost its chief," and 32,000 Rajputs were slain during the siege and storm.