Part 4 out of 5
Meanwhile, the Bagh caves were quite close to us, not more than
fifty miles off, to the east from Mandu. We were undecided whether
to leave them alone or go back to the Nerbudda. In the country
situated on the other side of Kandesh, our Babu had some "chums,"
as everywhere else in India; the omnipresent Bengali Babus, who
are always glad to be of some service to you, are scattered all
over Hindostan, like the Jews in Russia. Besides, our party was
joined by a new member.
The day before we had received a letter from Swami Dayanand, carried
to us by a traveling Sannyasi. Dayanand informed us that the
cholera was increasing every day in Hardwar, and that we must
postpone making his acquaintance personally till the end of May,
either in Dehra-Dun, at the foot of Himalaya, or in Saharanpur,
which attracts every tourist by its charming situation.
The Sannyasi brought us also a nosegay from the Swami, a nosegay
of the most extraordinary flowers, which are totally unknown in Europe.
They grow only in certain Himalayan valleys; they possess the
wonderful capacity of changing their color after midday, and do
not look dead even when faded. The Latin name of this charming
plant is Hibiscus mutabilis. At night they are nothing but a large
knot of pressed green leaves, but from dawn till ten o'clock the
flowers open and look like large snow-white roses; then, towards
twelve o'clock, they begin to redden, and later in the afternoon
they look as crimson as a peony. These flowers are sacred to the
Asuras, a kind of fallen angels in Hindu mythology, and to the
sun-god Surya. The latter deity fell in love with an Asuri at
the beginning of creation, and since then is constantly caught
whispering words of fiery love to the flower that shelters her.
But the Asura is a virgin; she gives herself entirely to the
service of the goddess Chastity, who is the patroness of all the
ascetic brotherhoods. The love of Surya is vain, Asura will not
listen to him. But under the flaming arrows of the enamoured god
she blushes and in appearance loses her purity. The natives call
this plant lajjalu, the modest one.
We were spending the night by a brook, under a shadowy fig-tree.
The Sannyasi, who had made a wide circuit to fulfil Dayanand's request,
made friends with us; and we sat up late in the night, listening
whilst he talked about his travels, the wonders of his native country,
once so great, and about the heroic deeds of old Runjit-Sing, the
Lion of the Punjab.
Strange, mysterious beings are found sometimes amongst these traveling
monks. Some of them are very learned; read and talk Sanskrit; know
all about modern science and politics; and, nevertheless, remain
faithful to their ancient philosophical conceptions. Generally they
do not wear any clothes, except a piece of muslin round the loins,
which is insisted upon by the police of the towns inhabited by Europeans.
They wander from the age of fifteen, all their lives, and die generally
very aged. They live never giving a thought to the morrow, like the
birds of heaven, and the lilies of the field. They never touch money,
and are contented with a handful of rice. All their worldly
possessions consist of a small dry pumpkin to carry water, a rosary,
a brass cup and a walking stick. The Sannyasis and the Swamis are
usually Sikhs from the Punjab, and monotheists. They despise idol-
worshipers, and have nothing to do with them, though the latter
very often call themselves by their names.
Our new friend was a native of Amritsar, in the Punjab, and had
been brought up in the "Golden Temple," on the banks of Amrita-Saras,
the "Lake of Immortality." The head Guru, or instructor, of Sikhs
resides there. He never crosses the boundaries of the temple. His
chief occupation is the study of the book called Adigrantha, which
belongs to the sacred literature of this strange bellicose sect.
The Sikhs respect him as much as the Tibetans respect their Dalai-Lama.
The Lamas in general consider the latter to be the incarnation of
Buddha, the Sikhs think that the Maha-Guru of Amritsar is the
incarnation of Nanak, the founder of their sect. Nevertheless,
no true Sikh will ever say that Nanak was a deity; they look on
him as a prophet, inspired by the spirit of the only God. This
shows that our Sannyasi was not one of the naked travelling monks,
but a true Akali; one of the six hundred warrior-priests attached
to the Golden Temple, for the purpose of serving God and protecting
the temple from the destructive Mussulmans. His name was Ram-Runjit-Das;
and his personal appearance was in perfect accordance with his title
of "God's warrior." His exterior was very remarkable and typical;
and he looked like a muscular centurion of ancient Roman legions,
rather than a peaceable servant of the altar. Ram-Runjit-Das appeared
to us mounted on a magnificent horse, and accompanied by another
Sikh, who respectfully walked some distance behind him, and was
evidently passing through his noviciate. Our Hindu companions had
discerned that he was an Akali, when he was still in the distance.
He wore a bright blue tunic without sleeves, exactly like that we
see on the statues of Roman warriors. Broad steel bracelets
protected his strong arms, and a shield protruded from behind his
back. A blue, conical turban covered his head, and round his waist
were many steel circlets. The enemies of the Sikhs assert that
these sacred sectarian belts become more dangerous in the hand of
an experienced "God's warrior," than any other weapon.
The Sikhs are the bravest and the most warlike sect of the whole
Punjab. The word sikh means disciple. Founded in the fifteenth
century by the wealthy and noble Brahman Nanak, the new teaching
spread so successfully amongst the northern soldiers, that in 1539 A.D.,
when the founder died, it counted one hundred thousand followers.
At the present time, this sect, harmonizing closely with the fiery
natural mysticism, and the warlike tendencies of the natives, is
the reigning creed of the whole Punjab. It is based on the principles
of theocratic rule; but its dogmas are almost totally unknown to
Europeans; the teachings, the religious conceptions, and the rites
of the Sikhs, are kept secret. The following details are known
generally: the Sikhs are ardent monotheists, they refuse to
recognize caste; have no restrictions in diet, like Europeans;
and bury their dead, which, except among Mussulmans, is a rare
exception in India. The second volume of the Adigrantha teaches
them "to adore the only true God; to avoid superstitions; to help
the dead, that they may lead a righteous life; and to earn one's
living, sword in hand." Govinda, one of the great Gurus of the Sikhs,
ordered them never to shave their beards and moustaches, and not
to cut their hair--in order that they may not be mistaken for
Mussulmans or any other native of India.
Many a desperate battle the Sikhs fought and won, against the
Mussulmans, and against the Hindus. Their leader, the celebrated
Runjit-Sing, after having been acknowledged the autocrat of the
Upper Punjab, concluded a treaty with Lord Auckland, at the
beginning of this century, in which his country was proclaimed an
independent state. But after the death of the "old lion," his
throne became the cause of the most dreadful civil wars and disorders.
His son, Maharaja Dhulip-Sing, proved quite unfit for the high
post he inherited from his father, and, under him, the Sikhs became
an ill-disciplined restless mob. Their attempt to conquer the
whole of Hindostan proved disastrous. Persecuted by his own soldiers,
Dhulip-Sing sought the help of Englishmen, and was sent away to
Scotland. And some time after this, the Sikhs took their place
amongst the rest of Britain's Indian subjects.
But still there remains a strong body of the great Sikh sect of old.
The Kuks represent the most dangerous underground current of the
popular hatred. This new sect was founded about thirty years ago
[written in 1879] by Balaka-Rama, and, at first, formed a bulk of
people near Attok, in the Punjab, on the east bank of the Indus,
exactly on the spot where the latter becomes navigable. Balaka-Rama
had a double aim; to restore the religion of the Sikhs to its
pristine purity, and to organize a secret political body, which
must be ready for everything, at a moment's notice. This brotherhood
consists of sixty thousand members, who pledged themselves never
to reveal their secrets, and never to disobey any order of their
leaders. In Attok they are few, for the town is small. But we
were assured that the Kuks live everywhere in India. Their
community is so perfectly organized that it is impossible to find
them out, or to learn the names of their leaders.
In the course of the evening our Akali presented us with a little
crystal bottle, filled with water from the "Lake of Immortality."
He said that a drop of it would cure all diseases of the eye. There
are numbers of fresh springs at the bottom of this lake, and so
its water is wonderfully pure and transparent, in spite of hundreds
of people daily bathing in it. When, later on, we visited it, we
had the opportunity to verify the fact that the smallest stone at
the bottom is seen perfectly distinctly, all over the one hundred
and fifty square yards of the lake. Amrita-Saran is the most
charming of all the sights of Northern India. The reflection of
the Golden Temple in its crystal waters makes a picture that is
We had still seven weeks at our disposal. We were undecided
between exploring the Bombay Presidency, the North-West Provinces
and the Rajistan. Which were we to choose? Where were we to go?
How best to employ our time? Before such a variety of interesting
places we became irresolute. Hyderabad, which is said to transport
the tourists into the scenery of the Arabian Nights, seemed so
attractive that we seriously thought of turning our elephants back
to the territory of the Nizam. We grew fond of the idea of visiting
this "City of the Lion," which was built in 1589 by the magnificent
Mohamed-Kuli-Kutb-Shah, who was so used to luxuries of every kind
as to grow weary even of Golkonda, with all its fairyland castles
and bright gardens. Some buildings of Hyderabad, mere remnants
of the past glory, are still known to renown. Mir-Abu-Talib, the
keeper of the Royal Treasury, states that Mohamed-Kuli-Shah spent
the fabulous sum of L 2,800,000 sterling on the embellishment of
the town, at the beginning of his reign; though the labor of the
workmen did not cost him anything at all. Save these few memorials
of greatness, the town looks like a heap of rubbish nowadays. But
all tourists are unanimous on one point, namely, that the British
Residency of Hyderabad still deserves its title of the Versailles
The title the British Residency bears, and everything it may contain
at the present time, are mere trifles compared with the past. I
remember reading a chapter of the History of Hyderabad, by an
English author, which contained something to the following effect:
Whilst the Resident entertained the gentlemen, his wife was similarly
employed receiving the ladies a few yards off, in a separate palace,
which was as sumptuous, and bore the name of Rang-Mahal. Both
palaces were built by Colonel Kirkpatrick, the late minister at
the Nizam's court. Having married a native princess, he constructed
this charming abode for her personal use. Its garden is surrounded
by a high wall, as is customary in the Orient, and the centre of
the garden is adorned with a large marble fountain, covered with
scenes from the Ramayana, and mosaics, Pavilions, galleries and
terraces--everything in this garden is loaded with adornments of
the most costly Oriental style, that is to say, with abundance of
inlaid designs, paintings, gilding, ivory and marble. The great
attraction of Mrs. Kirkpatrick's receptions were the nautches,
magnificently dressed, thanks to the generosity of the Resident.
Some of them wore a cargo of jewels worth L 30,000, and literally
shone from head to foot with diamonds and other precious stones.
The glorious times of the East India Company are beyond recall,
and no Residents, and even no native princes, could now afford to
be so "generous." India, this "most precious diamond of the British
crown," is utterly exhausted, like a pile of gold in the hands of
an alchemist, who thriftlessly spent it in the hope of finding the
philosopher's stone. Besides ruining themselves and the country,
the Anglo-Indians commit the greatest blunders, at least in two
points of their present Government system. These two points are:
first, the Western education they give to the higher classes; and,
secondly, the protection and maintenance of the rights of idol
worship. Neither of these systems is wise. By means of the first
they successfully replace the religious feelings of old India, which,
however false, had the great advantage of being sincere, by a
positive atheism amongst the young generation of the Brahmans;
and by the means of the second they flatter only the ignorant masses,
from whom nothing is to be feared under any circumstances. If the
patriotic feelings of the bulk of the population could possibly be
roused, the English would have been slaughtered long ago. The rural
populace is unarmed, it is true, but a crowd seeking revenge could
use the brass and stone idols, sent to India by thousands from
Birmingham, with as great success as if they were so many swords.
But, as it is, the masses of India are indifferent and harmless;
so that the only existing danger comes from the side of the educated
classes. And the English fail to see that the better the education
they give them, the more careful they must be to avoid reopening
the old wounds, always alive to new injury, in the heart of every
true Hindu. The Hindus are proud of the past of their country,
dreams of past glories are their only compensation for the bitter
present. The English education they receive only enables them to
learn that Europe was plunged in the darkness of the Stone Age,
when India was in the full growth of her splendid civilization.
And so the comparison of their past with their present is only the
more sad. This consideration never hinders the Anglo-Indians from
hurting the feelings of the Hindus. For instance, in the unanimous
opinion of travelers and antiquarians, the most interesting building
of Hyderabad is Chahar-Minar, a college that was built by Mohamed-
Kuli-Khan on the ruins of a still more ancient college. It is built
at the crossing of four streets, on four arches, which are so high
that loaded camels and elephants with their turrets pass through
freely. Over these arches rise the several stories of the college.
Each story once was destined for a separate branch of learning.
Alas! the times when India studied philosophy and astronomy at
the feet of her great sages are gone, and the English have transformed
the college itself into a warehouse. The hall, which served for
the study of astronomy, and was filled with quaint, medieval apparatus,
is now used for a depot of opium; and the hall of philosophy contains
huge boxes of liqueurs, rum and champagne, which are prohibited by
the Koran, as well as by the Brahmans.
We were so enchanted by what we heard about Hyderabad, that we
resolved to start thither the very next morning, when our ciceroni
and companions destroyed all our plans by a single word. This
word was: heat. During the hot season in Hyderabad the thermometer
reaches ninety-eight degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, and the
temperature of the water in the Indus is the temperature of the
blood. As to Upper Sindh, where the dryness of the air, and the
extreme aridity of the sandy soil reproduce the Sahara in miniature,
the usual shade temperature is one hundred and thirty degrees
Fahrenheit. No wonder the missionaries have no chance there. The
most eloquent of Dante's descriptions of hell could hardly produce
anything but a cooling effect on a populace who live perfectly
contented under these circumstances.
Calculating that there was no obstacle to our going to the Bagh
caves, and that going to Sindh was a perfect impossibility, we
recovered our equanimity. Then the general council decided that
we had better abandon all ideas of a predetermined plan, and travel
as fancy led us.
We dismissed our elephants, and next day, a little before sunset,
arrived at the spot where the Vagrey and Girna join. These are
two little rivers, quite famous in the annals of the Indian mythology,
and which are generally conspicuous by their absence, especially
in summer. At the opposite side of the river, there lay the
illustrious Bagh caves, with their four openings blinking in the
thick evening mist.
We thought of crossing to them immediately, by the help of a ferry
boat, but our Hindu friends and the boat-men interposed. The former
said that visiting these caves is dangerous even by daytime; because
all the neighborhood is full of beasts of prey and of tigers, who,
I concluded, are like the Bengali Babus, to be met with everywhere
in India. Before venturing into these caves, you must send a
reconnoitring party of torch-bearers and armed shikaris. As to
the boatmen, they protested on different grounds, but protested
strongly. They said that no Hindu would dare to approach these
caves after the sun set. No one but a Bellati would fancy that
Vagrey and Girna are ordinary rivers, for every Hindu knows they
are divine spouses, the god Shiva and his wife Parvati. This, in
the first instance; and in the second, the Bagh tigers are no
ordinary tigers either. The sahibs are totally mistaken. These
tigers are the servants of the Sadhus, of the holy miracle-workers,
who have haunted the caves now for many centuries, and who deign
sometimes to take the shape of a tiger. And neither the gods, nor
the Sadhus, nor the glamour, nor the true tigers are fond of being
disturbed in their nightly rest.
What could we say against all this? We cast one more sorrowful
look at the caves, and returned to our antediluvian carriages. The
Babu and Narayan said we must spend the night at the house of a
certain "chum" of the Babu, who resided in a small town, three
miles further on, and bearing the same name as the caves; and we
Many things in India are wonderful and unintelligible, but one of
the most wonderful and the most unintelligible, is the geographical
and the topographical disposition of the numberless territories of
this country. Political conjunctures in India seem to be
everlastingly playing the French game casse-tete, changing the
pattern, diminishing one part and adding to another. The land
that only yesterday belonged to this Raja or that Takur, is sure
to be found today in the hands of quite a different set of people.
For instance, we were in the Raj of Amjir in Malva, and we were
going to the little city of Bagh, which also belongs to Malva and
is included in the Amjir Raj. In the documents, Malva is included
in the independent possessions of Holkar; and nevertheless the
Amjir Raj does not belong to Tukuji-Rao-Holkar, but to the son of
the independent Raja of Amjir, who was hanged, "by inadvertence"
as we were assured, in 1857. The city, and the caves of Bagh,
very oddly belong to the Maharaja Sindya of Gwalior, who, besides,
does not own them personally, having made a kind of present of them,
and their nine thousand rupees of revenue, to some poor relation.
This poor relation, in his turn, does not enjoy the property in
the least, because a certain Rajput Takur stole it from him, and
will not consent to give it back. Bagh is situated on the road
from Gujerat to Malva, in the defile of Oodeypur, which is owned
accordingly by the Maharana of Oodeypur. Bagh itself is built on
the top of a woody hillock, and being disputed property does not
belong to any one in particular, properly speaking; but a small
fortress, and a bazaar in the centre of it are the private possessions
of a certain dhani; who, besides being the chieftain of the Bhimalah
tribe, was the personal "chum" of our Babu, and a "great thief and
highway robber," according to the assertions of the said Babu.
"But why do you intend taking us to the place of a man whom you
consider as a thief and a robber?" objected one of us timidly.
"He is a thief and a brigand," coolly answered the Bengali, "but
only in the political sense. Otherwise he is an excellent man,
and the truest of friends. Besides, if he does not help us, we
shall starve; the bazaar and everything in the shops belong to him."
These explanations of the Babu notwithstanding, we were glad to
learn that the "chum" in question was absent, and we were received
by a relation of his. The garden was put at our disposal, and
before our tents were pitched, we saw people coming from every
side of the garden, bringing us provisions. Having deposited what
he had brought, each of them, on leaving the tent, threw over his
shoulder a pinch of betel and soft sugar, an offering to the
"foreign bhutas," which were supposed to accompany us wherever we
went. The Hindus of our party asked us, very seriously, not to
laugh at this performance, saying it would be dangerous in this
No doubt they were right. We were in Central India, the very nest
of all kinds of superstitions, and were surrounded by Bhils. All
along the Vindya ridge, from Yama, on the west of the "dead city,"
the country is thickly populated by this most daring, restless and
superstitious of all the half-savage tribes of India.
The Orientalists think that the naive Bhils comes from the Sanskrit
root bhid, which means to separate. Sir J. Malcolm supposes
accordingly that the Bhils are sectarians, who separated from the
Brahmanical creed, and were excommunicated. All this looks very
probable, but their tribal traditions say something different. Of
course, in this case, as in every other, their history is strongly
entangled with mythology; and one has to go through a thick shrubbery
of fancy before reaching the tribe's genealogical tree.
The relation of the absent dhani, who spent the evening with us,
told us the following: The Bhils are the descendants of one of
the sons of Mahadeva, or Shiva, and of a fair woman, with blue
eyes and a white face, whom he met in some forest on the other
side of the Kalapani, "black waters," or ocean. This pair had
several sons, one of whom, as handsome as he was vicious, killed
the favorite ox of his grandfather Maha-deva, and was banished by
his father to the Jodpur desert. Banished to its remotest southern
corner, he married; and soon his descendants filled the whole
country. They scattered along the Vindya ridge, on the western
frontier of Malva and Kandesh; and, later, in the woody wilderness,
on the shores of the rivers Maha, Narmada and Tapti. And all of
them, inheriting the beauty of their forefather, his blue eyes
and fair complexion, inherited also his turbulent disposition
and his vice.
"We are thieves and robbers," naively explained the relative of
the Babu's "chum," "but we can't help it, because this is the
decree of our mighty forefather, the great Maha-deva-Shiva. Sending
his grandson to repent his sins in the desert, he said to him:
`Go, wretched murderer of my son and your brother, the ox Nardi;
go and live the life of an exile and a brigand, to be an everlasting
warning to your brethren!... ' These are the very words of the
great god. Now, do you think we could disobey his orders? The
least of our actions is always regulated by our Bhamyas--chieftains--
who are the direct descendants of Nadir-Sing, the first Bhil, the
child of our exiled ancestor, and being this, it is only natural
that the great god speaks to us through him."
Is not it strange that Apis, the sacred ox of the Egyptians, is
honored by the followers of Zoroaster, as well as by the Hindus?
The ox Nardi, the emblem of life in nature, is the son of the
creating father, or rather his life-giving breath. Ammianus
Marcellinus mentions, in one of his works, that there exists a
book which gives the exact age of Apis, the clue to the mystery
of creation and the cyclic calculations. The Brahmans also explain
the allegory of the ox Nardi by the continuation of life on our globe.
The "mediators" between Shiva and the Bhils possess such unrestricted
authority that the most awful crimes are accomplished at their
lightest word. The tribe have thought it necessary to decrease
their power to a certain extent by instituting a kind of council
in every village. This council is called tarvi, and tries to cool
down the hot-headed fancies of the dhanis, their brigand lords.
However, the word of the Bhils is sacred, and their hospitality
The history and the annals of the princes of Jodpur and Oodeypur
confirm the legend of the Bhil emigration from their primitive
desert, but how they happened to be there nobody knows. Colonel
Tod is positive that the Bhils, together with the Merases and the
Goands, are the aborigines of India, as well as the tribes who
inhabit the Nerbuda forests. But why the Bhils should be almost
fair and blue-eyed, whereas the rest of the hill-tribes are almost
African in type, is a question that is not answered by this statement.
The fact that all these aborigines call themselves Bhumaputra and
Vanaputra, sons of the earth and sons of the forest, when the
Rajputs, their first conquerors, call themselves Surya-vansa and
the Brahmans Indu-putras, descendants of the sun and the moon,
does not prove everything. It seems to me, that in the present
case, their appearance, which confirms their legends, is of much
greater value than philology. Dr. Clark, the author of Travels
in Scandinavia, is very logical in saying that, "by directing our
attention on the traces of the ancient superstitions of a tribe,
we shall find out who were its primitive forefathers much more easily
than by scientific examination of their tongue; the superstitions
are grafted on the very root, whereas the tongue is subjected to
all kinds of changes."
But, unfortunately, everything we know about the history of the
Bhils is reduced to the above-mentioned tradition, and to a few
ancient songs of their bards. These bards or bhattas live in Rajistan,
but visit the Bhils yearly, in order not to lose the leading thread
of the achievements of their countrymen. Their songs are history,
because the bhattas have existed from time immemorial, composing
their lays for future generations, for this is their hereditary
duty. And the songs of the remotest antiquity point to the lands
over the Kalapani as the place whence the Bhils came; that is to say,
some place in Europe. Some Orientalists, especially Colonel Tod,
seek to prove that the Rajputs, who conquered the Bhils, were
newcomers of Scythian origin, and that the Bhils are the true
aborigines. To prove this, they put forward some features common
to both peoples, Rajput and Scythian, for instance (1) the worship
of the sword, the lance, the shield and the horse; (2) the worship
of, and the sacrifice to, the sun (which, as far as I know, never
was worshiped by the Scythians); (3) the passion of gambling
(which again is as strong amongst the Chinese and the Japanese);
(4) the custom of drinking blood out of the skull of an enemy
(which is also practised by some aborigines of America), etc., etc.
I do not intend entering here on a scientific ethnological discussion;
and, besides, I am sure no one fails to see that the reasoning of
scientists sometimes takes a very strange turn when they set to
prove some favorite theory of theirs. It is enough to remember how
entangled and obscure is the history of the ancient Scythians to
abstain from drawing any positive conclusions whatsoever from it.
The tribes that go under one general denomination of Scythians were
many, and still it is impossible to deny that there is a good deal
of similitude between the customs of the old Scandinavians, worshipers
of Odin, whose land indeed was occupied by the Scythians more than
five hundred years B.C. and the customs of the Rajputs. But this
similitude gives as much right to the Rajputs to say that we are a
colony of Surya-vansas settled in the West as to us to maintain
that the Rajputs are the descendants of Scythians who emigrated
to the East. The Scythians of Herodotus and the Scythians of Ptolemy,
and some other classical writers, are two perfectly distinct
nationalities. Under Scythia, Herodotus means the extension of
land from the mouth of Danube to the Sea of Azoff, according to
Niebuhr; and to the mouth of Don, according to Rawlinson; whereas
the Scythia of Ptolemy is a country strictly Asiatic, including
the whole space between the river Volga and Serika, or China.
Besides this, Scythia was divided by the western Himalayas, which
the Roman writers call Imaus, into Scythia intra Imaum, and Scythia
extra Imaum. Given this lack of precision, the Rajputs may be
called the Scythians of Asia, and the Scythians the Rajputs of
Europe, with the same degree of likelihood. Pinkerton's opinion
is that European contempt for the Tartars would not be half so
strong if the European public learned how closely we are related
to them; that our forefathers came from northern Asia, and that
our primitive customs, laws and mode of living were the same as
theirs; in a word, that we are nothing but a Tartar colony...
Cimbri, Kelts and Gauls, who conquered the northern part of Europe,
are different names of the same tribe, whose origin is Tartary.
Who were the Goths, the Swedes, the Vandals, the Huns and the Franks,
if not separate swarms of the same beehive? The annals of Sweden
point to Kashgar as the fatherland of the Swedes. The likeness
between the languages of the Saxons and the Kipchak-Tartars is
striking; and the Keltic, which still exists in Brittany and in
Wales, is the best proof that their inhabitants are descendants
of the Tartar nation.
Whatever Pinkerton and others may say, the modern Rajput warriors
do not answer in the least the description Hippocrates gives us
of the Scythians. The "father of medicine" says: "The bodily
structure of these men is thick, coarse and stunted; their joints
are weak and flabby; they have almost no hair, and each of them
resembles the other." No man, who has seen the handsome, gigantic
warriors of Rajistan, with their abundant hair and beards, will
ever recognize this portrait drawn by Hippocrates as theirs.
Besides, the Scythians, whoever they may be, buried their dead,
which the Rajputs never did, judging by the records of their most
ancient MSS. The Scythians were a wandering nation, and are
described by Hesiod as "living in covered carts and feeding on
mare's milk." And the Rajputs have been a sedentary people from
time immemorial, inhabiting towns, and having their history at
least several hundred years before Christ--that is to say, earlier
than the epoch of Herodotus. They do celebrate the Ashvamedha,
the horse sacrifice; but will not touch mare's milk, and despise
all Mongolians. Herodotus says that the Scythians, who called
themselves Skoloti, hated foreigners, and never let any stranger
in their country; and the Rajputs are one of the most hospitable
peoples of the world. In the epoch of the wars of Darius, 516 B.C.,
the Scythians were still in their own district, about the mouth
of the Danube. And at the same epoch the Rajputs were already
known in India and had their own kingdom. As to the Ashvamedha,
which Colonel Tod thinks to be the chief illustration of his theory,
the custom of killing horses in honor of the sun is mentioned in
the Rig-Veda, as well as in the Aitareya-Brahmana. Martin Haug
states that the latter has probably been in existence since
But it strikes me that the digression from the Babu's chum to the
Scythians and the Rajputs of the antediluvian epoch threatens to
become too long, so I beg the reader's pardon and resume the
thread of my narrative.
The Banns Of Marriage
Next day, early in the morning, the local shikaris went under the
leadership of the warlike Akali, to hunt glamoured and real tigers
in the caves. It took them longer than we expected. The old Bhil,
who represented to us the absent dhani, proposed that in the
meanwhile we should witness a Brahmanical wedding ceremony. Needless
to say, we jumped at this. The ceremonies of betrothal and marriage
have not changed in India during the last two millenniums at least.
They are performed according to the directions of Manu, and the
old theme has no new variations. India's religious rites have
crystallized long ago. Whoever has seen a Hindu wedding in 1879,
saw it as it was celebrated in ancient Aryavarta many centuries ago.
A few days before we left Bombay we read in a small local newspaper
two announcements of marriages: the first the marriage of a
Brahman heiress, the second of a daughter of the fire-worshipers.
The first announcement was something to the following effect:
"The family of Bimbay Mavlankar, etc., etc., are preparing for a
happy event. This respectable member of our community, unlike
the rest of the less fortunate Brahmans of his caste, has found
a husband for his grand-daughter in a rich Gujerat family of the
same caste. The little Rama-bai is already five, her future
husband is seven. The wedding is to take place in two months
and promises to be brilliant."
The second announcement referred to an accomplished fact. It
appeared in a Parsi paper, which strongly insists on the necessity
of giving up "disgusting superannuated customs," and especially
the early marriage. It justly ridiculed a certain Gujerati newspaper,
which had just described in very pompous expressions a recent
wedding ceremony in Poona. The bridegroom, who had just entered
his sixth year "pressed to his heart a blushing bride of two and
a half!" The usual answers of this couple entering into matrimony
proved so indistinct that the Mobed had to address the questions
to their parents: "Are you willing to have him for your lawful
husband, O daughter of Zaratushta?" and "Are you willing to be
her husband, O son of Zoroaster?" "Everything went as well as it
could be expected," continued the newspaper; "the bridegroom was
led out of the room by the hand, and the bride, who was carried
away in arms, greeted the guests, not with smiles, but with a
tremendous howl, which made her forget the existence of such a
thing as a pocket-handkerchief, and remember only her feeding-bottle;
for the latter article she asked re-peatedly, half choked with sobs,
and throttled with the weight of the family diamonds. Taking
it all in all, it was a Parsi marriage, which shows the progress
of our speedily developing nation with the exactitude of a weather
glass," added the satirical newspaper.
Having read this we laughed heartily, though we did not give full
credit to this description, and thought it a good deal exaggerated.
We knew Parsi and Brahman families in which were husbands of ten
years of age; but had never heard as yet of a bride who was a
baby in arms.
It is not without reason that the Brahmans are fervent upholders
of the ancient law which prohibits to everyone, except the
officiating Brahmans, the study of Sanskrit and the reading of
the Vedas. The Shudras and even the high-born Vaishyas were in
olden times to be executed for such an offence. The secret of
this rigour lies in the fact that the Vedas do not permit matrimony
for women under fifteen to twenty years of age, and for men under
twenty-five, or even thirty. Eager above all that every religious
ceremony should fill their pockets, the Brahmans never stopped at
disfiguring their ancient sacred literature; and not to be caught,
they pronounced its study accursed. Amongst other "criminal
inventions," to use the expression of Swami Dayanand, there is a
text in the Brahmanical books, which contradicts everything that
is to be found in the Vedas on this particular matter: I speak
of the Kudva Kunbis, the wedding season of all the agricultural
classes of Central Asia. This season is to be celebrated once in
every twelve years, but it appears to be a field from which Messieurs
les Brahmans gathered the most abundant harvest. At this epoch,
all the mothers have to seek audiences from the goddess Mata, the
great mother--of course through her rightful oracles the Brahmans.
Mata is the special patroness of all the four kinds of marriages
practised in India: the marriages of adults, of children, of babies,
and of specimens of humanity that are as yet to be born.
The latter is the queerest of all, because the feelings it excites
are so very like gambling. In this case, the marriage ceremony
is celebrated between the mothers of the future children. Many a
curious incident is the result of these matrimonial parodies. But
a true Brahman will never allow the derision of fate to shake his
dignity, and the docile population never will doubt the infallibility
of these "elect of the gods." An open antagonism to the Brahmanical
institutions is more than rare; the feelings of reverence and
dread the masses show to the Brahmans are so blind and so sincere,
that an outsider cannot help smiling at them and respecting them
at the same time.
If both the mothers have children of the same sex, it will not
upset the Brahman in the least; he will say this was the will of
the goddess Mata, it shows that she desires the new-born babies to
be two loving brothers, or two loving sisters, as the case may be,
in future. And if the children grow up, they will be acknowledged
heirs to the properties of both mothers. In this case, the Brahman
breaks the bonds of the marriage by the order of the goddess, is
paid for doing so, and the whole affair is dropped altogether. But
if the children are of different sexes these bonds cannot be broken,
even if they are born cripples or idiots.
While I am dealing with the family life of India, I had better
mention some other features, not to return to them any more. No
Hindu has the right to remain single. The only exceptions are, in
case the child is destined to monastic life from the first days
of his existence, and in case the child is consecrated to the
service of one of the gods of the Trimurti even before he is born.
Religion insists on matrimony for the sake of having a son, whose
duty it will be to perform every prescribed rite, in order that
his departed father may enter Swarga, or paradise. Even the caste
of Brahmacharyas, who take vows of chastity, but take a part and
interest in worldly life--and so are the unique lay-celibates of
India--are bound to adopt sons. The rest of the Hindus must
remain in matrimony till the age of forty; after which they earn
the right to leave the world, and to seek salvation, leading an
ascetic life in some jungle. If a member of some Hindu family
happens to be afflicted from birth with some organic defect, this
will not be an impediment to his marrying, on the condition that
his wife should be also a cripple, if she belongs to the same caste.
The defects of husband and wife must be different: if he is blind,
she must be hump-backed or lame, and vice versa. But if the young
man in question is prejudiced, and wants a healthy wife, he must
condescend to make a mesalliance; he must stoop to choose a wife
in a caste that is exactly one degree lower than his own. But in
this case his kinsmen and associates will not acknowledge her;
the parvenue will not be received on any conditions whatever.
Besides, all these exceptional instances depend entirely on the
family Guru--on the priest who is inspired by the gods.
All the above holds good as far as the men are concerned; but
with the women it is quite different.
Only the nautches--dancing girls consecrated to gods, and living
in temples--can be said to be free and happy. Their occupation
is hereditary, but they are vestals and daughters of vestals,
however strange this may sound to a European ear. But the notions
of the Hindus, especially on questions of morality, are quite
independent, and even anti-Western, if I may use this expression.
No one is more severe and exacting in the questions of feminine
honor and chastity; but the Brahmans proved to be more cunning
than even the Roman augurs. Rhea Sylvia, for instance, the mother
of Romulus and Remus, was buried alive by the ancient Romans, in
spite of the god Mars taking an active part in her faux pas. Numa
and Tiberius took exceedingly good care that the good morals of
their priestesses should not become merely nominal. But the vestals
on the banks of the Ganges and the Indus understand the question
differently from those on the banks of the Tiber. The intimacy
of the nautch-girls with the gods, which is generally accepted,
cleanses them from every sin and makes them in every one's eyes
irreproachable and infallible. A nautcha cannot sin, in spite of
the crowd of the "celestial musicians" who swarm in every pagoda,
in the form of baby-vestals and their little brothers. No virtuous
Roman matron was ever so respected as the pretty little nautcha.
This great reverence for the happy "brides of the gods" is especially
striking in the purely native towns of Central India, where the
population has preserved intact their blind faith in the Brahmans.
Every nautcha can read, and receives the highest Hindu education.
They all read and write in Sanskrit, and study the best literature
of ancient India, and her six chief philosophies, but especially
music, singing and dancing. Besides these "godborn" priestesses
of the pagodas, there are also public nautches, who, like the
Egyptian almeas, are within the reach of ordinary mortals, not
only of gods; they also are in most cases women of a certain culture.
But the fate of an honest woman of Hindostan is quite different;
and a bitter and incredibly unjust fate it is. The life of a
thoroughly good woman, especially if she happens to possess warm
faith and unshaken piety, is simply a long chain of fatal misfortunes.
And the higher her family and social position, the more wretched is
her life. Married women are so afraid of resembling the professional
dancing girls, that they cannot be persuaded to learn anything the
latter are taught. If a Brahman woman is rich her life is spent
in demoralizing idleness; if she is poor, so much the worse, her
earthly existence is concentrated in monotonous performances of
mechanical rites. There is no past, and no future for her; only
a tedious present, from which there is no possible escape. And
this only if everything be well, if her family be not visited by
sad losses. Needless to say that, amongst Brahman women, marriage
is not a question of free choice, and still less of affection.
Her choice of a husband is restricted by the caste to which her
father and mother happen to belong; and so, to find a suitable
match for a girl is a matter of great difficulty, as well as of
great expense. In India, the high-caste woman is not bought, but
she has to buy the right to get married. Accordingly, the birth
of a girl is not a joy, but a sorrow, especially if her parents
are not rich. She must be married not later than when she is
seven or eight; a little girl of ten is an old maid in India,
she is a discredit to her parents and is the miser-able butt of
all her more fortunate contemporaries.
One of the few noble achievements of Englishmen in India which
have succeeded is the decrease of infanticide, which some time
ago was a daily practice, and still is not quite got rid of. Little
girls were killed by their parents everywhere in India; but this
dreadful custom was especially common amongst the tribes of Jadej,
once so powerful in Sindh, and now reduced to petty brigandage.
Probably these tribes were the first to spread this heartless practice.
Obligatory marriage for little girls is a comparatively recent
invention, and it alone is responsible for the parents' decision
rather to see them dead than unmarried. The ancient Aryans knew
nothing of it. Even the ancient Brahmanical literature shows that,
amongst the pure Aryans, woman enjoyed the same privileges as man.
Her voice was listened to by the statesmen; she was free either
to choose a husband, or to remain single. Many a woman's name
plays an important part in the chronicles of the ancient Aryan land;
many women have come down to posterity as eminent poets, astronomers,
philosophers, and even sages and lawyers.
But with the invasion of the Persians, in the seventh century, and
later on of the fanatical, all-destroying Mussulmans, all this
changed. Woman became enslaved, and the Brahmans did everything
to humiliate her. In towns, the position of the Hindu woman is
still worse than amongst agricultural classes.
The wedding ceremonies are very complicated and numerous. They
are divided into three groups: the rites before the wedding;
the rites during the ceremony; and the rites after the celebration
has taken place. The first group consists of eleven ceremonies:
the asking in marriage; the comparison of the two horoscopes;
the sacrifice of a goat; the fixing of a propitious day; the
building of the altar; the purchase of the sacred pots for
household use; the invitation of guests; the sacrifices to the
household gods; mutual presents and so on. All this must be
accomplished as a religious duty, and is full of entangled rites.
As soon as a little girl in some Hindu family is four years old,
her father and mother send for the family Guru, give him her
horoscope, drawn up previously by the astrologer of their caste
(a very important post), and send the Guru to this or that inhabitant
of the place who is known to have a son of appropriate age. The
father of the little boy has to put the horoscope on the altar
before the family gods and to answer: "I am well disposed towards
the Panigrhana; let Rudra help us." The Guru must ask when the
union is to take place, after which he is bowed out. A few days
later the father of the little boy takes the horoscope of his son
as well as of the little girl to the chief astrologer. If the
latter finds them propitious to the intended marriage, it will
take place; if not, his decision is immediately sent to the
father of the little girl, and the whole affair is dropped. If
the astrologer's opinion is favorable, however, the bargain is
concluded on the spot. The astrologer offers a cocoa-nut and a
handful of sugar to the father, after which nothing can be altered;
otherwise a Hindu vendetta will be handed down from generation to
generation. After the obligatory goat-sacrifice, the couple are
irrevocably betrothed, and the astrologer fixes the day of the wedding.
The sacrifice of the goat is very interesting, so I am going to
describe it in detail.
A child of the male sex is sent to invite several married ladies,
old women of twenty or twenty-five, to witness the worship of the
Lares and Penates. Each family has a household goddess of its own--
which is not impossible, since the Hindu gods number thirty-three
crores. On the eve of the sacrificial day, a kid is brought into
the house, and all the family sleep round him. Next morning, the
reception hall in the lower story is made ready for the ceremony.
The floor is thickly covered with cow-dung, and, right in the
middle of the room a square is traced with white chalk, in which
is placed a high pedestal, with the statue of the goddess. The
patriarch of the family brings the goat, and, holding him by the
horns, lowers his head to salute the goddess. After this, the
"old" and young women sing marriage hymns, tie the legs of the goat,
cover his head with red powder, and make a lamp smoke under his nose,
to banish the evil spirits from round him. When all this is done,
the female element puts itself out of the way, and the patriarch
comes again upon the stage. He treacherously puts a ration of
rice before the goat, and as soon as the victim becomes innocently
absorbed in gratifying his appetite, the old man chops his head
off with a single stroke of his sword, and bathes the goddess in
the smoking blood coming from the head of the animal, which he
holds in his right arm, over the idol. The women sing in chorus,
and the ceremony of betrothal is over.
The ceremonies with the astrologers, and the exchange of presents,
are too long to be described. I shall mention only, that in all
these ceremonies the astrologer plays the double part of an augur
and a family lawyer. After a general invocation to the elephant-
headed god Ganesha, the marriage contract is written on the reverse
of the horoscopes and sealed, and a general blessing is pronounced
over the assembly.
Needless to say that all these ceremonies had been accomplished
long ago in the family to whose marriage party we were invited in
Bagh. All these rites are sacred, and most probably we, being
mere strangers, would not have been allowed to witness them. We
saw them all later on in Benares--thanks to the intercession of
When we arrived on the spot, where the Bagh cere-mony was celebrated,
the festivity was at its height. The bridegroom was not more than
fourteen years old, while the bride was only ten. Her small nose
was adorned with a huge golden ring with some very brilliant stone,
which dragged her nostril down. Her face looked comically piteous,
and sometimes she cast furtive glances at us. The bridegroom, a
stout, healthy-looking boy, attired in cloth of gold and wearing
the many storied Indra hat, was on horseback, surrounded by a whole
crowd of male relations.
The altar, especially erected for this occasion, presented a queer
sight. Its regulation height is three times the length of the
bride's arm from the shoulder down to the middle finger. Its
materials are bricks and white-washed clay. Forty-six earthen
pots painted with red, yellow and green stripes--the colors of
the Trimurti--rose in two pyramids on both sides of the "god of
marriages" on the altar, and all round it a crowd of little
married girls were busy grinding ginger. When it was reduced to
powder the whole crowd rushed on the bridegroom, dragged him from
his horse, and, having undressed him, began rubbing him with wet
ginger. As soon as the sun dried him he was dressed again by
some of the little ladies, whilst one part of them sang and the
other sprinkled his head with water from lotus leaves twisted into
tubes. We understood that this was a delicate attention to the
We were also told that the whole of the previous night had been
given up to the worship of various spirits. The last rites, begun
weeks ago, were hurriedly brought to an end during this last night.
Invocations to Ganesha, to the god of marriages; to the gods of
the elements, water, fire, air and earth; to the goddess of the
smallpox and other illnesses; to the spirits of ancestors and
planetary spirits, to the evil spirits, good spirits, family spirits,
and so on, and so on. Suddenly our ears were struck by strains
of music.... Good heavens! what a dreadful symphony it was! The
ear-splitting sounds of Indian tom-toms, Tibetan drunis, Singalese
pipes, Chinese trumpets, and Burmese gongs deafened us on all sides,
awakening in our souls hatred for humanity and humanity's inventions.
"De tous les bruits du monde celui de la musique est le plus
desagreable!" was my ever-recurring thought. Happily, this agony
did not last long, and was replaced by the choral singing of
Brahmans and nautches, which was very original, but perfectly bearable.
The wedding was a rich one, and so the "vestals" appeared in state.
A moment of silence, of restrained whispering, and one of them, a
tall, handsome girl with eyes literally filling half her forehead,
began approaching one guest after the other in perfect silence,
and rubbing their faces with her hand, leaving traces of sandal
and saffron powders. She glided towards us also, noiselessly
moving over the dusty road with her bare feet; and before we
realized what she was doing she had daubed me as well as the colonel
and Miss X---, which made the latter sneeze and wipe her face for
at least ten minutes, with loud but vain utterances of indignation.
The Babu and Mulji offered their faces to the little hand, full
of saffron, with smiles of condescending generosity. But the
indomitable Narayan shrank from the vestal so unexpectedly at the
precise moment when, with fiery glances at him, she stood on tiptoe
to reach his face, that she quite lost countenance and sent a full
dose of powder over his shoulder, whilst he turned away from her
with knitted brow. Her forehead also showed several threatening
lines, but in a moment she overcame her anger and glided towards
Ram-Runjit-Das, sparkling with engaging smiles. But here she met
with still less luck; offended at once in his monotheism and his
chastity, the "God's warrior" pushed the vestal so unceremoniously
that she nearly upset the elaborate pot-decoration of the altar.
A dissatisfied murmur ran through the crowd, and we were preparing
to be condemned to shameful banishment for the sins of the warlike
Sikh, when the drums sounded again and the procession moved on.
In front of everyone drove the trumpeters and the drummers in a car
gilded from top to bottom, and dragged by bullocks loaded with
garlands of flowers; next after them walked a whole detachment
of pipers, and then a third body of musicians on horseback, who
frantically hammered huge gongs. After them proceeded the cortege
of the bridegroom's and the bride's relations on horses adorned
with rich harness, feathers and flowers; they went in pairs. They
were followed by a regiment of Bhils in full disarmour--because no
weapons but bows and arrows had been left to them by the English
Government. All these Bhils looked as if they had tooth-ache,
because of the odd way they have of arranging the ends of their
white pagris. After them walked clerical Brahmans, with aromatic
tapers in their hands and surrounded by the flitting battalion of
nautches, who amused themselves all the way by graceful glissades
and pas. They were followed by the lay Brahmans--the "twice born."
The bridegroom rode on a handsome horse; on both sides walked
two couples of warriors, armed with yaks' tails to wave the flies
away. They were accompanied by two more men on each side with
silver fans. The bridegroom's group was wound up by a naked
Brahman, perched on a donkey and holding over the head of the boy
a huge red silk umbrella. After him a car loaded with a thousand
cocoa-nuts and a hundred bamboo baskets, tied together by a red
rope. The god who looks after marriages drove in melancholy
isolation on the vast back of an elephant, whose mahout led him
by a chain of flowers. Our humble party modestly advanced just
behind the elephant's tail.
The performance of rites on the way seemed endless.
We had to stop before every tree, every pagoda, every sacred tank
and bush, and at last before a sacred cow. When we came back to
the house of the bride it was four in the afternoon, and we had
started a little after six in the morning. We all were utterly
exhausted, and Miss X--- literally threatened to fall asleep on
her feet. The indignant Sikh had left us long ago, and had persuaded
Mr. Y--- and Mulji--whom the colonel had nicknamed the "mute general"
--to keep him company. Our respected president was bathed in his
own perspiration, and even Narayan the unchangeable yawned and
sought consolation in a fan. But the Babu was simply astonishing.
After a nine hours' walk under the sun, with his head unprotected,
he looked fresher than ever, without a drop of sweat on his dark
satin-like forehead. He showed his white teeth in an eternal smile,
and chaffed us all, reciting the "Diamond Wedding" of Steadman.
We struggled against our fatigue in our desire to wit-ness the
last ceremony, after which the woman is forever cut off from the
external world. It was just going to begin; and we kept our eyes
and ears wide open.
The bridegroom and the bride were placed before the altar. The
officiating Brahman tied their hands with some kus-kus grass, and
led them three times round the altar. Then their hands were untied,
and the Brahman mumbled a mantram. When he had finished, the
boy husband lifted his diminutive bride and carried her three
times round the altar in his arms, then again three turns round
the altar, but the boy preceding the girl, and she following him
like an obedient slave. When this was over, the bridegroom was
placed on a high chair by the entrance door, and the bride brought
a basin of water, took off his shoes, and, having washed his feet,
wiped them with her long hair. We learned that this was a very
ancient custom. On the right side of the bridegroom sat his mother.
The bride knelt before her also, and, having performed the same
operation over her feet, she retired to the house. Then her mother
came out of the crowd and repeated the same ceremony, but without
using her hair as a towel. The young couple were married. The
drums and the tom-toms rolled once more; and half-deaf we started
In the tent we found the Akali in the middle of a sermon, delivered
for the edification of the "mute general" and Mr. Y---. He was
explaining to them the advantages of the Sikh religion, and comparing
it with the faith of the "devil-worshipers," as he called the Brahmans.
It was too late to go to the caves, and, besides, we had had enough
sights for one day. So we sat down to rest, and to listen to the
words of wisdom falling from the lips of the "God's warrior." In
my humble opinion, he was right in more than one thing; in his
most imaginative moments Satan himself could not have invented
anything more unjust and more refinedly cruel than what was invented
by these "twice-born" egotists in their relation to the weaker sex.
An unconditioned civil death awaits her in case of widowhood--even
if this sad fate befalls her when she is two or three years old.
It is of no importance for the Brahmans if the marriage never
actually took place; the goat sacrifice, at which the personal
presence of the little girl is not even required--she being
represented by the wretched victim--is considered binding for her.
As for the man, not only is he permitted to have several lawful
wives at a time, but he is even required by the law to marry again
if his wife dies. Not to be unjust, I must mention that, with the
exception of some vicious and depraved Rajas, we never heard of a
Hindu availing himself of this privilege, and having more than
At the present time, the whole of orthodox India is shaken by the
struggle in favor of the remarriage of widows. This agitation
was begun in Bombay, by a few reformers, and opponents of Brahmans.
It is already ten years since Mulji-Taker-Sing and others raised
this question; but we know only of three or four men who have
dared as yet to marry widows. This struggle is carried on in
silence and secrecy, but nevertheless it is fierce and obstinate.
In the meanwhile, the fate of the widow is what the Brahmans wish
it to be. As soon as the corpse of her husband is burned the widow
must shave her head, and never let it grow again as long as she
lives. Her bangles, necklaces and rings are broken to pieces and
burned, together with her hair and her husband's remains. During
the rest of her life she must wear nothing but white if she was
less than twenty-five at her husband's death, and red if she was
older. Temples, religious ceremonies, society, are closed to her
for ever. She has no right to speak to any of her relations, and
no right to eat with them. She sleeps, eats and works separately;
her touch is considered impure for seven years. If a man, going
out on business, meets a widow, he goes home again, abandoning
every pursuit, because to see a widow is accounted an evil omen.
In the past all this was seldom practised, and concerned only
the rich widows, who refused to be burned; but now, since the
Brahmans have been caught in the false interpretation of the Vedas,
with the criminal intention of appropriating the widows' wealth,
they insist on the fulfilment of this cruel precept, and make what
once was the exception the rule. They are powerless against
British law, and so they revenge themselves on the innocent and
helpless women, whom fate has deprived of their natural protectors.
Professor Wilson's demonstration of the means by which the Brahmans
distorted the sense of the Vedas, in order to justify the practice
of widow-burning, is well worth mentioning. During the many
centuries that this terrible practice prevailed, the Brahmans
had appealed to a certain Vedic text for their justification,
and had claimed to be rigidly fulfilling the institutes of Manu,
which contain for them the interpretation of Vedic law. When
the East India Company's Government first turned its attention
to the suppression of suttee, the whole country, from Cape Comorin
to the Himalayas, rose in protest, under the influence of the
Brahmans. "The English promised not to interfere in our religious
affairs, and they must keep their word!" was the general outcry.
Never was India so near revolution as in those days. The English
saw the danger and gave up the task. But Professor Wilson, the
best Sanskritist of the time, did not consider the battle lost.
He applied himself to the study of the most ancient MSS., and
gradually became convinced that the alleged precept did not exist
in the Vedas; though in the Laws of Manu it was quite distinct,
and had been translated accordingly by T. Colebrooke and other
Orientalists. An attempt to prove to the fanatic population that
Manu's interpretation was wrong would have been equivalent to an
attempt to reduce water to powder. So Wilson set himself to
study Manu, and to compare the text of the Vedas with the text
of this law-giver. This was the result of his labors: the Rig
Veda orders the Brahman to place the widow side by side with the
corpse, and then, after the performance of certain rites, to lead
her down from the funeral pyre and to sing the following verse
from Grhya Sutra:
Arise, O woman! return to the world of the living!
Having gone to sleep by the dead, awake again!
Long enough thou hast been a faithful wife
To the one who made thee mother of his children.
Then those present at the burning were to rub their eyes with
collyrium, and the Brahman to address to them the following verse:
Approach, you married women, not widows,
With your husbands bring ghi and butter.
Let the mothers go up to the womb first,
Dressed in festive garments and costly adornments.
The line before the last was misinterpreted by the Brahmans in
the most skillful way. In Sanskrit it reads as follows:
Arohantu janayo yonim agre.....
Yonina agre literally means to the womb first. Having changed
only one letter of the last word agre, "first," in Sanskrit [script],
the Brahmans wrote instead agneh, "fire's," in Sanskrit [script],
and so acquired the right to send the wretched widows yonina agneh--
to the womb of fire. It is difficult to find on the face of the
world another such fiendish deception.
The Vedas never permitted the burning of the widows, and there
is a place in Taittiriya-Aranyaka, of the Yajur Veda, where the
brother of the deceased, or his disciple, or even a trusted friend,
is recommended to say to the widow, whilst the pyre is set on fire:
"Arise, O woman! do not lie down any more beside the lifeless corpse;
return to the world of the living, and become the wife of the one
who holds you by the hand, and is willing to be your husband." This
verse shows that during the Vedic period the remarriage of widows
was allowed. Besides, in several places in the ancient books,
pointed out to us by Swami Dayanand, we found orders to the widows
"to keep the ashes of the husband for several months after his
death and to perform over them certain final rituals."
However, in spite of the scandal created by Professor Wilson's
discovery, and of the fact that the Brahmans were put to shame
before the double authority of the Vedas and of Manu, the custom
of centuries proved so strong that some pious Hindu women still
burn themselves whenever they can. Not more than two years ago
the four widows of Yung-Bahadur, the chief minister of Nepal,
insisted upon being burned. Nepal is not under the British rule,
and so the Anglo-Indian Government had no right to interfere.
The Caves Of Bagh
At four o'clock in the morning we crossed the Vagrey and Girna,
or rather, comme coloris local, Shiva and Parvati. Probably,
following the bad example of the average mortal husband and wife,
this divine couple were engaged in a quarrel, even at this early
hour of the day. They were frightfully rough, and our ferry,
striking on something at the bottom, nearly upset us into the cold
embrace of the god and his irate better half.
Like all the cave temples of India, the Bagh caverns are dug out
in the middle of a vertical rock--with the intention, as it seems
to me, of testing the limits of human patience. Taking into
consideration that such a height does not prevent either glamour
or tigers reaching the caves, I cannot help thinking that the sole
aim of the ascetic builders was to tempt weak mortals into the
sin of irritation by the inaccessibility of their airy abodes.
Seventy-two steps, cut out in the rock, and covered with thorny
weeds and moss, are the beginning of the ascent to the Bagh caves.
Footmarks worn in the stone through centuries spoke of the
numberless pilgrims who had come here before us. The roughness
of the steps, with deep holes here and there, and thorns, added
attractions to this ascent; join to this a number of mountain
springs exuding through the pores of the stone, and no one will
be astonished if I say that we simply felt faint under the weight
of life and our archeological difficulties. The Babu, who, taking
off his slippers, scampered over the thorns as unconcernedly as
if he had hoofs instead of vulnerable human heels, laughed at the
"helplessness of Europeans," and only made us feel worse.
But on reaching the top of the mountain we stopped grumbling,
realizing at the first glance that we should receive our reward.
We saw a whole enfilade of dark caves, through regular square
openings, six feet wide. We felt awestruck with the gloomy majesty
of this deserted temple. There was a curious ceiling over the
square platform that once served as a verandah; there was also
a portico with broken pillars hanging over our heads; and two
rooms on each side, one with a broken image of some flat-nosed
goddess, the other containing a Ganesha; but we did not stop to
examine all this in detail. Ordering the torches to be lit, we
stepped into the first hall.
A damp breath as of the tomb met us. At our first word we all
shivered: a hollow, prolonged echoing howl, dying away in the
distance, shook the ancient vaults and made us all lower our voices
to a whisper. The torch-bearers shrieked "Devi!... Devi!... " and,
kneeling in the dust, performed a fervent puja in honor of the
voice of the invisible goddess of the caves, in spite of the angry
protestations of Narayan and of the "God's warrior."
The only light of the temple came from the entrance, and so two-thirds
of it looked still gloomier by contrast. This hall, or the central
temple, is very spacious, eighty--four feet square, and sixteen
feet high. Twenty-four massive pillars form a square, six pillars
at each side, including the corner ones, and four in the middle
to prop up the centre of the ceiling; otherwise it could not be
kept from falling, as the mass of the mountain which presses on
it from the top is much greater than in Karli or Elephanta.
There are at least three different styles in the architecture of
these pillars. Some of them are grooved in spirals, gradually
and imperceptibly changing from round to sixteen sided, then
octagonal and square. Others, plain for the first third of their
height, gradually finished under the ceiling by a most elaborate
display of ornamentation, which reminds one of the Corinthian style.
The third with a square plinth and semi-circular friezes. Taking
it all in all, they made a most original and graceful picture.
Mr. Y---, an architect by profession, assured us that he never
saw anything more striking. He said he could not imagine by the
aid of what instruments the ancient builders could accomplish
The construction of the Bagh caves, as well as of all the cave
temples of India, whose history is lost in the darkness of time,
is ascribed by the European archeologists to the Buddhists, and
by the native tradition to the Pandu brothers. Indian paleography
protests in every one of its new discoveries against the hasty
conclusions of the Orientalists. And much may be said against
the intervention of Buddhists in this particular case. But I shall
indicate only one particular. The theory which declares that all
the cave temples of India are of Buddhist origin is wrong. The
Orientalists may insist as much as they choose on the hypothesis
that the Buddhists became again idol-worshipers; it will explain
nothing, and contradicts the history of both Buddhists and Brahmans.
The Brahmans began persecuting and banishing the Buddhists precisely
because they had begun a crusade against idol-worship. The few
Buddhist communities who remained in India and deserted the pure,
though, maybe--for a shallow observer--somewhat atheistic teachings
of Gautama Siddhartha, never joined Brahmanism, but coalesced with
the Jainas, and gradually became absorbed in them. Then why not
suppose that if, amongst hundreds of Brahmanical gods, we find
one statue of Buddha, it only shows that the masses of half-converts
to Buddhism added this new god to the ancient Brahmanical temple.
This would be much more sensible than to think that the Buddhists
of the two centuries before and after the beginning of the Christian
era dared to fill their temples with idols, in defiance of the
spirit of the reformer Gau-tama. The figures of Buddha are easily
discerned in the swarm of heathen gods; their position is always
the same, and the palm of its right hand is always turned upwards,
blessing the worshipers with two fingers. We examined almost
every remarkable vihara of the so-called Buddhist temples, and
never met with one statue of Buddha which could not have been
added in a later epoch than the construction of the temple; it
does not matter whether it was a year or a thousand years later.
Not being perfectly self-confident in this matter, we always took
the opinion of Mr. Y---, who, as I said before, was an experienced
architect; and he invariably came to the conclusion that the
Brahmanical idols formed a harmonic and genuine part of the whole,
pillars, decorations, and the general style of the temple; whereas
the statue of Buddha was an additional and discordant patch. Out
of thirty or forty caves of Ellora, all filled with idols, there
is only one, the one called the Temple of the Tri-Lokas, which
contains nothing but statues of Buddha, and of Ananda, his favourite
disciple. Of course, in this case it would be perfectly right
to think it is a Buddhist vihara.
Most probably, some of the Russian archeologists will protest
against the opinions I maintain, that is to say, the opinions of
the Hindu archeologists, and will treat me as an ignoramus,
outraging science. In self-defence, and in order to show how
unstable a ground to base one's opinions upon are the conclusions
even of such a great authority as Mr. Fergusson, I must mention
the following instance. This great architect, but very mediocre
archeologist, proclaimed at the very beginning of his scientific
career that "all the cave temples of Kanara, without exception,
were built between the fifth and the tenth centuries." This theory
became generally accepted, when suddenly Dr. Bird found a brass
plate in a certain Kanara monument, called a tope. The plate
announced in pure and distinct Sanskrit that this tope was erected
as a homage to the old temple, at the beginning of 245 of the
Hindu astronomical (Samvat) era. According to Prinsep and Dr.
Stevenson, this date coincides with 189 A.D., and so it clearly
settles the question of when the tope was built. But the question
of the antiquity of the temple itself still remains open, though
the inscription states that it was an old temple in 189 A.D., and
contradicts the above-quoted opinion of Fergusson. However, this
important discovery failed to shake Fergusson's equanimity. For
him, ancient inscriptions are of no importance, because, as he says,
"the antiquity of ruins must not be fixed on the basis of inscriptions,
but on the basis of certain architectural canons and rules,"
discovered by Mr. Fergusson in person. Fiat hypothesis, ruat coelum!
And now I shall return to my narrative.
Straight before the entrance a door leads to another hall, which
is oblong, with hexagonal pillars and niches, containing statues
in a tolerable state of preservation; goddesses ten feet and gods
nine feet high. After this hall there is a room with an altar,
which is a regular hexagon, having sides each three feet long,
and protected by a cupola cut in the rock. Nobody was admitted
here, except the initiates of the mysteries of the adytum. All
round this room there are about twenty priests' cells. Absorbed
in the examination of the altar, we did not notice the absence
of the colonel, till we heard his loud voice in the distance
calling to us:
"I have found a secret passage.... Come along, let us find where
it leads to!"
Torch in hand, the colonel was far ahead of us, and very eager to
proceed; but each of us had a little plan of his own, and so we
were reluctant to obey his summons. The Babu took upon himself
to answer for the whole party:
"Take care, colonel. This passage leads to the den of the glamour....
Mind the tigers!"
But once fairly started on the way to discoveries, our president
was not to be stopped. Nolens volens we followed him.
He was right; he had made a discovery; and on entering the cell
we saw a most unexpected tableau. By the opposite wall stood two
torch-bearers with their flaming torches, as motionless as if they
were transformed into stone caryatides; and from the wall, about
five feet above the ground, protruded two legs clad in white trousers.
There was no body to them; the body had disappeared, and but that
the legs were shaken by a convulsive effort to move on, we might
have thought that the wicked goddess of this place had cut the
colonel into two halves, and having caused the upper half instantly
to evaporate, had stuck the lower half to the wall, as a kind of trophy.
"What is become of you, Mr. President? Where are you?" were our
Instead of an answer, the legs were convulsed still more violently,
and soon disappeared completely, after which we heard the voice
of the colonel, as if coming through a long tube:
"A room... a secret cell.... Be quick! I see a whole row of rooms....
Confound it! my torch is out! Bring some matches and another torch!"
But this was easier said than done. The torch-bearers refused to
go on; as it was, they were already frightened out of their wits.
Miss X--- glanced with apprehension at the wall thickly covered
with soot and then at her pretty gown. Mr. Y--- sat down on a
broken pillar and said he would go no farther, preferring to have
a quiet smoke in the company of the timid torch-bearers.
There were several vertical steps cut in the wall; and on the
floor we saw a large stone of such a curiously irregular shape
that it struck me that it could not be natural. The quick-eyed
Babu was not long in discovering its peculiarities, and said he
was sure "it was the stopper of the secret passage." We all
hurried to examine the stone most minutely, and discovered that,
though it imitated as closely as possible the irregularity of the
rock, its under surface bore evident traces of workmanship and
had a kind of hinge to be easily moved. The hole was about three
feet high, but not more than two feet wide.
The muscular "God's warrior" was the first to follow the colonel.
He was so tall that when he stood on a broken pillar the opening
came down to the middle of his breast, and so he had no difficulty
in transporting himself to the upper story. The slender Babu
joined him with a single monkey-like jump. Then, with the Akali
pulling from above and Narayan pushing from below, I safely made
the passage, though the narrowness of the hole proved most
disagreeable, and the roughness of the rock left considerable
traces on my hands. However trying archeological explorations
may be for a person afflicted by an unusually fine presence, I
felt perfectly confident that with two such Hercules-like helpers
as Narayan and Ram-Runjit-Das the ascent of the Himalayas would
be perfectly possible for me. Miss X--- came next, under the
escort of Mulji, but Mr. Y--- stayed behind.
The secret cell was a room of twelve feet square. Straight above
the black hole in the floor there was another in the ceiling, but
this time we did not discover any "stopper." The cell was perfectly
empty with the exception of black spiders as big as crabs. Our
apparition, and especially the bright light of the torches, maddened
them; panic-stricken they ran in hundreds over the walls, rushed
down, and tumbled on our heads, tearing their thin ropes in their
inconsiderate haste. The first movement of Miss X--- was to kill
as many as she could. But the four Hindus protested strongly and
unanimously. The old lady remonstrated in an offended voice:
"I thought that at least you, Mulji, were a reformer, but you are
as superstitious as any idol-worshiper."
"Above everything I am a Hindu," answered the "mute general." "And
the Hindus, as you know, consider it sinful before nature and
before their own consciences to kill an animal put to flight by
the strength of man, be it even poisonous. As to the spiders, in
spite of their ugliness, they are perfectly harmless."
"I am sure all this is because you think you will transmigrate into
a black spider!" she replied, her nostrils trembling with anger.
"I cannot say I do," retorted Mulji; "but if all the English
ladies are as unkind as you I should rather be a spider than
This lively answer coming from the usually taciturn Mulji was so
unexpected that we could not help laugh-ing. But to our great
discomfiture Miss X--- was seriously angry, and, under pretext
of giddiness, said she would rejoin Mr. Y--- below.
Her constant bad spirits were becoming trying for our cosmopolitan
little party, and so we did not press her to stay.
As to us we climbed through the second opening, but this time
under the leadership of Narayan. He disclosed to us that this
place was not new to him; he had been here before, and confided
to us that similar rooms, one on the top of the other, go up to
the summit of the mountain. Then, he said, they take a sudden
turn, and descend gradually to a whole underground palace, which
is sometimes temporarily inhabited. Wishing to leave the world
for a while and to spend a few days in isolation, the Raj-Yogis
find perfect solitude in this underground abode. Our president
looked askance at Narayan through his spectacles, but did not find
anything to say. The Hindus also received this information in
The second cell was exactly like the first one; we easily
discovered the hole in its ceiling, and reached the third cell.
There we sat down for a while. I felt that breathing was becoming
difficult to me, but I thought I was simply out of breath and
tired, and so did not mention to my companions that anything was
wrong. The passage to the fourth cell was almost stopped by earth
mixed with little stones, and the gentlemen of the party were busy
clearing it out for about twenty minutes. Then we reached the
Narayan was right, the cells were one straight over the other, and
the floor of the one formed the ceiling of the other. The fourth
cell was in ruins. Two broken pillars lying one on the other
presented a very convenient stepping-stone to the fifth story.
But the colonel stopped our zeal by saying that now was the time
to smoke "the pipe of deliberation" after the fashion of red Indians.
"If Narayan is not mistaken," he said, "this going up and up may
continue till tomorrow morning."
"I am not mistaken," said Narayan almost solemnly. But since my
visit here I have heard that some of these passages were filled
with earth, so that every communication is stopped; and, if I
remember rightly, we cannot go further than the next story."
"In that case there is no use trying to go any further. If the
ruins are so shaky as to stop the passages, it would be dangerous
"I never said the passages were stopped by the hand of time....
They did it on purpose.... "
"Who they? Do you mean glamour?... "
"Colonel!" said the Hindu with an effort. "Don't laugh at what
I say. ... I speak seriously."
"My dear fellow, I assure you my intention is neither to offend
you nor to ridicule a serious matter. I simply do not realize
whom you mean when you say they."
"I mean the brotherhood.... The Raj-Yogis. Some of them live
quite close to here."
By the dim light of the half-extinguished torches we saw that
Narayan's lips trembled and that his face grew pale as he spoke.
The colonel coughed, rearranged his spectacles and remained silent
for a while.
"My dear Narayan," at last said the colonel, "I do not want to
believe that your intention is to make fun of our credulity. But
I can't believe either, that you seriously mean to assure us that
any living creature, be it an animal or an ascetic, could exist
in a place where there is no air. I paid special attention to the
fact, and so I am perfectly sure I am not mistaken: there is not
a single bat in these cells, which shows that there is a lack of
air. And just look at our torches! you see how dim they are growing.
I am sure, that on climbing two or three more rooms like this, we
should be suffocated!"
"And in spite of all these facts, I speak the truth," repeated
Narayan. "The caves further on are inhabited by them. And I have
seen them with my own eyes."
The colonel grew thoughtful, and stood glancing at the ceiling in
a perplexed and undecided way. We all kept silent, breathing heavily.
"Let us go back!" suddenly shouted the Akali. "My nose is bleeding."
At this very moment I felt a strange and unexpected sensation, and
I sank heavily on the ground. In a second I felt an indescribably
delicious, heavenly sense of rest, in spite of a dull pain beating
in my temples. I vaguely realized that I had really fainted, and
that I should die if not taken out into the open air. I could not
lift my finger; I could not utter a sound; and, in spite of it,
there was no fear in my soul--nothing but an apathetic, but
indescribably sweet feeling of rest, and a complete inactivity of
all the senses except hearing. A moment came when even this sense
forsook me, because I remember that I listened with imbecile
intentness to the dead silence around me. Is this death? was my
indistinct wondering thought. Then I felt as if mighty wings were
fanning me. "Kind wings, caressing, kind wings!" were the
recurring words in my brain, like the regular movements of a
pendulum, and interiorily under an unreasoning impulse, I laughed
at these words. Then I experienced a new sensation: I rather
knew than felt that I was lifted from the floor, and fell down and
down some unknown precipice, amongst the hollow rollings of a
distant thunder-storm. Suddenly a loud voice resounded near me.
And this time I think I did not hear, but felt it. There was
something palpable in this voice, something that instantly stopped
my helpless descent, and kept me from falling any further. This
was a voice I knew well, but whose voice it was I could not in my
In what way I was dragged through all these narrow holes will
remain an eternal mystery for me. I came to myself on the verandah
below, fanned by fresh breezes, and as suddenly as I had fainted
above in the impure air of the cell. When I recovered completely
the first thing I saw was a powerful figure clad in white, with a
raven black Rajput beard, anxiously leaning over me. As soon as
I recognized the owner of this beard, I could not abstain from
expressing my feelings by a joyful exclamation: "Where do you
come from?" It was our friend Takur Gulab-Lal-Sing, who, having
promised to join us in the North-West Provinces, now appeared to
us in Bagh, as if falling from the sky or coming out of the ground.
But my unfortunate accident, and the pitiable state of the rest
of the daring explorers, were enough to stop any further questions
and expressions of astonishment. On one side of me the frightened
Miss X---, using my nose as a cork for her sal-volatile bottle;
on the other the "God's warrior" covered with blood as if returning
from a battle with the Afghans; further on, poor Mulji with a
dreadful headache. Narayan and the colonel, happily for our party,
did not experience anything worse than a slight vertigo. As to
the Babu, no carbonic acid gas could inconvenience his wonderful
Bengali nature. He said he was safe and comfortable enough, but
At last the outpour of entangled exclamations and unintelligible
explanations stopped, and I collected my thoughts and tried to
understand what had happened to me in the cave. Narayan was the
first to notice that I had fainted, and hastened to drag me back
to the passage. And this very moment they all heard the voice of
Gulab-Sing coming from the upper cell: "Tum-hare iha aneka kya
kam tha?" "What on earth brought you here?" Even before they
recovered from their astonishment he ran quickly past them, and
descending to the cell beneath called to them to "pass him down
the bai" (sister). This "passing down" of such a solid object
as my body, and the picture of the proceeding, vividly imagined,
made me laugh heartily, and I felt sorry I had not been able to
witness it. Handing him over their half-dead load, they hastened
to join the Takur; but he contrived to do without their help,
though how he did it they were at a loss to understand. By the
time they succeeded in getting through one passage Gulab-Sing
was already at the next one, in spite of the heavy burden he
carried; and they never were in time to be of any assistance to
him. The colonel, whose main feature is the tendency to go into
the details of everything, could not conceive by what proceedings
the Takur had managed to pass my almost lifeless body so rapidly
through all these narrow holes.
"He could not have thrown her down the passage before going in
himself, for every single bone of her body would have been broken,"
mused the colonel. "And it is still less possible to suppose that,
descending first himself, he dragged her down afterwards. It is
These questions harassed him for a long time afterwards, until
they became something like the puzzle: Which was created first,
the egg or the bird?
As to the Takur, when closely questioned, he shrugged his shoulders,
and answered that he really did not remember. He said that he
simply did whatever he could to get me out into the open air;
that all our traveling companions were there to watch his proceedings;
he was under their eyes all the time, and that in circumstances
when every second is precious people do not think, but act.
But all these questions arose only in the course of the day. As
to the time directly after I was laid down on the verandah, there
were other things to puzzle all our party; no one could understand
how the Takur happened to be on the spot exactly when his help was
most needed, nor where he came from--and everyone was anxious to
know. On the verandah they found me lying on a carpet, with the
Takur busy restoring me to my senses, and Miss X--- with her eyes
wide open at the Takur, whom she decidedly believed to be a
However, the explanations our friend gave us seemed perfectly
satisfactory, and at first did not strike us as unnatural. He
was in Hardwar when Swami Dayanand sent us the letter which postponed
our going to him. On arriving at Kandua by the Indore railway,
he had visited Holkar; and, learning that we were so near, he
decided to join us sooner than he had expected. He had come to
Bagh yesterday evening, but knowing that we were to start for
the caves early in the morning he went there before us, and simply
was waiting for us in the caves.
"There is the whole mystery for you," said he.
"The whole mystery?" exclaimed the colonel. "Did you know, then,
beforehand that we would discover the cells, or what?"
"No, I did not. I simply went there myself because it is a long
time since I saw them last. Examining them took me longer than I
expected, and so I was too late to meet you at the entrance."
"Probably the Takur-Sahib was enjoying the freshness of the air
in the cells," suggested the mischievous Babu, showing all his
white teeth in a broad grin.
Our president uttered an energetic exclamation. "Exactly! How on
earth did I not think of that before?... You could not possibly
have any breathing air in the cells above the one you found us in....
And, besides,... how did you reach the fifth cell, when the entrance
of the fourth was nearly stopped and we had to dig it out?"
"There are other passages leading to them. I know all the turns
and corridors of these caves, and everyone is free to choose his
way," answered Gulab-Sing; and I thought I saw a look of intelligence
pass between him and Narayan, who simply cowered under his fiery eyes.
"However, let us go to the cave where breakfast is ready for us.
Fresh air will do all of you good."
On our way we met with another cave, twenty or thirty steps south
from the verandah, but the Takur did not let us go in, fearing new
accidents for us. So we descended the stone steps I have already
mentioned, and after descending about two hundred steps towards
the foot of the mountain, made a short reascent again and entered
the "dining-room," as the Babu denominated it. In my role of
"interesting invalid," I was carried to it, sitting in my folding
chair, which never left me in all my travels.
This temple is much the less gloomy of the two, in spite of
considerable signs of decay. The frescoes of the ceiling are
better preserved than in the first temple. The walls, the tumbled
down pillars, the ceiling, and even the interior rooms, which
were lighted by ventilators cut through the rock, were once
covered by a varnished stucco, the secret of which is now known
only to the Madrasis, and which gives the rock the appearance of
We were met by the Takur's four servants, whom we remembered since
our stay in Karli, and who bowed down in the dust to greet us.
The carpets were spread, and the breakfast ready. Every trace of
carbonic acid had left our brains, and we sat down to our meal in
the best of spirits. Our conversation soon turned to the Hardwar
Mela, which our unexpectedly-recovered friend had left exactly
five days ago. All the information we got from Gulab-Lal-Sing
was so interesting that I wrote it down at the first opportunity.
After a few weeks we visited Hardwar ourselves, and since I saw it,
my memory has never grown tired of recalling the charming picture
of its lovely situation. It is as near a primitive picture of
earthly Paradise as anything that can be imagined.
Every twelfth year, which the Hindus call Kumbha, the planet Jupiter
enters the constellation of Aquarius, and this event is considered
very propitious for the beginning of the religious fair; for
which this day is accordingly fixed by the astrologers of the pagodas.
This gathering attracts the representatives of all sects, as I said
before, from princes and maharajas down to the last fakir. The
former come for the sake of religious discussions, the latter,
simply to plunge into the waters of Ganges at its very source,
which must be done at a certain propitious hour, fixed also by
the position of the stars.
Ganges is a name invented in Europe. The natives always say Ganga,
and consider this river to belong strictly to the feminine sex.
Ganges is sacred in the eyes of the Hindus, because she is the
most important of all the fostering goddesses of the country, and
a daughter of the old Himavat (Himalaya), from whose heart she
springs for the salvation of the people. That is why she is
worshiped, and why the city of Hardwar, built at her very source,
is so sacred.
Hardwar is written Hari-avara, the doorway of the sun-god, or
Krishna, and is also often called Gangadvara, the doorway of Ganga;
there is still a third name of the same town, which is the name of
a certain ascetic Kapela, or rather Kapila, who once sought salvation
on this spot, and left many miraculous traditions.
The town is situated in a charming flowery valley, at the foot of
the southern slope of the Sivalik ridge, between two mountain chains.
In this valley, raised 1,024 feet above the sea-level, the northern
nature of the Himalayas struggles with the tropical growth of the
plains; and, in their efforts to excel each other, they have
created the most delightful of all the delightful corners of India.
The town itself is a quaint collection of castle-like turrets of
the most fantastical architecture; of ancient viharas; of wooden
fortresses, so gaily painted that they look like toys; of pagodas,
with loopholes and overhanging curved little balconies; and all
this over-grown by such abundance of roses, dahlias, aloes and
blossoming cactuses, that it is hardly possible to tell a door
from a window. The granite foundations of many houses are laid
almost in the bed of the river, and so, during four months of the
year, they are half covered with water. And behind this handful
of scattered houses, higher up the mountain slope, crowd snow-white,
stately temples. Some of them are low, with thick walls, wide
wings and gilded cupolas; others rise in majestical many-storied
towers; others again with shapely pointed roofs, which look like
the spires of a bell tower. Strange and capricious is the
architecture of these temples, the like of which is not to be seen
anywhere else. They look as if they had suddenly dropped from
the snowy abodes of the mountain spirits above, standing there
in the shelter of the mother mountain, and timidly peeping over
the head of the small town below at their own images reflected in
the pure, untroubled waters of the sacred river.
Here the Ganges is not yet polluted by the dirt and the sins of
her many million adorers. Releasing her worshipers, cleansed from
her icy embrace, the pure maiden of the mountains carries her
transparent waves through the burning plains of Hindostan; and
only three hundred and forty-eight miles lower down, on passing
through Cawnpore, do her waters begin to grow thicker and darker,
while, on reaching Benares, they transform themselves into a kind
of peppery pea soup.
Once, while talking to an old Hindu, who tried to convince us that
his compatriots are the cleanest nation in the world, we asked him:
"Why is it then that, in the less populous places, the Ganges is
pure and transparent, whilst in Benares, especially towards evening,
it looks like a mass of liquid mud?"
"O sahibs!" answered he mournfully, "it is not the dirt of our bodies,
as you think, it is not even the blackness of our sins, that the
devi (goddess) washes away... Her waves are black with the sorrow
and shame of her children. Her feelings are sad and sorrowful;
hidden suffering, burning pain and humiliation, despair and shame
at her own helplessness, have been her lot for many past centuries.
She has suffered all this till her waters have become waves of
black bile. Her waters are poisoned and black, but not from physical
causes. She is our mother, and how could she help resenting the
degradation we have brought ourselves to in this dark age."
This sorrowful, poetical allegory made us feel very keenly for
the poor old man; but, however great our sympathy, we could not
but suppose that probably the woes of the maiden Ganga do not
affect her sources. In Hardwar the color of Ganges is crystal
aqua marina, and the waters run gaily murmuring to the shore-reeds
about the wonders they saw on their way from the Himalayas.
The beautiful river is the greatest and the purest of goddesses,
in the eyes of the Hindus; and many are the honors given to her
in Hardwar. Besides the Mela celebrated once every twelve years,
there is a month in every year when the pilgrims flock together
to the Harika-Paira, stairs of Vishnu. Whosoever succeeds in
throwing himself first into the river, at the appointed day, hour
and moment, will not only expiate all his sins, but also have all
bodily sufferings removed. This zeal to be first is so great that,
owing to a badly-constructed and narrow stair leading to the water,
it used to cost many lives yearly, until, in 1819, the East India
Company, taking pity upon the pilgrims, ordered this ancient relic
to be removed, and a new stairway, one hundred feet wide, and
consisting of sixty steps, to be constructed.
The month when the waters of the Ganges are most salutary, falls,
according to the Brahmanical computation, between March 12th and
April 10th, and is called Chaitra. The worst of it is that the
waters are at their best only at the first moment of a certain
propitious hour, indicated by the Brahmans, and which sometimes
happens to be midnight. You can fancy what it must be when this
moment comes, in the midst of a crowd which exceeds two millions.
In 1819 more than four hundred people were crushed to death. But
even after the new stairs were constructed, the goddess Ganga has
carried away on her virgin bosom many a disfigured corpse of her
worshipers. Nobody pitied the drowned, on the contrary, they were
envied. Whoever happens to be killed during this purification by
bathing, is sure to go straight to Swarga (heaven). In 1760, the
two rival brotherhoods of Sannyasis and Bairagis had a regular
battle amongst them on the sacred day of Purbi, the last day of
the religious fair. The Bairagis were conquered, and there were
eighteen thousand people slaughtered.
"And in 1796," proudly narrated our warlike friend the Akali, "the
pilgrims from Punjab, all of them Sikhs, desiring to punish the
insolence of the Hossains, killed here about five hundred of these
heathens. My own grandfather took part in the fight!"
Later on we verified this in the Gazetteer of India, and the "God's
warrior" was cleared of every suspicion of exaggeration and boasting.
In 1879, however, no one was drowned, or crushed to death, but a
dreadful epidemic of cholera broke out. We were disgusted at this
impediment; but had to keep at a distance in spite of our
impatience to see Hardwar. And unable to behold distant summits
of old Himavat ourselves, we had in the meanwhile to be contented
with what we could hear about him from other people.
So we talked long after our breakfast under the cave vault was
finished. But our talk was not so gay as it might have been,
because we had to part with Ram-Runjit-Das, who was going to Bombay.
The worthy Sikh shook hands with us in the European way, and then
raising his right hand gave us his blessing, after the fashion of
all the followers of Nanaka. But when he approached the Takur to
take leave of him, his countenance suddenly changed. This change
was so evident that we all noted it. The Takur was sitting on the
ground leaning on a saddle, which served him as a cushion. The
Akali did not attempt either to give him his blessing or to shake
hands with him. The proud expression of his face also changed,
and showed confusion and anxious humility instead of the usual
self-respect and self-sufficiency. The brave Sikh knelt down
before the Takur, and instead of the ordinary "Namaste!"--"Salutation
to you," whispered reverently, as if addressing the Guru of the
Golden Lake: "I am your servant, Sadhu-Sahib! give me your blessing!"
Without any apparent reason or cause, we all felt self-conscious
and ill at ease, as if guilty of some indiscretion. But the face
of the mysterious Rajput remained as calm and as dispassionate as
ever. He was looking at the river before this scene took place,
and slowly moved his eyes to the Akali, who lay prostrated before
him. Then he touched the head of the Sikh with his index finger,
and rose with the remark that we also had better start at once,
because it was getting late.
We drove in our carriage, moving very slowly because of the deep
sand which covers all this locality, and the Takur followed us on
horseback all the way. He told us the epic legends of Hardwar and
Rajistan, of the great deeds of the Hari-Kulas, the heroic princes
of the solar race. Hari means sun, and Kula family. Some of the
Rajput princes belong to this family, and the Maharanas of Oodeypur
are especially proud of their astronomical origin.
The name of Hari-Kula gives to some Orientalists ground to suppose
that a member of this family emigrated to Egypt in the remote
epoch of the first Pharaonic dynasties, and that the ancient Greeks,
borrowing the name as well as the traditions, thus formed their
legends about the mythological Hercules. It is believed that the
ancient Egyptians adored the sphinx under the name of Hari-Mukh,
or the "sun on the horizon." On the mountain chain which fringes
Kashmir on the north, thirteen thousand feet above the sea, there
is a huge summit, which is exactly like a head, and which bears
the name of Harimukh. This name is also met with in the most
ancient of the Puranas. Besides, popular tradition considers
this Himalayan stone head to be the image of the setting sun.
Is it possible, then, that all these coincidences are only accidental?
And why is it that the Orientalists will not give it more serious
attention? It seems to me that this is a rich soil for future
research, and that it is no more to be explained by mere chance
than the fact that both Egypt and India held the cow sacred, and
that the ancient Egyptians had the same religious horror of killing
certain animals, as the modern Hindus.
An Isle of Mystery
When evening began to draw on, we were driving beneath the trees
of a wild jungle; arriving soon after at a large lake, we left
the carriages. The shores were overgrown with reeds--not the reeds
that answer our European notions, but rather such as Gulliver was
likely to meet with in his travels to Brobdingnag. The place was
perfectly deserted, but we saw a boat fastened close to the land.
We had still about an hour and a half of daylight before us, and
so we quietly sat down on some ruins and enjoyed the splendid view,
whilst the servants of the Takur transported our bags, boxes and
bundles of rugs from the carriages to the ferry boat. Mr. Y--- was
preparing to paint the picture before us, which indeed was charming.
"Don't be in a hurry to take down this view," said Gulab-Sing.
"In half an hour we shall be on the islet, where the view is still
lovelier. We may spend there the night and tomorrow morning as well."
"I am afraid it will be too dark in an hour," said Mr. Y---, opening
his color box. "And as for tomorrow, we shall probably have to start
"Oh, no! there is not the slightest need to start early. We may
even stay here part of the afternoon. From here to the railway
station it is only three hours, and the train only leaves for J
ubbulpore at eight in the evening. And do you know," added the
Takur, smiling in his usual mysterious way, "I am going to treat
you to a concert. Tonight you shall be witness of a very interesting
natural phenomenon connected with this island."
We all pricked up our ears with curiosity.
"Do you mean that island there? and do you really think we must go?"
asked the colonel. "Why should not we spend the night here, where
we are so deliciously cool, and where... "
"Where the forest swarms with playful leopards, and the reeds
shelter snug family parties of the serpent race, were you going
to say, colonel?" interrupted the Babu, with a broad grin. "Don't
you admire this merry gathering, for instance? Look at them!
There is the father and the mother, uncles, aunts, and children....
I am sure I could point out even a mother-in-law."
Miss X--- looked in the direction he indicated and shrieked, till
all the echoes of the forest groaned in answer. Not farther than
three steps from her there were at least forty grown up serpents
and baby snakes. They amused themselves by practising somersaults,
coiled up, then straightened again and interlaced their tails,
presenting to our dilated eyes a picture of perfect innocence and
primitive contentment. Miss X--- could not stand it any longer
and fled to the carriage, whence she showed us a pale, horrified
face. The Takur, who had arranged himself comfortably beside Mr.
Y--- in order to watch the progress of his paint-ing, left his seat
and looked attentively at the dangerous group, quietly smoking his
gargari--Rajput narghile--the while.
"If you do not stop screaming you will attract all the wild animals
of the forest in another ten minutes," said he. "None of you have
anything to fear. If you do not excite an animal he is almost
sure to leave you alone, and most probably will run away from you."
With these words he lightly waved his pipe in the direction of the
serpentine family-party. A thunderbolt falling in their midst
could not have been more effectual. The whole living mass looked
stunned for a moment, and then rapidly disappeared among the reeds
with loud hissing and rustling.
"Now this is pure mesmerism, I declare," said the colonel, on whom
not a gesture of the Takur was lost. "How did you do it, Gulab-Sing?
Where did you learn this science?"
"They were simply frightened away by the sudden movement of my
chibook, and there was no science and no mesmerism about it.
Probably by this fashionable modern word you mean what we Hindus
call vashi-karana vidya--that is to say, the science of charming
people and animals by the force of will. However, as I have already
said, this has nothing to do with what I did."
"But you do not deny, do you, that you have studied this science
and possess this gift?"
"Of course I don't. Every Hindu of my sect is bound to study the
mysteries of physiology and psychology amongst other secrets left
to us by our ancestors. But what of that? I am very much afraid,
my dear colonel," said the Takur with a quiet smile, "that you
are rather inclined to view the simplest of my acts through a
mystical prism. Narayan has been telling you all kinds of things
about me behind my back.... Now, is it not so?"
And he looked at Narayan, who sat at his feet, with an indescribable
mixture of fondness and reproof. The Dekkan colossus dropped his
eyes and remained silent.
"You have guessed rightly," absently answered Mr. Y---, busy over
his drawing apparatus. "Narayan sees in you something like his
late deity Shiva; something just a little less than Parabrahm.
Would you believe it? He seriously assured us--in Nassik it was--
that the Raj-Yogis, and amongst them yourself--though I must own
I still fail to understand what a Raj-Yogi is, precisely--can force
any one to see, not what is before his eyes at the given moment,
but what is only in the imagination of the Raj-Yogi. If I remember
rightly he called it Maya.... Now, this seemed to me going a little
"Well! You did not believe, of course, and laughed at Narayan?"
asked the Takur, fathoming with his eyes the dark green deeps of
"Not precisely... Though, I dare say, I did just a little bit,"
went on Mr. Y---, absently, being fully engrossed by the view,
and trying to fix his eyes on the most effective part of it. "I
dare say I am too scep-tical on this kind of question."
"And knowing Mr. Y--- as I do," said the colonel, I can add, for
my part, that even were any of these phenomena to happen to himself
personally, he, like Dr. Carpenter, would doubt his own eyes rather
"What you say is a little bit exaggerated, but there is some truth
in it. Maybe I would not trust myself in such an occurrence; and
I tell you why. If I saw something that does not exist, or rather
exists only for me, logic would interfere. However objective my
vision may be, before believing in the materiality of a hallucination,
I feel I am bound to doubt my own senses and sanity.... Besides,
what bosh all this is! As if I ever will allow myself to believe
in the reality of a thing that I alone saw; which belief implies
also the admission of somebody else governing and dominating, for
the time being, my optical nerves, as well as my brains."
"However, there are any number of people, who do not doubt, because
they have had proof that this phenomenon really occurs," remarked
the Takur, in a careless tone, which showed he had not the slightest
desire to insist upon this topic.
However, this remark only increased Mr. Y---'s excitement.
"No doubt there are!" he exclaimed. "But what does that prove?
Besides them, there are equal numbers of people who believe in
the materialization of spirits. But do me the kindness of not
including me among them!"
"Don't you believe in animal magnetism?"
"To a certain extent, I do. If a person suffering from some
contagious illness can influence a person in good health, and
make him ill, in his turn, I suppose somebody else's overflow
of health can also affect the sick person, and, perhaps cure him.
But between physiological contagion and mesmeric influence there
is a great gulf, and I don't feel inclined to cross this gulf on
the grounds of blind faith. It is perfectly possible that there
are instances of thought-transference in cases of somnambulism,
epilepsy, trance. I do not positively deny it, though I am very
doubtful. Mediums and clairvoyants are a sickly lot, as a rule.
But I bet you anything, a healthy man in perfectly normal conditions
is not to be influenced by the tricks of mesmerists. I should
like to see a magnetizer, or even a Raj-Yogi, inducing me to obey
"Now, my dear fellow, you really ought not to speak so rashly,"
said the colonel, who, till then, had not taken any part in
"Ought I not? Don't take it into your head that it is mere
boastfulness on my part. I guarantee failure in my case, simply
because every renowned European mesmerist has tried his luck with
me, without any result; and that is why I defy the whole lot of
them to try again, and feel perfectly safe about it. And why a
Hindu Raj-Yogi should succeed where the strongest of European
mesmerists failed, I do not quite see.... "
Mr. Y--- was growing altogether too excited, and the Takur dropped
the subject, and talked of something else.
For my part, I also feel inclined to deviate once more from my
subject, and give some necessary explanations.
Miss X--- excepted, none of our party had ever been numbered amongst
the spiritualists, least of all Mr. Y---. We Theosophists did not
believe in the playfulness of departed souls, though we admitted