Highnoon in the Raj- Part 3
This is the last part of the three part series written by Gerald Kuchyt. Read the previous part here
Franz Ferdinand had begun his journey in Bombay, travelled south and was mesmerised by the North-east.
The Archduke absolutely loved the tea clad hills of Darjeeling,
“A wall of fog as if grown out of the valleys lies just up to the throning peaks which emerge out of the clouds. In olympic calm, bloom and decay of peoples these ephemeral being in the aeons of existence. A feeling of helplessness overcame me in view of nature at such a grand scale that even the most hard headed person has to bow in humility.”
Continuing his journey across the subcontinent he visited the holy city of Benares. For those traveling from the serene mountains to the bustling city the difference is striking he notes
“It is a place of humans and gods, religion and madness, mysticism and superstition, burning Hindus and dancing bayaderes, all this centred around the most sacred of rivers the Ganges, a spectacle united in a maelstrom which threatens to envelop the starring stranger made speechless out of astonishment.”
He seemed to have both a love and hate for Benares, a disgust for the practice of cremation, many beggars and dilapidated palaces, but also admiration for the many temples including Baleshwar and mosque of Aurangzeb.
After leaving Benares, Franz traveled to Agra where he took up residence in a palace provided by the Maharaja of Jaipur which was surrounded by a lush park with peacocks and parrots. During his stay he recounts the history of the great Mughal emperors: Babur, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb.
His time spent in Benares and Agra seemed dulled as he grew weary and it shows in his writing, but he found new enthusiasm with the cities many impressive structures.
Visiting first the tomb of Akbar he writes
“There rises the tomb of Akbar; an image of august greatness, clear and calm. Having regained, after moments of bliss, the rightful prose of life, I took in every detail and inquired about its construction. Enchanted by this place of memory to the old splendour and pomp of the Grand Mughals I left the mausoleum to drive to the bazaar of Agra and look for acquisitions for my collections of which we acquired a great deal. We then proceeded to the fort of Agra and then to the pearl of all buildings in India, the most charming of all architectural world wonders and the most distinguished destination for all travellers who enter Hindustan – the Taj Mahal.”
While at Agra he also visited the Fatehpur Sikri and Tomb of Salim Chishti. He hunted with the Maharaja of Bharatpur. And witnessed the city set alight by hundreds of people holding candles
“The Bengal flames were shining mildly like moonshine above the proud building which seemed to be woven out of light and stood magically there, a truly enchanting view. Sunken in this pleasure we stood for a long time until flame went out and enchanting image disappeared into the dark night.”
Why does Franz Ferdinand talk so highly about the Taj Mahal in the Highnoon in the Raj series? This might be the reason, read more-
His next stop was Delhi which he arrived on 16 February
“After a night not spent in comfortable warmth we arrived early in the morning while it was raining and cold. O, often praised and often rebuked heat of India, where are you?”
His displeasure however was quickly forgotten by the splendour of the ancient city
“Delhi, Rome of Asia, most sparkling city of the Punjab and even India, and pompous residence of the Grand Mughals”
He noted how the damage done during the Mutiny of 1857 was still visible, but despite this the city was still very much captivating.Click To Tweet
During his stay he visited the many mosques, palaces, bazaar, and other noteworthy sites. Memorable ones include the Red Fort, Mausoleum of Humayun (where the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur surrendered), Qutub Minar, Adham tomb, Jama Masjid Mosque and Delhi Gate.
Qutub Minar, Delhi 🇮🇳 Have you visit the famous Qutub Minar? Qutab-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, began building the Qutub Minar in 1193 AD. He constructed the basement of this tower. His successor Iltutmish could complete the next three floors in his lifetime. His daughter, Razia Sultan doesn’t seem to have contributed to this pillar. It was Firoz Shah Tughlaq in 1386 who built the last fifth storey, almost a century after Iltutmish. Thus, this 5 storey pillar has influences from different rulers from different periods of Indian history. The first three floors is made of red sandstone and the last two is a mixture of marble and sandstone.
He then proceeded to Alwar where the Maharaja Jai Singh met him at the station. After greeting and complimenting him Franz once again admired the honour guard noting
“Outside the station an honour guard company of giant Rajputs with black beards dressed in red coats and turbans awaited. They were well selected representatives of the warrior-like men of the country skilled in martial fights in the manner of our medieval tournaments but have an excellent sense of the new Anglo-Indian direction.”
Standing next to them were splendidly ornamented elephants, an army of some 8,000 soldiers and many stallions and cannon. He was given an exclusive tour by the Maharaja of his private collection of weapons and manuscripts which Franz was very impressed with.
A diner and fireworks show concluded the night which was followed by a hunting excursion in Sariska for a week the next day. Into the hunting preserve the party ventured under the scorching Hindu sun, seeking out an elusive tiger, bagging many animals some of which Franz added to his private collection and other he donated to museums.
Boarding a train he traveled by Ajmer and across the mighty Aravalli to Jodhpur; greatest of the princely states of Rajputana. At the station he was met by Maharaja Jaswant Singh II with whom he conversed with about the famous warrior princes of old and commending him as one of the most skilled horsemen he had ever seen.
This was followed by a tour of the city, the Maharaja’s palace and private weapons collection and the many fortifications of both the city and outlying towns; many of which were in ruins. The city was very rich and the hospitality very welcoming.
One noteworthy entry was on 1 March
“In the evening the full moon spread its mild light over our camp, the fort and many surrounding fortifications which rose in ghostly shapes over the horizon. A deep quietness only now and then broken by the howls of a jackal or chirp of a little owl. After I had completed the letters to be sent home, I wandered around for a long time in thoughts and dreams among the outworks of the fort.”
He later rode an Arabian stallion, pig sticking a catch of 22 boars. In addition to boar hunting there were many other sporting events which Franz engaged in including fencing, tent-pegging and wrestling. He made so well an impression in Jodhpur that Pratap Singh said “That of all the Europeans I have met, I will cherish nobody as much as you” to which he added farewell in German. As Franz departed the city he looked back recording
“clear moonlight illuminated the mountains as we rushed towards Jaipur.”
They encountered a brush fire along the way which he said illuminated the night with a billion embers. Arriving at Jaipur he records
“The festive receptions in India follow one another: but resemble one another as little as do the cities. Each reception offers a new spectacle of oriental splendour and originality in which the characteristic peculiarity of the state or its ruler are expressed.”
On the platform awaiting him was Maharaja Sir Mahdo Singh Bahadur, but unlike the other ceremonies his army was not well maintained as it was rumoured he cared more for his harem. At his palace they was greeted by vibrantly coloured servants and a great number of musicians.
With Jaipur, Franz also notes why many princes, those who were not subdued chose to ally themselves with the British and were subsequently allowed to maintain power. In the case of Jaipur and many others they realised the changing political atmosphere of the subcontinent with the decline of the Mughals and Marathas. There emerged because of this a great many states competing for power and so in order to secure their own and benefit from the prosperous British trade they submitted. In all there were about 565 princely states ruled by native princes, which accounted for about half of the Raj and they were given autonomy in exchange for their allegiance towards the British crown.
Highnoon in the Raj series mentions 565 Princely States! What were they exactly?
Touring the city Franz notes that Jaipur was a very modern city, clean and well built, with few structures in ruin. There he also witnessed the festival of Holi before proceeding to the fortress of Amber which was one of the structures in dilapidation.
Following Jaipur he returned to Agra before heading back north to the Himalayas where he engaged in several hunting parties in Nepal: Dakna Bagh, Barbatta Valley, Dechta Boli, Guleria, Beli, Katni and Bhanderia before returning to the Raj on 26 March. He had deeply enjoyed Nepal, partly because he spent a great deal of time hunting there (his favourite sport) and also taking in the views which most certainly took his breath away.
From Nepal he travelled to Sohela, from there to Lucknow and back to Calcutta where he finally left India, with many memories and trunks on 29 March 1893.
In the remainder of his tour he visited Singapore, Batavia, Java, Tjandjur, Australia, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Borneo, Hong Kong, Canton, Macao, Japan, Canada and the US (visiting the Chicago Worlds Fair, Yellowstone and Niagara) before crossing the Atlantic where travelled through France and Germany before reaching Vienna on 18 October 1893, thus concluding his almost year long world tour.
Got any questions? Comment them below
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Highnoon in the Raj series are written by Gerald Kuchyt. Gerald loves to read, write and delve into Indian history and the country’s relationship with the rest of the world. You can find him on Instagram, where he posts interesting content on Prussia, the Russian Tsars and old photographs. Follow him here-
Franz Ferdinand world tour _________ Like many royal princes in the 19th century Franz Ferdinand made a world tour, visiting nearly all continents and meeting a great many people. He embarked from 1892-93 and although the official reason was for scientific purposes, in reality it was to hide his illness (tuberculosis) and aid in his recovery. He participated in many activities while on his travels most notably hunting Tigers and elephants with the Nizam of Hyderabad in India, and kangaroos and emus in Australia. 14 December 1892: departure by train from Vienna to Trieste. From Trieste to Egypt, from the Suez to the Red Sea and Aden. From Aden he made his way across the Arabian Sea to Columbo. From Columbo to Ceylon. From Ceylon to India and the cities of Bombay, Tandur, Hyderabad, Gwalior, Calcutta, Darjeeling, Benares, Agra, Bhartpur, Delhi, Siriska, Jodhpur, and Jaipur. From India to Nepal and back to India where he visited Sohela, Lucknow, and Calcutta where he departed for Singapore. From Singapore to Java and Java to Australia. From Australia to New Caledonia, the Solomon islands, New Guinea, and the Aru Islands. From Aru to Borneo and then Singapore. From Singapore to China and the cities of Hong Kong, Canton, and Macau. From Macau to Japan. From Yokohama Japan to Vancouver Canada. From Vancouver to Yellowstone in the United states. From Yellowstone the cities of Salt Lake, Chicago, New York, and even the Niagara falls. From New York city to Harve and Paris France. From Paris to Stuttgart and finally back to Vienna completing his tour on 18 October 1893. _________