As the tender came alongside the pier at Bombay, I found Lachsmilal awaiting me. Lachsmilal Paner is a citizen of Udaipur of Rajputana, no mean city of Indiain fact, one of the most picturesque, and its Maharana in point of blue blood is the premier family of India. His majesty is distinctly a tribal chief and scrupulously guards his family tradition and demands that his subjects do likewise, by preserving their hereditary individuality and continuing their characteristic customs, even to the wearing of their attractive Udaipur beard. The Maharanas of Udaipur are decendants of the Solar family, hence are very much respected by the Indian Rajputs. Proud of their blood and religion, it is stated that these princes have never bowed down their heads nor given daughters to the Mohammedan emperors of India. During the rule of the British government, two coronation ceremonies have been held in India, those of Edward VII and George V, but the crafty Maharana of Udaipur by excuse of illness or otherwise in both instances failed to respect the command to formally attend the ceremonies of the Royal Durbar along with all the other reigning princes of India.
But it was of Lachsmilal that I wanted to tell you. He had acted as guide and interpreter in Udaipur when my good friend, Arthur Stansell, and I visited India three years ago. He was an outstanding Indian character in my memory, a Brahman by caste and a principal in the Maharana’s school. So when I again decided to visit India, about a month before my departure, I wrote him and inquired if he could arrange to act as my courier and interpreter during our journey to Kash-mir and Khyber, giving him an idea of my plans and suggesting that, if possible, he meet us at Bombay. I shall endeavor to relate his story (as told to me) as to what took place upon receipt of my communication.
Immediately upon reading my letter he was much pleased with the idea of accompanying us on our journey through India. First, because he desired to comply with my request, and second, because it presented an opportunity of seeing much of India that he had never visited. But when the matter was laid before his family, his wife and two daughters refused their sanction.
He then consulted his eldest nephew, who sympathized with him and appreciated that an excellent opportunity was afforded him to see India, his native land, but it also offered many difficulties. Lachsmilal, however, was strongly determined to accompany me and replied to his nephew that he, in traveling with the American gentlemen, was willing to accept whatever difficulties might arise. He also consulted two or three of his friends who likewise counseled adversely, also calling attention to the difficulties to be encountered, for it must be remembered that Lachsmilal is a Brahman, being of the high priestly caste of India, and there-fore unable to do any so-called menial services; also in traveling, especially through northern India, the Mohammedan district, he would experience great difficulty in securing proper food, uncontaminated and fulfilling the requirements of his religion and caste, for Brahmans are vegetable eaters and indulge in no meat.
The first difficulty, however, to overcome was the arranging for his leave. This was accomplished through the good offices of his doctor, the son of a friend, who gave him a sick certificate and advised a rest. This was forwarded to his superior, who, after retaining it for fifteen days, granted the leave. He then further related how his wife and daughters protested, fearing that great harm would befall him. Several plans were formulated by which they hoped to detain him from his purpose, but in spite of all their much vain weeping and importuning he finally set out on his journey to Bombay. Reaching Bombay he marconigrammed the following message to me aboard the Naldera: “Lachsmilal welcomes you to India, awaits you at dock.”
Early on the morning of the boat’s arrival he left his lodgings and made his way to the dock and learned that our steamer would not be permitted to come alongside the pier due to an epidemic aboard. He said to me later that his heart sank within him, not knowing what the final news would be, but added: “Thanks to God for His assurance, He has always helped me in the past and He will help me now.” Finally he saw his “Lord and Master” (as he always referred to me) on the tender, but did not return my first salutation, believing it might be intended for another, but when satisfied that I was recognizing his presence, he joyfully returned the compliment.
Lachsmilal is as gentle and as thoughtful of others’ happiness as is my wee daughter Bessie, and I could pay no higher tribute in this respect. I might as well here add that he served me well and faithfully as a courier and interpreter, and added much to our interest and enjoyment of India by his knowledge of that land, its religions and its political history. His excellent under-standing of the English language and his high ideals of life made his remarks a constant source of enjoyment. He often experienced much trouble and often many hours delay in securing his food, and were it in his power, I am sure many customs of the Hindu faith would be changed, but as he said, “I am an old man ” (he is 49) “and why should I now depart from the religious rites of my fathers?”
Bombay had not changed since my visit three years before. In fact, that thrill which I experienced upon my first visit was entirely lacking. I always envy anyone his first journey into a strange land, for my greatest traveling enjoyment has always come from these first impressions experienced upon entering what is still an unexplored land in the realm of my travels. The chief object of my visit to India, besides being a route to Persia via Bombay, Karachi, the Persian Gulf and Baghdad, was to visit the far-famed “Vale of Kashmir,” also the Khyber Pass, the gateway to Afghanistan.
Arriving in Delhi we discovered it was “Baby Week” in India. Everywhere in the world the white man is industriously and scientifically working to save the black, brown and yellow man’s offspring and neglecting to as extensively perpetuate his own race; steadily increasing the already existing majority of dark-skinned men, the followers of the Veddas, the Koran, the Buddhistic classics and Confucian ethics. What is the answer? When we read Madison Grant’s The Passing of a Great Race and Lothrop Stoddard’s Revolt Against Civilization, the complacent, self-satisfied mind of the average Nordic or Anglo Saxon is awakened to the danger of a real future problem and peril.
En route to Kashmir from Delhi we stopped off at Amritsar and Lahore. Amritsar is the dirtiest city I have seen in all India. There is no place I have ever visited even in China that has anything in this respect on Amritsar. Its narrow, winding, densely populated streets, teeming with men and beasts, are, however, very interesting, likewise its native bazaars, but one meets nearly as many buffalo, goats, cattle and donkeys wandering through its filthy streets as bewhiskered natives.
It is the religious center of the Sikhs and the chief object of interest to tourists is the Golden Temple, a revered shrine of this sect. The Sikhs are a reformed sect of the Hindus who renounce idolatry and welcome all ranks without distinction of caste. The teachings of its founder, Nanak, in 1469, are said to be similar to those of Vishnu.
The Golden Temple stands in the center of a tank which is nearly 500 feet square and hemmed in on all sides by buildings, and is approached by a marble causeway. It is not a large edifice, being but 65 feet square and of two stories, the first white marble, the second being encrusted with gilded copper. It is by no means an imposing building but is nevertheless a most unusual and picturesque temple, and hundreds of pilgrims may be seen visiting this shrine and also bathing in the waters of the tank.
These Sikhs are rather fanatical and disturbances often occur, a very serious one at Amritsar in 1919 resulting in the loss of many lives. The whole scene quickens the imagination and fairy tales might here easily be spun, but in the recording of my travels I have always stuck to the simple truth without the embellishments that I have so often noted in books of travel. I am reminded of an incident on a water trip taken with my brother Harry, to whom I sometimes spin imaginative yarns, which always evokes his remark, “Now, Baron” (Baron Munchausen). We were sitting on the deck of the steamer and I was indulging my fancies by relating some most impossible experience, much to his amusement, and I also later discovered, to the amazement of two small boys that had drawn near and were listening to my yarns. It so happened that I excused myself for a few minutes and upon returning I observed that the boys exhibited a most unusual interest in me, which continued for the remainder of the trip. My brother told me later that, during my short absence, he had informed the lads that while I was just a little queer, I was perfectly harmless; that he traveled with me to look after me, for I had most unusual mental lapses during which I imagined unique fanciful experiences like those related. In my travels I have had many experiences that if just sufficiently colored in a suggestive way, permitting the reader to draw his own conclusions, would doubtless add considerable zest to my otherwise uninteresting chronicles.
But to return to the subject. Amritsar is renowned for its carpet and rug industries. We visited the largest factories and found here employed not only men, but many small boys, mere children not more than eight years old, working twelve hours a day at the huge, bulky, wooden, hand looms, in poorly lighted, long, low, buildings in which stand hundreds of looms. I was after-wards told by an English gentleman connected with a local college that these children are practically sold into bondage, money being advanced to the parents and the children taken into toil as security and compelled even with whip lash to work. He further stated that during the hot season especially, the death rate was appalling. How sad, and doubtless whenever England attempts to legislate any reforms in India, there is a great howl set up regarding the destruction of India’s native industries due to restrictive British measures.
This is my second visit to India and I want to repeat in substance what I wrote while here three years ago. India owes much to Great Britain for reforms and improved conditions brought about in this land of extremes, where life is chiefly an appalling sacrifice, an agonizing struggle. Her political agitators and others, who are perfectly honest and sincere, are crying for independence and self-government. I wonder if they fully comprehepd or consider what they are asking for and the responsibilities that would come with the granting of their demands. In my humble opinion it would be a sad day for India, yea, for the world, when England stepped out of India, and I have no hesitancy to predict that England out of power in India would mean the Mohammedans in power. If India is given absolute freedom and independence in the management of her national and internal affairs, then India must be prepared to accept the hell that will follow. The Mohammedans, made up largely of the fighting men of India, would swoop down upon the Hindus, a people divided against themselves by castes, and sects and tribal jealousies and hatred, and put them to sword, if need be, to accomplish their ascendancy to power as enjoyed in the heyday of the mighty Mogul emperors; the slave kings of the thirteenth century; the Pathan dynasties of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Thus did Mohammed Gori Shahalindum of Persia, who, learning that India was a very rich country, and ambitious to reap some of its great wealth by con-quest, started from Persia with his armies and came as far as Punjab without hindrance. Here one day, when standing by the side of a great river contemplating his campaign, he inquired of his men what meant the many fires that were burning at so many different places on the opposite side of the river. His men replied that they were the different kitchens of the different castes of the Hindus who did not use food if cooked by a different sect. No sooner had he heard this than he felt assured that when there was disunion in belief among brethren, it would be an easy task to conquer them. His reasoning proved true and he conquered the Hindus and captured much wealth, which he carried away to his native land, for there was no united force to check him.
Whose are the splendid and revered tombs carefully preserved in park-like enclosures that we and many others visit in Indiathose of Babar at Kabul, Afghanistan, Humiyan at Delhi, Akbar at Agra, Jahangir at Lahore, Shah Jahan at Agra and Aurangzeb at Khuldabadsix princes of whom it has been said no “dynasties since the world began ever produced six princes so great taking them all in all.”
The present Mohammedans of India, mainly decendants of Hindu converts to the faith of the prophet, which was accomplished largely by force in those earlier days, are proud of their past achievements and have faith in their future possibilities.
When here three years ago I was much interested in Gandhi and his utterances which later led to his imprisonment. By speech and writings he condemned the modern school system and recommended the return to the teaching of the youths under the banyan trees as in former days; he scathingly denounced hospitals as “institutions for propagating sins” and to railways he referred as “accentuating the evil nature of man,” while modern machinery was described as “the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents great sin”; that the only remedy for the pauperism of the land of India was the spinning wheel. It is claimed he always carried one with him and also employed it in jail.
During this visit he was again in the limelight. A serious illness led to his being removed from jail and placed in a hospital, where he was cured and later, due to propaganda, many petitions and resolutions sent to the British authorities, he was granted an unconditional pardon. It is indeed noteworthy that the institutions which he previously condemned served him so well. The rail-ways and telegraph wires brought friends to his bedside and messages of sympathy. It was the good offices of the hospital, its doctors and nurses educated in modern schools of learning which through heroic efforts saved his life, and when pardoned he even requested the privilege of remaining longer in the hospital under the tender and efficient care of its staff.
It behooves Mr. Gandhi to modify some of his former remarks and also not to allow his own saintly character to dull his sense of caution and become insensible to the possible dangers and consequences to his fellow Hindu brethren from the warlike tribes of the northern highlands of the Mohammedans, if uncontrolled by English rule and forces. It is not to be denied that Gandhi is a saintly, sincere, religious man, but as extreme joy borders onto tears, so, too, the over-zealous religious cohorts tread closely to the line of fanaticism. This is not intended as any criticism of religion, but upon its unsound interpretation and insane departure from it.
Lahore, our next point of visit, is the capital city of the Punjab and one of the leading cities of India. Its European section is very good indeed, and makes an excellent impression upon the visitor. The native city with its narrow streets, projecting balconies, oriel windows and picturesque humanity might easily excite the temperament of an artist, for there is plenty of local atmosphere and smells, but generally speaking one Indian city (native quarters) is quite like another, only worse. The walls of many of the buildings and those surrounding the cities are usually decorated with animal terra cotta bas-reliefs, more correctly described as drying cow dung cakes.
There is here an interesting old fort containing within its walls, a Hindu tomb shrine, the splendid mosque Wazir Khan, an ancient palace, and also a beautiful little marble garden pavilion. It is within this fort that the burning of a queen’s body in the funeral pyre of her dead husband took place, which scene was graphically described by Dr. Hornsberger, the court physician.
The tomb of Emperor Jahangir is located in the suburbs of Lahore, but of even greater interest to me was the tomb of a sweetheart of his earlier years and that of his late wife, Empress Nurjahan who was known as “The Light of Asia.” These powerful Mogul emperors used no uncertain methods to accomplish their purpose. Amar Kali was a beautiful lady of the harem. Akbar, observing that she smiled upon his son Salim (Jahangir), suspicioned an illicit love and condemned her to be buried alive. There is no doubt of Jahangir’s love for this favorite beauty of the royal harem, for later when he attained unto power he erected her a splendid tomb, and upon the cenotaph of purest white marble, beside the inscription of the 99 names of God, there is also engraved these lines (interpreted):
“Ah if I could again see the face of my beloved, to the day of judgment I would give thanks to my Creator.”
Jahangir used no less violent means, however, to make Nurjahan his wife. This very beautiful lady, referred to in literature as “The Light of Asia,” was before her marriage to Jahangir the wife of an Afghan, Ali Kull Khan, but this was no obstacle in Jahangir’s way, for he compassed Ali’s death and carried away the fair lady, who, nevertheless, refused to marry him. However, “time heals all wounds,” and imprisoned in a small palace with an allowance of but 14 annas (28c.) a day, along with the persuasive influence of her brothers, she finally consented to marry the emperor.