Travel Letters: Jeypore, India (1883)

MY DEAR GERTIE, — I wish you had been here with me yesterday. We would have had a beautiful time. You would have had to get up at five o’clock, for at six the carriage was at the door, and we had already had our breakfast. But in this country you do every-thing you can very early, so as to escape the hot sun. It is very hot in the middle of the day, but quite cold now at night and in the mornings and evenings. Well, as we drove into the town (for the bungalow where we are staying is just outside), the sun rose and the streets were full of light.

The town is all painted pink, which makes it the queerest-looking place you ever saw, and on the outsides of the pink houses there are pictures drawn, some of them very solemn and some very funny, which makes it very pleasant to drive up the street. We drove through the street, which was crowded with camels and elephants and donkeys, and women wrapped up like bundles, and men chattering like monkeys, and monkeys themselves, and naked little children rolling in the dust, and playing queer Jeypore games. All the little girls, when they get to be about your age, hang jewels in their noses, and the women all have their noses looking beautiful in this way. I have got a nose jewel for you, which I shall put in when I get home, and also a little button for the side of Susie’s nose, such as the smaller children wear. Think how the girls at school will admire you.

Well, we drove out the other side of the queer pink town, and went on toward the old town, which they deserted a hundred years ago, when they built this. The priest told the rajah, or king, that they ought not to live more than a thousand years in one place, and so, as the old town was about a thousand years old, the king left it; and there it stands about five miles off, with only a few beggars and a lot of monkeys for inhabitants of its splendid palaces and temples. As we drove along toward it, the fields were full of pea-cocks and all sorts of bright-winged birds, and out of the ponds and streams the crocodiles stuck up their lazy heads and looked at us.

The hills around are full of tigers and hyenas, but they do not come down to the town, though I saw a cage of them there which had been captured only about a month and were very fierce. Poor things ! When we came to the entrance of the old town, there was a splendid great elephant waiting for us, which the rajah had sent. He sent the carriage, too. The elephant had his head and trunk beautifully painted, and looked almost as big as Jumbo. He knelt down, and we climbed up by a ladder and sat upon his back, and then he toiled up the hill. I am afraid he thought Americans must be very heavy, and I do not know whether he could have carried you. Behind us, as we went up the hill, came a man leading a little black goat, and when I asked what it was for, they said it was for sacrifice. It seems a horrid old goddess has a temple on the hill, and years ago they used to sacrifice men to her, to make her happy and kind. But a merciful rajah stopped that, and made them sacrifice goats instead, and now they give the horrid old goddess a goat every morning, and she likes it just as well.

When we got into the old town, it was a perfect wilderness of beautiful things, — lakes, temples, pal-aces, porticos, all sorts of things in marble and fine stones, with sacred long-tailed monkeys running over all. But I must tell you all about the goddess, and the way they cut off the poor goat’s little black head, and all the rest that I saw, when I get home. Don’t you wish you had gone with me ?

Give my love to your father and mother and Agnes and Susie. I am dying to know about your Christmas and the presents. Do not forget your affectionate uncle PHILLIPS.