‘The Great Game’ (also referred to as the Tournament of Shadows) is a term used to describe the political and diplomatic confrontation that existed during most of the 19th Century between the British Empire and the Russian Empire centered around Afghanistan and its surrounding regions. The classic Great Game period is generally regarded as running approximately from the Russo-Persian Treaty of 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, in which nations like the Emirate of Bukhara fell.Alexander Burnes was a British adventurer and employee of the East India Company during this turbulent era. He spoke Hindi and Persian and was nicknamed Bokhara Burnes for his role in establishing contact with and exploring Bukhara, which made his name. He was rumored to be a spy during the first Afghan War and was knighted by Queen Victoria for his clandestine services during the conflict.Burnes kept a lively, detailed record of his trail-blazing journey across Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, the Indian sub-continent and beyond which he later published in three volumes to great acclaim, entitled Travels Into Bokhara - A Voyage up the Indus to Lahore and a Journey to Cabool, Tartary & Persia.This new digital edition of Travels Into Bokhara - Volume I has an image gallery with illustrations referenced by Burnes, including a plate of the original Buddhas of Bamiyan, the giant Buddha icons dynamited and destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
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TRAVELS INTO BOKHARA
A Voyage up the Indus to Lahore and a Journey to Cabool, Tartary & Persia
Travels into Bokhara
Chapter I | LAHORE
Chapter II | ACROSS THE PUNJAB TO THE INDUS
Chapter III | PESHAWUR
Chapter IV | JOURNEY TO CABOOL
Chapter V | CABOOL
Chapter VI | JOURNEY OVER THE HINDOO KOOSH, OR SNOWY MOUNTAINS
Chapter VII | SERIOUS DIFFICULTIES
Chapter VIII | BALKH AND CONTINUATION OF THE JOURNEY TO BOKHARA
Chapter IX | BOKHARA
Chapter X | BOKHARA
Chapter XI | DETENTION IN THE KINGDOM OF BOKHARA
Further Reading: The Revenant: Some Incidents in the Life of Hugh Glass, a Hunter of the Missouri River
Travels into Bokhara: A Voyage up the Indus to Lahore and a Journey to Cabool, Tartary & Persia Volume I by Alexander Burnes. First published in 1834. This edition published 2016 by Enhanced Media.
In the year 1831, I was deputed in a political capacity to the Court of Lahore, charged with a letter from the King of England, and a present of some horses, to the ruler of that country. The principal object of my journey was to trace the course of the Indus; which had only been crossed at particular points by former travellers, and had never been surveyed but between Tatta and Hydrabad. My success in this undertaking, which was attended with many difficulties, and the sight of so many tribes hitherto little known, gave fresh strength to a desire that I had always felt to see new countries, and visit the conquests of Alexander. As the first European of modern times who had navigated the Indus, I now found myself stimulated to extend my journey beyond that river—the scene of romantic achievements which I had read of in early youth with the most intense interest.
The design received the most liberal encouragement from the Governor-general of India, Lord William Bentinck, whom I joined at Simla, in the Himalaya Mountains, after the termination of my mission to Lahore. His Lordship was of opinion that a knowledge of the general condition of the countries through which I was to travel, would be useful to the British Government, independent of other advantages which might be expected from such a journey.
The hazardous nature of the expedition, and the mode in which it could be best accomplished required consideration. It would have been objectionable, and highly imprudent, to have entered the countries lying between India and Europe, as I had voyaged on the Indus, an accredited agent , and I was directed to appear (which I myself had suggested) as a private individual.
I was furnished with passports as a Captain in the British army returning to Europe, drawn out in French, English, and Persian; and in such terms as would satisfy the people of my real character; and show, at the same time, that Government was interested in my good treatment.
Every other arrangement regarding the journey was left to myself; and I received the sanction of the Governor-general to associate with me Ensign John Leckie—a young officer of the most buoyant disposition, who had been the companion of my voyage up the Indus. On the eve of departure, my fellow-traveller was recalled by the Government of Bombay. Believing that his place might be well supplied by a medical gentleman, which I thought would facilitate our progress through such countries, I prevailed on Mr. James Gerard, a Surgeon of the Bengal army, to accompany me. That gentleman had passed most of his life in India, in traversing the Himalaya regions; and possessed an ardent desire for travel. I was also attended by a native Surveyor, Mahommed Ali, a public servant, who had been educated in the Engineer Institution of Bombay, under Captain G. Jervis, of the Engineers; and who had entitled himself to my utmost confidence by faithful and devoted conduct on many trying occasions during the voyage to Lahore. I also took a Hindoo lad, of Cashmere family, named Mohun Lai, who had been educated at the English Institution at Delhi, as he would assist me in my Persian correspondence; the forms of which amount to a science in the East. His youth and his creed would, I believed, free me from all danger of his entering into intrigues with the people; and both he and the Surveyor proved themselves to be zealous and trustworthy men, devoted to our interests. Being natives, they could detach themselves from us; and, by reducing our retinue, maintain our character for poverty, which I ever considered our best safeguard. We discharged the whole of our Indian servants but one individual, Ghoolam Hoosn, who demands my lasting gratitude for the hardships which he underwent on my account, and who is yet my faithful servant.
From the time I resolved to traverse the countries that lie between India and the Caspian, I determined to retain the character of a European, accommodating myself in dress, habits, and customs, to those with whom I should mingle. The sequel has proved that the design had much to recommend it, though the character involved us in some difficulties. I adopted the resolution, however, in an utter hopelessness of supporting the disguise of a native; and from having observed that no European traveller has ever journeyed in such countries without suspicion, and seldom without discovery. From long intercourse with Asiatics, I had acquired some insight into their character, and possessed at the same time a fair colloquial knowledge of the Persian language, the lingua franca of the people I should meet. I did not, then, hesitate to appear among them in their own garb, and avow myself a foreigner. By all the accounts which I collected, it did not appear to me that there was any just cause for apprehending personal injury or danger; but I received little consolation from my friends in India, who referred to the fate of our predecessors, poor Moorcroft and his party, as our inevitable lot. I trust, however, that the happy termination of this journey will give a more favourable impression of the Asiatic character, and stimulate others (which I shall consider a high reward) to view and visit these lands.
Such is a brief detail of the circumstances which led me into these countries; the manner in which I have performed my task must be decided by the public. I have to solicit much indulgence, in the perusal of my book; I have had no assistance in its composition, and my career in the East has been one of constant employment. I am, however, deeply indebted to the Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone, the late Governor of Bombay, for his advice in preparing for the press; and by which I have not failed to profit. If I had to congratulate myself on having reached my native shores in safety, I consider my good fortune great indeed, to have met a gentleman so eminently qualified to give me counsel. The aversion to display, for which Mr. Elphinstone is so distinguished, alone prevents my enlarging on this subject.
I have now only to express an anxious hope, that my fellow traveller, Dr. Gerard, who has not yet reached India, may soon be restored to his friends, to share in the approbation which has been bestowed, I fear too liberally, upon myself,
ALEX R BURNES.
London, June, 1834.
In the end of December, 1831, I had the honour to obtain the final sanction of the Governor-general of India to proceed to Central Asia. I received my passports from his lordship at Delhi on the 23d of that month, and proceeded by express to Lodiana on the frontiers, where I had the pleasure of meeting my fellow-traveller Mr. James Gerard, of the Bengal army. We here experienced many acts of kindness and assistance from Capt. C. M. Wade, the political agent, whose good offices I have to acknowledge with gratitude. The society of this, the most remote station of British India, also evinced an interest in our welfare which was truly gratifying. We took leave of it at a convivial party given for the occasion on the 2d of January, and on the following day bade a long farewell to such scenes, and plunged into the solitude of an Indian desert.
We took the route that leads along the left bank of the Sutlege, till that river is joined by the Beas or Hyphasis. Before crossing the boundaries of India it was both prudent and necessary to receive the permission of Maharaja Runjeet Sing, the ruler of the Punjab. It was suggested to me that a private application was in every respect preferable to an official letter from government, since the most favourable reception which I had already experienced from his highness left no doubt of his ready compliance. I consequently addressed his highness, and solicited the indulgence of again entering his territories. I gave him a brief outline of the objects which I had in view, and congratulated myself on having to traverse at the outset the territories of so friendly an ally. In the true style of oriental hyperbole, I assured his highness that "when I had again the pleasure of seeing him it would add to my happiness, because it would afford me an opportunity of renewing my terms of friendship with a prince whose exalted virtues filled me with recollections of perpetual delight!" In the course of three days we were joined by a small escort of cavalry sent to welcome us, and their commandant brought a most friendly reply from the Maharaja, expressive of his pleasure at our approach. It was also intimated to us that we should receive presents of money and gifts as we advanced; but, as it would better suit our character to pass without these attentions, I civilly declined them. Reports would precede us, and doubtless in an exaggerated enough shape, which made it desirable to shun all pomp and show, and the more so since we had really no right to them.
As we descended the banks of the Sutlege, we gradually lost sight of the Hemilaya mountains. For the first twenty miles they could be seen in great grandeur, clothed in snow from base to summit, without an inferior ridge to hide their majesty. They were about 150 miles distant, and not so peaked in their outline as the same range of mountains to the eastward. The hoary aspect of this stupendous chain formed a striking-contrast with the pleasing verdure of the plains of the Punjab. In the morning these, indeed, were covered with hoar frost, but it disappeared under the first rays of the sun, and left, in this alternation of heat and cold, a hard green sward, which is not often seen in tropical countries.
On the banks of the river we passed innumerable villages, the houses of which were terrace-roofed, and formed of sun-dried brick on a wooden frame-work. They had a clean and comfortable look, and the peasantry appeared well clad and happy. They consist of Juts, both Hindoo and Mahommedan, and a few Seiks. All the Mahommedans have been converted from Hindooism; and it is a curious fact, that the Moslems predominate on the southern bank, where, from the vicinity to the Hindoo world, one would have expected to find those of that persuasion. In the upper parts of the Sutlege, near Lodiana, the inhabitants are exclusively agricultural; but, after that river has been joined by the Beas or Hyphasis, the habits of the people are predatory. There they are known under the various denominations of Dogur, Julmairee, Salairee, &c. and by the general designation of Raat, and live in a perpetual state of opposition to one another. In the cultivated parts this country has the appearance of an extensive meadow. It is entirely free from underwood, and some of the wheat fields extend for miles without a hedge. The grain is raised without irrigation, though the water is but twenty-six feet from the surface. There are no trees except in the vicinity of the villages; and such is the scarcity of fuel, that cow dung is universally used in its stead. This is dried and stacked. The fire formed of it throws out a most powerful heat, which leaves the people no cause to regret the want of other fuel. The country below that stripe which fringes the river is known by the name of Malwa. It has a dry climate and soil, and produces gram and barley, with bajree and mut, which are exported to the Punjab.
After a journey of fifty miles from Lodiana, we encamped at Huree, on the banks of the Hyphasis, below the confluence of that river and the Sutlege. In all our maps this junction takes place some fifty miles lower down, which appears to have been only correct at a remote period. These united rivers form a beautiful stream, which is never fordable; and, at this season, was 275 yards wide. The actual channel exceeded a mile and a half) and the high bank lay on the northern shore; the water was running at the rate of two miles and a quarter an hour, and was at this season perfectly clear, and free from the foul, muddy appearance of a river that is swollen by the water of the mountains. The depth did not exceed twelve feet since the river had retired to its summer bed, and the melting snow had ceased to feed it. Both rivers stood at a temperature of 57°, which was 6° below that of the atmosphere. The people informed us that about fifty years ago the Sutlege had been of rivers, hemmed in among the mountains, by a hill falling in upon its bed. After an obstruction for some weeks, it vomited forth its imprisoned stream with great destruction. A similar case occurred about eight years ago, in the Ravee or river of Lahore. It did little injury, and the terror of the inhabitants was excited only by the black earthy colour of the water which forced itself over the obstructing mound. The Sutlege has altered its course at no distant period, and swept away some of the villages on its banks. These are of a clayey, crumbling nature, easily undermined by the current. Near the existing point of union between the rivers, we passed the dry bed of the old Sutlege, which is said to have once joined the Hyphasis at Feerozpoor. The space between this and the present channel, from twelve to fifteen miles across, is entirely destitute of trees, and covered by a rich mould, the deposit of the river. In a country subject to such changes, how are we to look for an identity between the topography of modern and ancient days? Yet we were now in the vicinity of the altars of Alexander; and if we sought for these ancient relics of the "Macedonian madman" without success, we sought not without industry and enthusiasm.
When the army of Alexander mutinied on the banks of the Hyphasis, he crossed that river, and raised twelve colossal altars, to indicate the limit and glory of his expedition. Major Rennell has placed the site of these monuments between the Beas and Sutlege; but that eminent geographer is not here supported by the text of Alexander's historians. They do not even mention the Sutlege; and their allusions to a desert that lay beyond the Hyphasis can only be identified with the country beyond that river, and below its junction with the Sutlege, where that desert is still to be found. Nor is it probable that Alexander would erect the trophies of his conquest, where a small and fordable river yet separated him from India. We wandered about for a few days, and extended our researches on every side. We crossed the Sutlege, and found, at the point of its junction with the Beas, a brick ruin, of small dimensions, called Andreesa, which sounded like Greek, but the building was of a Mahommedan age. We then embarked on the Hyphasis, and passed the confluence of the two streams, where the waters meet each other gently, and glide smoothly along. Both rivers have an equal breadth of 200 yards, but the Sutlege discharges a greater volume of water. It was with faint hopes of success that we prosecuted our enquiries after these remnants of antiquity, since the inhabitants did not remember to have even seen an European. It is an approximation, nevertheless, to discovery, to ascertain where these altars are not; and if any traces of them be here after found, they probably lie lower down, and on the left bank of the united stream of the Beas and Sutlege, there called the Garra. I should here mention that, on our way from Lodiana, and about twenty miles from that cantonment, we heard of the ruins of Tiharu, on the southern bank of the Sutlege, which had been washed into the river within the last thirty years. Kiln-burnt bricks of large dimensions and peculiar shape are yet found on this site, which may have been an ancient ruin. If the altars stood here, my surmises are erroneous.
On the 11th we crossed by the ferry boats at Huree Ka Puttun, and landed in the Punjab at the village of that name. There are twenty-three boats at this ferry; and it is protected by a party of 400 horse, whom the ruler of the Punjab has stationed here to prevent the fanatics of the Seik creed from passing into the British territories. As we entered the village, we were met by a crowd of females and children, who approached to chant our welcome. They are the poorer peasantry, and, of course, actuated by the hope of reward; but the custom has something pleasing in it. The boys of the village had also assembled to gratify their curiosity; while we approached, they were silent, and looked with attention: when we had passed, all was bustle and uproar, running and falling, jumping and laughing, till the head man and his troopers called the urchins to order.
We had no sooner set foot on the Punjab than a sirdar, or chief, of the name of Sham Sing, appeared by order of his master. He presented me with a bow, according to the custom of the Seiks, and two bags of money; which latter I declined, being amply satisfied at the readiness with which we had received permission to enter the country. I wished also to dispense with this personage and his cavalcade; but it was impossible, since he had been deputed from Lahore to escort us, and the road was described as not altogether safe for a small party. It was well we did not separate ourselves from the chief as we afterwards passed a village on fire, and in possession of the Seik fanatics, to whom I have before alluded. We met a body of 500 horse, with two field-pieces, proceeding to chastise these "wrong-headed and short-sighted" men, as they are styled in the language of the Punjab cabinet.
On the following morning we commenced our Manja, march across the "Doab," between the Beas and Ravee (Hydraotes), which has the name of Manja. It is the highest portion of the Punjab east of the Hydaspes; a fact which is established by the eastern bank of the one river as well as the western one of the other being both elevated. The left bank of the Ravee is about forty feet high, and so is the right bank of the Beas. The wells are also much deeper than south of the Sutlege; here they exceed sixty feet, there they are not twenty-six. The soil is a hard, indurated clay, sometimes gravelly, producing thorny shrubs and brambles, called by the natives jund, khureel, and babool. Cultivation depends upon the rain, and irrigation is by no means general. Herds of neelgaee roam over it. In former years the Mogul emperors, seeing the comparative sterility of this tract, fertilised it by canals from the Ravee, which connected that river with the Beas. The remains of one of them may be yet traced at the town of Puttee, running down at right angles upon the Beas, though it has been choked up for the last 150 years. The district of Manja is celebrated for the bravery of its soldiers, and the breed of its horses, which would always entitle it to the patronage of a sovereign.
The first town we entered was Puttee, which contains about 5000 people, and, with the adjoining town of Sooltanpoor, was built in the reign of Akbar. The houses are constructed of bricks, and the streets are even laid with them. Some workmen, digging a well in this neighbourhood, lately hit upon a former well, on which was a Hindoo inscription. It set forth that it had been built by one Agurtuta, of whom tradition gives no account. The district of Puttee held, at one time, a supremacy over 1360 villages, and yielded a revenue of nine lacks of rupees, when fertilised by its canal.
At Puttee we visited one of the royal studs of Runjeet Sing. We found about sixty brood mares, chiefly of the Dunnee breed, from beyond the Hydaspes, where the country is of the same description as Manja, dry and elevated. May not this aridity, as resembling the soil of Arabia, where the horse attains such perfection, have something to do with its excellence? These animals are exclusively fed on barley, and a kind of creeping grass called doob which is considered most nutritive. The horses at this stud were lately attacked with an epidemic disease, of which a Mahommedan, who resides in a neighbouring sanctuary, is believed to have cured them. Though a Mahommedan, the Seiks have in gratitude repaired and beautified his temple, which is now a conspicuous white building, that glitters in the sun. The Seik people are most tolerant in their religion; and I have remarked in India generally much more of this virtue than the people receive credit for. It may be superstition which excites this general respect of all religions, but, be the feeling grounded on what it may, it is a sound and wholesome one. The Mahommedans have, no doubt, been overbearing in their conquests (and what conquerors have not been overbearing); but, as they settled among the people, their prejudices disappeared, to the mutual benefit of themselves and their subjects.
On the 13th we received a message from the Acali who had set fire to the village a few days previous, and whose acts of fanaticism had called for the interference of the court. This outlaw, by name Nehna Sing, wished to visit us, and I felt equal anxiety to hear from so notorious a character some history of himself and his adventures. These fanatics of the Seik creed acknowledge no superior, and the ruler of the country can only moderate their frenzy by intrigues and bribery. They go about every where with naked swords, and lavish their abuse without ceremony on the nobles, as well as the peaceable subjects; nor are they always so harmless, since they have, on several occasions, even attempted the life of Runjeet Sing. An interview with such a person excited considerable anxiety on the part of our conductors, who strongly dissuaded me from it, and, at length, completely frustrated our wishes by informing the Acali that he must come unattended. This he declined, and we were obliged to forego the pleasure of seeing a man who had dared Runjeet Sing himself within a few miles of his capital. We were obliged to rest satisfied with a hearsay account of this Seik bigot, nor could I discover any difference in the shades of fanaticism here and in other countries. These Acalis or Nihungs are not numerous, but commit the grossest outrages, and shield themselves under their religious character. They evince no greater hostility to those of another creed than to a Seik, and would appear to be at war with mankind. Their fanaticism borders on insanity. The creed of the Seiks is well known: it has been ably described by Sir John Malcolm. Like their neighbours, the Mahommedans, they have forgotten much of its primitive form, and found their distinction from other sects on a few ritual observances. A Seik will tell you that tobacco is the most debasing of stimulants, since the founder of their sect, Gooroo Govind Sing, proved it by exhibiting the contamination in the interior of a tobacco pipe, as a type of its corruption in the human body! A Seik once told me that tobacco and flies were the greatest of ills in this degenerate age.
About half way across the Doab we reached Pidana, the seat of one of the principal chiefs of the Punjab, Sirdar Juwala Sing, who had been sent from Lahore to entertain us at his family mansion. He met us about a mile out, and delivered a letter with a bow and a bag of money. The chief had robed himself in a rich dress of brocade, and his retainers were arrayed in tunics of yellow, which is the favourite colour of the Seiks. Juwala Sing has the reputation of a brave soldier, and possesses a suavity of manner and address which appear to great advantage in a fine soldier-looking person about six feet high. It was twilight as he led us through his fort and under his baronial castle to our camp, which gave a favourable idea of the residence of a Seik chief. The castle stood in the centre, surrounded by a village, peopled by his retainers, the whole being enclosed by a mud wall and outer ditch. Within this space is to be found a bazar, extensive stables, and, in the present instance, these were built on a plan of great regularity. In the tranquillity which has followed the conquest of this country, most of the chiefs have turned their minds to improving their places of residence; and their habitations have at a distance a most imposing and respectable appearance, though inferior to the fortified dwellings of the Rajpoot chiefs in Marwar. They are always built in a military style, of a quadrangular shape, with lofty walls and turrets. Our worthy host made us such welcome guests, that we remained with him for two days. From the top of his castle we had a commanding view of the surrounding country, which is very rich, from its vicinity to the two capitals of the country, Lahore and Umritsir; yet the soil is unproductive.
In our progress to Lahore, we entered the great road of Juhangeer, which was once shaded with trees, and studded with minarets and caravanserais. It conducted the traveller and has been celebrated in Lalla Rookh, in the royal procession to Cashmeer. In the lapse of time the trees have disappeared; but many minarets and superb caravanserais yet mark the munificence of the Mogul emperors. The road itself is yet a broad and beaten way; nor was it possible to tread upon it without participating in the excitement which the author of Lalla Rookh has raised, and I may almost say gratified.
On the morning of the 17th we entered the imperial city of Lahore, which has once rivalled Delhi. We wound among its ruins; and, when yet three miles distant, were met by Monsieur Allard, and two natives of rank sent to welcome us. The Chevalier came in his carriage drawn by four mules, into which the Dr. and myself stepped, and drove to his hospitable mansion, where we alighted and took up our quarters. After the ceremony of receiving various friendly and formal messages from Runjeet, the native part of the deputation withdrew, leaving a profusion of the fruits of Cashmeer and Cabool as an earnest of the condescension of their master.
In the evening, a purse of 1100 rupees was sent to us by the Maharaja; nor was it possible to refuse the money without giving offence. The Maharaja received us with marked affability in a garden about two miles from the city. We found him in great spirits, and continued with him for about two hours. His conversation ranged from points of the utmost importance to mere trifles: he expressed much satisfaction at an interview which he had lately had, for the first time, with the Governor-general; and said, that he might now reduce the pay of his troops, after having seen so efficient an army as the Indian with so little pay. His highness was much interested in shell practice; and conducted us to the front of his garden, to show the success which had attended his exertions. They are unacquainted with the mode of fusing iron in this country, and the shells are constructed of brass. Monsieur Court, one of his French officers, exhibited these to him on the day of our arrival, and was presented with a purse of 5000 rupees, jewels, and other gifts. Runjeet made the most particular enquiries regarding our journey; and, since it was no part of my object to develop the entire plans we had in view, we informed his highness that we were proceeding towards our native country. He requested me to take a complimentary letter to the King of England; which I declined, on the excuse of its endangering my safety in the intermediate territories. I then presented a handsome brace of pistols, that drew forth his Highness's commendation, and which he said he would keep for my sake. The Dr. produced a spy-glass as the token of his homage. Runjeet received us, surrounded by troops: four regiments of infantry could be seen at parade from his audience tent. We passed through a street formed by his infantry and cavalry, and were honoured by a salute. On taking leave, he requested that we would continue as long as possible at his court, since he wished to show us some tiger hunting, and give an entertainment in his palace,— honours which we duly appreciated. We meanwhile returned to enjoy the friendly society of M. Allard and his brother officers. I shall make no further mention of Lahore, since it is described in my first visit to the court, and was now no longer a scene of curious novelty.
Near midnight on the 22d, we were much alarmed by an earthquake, which continued for a about ten seconds with great violence. The house in which we were lodged, though a substantial dwelling of brick and mortar, shook with great violence. The atmosphere had indicated nothing unusual; the barometer underwent no variation either before or after it; and the thermometer stood so low as 37°, and fell four degrees under the freezing point before sun-rise. In July last, it had risen to 102°. I was informed that earthquakes are of frequent occurrence at Lahore, particularly during winter. In Cashmeer they are still more common; and appear to be more usual on approaching the mountains. The lofty minarets of Lahore afford the most convincing proof that there can have been no very violent commotion of nature since they were built,— nearly two hundred years ago. The shock on the present occasion appeared to run from southeast to north-west; and it was singular to discover, after crossing Hindoo Koosh, that this was also the exact direction of its course. In the valley of Badukhshan, and the whole upper course of the Oxus, the greater portion of the villages had been overthrown, which had buried some thousands of people in their ruins. The shock had occurred there at the same time, and, as far as I could judge, at the same hour, since they mentioned the midnight horrors of the sad event.
A week after our arrival we received the promised invitation to join his Highness in the sports of the field. He himself had quitted the capital, and sent a friendly letter, along with four elephants to convey us and our baggage. We immediately mounted, and took the route by the banks of the Ravee, in which direction the court had proceeded. On our way, we passed an hour in the celebrated garden of Shalimar, which was now more beautiful than ever. Though it was winter, the trees were loaded with oranges. We halted for the night, near the village of Lakodur, famous in history as the spot at which Nadir Shah crossed the river and captured Lahore. The stream has forsaken its former channel, which is now dry and cultivated. The hordes of the destroying Nadir have been in like manner long withdrawn, and given place to the industrious and reformed inhabitants of this country. On the following morning we entered the royal camp, which was about twenty miles from the city. On the road we passed crowds of soldiers, porters and messengers bearing fruits and rarities. Since leaving Lahore, it was evident that we were approaching a hive of men. About a Description mile distant we were welcomed by a Rajah and camp, his train, who met us on elephants, and conducted us to the camp, pitched close on the banks of the river. The scene, as we approached, was magnificent. A large pavilion of red cloth, surrounded by extensive walls of the same materials, marked the encampment of Runjeet, while his troops and chiefs were cantoned in picturesque groups around. The suite of tents which had been pitched for our accommodation was most elegant. They were made of scarlet and yellow cloth, and the ground was covered with the carpets of Cashmeer, and pieces of French satin. It was with some reluctance that I set foot upon such valuable materials. In each tent was a camp bed, with curtains of yellow silk, and coverlets of the same description. Such costly splendour was ill-suited to men who had so little prospect even of comfort; but I must say that it was exhilarating at the moment. One of the officers of the court welcomed us in the name of his Highness; and in the evening we were joined by Captain Wade and Dr. Murray, who had been sent on a political mission to the court of Lahore. On the morning of the 27th, we marched with the Maharaja; and fording the Ravee, proceeded inland. The order of the march was very picturesque, and the retinue in every respect that of a soldier king. His horses were led in front of him, but the journey was performed on elephants. Two of these stupendous animals bore houdas of gold, in one of which his Highness sat. Six or seven others followed with his courtiers and favourites. A small body of cavalry, and a field piece, formed his escort; and the carriage, which he had received from the Governor-general, drawn by four horses, completed the procession.
Runjeet was very talkative during the march, and detained us in conversation for about an hour after it had terminated. He spoke of the good fortune of Ameer Khan, in receiving so large a grant of land from the Indian Government without military service; and commented on his rise from so low an origin, to such an elevation. He need not have gone farther than himself for a remarkable instance of the caprice of fortune. Runjeet said that a disciplined army did not suit the manners of an Eastern prince, for it could not be regularly paid, and complained, consequently, of its duties: he wished to know if our troops ever clamoured for pay, and expressed some surprise to learn that such behaviour was viewed as mutinous. A conversation could not, of course, conclude without his favourite topic of wine; and, as he first sat down, he remarked that the site of his tent was an agreeable one for a drinking party, since it commanded a fine view of the surrounding country. He enquired of the doctors, whether wine was best before or after food; and laughed heartily at an answer from myself, when I recommended both. During this conversation, a peasant rushed in upon our party, calling loudly for justice: he was stopped by the guards, and gagged; but Runjeet called out in a stern voice,—"Strike him not!" An officer of high rank was sent to hear his complaint; but I fear that, if received opinions be true, justice is here an equally expensive article as in other Asiatic governments.
On taking leave of his Highness, we proceeded to our tents, which were a distinct suite from that we had yesterday occupied. They were made of Cashmeer shawls, and about fourteen feet square. Two of these were connected by tent walls of the same superb materials; while the intervening space was shaded by a lofty screen, supported on four massy poles, adorned with silver. The shawls of one tent were red; of the other, white. In each of them stood a camp bed, with curtains of Cashmeer shawls, which gave one an impression of a fairy abode more than an encampment in the jungles of the Punjab. Among our visitors in the camp, I must not omit to mention the sage Uzeezodeen, the physician and secretary of Runjeet Sing, who, according to Eastern notions, is a very learned person, deeply versed in theology, metaphysics, and physics, which he professes to have acquired from the Greek authors. He displayed his acquirements in many long discourses, from which I have extracted the following, as a specimen of what sometimes passes for wisdom in the East:
The world possesses three different atoms, all excellent, and all of which enter into the 'noblest work of God,' man.—Neither the gem nor the precious metals can multiply or increase the size or number; in their beauty we find their excellence. In the vegetable kingdom, we see the trees and plants, sucking moisture from the earth and moulding it to their nature, increase in size and glory. In the animal kingdom, we see the beasts of the field cropping those plants which afford them nourishment, and avoiding these which are noxious. We see them propagating the species without the institutions of society. In man alone have we every excellence: he possesses the beauty and ornament of the gem understands and wields the properties of the vegetable kingdom; and, to the instinct of the animal creation, he adds reason and looks to futurity. As the learned physician said, "he chooses his wife considerately, nor herds in flocks like the other animals of the creation."
But we had come to hunt, not to philosophise; and next day accompanied the Maharaja on a sporting expedition at noon. He rode a favourite bay horse, covered with an elegant saddle-cloth of the richest embroidery, ornamented, in its border, by almost every beast and bird which the sportsman calls his own. Runjeet was dressed in a tunic of green shawls, lined with fur; his dagger was studded with the richest brilliants; and a light metal shield, the gift of the ex-King of Cabool, completed his equipment. A train of elephants followed him; and a pack of dogs, of motley breed, natives of Sinde, Bokhara, Iran, and his own dominions, led the van. His falconers supported their noble birds on their fists. They fluttered at his side, and shook the bells suspended from their feet. A company of infantry in extended order, with two or three hundred horsemen, swept the ground; and we followed the foresters with their rude halberds, who soon disturbed the game. We were to encounter hogs instead of tigers. The swords of the Seiks glittered in the sun; and in the course of half an hour eight monsters had bitten the dust, and many more were entrapped by snares. Most of the animals had been slain by the horsemen with their swords; a few had been first wounded by the matchlock. The sport might not be duly appreciated by a European sportsman, since the hogs had but a small chance of escape; yet I am sure the excitement of the field was great. The scene took place in a plain covered with high grass, in the open patches of which we could see from our elephants the brilliant display with great advantage. The bright coloured dresses of the courtiers had a striking effect. Runjeet himself viewed each hog as it fell, and keenly turned to the scenes of passing slaughter; in the course of an hour and a half we returned to our tents, and saw each of the successful sportsmen rewarded. The live hogs were then brought, tied by one leg to a stake, and baited with dogs. The sport is a cruel one, and does not afford any great amusement; the courage and fire of the animals are renewed by dashing water over them. After witnessing it for a short time, an order was given to set all the live hogs at liberty, as Runjeet said that they might praise his humanity; and the infuriated animals scampered through the crowded encampment, to the great delight of the assembled multitude.
After the bustle had passed, we continued for some time with the Maharaja, who gave us an animated account of his exploits beyond the Indus. He described the bravery of a Nihung, or Seik fanatic, who had perished on that occasion. He had fought on foot and received a wound, which he dressed, and returned to the field on horseback. He received a second wound; but, not discomfited, seated himself on an elephant; and was at last shot through the lungs. "He was a brave man," continued he, "but a great villain; and had he not fallen on that day, I must have imprisoned him for life: he wished to cross the frontier and set fire to some of the British cantonments." The particular battle to which his Highness now alluded was fought at Noushero, near Peshawur, and was the most glorious victory which he gained after passing the Indus in a heroic manner, without a ford. It was quite delightful to hear Runjeet speak of his charges, his squares, his battles, and his success; and his only eye brightened with the description. "You will pass the field of battle," added he, "and you must reconnoitre it well. I shall give you letters to the neighbouring chiefs and the marauding Khyberees, who will describe the ground, and ensure your protection and honourable treatment." The favour was well meant; and I felt it the more, as it was unsolicited, though the letters proved useless.
We continued in the enjoyment of his society till the end of the month, when we returned to Lahore, with the same pomp and pageantry that we had witnessed in the field. On the way we had some sport with the hawks, which is an amusement that can be enjoyed even by those who are no sportsmen. A hundred cannon announced the arrival of Runjeet Sing in his capital; and we again took up our abode with our worthy friend Monsieur Allard.
On the 6th of February, the festival of the Busunt which simply means the Spring, was celebrated with great splendour. Runjeet invited us on the occasion; and we accompanied him on elephants to witness the demonstration of joy with which returning spring is here hailed, as in other countries. The troops of the Punjab were drawn out, forming a street of about two miles long, which it took upwards of thirty-five minutes to traverse. The army consisted entirely of regular troops — cavalry, infantry, and artillery; and the whole corps was uniformly dressed in yellow, which is the gala costume of this Carnival. The Maharaja passed down the line, and received the salute of his forces. Our road lay entirely through the ruins of old Lahore, over irregular ground, which gave the line a waving appearance that greatly heightened the beauty of the scene. At the end of this magnificent array stood the royal tents, lined with yellow silk. Among them was a canopy, valued at a lac of rupees, covered with pearls, and having a border of precious stones. Nothing can be imagined more grand. At one end Runjeet took his seat, and heard the Grinth, or sacred volume of the Seiks, for about ten minutes. He made a present to the priest; and the holy book was borne away wrapped in ten different covers, the outside one of which, in honour of the day, was of yellow velvet. Flowers and fruits were then placed before his Highness; and every kind of shrub or tree that produced a yellow flower must have been shorn of its beauties on this day. I could discover no reason for the selection of so plain a colour, but the arbitrary will of a ruler. After this came the nobles and commandants of his troops, dressed in yellow, to make their offerings in money. Two sons of the fallen Kings of Cabool, Shah Zuman and Shah Eyoob, then entered, and conversed for some time. The Nawab of Mooltan, clad also in yellow, and accompanied by five of his sons, followed to pay his homage, and was most kindly received. This is the same individual who was so much frightened at the Cabool mission, now a subservient vassal of Runjeet Sing. His name is Surufraz Khan. The agents from Bhawulpoor and Sinde approached in their turn, and were closely questioned about a subject of great political importance at the present time, — the opening of the Indus. One could ill discover, from the sycophancy of these persons, that they were the representatives of those who so cordially hated the Maharaja. With these ceremonies the dancing girls were introduced; and as they share the favour of his Highness, they partook most bounteously of the pile of money now lying before him. He appeared almost to divide it among them. They were desired to chant the amorous songs of the festival; also an ode on wine. Runjeet then introduced the bottle, and insisted on our drinking a stirrup-cup, with which we parted.
Our departure from Lahore was stayed by the entertainment which his Highness had resolved on giving us in his palace of the Sumun Boorj. We met in a garden, and proceeded with him to the appointed place, which was superbly illuminated with waxen tapers on the occasion. Bottles filled with different coloured water were placed near the lights, and increased the splendour. We were first conducted to the great hall, the ancient seat of the Mogul Emperors, which is about seventy feet long, and opened to the front by an arched colonnade of marble. The ceiling and walls are entirely inlaid with mirrors, or gilded; and on this occasion presented a scene of great magnificence. There are many parts of this place, which, like that of Delhi, evidently owe much of their architectural beauty to the genius of an European artist. We withdrew from the great hall to a small apartment, the bed-room of the Maharaja, where it was intended that the festivities of the evening should take place. Captain Wade and Dr. Murray were likewise present; and we sat round his Highness on silver chairs. In one end of the room stood a camp bedstead, which merits a description. Its frame-work, posts, and legs were entirely covered with gold, and the canopy was one massy sheet of the same precious metal. It stood on footstools raised about ten inches from the ground, and which were also of gold. The curtains were of Cashmeer shawls. Near it stood a chair of gold; and in one of the upper rooms of the palace we saw the counterpart of these costly ornaments. The candles that lighted up the apartment were held in branch sticks of gold. The little room in which we sat was superbly gilded; and the side which was next the court was closed by a screen of yellow silk. Here we enjoyed the society of our royal entertainer, who freely circulated the wine, filled our glasses himself, and gave every encouragement by his own example. Runjeet drinks by the weight, and his usual dose does not exceed that of eight pice [a small copper coin]; but on this occasion he had quaffed the measure of eighteen. His favourite beverage is a spirit distilled from the grapes of Cabool, which is very fiery, and stronger than brandy. In his cups he became very amusing, and mentioned many incidents of his private life. He had quelled two mutinies among his troops; three of his chiefs had, at different times, fallen by his side; and he had once challenged his adversary to settle the dispute by single combat.
The battles of his Highness infected the dancing ladies whom he had introduced, in a later period of the evening, according to his custom. He gave them spirits; and they tore and fought with each other, much to his amusement, and to the pain of the poor creatures, who lost some ponderous ornaments from their ears and noses in the scuffle. Supper was introduced, and consisted of different kinds of meats, richly cooked, and which in contrast to the surrounding magnificence, were handed up in leaves sewed into the shape of cups. They contained hare, partridge, pork, and all sorts of game, &c, of which Runjeet partook freely, and handed to us. There were also a variety of confections and ice: but it is easier to describe these matters of fact than the scene in which they took place. We broke up long past midnight.
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