Francis Hall.

The Century, Volume 11 online

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number of coin. These unfortunates, stream-
ing with blood, were hideous to look upon,
and M. Rousselet's sympathies with them
were ezdted not a little until Houssein

Khan, who accompanied him, satisfied him
that the daggers which they flourished so
furiously, and which they thrust into them-
selves so recklessly, were purposely so made
with rounded points that it was almost im-
possible for them to inflict serious wounds.
Besides, the fakirs were careful to strike
themselves always in parts which were not
vital, and the woimds they made were sel-
dom more than skin deep.

A much more pleasing performance, and
one which might perhaps better have been
mentioned in connection with the exploits
of the jugglers, is the " egg dance." This
is not, as one might expect from the name
given \tf a dance upon these fragile objects.
It is executed in this wise: The dancer,
dressed in a corsage and very short skirt,
carries a willow wheel of moderate diameter
fastened horizontally upon the top of her
head. Around this wheel threads are fast-
ened, equally distant from each other, and
at the end of each of these threads is a slip
noose, which is kept open by a glass bead.
Thiis equipped, the young girl comes toward
the spectators with a basket full of eggs,
which she passes around for inspection to
prove that they are real, and not imitations.
The music strikes up a jerky, monotonous
strain, and the dancer begins to whirl around
with great rapidity. Then, seizing an egg,
she puts it in one of the slip nooses, and,
with a quick motion, throws it from her in
such a way as to draw the knot tight. The
swift tiuning of the dancer produces a centrif-


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ugal force which stretches the thread out
straight hke a ray shooting from the circum-
ference of the circle. One after another the
egg;s are thrown out in these slip nooses
until they make a horizontal aureole or halo
about the dancer's head. Then the dance
becomes still more rapid, so rapid in fact
that it is difficult to distinguish the features
of the girl ; the moment is critical ; the least
false step, the least irregularity in time, and
the eggs dash against each other. But how
can the dance be stopped ? There is but
one way, — ^that is, to remove the eggs in the
way in which they have been put in place.

This operation is by far the more delicate of
the two. It is necessary that the dancer, by
a single motion, exact and unerring, should
take hold of the egg, and remove it from
the noose. A single false motion of the
hand, the least inteiference with one of the
threads, and the general arrangement is
suddenly broken, and the whole performance
disastrously ended. At last all the eggs are
successfully removed ; the dancer suddenly
stops, and without seeming in the least diz-
zied by this dance of twenty-five or thirty
minutes, she advances to the spectators with
a firm step, and presents them the eggs,

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which are immediately broken in a flat dish
to prove that there is no trick about the per-

Shortly after his arrival at Baroda, M.
Rousselet was formally received at the
Palace by the Guicowar, one of the most
powerful of the Indian sovereigns. The
manners of the Guicowar were full of court-
esy and af^bility. After smoking a few
minutes, he handed his hookah to a servant,
and began to question M. Rousselet as to
the object of his journey, and the length of
stay he proposed to make at Baroda. *' He
was charmed," writes our traveler, " to find
me answer him direct in his own language.
We conversed for some hours, during which
he passed in review, with much interest, all
the States of Europe, asking me respecting
their relative importance, their revenues,
their forms of government, and their inter-
course with one another. He appeared
well informed in the af^rs of France, Eng-
land, and Russia, and the encroachments of
the Muscovite Power in Central Asia en-
gaged his attention considerably. With the
other nations he was quite unacquainted.
When we rose to take leave, he held my
hand while he expressed the pleasiue my
visit had afforded him ; and I took it for
granted that this was merely a compliment-
ary form; that he saw in our sojourn a
meajis of recreation, and that was enough
for a man of so capricious a character. But

he made me promise that I would come to
see him every morning of my stay at Baroda,
and when I tried to excuse myself by alleg-
ing the great distance between my abode
and the palace, he told me that he would
have a residence prepared for me in a place
nearer at hand." And the Guicowar was as
good as his word. A few days afterward,
M. Rousselet was notified that the Moti-
baugh, or " Garden of Pearls," not far from
the Royal Palace, was at his disposal, and
he was soon duly installed there. Statues,
fountains, and kiosks siurounded this de-
lightful retreat, to which coolness, shade,
and a beautiful prospect all lent their attrac-
tions. In addition, the Guicowar placed at
the disposal of M. Rousselet a numerous
staff of servants, and his table was supplied
with the choicest dishes and the best wines
of Europe, all at the expense of his gener-
ous host.

One of the entertainments which the Gui-
cowar ordered for the amusement of his guest
was an elephant-fight This combat is of so
novel and extraordinary a character, that
we give M. Rousselet's account of it in full.
The elephant, which is personally known as
an animal of very gende disposition, can, it
seems, be brought, by a system of exciting
nourishment, to a state of rage, which the
Indians call musth. He then becomes furi-
ous, and attacks whatever comes in his way,
men or animals. Males alone, however, are


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capable of becoming musthij and to bring
them to this state, it is necessary usually to
feed them with sugar and butter for three
months. The day before the combat M.
Rousselet accompanied the king to see the
elephants which were to fight, and upon
which many wagers had ahready been staked.
The immense brutes were loaded with iron
chains of considerable weight, and were
shut up separately in strongly fenced en-
closures. A dense crowd was pressing
round them, praising or criticising the good
qualities or defects of each. The king went
to and fi-o in the midst of the courtiers like
a private individual, gesticulating and shout-
ing like the others. The betting was carried
on with spirit, and M. Rousselet laid wagers
with the king and several of the courtiers,
merely for the sake of following the general
example, for it would have been difficult for
a novice to decide on the merits of one ani-
mal over those of another. On the occasion
of the combat M. Rousselet was favored
with a seat in the king's box, overlooking
the elephants' arena, occupying a chair next
the Guicowar, while the nobles were dis-
posed of on cushions. The arena was in
the form of a vast parallelogram, about three
hundred yards long by two hundred wide.
It is entirely surrounded by thick walls ; a
great number of narrow doors allow of en-
trance or exit^to the attendants, without
permitting the elephant to follow them.
The summits of the walls are provided with
balconies, open to the public, who seem
passionately fond of spectacles of this kind.
The roofs of the neighboring houses, even
the trees, are covered with a motley and, as
usual, noisy crowd. On an elevated mound
are placed the female elephants, and these,
it appears, have a decided taste for such
sights. In the arena itself are the two males,
each chained to one of the extremities, ex-
pressing their wrath by trumpetings, and
fiercely digging their tusks into the sand.
By instinct the elephant always reco^izes
his mahout^ or driver, and allows him to
approach him even while in this condition.
Gracefiilly formed young men, nearly naked,
are wallung about in groups. These are
the sdtmari'WaUahs^ who play the same part
here as the toreadors at bull-fights in Spain,
and who may be called eUphantadors, They
wear nothing but a li^ht, colored turban,
and a scanty, tight-fittmg pair of drawers,
which give the elephant nothing to lay hold
of. The most active carry only a horse-
whip and a veil of red silk ; others are armed
with long lances ; and, lastly, a small num-

ber have only a fiise fastened to the end of
a stick, and a lighted match. These last
have the least showy but the most important
functions to perform. They must post them-
selves at different points of the arena, and
run to the rescue of the elephantador when
in danger. Rushing in fix>nt of the infim-
ated animal, they flash their fiises in his
face, when he recoils in terror, and they
succor the wounded. But they are not
allowed to have recourse to this stratagem
unless there is real danger. If they make a
mistake, they are reprimanded ; if they allow
the elephantador to be killed, they are severe-
ly punished. They are all selected fix)m
among the handsomest and best-made men
that can be procured, and are endowed with
wonderful agility.

A few minutes after the arrival of M.
Rousselet and his fiiend, the Guicowar en-
tered the box, and took his seat between
them. At a given signal the arena is cleared
for the contest Each mahout seats himself
on the neck of his elephant, the chains are
cast loose, and the two animals are in full
view. After an instant's hesitation, they
approach each other, with their trunks
raised, and trumpeting fiercely; their pace
increases, and they meet in the center of the
arena. Their foreheads strike together, and
the violence of the shock is so great that
their fore feet give way, and they remain
leaning against each other. They wrestle
with their trunks, which they entwine like
arms, and the mahouts have sometimes to
defend themselves with their goads. For
some minutes the elephants remain head to
head, imtil one of them, finding himself
growing gradually weak, feels that he is
going to be conquered. It is a critical
moment, for the creature well knows that in
taking flight he must present his flank to the
enemy, who may pierce him with his tusks,
or throw him prostrate. The worsted one,
therefore, summoning up all his strength,
pushes his adversary back by one desperate
thrust, and takes flight The combat is de-
cided ; shouts re-echo on all sides, and the
spectators are occupied more with their
wagers than with the elephants. The van-
quished one has now to be taken away, and
the field left firee to the conqueror. A party
of men come with great iron pincers, in-
dented, with long handles united by a spring.
They skillfully fix a pair on one of the hind
legs of each elephant, where, through the
operation of the spring, they remain tight.
The long handles get entangled with the
other three legs, and, as the teeth of the

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pincers at every step bite a little
into the skin, the elephant stops
short. He is forthwith surrounded,
chained, bound with cords, and, if
vanquished, is led by a band of
armed men behind the arena. The
victor remains alone; his maho}it
dismounts, the pincers and fetters
are removed, and the sdtmari com-
mences. This is the second act
— a combat between the elephant
and men. The arena is invaded by
elephantadors and fuse-bearers, this
brilliant troop, with loud cries, ap-
proaching the elephant from every
side. The latter, taken aback by
this sudden onslaught, stands unde-
cided at first ; but soon he receives
a stroke of the whip on the trunk,
the lances prick him all over, and
he rushes with fury on one or anoth-
er of his assailants. One comes in
front and waves his red veil ; the
elephant pursues him, but, con-
stantly plagued in this way, he
repeatedly dianges his course, and
never catches any one. After a
short time spent in useless efforts,
he at length perceives his mistake,
and changes his tactics ; he waits.
Then one of the best elephantadors
advances, gives him a vigorous
stroke with his whip, and springs
to one side just as the trunk is on the point
of seizing him. But the elephant does not
let him go in safety. This time he has fixed
on his enemy, and nothing will make him
abandon him ; all that remains for the fugi-
tive is to reach one of the small doors, and
so make his escape out of the arena. The
animal, blind with rage, strikes the wall,
and, fancying he has at last got hold of
his assailant, furiously tramples the soil. He
who has not seen the elephant in one of
these combats, or in a wild state, can form
no idea of the rapidity of his course. A
man pursued, and having to run some two
hundred yards before he could find shelter,
would in^ibly be lost. In the first com-
bat at which M. Rousselet was present
the elephant resolutely pursued a young
man, who was a very good runner, and, in
spite of the thrusts of lances with which he
was assailed, never lost sight of him for an
instant The unhappy man made desperate
efforts to gain one of the outlets ; but, just
as he reached it, the creature's trunk seized
him by the wrist, lifted him into the air, and
dashed him violently to the earth. A mo-


ment more and the enormous foot, already
raised, would have crushed his skull, when
one of the fuse-bearers sprang in front of the
elephant, covered him with frames, and the
terrified animal fled bellowing away.

At last the trumpets sound, and the ele-
phantadors disappear through the small
doors. The elephant does not imderstand
the meaning of this sudden flight, and ap-
pears to be on the look-out for some unex-
pected attack. A door opens, and a Mah-
ratta horseman, lance in hand, and mounted
on a beautifiil steed, enters the arena.
Prancing up to the royal balcony, he grace-
ftiUy salutes the king. The horse has his
tail cut very short to prevent the elephant
laying hold of him. The latter runs toward
him with his trunk raised aloft in order to
annihilate the creature whom he hates most
of all. He has, in fiaict, a peculiar aversion
for the horse, which he manifests even in
his gendest moments, lliis third act of the
combat is the most attractive. The horse,
admirably trained, does not stir, save by
order of his rider, so that the latter allows
the elephant almost to touch him with his

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trunk before getting out of his way. He
attacks the enormous beast with his lance,
sometimes in front, sometimes in flank, driv-
ing him into a paroxysm of rage. But even
at this moment the elephant displays his
extraordinary intelligence. Pretending to
take no notice of the horseman, he allows
him to approach behind, and, suddenly
turning round with astounding rapidity, he
is on the point of seizing the horse, who only
saves himself by a desperate bound. At
length the combat terminates ; the horseman
again salutes the royal party, and withdraws,
and the pincer-bearers enter, welcomed by
the shouts of the crowd, to secure the ele-
phant. These poor fellows have hard work
of it, for the elephant charges them, and
they have great difficulty in bringing it to a
stand-still. The king calls before him the
fuse-bearer who saved the life of the sAtmari-
wallah, and rewards him with a piece of
figured stuff and a purse of five hundred

Another sort of combat, though not so
attractive, nor on so grand a scale, is not
wanting in originality — rhinoceros-fights.
The two animals are chained at opposite
extremities of the arena. One is painted
black, the other red, in order that they may
be distinguished, for otherwise they resemble
each other in every point When the com-
pany is assembled (M. Rousselet describes
a scene of which he was an actual witness),
the two hideous animals are let loose, and
start off in an ungainly trot, raising angry
cries. They seem to have very bad sight,
for they pass one another several times
without stopping ; but at length they meet,
and attack each other fiercely. Horn against
horn, they exchange passes, as though fenc-
ing with swords, until one succeeds in pass-
ing his horn beneath the head of his antago-
nist, which is the vulnerable spot The
animal, therefore, who finds himself in this
predicament, suddenly turns, so that the
point of the enemy's horn rests against his
jaw-bone, instead of penetrating his throat
They remain in this position, motionless, for
some minutes, then separate, and one of
them takes to flight. For a whole hour the
fight is many times renewed with increasing
fiiry; their horns clashing together with a
great noise, their enormous lips covered with
foam, and Uieir foreheads stained with blood.
Their attendants surround them, and throw
buckets of water over them to refresh them,
so that they may sustain the combat At
last the Guicowar orders a cessation of hos-
tilities \ a fiise is employed to separate the

combatants ; they are secured, sponged, and
led away.

In these beast-fights buflaloes also display
a terrible degree of fiuy. Their vast horns
are formidable weapons that repel the tiger
himself, and tlieir agility makes them more
dangerous {han even the elephant Btit the
oddest of all these contests was one our
traveler saw one day, in the hdghur at Ba-
roda, between an ass and a hyena, and —
who would have thought it ? — the ass gained
the victory 1 The sight of the hyena filled
him with such rage that he immediately at-
tacked, and, by dint of kicking and biting,
very soon disabled him. The victor was
covered with garlands of flowers, and led off
amid the cheers of the multitude.

Perhaps the most exciting of the combats
of this description which M. Rousselet wit-
nessed was a fight between a panther and a
boar which the Rana of Odeypoor arranged
for his amusement. This combat took place
in a handsome building surmounted by tur-
rets, and picturesquely situated on the diores
of the lake opposite to Odeypoor. The
arena was surrounded by high walls with
marble balconies on either side at a sufiicient
height from the ground to prevent the pander
fiom reaching them in his frantic leaps. The
wild boar was alone; a splendid animal,
above the average size, and armed with long»
sharp tusks. He had been captured in the
neighboring gorges, where he was the leader
of a herd, and the loss of his liberty had
rendered him fierce and savage ; he looked
around him in semrch of an antagonist, and
pawed the ground with impatient fiiiy. Sud-
denly he paused, and trembled for an instant,
while his huge mane bristled all over his
shoulders. At length he saw his adversary.
A trap-door opaied, and a magnificent pan-
ther slowly entered the arena, and, crouching
down in one comer, fixed his eyes upon the
wild boar. The latter was the first to begin
the attack. He rushed impetuously for-
ward, and, allowing the panther to spring
on him, tore his flanks witii his tusks. His
movements were so rapid and violent that
the panther attempted to escape ; but that
attempt was fatal to him, for the wild boar,
taking advantage of his enemy's distress,
redoubled his efforts, and each successive
attack told on his adversary, who, with
mangled sides, his skull shattered, and
blinded with blood, could no longer defend
himself. A rifle-ball put an end to the suf-
ferings of the poor beaist, and the victor was
loudly applauded by the spectators. The
wild boar soon reduced the body of his

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\c '. — —


victim to a shapeless mass, trampling it
under foot, and occasionally tossing it in the
air to the opposite side of the arena. The
reward of his courage was liberty. The
trap-door was opened, and, amidst the ac-
dainations of the crowd, he trotted off,
slowly and philosophically, toward the
mountains. On turning to the Rajpoots, it
was easy to see, by the expression of their
countenances, how pleased they were at the
victory of their favorite adversary.

M. Rousselef s royal hosts in almost every
part of India made hunting parties a lead-
ing feature in the entertainments by which
they endeavored to amuse their guests.
Now it was the bear which was the object
of pursuit, now the nilghau, that great ante-
lope which the Indians call the blue ox, and
now the tiger or panther. Upon one of
these occasions the hunters, mounted on an
dephant, had followed a panther into a
small wood^ — when it attacked the animal
with such courage that, if a ball had not
come to put an end to the contest, M. Rous-
seiet and his companions would have run
great risk of being torn by the panther, or
battered to pieces against a tree in the course
of the elephant's flight.

Nearly everywhere, M. Rousselet seems to
have exhibitea a very hi^py faculty of find-
ing an easy entrance to die confidence and
regard of the native rulers of the districts
through which he traveled. His reception
at the Court of the Begum of Bhopaul was
quite as cordial as it had been at that of the
Guicowar; and, although his stay there was

not so prolonged, he left behind him just
as sincerely attached fiiends. Her Royal
Highness the Princess Chah Jean of Bho-
paul, whose portrait we give, might be taken
upon this representation of her as a young
woman of intelligence and refinement, and
Madame Elizabetii de Bourbon, at the same
Court, he speaks of as a noble-hearted and
sincere representative of her sex. The lat-
ter, M. Rousselet tells us, exhibited an irre-
pressible desire to see for herself the wonders
of Paris which he had described to her, —
doubtless, without attempting to repress his
enthusiasm, or to measure his worcfc. " At
all events," she said to M. Rousselet, as he
was making his adieux, *' if I am too old to
make the journey, you will always remem-
ber Bhopaul, and some day will visit us
again." "A year afterward," adds M.
Rousselet, "death suddenly removed her
from her country, from her labors, and fix)m
my aflfectionate regard."

The methods of transportation and loco-
motion in India range fi-om the most primi-
tive and barbarous to those of the most
highly civilized cotmtries. M. Rousselet,
like an enterprising traveler, adapted him-
self to whichever happened to be the most
convenient In starting for the country of
the Bheils, he had his first experience of
camel-riding. Of this he gives an amusing
account. On that occasion he organized a
regular caravan, containing seven riding and
seven baggage camels, for which seven
camel-drivers were hired. The two camels
on which he and his companion were to ride

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appeared on the morning of starting smartly
caparisoned with housings of silk and a pro-
fusion of tassels; but all these ornaments
were simply in honor of the ceremony of
departure, and it was well understood would
disappear when the caravan was once on the
road. One morning at four o'clock our
traveler was called, and found everything in
readiness for starting. " The Sani, or riding-
camel," he says, " squatted at the door wait-
ing for me. I threw some coverings on the
saddle to make it more comfortable, and
took my place on the hind seat ; my driver
bestrode that in front, and the camel sprang
to his feet. The saddle used for camel-
riding, as no doubt most of my readers are
aware, is double, so that the two riders find
themselves fitted close to one another. The
position of the one who is behind is not the
most agreeable on account of this proxim-
ity, but I had chosen it to accustom myself
a little to the motion of the camel before I

attempted to guide it myself. I remained
for half an hour without being able to find
my equilibrium, violently jolted and clinging
to the back of the camel ; my companion^
however, suffered equally with myself. At
. the end of this time I felt more at my ease,
and was able to take some notice of the road
we were traveling."

A rather more exciting method of traveling
was found in the mail wagon, of which we
have this lively account: "*Here comes
the mail-cart, gentiemen,' cries our servant,
and we are h^xily out of our rooms when
there appears on the road a fantastic equi-
page with three horses attached drawing
a light box, painted red, mounted upon
two immense wheels, which make enor-
mous jumps, as if they wished to get ahead

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 13 of 163)