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that did not include the wages of the workmen, because most of
them were paid nothing. In those days almost everything in the
way of government public works was carried on by forced labor.
The king paid no wages. The material was expensive. Very little
wood was used. The buildings are almost entirely of pure white
marble and red sandstone. They had neither doors nor windows, but
only open arches which were hung with curtains to secure privacy,
and light was admitted to the interior through screens of marble,
perforated in beautiful designs. The entrance to the citadel is
gained through a gigantic gateway, one of the noblest portals
ever erected. It was intended as a triumphal arch to celebrate
the victory of Akbar over the Afghans, and to commemorate the
conquest of Khandesh, and this is recorded in exquisite Persian
characters upon its frontal and sides. Compared with it the arches
of Titus and Constantine in Rome and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
are clumsy piles of masonry. There is nothing to be compared
with it anywhere in Europe, and the only structure in India that
resembles it in any way may be found among the ruins in the
neighborhood of Delhi.

[Illustration: TOMB OF SHEIK-SALIM - FATTEHPUR]

Through this majestic portal you enter a quadrangle about six
hundred feet square, inclosed by a lofty cloister which Bishop
Heber pronounced the finest that was ever erected. He declared
that there was no other quadrangle to be compared to it in size or
proportions or beauty. In the center of this wonderful inclosure
is a building that resembles a miniature temple. It is not large,
and its low roof and far projecting eaves give it the appearance
of a tropical bungalow. It is built of the purest marble. No other
material was used in its construction. There is not a nail or
a screw or an ounce of metal of any kind in its walls, and very
little cement or mortar was used. Each piece of stone fits the
others so perfectly that there was no need of bolts or anything
to hold it in place. It stands upon a pedestal four feet high and
is crowned with a low white dome of polished metal. The walls
of this wonderful building are pillars of marble inclosing panels
of the same material sawed in very thin slabs and perforated in
exquisite geometrical patterns. No two panels are alike; there
is no duplication of design on the pillars; every column is
different; every capital and every base is unique. We are told
that it was customary in the days of the Moguls to assign a section
of a building to an artist and allow him to exercise his skill
and genius without restriction, of course within certain limits.
Notwithstanding this diversity of design, the tomb of Shekh Selim,
of which I have attempted to give you an idea, is an ideal of
perfect harmony, and every stroke of the chisel was as precise
as if the artist had been engraving a cameo. It was erected by
Akbar and his Queen, Luquina, as a token of gratitude to the old
monk who brought them an heir to their throne, but, unfortunately
this heir was an ungrateful chap and treated his father and mother
very badly.

Another tomb of equal beauty but smaller dimensions, is also a
tribute of respect and affection. Under this marble roof lies
all that remains of that extraordinary baby who gave his life
to gratify the king.

Surrounding the quadrangle are the apartments of the emperor,
the residences of his wives and the offices in which he conducted
official business. They are all built of marble of design and
beauty similar to those within the walls of the fort at Agra.
One of them, known as the Hall of Records, is now used for the
accommodation of visitors because there is no hotel and very
little demand for one. The only people who ever go to Fattehpur
Sikri are tourists, and they take their own bedding and spread
it on the marble floor. It is a long journey, twenty-six miles
by carriage, and it is not possible to make it and return on
the same day.

The Imperial Hall of Audience, where Akbar was accustomed to
sit in his robes of state each day to receive the petitions and
administer justice to his subjects, is a splendid pavilion of red
sandstone with fifty-six columns covered with elaborate carving
in the Hindu style. Here he received ambassadors from all parts
of the earth because the glory of his court and the liberality of
his policy gave him universal reputation. Here Jesuit missionaries
gave him the seeds of the tobacco plant which they brought from
America, and within a few miles from this place was grown the
first tobacco ever produced in India. The hookah, the big tobacco
pipe, with a long tube and a bowl of perfumed water for the smoke
to pass through, is said to have been invented at Fattehpur Sikri
by one of Akbar's engineers.

Connected by a marble corridor with the palace, and also with the
Hall of Public Audience, is a smaller pavilion, where, according to
the custom of the times, the emperor was in the habit of receiving
and conferring with his ministers and other officials of his
government, with ambassadors and with strangers who sought his
presence from curiosity or business reasons. This diwani-khas,
or privy chamber, is pointed out as the place where the emperor
held his celebrated religious controversies. We are told that
for several years Jesuit missionaries were invited there and
encouraged to explain the dogmas and doctrines of their faith to
the nobles and the learned pundits of the Indian Empire, often
in the presence of the Mogul, who took part in the discussions.

When his majesty was tired of business and wanted relaxation
he ordered his servants to remove the silken rug and cushions
upon which he sat to a little marble portico on the other side of
the palace, where the pavement of the court was laid in alternate
squares of black and white marble. This was known as the imperial
puchisi board, and we are told that his majesty played a game
resembling chess with beautiful slave girls dressed in costume
to represent the men upon the board. Here he sat for hours with
his antagonists, and was so proud of his skill that expert puchisi
players from all parts of the empire were summoned to play with
him.

At the other end of the inclosure is a large building known as
the mint, where the first rupees were coined. They were cubes of
gold, covered with artistic designs and with Persian inscriptions
reading "God is great. Mighty is His Glory." The largest coin was
called a "henseh" and was worth about $1,000 in our money. And
there were several other denominations, in the forms of cubes,
and they bore similar pious inscriptions.

The residences of the women of the court and the ministers and
other high officials were of corresponding splendor and beauty.
There is nothing on our side of the world or in Europe to compare
with them in beauty of design, costliness of material and lavishness
of decoration. The grandest palaces of the European capitals are
coarse and clumsy beside them, and the new library at Washington,
which we consider a model of architectural perfection, can be
compared to these gems of Hindu architects as cotton duck to
Brussels lace.

The palaces, temples and tombs in northern India are unequaled
examples of the architectural and decorative arts. Nothing more
beautiful or more costly has ever been built by human hands than
the residences and the sepulchers of the Moguls, while their
audience chambers, their baths and pavilions are not surpassed,
and are not even equaled in any of the imperial capitals of Europe.
The oriental artists and architects of the Mohammedan dynasties
lavished money upon their homes and tombs in the most generous
manner, and the refinement of their taste was equal to their
extravagance. And where do you suppose they obtained all the
money for these buildings, which cost millions upon millions
of dollars? The architectural remains of Akbar and Shah Jehan,
the two most splendid of the Moguls, represent an expenditure of
several hundred millions, even though the labor of construction
was unpaid, and where did they get the funds to pay for them?
Lieutenant Governor La Touche, who has been collecting the records
of the Mogul dynasty and having them carefully examined, discovers
that their revenues average about $100,000,000 a year for a hundred
years or more. In 1664 the land taxes amounted to £26,743,000,
in 1665 they amounted to £24,056,000, while in 1697, during the
reign of the Mogul Aurangzeb, they reached their highest figure,
which was £38,719,000. With these funds they were required to
keep up their palaces, pay their officials, maintain their armies
and provide for the luxurious tastes of their courtiers.




XVI

THE QUAINT OLD CITY OF DELHI

Wherever the viceroy may hold court, wherever the government
may sit, Delhi always has been and always will be the capital
of India, for have not the prophets foretold that the gilded
marble palaces of the Moguls will stand forever? Although Benares
and Lucknow have a larger population, Delhi is regarded as the
metropolis of Northern India, and in commerce and manufactures
stands fourth in the list of cities, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras
only surpassing it in wealth, industry and trade. If you will look
at the map for a moment you will notice its unusually favorable
location, both from a commercial and military standpoint. It
occupies a central place in northern India, has railway connections
with the frontier and is equidistant from Bombay and Calcutta,
the principal ports of the empire. It receives raw materials
from the northern provinces and from mysterious regions beyond
the boundary. Its cunning artisans convert them into finished
products and ship them to all the markets of the world. Being
of great strategic importance, a large military garrison is
maintained there, and the walls of an ancient fort shelter arsenals
filled with guns and magazines filled with ammunition, which
may be promptly distributed by railway throughout the empire
on demand. It is the capital of one of the richest and most
productive provinces, the headquarters of various departments of
the government, the residence of a large foreign colony, civil,
military and commercial; it has the most learned native pundits
in India; it has extensive missionary stations and educational
institutions, and is the center and focus of learning and all
forms of activity. It is a pity and a disgrace that Delhi has
no good hotels. There are two or three indifferent ones, badly
built and badly kept. They are about as good as the average in
India, but ought to be a great deal better, for if travelers could
find comfortable places to stop Delhi might be made a popular
resort.

Travelers complain also of the pestiferous peddlers who pursue
them beyond the limit of patience. We were advised by people who
know India not to buy anything until we reached Delhi, because
that city has the best shops and the best bazaars and produces
the most attractive fabrics, jewelry and other articles which
tourists like to take home to their friends. And we found within
a few moments after our appearance there that we would have no
difficulty in obtaining as many things as we wanted. We arrived
late at night, and when we opened the doors of our chambers the
next morning we found a crowd of clamoring merchants in the corridor
waiting to seize us as we came out. And wherever we went - in
temples, palaces, parks and in the streets - they followed us with
their wares tied up in bundles and slung over their backs. When
we drove out to "The Ridge," where the great battles took place
during the mutiny of 1857, to see a monument erected in memory
of the victims of Indian treachery, two enterprising merchants
followed us in a carriage and interrupted our meditations by
offering silks, embroideries and brass work at prices which they
said were 20 per cent lower than we would have to pay in the
city. When we went into the dining-room of the hotel we always
had to pass through a throng of these cormorants, who thrust
jewelry, ivory carvings, photographs, embroideries, cashmere
shawls, silks and other goods in our faces and begged us to buy
them. As we rode through the streets they actually ran at the
sides of the carriage, keeping pace with the horses until we
drove them off by brandishing parasols, umbrellas and similar
weapons of defense. We could not go to a mosque or the museum
without finding them lying in wait for us, until we became so
exasperated that homicide would have been justifiable. That is
the experience of every traveler, especially Americans, who are
supposed to be millionaires, and many of our fellow countrymen
spend their money so freely as to excite the avarice of the Delhi
tradesmen. And indeed it is true that their goods are the most
attractive, although their prices are higher than you have to
pay in the smaller towns of India, where there is less demand.

The principal business section, called Chandni Chauk, which means
Silver street, has been frequently described as one of the most
picturesque and fascinating streets in the world. It is about a
mile long and seventy-five feet broad. In the center are two rows
of trees, between which for several hundred years was an aqueduct,
but it is now filled and its banks are used as a pathway, the
principal promenade of the town. But a stranger cannot walk there
in peace, for within five minutes he is hemmed in and his way is
blocked by merchants, who rush out from the shops on both sides
with their hands filled with samples of goods and business cards
and in pigeon English entreat him to stop and see what they have
for sale. Sometimes it is amusing when rival merchants grapple
with each other in their frantic efforts to secure customers,
but such unwelcome attentions impair the pleasure of a visit to
Delhi.

The shops on both sides of the Chandni Chauk are full of wonderful
loom and metal work, jewelry, embroidery, enamel, rugs, hangings,
brocades, shawls, leather work, gems and carved ivory and wood.
Delhi has always been famous for carvings, and examples of engraving
on jade of priceless value are often shown. Sometimes a piece
of jade can be found in a curio shop covered with relief work
which represents the labor of an accomplished artist for years.
In the days of the Moguls these useless ornaments were very highly
regarded. Kings and rich nobles used to have engravers attached
to their households. Artists and their families were always sure
of a comfortable home and good living, hence time was no object.
It was not taken into consideration. They were indifferent whether
they spent five months or five years in fashioning a block of
ivory or engraving a gem for their princely patrons. The greatest
works of the most accomplished artists of the Mogul period are now
nearly all in the possession of native princes and rich Hindus,
and if one comes into the market it is snapped up instantly by
collectors in Europe and the United States. Some of the carved
ivory is marvelous. An artist would spend his entire life covering
a tusk of an elephant with carvings of marvelous delicacy and
skill; and even to-day the ivory carvers of Delhi produce wonderful
results and sell them at prices that are absurdly small, considering
the labor they represent.

Akbar the Great, who sat upon the Mogul throne the latter half
of the sixteenth century, was a sensible man, and endeavored to
direct the skill and taste of the artisans of his empire into
more practical channels. Instead of maintaining artists to carve
ivory and jade he established schools and workshops for the
instruction of spinners, weavers and embroiderers, and offered
high prices for fine samples of shawls and other woolen fabrics,
weapons, pottery and similar useful articles. He purchased the
rich products of the looms for the imperial wardrobe and induced
the native princes to imitate his example. He organized guilds
among his workmen, and secured the adoption of regulations which
served to maintain a high standard, and permitted none but perfect
products to be placed upon the market.

The descendants of the master workmen educated under this policy
are still living and following the trades of their ancestors in
Delhi, and there may be found the finest gold and silver cloth
and the most elaborate embroidery produced in the world. The
coronation robe of Queen Alexandra of England, which is said
to have been of surpassing richness and beauty, was woven and
embroidered in a factory upon the Chandni Chauk, and the merchant
who made it is constantly receiving orders from the different
courts of Europe and from the leading dressmakers of London,
Paris and Vienna. He told us that Mrs. Leland Stanford had
commissioned him to furnish the museum of her university in
California the finest possible samples of different styles of
Indian embroidery, and his workmen were then engaged in producing
them. Her contract, he said, amounted to more than $60,000. Lady
Curzon is his best customer, for she not only orders all of the
material for her state gowns from him, but has brought him enough
orders from the ladies of the British court to keep his shop
busy for five years. He told us that Lady Curzon designed the
coronation robe of Queen Alexandra; he declared that she had
the rarest taste of any woman he knew, and that she was the best
dressed woman in the world - an opinion shared by other good judges.

[Illustration: A CORNER IN DEHLI]

He spread upon the floor wonderful samples of the skill and taste
of his artists, brocades embroidered with jewels for the ceremonial
robes of native princes; silks and satins whose surface was concealed
by patterns wrought in gold and silver thread. And everything is
done by men. Women do not embroider in India. He keeps eighty
men embroiderers constantly employed, and pays them an average of
18 cents a day. The most famous of his artists, those who design
as well as execute the delicate and costly garnishings, the men
who made the coronation robe of the British queen, receive the
munificent compensation of 42 cents a day. That is the maximum
paid for such work. Apprentices who do the filling in and coarser
work and have not yet acquired sufficient skill and experience
to undertake more important tasks are paid 8 cents a day and
work twelve hours for that.

Delhi is the principal distributing point for the famous Cashmere
shawls which are woven of the hair of camels, goats and sheep
in the province of Cashmere, which lies to the northward about
300 miles. They are brought packed in panniers on the backs of
camels. I was told at Delhi that the foreign demand for Cashmere
shawls has almost entirely ceased, that a very few are shipped
from India nowadays because in Europe and America they are no
longer fashionable. Hence prices have gone down, the weavers
are dependent almost entirely upon the local market of India,
and one can obtain good shawls for very low prices - about half
what they formerly cost.

In northern India every Hindu must have a shawl; it is as necessary
to him as a hat or a pair of boots to a citizen of Chicago or New
York, and it is customary to invest a considerable part of the
family fortune in shawls. They are handed down from generation
to generation, for they never wear out; the older they are the
more valuable they are considered. You often see a barefooted,
bare-legged peasant with his head wrapped in a Cashmere shawl
that would bring a thousand dollars in a London auction-room.
It is considered absolutely essential for every young man to
wear one of those beautiful fabrics, and if there is none for
him in the family he saves his earnings and scrimps and borrows
and begs from his relations until he gets enough money together
to buy one. Most of the shawls are of the Persian pattern familiar
to us. The groundwork is a solid color (white and yellow seem to
be the most popular), and there are a good many of blue, green,
orange and pink. A crowd of Hindus in this part of the country
suggest a kaleidoscope as they move about with their brilliant
colored shawls upon their shoulders.

The amount and fineness of embroidery upon the border and in
the corners of shawls give them their value, and sometimes there
is an elaborate design in the center. The shawl itself is so
fine that it can be drawn through a finger ring or folded up
and stowed away in an ordinary pocket, but it has the warmth
of a Scotch blanket. Shawls are woven and embroidered in the
homes of the people of Cashmere, and are entirely of hand work.
There are no factories and no steam looms, and every stitch of
the decoration is made with an ordinary needle by the fingers
of a man. Women do not seem to have acquired the accomplishment.

A great deal of fun used to be made at the expense of Queen Victoria,
who was in the habit of sending a Cashmere shawl whenever she was
expected to make a wedding present, and no doubt it was rather
unusual for her to persist in forcing unfashionable garments
upon her friends. But there is another way of looking at it.
The good queen was deeply interested in promoting the native
industries of India, and bought a large number of shawls every
year from the best artists in Cashmere. Up there shawl-makers
have reputations like painters and orators with us, and if you
would ask the question in Cashmere any merchant would give you
the names of the most celebrated weavers and embroiderers. Queen
Victoria was their most regular and generous patron. She not
only purchased large numbers of shawls herself, but did her best
to bring them into fashion, both because she believed it was a
sensible practice, and would advance the prosperity of the heathen
subjects in whom she took such a deep interest.

The arts and industries of India are very old. Their methods
have been handed down from generation to generation, because
sons are in the habit of following the trades of fathers, and
they are inclined to cling to the same old patterns and the same
old processes, regardless of labor-saving devices and modern
fashions. Many people think this habit should be encouraged;
that what may be termed the classic designs of the Hindus cannot
be improved upon, and it is certainly true that all purely modern
work is inferior. Lord and Lady Curzon have shown deep interest
in this subject. Lord Curzon has used his official authority and
the influence of the government to revive, restore and promote
old native industries, and Lady Curzon has been an invaluable
commercial agent for the manufacturers of the higher class of
fabrics and art objects in India. She has made many of them
fashionable in Calcutta and other Indian cities and in London,
Paris and the capitals of Europe, and so great is her zeal that,
with all her cares and responsibilities, and the demands upon
her time, she always has the leisure to place orders for her
friends and even for strangers who address her, and to assist
the silk weavers, embroiderers and other artists to adapt their
designs and patterns and fabrics to the requirements of modern
fashions. She wears nothing but Indian stuffs herself, and there
is no better dressed woman in the world. She keeps several of
the best artists in India busy with orders from her friends, and
is beginning to see the results of her efforts in the revival
of arts that were almost forgotten.

The population of Delhi is about 208,000. The majority of the
people, as in the other cities of northwestern India, are
Mohammedans, descendants of the invaders of the middle ages, and
the hostility between them and the Brahmins is quite sharp. The
city is surrounded by a lofty wall six miles in circumference,
which was built by Shah Jehan, the greatest of the Moguls, some
time about 1630, and the modern town begins its history at that
date. It has been the scene of many exciting events since then.
Several times it has been sacked and its inhabitants massacred.
As late as 1739 the entire population was put to the sword and
everything of value within the walls was carried off by the Persians.
In the center of the city still remains a portion of what was
probably the most splendid palace that was ever erected. It is
surrounded by a second wall inclosing an area 3,000 feet long by
1,500 feet wide, which was at one time filled with buildings of
unique beauty and interest. They illustrated the imperial grandeur
of the Moguls, whose style of living was probably more splendid
than that of any monarchs of any nation before or since their
time. Their extravagance was unbounded. Their love of display
has never been surpassed, and while it is a question where they



Online LibraryWilliam Eleroy CurtisModern India → online text (page 17 of 35)