A WEBK IN BOMBAY
NOVEWBER 8th, 1881, was the glorious and memorable day in my life when I first set foot in a tropical land, admired tropical vegetation, and gazed in astonishment at tropical life in man and beast. Exactly a month before, on the 8th of October, I had left my home in Jena. and here I was already brought by the Austrian Lloyd's steamship Helios across thirtyfour degrees of latitude - four thousand miles away from my German home - standing on the wonder-teeming soil of India. By an hour before sunrise I was already on deck, and saw the deeply indented coast of Bombay grow gradually out of the filmy mist of dawn, with the weirdly shaped outline of the hills known as the Bhor Ghauts. These form a boundary wall between the broad tableland of the Dekhan - the highlands of the peninsula of Hindostan, lying at about two thousand feet above the sea - and the narrow flat strip of the coast of Konkan, the littoral lowland. The steep rocky walls which stretch away in a long chain, consist of basalt, syenite, and other plutonic rocks, so that the horizontal line of the high plateau appears to be guarded by a number of colossal fastnesses, forts, towers, and battlements.
The twilight eastern sky over the Indian shore was swiftly dyed with the most delicate and tender hues, and then, suddenly, the Indian Helios appeared in all his splendour, sending his burning shafts from between two broad strata of clouds to greet the vessel that bore his name. We could now distinguish the details of the coast we were approaching; first, the extensive groves of the Palmyra palm, and then the vast harbour of Bombay, affording shelter to thousands of ships. Of the town itself, the detached houses of the Kolaba quarter were now visible on the projecting south-eastern point of the island of Bombay; presently we saw the noble buildings of the fort in front, and in the background the long green ridge of the Malabar Hill, forming the south-western rampart of the island, and covered with villas and gardens. But, more than these, what riveted our eyes was the strange concourse of ships in the wide harbour, which is one of the best in India. Here, close before us, lay the two iron-clad monitors, painted white, which very effectually complete the fortifications of the place; there, hundreds of English soldiers were standing on the decks of two gigantic troop-ships carrying from three to four thousand men. As we went on we passed through a whole fleet of different steamships, which convey passengers and freight from Bombay to every country under heaven; and strangest of all was the motley swarm of small boats and canoes manned by the natives, whose bare brown bodies are generally clothed only with a white apron or loincloth, and their heads protected against the tropical sun by a coloured turban.
Soon after sunrise our ship was at anchor close to the Apollo Bund,
the usual landing-place for passengers; officers of health and customhouse men came on board, and as soon as they learnt that all the passengers had never left their floating hotel for twenty-four days since leaving Trieste, we were free to land. A few last friendly greetings were hastily exchanged, address-cards and good wishes for the rest of the journey, and then each one went down the ship's side as fast as possible with his belongings, and into a boat that was to convey him to the longed-for land. I myself accepted the kind invitation of a worthy fellow-countryman, Herr Blaschek, of Frankfort-on-the-Maine, who came on board to meet his wife, our amiable travelling companion. He begged me, for the week I was to spend in Bombay, to stay at his villa on Malabar Hill, and I accepted the invitation all the more readily because the English hotels in the great Indian cities, with their inconvenient hours, their stiff etiquette, and their swarms of tiresome servants, hamper the movements of travellers in a very disagreeable manner.
Although in the Villa Blaschek, among palms and bananas, I was surrounded by the elaborate comforts which are a matter of course to all wealthy Europeans residing in India - though to a German stranger they seem almost too luxurious - I at once felt myself perfectly at home; and I owe my delightful recollections of this week in Bombay as among the pleasantest in all my travels. at least as much to this hearty and liberal hospitality as to the endless succession of wonderfully various and beautiful scenes which, during these eight days, passed before my eyes.
A week, of course, cannot in the remotest degree suffice to make the traveller fully acquainted with such a city of wonders as Bombay, and I do not in the least pretend in these pages to give a complete description of it, nor even a general sketch; I must, on the contrary, confine myself to a meagre outline of the deep and grandiose impressions made on my mind during my brief visit. I had heard and read but little of Bombay; I knew scarcely anything about it beyond the fact that, next to Calcutta, it was the largest and most important city of British India, with an extensive commerce by land and sea, and a very mixed population. Nor do I remember ever having seen any views of this city, or of its suburbs, in our picture exhibitions. I was therefore greatly surprised to find here a wealth of beautiful and magnificent views which, so far as my own experience serves, I can only compare with those of Naples in Europe, or of Cairo in Egypt, or, better still, a singular combination of both those famous capitals, dissimilar as they are. Bombay may be compared to Naples in regard to its magnificent situation on a deeply indented and hilly coast, beautified by a glorious vegetation, and its chain of islands and rocks enclosing the wide and splendid bay; on the other hand, Bombay resembles Cairo in the motley aspect and picturesque figures of its inhabitants - a mixture of all the most dissimilar races of the south - in the amazing crowd and bustle of its street-life, and the vivid colouring in which nature and art alike clothe their creations.
The town of Bombay covers a little island of twenty-two square miles (English) in extent; it is in 18o 56' N. lat. and 72o 56' E. long. The island was first discovered by the Portuguese in 1529; they took possession of it and named it Buona Bahia (Bonne-bay), on account of the fine harbour formed by its connection with other neighbouring islands and the coast of the mainland of India. Some writers. it must be added, derive the name of Bombay from the Indian goddess Bambe-Devi, or Maha Devi. In 1661 the Portuguese ceded Bombay to the English, who at first, however, did not make much of it; extensive swamps and the consequent unhealthy climate were a serious hindrance to any extensive settlement. As soon as these swamps were drained and the conditions of life improved, Bombay developed rapidly - chiefly since 1820, when the illustrious Mount-Stuart Elphinstone was appointed governor; and during the past half-century it has grown to be the third commercial city of Asia, next only to Canton and Calcutta. The population now amounts to about 800,000, including 8000 Europeans and 5O,000 Parsis; whereas in 1834 there were but 234,000 inhabitants. in 1816 160,000 and in 1716 only 60,000. With respect to the commerce and traffic generally of the Indian Peninsula and the intercourse between Asia and Europe, Bombay now holds a position as important as that of Alexandria at the time of its ancient prosperity. The most important staple of its trade is cotton; in this commodity it is surpassed only by New Orleans, U.S. The extensive harbour, which is as safe as it is spacious, is the finest trading port in all India. It is open to the south, and protected on the north-east by the mainland, on the west by the island of Bombay, and to the north by a group of small islands lying in close contiguity.
The shape of the island is a long square, its greatest length lying north and south. The northern end is connected by several bridges with the large island of Salsette, and this again with the mainland. A large part of the northern half of the island is occupied by the palm-wood of Mahim. The southern end runs out into two long hilly points which have been compared to the unequal claws of a crab's nippes. and which enclose a finely curved but shallow bay - Back Bay, as it is called. Of these parallel promontories or tongues of land the western is the shorter and higher, a good deal like Posilippo. This is the Malabar Hill, the beautiful suburb of villas. Here delicious gardens, luxuriantly full of all the glorious plants of the tropics, enclose the numerous elegant villas or bungalows in which the richest and most important residents live some Europeans and some Parsis. A pretty road, leading between these gardens along and up the highest ridge of the basalt back-bone of Malabar Hill, affords a series of magnificent views - now to the west over the palm-crowned shores of the open ocean. and now to the east over the wide stretch of Back Bay and the noble city which is built round it. The most southerly extension is towards the point of Kolaba, which is the eastern and longer cape of the two. This is the chief scene of the cottontrade, and principally occupied by tents and barracks for European troops.
At the north end of Kolaba Point, between it and the contiguous Fort, lies the much-talked-of Apollo Bund, the handsome quay where most passengers disembark, and where I myself first trod Indian soil. This busy landing-place is not named after the splendid Sun-god, but from a corruption of the Indian word Pallow, fish, into Apollo. The Pallowbund was originally the Indian fish-market. Here there is now an excellent restaurant, the only large or elegant place of the kind in all Bombay; and out on the balcony, which has a glorious view over the harbour and hills, I eat my first breakfast in India, at the invitation of a friendly fellow-countryman. The open square of the Apollo Bund, like Santa Lucia at Naples, offers the most exciting and busy scenes in the evening. Military bands often play, and all the beauty and fashion of Bombay meet here. Numbers of fine carriages are to be seen, in the cooler hours, returning along the strand by Back Bay to Malabar Hill, and on the open grass-plots the busy doings of the natives are to be seen, who after their fashion enjoy life here too, squatting round fires and gambling.
The wide expanse of the southern half of the island between Malabar Hill and Kolaba Point is occupied by the two most important quarters of the town, the Fort and the Native Town. The Fort, as it is called, was formerly an isolated citadel; it lies at the north end of Kolaba. and includes by far the larger part of the European settlement. Here we find, in the first place, most of the public buildings, erected on spacious squares ornamented with fountains, and, in the second place, most of the counting-houses and offices of the Europeans, all close together; these constitute the "city" properly speaking - a scene of eager bustle. Most of the great public buildings - the government offices, post-office, university, schools of art, bank, town hall, etc., have been erected at a great expense within the last twenty to thirty years. They are all fine structures in the Gothic style, with pointed arches and colonnades; most of them in the peculiar style which is seen in many old palaces in Venice. These grand Veneto-Gothic buildings form a strange contrast with the luxuriant tropical vegetation which surrounds them and the motley Indian low life which surges in the streets at their feet.
The chief centre, however, of this national life lies in the Native Town, as it is called. This is perfectly distinct both from the Fort which lies to the South of it, and from Malabar Hill to the west, and its vividly coloured and strangely foreign population is to every European highly attractive and interesting. The open booths of the natives, which stand in close rows, the galy-coloured clothes or the half-naked figures of the struggling crowd, the cries of the sellers, the turmoil of vehicles and horses, is very much the same as in the bazaars and shop-streets of Cairo.
But the longer the stranger lingers in the busy city the more he is struck by certain characteristic differences between the Indian and Egyptian capitals. For instance, the north-west quarter of the Native Town, called Girgaum, has a very distinct and far more beautiful aspect. Here are small detached native houses and gardens scattered through a noble forest of cocoa-nut palms, and all the accessories - naked children, gaudily dressed women, and swarthy men, with graceful zebus. horses, dogs. monkeys, etc., in gay confusion - supply an endless choice of subjects for the genre painter.
The population inhabiting these different quarters of Bombay js composed of such heterogeneous elements, and wears such a variety of costume, that it would far transcend the powers of my pen to attempt even to sketch its multifarious manners and customs. The largest proportion is of Hindoos, a small and delicate race, with a dark bronze skin in some cases verging on coffee colour and in others on chestnut brown. The children of these natives are charming; they run and play about the streets perfectly naked, never wearing any clothes before their ninth year. The men too, indeed, of the poorest class are generally almost naked. wearing only a loin-cloth or apron like swimming drawers; thus the painter can study their graceful forms and curiously slender limbs at every step and turn, and in every conceivable attitude. Among the lads of from sixteen to twenty he will meet with beautiful models. In fact, they here constitute the fair, or rather the handsome sex; their features at that age are often finely moulded and noble, and distingujshed by a certain cast of melancholy. Among the women. too, slender and graceful figures are to be seen, and the simple drapery in which they robe themselves is generally worn with much grace; but pretty faces are rare. Most of the girls marry very early. at from ten to sixteen, soon lose their bloom, and in old age are exceptionally hideous. Added to this. they practise the disfiguring custom of wearing a large silver ring through the left nostril, with stones, glass beads, and other decorations attached; this appendage. in many cases, covers a large part of the mouth and chin. Their lips are also stained with chewing betel. which gives them and the teeth a bright reddish-yellow colour. The foreheads, too, of men and women are painted with streaks and patterns of various hues, the sign of their caste; their arms are tattooed with blue, and both sexes wear silver rings on their toes. and silver anklets. Thus the naked figures of the Hindoos give a strange and strong impression of their being real savages, though, in point of fact, they are descended from the same "Mediterranean," or Aryan stock, as the various races of Europe. The institution of caste and the Brahminical religion are preserved among them very generally, to the present day. They burn their dead, and driving in the evening along the beautiful strand of Back Bay from the Fort to Malabar Hill, close to the railway station, we see the fires in the huge furnaces where Hindoo corpses are consumed on gratings, in a far simpler, cheaper, and more effectual manner than the new and costly process of cremation introduced into Gotha.
According to the census of 1872, the whole population of Bombay amounted at that time to 650,000 souls, of which more than three-fifths were genuine Hindoos of various castes, all under the spirtiual control of the Brahmins, while 140,000 - about a quarter of the whole - were Mohammedans, and only 15,000 - scarcely one forty-fifth part - were Buddhists. Then there were a few thousand Jews, Chinese, and negroes, and a large hybrid population of various mixed races. It may be fancied therefore, how miscellaneous the crowd appears which fills the streets of Bombay, and what a variety of types, customs, opinions, and traditions come into constant and peaceable contact. Perhaps there is no city in the world where a greater confusion of many tongues is spoken than in Bombay, particularly as in the European colony every Western language has its representatives.
One of the most remarkable and important elements of the population is afforded in Bombay, as in the other great towns of India, by the Parsis and Guebres. Their number amounts only to abJut 50,000 - not more than a twelfth of the whole population - but their indefatigable energy, prudence, and industry have gained them so much influence that they play an important part in every respect. If, as is often done, we classify the Europeans in Bombay in one class, in contradistinction to all the other subdivisions of the mixed indigenous or native inhabitants, we find that the Parsis constitute a third important class, standing as it were, between the other two. They are descended from those ancient Persians who, after the conquest of Persia by the Mohammedans in the seventh century, would not accept the new religion, but clung to that of Zoroaster. Being in consequence driven out of their own country they first retreated to Ormuz, and thence dispersed over India. They marry only among themselves, keeping the race unmixed, and, irrsepective of their peculiar costume, are recognizable at a glance among all the other races. The men are tall and stllwart figures with yellow-olive faces, generally somewhat heavily built, and far finer and stronger men than the feeble Hindoos. They dress in long full white cotton shirts and trousers, and wear on their heads a high black cap or tiara, something like a bishop's mitre. Their expressive faces and, not unusually, fine aquiline noses reveal energy and prudence; and at the same time the Parsis are saving and frugal, and, like the Jews among us, have managed to absorb large sums into their own hands. Many of the richest merchants of Bombay are Parsis, and they are also capital hotel-keepers, ship-builders, engineers, and artisans. Their domestic life and virtues are highly spoken of. The Parsi women are generally tall and dignified, their expression discreet and resolute; their colour yellowish, with the blackest hair and eyes. Their dress consists of a long gown of some simple but bright colour - green, red, or yellow. The children of wealthy Parsis are often to be seen out walking in dresses embroidered with gold or silver. Many of them live in handsome villas, like to have beautiful gardens, and by their easy circumstances excite the envy of the Europeans. At the same time, the rich Parsis are often distinguished by their noble public spirit, and many have founded useful and benevolent institutions. Some have been raised by the English Government to the dignity of baronets, in recognition of their distinguished merits.
Another circumstance which has undoubtedly contributed in no small degree to the remarkable energy and success of the Parsis is that they have remained, to a great extent, free from the dominion of the priesthood. Their religion - the doctrine of Zoroaster - is in its purest form one of the loftiest of natural religions, and founded on the worship of the creative and preserving elements. Among these the first place must be given to the light and heat of the procreative Sun and its emblem on earth, Fire. Hence, as the sun rises and sets, we see numbers of pious Parsis on the strand at Bombay, standing, or kneeling on spread-out rugs, and attesting their adoration of the coming or departing day-star by prayer. I have never looked on at the religious exercises of any nation with deeper sympathy than at those of these sun and fire worshippers. For we, the students of nature, who duly recognize the light and warmth of the sun as the source and origin of all the glorious organic life on our globe, are also, in point of fact, nothing else than sun-worshippers!
The religious ceremonies of the Parsis are, indeed, extremely simple and in some measure based - like those of the Moslems - on sound sanitary principles, as, particularly, their dietetic rules and numerous daily ablutions. Their stalwart bodies enjoy, in consequence, excellent health as a rule, and their bright and eager children make a much more pleasing impression than the pale-faced, languid European children who fade into debility in the overpowering heat.
The funeral ceremonies of the Parsis are a most remarkable usage. High upon the ridge of the Malabar Hill-indeed. on one of the highest and lineat peaks, where a splendid panorama of Bombay lies at the feet of the admiring spectator, like the Bay of Naples from the summit of Posilippo - the Parsi community possess a beautiful garden full of palms and flowers. In this cemetery stand the six Dokhmas, or Towers of Silence. They are cylindrical white towers, from thirty to forty feet in diameter and about the same height. The inside is divided like an amphitheatre, into three concentric circles, sub-divided by radiating walls into a number of open chambers. Each of these divisions holds a body, those of children in the centre, those of women in the second circle. and men in the outer one. As soon as the white-robed servants of the dead have received the corpse which the relatives have escorted to the cemetery, they carry it, accompanied by chanting priests, and place it in one of the open graves, where they leave it. Flocks of the sacred bird of Ormuz - the line brown vulture - at once come down from where they have been sitting on the neighbouring Palmyra palms. They fling themselves on the body inside the roofless tower, and in a few minutes the whole of the flesh is devoured. Numbers of black ravens finish off the slender remains of their meal. The bones are afterwards collected in the centre of the tower .
To most Europeans this mode of disposing of a corpse is simply horrible, just as in the classical times it was regarded as a peculiar mark of scorn to throw out a body to be food for the vultures. But to the student of comparative zoology it seems that it may, perhaps, be more aesthetic and poetical to see the remains of one we have loved destroyed in a few minutes by the powerful beaks of birds of prey, or, like the Hindoos, to know that it is burnt to ashes, than to think of it as undergoing that slow and loathsome process of decomposition into "food for the worms" which is inevitable under the present conditions of European culture, and which is as revolting to feeling as it is injurious to health - being, in fact, the source of much disease. However, what is there that dear habit will not do, and that mighty lever Propriety?
It was a never-to-be-forgotten evening when, on the 14th of November, I, with my fellow-passengers from the Helios, Frau Blaschek and Count Hunyadi, went up to the Towers of Silence. The sinking sun was just painting the western horizon with the gorgeous and too transient hues of a tropical sunset, which no brush nor pen can represent or describe. Opposite, in the east, huge masses of clouds were piled in the mysterious purple light, each edged with gold, and lower down, in a violet glow, rose the singular crests and towers of the Bhor Ghauts, the ramparts of the tableland of the Dekhan. At our feet the unruffled waters of Back Bay mirrored the flaming glory of the sky, and beyond stood the noble buildings of the fort, overtopped by the forest of masts in the harbour. To our right the eye was led along the villas and gardens of Malabar to the farthest spit - the projecting rock of Malabar Point, where Lord Elphinstone once lived in his simple lonely villa, and where the Governor's summer residence now stands. To the left, under the dense shade of the cocoa-nut trees of Girgaum, the busy life of the Native Town lay hidden. And as a foreground to all this, the Towers of Silence, surrounded by tall fan palms - on their heads the satiated vultures, settled to their evening repose; at their feet the white-robed Parsi priests. It was a picture worthy of a great painter.
Very different from the deep and mournful mood roused by this evening Scene was the impression I received next morning in gazing from the neighbouring Belvedere on Kumbala Hill. I was on my way thither an hour before sunrise, alone in the still morning twilight; passing the Towers of Silence, a quarter of an hour more brought me to that highest northern peak of Malabar Hill on which the "flagstaff" is planted. This is the name given to the watch-tower of the signal-man who looks out into the distance from this highest point of all, to give notice of the arrival of big steamships, and whose duty it is to announce the mail steamer by firing two shots from a cannon. The steep rocky slope is here overgrown in places with a thorny brake, and in some spots there are groups of date palms under which nestle native huts. In the immediate vicinity, and in a lovely situation, equally high up, is the residence
of the German consul, who was at this time in Europe. From this point the eye not only surveys the whole city and bay, but, glancing northwards, can take in the great palm-grove of Mahim, at the northern end of the island of Bombay, the larger island of Salsette, and the mainland beyond. A tender grey haze veiled this splendid panorama when I reached the summit shortly before sunrise, but scarcely had the sun mounted above the battlemented rocks of the Bhor Ghauts, when the mist rolled off and by degrees the beautiful picture grew clear before my eyes.
An excursion to the palm-grove just named, which I made on the 13th in company with Blaschek, is one of my pleasantest memories of Bombay. It was a glorious Sunday morning, my first Sunday in India, and I shall never forget all the sensations of that day. In the tropics you must start before the sun is up if you wish really to enjoy the freshness of the morning, and the first rays of the sun on that lovely and cloudless Sunday found us sitting in a light carriage among the stems of giant and primaeval banyan trees on the northern side of Kumbala Hill. The Indian huts under the shadow of those huge figs, often hidden among their aerial roots and supported by the trunks formed by these roots, were the stage for numerous quaint domestic scenes, such as must delight the European novice. Whole families were sitting by the wayside in the costume of Paradise, giving their brown skins an extra polish by rubbing in cocoa-nut oil, and at the same time affectionate relatives, parents and children, reciprocated kind and necessary attention to each other's long black hair; though, as the Hindoo may never take life, they carefully released the prisoners they took. Others adopted a more effectual remedy, having their heads entirely shaved. Many were bathing in the tanks by the roadside, and others, before putting on their white loincloths, stretched themselves comfortably either under or among the shady branches.
The cocoa-nut grove of Mahim - the first I had ever seen - offered a yet further variety of pictures. Toddy-gatherers climbed the immensely tall trunks with the agility of apes, to collect the palm-sap which had trickled during the night into jars hung to receive it; they scrambled most nimbly from one tree-top to another. along ropes which had been stretched across from trunk to trunk. Others were gathering the fruit of the noble banana (or plantain) trees. while others, again. were busy preparing breakfast. I could never tire of admiring the magnificent effects of light produced by the play of the sunbeams on the broad quivering feathery leaves of the fine cocoa-nut palms, and on their white gracefully bent trunks, as well as on the tender pale green leaves of enormous size of the bananas at their feet. And besides all this there was an abundance of beautiful flowers, and butterflies sporting and vying with each other in size, brilliant colouring, strange forms, and aromatic smell! Here and there stood a waving clump of the elegant bamboo, and strewed in every direction were little huts built and roofed with this cane. The roads were full of domestic animals. pigs and dogs, fowls and ducks; and among them all, dancing and playing, were tbe delightful, naked Hindoo children with their big black eyes.
After we had wandered about for more than an hour in the winding cross-roads of the wood of Mahim, we tried to make our way to the left, down to the sea-shore, which was not far off; but the narrow path between two walls brought us out at a huge puddle. A two-wheeled bullockcart came towards us from the other side in the very nick of time; we scrambled into the vehicle, which was clean, in the merriest mood, and made the Hindoo lad who drove it carry us across through the puddle, though, as it was, we nearly stuck in the deep mud at the bottom. Once safely over, we Soon reached the sandy shore, which is here planted for a long distance with a beautiful wood of cocoa-nut. We came upon fine groups of the curious Pandanus, known as the screw-pine, whose twisted stem forks into two candelabrum-like branches, each bearing a large tuft of leaves like an agave growing in a spiral, while the main trunk stands perched above the soil on aerial roots, as if it were on stilts. Between the branches hung enormous spider's nets, the home of a finely marked and gigantic spider, with a thick body 2 1/8 inches long, and thin legs of nearly 4 inches in length. The monstrous beast was not difficult to catch, and found his last home in my spirit phial. The firm threads of its net, which was more than a yard across, astonished us by their strength, which was almost like that of linen thread. While we, below were busy with this exciting spider-hunt, a shrieking flock of green parrots rose from among the palm leaves overhead - the first I had ever seen wild.
A number of zoological surprises were awaiting me on the sandy shore of Mahim, which happened to be laid bare for a wide space by a very low tide. Enormous specimens lay stranded of a splendid blue Medusa-a species of Crambessa - more than a foot across, and there was a curious sea-urchin - Diodon - with a thorny coat and its laryngealsack blown out to a large size. In the sand itself I found a great number of various bivalves and univalves, of characteristic Indian forms which I had hitherto met with only in museums: large Serpulae, numerous crustacea, notably the swift-footed sand-crabs that make pits in the sand and many fragments of the skeletons of fish mixed with skulls and other portions of human skeletons. These were the remains of Hindoos of the lowest class, who are not burnt. but simply buried on the sandy shore. My wallet was quite filled with zoological treasures when, towards noon, we turned our steps homewards.
To me one of the most interesting features of Bombay was the sacred Brahmin settlement of Valukeshwar, at a few minutes' distance only from my hospitable friend's bungalow, between it and Government House on Malabar Point. I paid several visits to this remarkable village, and at all hours of the day, and was always struck by the various and original pictures it afforded of Hindoo life among the highest caste; for none but true Brahmins reside in this sacred spot, and no unclean Hindoo of lower caste dares to defile it by his presence. A square tank constitutes the focus and centre of this, as of many similar sacred places scattered about the Native Town. There are flights of steps down to the water on all four sides. and it is surrounded by a number of little temples and shrines, between which the tank is approached by narrow alleys. The temples are distinguished by characteristic white towers, some in the form of a bishop's mitre, others like thick and stumpy obelisks. The interior of the temples, which, like the houses scattered between them, stand open to the street, is simply a hall or room, and in the midst of it, or in a sort of forecourt under a colonnade, lies a sacred bull. Other objects of worship are there, decked, like the bull, with flowers, chiefly emblems of fertility carved in stone and at once obscene and grotesque. These are also to be seen in many places by the wayside both within and without the town, and painted red. They are an object of worship more especially to childless couples, and the reddened portions are stuck allover with scraps of gold paper and wreathed with flowers in the hope of winning the blessing of children by such votive offerings.
In front of the temple-steps and on those of the sacred tank, pious penitents squat or pray with the most extraordinary and various gestures and devotional exercises. Most of these Fakirs are accomplished hypocrites, who give themselves up to a dolce far niente at the expense of their pious and benevolent fellow-believers. Their naked bodies are smeared with oil and ashes, their long hair matted in unkempt knots which never being cleaned, exhibit a peculiar form of Plica polonica, and are always a crowded zoological preserve. The sole virtue of most of these Fakirs consists in the mutilation of some limb. One has held his fist convulsively clenched for a number of years, so that his nails have grown deep into the palm of his hand; another has held his arm stretched out straight up from the shoulder so long, that it has lost all sensation and power of motion, and sticks up withered and atrophied like a dry branch; a third has cut himself in a number of places, and by rubbing in ashes has kept the wounds open and disfigured his body and face in the most hideous manner. It is a well-known fact that there is no madness nor perversity too great to result from religious fanaticism, particularly when it goes hand in hand with the universal mendacity of priestcraft still, few forms of religion, probably, engender such monstrous births of this class as the Brahminical.
While I spent many hours in the Brahmin village of Valukeshwar on the margin of the tank under the shade of a sacred banyan tree, in order to record these strange scenes in my sketch-book, I had ample leisure to study the strange life and manners of this privileged caste of idlers. The principal occupation of these high-class Brahmins, who live like regular mendicant friars upon the lavish offerings of the supersitious and devout Hindoos of lower caste, is simply doing nothing, a philosophical contemplation of the world and its follies; this is occassionally interrupted by some outward formalities of religion, of which frequent ablutions are certainly the most to the purpose. The sacred tank is almost incessantly occupied by bathers of both sexes. I had great sport with the merry children, absolutely superior to any kind of clothing, who came in crowds to gaze at my water-colour drawing, and made eager comments upon it. They appeared to be particularly delighted at a caricature of a howling and perfectly mad Fakir in the tank, for the Hindoo youth in general do not seem to have caught the orthodoxy of their elders.
A Brahmin school at Valukeshwar afforded many interesting pictures; the grey-haired old schoolmaster seemed disposed to look on the bright side of this weary life, and was evidently delighted when I introduced myself by signs as one of his own profession. Hard by this temple of wisdom I had an opportunity of seeing something of the medical practice of the Hindoos: an accouchement of peculiar difficulty was proceeding in the open street, assisted by the most extraordinary instruments; a Hindoo constable or policeman kept the assembled multitude in order, and was good enough to explain the transaction to me. Not far off another Hindoo doctor was exorcising the devil from a poor wretch crippled with rheumatism, by a process of kneading and squeezing. In these branches of the profession, and particularly in torturing animals, the pious Hindoos are indeed adepts, while they take the greatest care never actually to kill any living thing, not even the smallest or most noxious insect.
On the very first day of my arrival in Bombay I had an opportunity of joining in an excursion to the famous island of Elephanta, where the most perfect and most highly decorated of all the many cave-temples of India are to be seen. As this temple of the Brahmins bas been made familiar to all by pictures and descriptions without number, I will content myself with confessing that it disappointed my excited expectations; I had fancied the general impression would be far more grandiose and imposing. What we regard as beauty is, in the first place, quite out of the question in the extravagant arabesque sculpture of the Hindoos; the repulsive and monstrous combinations of human and unusual forms, the divinities with three heads - Trimurti - the distorted apish faces, the bodies with a multiplicity of breasts, arms, legs. etc., were to me simply disgusting, and I am one of the small number of heretics who think that our great master Goethe's judgment was sound as to the "disjointed elephants and groteeque temples." At the same time, the rock-temples of Elephanta are extremely remarkable, both for the finished workmanship of the details. and for the way in which the whole temple, with its three pillared halls and numberless figures, has been cut out of the living rock a black and very hard trap-rock. The position, too, of the temple on the steep western slope of the verdurous island is splendid, and the view over the bay of Bombay so extensive that an excursion thither well repays the trouble.
We made it in a steam launch, starting from the Apollo Bund. The passage takes only an hour, and gives a delightful succession of views of the harbour; I here saw quite close to me Indian ships and boats of every size and shape. The view of the high tableland. the Bhor Ghauts of the Dekhan, is very fine too, as well as the lowland of Konkan at its foot, with its crowds of palms, between which and the island of Bombay lies the little isle of Elephanta. The larger island of Bombay is conspicuous by the gorgeous red colour of its bare cliffs.
In another way, too, my excursion to Elephanta proved to me of the greatest interest, a day never to be forgotten. For it was on this 9th of November that I first saw the marvels of the tropical flora in its free and unfettered glory. I had, to be sure, on the previous afternoon taken advantage of my first hours in India to go by the tramway northwards through the Native Town to the Victoria Gardens. This is a very pretty but not very carefully kept botanical garden. It cannot certainly compare with other botanical gardens in India; however, I saw there for the first time a great number of the handsomest and largest growths of the tropics, especially the typical forms of the Indian palms and bamboos, banana and Pandanus, bread-fruit and Papaya, lotos and Pistia, etc. But enchanted as I had been in the lovely Victoria Gardens on my first cvening in Bombay, glorificd as it was, too, by the gorgeous colouring of a splendid sunset, my delight was immeasurably greater when, the next day, I saw at Elephanta all the most characteristic plants of India growing wild under natural conditions, and in that free and unchecked luxuriance which will endure no gardener's hand.
Here, wreathing creepers and climbing ferns cling to the trunks of the gigantic teak trees; there, tall cocoa-nut palms bend their slender stems and grand crowns of shining plumes over the seashore, which is fringed with clumps of Pandanus, and held up by a wall of mangrove with its roots in the water. Enormous parasitic figs, convolvulus, and other creeping plants, covered with large and gaudy flowers, climb to the very top of the perpendicular trunks of the tall Palmyra palms, and even their proud heads of many-fingered leaves are garlanded with blossoms. Here, too, are huge primaeval specimens of the banyan, the sacred Indian fig. The colossal main trunk diverges below into a regular net-work of thick roots, while from the dense dark greenery above the branches send down a tangle of aerial roots; many of these reach the ground and, taking hold on the soil, form new props to support the parent roof of leaves. Out there, see - a stalwart parasite of the fig family is choking the noble palm it holds in the tight embrace of its twining stems, and a few paces farther stands another, its very brother, now a mere cylindrical trellis of plaited stems bare of leaves; the throttled palm first died and decayed, and now the same fate has overtaken its murderer. Among the palm-trunks the graceful bamboo reeds grow in huge tufts, beautiful broad-leaved bananas and Strelitzias unroll their bright green foliage, large gaudy flowers open their perfumed cups, the delicate feathery acacia casts a broad protecting shade, and cactus-like Euphorbias form dense and thorny thickets.
Thus, here in Elephanta, I saw, for the first time in living actuality, a quantity of the most curious and lovely forms of that tropical vegetation of which I had read and dreamed for thirty years. Amid them thousands of most gorgeous butterflies fluttered in the sunny air, brilliant gold beetles whizzed through the shrubbery, hundreds of startled lizards and snakes hurried off into the undergrowth, noisy flocks of gaily painted birds flew from tree to tree - all creatures that I had never seen alive before, though for the most part old acquaintances. I rushed like a child to seize all these new wonders, and could not help touching the palmtrunks and bamboos to assure myself that it was not a fairy vision.
And I went home, dream-possessed, in the exquisite evening glow, from Elephanta to Bombay, and through a sleepless night, my first in India, saw again in my "mind's eye" thousands of dazzling pictures.
Unfortunately one short swift week in Bombay allowed time for no more than a single excursion of any length towards the interior of the Indian continent. It was, however, a very interesting one, and gave me a very good idea of the character of the plateau of the Dekhan. By the kind advice of a friendly fellow-countryman, Herr Tintner - whom I take this opportunity of thanking heartily for many good offices I chose, from among a variety of expeditions feasible within the space of two days, that to Lanaulie and the rock-temples of Carli. I started from Bombay at noon on the 11th, in the company of Count Hunyadi, my fellow-voyager of the Helios. We had the loveliest weather during this excursion, as indeed during the whole week in Bombay; it was only a little too hot, 37o centigrade in the shade at noon, and from 27o to 32o during the chief part of the day. The nights, too, were very sultry, and once the thermometer stood at 32o at midnight.
The railway journey to Lanauli, the first portion of the great Bombay and Madras Railway, lasted five hours, giving rise to many sighs on our part under the scorching sun, as well as distilling from us a great deal of sweat; and yet the first-class carriage in which we rode was extremely comfortable, and supplied with the most elaborate protection against the tropical sun: a double roof with projecting eaves, Venetian blinds and green screens to the windows, inside and outside curtains, cool and easy leather cushions, ingenious devices to secure ventilation, and - greatest luxury of all - little bath-rooms with cooled water, in which I took a refreshing plunge more than once during our hot journey. Each firstclass carriage is composed of two spacious saloon compartments, licensed to carry only six passengers, while in Europe we should cram in three times, or at least twice as many. There are three seats in each compartment, two along the sides and one across; at night another seat or shelf is suspended over each, at about four feet above it; thus six beds are formed,much roomier and more comfortable than the berths in a cabin. Besides this, a portmanteau can be conveniently stowed and unpacked in the little saloon, and passengers can walk up and down, or gaze out of the many windows on each side at the landscape as it flies past.
This occupation was to me supremely attractive, and during our short five hours' journey I noted a number of interesting Indian scenes in my sketch-book. The railway passes at first through a considerable portion of the town of Bombay itself, by Byculla, Parell, and Sassoon; then across a bridge over a narrow arm of the sea to the island of Salsatte and by a second bridge to the mainland of Western Hindostan. The line is on a level for several miles through the low coast-plain of Konkan. Several villages of wretched cane-huts, and a few little towns of small extent, give the traveller some idea of the Mahratta population of this district. All through the rainy season, from June till September, this wide plain is covered with luxuriant tall grasses, and cultivated to a considerable extent with rice. maize. etc. At this time of year the vegetation had all been burnt up for a month past, and the wide grass-fields were straw-coloured. But the evergreen plants, which are numerous, remained fresh - the banana plantations and fig-groves round the houses, and, above all, the finest representative of the flora of the Konkan. the splendid Palmyra palm. Borassus flabelliformis. Thousands. nay millions of this stately fan-palm, with its perfectly straight black trunk, are to be seen on every side, here singly, there in clumps, and give the flat coast land a highly characteristic physiognomy. The Palmyra,like the cocoanut and date palms, is one of the most useful trees of its tribe; almost every part of it serves some purpose in domestic economy or manufacture. The groups of these palms that stand on the margins of the numberless reedy tanks, look strikingly elegant as we rush past them; the picturesque foreground consisting of clothes-less brown natives with their two-wheeled bullock-carts, buffaloes bathing, and square bamboo hovels; while in the background rise tlle singular peaks of the Bhor Ghauts, the castellated rock-wall which forms the rampart, two thousand feet high, of the extensive plateau of the Dekhan.
The station of Kurjut, beyond Noreb, lies at the foot of the ascent, and the light locomotive which had brought us so far was exchanged for a powerful mountain engine. The gradient is in some places very considerable, as much as one in thirty-seven; in a few hours' journey the line ascends above two thousand feet. Numerous tunnels and viaducts, with sharp turns round steep cliffs, remind us of our picturesque Alpine lines of railway near Semmering and the Brenner. Even there the steepest gradient is not more than one in forty.
The surrounding landscape meanwhile assumes a quite different character. The palms which grace the lowlands in such vast numbers entirely vanish quite at the beginning of the ascent; huge forest trees take their place, some columnar in their growth, some thickly branched. Among these are the lofty teak, and cotton-trees with very large leaves. The steep slope of the Dekhan highland, which in some places forms steps or terraces, is deeply furrowed with many watercourses, and these ravines with their dense undergrowth give the mountain-like slope a European aspect. Still, the structure and shapes of the huge cliffs of the Bhor Ghauts are quite peculiar, and wholly unlike any European range known to me. They appear now as colossal and almost perpendicular black walls more than a thousand feet high, and now as broad low table-rocks with their peaks cut off horizontally; again as river bastions, their turret-like battlements looking from a distance like a gigantic fortress with numerous pinnacles and watch-towers. Although the Plutonic formation of the Bhor Ghauts - principally consisting of blackish trap-rock and a syenite resembling basalt - differs essentially from the stratified freestone of the Saxon Switzerland, the general appearance of the table-rocks is often strikingly like it.
In the same way as the aspect of the wooded mountainside, with its many fissures and total absence of the gorgeous vegetation of the tropics, seemed to transport us from the nineteenth to the fifty-third degree of latitude, so also the air we breathed seemed altogether different. Instead of the oppressive heat there was a delicious coolness, and we inhaled the strong fresh mountain breeze with delight - one of the blessings of a temperate climate which we do not duly appreciate till we miss it painfully under the debilitating influence of a tropical sun. The higher we mounted the more we felt at home; but this illusion was somewhat disturbed by the information that in the deep water-course by the side of which we were travelling, an English captain had, two years since, been killed by a tiger. Here two waterfalls tumbled down from a considerable height. Such cataracts are very numerous during the rainy season, but they were now generally dried up, and thin, yellow grass covered the surface where it was not overgrown with trees or with jungle.
Shortly before reaching Lanauli we passed the station of Matheran, a favourite summer resort of the richer residents in Bombay. Several beautiful sites in its immediate neighbourhood afford lovely panoramas, with wild and romantic peeps into the mountain ravines on one side, and on the other, wide views over the level coast and the sea as far away as to Bombay. A remarkably curious rock close to the station next before this Reversion station, is known as the "Duke's Nose," in honour of the Duke of Wellington. It was quite dark when, after seven hours' journey to a height of 2100 feet above the sea-level, we reached our destination, and found very miserable accommodation in a little hotel kept by a Parsi.
The next morning we had determined to make an excursion to the famous Buddhist rock-temples of Karli, which are said to exceed all that are known in extent and in the richness of their sculptured ornament. We had ordered ponies to be round by five o'clock, to carry us up a bit of mountain road and very near to the caves. But when we were prepared to bestride our mountain steeds there appeared, instead of these, a fine carriage with two horses which our wily host had thought it more advantageous to provide. There was nothing for it but to get in, and it conveyed us not more than half an hour's drive further along a good high-road; then we were forced to get out and proceed on foot for another hour over fields and meadows. Finally, we had a good half-hour's climb uphill to the caves. They lie about half-way up the western slope of a hill of trachyte which stands up more than a thousand feet above the plateau of Lanauli, which is on a level with the rest of the table-land of the Dekhan.
The Buddhist cave-temples of Karli are much larger and far more ancient than the Brahminical temples of Elephanta; the sculpture, too, is simpler and less grotesque, and the figures of the men and animals more natural. They are considered the finest works of the kind known. Like the caves of Elephanta and many others in India, these at Karli are hewn out of the very rock that forms the mountain, and so are all the sculptured figures of men and animals which decorate the walls in immense variety. The grand central hall or chaitya of the temple at Karli a vast semi-circular vault, is divided into a nave and two side aisles by two rows of pillars. All the figures, male and female, with elephants, lions, etc., and the pillars and door-post as well, are chiselled out of the black trap-rock with great skill, and smoothly polished; they are said to be superior to most of the other Indian temples, both in taste and in careful execution. Above the principal temple, and on each side of it at 2550 feet above the sea, small chambers have been hewn out of the rock, out of which we scared immense swarms of bats. Outside the entrance to the cave-temple are a few smaller temples or shrines, overshadowed by fine trees of the sacred fig. A few Buddhist priests who spend their lives there asked for alms. While they were muttering prayers in gratitude for our charity, we heard a loud screaming at the top of the cliff, and, looking up saw several large black apes, or wanderoos, which sprang away with long leaps. These were the first creatures of the kind I had ever seen wild; and, comparing them with the dirty and naked begging priests at our feet, they seemed to me a highly respectable ancestry for them.
The view from the door of the temple of Karli - or, even better, from the projecting rock above, up which we scrambled after the apes commands the whole plateau of Lanauli. This extends, a level plain, for some distance towards Poonah, and it is surrounded by an amphitheatre of low hills, mostly barren. Here begins the great table-land of the Dekhan, which occupies the larger part of the peninsula of Hindostan, sloping gently to the sea on the eastern or Coromandel coast, while to the west, above Konkan and the Malabar coast, it is almost everywhere abrupt and steep.
We left Lanauli at noon on the 12th, greatly pleased with our excursion, which had enabled us to see one of the most interesting bits of the highland, and found ourselves in Bombay before sunset.