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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper
Chirol, Valentine
India ยป Alwar

27.5529907, 76.6345735

Sat 17. [17 January 1903] Got to Bandikuy at 7 and had an excellent
breakfast of 4 courses. We reached Alwar about 10, a little late and
we hadn't been there 5 minutes before Domnul arrived with the
Resident, Col. Fagan, who at once asked us to stay. They were all
seeing off Capt. Ricketts who has been the Maharaja's tutor for 21/2
years. The Raja was there too and ran along the platform holding
Capt. R's hand as the train was going. We were introduced to him - a
nice boy of 20 talking beautiful English. Indeed it his native tongue; he
talks Urdu badly and Hindi not so well as English though he has to
talk it to his wife who is a princess of Kishengurh just 20 too. She is
being educated by an English governess, 3 hours every morning,
and for the rest of the day Heaven knows what she does for there is
not so much as a private garden for her to go out into. In the City
palace she complains that the Raja's mothers (they are both step
mothers) keep her up till 2 in the morning. The Raja doesn't like them
much and doesn't wish his wife to be with them; nor does he let her
talk to her women. Drove off to the Residency where Mrs Fagan
received us most hospitably - and without surprise - and installed us
in delightful rooms where we washed and changed. It stands in a big
garden full of lawns and rose trees. There is a cypress covered with
the brick red bougainvillea in full flower. We then drove off to the City
Palace, leaving cards on the Raja on our way. A man ran after us to
give us the Raja's salaams. Domnul was a delightful fellow sightseer.
It's a nice little town, quite Hindu. The palace is new but pretty. A big
gateway set in a street full of balconeyed windows roofed with
elephant's ...... ...., leads into the first court. Here we got out and
walked into the palace court. It has a raised end opposite the Durbar
Hall and on one side the balconies and small lattices of the Zenana.
The Durbar Hall is very ugly. Behind it is a small Shish Mahl, rather
too barbaric. Alwar is a new state, an offshoot of Jeypore [Jaipur],
only 4 or 5 Rajas old. Behind the palace is a charming tank with stairs
and pavilions leading into it; on the left the big modern tomb of
Bakhtawur[?] Singh rather handsome but a bit too florid. On the right
the gorge leading up to the Fort and an old white temple. Opposite
the whole terrace is set with modern temples - all the pavilions
elephant's ....... We went into the armoury but the best things were still
in Delhi. Library ditto but we saw some wonderful old portraits of the
Moguls, contemporary, Persian work probably. One of Akbar with full
skirts and a nose, one of Shah Jehan seated on the Peacock Throne
with all his sons and the Rajput kings round him, and one of Shah
Abbas in a Persian pavilion with a garden and flowers looking over
the garden wall. Also a big picture representing a triumph of Akbar at
Delhi, by the edge of the Jumna [Yamuna], and a copy of the famous
Gulistan MS, which was written by a German out here and illuminated
here - awfully good. These pictures were like preRafaelites in an
earlier dress - like Gentile Bellini. Next we went to the stables to see
the breeding stock. Great open courts with shed stalls all round, half
of them open doored and the mares and foals cantering about where
they liked. One lovely white Arab mare, but lots of them were
charming, Kathiawars and Marwars, desert bred and almost
indistinguishable from Arabs. These 2 crossed with Arabs make the
best horse, Col. Fagan says. Lovely hoofs, so well shaped. And then
they are all suited to the country. They feed the foals on camels milk
like Arabs - and wish they had dates too. Next the stallions in a
separate court. Some magnificent Arabs of the last races -
Kashlan[?] etc - a long Irish mare and 2 Marwaris that took my fancy.
Also an old Arab, Cock Robin, small but a real beauty. So back to
lunch. The Gascoynes who are staying at the DB also lunched. At 4
Domnul H [Hugo] and I drove to the gorge where we found 2
elephants waiting for us on which we rode up to the Fort. Very steep
and hard work for the elephants - they felt their way with their trunks. I
can't think elephant gaited is a good epithet for a woman! We were
nearly scrubbed flat under a doorway, but luckily decided to get off -
the howdahs almost touched the arch. Got up at 5 and saw the sunset
from the palace. The whole hill top, an enormous area, is walled
round. Behind are range after range of scrubby hills, the home of tiger
and panther. Just opposite a most curious gorge like a broken crater.
Lots of water cd be stored here. To the S and E the great plain with a
few tiny hills in it and the road to Muttra straight as a dart. They
showed us a hill 4 miles away and declared one of the cannon had
been charged with extra powder and the bullet had hit it, where on the
cannon had burst. We left the elephant people to find their way back
and walked down, getting to the bottom just as the last daylight went.
Lovely view of the City Palace and Lake half way up the gorge.
Elaborate watercourses for bringing the water down to the lake. Also
a big rainwater cistern in the palace. The Fagans are kind but not
brilliant. They were at Muscat [Masqat] where he made an awful hash
of things quarelling with the Sultan and nearly driving him into the arms
of France. We had to interfere with gunboats. Mrs F. told me tales of
the awful heat. The temp. in the shade went up to 124? but they kept it
down in their rooms to 84? or so by closing all the windows and
hanging wet ....... over the doors - also by putting in the doors a kind of
churn[?] which fanned in wet air. Domnul says we are on the eve of a
row with Holkar who goes must from time to time and becomes a sort
of homicidal maniac. We may have to depose him. His son recently
murdered a man in the open street and got let off, but we are bringing
a suit ag. him. Holkar tortures people making them for hours kneel
and rise and pulling them up by their ears till the ears come off.
Jodhpore [Jodhpur] is also in a bad way. The Raja is only 22, he was
given full financial powers when he came of age and he has got the
country lakhs into debt in 18 months. He came near being deposed
last year. We can do nothing but that to stop these kings and we are
very lenient. But Alwar is not to be given his financial powers for 5
years after he comes of age and he has a strong council of 3 to guide
him, one being a .... good man, we saw him at the station - natives of
course. [Written at top of final page of entry:] Pertab Singh was given
Idar to keep him from intriguing in Jodhpore. He still continued to
meddle and had to be told to keep out. He's a wile [sic] old person.

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