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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

20.593684, 78.96288

Wed 28. [28 January 1903] We were separated, I in a carriage to myself. Chota Hazri at Wazirabad where I fed the crows and kites on my toast. H [Hugo]'s travelling companion was Percy Brown of Lahore. He fished me out at 9 to come and talk to him. A keen intelligent young man with no hs. He has been away for a year travelling over India for the Durbar Exhibits. He says the Burman is the finest artist, but like an artist he works when he pleases. The Sikh is a good man but a bit thick headed. The best they get in the N is the Muhammadan like Sher Muhammad. He seems most anxious to follow in L. Kipling's steps and his object is to turn out men like his. They get more boys now, he doesn't pay much attention to the lowest class, but when they get into the second he begins to keep his eye on them. He discourages non attendance and turns out all but the regular boys. It was he who found the Aurangabad[?] kincob which won the 1st prize. He brought it for 500 Rs, the man had had another but burnt it for the gold in it. He described the making of gold thread. They take a silver bar, cover it thickly with gold leaf and then draw it out. It's such hard work that the man works 2 days and rests one. We discussed the possibility of the compilation and spreading of an official pattern book. He says he has seen men taking patterns out of store catalogues - for want of better. The man at the head of the Bombay School tries to make them copy nature too much - not to conventionalize. Much good in copying nature but you musn't put it straight into patterns. He says the old patterns come many of them out of the Dutch herbals. Also you can trace Italian influence in kincob patterns. The making of tiles has entirely dropped. Some men in Lahore know the secret of the glaze - they use it for bangles - but they won't reveal it. He had been at Peshawar looking at the new Residency which Col. Deane wants him to decorate. Col. Deane has done much for Buddhist antiquities in tribal territories - mapped and planned. He brought down the big Steepu[?] in Lahore which L.K. placed in the new room. There must be a great deal to be found in the tribal territories - the only fear is that they are bringing it down piecemeal without any possibility of seing how it stood. They don't even know where some of the things came from. Some have been sent to Calcutta and some to Madras. It seems a pity not to keep them together. We all breakfasted at Lahore and we went on to Amritsar where we arrived at 11.30. Drove straight to the Golden Temple. Charming wood carved streets. A hideous new clock tower on a platform above the tank. Took off our boots and put on velvet embroidered boots! "They smoke pipes." said the Sikh to H. Walked down some steps to the tank where people with Brahminical threads were bathing and so to the entrance court. Akalis in full fig. All round the tank little Granth shrines and tens of holy images with offerings of grain before them. Opposite the big gate (which has lovely inlaid doors) is a Granth shrine where we were given flowers. Then along the causeway to the Temple. Inside under a canopy the Granth; a Granthi by it dealing out flowers or sugar candy baskets to the people who came and threw pice or cowries onto the cloth before the shrine. Some men playing on sort of lutes and singing discordantly the praises of Guru Nanak. We went up to the roof where we were given more flowers. Then round the tank - a whole range of Granths in one place under a tree and a man sitting behind them reading. The Akalis came running[?] round them[?], bent double, chanting softly. Flower sellers with baskets of yellow mustard and orange marigold. Through the garden behind to another tank and another Granth shrine where we were again received. Up and up endless stories to the top. Fine view; it's all a little bit shoddy, but very picturesque. [Added at top of page:] We saw a monument erected by the govt. to commemorate the bravery of a Sikh regiment which fought for us. On tablets in English and in Nagari on other side of the gate of the temple is an inscription recording a miracle which happened there - how flames fell from Heaven in front of the Granth and this was interpreted as of favourable augury to the British Raj. So shopping - H. bought some curtains, and to the big ..... where we saw Kashgaris, Kashmiris and Pathans. And past Chanbar Lall's in the Hall bazaar to the Station where we lunched and read our big mail. After lunch I went to see Chanbar Lall's factory. He has 300 looms for Eghil orders and 150 for American - the latter generally send him their patterns which are bad. His finest carpet is about 20 threads to the inch, of Kashmiri goat hair like the shawls. I don't care much for the carpets myself. He makes his own dyes - all vegetable - and dyes his own work. I saw this. They've been going for over 50 years. His father and uncle started it. [Added at top of page:] He employs mostly boys and contracts for them. They get from 2 to 10 rupees a month! One boy sings the pattern while the others weave. Off at 4.30. Dined at Phillaur at 7. Spent an hour 10.30 to 11.30 PM at Umballa [Ambala]. Several trains came in all crowded with natives, even if they came out of sidings. One old Sikh came to me and said Memsahib what should he do as he couldn't get a place. I fished up a railway official who said it was all full but just as I was commiserating with my old friend, a man in uniform came up, opened a third class carriage which appeared to be absolutely full (they carry 128!) and shoved my old man in. He remained blocking the window with his white cloak for some time and then gradually subsided below high water mark. Had carriages to ourselves and off about midnight.

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