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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 Delhi

28.7040592, 77.1024902

Tues 6. [6 January 1903] I went out at 10 to the Sikh tamasha at the
shrine of the 9th Goru Tegh Behadur. It was the anniversary of his
death and of Govind's birth. The story is that Tegh Bahadur was
taken prisoner by Aurungzeb who shut him up in Delhi Fort. One day
he was found looking up at the palace and one came to the emperor
and said "The Sikh prisoner is gazing at the Zenana." He sent for him
and taxed him with it, to which the Sikh replied "I was looking not at
your women but for the white faces of those who shall come out of the
west and overthrow your empire." Whereupon Aurungzeb promptly
had him beheaded. This prophecy was first taken to foretell the Sikh
power and is now applied to us. Hence the suitability of the tamasha
in the Coronation festivities. The shrine is in the Chandni Chauk. I
arrived and met Mr Stephen Wheeler who introduced me to a
charming old Sikh, an ex Colonel, who was apparently running the
show. He took us up onto the roof of the shrine from where we saw
admirably. At one corner all the women were sitting, sort of half
veiled. One inside was reading the Granth. The ways were all
guarded by Sikhs some of them Imperial Service. These have the
quoit, which is mentioned in the Ramayana, round their turbans. They
can cut off a man's head when they throw it. Patiala has some
indiginous [sic] pipers and his drum major is clothed in leopard skins
and cheetahs. A funny band of his soldiers sat in the courtyard and
played on native instruments one of them keyed like a piano - most
discordant music but exciting. Then came the procession. First
Granth Sahib all to himself in the front seat, wrapped up in cloth of gold
with a man fanning him with yaks' tails. He was carried reverently in.
He had been preceded by some Akhalis, in great enormous .......
turbans stuck full of knives, spear heads and quoits, with quoits slung
onto their bare arms. They are the forlorn hope of a battle, they stupify
them with bang. One old man was clothed in armour and mounted on
the smallest of ponys [sic]. He stopped and made a speech which
was received with enthusiasm. After Granth Sahib came Patiala in
great state, his led horses in front and himself in his silver and gold
carriage. But old Nabha walked in barefoot as a protest against the
luxury of the age. All the other Sikh princes were there. I left after the
entry, scaling a wall. We lunched at the Artillery camp with Susan, the
Blunts and Col. Coxhead. It was cold and grey, it had rained a good
deal in the night and the roads were a mass of mud. Saw the Battines.
They are so hated in their various regiments that no one will speak to
them. So home to rest. Mr Macdougall came to tea - I don't like him.
We dined with Mr Chirol in the Press Camp, Arthur also, and went to
the ball by train. A covered way took us up from the station to the
Diwani Am. Very lovely but for parties you can't beat London. The
women were very secondrate of course. Saw the 1st State Lancers:
the Duke and Lady Curzon in a gorgeous gold and silver peacocks'
feather gown and diamonds, Lord C. and the Duchess, Lord Ampthill
and the Duchess of Portland, Lord K. [Kitchener] with a dim lady, Lord
Northcote with Lady Ampthill, the Duchess of Manchester with
magnificent pearls, the Grand Duke of Hesse with Lady Northcote.
Lord K. looks better on a horse than in a ball room. Talked to the
Muirs, Lord Killalin [Killanin], Mr Landon, Mrs Gillett, Hughes Buller, Mr
Pemberton, Mr Strachey, Mr Biddulph etc and went in to supper, with
great difficulty with Arthur. The Diwani Khas and the exquisite Rang
Mahal looked too lovely lighted by electric light. Our coming home
took us some time. We left at 2 and got in at 3.45. Arthur told me tales
of Afghanistan and of a commercial traveller who goes up regularly to
Kabul. But he won't speak of Kabul for fear of his head - Arthur says
that Wurbastins[?] daughters are regular thieving Pathans.

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