HPB-Caves-1

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Letter I[1]


Arrival in Bombay[2]


Late in the evening of the sixteenth of February, 1879, after a rough voyage which lasted thirty-two days, joyful exclamations were heard everywhere on deck: “The lighthouse, the Bombay lighthouse!” Cards, books, music, everything was forgotten. Everyone rushed on deck. The moon had not risen as yet, and, in spite of the starry tropical sky, it was absolutely dark. The stars were so bright that, at first, it seemed hardly possible to distinguish, far away amongst them, a small fiery point lit by earthly hands. The stars winked at us like so many huge eyes in the black sky, on one side of which shone the Southern Cross. At last we distinguished the lighthouse on the distant horizon. It was nothing but a tiny fiery point diving in the phosphorescent waves. The tired travellers greeted warmly the long wanted event. The rejoicing was general...

However, we did not have long to admire the lighthouse; the bell rang, and the lights were turned off in the passengers' lounge. It was ten o'clock in the evening, and having pleasant dreams of a future day, everyone went to their cabins. But on that night no one went to bed. Everyone was hastily packing up, getting ready the next morning to say goodbye to our holey, water-filled tub, called the “ocean steamer” of Liverpool Company, and her always drunk, rude captain, who, by the way, almost drowned us, and on Sundays forbade passengers not only to play cards or drafts, but even to play music.

By four in the morning, all the passengers were already on deck, even the ladies. Such an early appearance of the fair sex did not figure in the plans of a group of Anglo-Indian officers and they were very embarrassed. A group of brave soldiers with the help of some sailors were merrily being poured over with water under the deck pump, while their comrades, waiting for their turn, were pacing around in the national costumes of the Hindus, that is, without any costume. But the modest ladies were also coming back to India, and not going for the first time. Apparently, having already got used to such a flexible environment, they remained completely calm, especially since now the whole difference was only in colour. Moreover, it was barely dawning ...

What a glorious daybreak it was!.. The sea no longer tossed our ship... Under the skilled guidance of the pilot in costume of Hercules, who had just arrived, and whose bronze silhouette was so sharply defined against the pale sky, our steamer, breathing heavily with its broken machinery, slipped over the quiet, transparent waters of the Indian Ocean straight to the harbour. We were approaching the bay and only four miles left to Bombay, and, to us, who had trembled with cold only a few weeks ago in the Bay of Biscay[3], which has been much glorified by poets, but much more cursed by sailors, our surroundings simply seemed a magical dream!..

After the tropical nights of the Red Sea and the scorching hot days that had tortured us since Aden[4], we, North people, now experienced something strange and unwonted, intensively charming in this wonderfully soft fresh air of the dawn. There was not a cloud in the sky, thickly strewn with dying stars. Even the moonlight, which till then had covered the sky with its silvery garb, was gradually vanishing; and the brighter grew the rosiness of dawn over the small island that lay before us in the East, the paler in the West grew the scattered rays of the moon that sprinkled with bright flakes of light the dark wake our ship left behind her, as if the glory of the West was bidding good-bye to us, people from America, while the light of the East welcomed the newcomers from far-off lands. Brighter and bluer grew the sky, swiftly absorbing the remaining pale stars one after the other, and we felt something touching in the sweet dignity with which the Queen of Night resigned her rights to the powerful usurper. At last, descending lower and lower, she disappeared completely...

And suddenly, almost without interval between darkness and light, the red-hot globe, emerging on the opposite side from under the cape, leant his golden chin on the lower rocks of the island and seemed to stop for a while, as if examining us... Then, with one powerful effort, the torch of day rose high over the sea, instantly dispelled the darkness and gloriously proceeded on its path, including in one mighty fiery embrace the blue waters of the bay, the bungalows on the shore and the islands with their rocks and coconut forests. His golden rays did not forget to pet a crowd of Parsees-Gebras, his rightful worshippers, who stood on shore raising their arms towards the mighty “Eye of Ormuzd.” The sight was so impressive that everyone on deck became silent for a moment, even a red-nosed old sailor, who was busy quite close to us over the cable, stopped working, and, clearing his throat, nodded at the sun.

Moving slowly and cautiously along the charming but treacherous bay, we had plenty of time to admire the picture around us. On the right was a group of islands with Gharipuri or Elephanta, with its ancient temple, at their head. Gharipuri translated means “the town of caves” according to the Orientalists, and “the town of purification” if we trust the native Sanskrit scholars. This temple, cut out by an unknown hand in the very heart of a rock resembling porphyry, is a true apple of discord among the archaeologists, of whom none can as yet fix, even approximately, its antiquity. Elephanta raises high its rocky brow, all overgrown with age-old cactus, and right under it, at the foot of the rock, are hollowed out the chief temple and the two lateral ones. Like fairy-tale Zmei Gorynych[5], it seems to be opening its fierce black mouth to swallow the daring mortal who comes to learn the secret mystery of a titan. Its two remaining teeth, dark with time, are formed by two huge pillars – the entrance, sustaining the palate of the monster.

How many generations of Hindus, how many races, have knelt in the dust before the Trimurti, your threefold deity, O Elephanta? How many centuries were spent by weak man in digging out in your stone bosom this town of temples and carving your gigantic idols? Who is able to know it now? Many years have elapsed since I saw you last time, ancient, mysterious temple, and still the same restless thoughts, the same recurrent questions vex me now as they did then, and still remain unanswered... In a few days we shall see each other again. Once more I shall gaze upon your stern image, upon your three granite faces 19 feet height, and shall feel as hopeless as ever of piercing the mystery of your being!.. This secret fell into safe hands three centuries before ours. It is not in vain that the old Portuguese historian Dom Diogo do Couto[6] boasts (Decade 8, book III, chapter XI) that “the big square stone fastened over the arch of the pagoda with a distinct large inscription, having been torn out and sent as a present to the King Dom Juan III,[7] and after that mysteriously disappeared...,” and adds, further, “Close to this big pagoda there stood another, and farther on even a third one, the most wonderful of all on the island as for beauty, so for incredible size, and richness of material. All those pagodas and caves have been built by the Kings of Kanada (?), the most important of whom was Bonazur, and these buildings of Satan our (Portuguese) soldiers attacked with such vehemence that in a few years one stone was not left upon another...”

And, worst of all, they left no inscriptions that might have given a clue to so much. Thanks to the fanaticism of Portuguese Vandals[8], the chronology of the Indian cave temples must remain for ever an enigma to the archaeological world, beginning with the Brahmans, who say Elephanta is 374,000 years old, and ending with Fergusson[9], who tries to prove that it was carved only in the XII century AD.[10] Whenever one turns one's eyes to history, there is nothing to be found but hypotheses and darkness. And yet Gharipuri is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata, which was written, according to Colebrooke[11] and Wilson[12], a good while before the reign of Cyrus[13]. In another ancient legend it is said that the temple of Trimurti was built on Elephanta by the sons of Pandu, expelled at the end of the war – between the dynasties of the Sun and the Moon, where the race of the Sun won – glorified in Mahabharata. The Rajputs (descendants of the former), still sing of this victory upon the enemy; but even in their folk songs there is nothing positive. Centuries have passed and will pass, and the ancient secret will die in the rocky bosom of the cave...

On the left side of the bay, exactly opposite Elephanta, and as if in contrast with all its antiquity and greatness, spreads the Malabar Hill, the residence of the modern Europeans and rich natives. Their brightly painted bungalows are bathed in the greenery of banyan, Indian fig, and various other trees, and the tall and straight trunks of coconut palms cover with the fringe of their leaves the whole ridge of the hilly headland. There, on the south-western end of the rock, you see the almost transparent, lace-like Government House surrounded on three sides by the ocean. This is the coolest and the most comfortable part of Bombay, fanned by three different sea breezes; it is the residence of Sir Richard Temple, governor and sovereign of the Bombay Presidency.[14] A flag fluttering on a high mast guides the faithful as well as the infidels that His Excellency is “at home” at the time. The place is both charming and suitable for the venerable baronet who suffers greatly, by the way, from a heated imagination. It is the coolness of the place that saves him from a stroke that is constantly threatening him as a result of painful monomania, the central point of which is “Russian spies” and the insidious “Russian intrigue” ...

The island of Bombay, designated by the natives “Mambai,” received its name from the goddess Mamba, in Mahrati Mahima, or Amba, Mama, and Amma, according to the dialect, a word meaning, literally, the Great Mother. Hardly one hundred years ago, on the site of the modern esplanade, there stood a temple consecrated to Mamba-Devi. With great difficulty and expense they carried it nearer to the shore, close to the fort, and erected it in front of Baleshwara the “Lord of the Innocent” – one of the names of the god Siva or rather Shiva. Bombay is part of a considerable group of islands, the most remarkable of which by their antiquities are: Salsetta, joined to Bombay by a mole; Elephanta, so named by the Portuguese because of a huge rock cut in the shape of an elephant 35 feet long; and Trombay island, whose lonely rock rises 900 feet above the surface of the sea. Bombay looks, on the maps, like an enormous crayfish, and is at the head of the rest of the islands. Spreading far out into the sea its two claws, Bombay island stands like a sleepless guardian watching over his younger less fortified brothers. Between it and the Continent there is a narrow arm of a river, which gets gradually broader and then again narrower, deeply indenting the sides of both shores, and so forming a haven that has no equal in the world. It was not without reason that the Portuguese, expelled in the course of time by the English, used to call it “Buona Bahia,” i. e. good bay.

In a fit of tourist exaltation some travelers have compared it to the Bay of Naples; but, as a matter of fact, the one is as much like the other as a lazzaroni is like a kuli[15]. The whole resemblance between them is in color of their skin and between two ports – the water. In Bombay, as well as in its harbour, everything is original and does not in the least remind one even of Southern Europe. Look at those coasting vessels and fishing boats; both are built in the likeness of the sea bird “sat,” a kind of kingfisher. When in motion these boats are the personification of grace, with their long perfectly bird-like prows and obtuse rounded poops. They look as if they were gliding backwards, and one might mistake for wings the strangely shaped, long lateen sails, their narrow angles fastened upwards to a yard. Filling these two wings with the wind, and careening prows, so as almost to touch the surface of the water, these boats will fly along with astonishing swiftness. But unlike our boats, they do not cut the waves, but glide over them like a sea-gull, showing themselves a perfect example of sea fisher...

The surroundings of the bay transported us to some fairy land of the Arabian Nights. The ridge of the Western Ghats, cut through here and there by some separate hills almost as high as themselves, stretched all along the Eastern shore. From the base to their fantastic, rocky tops, they are all overgrown with impenetrable forests and jungles inhabited by wild animals. Every rock has been enriched by the popular imagination with an independent legend. All over the slope of the mountain are scattered the pagodas, mosques, and temples of numberless sects. Here and there the hot rays of the sun strike upon an old fortress, once dreadful and inaccessible, now half ruined and covered with prickly cactus. At every step some memorial of sanctity. Here a deep vihara, a cave cell of a Buddhist bhikshu[16]; there a rock protected by the symbol of Shiva; further on a Jaina temple, or a holy tank, – all covered with sedge and filled with water, once blessed by a Brahman and therefore able to purify every sin, – all indispensable attribute of all pagodas. All the surroundings, all over the country are covered with symbols of gods and goddesses. Each of the 33 millions of deities of the Hindu Pantheon has its representative in something consecrated to it: a stone, a flower, a tree, or a bird. There on the West side of the Malabar Hill peeps through the trees Valakeshvara, the temple of the “Lord of Sand.”

A long stream of Hindus moves towards this celebrated temple; men and women, shining with rings on their fingers and toes, with bracelets from their wrists up to their elbows, clad in bright turbans and snow white muslins, with foreheads freshly painted with red, yellow, and white, holy sectarian signs. The legend says that Rama spent here a night on his way from Ayodhya (Oudh) to Lanka (Ceylon) to fetch his wife Sita, who had been stolen by the wicked King Ravana. Rama's brother Lakshman, whose duty was to send him daily a new lingam from Benares, was late in doing so that evening. Losing patience, Rama erected for himself a lingam of sand. When, at last, the symbol arrived from Benares, it was put in a temple, and the lingam erected by Rama was left on the shore. There it stayed during long centuries, but, at the arrival of the Portuguese, the “Lord of Sand” felt so disgusted with the feringhi (foreigners), that he jumped into the sea never to return. A little farther on there is a charming pool (tank), called Vanattirtha, or the “pond of the arrow.” Here Rama (the much worshipped hero of the Hindus) felt thirsty and, not finding any water, shot an arrow in the ground, and immediately there appeared a pond. Its crystal waters were surrounded by a high wall, steps were built leading down to it, with a circle of white marble pagodas and dwellings of dwija (twice born) Brahmans.

India is the land of legends and of mysterious nooks and corners. There is not a ruin, not a monument, not a thicket, that has no story attached to it. Yet, however they may be entangled in the cobweb of popular imagination, which becomes thicker with every generation, it is difficult to point out a single one that is not founded on fact. With patience and, still more, with the help of the learned Brahmans you can always get at the truth, when once you have secured their trust and friendship. But, of course, not for the British, with their arrogance and clearly shown contempt for the “defeated race,” to expect something like that. Therefore, between the officially investigated India and (if one may say so) the underground, real India, there is the same difference as between Russia in the novels by Dumas-père[17] and the real Russian Russia.

The same road leads to the temple of the Parsee fire-worshippers. At its altar burns an unquenchable fire, which daily consumes poods[18] of sandal wood and aromatic herbs. Lit three hundred years ago, the sacred fire has never been extinguished, notwithstanding many disorders, sectarian discords, and even wars. The Parsees are very proud of this temple of Zaratushta, as they call Zoroaster. Compared with it the Hindu pagodas look like brightly painted Easter eggs. Generally they are consecrated to Hanuman, the monkey-god and the faithful ally of Rama, or to some other god, like the elephant headed Ganesha (the god of the occult wisdom), or to one of the Devis. You meet with these temples in every street. Before each there is a row of pipals (Ficus religiosa) centuries old, which no temple can dispense with, because these trees are the abode of the elementals and the sinful souls. All this is entangled, mixed, and scattered, appearing to one's eyes suddenly like a picture in a dream... Thirty centuries have left their representatives on these islands. The innate laziness and the strong conservative tendencies common to India, even before the European invasion, preserved all kinds of monuments from the ruinous vengeance of the fanatics, whether those memorials were Buddhist, or belonged to some other unpopular sect. The Hindus are not naturally given to senseless vandalism, and a phrenologist would vainly look for a bump of destructiveness on their skulls. If you meet with antiquities that, having been spared by time, are, nowadays, either destroyed or disfigured, it is not they who are to blame, but either Mussulmans, or the Portuguese under the guidance of the Jesuits.

The beauty of the Bombay Bay, however, does not compensate, from a strategic point of view, for the weak points of the port. These weak points, which, however, could be noticed by nobody but a specialist, are strangely indicated by the very Englishmen. And they talk about them with strangers, discuss them in newspapers, and even complain bitterly about them in their “guide-books.” So for example in the “Hand-Book of India” (1858, by Captain E. Eastweeck), the author starts a long discourse about the danger threatening England in the event of a hostile invasion of Bombay from the sea. This defect long noted by jealous owners of the country seems to keep them awake. Can the same thing that once was done with the Portuguese by the Mogul Admiral Sidi in 1690, who took Bombay fortress in a few hours, still be repeated in 1880? And can the great invincible nation, with more than a thousand cannons on the bastion of the Admiralty, on Mandavi-Bandar and other batteries be afraid of invasion? And however if to judge on the nation’s sons’ consciousness and their methods, they not only grieve, but also are constantly afraid of something. “What the heart thinks the tongue speaks.” Therefore, one must believe that this thorn stuck and still remains a thorn in the side of the British lion. Would you like to hear what they themselves speak about it. Not we sailed a hundred miles from Liverpool, as have already been devoted at the table, in all the weak points of Bombay port. “Our fort from the mainland can be strong,” says one captain, “but from the sea it is far from good. It is hard to imagine something more unprotected… besides, the narrow strait can likely hinder the enemy's fleet only in the mouth; and the fort castle of St. George, built by the Portuguese, reminds of single-walled, flat castles on the opera stage: it does not even have a good parapet. The fortress itself (the commercial part of the city) is not protected even by an ordinary wall. But then to the shores it is cluttered up with old, half ruined factories, mills and hastily built barns and private homes... At the first cannon shot our famous fort will collapse like a house of cards”, and so on.

Now we will look in the Hand-Book and see what Eastweeck says, dedicating the book to his brother, the captain of Bombay army. “If,” he writes, “our ill-fated fortress even has a claim for protection, the enemy would not pay any attention to it. They would only, not entering the harbour, sail round the island and land their troops from the North, entirely not protected side of it. Only during monsoon (rainy season) the Back Bay is dangerous for its storms, and most importantly – underwater rocks, with which all the space around Prong lighthouse is so thickly strewn. In all other eight months steamers can safely anchor outside the Bay.”

Isn't it very frank? Therefore, a spiteful remark of one well-known Anglo-Indian writer, resembling that in the event either of war or invasion “Back Bay is equally attractive and insidious lure threatening enemy” – loses its significance. The danger, as the Guide-Book announces, exists only during a four-month monsoon period, and in the rest of the year everyone’s most welcome!

Meanwhile, describing in detail their weakest points, the Anglo-Indians see a spy in every innocent tourist from other countries. Two years ago a Russian actress, a pianist, Mlle. Olga Duboin wished to travel round India; twenty secret-police agents, like shadows, followed hard on her heels. A German painter, a native of Petersburg, but barely speaking in Russian (Mr. Horace von-Ruit) came to examine the types of Hindustan; agents dress up and come to him, offering themselves as modes. There arrived a party consisting of an American Colonel, the pure Yankee, two Englishmen from London – the most ardent patriots, but liberals, and an American citizen, though Russian by birth,[19] and the nationality of latter roused all the police! It would be vain to prove that these tourists were only engaged in metaphysical speculations about unknown worlds, and they were not only interested in the politics of the earthly world, but that their Russian companion even “does not know a thing about it.” “Guile of Russia long ago became a proverb,” answer her. “By Afghanistan war we cut a road to Russia through the Himalayan mountains, so it started to find ways from the other side ... made friends with the Chinese, and now inciting them to go to India via Rangoon. That’s why we need to seize Burma.”[20] They have already been afraid of the Chinese with their pots with a stinking liquid! Well, go ahead, get all you want if nobody prevents – the benefit of that pretext was found. Just why carry this confusion about Russia?

This national trait of the British to “shout blue murder,” when no one thinks to touch them – is disgusting. It has been developed in them especially since Beaconsfields premiership[21]. But if this trait is outstanding even in England, is it what to compare it with in India? Here the suspicion turned to monomania: Anglo-Indians are ready to see spies of Russia, even in their own boots, and they devilishly revel in this idea.

“And what”, one American colonel asks the chief police supervisor of one of the northwestern provinces, “is, in your opinion, the repeating of the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 possible? Do you think Indians are pacified?”

“Pshaw!.. To be afraid of such rebellion would be just as well as to be afraid of falling the moon on our heads!” – he gets a proud reply.

Meanwhile, at breakfast the same captain immediately tells about the superiority of the police system in their provinces: not a single Hindu can come from village to city even for one hour without immediately knowing about it in the secret police. They spy on every newcomer from one province to another, even if he were an Englishman. The people were not only divested of their weapons, but even deprived of the last axe and knife. The peasant has nothing to chop wood with, nor protect himself from the tiger. But the Anglo-Indians are still trembling. True, there are only 60,000 of them, while the native population totals up to 245 millions. And their system, adopted by them from skillful animal tamers, is only good until the beast senses that its tamer, in his turn, is a coward ... Then woe to him! In any case, such a constant display of chronic fear reveals only the consciousness of one's own weakness.

At last we were anchored and, in a moment, were besieged, ourselves as well as our luggage, by numbers of naked skeleton-like Hindus, Parsees, Moguls, and various other tribes. All this crowd emerged, as if from the bottom of the sea, and began to shout, to chatter, and to yell, as only the tribes of Asia can. To get rid of this Babel confusion of tongues as soon as possible, we took refuge in the first bunder boat[22] and made for the shore.

Once settled in the bungalow awaiting us, the first thing we were struck with in Bombay was the millions of crows and vultures. The former are, so to speak, the city refuse collectors, whose duty is to clean the streets, and to kill one of them is not only forbidden by the police, but would be very dangerous, because it would rouse the vengeance of every Hindu, who is always ready to offer his own life in exchange for a crow's. The souls of the sinful forefathers transmigrate into crows and to kill one is to interfere with the law of retribution and therefore to expose the poor ancestor to something still worse. Such is the firm belief, not only of Hindus, but of Parsees (even the most educated among them). The strange behaviour of the Indian crows (which will be described further) explains, to a certain extent, this superstition. The vultures are, in a way, the grave-diggers of the Parsees and are under the personal protection of the Farvardania, the angel of death, who soars over the Tower of Silence and manages the occupations of the feathered workmen. But let’s describe it later as well.

The deafening caw of the crows strikes every new comer as uncanny, but, after a while, is explained very simply. Every tree of the numerous coconut forests round Bombay is under government control, and there is a hollow pumpkin tied to the top. The sap of the tree drops into it and, after fermenting, becomes a most intoxicating beverage, known here as toddy. The naked toddy-wallahs (generally Portuguese), modestly adorned, by the way, with a coral necklace, fetch this beverage twice a day, climbing the hundred and fifty feet high trunks like squirrels. The crows mostly build their nests on the tops of the coconut palms and drink incessantly out of the open pumpkins. The result of this is the chronic intoxication of the birds.

As soon as we went out in the garden of our new habitation, flocks of crows came down heavily from every tree, making a shrill croak and jumping around us. There seemed to be something positively human in the positions of the slyly bent heads of the drunken birds, and a fiendish light shone in their eyes while they were examining us from foot to head...

Radda-Bai


Footnotes


  1. Moscow News, № 305, 30.11.1879, pp. 3-4; Russian Herald, January 1883, Supplement, vol 163, pp. 3-15.
  2. Now Mumbai. It is possible that H. P. Blavatsky was going to give a title for each letter, but that did not happen. The title was given for the first letter only and only in Moscow News, the second edition of the book, published in Russian Herald did not have any chapter titles. Those known in previous edition in English made by Vera Johnston, the translator. She combined letters into chapters and gave them titles according to topic.
  3. The bay between France and Spain. – Ed.
  4. Aden – seashore city of Yemen, near the eastern approach to the Red Sea (the Gulf of Aden). – Ed.
  5. Zmei Gorynych (Rus.: Змей Горыныч) – three-headed snake (or dragon) in Russian fairy tales, literally: “serpent, the son of a mountain”. – Ed.
  6. Diogo do Couto (1542–1616) – a Portuguese historian, a keeper of Portuguese archive in Goa since 1595 and one of the authors of Décadas, a history of the Portuguese in India, Asia, and southeast Africa. Dom – a Portuguese title of respect, derived from the Latin Dominus (lord), corresponds with Spanish don. – Ed.
  7. John III of Portugal (Portuguese: João III Portuguese, 1502–1557) – King of Portugal and the Algarves from 1521 until his death. – Ed.
  8. The Vandals – a Germanic people inhabited land of modern southern Poland. The modern term vandalism, applied to acts of destruction of cultural values, stems from the Vandals' reputation as the barbarian people who sacked and looted Rome in AD 455. – Ed.
  9. James Fergusson (1808-1886) – a Scottish-born architectural historian. – Ed.
  10. Rock-cut Temples of India.
  11. Henry Thomas Colebrooke (1765-1837) – an English orientalist and mathematician, known as "the first great Sanskrit scholar in Europe". He was working in India during 1782-1815 as a clerk, assistant collector, professor of Hindu law and Sanskrit and was elected President of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta. He was Founder of the Royal Astronomical Society and of the Royal Asiatic Society. – Ed.
  12. Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860) – an English orientalist who was elected the first Boden Professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University. – Ed.
  13. Cyrus II of Persia, Cyrus the Great (600-530 BC) – the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, the first Persian empire. – Ed.
  14. Alas! a few months later, this formidable ruler of mahrats, on whose conscience lies the death of one and a half million people, starved by him during the last famine, thanks to his stupidity, – was inflamed with desire to become a man of parliament. Having abandoned the governorship, he hastened to England to the polls, where he received due retribution. In the first case, voters threw rotten eggs over him and put him to shameful flight.
  15. Lazzaroni – beggars, poorest people in Italy; kuli – the lowest caste in India. – Ed.
  16. Bhikshu or bhikkhu (Sanskrit: भिक्षु, bhikṣu) – an ordained male in Buddhist monasticism. – Ed.
  17. Dumas-father (Fr.). Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) – a famous and very prolific French writer, the one of the most widely read French authors, mainly known for his historical novels of high adventure. – Ed.
  18. Pood (Rus. пуд) – a Russian unit of weight equal to approximately 36 pounds (16,38 kg). – Ed.
  19. Here meant the main characters of these letters: Henry Still Olcott, Edward Wimbridge, Rose Bates and H. P. Blavatsky herself. – Ed.
  20. And therefore, also the Burmese ambassador sent this summer (1882) to Siam for negotiations and signing a new treatise went away empty-handed. All newspapers rebelled against Burma's "impudent" claims, all the insolence of which was that it demanded the right to communicate directly with the English cabinet apart from the Calcutta government, and the restriction of the rights of Anglo-Indian officials to treat the king of Burma, the queen's subject, as a simple coolie. [Footnote added in the Russkiy Vestnik edition.]
  21. Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881) – a British statesman and Conservative politician who twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1868, 1874-80). He played a central role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party, defining its policies and its broad outreach. – Ed.
  22. Wellington pier (formerly known as Apollo Bunder) was an important site of transport to and from shore at the city of Bombay. – Ed.