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Letter XXI[1]

At four o'clock in the morning we crossed the Vagrey and Girna, or rather, comme coloris local[2], Shiva and Parvati. Probably, following the bad example of the average mortal husband and wife, this divine couple were engaged in a quarrel, even at this early hour of the day. They were frightfully rough, and our ferry, striking on something at the bottom, nearly upset us into the cold embrace of the Mahadeva and his irate better half.

Like all the cave temples of India, the Bagh caverns are dug out in the middle of a vertical rock – with the intention, as it seems to me, of testing the limits of human patience. Taking into consideration that such a height does not prevent even tigers and even less “werewolves” reaching the caves, I cannot help thinking that the sole aim of the ascetic builders was to tempt weak mortals into the sin of irritation by the inaccessibility of their airy abodes. Seventy-two steps, cut out in the rock, and covered with thorny weeds and moss, are the beginning of the ascent to the Bagh caves. Footmarks worn in the stone through centuries spoke of the numberless pilgrims who had come here before us. The roughness of the steps, with deep holes here and there, and thorns, added attractions to this ascent; join to this a number of mountain springs exuding through the pores of the stone, and no one will be astonished if I say that we simply felt faint under the weight of life and our archeological difficulties. The Babu, who, taking off his slippers, scampered over the thorns as unconcernedly as if he had hoofs instead of vulnerable human heels, laughed at the “helplessness of Europeans,” and only made us feel more angry...

But on reaching the top of the mountain we stopped grumbling, realizing at the first glance that we should receive our reward. We saw a whole enfilade of dark caves, through regular square openings, six feet [1.83 m] wide. We felt awestruck with the gloomy majesty of this long deserted temple. There was a curious ceiling over the square platform that once served as a verandah; there was also a portico with broken pillars hanging over our heads; and two rooms on each side, one with a broken image of some flat-nosed goddess, the other containing a Ganesha; but we did not stop to examine all this in detail. Ordering the torches to be lit, we stepped into the first hall...

A damp breath as of the tomb met us. At our first word we all shivered: a hollow, prolonged echoing howl, dying away in the distance, shook the ancient vaults and made us all lower our voices to a whisper. The torch-bearers shrieked “Devi!... Devi!...” and, kneeling in the dust, performed a fervent puja[3] in honor of the voice of the invisible goddess of the caves, in spite of the angry protestations of Narayan and especially of the “God's warrior...”

The only light of the temple came from the entrance, and so two-thirds of it looked still gloomier by contrast. This hall, or the central temple, is very spacious, 84 square feet [7.8 sq. m], and 16 feet [4.88 m] high. Twenty-four massive pillars form a square, six pillars at each side, including the corner ones, and four in the middle to prop up the center of the ceiling; otherwise it could not be kept from falling, as the matter of the mountain is too layered to hold the mass above on such a huge area; unlike caves in Karli or Elephanta where the matter is solid enough.

The bases of the columns consist of a plinth and two semicircular friezes each. The four middle pillars have round rods, with spiral ridges, which, tapering upward, gradually change from 16- to 8-angled stripes, turning into square ones under the stands, and thus presenting something extremely original and elegant. Other columns – two front and two rear – are almost square to the first third of their height. Then these also begin to gradually round off, turning into 8- and 12- angled stripes with spiral ridges, and even higher into 12- and 24- angled stripes, ending under the eaves with lush ornaments reminiscent of the Corinthian style. Mr. W***, a famous architect by profession and skilled artist, assured us that he never saw anything more striking than these pillars. He said he could not imagine by the aid of what instruments the ancient builders could accomplish such wonders in solid rock.

The construction of the Bagh caves, as well as of all the cave temples of India, whose history is lost in the darkness of time, is ascribed by the European archaeologists to the Buddhists, and by the native tradition to the Pandu brothers.

But apart from the fact that the entire Indian paleography protests in every newly discovered ancient inscription against such an unwarranted conclusion, there are many other reasons to doubt the correctness of the views on this subject shared by the majority of English Orientalists. We will mention one for now. Let us assume that the Brahmin accounts are incorrect and that the Buddhists, as Stevenson and others wanted to prove, had preached their religion, built viharas and enjoyed the same rights as other sectarians in India did as early as the beginning of the 6th century AD. But, on the other hand, these same members of the Asiatic Society decided long ago that the religion of the Buddha, who started his reform against idolatry, was not distorted "until after the 5th century." Until that time, there was not and could not be a single Brahmin idol in purely Buddhist temples, as has already been proven. How come, one might ask, that there are a multitude of Brahmin idols in the cave temples of Karli, Nasik, Kanheri, etc. (Karli was built, according to the unanimous opinion of antiquarians, between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC, no later than 95 BC, while the Nasik caves date back to the first or second century AD), which came out from the chisel of the architects simultaneously with the walls of buildings? Almost all of them are carved into the walls and form an essential part of the cave temples themselves. Would a Buddhist in the first two centuries BC and AD have dared to depict idols so contrary to the spirit of the teachings of the Buddha? "The inscriptions found in Nasik (antiquarians answer us) prove, for example, that the glorious monarch of A'ndhra, Gotamiputra, having conquered the king of Ceylon, driving out the Scythians, Greeks and Persians, founded at the same time a hospital for the sick and infirm, an archery school, a college for the study of Buddhism and another college for Brahmins, thus presenting the most interesting portray of a philanthropic, religiously tolerant and liberal ruler. Meanwhile, this inscription proves: (1) that the Buddhists lived in friendship with the Brahmins before their exile from India and enjoyed the same rights as the latter did, and (2) that, gradually assimilating the Brahmins’ political views, they returned to their former faith and only added the Buddha to their idols, etc.". “But it didn’t happen before the 5th century, did it?” you say. “No, it didn’t.” “And the cave temples, filled from top to bottom with Brahmin idols, were built, by your own definition, between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century AD?” “Of course, we unanimously agree on this.” “But how do you reconcile such a contradiction between two facts?” “We (they say) do not even take such labor upon ourselves: we are authorities who determine and decide categorically, and we leave it to others to explain any apparent inconsistencies...”

Cum grano salis,[4] though. They grant us the right to explain to ourselves or others; but if the explanations diverge even slightly from their “infallible” conclusions, the stigma of ignorance is immediately placed on the explainer, and his criticism to shame him is exposed to the whole world, as an ignoramus insulting science. Et c’est ainsi qu’on écrit l’histoire![5] (especially in India). Probably the same will be done with these modest notes.

Most probably, some of the Russian archaeologists will protest against the opinions I maintain (that is to say, the opinions of the Hindu archaeologists) and will treat me as an ignoramus, outraging science. In self-defence, and in order to show how unstable a ground to base one's opinions upon are the conclusions even of such a great authority as Mr. Fergusson (this brilliant beacon of British architects), I must mention the following instance. This great architect, but very mediocre archaeologist, proclaimed at the very beginning of his scientific career that “all the cave temples of Kanara, without exception, were built between the fifth and the tenth centuries.” This theory became generally accepted, when suddenly Dr. Bird found a brass plate in a certain Kanara monument built by Buddhists in their temples, called a tope. It was impossible to complain about the erasure of the inscription. The plate announced in pure and distinct Sanskrit that this tope was erected as a homage to the old temple, at the beginning of 245 of the Hindu astronomical era. According to Prinsep and Dr. Stevenson, this date coincides with 189 A.D., and so it clearly settles the question of when the tope was built. But the question of the antiquity of the temple itself still remains open, though the inscription states that it was an old temple in 189 A.D., and contradicts the above-quoted opinion of Fergusson. However, this important discovery failed to shake Fergusson's equanimity. For him, ancient inscriptions are of no importance, because, as he says, “the antiquity of ruins must not be fixed on the basis of inscriptions, but on the basis of certain architectural canons and rules,” discovered by Mr. Fergusson in person. Fiat hypothesis, ruat coelum!

At present, there is a war between him and the doctor of law, the famous Babu Rajendra-Lal-Mitra from Calcutta, recognized in London as the most learned archaeologist and antiquary of India[6]. Rajendra-Lal answers him that the “canons” extracted by the venerable English architect from the depths of his speculative knowledge can in no way be applied to such ancient temples, frequently of unknown style of architecture, as the so-called "cave temples" of India. After that, even my insignificant voice has some right to declare that the proverb can be applied to the voice of some “authorities”: vox, et praeterea nihil[7]. And now, reinforced by this weak defeat of the opponents, I will note from myself that the theory that the Buddhists have returned to idolatry and therefore all the temples are Buddhist, contradicts the history of both sides – the Buddhists’ and the Brahmins’ alike. The latter began to oppress and expel the former from India precisely because the Buddhists were against idolatry. As shown above, those of them who fell away from the reformation of the pure, although, perhaps, at first glance, atheistic teaching of Gautama Siddhartha, remained in India; but they gradually mixed with the Jains, and then completely merged in them. And, of course, it was not these schismatics of the 5th century who built temples 300 and 200 years before Christ; it was not Buddhists converted to Brahmanism, but rather the Brahmins that followed the Buddha by hundreds of thousands. So, if among the hundreds of Brahmin gods we occasionally find, in the same temple, the figure of Buddha[8], why not suggest rather that this temple is not Buddhist, but an ancient Brahmin, to which builders who were half converted to Buddhism added a statue of the Buddha – just an extra god, and not vice versa, which is completely illogical? Moreover, although we have repeatedly examined almost all the main so-called Buddhist "viharas" of India, we, so far, have not seen a single image of the Buddha that could not be added later – a year or a thousand years after the construction of the temple itself. Having little confidence in our own conclusions, we traveled with W***, a well-known and experienced architect, and everywhere, in any of the temples, we found Brahmin idols to be one with the building, while Buddha statues are almost invariably additionally attached as, for example, in chaitya-grihas[9] of Kanheri temples. Of the thirty or forty caves of Ellora filled with idols, there is only one – the temple of Triloka, or “three worlds”, – which, instead of idols, contains statues of the Buddha and Ananda, his beloved disciple. This offers a direct reason to assume that it is a Buddhist vihara. It will be interesting to hear from Professor Minayev what he thinks about these caves after his trip to India.

And now I shall return to my narrative.

Straight before the entrance a door leads to another hall, which is oblong, with hexagonal pillars and niches, containing statues in a tolerable state of preservation; goddesses ten feet [3.05 m] and several gods nine feet [2.74 m] high. After this hall there is a room with an altar, which is a regular hexagon, having sides each three feet [0.91 m] long, and covered with a cupola cut in the rock. Nobody was (and is) admitted here, except the initiates of the mysteries of the adytum[10]. All round this room there are about twenty ex-priests' cells. After examining the altar, we were about to go further, when the colonel, taking a torch from the hands of one of the servants, went with two others to inspect these side rooms. A few minutes later his voice rang out, loudly calling us from the second cell to the left. He found a secret passage and shouted to us:

“Come along... let us find where it leads to!..”

“Take care, colonel. This passage leads to the den of the warewolf... Mind the tigers!..” the Babu took upon himself to answer for the whole party.

But once fairly started on the way to discoveries, our president was not to be stopped. So we followed him.

He was right; he had made a discovery; and on entering the cell we saw a most unexpected tableau... By the opposite wall stood two torch-bearers with their flaming torches, as motionless as if they were transformed into stone caryatides[11]; and from the wall, about five feet [1.52 m] above the ground, protruded two legs clad in white trousers. There was no body to them; the body had disappeared, and but that the legs were shaken by a convulsive effort to move on, we might have thought that the wicked goddess of this place had cut the colonel into two halves, and having caused the upper half instantly to evaporate, had stuck the lower half to the wall, as a kind of trophy...

“What is become of you, Mr. President? Where are you?” were our alarmed questions.

Instead of an answer, the legs were convulsed still more violently, and soon disappeared completely, after which we heard the voice of the colonel, as if coming through a long tube:

“A room... a secret cell!.. Follow me... I see a whole row of rooms... My torch is out!.. Bring some matches... and torches!..”

But this was easier said than done. The torch-bearers refused to go on; as it was, they were already frightened out of their wits. Miss B*** glanced with apprehension at the wall thickly covered with soot and then at her pretty gown. Mr. W*** sat down on a broken pillar and said he would go no farther, preferring to have a quiet smoke in the company of the timid torch-bearers.

There were several vertical steps cut in the wall; and on the floor we saw a large stone of a curiously irregular shape that repeats the shape of a hole in the wall. The quick-eyed Babu was not long in discovering its peculiarities, and said he was sure it was the “stopper” of the secret passage. We all hurried to examine the stone most minutely, and discovered that, though it imitated as closely as possible the irregularity of the rock, its under surface bore evident traces of workmanship and had a kind of hinge to be easily moved. The hole was about three feet [0.91 m] high, but not more than two feet [0.61 m] wide.

The muscular “God's warrior” was the first to follow the colonel. He was so tall that when he stood on a broken pillar the opening came down to the middle of the breast of Penjab Eruslan Lazarevich[12], and so he had no difficulty in transporting himself to the upper story. The slender Babu joined him with a single monkey-like jump. Then, with the Akali pulling from above and Narayan pushing from below, I safely made the passage, though the narrowness of the hole proved most disagreeable, and the roughness of the rock left considerable traces on my hands. However trying archeological explorations may be for a person afflicted by five poods [81.9 kg, 180.56 pounds] of mortal body, I felt perfectly confident that with two such Hercules-like helpers as Narayan and Ram-Runjit-Das the ascent of the Himalayas would be perfectly possible for me. The last to climb were Miss B***, who almost swallowed a handful of dust and pebbles that had fallen into her ever-open mouth, followed by Mulja. But Mr. W***, who this time preferred the cleanliness of his white pantaloons to the inspection of the shrines of immemorial antiquity, stayed down with the people...

The secret cell was a room of twelve feet square [1.11 sq. m]. Straight above the black hole in the floor there was another in the ceiling, but this time we did not discover any “stopper.” The cell was perfectly empty with the exception of black spiders as big as crabs. Our apparition, and especially the bright light of the torches, maddened them; panic-stricken they ran in hundreds over the walls, rushed down, and tumbled on our heads. The first movement of Miss B*** was to kill them. But the four Hindus protested strongly and unanimously against such an intention. The old lady remonstrated in an offended voice:

“I thought that at least you, Mulji, were a reformer, but you are as superstitious as any idol-worshiper...”

“Above everything I am a Hindu,” answered the “mute general.” “And the Hindus, as you know, consider it sinful before nature and before their own consciences to kill an animal put to flight by the strength of man, be it even poisonous. As to the spiders, in spite of their ugliness, they are perfectly harmless.”

“Is it because you think you will transmigrate into a black spider?” she sniffed.

“No… but, if necessary, I would still prefer to transmigrate into a spider rather than into Englishman” cut Mulji.

We all could not help laughing, all except the patriotic spinster. This time she got very angry and immediately, under the pretext of dizziness, went back down into the hole. Our whole society began to be burdened with her, and no one held her back.

As to us we climbed through the second opening, but this time under the leadership of Narayan. He disclosed to us that this place was not new to him; he had been here before, and confided to us that similar rooms, one on the top of the other, go up to the summit of the mountain. Then, he said, they take a sudden turn, and descend gradually to a whole underground palace, which is sometimes temporarily inhabited by Raj-Yogis. Wishing to leave the world for a while and to spend a few days in isolation, the Raj-Yogis find perfect solitude in this underground abode. Our president looked askance at Narayan through his spectacles, but did not find anything to say. The Hindus did not contradict.

The second cell was exactly like the first one; we easily discovered the hole in its ceiling, and reached the third cell. There we sat down for a while to have a rest. I felt that breathing was becoming difficult to me, but I thought I was simply out of breath and tired, and so did not mention to my companions that anything was wrong. The passage to the fourth cell was up to two-thirds littered with small stones and earth, so we were busy clearing it out for about twenty minutes. Then we reached the fourth cell.

Narayan was right, the cells were one straight over the other, and the floor of the one formed the ceiling of the other. The fourth cell was in ruins. Two broken little pillars lying one on the other presented a very convenient stepping-stone to the fifth cell. But the colonel stopped Narayan, who had lifted his leg already, noted laconically that now it's time to keep the council. “To smoke the pipe of deliberation” he said, using the expression of the red Indians.

“If Narayan has said the truth,” he said, “this going up and up may continue till tomorrow morning.”

“I have said the truth,” said Narayan almost solemnly. “But since my visit here I have heard that some of these passages were filled with earth, and particularly the one next to these cell.”

“In that case there is no use trying to go any further. But who littered them? Or did they just collapse because of time?”

“No… They were littered on purpose… by them...”

“By whom? Do you mean glamour?...”

“Colonel!” said the Hindu with an effort; and even with the gradually fading light of the torches, you could see how his lips trembled, and his face grew pale. “Don't laugh at what I say... I speak seriously!”

“I do not laugh, indeed. Who are they?”

Brothers... The Raj-Yogis. Some of them live quite close to here.”

The colonel coughed, rearranged his spectacles and remained silent for a while.

“My dear Narayan,” at last said the colonel, “I do not want to believe that your intention is to make fun of our credulity... But I can't believe either, that you seriously mean to assure us that any living creature, be it an animal or an ascetic, could exist in a place where even tigers do not climb and from where the bats themselves retreat, for lack of air. And just look at fire of our torches... Two more rooms and we should be suffocated!”

Indeed, our torches were almost extinguished, and it became extremely difficult for me to breathe. The men were panting for breath, and Akali was snuffling loudly.

“And in spite of all these facts, I speak the truth,” repeated Narayan. “The caves further on are inhabited by them... And I have been there myself.”

The colonel grew thoughtful, and stood glancing at the ceiling in a perplexed and undecided way.

“Let us go back!” suddenly shouted the Akali. “My nose is bleeding.”

At this very moment I felt a strange and unexpected sensation, and I sank heavily on the ground. In a second I felt an indescribably delicious, heavenly sense of rest, in spite of a dull pain beating in my temples. I vaguely realized that I had really fainted, and that I should die if not taken out into the open air. I could not lift my finger; I could not utter a sound; and, in spite of it, there was no fear in my soul – nothing but an apathetic, but indescribably sweet feeling of rest, and a complete inactivity of all the senses except hearing. A moment came when even this sense forsook me, because I remember that I listened with imbecile intentness to the dead silence around me. Is this death? was my indistinct wondering thought. Then I felt as if mighty wings were fanning me. “Kind, kind wings, caressing, kind wings!” were the recurring words in my brain, like the regular movements of a pendulum, and interiorily under an unreasoning impulse, I laughed at these words. Then I experienced a new sensation: I rather knew than felt that I was lifted from the floor, and fell down, and down, and down some unknown precipice, amongst the hollow rollings of a distant thunder-storm. Suddenly a loud voice resounded near me. And this time I think I did not hear, but felt it... There was something palpable in this voice, something that instantly stopped my helpless descent, and kept me from falling any further. This was a voice I knew well, but whose voice it was I could not in my weakness remember. In the midst of the thunder, this voice angrily rang out from afar, as if from the very heavens, and shouted in Hindi: “Diuvana Tumere u aneka kya kama tha?” (Madmen! what was the need for you to come here?), fell silent.

. . . . . . .

In what way I was dragged through all five narrow holes will remain an eternal mystery for me... I came to myself on the verandah below, fanned by fresh breezes, and as suddenly as I had fainted above in the impure air of the cell, filled with rotten air. When I recovered completely the first thing I saw was a powerful figure clad in white, with a raven black Rajput beard, anxiously leaning over me. As soon as I recognized the owner of this beard, I could not abstain from expressing my feelings by a joyful exclamation: “Where do you come from?” It was our friend Thakur Gulab-Lal-Sing, who, having promised to join us in the North-West Provinces, now appeared to us in Bagh, as if falling from the sky or coming out of the ground.

Indeed, it was possible to be curious and ask him where and how he came to us, especially since I was not the only one who was struck by his presence. But my unfortunate accident, and the pitiable state of the rest of the dungeon explorers, made all sorts of questions almost impossible for the first time. On one side of me there was Miss B***, using my nose as a cork for her sal-volatile bottle; on the other the “God's warrior” covered with blood as if returning from a battle with the Afghans endeed; further on, poor Mulji with a dreadful headache. Narayan and the colonel alone did not experience anything worse than a slight vertigo. As to the Babu, no carbonic acid gas seemed to be able to finish him off, and also, like the fierce sun rays that killed others on the spot, glided harmlessly over this invulnerable Bengali shell. He just really wanted to eat...

Finally, from confused exclamations, interjections and explanations, I managed to learn the following:

Narayan was the first to notice that I had fainted, and hastened to drag me back to the passage. At this very moment they all heard the voice of Thakur coming from the upper cell. Even before they recovered from their astonishment he ran quickly past them, and descending to the cell beneath called to them to “pass him down the bai” (sister)[13]. This “passing down” of such a solid object as my body, and the picture of the proceeding, vividly imagined, made me laugh heartily. But Miss B *** considered it her sacred duty to be offended for me, although no one paid attention to her. Handing him over their half-dead load, they hastened to join the Thakur; but he contrived to do without their help, though how he did it they were at a loss to understand. By the time they succeeded in getting through one passage Gulab-Sing was already at the next one, in spite of the heavy burden he carried; and they never were in time to be of any assistance to him. They barely could notice his fluttering white chador[14] disappearing in the next passage. The colonel, whose main feature is the tendency to go into the details of everything, could not conceive by what proceedings the Thakur had managed to pass my almost lifeless body so rapidly through all these narrow holes.

“He could not have thrown her down the passage before going in himself, for every single bone of her body would have been broken,” mused the colonel. “And it is still less possible to suppose that, descending first himself, he dragged her down afterwards. It is simply incomprehensible!..”

These questions harassed him for a long time afterwards, until they became something like the puzzle: Which was created first, the egg or the bird?

As to the Thakur, when closely questioned, he shrugged his shoulders, and answered that he really did not remember. He said that he simply did whatever he could to get me out into the open air; that all our traveling companions were there to watch his proceedings; he was under their eyes all the time, and that in circumstances when every second is precious “people do not think, but act” and so on.

But all these questions arose only in the course of the day. As to the time directly after I was laid down on the verandah, there were other things to puzzle all our party; no one could understand how the Thakur happened to be on the spot exactly when his help was most needed, nor where he came from – and everyone was anxious to know. On the verandah they found me lying on a carpet, with the Thakur busy restoring me to my senses, and Miss B*** with her eyes wide open at the Thakur, whom she decidedly believed to be a “materialized ghost”.

However, the explanations our friend gave us seemed perfectly satisfactory, and at first did not strike us as unnatural. He was in Hardwar with Swami Dayananda when Swami sent us the letter which postponed our going to him. On arriving at Kandua by the Indore railway, he had visited Holkar; and, learning that we were so near, he decided to join us sooner than he had expected. He had come to Bagh yesterday evening, but knowing that we were to start for the caves early in the morning he went there before us, and simply was waiting for us in the caves. There is the whole mystery...

“The whole?..” exclaimed the colonel. “Did you know, that we would get into the cells, when you climbed their yourself to wait for us?”

“No, I did not. I simply went there myself because it is a long time since I saw them last. I hesitated there and missed the time...”

“Probably the Thakur-Sahib was enjoying the freshness of the air in the cells...” suggested the mischievous Babu, showing all his white teeth in a broad grin.

Our president uttered an energetic exclamation and even jumped up. “Exactly!.. How could you stand it for so long?.. And, besides... how did you reach the fifth cell, when the entrance of the fourth was nearly stopped and we had to dig it out?”

“There are other passages leading to them. I have walked an inner path that I have known for a long time," Gulab-Sing replied calmly, smoking gurguri. “Not everyone follows the same road,” he added slowly and strangely, and looked intently into Narayan's eyes, who simply cowered under his fiery eyes. “However, let us go to the next cave where breakfast is ready for us. Fresh air will do all of you good...”

Coming out of the main cave, 20 or 30 steps to the south from the verandah, we came across another cave of the same kind, to which we have to go along a narrow ledge of rock, but the Thakur did not let us go in this vihara, fearing new accidents for us. So we descended the stone steps I have already mentioned, and after descending about two hundred steps towards the foot of the mountain, made a short reascent again and entered the “dining-room,” as the Babu denominated it. In my role of “interesting invalid,” I was carried to it, sitting in my folding chair (brought by me from America, which never left me in all my travels), and landed safely at the portico of the third cave.

This temple is much the less gloomy of the two, in spite of considerable signs of decay. The frescoes of the ceiling are better preserved than in the first temple. The walls, the tumbled down pillars, the ceiling, and even the interior rooms, which were lighted by ventilators cut through the rock, were once covered by a varnished stucco, the secret of which is now known only to the Madrasis, and which gives the rock the appearance of pure marble.

We were met by the Thakur's four servants, whom we remembered since our stay in Karli, and who bowed down in the dust to greet us. The carpets were spread, and the breakfast ready. Every trace of carbonic acid had left our brains, and we sat down to our meal in the best of spirits. Our conversation soon turned to the Hardwar mella, which was often mentioned last year, even in Russian newspapers, and which our unexpectedly-recovered friend had left exactly five days ago. All the information we got from Gulab-Lal-Sing was so interesting that I wrote it down at once.

After a few weeks we visited Hardwar ourselves. One memory of this wonderful area (Hardwar) conjures up in my mind a picture of a primitive earthly paradise.

Every twelfth year, which the Hindus call kumbha (the planet Jupiter enters the constellation of Aquarius, and this time) is considered very propitious for the beginning of the religious fair; for which this day is accordingly fixed by the astrologers of the pagodas. This gathering attracts the representatives of all sects, as I said before, from princes and maharajas down to the last fakir. The former come for the sake of discussions; every representative and speaker tries to prove the superiority of his religion or philosopher over others. The latter, simply to plunge into the waters of Ganges at its very source, which must be done at a certain propitious hour, fixed also by the position of the stars.

Speaking of the Ganges, a small mistake should be corrected here: the name of the most sacred river of the Indians has been slightly reworked by European geographers. This circumstance proves once again how little our scientists (until almost the last decade) understood the nature of the religion of the Hindus and their traditions; the winners of the country – the unlearned Anglo-Indians – are still not interested in anything like this, finding the slightest attention to "Negroes" both shocking and not respectable.

This river should be called either Gang, or Ganga, as the natives call it, but definitely not "Ganges" (in the masculine gender). “Ganga” is sacred in the eyes of the Hindus, because she is the most important of all the fostering goddesses of the country, and a daughter of the old Himavat (Himalaya), from whose heart she springs for the salvation of the people. That is why she is worshiped, and why the city of Hardwar, built at her very source, is sacred no less.

Hardwar is written Hari-dvara, the doorway of the sun-god, or Krishna, and is also often called Gangadvara, the doorway of Ganga; there is still a third name of the same town, which is the name of a certain ascetic Kapela (or rather Kapila?), who once sought salvation on this spot, and left many miraculous traditions.

The town is situated in a charming flowery valley, at the foot of the southern slope of the Sivalik ridge, between two mountain chains, almost colliding. In this valley, raised 1,024 feet [312.12 m] above the sea-level, the northern nature of the Himalayas struggles with the tropical growth of the plains; and, in their efforts to excel each other, they have created the most delightful of all the delightful corners of India. The town itself is a quaint collection of castle-like turrets of the most fantastical architecture; of ancient viharas; of wooden fortresses, so gaily painted that they look like toys; of pagodas, with loopholes and overhanging curved little balconies; and all this over-grown by such abundance of roses, dahlias, aloes and blossoming cactuses, that it is hardly possible to tell a door from a window. The granite foundations of many houses are laid almost in the bed of the river, and so, during four months of the year, they are half covered with water. And behind this handful of scattered houses, higher up the mountain slope, crowd snow-white, stately temples. Some of them are low, with thick walls, wide wings and gilded cupolas; others rise in majestical many-storied towers; others again with shapely pointed roofs, which look like the spires of a bell tower. Strange and capricious is the architecture of these temples, the like of which is not to be seen anywhere else. They look as if they had suddenly dropped from the snowy abodes of the mountain spirits (that are so full of Himalayan legends) above, standing there in the shelter of the mother mountain, and timidly peeping over the head of the small town below at their own images reflected in the pure and cold streams of Ganga. Here the river is not yet polluted by the dirt and the sins of her many million adorers. Releasing her worshipers, cleansed from her icy embrace, the pure maiden of the mountains carries her transparent waves through the burning plains of Hindustan; and only 348 miles [560 km] lower down, on passing through Kanpur, do her waters begin to grow thicker and darker, while, on reaching Benares, they transform themselves into a kind of peppery pea soup...

Once in this city, while talking to a Bramin, who tried to convince us that his compatriots are the cleanest nation in the world, we asked him:

“Why is it then that, in the fields, where nobody washes or people wash just a little, the Ganges is pure and transparent, whilst in Benares, especially towards evening, it looks like a mass of liquid mud?”

“O sahibs, sahibs!” answered he mournfully, “it is not the dirt of our bodies, as you think, it is not even the blackness of our sins, that the devi (goddess) washes away... That,” he whispered to us, carefully lowering his voice and looking around in all directions, “centuries of hidden suffering, burning pain of humiliation and oppression, and most importantly, a sense of despair and shameful impotence against the usurpers of the motherland so muddy the sacred waves… All these feelings, pouring out daily from the millions of hearts of Indians overflowing with them, have long changed the water, turning it into black bile. They poisoned her!.. And how can our goddess not regret us?.. Of course, she turned black all over, but it was from grief for her children. Haven't you figured it out yet?..”

Yes!.. “Your land has been overflowed with the great sorrow of the people...”[15] – could we agree with the poor brahman; but, however great our sympathy, we could not but suppose that probably the woes of the maiden Ganga do not affect her sources. In Hardwar the color of Ganges is crystal aqua marina, and the waters run gaily murmuring to the shore-reeds about the wonders they saw on their way from the Himalayas to the estuary of the Bay of Bengal...

The beautiful river is the greatest and the purest of goddesses, in the eyes of the Hindus; and many are the honors given to her in Hardwar. Besides the mella celebrated once every twelve years, there is a month in every year when the pilgrims flock together to the Harika-Paira (stairs of Vishnu). Whosoever succeeds in throwing himself first into the river, at the appointed day, hour and moment, will not only expiate all his sins, but also have all bodily sufferings removed. This zeal to be first is so great that, owing to a badly-constructed and narrow stair leading to the water, it used to cost many lives yearly, until, in 1819, when the East India Company, taking pity upon the pilgrims, ordered this ancient relic to be removed, and a new stairway, one hundred feet [30.48 m] wide, and consisting of sixty steps, to be constructed.[16]

The month when the waters of the Ganges are most salutary, falls, according to the Brahmanical computation, between March 12th and April 10th, and is called Chaitra. The worst of it is that the waters are at their best only at the first moment of a certain propitious hour, indicated by the Brahmins, and which sometimes happens to be midnight. You can fancy what it must be when this moment comes, in the midst of a crowd which exceeds two millions. 430 people were crushed to death in year 1819. But even after the new stairs were constructed, the goddess Ganga has carried away on her virgin bosom many a disfigured corpse of her worshipers. Nobody pitied the drowned, on the contrary, they were envied. Whoever happens to be killed during this purification by bathing, is sure to go straight to Swarga (heaven). In 1760, the two rival brotherhoods of Sannyasis and Bairagis had a regular battle amongst them on the sacred day of Purbi, the last day of the religious fair. The Bairagis were conquered, and there were 18,000 people slaughtered.

“And in 1796,” proudly narrated our warlike friend the Akali, “the pilgrims from Punjab, all of them Sikhs, desiring to punish the insolence of the Hossains, killed here about five hundred of these heathens. My own grandfather took part in the fight!”

Later on we verified this in the Gazetteer of India, and the “God's warrior” was cleared of every suspicion of exaggeration and boasting.

In 1879, however, no one was drowned, or crushed to death, but a dreadful epidemic of cholera broke out. We were disgusted at this impediment; but had to keep at a distance in spite of our impatience to see Hardwar. And unable to behold distant summits of old Himavat ourselves, we had in the meanwhile to be contented with what we could hear about him from other people.

After breakfast, we said goodbye to the "God's warrior", who was on his way to Bombay. The worthy Sikh shook hands with us, and then raising his right hand with a serious and important look gave us his blessing, after the fashion of all the followers of Nanaka. But when he approached the Thakur to take leave of him, his countenance suddenly changed. This change was so evident that we all noted it. The Thakur was sitting on the ground leaning on a saddle, which served him as a cushion. The Akali did not attempt either to give him his blessing or to shake hands with him. The proud expression of his face also changed, and showed confusion and anxious humility instead of the usual self-respect and self-sufficiency. The brave Sikh knelt down before the Thakur, and instead of the ordinary “Namaste!” (I bow before you) we heard: “Apli adnya, sadhu sahib, ashirwat...”[17] whispered he reverently, as if addressing the Guru of the Golden Lake, and so he froze on the ground...

Without any apparent reason or cause, we all felt self-conscious and ill at ease, as if guilty of some indiscretion. But the face of the mysterious Rajput remained as calm and as dispassionate as ever. He slowly moved his eyes from the river to the Akali, who lay prostrated before him, and without a word he touched the head of the Sikh with his index finger, and rose with the remark that we also had better start to go...

We drove in our carriage, moving very slowly because of the deep sand, and the Thakur followed us on horseback all the way. He told us the epic legends of Hardwar and Rajasthan, of the great deeds of the Hari-Kulas[18], the heroic princes of the Hari (solar) race. The name of Hari-Kula gives to some Orientalists ground to suppose that a member of this family emigrated to Egypt in the remote dark epoch of the first Pharaonic dynasties, and that the ancient Greeks, borrowing the name as well as the traditions, thus formed their legends about the mythological Her-Cules. Ancient Egyptians adored the sphinx under the name of Hari-Mukh, or the “Sun over horizon.” On the mountain chain which fringes Kashmir on the north (13,000 feet [3962.4 m] above the sea) there is a huge head-like summit, and which bears the name of Harimukh.[19] This name is also met with in the most ancient of the Puranas. And why is it that the “philologists” will not give a serious attention to this coincidences of names and legends? It seems to me that this is a rich soil for future research… There is a holy lake Gangabal (place of Ganga) on Himalayan Harimukh and popular tradition considers this gigantic stone head as a head of Hari – sun-god on sunset. Is it really a simple accident? I dare to think that it is no more to be explained by mere chance than the fact that both Egypt and India held the cow and bull sacred, and that the ancient Egyptians had the same religious horror of killing cattle, i.e. cows and bulls, as the modern Hindus.[20]

When evening began to draw on, we were driving beneath the trees of a wild jungle; arriving soon after at a large lake, we left the carriages. Here again something happened to us at first glance quite ordinary, but in fact very mysterious. The shores were overgrown with reeds – not the “reeds” that answer our Russian notions, but rather such as Gulliver was likely to meet with in his travels to Brobdingnag. The place seemed perfectly deserted, but we saw a new boat fastened close to the land. We had still about an hour and a half or two hours of daylight before us, and so we quietly sat down on some ruins and enjoyed the splendid view, whilst the servants of the Thakur transported our bags, boxes and bundles of rugs from the carriages to the ferry boat. Mr. W*** was preparing to paint the picture before us, which indeed was charming.

“Don't be in a hurry to take down this view,” said Gulab-Sing. “In half an hour we shall be on the islet, where the view is still lovelier. We may spend there the night and tomorrow morning as well.”

“I am afraid it will be too dark in an hour,” said Mr. W***, opening his color box. “And as for tomorrow, we shall probably have to start very early.”

“Oh, no!.. We may even stay here part of the afternoon... From here to the railway station it is only three hours, and the train only leaves for Jubbulpore at eight in the evening. And do you know,” added the Thakur, smiling in his usual mysterious way, “I am going to treat you to a concert... Tonight you shall be witness of a very interesting natural phenomenon connected with this island.”

We all pricked up our ears with curiosity.

“And what an island should we go?” asked the colonel. “Why should not we spend the night here, where we are so deliciously cool, and where...”

“Where the forest swarms with playful leopards, and the reeds shelter snug family parties of the serpent race, were you going to say, colonel?” interrupted the Babu, with a broad grin. “Don't you admire this merry gathering, for instance? Look at them! There is the father and the mother, uncles, aunts, and children... I am sure I could point out even a mother-in-law...”

Miss B*** looked in the direction he indicated and shrieked, till all the echoes of the forest groaned in answer, she could not stand it a moment and fled to the tonga. Not farther than three steps from her there were at least forty grown up serpents and baby snakes. They amused themselves by practising somersaults, coiled up, then straightened again and interlaced their tails, presenting to our dilated eyes a picture of perfect innocence and primitive contentment. The Thakur, who had arranged himself comfortably beside Mr. W*** in order to watch the progress of his paint-ing, left his seat and looked attentively at the dangerous group, quietly smoking his gargari – Rajput narghile – the while.

“By screaming you will only attract animals from the forest that are already going to the night watering here,” remarked he a little mockingly to Miss B***, who timidly stuck her pale, terror-stricken face out of the tonga. “None of us have anything to fear. If you do not touch an animal he is almost sure to leave you alone, and most probably will run away from you...”

With these words he lightly waved his pipe in the direction of the serpentine family-party. As strucked with a thunderbolt, the whole living mass looked stunned for a moment, and then rapidly disappeared among the reeds with loud hissing and rustling.

“Now this is pure mesmerism, I declare!” said the colonel, flashing his eyes from under his glasses, on whom not a gesture of the Rajput was lost. “How did you do it, Gulab-Sing? How to learn this art?”

“They were simply frightened away by the sudden movement of my chibook, as you saw. As for the “art” there was no “mesmerism” about it. Probably by this fashionable modern word you mean what we wild Hindus call vashi-karana vidya – that is to say, the science of charming people and animals by the force of will. The snakes ran away because they were afraid of the movement directed against them...”

“But you do not deny, do you, that you have studied this art and possess this gift?”

“No, I do not deny. Every Hindu of my sect is bound to study the mysteries of physiology and psychology amongst other secrets left to us by our ancestors. But what of that? I am very much afraid, my dear colonel,” said the Thakur with a quiet smile, “that you are rather inclined to view the simplest of my acts through a mystical prism. Narayan has been telling you all kinds of things about me behind my back... Now, is it not so?”

And he looked at Narayan, who sat at his feet, with an indescribable mixture of fondness and reproof. The Dekkan colossus dropped his eyes and remained silent.

“Yes,” absently answered Mr. W***, busy over his drawing apparatus. “Narayan sees in you something more then his late deity Shiva and something just a little less than Parabrahm... Would you believe it?.. He seriously assured us – in Nashik it was – that the “raj-yogis”, and amongst them yourself – though I must own I still fail to understand what a “raj-yogi” is, precisely – can force any one to see, not what is really before his eyes at the given moment and what everybody alse can see, but what is completely absent and even did not exist, but is situated only in the imagination of the magnetizer or “raj-yogi”... Ha, ha, ha!.. If I remember rightly he called it maya, illusion.”

“Well!.. You did not believe, of course, and laughed at Narayan?” asked the Thakur, fathoming with his eyes the dark green deeps of the lake.

“Hm! Yes… I did just a little bit,” went on Mr. W***, absently, having finished sharpening his pencil, he have opened a folder and fully engrossed by the view, trying to fix his eyes on the most effective part of it. “I dare say I am too scep-tical on this kind of question,” he added.

“And knowing Mr. W*** as I do,” said the colonel, “I can add, for my part, that even were any of these phenomena to happen to himself personally, he, like Dr. Carpenter, would doubt his own eyes rather than believe...”

“Why? No… well, yes, indeed. Maybe I would not trust myself in such an occurrence; and I tell you why. If I saw something that does not exist, or rather exists only for me, logic would interfere. However objective my vision may be, before believing in the materiality of a hallucination, I feel I am bound to doubt my own senses and sanity. If I ever will allow myself to believe in the reality of a thing that I alone saw, that belief will imply also the admission of somebody else governing and dominating, for the time being, my optical nerves, as well as my brains… What nonsense!.. Is anyone really able to assure me that there is such a magnetizer or a raj-yogi in the world who would make… well, let’s say me to see what he pleases, and not what I myself see and know that others see?”

“However, there are people, who do not doubt, because they have had proof that this phenomenon really occurs,” remarked the Thakur, in a careless tone.

“So what?.. There are twenty million spiritualists, who believe in the materialization of spirits! But do include me among them!”

“But you do believe in animal magnetism, don’t you?”

“Of cause I believe… to a certain extent. If a person suffering from some contagious illness, say smallpox, can influence a person in good health, and make him ill, in his turn, I suppose somebody else's overflow of health can also affect the sick person, and, perhaps cure him. But between physiological contagion and mesmeric influence there is a great gulf, and I don't feel inclined to cross this gulf on the grounds of blind faith...”

“But is it so difficult to make sure that what you see, or at least think you see in a moment of hallucination, is only a reflection of a picture created for this purpose in the mind of someone who is experiencing his power over you?..”

“I allow myself to think that in order to be certified in such a phenomenon, it is necessary, first of all, to receive the gift of recognizing other people's thoughts and, consequently, to be able to accurately verify them. I don't have that gift...”

“There may be other means to verify the possibility of the phenomenon. For example, if you see a picture of an area that really exists, but remote and completely unfamiliar to you, although not only known to the magnetizer, but even the very one that he agreed with the skeptics in advance, that it is this, and not another area that you will see and describe. Then, you really and accurately describe it... Isn't that proof?”

“It is could be possible that there are instances of thought-transference in cases of somnambulism, epilepsy, trance. I do not positively deny it, though I am very doubtful. It is well known that mediums and clairvoyants are a sickly lot, as a rule. But I bet you anything, a healthy man in perfectly normal conditions is not to be influenced by the tricks of mesmerists. I should like to see a magnetizer, or even a “raj-yogi”, inducing me to obey his will…”

“Now, Mr. W***, my dear, you ought not to boast,” said the colonel, who, till then, had not taken any part in the discussion.

“There is no boast on my part. I guarantee failure in my case, simply because every renowned European mesmerist has tried his luck with me, without any result; and that is why I defy the whole lot of them to try again, and feel perfectly safe about it. Therefore, I call all magnetizers – living and dead, as well as all Hindu raj-yogis in addition, to try the charms of their currents over me... All fairy tales...”

Mr. W*** was growing altogether too excited, and the Thakur dropped the subject, and talked of something else.

For my part, I also feel inclined to deviate once more from my subject, and give some necessary explanations.

Miss B*** excepted, none of our party had ever been numbered amongst the spiritualists, least of all Mr. W***. We did not believe in the playfulness of departed souls, though we admitted the possibility of some mediumistic phenomena, while totally disagreeing with the spiritualists as to the cause and point of view. Refusing to believe in the interference, and even presence of the “spirits”, in the so-called spiritualistic phenomena, we nevertheless believe in the living “spirit” of man, especially since we live in India; we believe in the omnipotence of this spirit, and in its natural, though yet hidden (with very few exceptions) and benumbed capacities. We also believe that, when incarnated, this spirit, this divine spark, may be apparently quenched, if it is not guarded; but, on the other hand, our conviction is that human beings can develop their potential spiritual powers; that, if they do, no phenomenon will be impossible for their liberated wills, and that they will perform what, in the eyes of the uninitiated, will be much more wondrous than the materialized forms of the spiritualists. If proper training can render the muscular strength ten times greater, as in the cases of renowned athletes, I do not see why proper training should fail in the case of moral capacities. We have also good grounds to believe that the secret of this proper training – though unknown to, and denied by, European physiologists and even psychologists – is known in some places in India, where its knowledge is hereditary, and entrusted to few.

Mr. W*** was a novice in our Society and looked with distrust even on such phenomena as can be produced by mesmerism. He had been trained in the Royal Institute of British Architects, which he left with a gold medal, and with a fund of scepticism that caused him to distrust everything, en dehors des mathematiques pures[21]. So that no wonder he lost his temper with people molesting him with "fairy tales"...

Now I return to my narrative.

The Babu and Mulji left us to help the servants to transport our luggage to the ferry boat. The remainder of the party had grown very quiet, “as if a quiet angel flew by,”[22] as we say. From fright and stuffy heat Miss B*** fell into peaceful doze in the tonga. The colonel, stretched on the sand with his back up, amused himself by throwing stones into the water. Narayan sat motionless, with his hands round his knees, plunged as usual in the mute contemplation of Gulab Lal-Sing. Mr. W*** sketched hurriedly and diligently, only raising his head from time to time. He was frowning strangely, glancing at the other shore, all immersed in his work... The Thakur went on smoking, and as for me, I sat on my folding chair, watching everything carefully, and couldn't take my eyes off Gulab-Sing now...

“Who and what is this mysterious Hindu at last?” I wondered in my uncertain thoughts. “Who is this man, who unites in himself two such distinct personalities: the one exterior, kept up for eyes, for the world, for Englishmen; other interior, spiritual, shown only to a few intimate friends? But even these intimate friends do they know much beyond what is generally known? And what do they know anyway? They see in him a Hindu who differs very little from the rest of educated natives, perhaps only in his perfect contempt for the social conventions of India and the demands of Western civilization... And that is all. Unless I add that he is known in Central India as a sufficiently wealthy man, and a Thakur, a feudal chieftain of a raj, one of the hundreds of similar rajes, or counties. Besides, he is a true friend of ours, who offered us his protection in our travels and volunteered to play the mediator between us and the suspicious, uncommunicative Hindus. Beyond all this, we know absolutely nothing about him. It is true, though, that I know a little more than the others; but I have promised silence, and silent I shall be. But the little I know is so strange, so unusual, that it is more like a dream than a reality...”

A good while ago, more than twenty-seven years, I met him in the house of a stranger in England, whither he came in the company of a certain dethroned Indian prince. Then our acquaintance was limited to two conversations; their unexpectedness, their gravity, and even severity, produced a strong impression on me then; but, in the course of time, like many other things, they sank into oblivion and Lethe... About seven years ago he wrote to me to America, reminding me of our conversation and of a certain promise I had made. Now we saw each other once more in India, his own country, and I failed to see any change wrought in his appearance by all these long years. I was, and looked, quite young, when I first saw him; but the passage of years had not failed to change me into an old woman. As to him, he appeared to me twenty-seven years ago a man of about thirty, and still looked no older, as if time were powerless against him... In England, his striking beauty, especially his extraordinary height and stature, together with his eccentric refusal to be presented to the Queen – an honour many a high-born Hindu has sought, coming over on purpose – excited the public notice and the attention of the newspapers. The newspapermen of those days, when the influence of Byron just started to pass away, discussed the “wild Rajput” with untiring pens, calling him “Raja-Misanthrope” and “Prince Jalma-Samson,”[23] and in-venting fables about him all the time he stayed in England.

All this taken together was well calculated to fill me with consuming curiosity, and to absorb my thoughts till I forgot every exterior circumstance, sitting and staring at him in no wise less intensely than Narayan.

I gazed at the remarkable face of Gulab-Lal-Sing with a mixed feeling of indescribable fear and enthusiastic admiration; recalling the mysterious death of the tiger in Karli, my own miraculous escape a few hours ago in Bagh, and many other incidents. It was only a few hours since he appeared to us in the morning, and yet what a number of strange ideas, of puzzling occurrences, how many enigmas his presence stirred in our minds!.. “What does all this mean anyway?” I almost exclaimed to myself. “Who is this being whom I saw so many years ago, jubilant with manhood and life, and now see again, as young and as full of life, only still more austere, still more incomprehensible. After all, maybe it is his brother, or even his son?” I thought to myself. “No! there is no use doubting; it is he himself, it is the same face, the same little scar on the left temple. But, as a quarter of a century ago, so now: no wrinkles on those beautiful classic features; not a white hair in this thick jet-black mane; and, in moments of silence, the same expression of perfect rest on that face, calm as a statue of living bronze... What a strange expression, and what a wonderful Sphinx-like face!..”

“Not a very brilliant comparison, my old friend!” suddenly spoke the Thakur, and a good-natured laughing note rung in his voice, whilst I shuddered and grew red like a naughty schoolgirl. “This comparison is so inaccurate that it decidedly sins against history in two important points. Firstly, although the Sphinx is a winged lion, but it is also a woman, and the Rajput Singas[24], although lions, have never had anything feminine in their nature. In addition, the Sphinx is the daughter of a Chimera, and sometimes even an Echidna, and you could choose a less offensive, although incorrect comparison.”

I simply gasped in my utter confusion, and he gave vent to his merriment, which by no means relieved me.

“Shall I give you some good advice?” continued Gulab-Sing, rising and changing his tone for a more serious one. “Don't trouble your head with such vain speculations. The day when this riddle yields its solution, the Rajput Sphinx will not seek destruction in the waves of the sea; but, believe me, it won't bring any profit to the Russian Oedipus either. You already know every detail you ever will learn. So leave the rest to the fate...”

“The ferry is ready! Let’s go!..” Mulji and Babu shouted to us from the shore.

"I'm done," W*** sighed, hastily gathering up the folder and paints.

“Let us see your work!” insisted the colonel and awaken Miss B***.

We glanced at his fresh wet picture and opened our eyes in astonishment. There was no lake on it, no woody shores, and no velvety evening mists that covered the distant island at this moment. Instead of all this we saw a charming sea view; thick clusters of shapely palm-trees scattered over the chalky cliffs of the littoral; a fortress-like bungalow with stone balconies and a flat roof, an elephant standing at its entrance, and a native boat on the crest of a foaming wave.

“Now what is this view, sir?” wondered the colonel. “As if it was worth your while to sit in the sun, to draw fancy pictures out of your own head!”

“What do you mean by “out of my own head”?” exclaimed Mr. W***. “Isn't the lake similar?”

“Listen to him – the lake! Where is the lake, if you please? Were you asleep, or what?”

By this time all our party gathered round the colonel, who held the drawing. Narayan uttered an exclamation, and stood still, the very image of bewilderment past description.

“I know the place!” said he, at last. “This is Dayri-Bol, the country house of the Thakur-Sahib. I recognize it. Last year during the famine I lived there for two months.”

I was the first to grasp the meaning of it all, but kept silence. At last Mr. W*** finished arranging and packing his things, and approached us in his usual lazy, careless way, but his face showed traces of vexation. He was evidently bored by our persistency in seeing a sea, where there was nothing but the corner of a lake.

“Stop joking and inventing; it's time to go. Give me the sketch...” – he told us.

But, at the first sight of his unlucky sketch, his countenance suddenly changed. He grew so pale, and the expression of his face became so piteously distraught that it was painful to see. He turned and returned the piece of Bristol paper[25], then rushed like a madman to his drawing portfolio and turned the whole contents out, ransacking and scattering over the sand hundreds of sketches and of loose papers. Evidently failing to find what he was looking for, he glanced again at his sea-view, and suddenly covering his face with his hands totally collapsed and felt on the sand.

We all remained silent, exchanging glances of wonder and pity, and heedless of the Thakur, who stood on the ferry boat, vainly calling to us to join him.

“Look here, W***!” timidly spoke the kind-hearted colonel, as if addressing a sick child. “Do you remember that it was you who draw this view?”

The Englishman was silent for a long time; finally he said in a hoarse voice, trembling with excitement:

“Yes, I do remember. Of course I made this sketch, but I made it from nature. I painted only what I saw all the time before my eyes. And it is that very certainty that is most terrifying.”[26]

“But why it should be so “terrifying”? It is only the result of the temporary influence of one dominant will over another, less powerful. You simply acted under 'biological influence,' to use the expression of Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Crooks.”

“That is exactly what I am most afraid of. I remember everything now. I have been busy over this view more than an hour. I saw it directly I chose the spot, and seeing it all the while on the opposite shore I could not suspect anything strange. I was perfectly conscious... or, shall I say, I fancied I was conscious of putting down on paper what everyone of you had before your eyes. I had lost every notion of the place as I saw it before I began my sketch, and as I see it now... But how do you account for it? God gracious! am I to believe that these damned Hindus really possess the mystery of such power? I tell you, colonel, I shall go mad if I have to believe it all!..”

“But on the other hand,” Narayan whispered to him with a triumphant twinkle in his eyes. “Now you have lost the right to deny Yoga-Vidya, the great ancient science of my motherland.”

Mr. W*** did not answer him. Staggering like a drunk, he boarded the ferry and, avoiding Thakur's gaze, sat with his back to everyone at the edge and put himself in contemplation of the water.

“Ma chère!” whispered a mysterious voice of Miss B*** beside me. “Ma chère, mais Monsieur W*** devient vraiment un medium...”[27]

In moments of great excitement she always addressed me in French.

“Please stop this nonsense. Why medium? You know I don't believe in spiritualism.”

Receiving this rebuke and no sympathy from me, she could not think of anything better than drawing out the Babu, who, for a wonder, had managed to keep quiet till then, leaning against the ferryboat side and gazing absently into the distance.

“Who else, besides the departed spirits (sprits désincarnés), besides the soul of a former artist, could draw this fantastic view?" she asked, her mouth agape.

“Damn!” Babu blurted back at her. “Don’t your compatriots firmly believe that the Hindus worship devils? Well, here you are, one of our gods let fog go to Mr. W***.”

If at this very moment the ferry operated by Takura's people (there were no ferrymen at all) did not approach the island, there would be a quarrel between them. Fortunately, we landed and the Bengali jumped ashore.

“Il est positivement malhonnête, ce Nègre là!”[28] the enraged maiden whispered, firing a Parthian[29] arrow after him

“Well, my mother[30],” I remarked to her, going after the others, “such a Negro worth ten of your John Bulls[31].”



  1. Moscow News, No. 117, 29.04.1880, p. 4, No. 129, 11.05.1880, p. 4; Russian Herald, January 1883, Supplement, vol 165, pp. 210-241. In V. Johnston edition here starts the chapter “The Caves Of Bagh”.
  2. In accordance with the local flavor (Fr.). – Ed.
  3. The ceremony of worship.
  4. "With a grain of salt", "with seasoning" (Lat.), i. e. with the salt of wit, ironically, mockingly or critically, with some correction, with a certain reservation, with caution. – Ed.
  5. And that's how we write history! (Fr.). – Ed.
  6. A Corresponding Member of the Asiatic Society, fellow of the Eastern section of the Theosophical Society, etc., etc.
  7. A voice and nothing more (Latin). – Ed.
  8. All the figures of Gautama Buddha differ sharply from the idols in their remaining in an unchanging position: the right hand is raised and turned palm outward, representing the Buddha blessing the people with two fingers.
  9. Chaitya-griha (Sanskrit) is a general assembly hall of believers, in which a sacred object of worship is installed. – Ed.
  10. Aditum (Lat.) is a sanctuary in ancient pagan temples, where only priests could enter. – Ed.
  11. A caryatid is a statue depicting a draped female figure as a support for a ceiling, arch or other structure, replacing a column, pilaster or pylon. – Ed.
  12. Eruslan Lazarevich is a mighty hero of the Old Russian fairy tale book story and folklore. – Ed.
  13. All our Hindu friends, as well as Buddhists, call you "brothers" and "sisters" here.
  14. Chador is a light blanket covering the entire figure from head to toe. – Ed.
  15. A quote from “Reflections at the front door” (1858) by N. A. Nekrasov. – Ed.
  16. How, in spite of the Hastings and other robbers, the late "Company" should be dear to the heart of the Hindu in comparison with the current government, can be seen from the following: The East India Company gave huge subsidies to the main temples of the Brahmins and, in every way courteous to the Hindus, tried to comfort them. But the imperial government not only stopped all subsidies, but even started this year, under the pretext of reducing the crowd in Hardwar, charging beggars pilgrims a fee at the entrance to the city, as they did in Elephant. But it was very confused. At least two and a half million people flooded in, but they received entrance fees from 290,000 pilgrims (see Pioneer, "Official Report on the Hardwar Mella", February 19, 1880).
  17. “Command the servant, saint sahib, bless your slave.”
  18. Hari-Kulas leterally means “from the sun family”. Kula means “family” or “nickname” in Sanskrit. Some of the Rajput princes, especially the maharanas of Udaipur, are proud of their astronomical origin.
  19. According to modern data, Mount Harmukh has a height of 5,142 meters (16,870 feet). – Ed.
  20. In V. Johnston edition here starts the chapter “The Caves Of Bagh”. – Ed.
  21. Outside of pure mathematics (Fr.). – Ed.
  22. "There were two and one more", a poem by V. A. Zhukovsky (1831). – Ed.
  23. Indian Prince Djalma is one of the heroes of the novel "The Wandering Jew" (“Le Juif errant”, 1845) by the French writer E. Sue (1804-1857). – Ed.
  24. Sing is a lion, in the Punjabi language.
  25. Bristol paper (named after the city of Bristol) is a thick taped drawing paper of large format. – Ed.
  26. W*** has preserved this drawing, but never hints at its origin.
  27. My dear, but Mr. W*** is really becoming a medium (Fr.). – Ed.
  28. He is positively dishonest, this Negro. – Ed.
  29. The Parthian arrow is a tactical device of the Parthians: depicting defeat and flight, suddenly hit the pursuing opponent with an arrow shot back over his shoulder; in a figurative sense, simulate a loss in a dispute and strike with a word or argument when the opponent loses vigilance. – Ed.
  30. In the meaning “my dear” (see editor’s foreword). – Ed.
  31. John Bull is a collective image of a typical Englishman. – Ed.