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Letter XXVII[1]

About four miles [6.44 km] from Kanpur, on the rocky right bank of the Ganges, in a dark and virgin forest, there are wonderful ruins. These are the remains of several huge ancient cities, one built on the ruins of another. From the latter, only colossal blocks of walls, parts of loopholes, temples remained, and the ruins of once majestic palaces, from which here and there one or two rooms, rather the walls of the former chambers survived. On these walls, poor villagers began to build roofs of foliage and settle in them, until little by little they turned the ancient city of Jajmau into a village. But the ruins stretch for many miles, and the new settlement huddled somehow, leaving the rest of the ruins in full possession of the monkeys. The history (of the English) is silent about these cities, rejecting the traditions of the Indian annals that Jajmau is located on the site of its sister and rival Agartha – the city of the Sun. Agartha, according to the ancient chronicles in the Puranas, was built by the sons of the Sun, two centuries after the capture of the island of Lanka by King Rama, that is, 5000 years BC according to the chronology of the Brahmins. And the past of Jajmau, ravaged several times by raids from beyond the Himalayas, is completely unknown to European historians. Only once this mysterious city, which “remembers not its parentage”[2] is mentioned, it was in the autobiography of Babur (Zahīr ud-Dīn Muhammad), the Mogul emperor who lived at the beginning of the 16th century.[3] In one of his many campaigns against the Afghans, the latter sought refuge and wished to fortify their position in the ancient city of Jajmau, the sultan writes. But Humayun, his son, defeated them. Thus, these ruins are one of many places completely unknown to the English either in their past, or, we can add, in their present.

The road to Jajmau is terrible. We rode on elephants, and it was only thanks to the firm tread of these clever animals we did not fall several times into deep ravines, nor did we hang as the new Absalom by the hair on the branches. The elephants quietly and cautiously walked along the ledges of the cliffs, stopping in front of each low branch and crushing it into chips with their trunk before taking even a step further. In fact, they, the elephants, were not hindered by the branches: but they were taught to do that and cleverly followed the directions of the riders. We rode for three miles [4.83 km] through rocks and woods before reaching the first ruins, and most of the time we rode along narrow paths, where no one can ride on bullocks even in the native trap called “ekka.” At last, we began to pass in front of residential buildings, from one ravine to another, one gully to another, and finally getting something like a wide path, we looked around. And we were amazed at the sight! Not a single human being around, but there was no ruin, a piece of a wall or a tumbled column on which several dozen monkeys did not sit. Without exaggeration, there were several thousand of them. Residents complain that they are stealing their last provisions; that, no matter how far you hide millet or corn, or some greenery, these forest “dacoits” will certainly steal it at night. And yet the natives will not dare to throw a stone at any of them: here the monkeys, “deva-sahibs,” or literally “lords-gods,” are sacred, as is the case everywehere. The inhabitants are starving, but the monkeys are getting fat.

The Ganges flows at the very edge of the forest, and on its right bank you can still see the giant ruins of marble steps, which, as it were, were intended, for giants in the old days. The entire sandy coast for many miles and the entire forest are covered with fragments of columns deeply sunk into the ground, with broken carved pedestals, idols and bas-reliefs. The carvings, architectural remains, the very size of the ruins represent something grandiose, unexpected even for those who have visited Palmyra and Egyptian Memphis. It is not clear why these ruins have not yet been described by anyone, especially since they are under the very walls of Kanpur. In the lengthy essay “On the territories acquired by the East India Company” only two words are said about them.

“Jajmau is a former city, now a village with an empty crumbling bazaar. As local chronicles say, it was built on the ruins of two cities. Distance from Calcutta is 620 miles [997.79 km], lat. 26 ° 26 ', long. 80° 28'.”

That's all! And yet, the most ancient city of old India was buried under Jajmau... For direct proof of its antiquity, the following example is sufficient. A few years ago, during a big storm, several thick and old banyans were broken by it, and some were completely uprooted. At the ends of the latter, pieces of sculptured marble were found, which the roots had completely grown through. They began to dig deeper, and the tops of the ruins of huge buildings were found four yards [3.66 m] deep underground. But the point now is not so much in these buildings, as in how many centuries it took, firstly, for such accumulation on the banks of the Ganges, so that the level of the earth would finally reach not only the level of buildings (some of them are 300 feet [91.44 m] height), but even that the accumulation could cover ruins with a four yard layer; and secondly, how much time elapsed between that event and the time when the now 1200-year-old banyans began to root in this alluvial soil? Concentric circles of trunks[4] proved that those banyans were not less than twelve centuries old and there are trees in the forest that are older than those. Especially one group of these ficus indica amazed us with their height, perhaps a little lower than a famous banyan tree on the banks of Nerbudda, near Broach and popularly called “Kabirvad.” This last tree is historical. It was already 700 years old when Alexander the Great was resting under its shade with all his army. It now consists of 356 thick stems and about 3000 smaller ones, and 200 years ago, another seven thousand army was resting under its shadow.

We roamed the forest for three days long. The Thakur knew every nook and path, and he kept his word. He took us where an Englishman's foot had never gone: into a dark underground cave more than 140 feet [42.67 m] deep. We went there before dawn, when everyone was still asleep. Besides us, the Thakur took only Narayan with him, and his trusted servant, the old, gray-haired Rajput, who accompanied us from Bombay itself. Mr. W*** and Miss B*** stayed in Jajmau with Babu and Mulji, and did not even know when and where we left. This underground journey was for me, as well as for the colonel, the most interesting event of our tour – probably due to its extraordinary mystery...

For more than an hour we had to walk through the thicket, scaring away the monkeys who had barely opened their eyes, throwing unprintable products at us. Like a pack of dwarf forest demons, they snapped at us with their teeth, flashing their cunning eyes from behind every bush. Finally, we entered a narrow gorge overgrown with bushes, whether it was natural or artificial, we had no time to find out. The Thakur went ahead, followed by me, by Narayan, and then by the colonel with a Rajput servant. Making our way in single file, we walked in deep silence, since the path was becoming difficult and there was no time for conversation. Finally we began to descend the steep, winding steps, at the foot of which we entered a small clearing. To the right, by a lonely rock, there was a shack, into which we entered. As there was no light in the forest, for it was not yet fully dawn, so in this hut, shaded by thick banyans and leaning straight against the rock, which thus served as its back wall, complete darkness reigned. The Rajput struck fire and lit a closed lantern, which he gave to the Thakur. Then, taking the lantern in one hand and my hand in the other, the Thakur walked with me, as it seemed to me, in this Egyptian darkness right through the wall. Whether because of the uncommon situation or just of constantly excited nerves, I confess that when I entered this underground region unknown to the rest of the world, it made me rather sick; however, curiosity and shame gained the upper hand, and I silently followed the Thakur. The lantern dimly illuminated our path, throwing a narrow streak of light only at our feet; an impenetrable gloom reigned all around, and I was irresistibly carried forward by the powerful, white-clad figure of the giant whose face seemed to me now darker than the night itself ... He walked quickly and without hesitation. Everyone was silent, and even our feet stepped silently on the smooth, soft ground of the passage, as if we were stepping on a thick carpet. However neither the solemnity of the procession, nor the Radcliffe surroundings, could stop the colonel from making a joke. “What a great dark cell for invocation... It is a pity that there is no medium among us!” – were suddenly heard mocking words. Despite the expression of playfulness, the sound of his voice in this ominous silence made me, and it seems himself, shudder greatly. His voice sounded somehow muffled, as if anguished, and at the same time in a drawling manner, as if from above, and rushed far, far ahead, awakening a sleepy echo along the path...

Suddenly the Thakur stopped, squeezing my hand tightly.

“What is it?.. Are you really and seriously … frightened?” asked he suddenly, contemptuously emphasizing the last word. “Your hand is trembling like in a fever!..”

I felt all the blood rush into my face at this well-deserved insult; but I did what anyone else would have done in my place: internally I “reared up” and tried to justify myself.

“I’m not frightened ... and I have nothing to be afraid of…” I muttered, feeling Gulab Singh's gaze in the dark, staring at me. “I'm just tired...”

“Wo-men ...” quietly and as if to himself whispered he with some condescending bitterness in his voice, but he went more slowly.

Not having in my hands enough weighty evidence to the contrary to deny this new insult to me and to my sex, I swallowed it and kept silent. We walked like this for a quarter of an hour, if not longer, along a level, slightly sloping and soft path and, as it seemed to me, an unusually high passage; my old friend did not let go of my hand, the colonel was already beginning to puff loudly, and I was inwardly angry at my own weakness and disgrace. But at last the Thakur stopped again and, raising the lantern high, at once lightened all blind walls. A smooth and even wall in rock appeared before us. Not a single crack was visible on it.

“Look,” Gulab Singh turned to the colonel, “and see what miracles our ancestor mechanics performed, who, in the opinion of Europeans, were unfamiliar with the sciences. I bet that if you will have all the best mechanics of the West show up here, they will never discover the secret of this ... door! Now I want to prove to you that this is a door, not a rock.”

Our inquisitive president, who had once received a medal for the best essay on mechanics at the Rensselaer Institute of Technology in Troy, New York, began to scrutinize the wall. His efforts were crowned with a complete fiasco. Either tapping or feeling any hollows led to nothing. Meanwhile, using the full light of the opened lantern, I could make out the place. A kind of semicircular room, with rocky walls and a ceiling lost at a great height; the soil is as if strewn with black powder.

“If you take my word for it,” the Thakur finally observed, patiently following the colonel’s research, “I can assure you that this passage was dug and made many thousands of years ago. As you can see, – he added, touching the corner of the rock with his shoulder and pushing it, – the “sons of the Sun” were well acquainted with the law of leverage and lifting, as well as with the rules of the center of gravity even before Archimedes. Otherwise, how could they think up this?”

And when he pushed harder and turned some kind of imperceptible pin in the wall, a hole two feet [0.61 m] wide and at his own height appeared in front of him, like one of the modern doors in American houses, which slid up to their locks inside a wall... But there was no door handle here; not even a door niche chiseled in the wall was visible...

We all entered, and the Thakur again pushed the wall with an elusive movement and pressing something. Despite the colonel's curiosity and his endless questions, he refused to give out the secret of the passage. “It is enough that I prove to you that these secret underground passages have existed for many thousands of years in India,” he told us, “and more than a thousand people have found safety here at different times through those who are initiated into the secret of their existence. ... Now there are not many of them left,” he added, as I heard, with a note of sadness in his voice. – “And they were not in time to save against her will one of the bravest, noblest women of India, the last of the great heroines of our “mother!”[5] In a few minutes we will sit down to rest, and then I will tell you an episode of the last mutiny. In Europe it is almost, if not completely, unknown...”

We were now walking along a wide, high vaulted passage. In all likelihood, the latter was connected, in one way or another, with the surface of the earth, for the air in the underground, although a little damp, was nevertheless clean, despite the 140 foot [42.67 m] depth. However, the path went downhill all the time, slightly downhill, and only by the end of the third corridor from the cave, which I will immediately describe, did it go imperceptibly uphill. Obviously, some of these passages were already underground at the time when Agartha was still among other cities, flourishing on the earth's surface. On both sides of the passage we came across doorless openings, oblong squares leading to other side passages; but the Thakur did not take us there, noticing only that they were leading to dwellings, that is, sometimes occupied rooms. That the underground rooms had been visited quite recently, in this I was guaranteed by the discovery of an old crumpled envelope, with some hieroglyphic signs, but of a completely modern cut and with glue under the sealed side. This entire passage, that is, the corridors, as far as we could judge, is five or six verstas [5.3 – 6.4 km, 3.3 – 4 miles] long. Having walked three miles [4.83 km], counting from the secret door, in other words, about halfway between two passages, we found ourselves in a natural and huge cave, with a small lake in the center and artificial benches carved out of rocks around it. In the water, in the middle of the lake, stood a tall granite pillar, with a pyramidal top and a thick rusted chain wrapped around it. Walking along the corridor, we already noticed that at times the darkness was almost dissipating and a weak, as if twilight, light illuminated us at such moments from above; in the cave – probably the lowest area of the underground place – it was dark, as in the Gizah pyramid. But then the Thakur prepared a surprise for us. He gave an order to the old Rajput in a dialect we did not understand, and he, as if equipped with the eyes of a cat, at once went somewhere in the darkness, fumbled in the corner and immediately began to light torches one after another, inserting them into the iron rings attached to the walls. Soon the whole cave was lit up with a brilliant light. Then, tired and hungry, we settled by the lake and began to unpack a basket of provisions.

And now I will try to briefly tell the story of both the cave, and the episode promised by the Thakur of the rebellion of 1857. The latter belongs directly to history, although the English tried to distort it, as they distorted and even concealed many of the facts of this shameful era for them. Having heard about it for the first time from Gulab Lal Singh, we subsequently learned interesting details of the event from many old Hindus, some of whom were even eyewitnesses to it; and once from an Englishman, an old Anglo-Hindu officer.

The following legend is told about the ancient city of Agartha and its sad end in the Puranas. Sudasa-Rishi was the sacred head of the clergy, “Brahmatma,”[6] and his brother Agasti was the Mahan-kshatriya (great warrior king) of Agartha. In the absence of both, the kingdom was ruled by the maharani (Great Queen), who was once a kumarika (Virgin of the Sun) in the temple of Surya-Nari (Sun-Nature). Her beauty captivated the King; and at the very moment of her sacrifice on the altar of fire (that is, religious self-immolation), he, using the ancient custom that gave the Kings the right to save Indian Vestals from death, demanded her to be his wife. Before him, another contender for her hand, the King of Himmavat, had already appeared, but she refused the offer, preferring death in the fiery arms of her husband-god, the sacred fire. The insulted over-Himalayan King swore revenge. Many years later, when the King Agasti was at war in Lanka (Ceylon), his defeated rival, taking advantage of his absence with troops, made a raid on Agartha. The Queen defended her city with desperate courage; but at last it was taken by storm. Then, having gathered all the “maidens of Surya” from the temples, wives and daughters of their subjects and her own children, a total of 69,000 women, including the kumarikas, the Queen locked herself in the huge dungeons of the Surya-Nari temple and ordered to build sacred funeral pyres along the entire dungeon, burned herself together with other women and all the treasures of the city, leaving only empty buildings at the disposal of the winners.

The King returned and, finding only ashes on the site of the palace, the queen and the children, he rushed to catch up with the victorious army. Having overtaken it, he defeated the army completely and, taking 11,000 captives together with the King, returned to the ruins of Agartha. Here he made the captives build a new and even richer city on the ashes of the ruined one, and then, when it was completed, build in the middle of the city, in front of the Nari temple, a funeral pyre for 11,000 people. Both the Himmavat King and his soldiers, amid curses and outrages from all the people of Agartha, were burned alive on it in revenge for the lost Queen.

According to the legend and ancient chronicles, the dungeon we have already passed, like the one we have to go through, on the other side of the caves, is the same dungeon of the temple in which the Queen was burned. This soft soil, which I have taken for black and finest sand, is the ashes of 69,000 women and kumarikas, that is, virgins!

This is a legend; and now the reality follows. Only twenty-two years have passed since that time, and in Pune, as well as in Gwalior, all the details of this epic tragedy are still fresh in human memory.

On the road from Agra to Saugor there is the territory of Jhansi. Now it is located in the English province of Bundelkhand, but in 1854 it belonged to the independent Maratha Peshwas. Raj Jhansi consists of two parts, separated by only one narrow strip of land belonging to the territory of the native Rajah or Thakur Tehri. To the north, the western part of Jhansi is framed by the Gwalior and Datia regions, to the east by Tehri, to the south and west by Gwalior again. In 1832, according to statistics of the East India Company, there were 956 villages and 286 populations in this Rajah, spread over an area of 2,922 square miles [740.74 sq km]. It gave about 28 lakh rupees[7] income. Part of the possession of the Urchha Rajah from a clan of the Bundelas princes was ceded during the reign of Shivaji to the Peshwas, who sent their governors, subahdars, to rule there. In 1804 the English made a defensive alliance with one of them, as a tributary of the Peshwa; and in 1817, when friends and allies took away all rights from the Peshwa, in accordance with their method, and he ceded!! to them, by the way, also the right to own Bundelkhand, the Company entered into another agreement with the Subahdar of Jhansi, according to which it recognized him as an independent Rajah “with the right to transfer the heritage to children, and if there are no such – to the nearest heir” for a payment to the Company of 74,000 rupees per year. In 1832, Prince Ram-Ramchund-Rao was formally recognized as a Raja. But in 1838 he died without an immediate male heir, leaving the throne to his granddaughter, his daughter's one-week-old child, so that the husband chosen for her would inherit the throne. But the Company, despite the contract and not only against the wishes of the people, but even against the very law of succession to the throne in India – the law prohibiting lepers from reigning – chose the uncle of the deceased Raja Raghunath-Rao. The half-mad and sickly leper Raja died three years later. The company was just waiting for this. Under the pretext that none of the natives knows how to manage their house and pretending all the time that they were looking for a decent heir for Jhansi, the English, having appointed a pension to Lakshmi-bai, the married granddaughter of the immediate heiress, and her husband Gungadhar-Rao, took possession of the Raj in 1843. In 1854, three years before the rebellion, Gungadhar-Rao, the husband of Lakshmi-bai, died, leaving a widow and a son who had all the rights to the throne of his great-grandfather and mother. But the English declared the child an illegitimate son and even took away Lakshmi-bai's pension. She was then 16 years old. It was she whom Thakur called the greatest heroine of modern India.

Maharani Lakshmi Bai was the cousin of both the Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior and Nana-Sahib. At the very beginning of the revolt, when the latter threw off his mask, she openly took his side and, having managed to collect a twenty-two thousand army in Jhansi, was ready to support Nana-Sahib to the end. They say that Nana-Sahib managed to attract to his side not only the army of Gwalior, but also Scindia himself. But during the investigation, the Maharaja fully justified himself, where he proved that the accusation came from his enemies. Having received the news that the army of Scindia was ready, by agreement with Nana-Sahib, the Maharani headed her army to Gwalior, the capital of Scindia, where she expected upon her arrival to find the gates of the fortress unlocked, and the army and people prepared to declare their independence. According to a preliminary agreement, this Indian Joan of Arc was to, having entered Gwalior, take possession of the city in the name of Nana Saheb, and then, after a happy ending of the case, return Scindia its possession. But it turned out differently. The “Diwan,” the prime minister, on whom they hoped that he would prepare everything and warn the people, as well as the army, turned out to be a traitor to the common cause. Maharaja Scindia was not at home then – he was with the English. Instead of unlocking the gates of the city for Lakshmi Bai and her army, the “Diwan” locked himself in and warned the English, threatening his soldiers all the time with the vengeance of the Maharaja and his allies of the Company. The soldiers hesitated and, hearing the pre-concerted signals at night, did not know what to do. Meanwhile, “the Queen of Jhansi,”[8] seeing that the gates were not unlocked for her, and suspecting treason, rushed into the city from the other side, taking it positively by storm. They say that another secret passage was unlocked for her.

Then the reign of terror began and continued in the city for a whole week, until the English came to help. Lakshmi Bai slaughtered most of Scindia's army, killing anyone who hesitated to join her. The Diwan managed to escape.[9] When the English army came to the aid of Gwalior, a certain brahmachariya, dressed in the clothes of an ascetic, sannyasin, offered the Queen a shelter, assuring her in advance that otherwise she would die. He begged her to follow him with her son to the vicinity of Kanpur, where she would find friends and complete safety in the Jajmau dungeons. But Lakshmi Bai proudly rejected the offer, assuring him that she was not afraid of death and preferred it even to life of seeing the humiliation of her homeland. Then a battle that was memorable for many years in the country began near the city gates and outside the fortress, which our heroine did not manage to take. The Maharani herself led her soldiers to battle, astride a furious horse. For a minute there was a panic in their ranks and most of the recruits unaccustomed to regular service rushed to flee. Alone with a handful of adherents, she defended her position desperately for three hours against the enemy three times stronger. Finally noticing that her strength was weakening, she ordered her escort to immediately erect a funeral pyre and prepare everything necessary in order to light it as soon as her order would be given. “Brothers,” she exclaimed, according to an eyewitness, “I swear by the shadow of all my ancestors who fell in honest battles to die before the bellati's hand touches one thread of my sari. And you also swear, if I am destined to fall here, to burn my body, not allowing the enemy to touch even its ashes!” Everyone swore, and Lakshmi Bai rushed on horseback into the very midst of the fighting. They say that even at this solemn moment, the same mysterious ascetic again offered her salvation, but she again rejected it. The ever increasing popular rumor assures that she killed several hundred Englishmen with her own hands! But that she killed many is just as true as the fact that the English carefully hide this shameful, for them, event. Finally, her horse, frightened of something, rushed so furiously that the Maharani let go of the reins. In several leaps, the distraught horse carried her back under the city walls, where, slain by the enemy's bullet, it fell, throwing the rider off. The Maharani was not, however, killed. She was in her right mind and only both of her legs were probably broken. She was seated against the wall, and continued to give orders. But noticing that several Englishmen, seeing her fall, rushed to her in order to seize her and were already cutting off the way of her escort to the pyre, she instantly made up her mind and gave the last order. While some of her loyal comrades kept the enemy away, others, putting the Maharani on the hay and piling a whole heap of straw and brushwood on her, instantly lit the pyre. Then they rushed to repel the attack of the English, allowing themselves to be chopped and cut one by one, just to give time for the fire to complete its work, and turn the Maharani into ashes...

“These noble ashes, quite worthy to mix forever with the ashes of the Queen of Agartha, rest here and no one will ever disturb them,” finished the narrator.

We left the cave by another corridor, and the narrow passage led us up the mountain. The path was sloping; our feet sank, as in the first corridor, as if in a soft carpet. Finally, turning sharply to the right, the path led us to the same blind wall as the first one. The only difference between the two walls was that the rock that blocked the hole, instead of going into the side wall, when opened, sank down, leaving a low, one and a half foot [46 cm] wall, which we had to step over. Behind this wall, in a small cave, there is a deep well. The ruins of the long-dead city of Agartha are buried here around us, in an area of 16 square miles [41.44 sq km].

To get back to the surface, we had to ascend three times in a row along countless steps. There was something else like a door – a stone between two rocks, turning on something unknown to me – and we were again in some kind of cave; light, though weak, blinded us after eight hours of darkness. Going out into the clean air, we felt how a person would feel when he comes out of a cool cellar and climbs into an oven. The heat was unbearable. Everything was asleep in the forest and, except for the incessant chirr of grasshoppers, not a rustle was heard. Even the monkeys dozed in the foliage ... It was noon, and we had to wait in the shade under fear of apoplexy until the midday heat subsided. An old ruined temple was about ten paces away, having only one gopuram[10], a gate with a room or two inside it left. There we hid from this terrible, unbearable heat, scaring off hundreds of colorful parrots along the way, sparkling like a moving rainbow before us with their shiny wings in the sun...

We returned to the camp for evening tea.

There is no need to talk in more detail about the underground journey for many reasons, of which the main one is that this area is completely unknown to anyone; and much of what we have seen and heard is so strange that I probably would not have had enough words for a more accurate description. There are other dungeons, for example, in Amber, near Jaipore, in which not a single European has ever been except us, it is also an underground passage leading far under the sea from Elephanta, where, having climbed two miles [3.22 km] into its depth, we almost suffocated, along with the Parsis accompanying us. But the English also know about these passages, although none of them have yet visited the latter. About the dungeons in Jajmau, to my surprise, no matter how much I asked the English, no one knows anything. It is not without reason that our friend, the Thakur, who took our word of honour never to hint at the road leading to them, is so unconcerned about their discovery by the English. Hindus are generally secretive and mysterious people;[11] and of all the Hindus, the Thakur is the most mysterious of all of them put together. Recently, going to describe this trip, I ask him:

“Do you have anything against my description of your dungeon in Jajmau to the Russian public?

“Absolutely nothing,” he says, “if you rely on your memory.”

“I’m sure in my memory. But did you say that the English do not even know about the existence of this place? And if they, who greedily read all Russian newspapers, immediately translating everything in any way concerning India and Asia in general, read my description and take note of it?”

“What of it? Let them do this.”

“And if they go looking, and find it?”

Gulab Singh somehow strangely narrowed his lids and looked at me either inquisitively or a little contemptuously.

“What is so strange in my words? The guess seemed very natural.”

“Very ...” emphasized the Thakur, “only from the point of view of Europeans, not from ours. Apologizing in advance for my courage, I venture to suggest that I, perhaps, have studied a little more than you, not only the English, but also human nature in general. And, having studied it, I will tell you the following in advance: there are nine chances out of ten that, after reading this description, every Englishman will take your story for a fable invented by you. They are a nation too proud and arrogant to admit that there are places in their possessions that they have never heard of and where they have not yet placed their sentries...”

“Well, and if the ticket is taken out, as if on purpose, with the tenth number ... then what?”

“Then they will go in search and ... and find nothing.”

“But how can you surely guarantee that? After all, the underground area exists ... Has it not disappeared from the face of the earth?”

“Precisely because it exists in reality, they will not find it. Now, if you had invented it, then they would have found it without fail, even if they had to dig it themselves ... They would have done it, if only as a warning to us, the natives, and together in order to show at home – what fine fellows they are in India: nothing escapes their all-seeing eye!.. After all, they composed forged political correspondence and caught imaginary political criminals, bribing for this thieves from prison; and all this is only in order to justify the denunciations they themselves have invented and sent to themselves...”

“Now the last guess. They, that is, all the authorities and their spies, know that you were with us in Kanpur and Jajmau... After all, I will describe the case as it was ... If they pester you to show them where this dungeon is, excuse me – if they decide to make you reveal this secret to them... what will you do then?..”

The Thakur laughed that low, inaudible laugh that always made me shiver.

“Calm down, this can never be. But if they decided to “pester,” then I warn you in advance that it is you, and not me, that will find yourself in a false position. Believe me, I will not even utter a word in this case, but will provide protection to the collector of my district and all residents who know me. And the collector Mr. V. will report that from March 15 to May 3, 1879 I did not leave my “Raj” and that he visited me twice a week, and the residents, by the way, all the English, will confirm this...”

With these words, he got up and, mounting his horse, said goodbye and left, throwing me the following slightly mocking remark in parting.

“How do you know ... maybe I have a twin brother, about whom the world knows as little as about the dungeon?.. Record this too otherwise your fellow countrymen will accept you, together with our entire Theosophical Society, for an enlarged edition of Baron Munchausen.”

And they probably will.

A similar event has already happened to the Thakur. Everyone saw him in Pune, where he appeared openly for a whole month. When they wanted to implicate him in a political case, the collector, the magistrate and two missionaries testified that Gulab Lal Singh had not left his estate for more than six months. I declare a fact, refusing, as always, to explain it. Not even a year had passed since it happened.



  1. Moscow News, No. 23, 23.01.1881, pp. 4-5; Russian Herald, January 1883, Supplement, vol 165, pp. 330-346.
  2. Reference to an image of “Ivan Rememberless” or “Ivan, who does not remember his parentage” – a winged expression denoting a person without beliefs and traditions; here – devoid of roots and history. – Ed.
  3. Emperor Babur, a literary celebrity in India, nephew of the Samarkand Sultan and a direct descendant of Tamerlane; he conquered Kabul in 1504; then in 1519 he conquered the Punjab, and in 1526 – Delhi. He was the first to arrange communication and mail between Agra and Kabul and wrote down his biography or memoirs, famous in India for an abundance of historical information.
  4. As you know, forest trees increase in width by layers growing near the bark, and each new layer forms a kind of ring around the tree, so counting them one can come to a fairly correct conclusion about its age. Adamson found a baobab near Gorea, which is between 5,000 and 6,000 years old. Humboldt, speaking of it, called it the oldest tree in the world!.. In girth, some baobabs are from 90 to 100 feet [27.43 – 30.48 m].
  5. Speaking of their motherland, Hindus always call India “mother.”
  6. “Soul of Brahma,” the highest spiritual rank.
  7. 2,800,000 rupees.
  8. That is what the people call her.
  9. He is still alive and receives a huge pension from the English.
  10. Gopuram or gopura is a monumental entrance tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of a Hindu temple, in the South Indian architecture. – Ed.
  11. They are so mysterious that, with all the efforts of the police in general and the secret police in particular, the English still cannot figure out the following: “how could news be transmitted with such speed from one end of India to the other during the mutiny of 1857, without telegraphs and the railway? Hardly any event happened in Calcutta, as 2000 miles [3,218.69 km] away from there somewhere in the north of India, in a few hours people already knew about it at the bazaar, and the English found out only in a week. Sir John Kay, in his essay The Sepoy War 1857-8, a detailed history of the mutiny, notes this strange “fact, inexplicable for the government.” “When our headquarters in Allahabad were massacred, Captain Morel writes, I was in Madras at the time. The next morning, June 8, a familiar Brahmin comes to me and tells me about the disaster that happened. In disbelief, I run to the governor's house. They knew nothing there. We only found out about it officially in six days!” (A few days in 1867 in India).