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Letter XXXI[1]

From Bhurtpore to Deeg the road, smooth and flat, runs like a dusty belt among endless steppes and puddles. Our gilded carriage of Zar Goroh times[2], followed by a long line of jatkas pulled by trotting dwarf bulls, flew forward with a boom and a shout of coachmen and runners. This procession was very reminiscent of the journey of “Puss in Boots” across the possessions of the Marquis Carabas. As in Perrault's fairy tale, seeing from afar our grand procession, escorted by honourable guards (that is, half a dozen robber-like Jats on nags with pikes, badges and shields), the peaceful villagers whom we met on the way prostrated themselves in the dust before us, fearfully stepping aside and showed all kinds of honours. So we drove for two hours through the deserts without the slightest sign of vegetation, surrounded on all sides by swamps, ditches and salt lakes. Finally, we drove up to the gigantic gates of Deeg, rightly called the “Bhurtpore oasis.”

There was a sudden change of scenery. As if by a wave of a magic wand, an enchanted castle-fortress with towers, chambers and hanging gardens of Babylon appeared before us, among the scorched fields and swamps covered with age-old mud.

We drove into a dilapidated town, so to speak, two dozen stone towers, and began to go up towards the fortress. The town is nestled in the shadow of a majestic monument of the earliest antiquity, so early that the mind of modern chroniclers, lost in the darkness of the inaccessible prehistoric past, refuses to determine its origin.

The ancient names of Deeg, “Dirgha” and “Dirghapura” are often mentioned in Skanda Purana and in the IV chapter of the Mahatma's Bhagavat. Deeg, that is, the old, prehistoric Deeg, lying in ashes under the present one, is older than Lakhnau, the former “Lakshmanavati” of hoary antiquity, the capital of King Lakshmana, brother of Rama, built sixty centuries ago, our walking encyclopedia Narayan explained to us.

The modern Deeg “was founded by the Jats, Scythians who came from the far north,” is said by Anglo-Indian historians. Deeg, according to popular belief, was built by sorcerers who came with the Jats and built the former powerful fortification with its magic castle and lovely gardens – in one night. Like everything built in such a hurry, Deeg, despite its impassable, water-filled ditches and its inaccessibility for nine months a year, both for its own inhabitants and strangers, however, turned out to be maya, an illusion, to the red-haired conquerors. During the flooding of rivers and hundreds of lakes of the Bhurtpore steppes, a whole ocean is formed around the town, and at such a time it is really inaccessible to the enemy. But the English, although they had been waiting long[3], in December 1804, General Lake besieged and took Deeg by storm, then, having destroyed the fortifications to the ground, generously returned the “oasis” to the Jats rajah. Now from the fortress walls not even a stone was left. In one corner to the southeast protrudes the Shah Burj of the newest Dirag. This is a huge rock, a vast area of which is now surrounded by a green hedge instead of fortifications, but still retains one bastion in each of its four corners. However, within the high-rise square, three 21-foot-thick [6.4 m] walls remained from fortifications, which still signify their glorious past. In the western corner of the “fortress” there is the Rajah's palace with its magnificent garden, sacred peacocks and fountains. This palace with a garden is the main tourist attraction.

Modern travellers unanimously decided that, with the exception of the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Deeg Palace is the most magnificent building in India: the same huge marble halls with walls inlayed with mosaics of precious stones; the same style of architecture of the towers; the same amazing delicacy in the lace carving of white marble balustrades, terraces and stair railings.

An amazing subject, an Englishman, both at home and in his “colonies!” For all his (John Bull) arrogance and demands to be considered the most significant representative of the human family, he has not even grasped the truth of the axiom contained in his own proverb: “It is an ill[4] bird that fouls its own nest.” They are proud of India, which is quite right, they call it “the most precious pearl in the crown of Great Britain,” tremble over it like a curmudgeon over a treasure, and they hate the lawful children of this land, the Hindus, despise and together fear them worse than a fierce stepmother! Poor, unfortunate Brahmins, unfortunate Shudras and you, who are considered lower than any earthly reptile, Pariahs and other outcast – who will not regret you whole-heartedly? The spiteful malice of the Indo-British has spread not only to the present generations of Hindus of all castes and tribes, but, as it were, in its insatiable contempt for enslaved descendants, pours out this low, petty feeling, which they claim to justify as “race feeling,” even to their distant forefathers.

One is disgusted at reading remarks and conclusions regarding archeology of various officials concerning India in the supposedly scholarly essays. The authors are definitely trying to humiliate the natives even of the Mahabharata period, pointing to them as a race completely incapable of the fine arts. There is no such creative power in the unworthy (downtrodden and hungry) Brahmins, therefore it could not have existed before, says the logic of these “writers,” who, incidentally, forget that we see the same thing in modern Greeks and even in degenerate Romans. As a result, among the hundreds of grandiose temples found annually and hitherto in the impenetrable jungles of central India, there is not a single historical ruin that the Anglo-Indians would regard as a work of purely native art. Where it is obviously not a mogul, who built (for example, the temples scattered across Rajputan and Mewar), a clever, although not based on anything, hypothesis about the Greeks and Italians has immediately been found. The Puranas mention some captive “yavani” who were employed by the conquerors. “They are the creators of these temples.” At the same time, it is forgotten that the name “yavani” was given by the Brahmins not only to the Greeks, Ionians, but also to other foreigners, among others to the Scythians. All this is not a problem: it is the Greek, you see, who has been held up in India since the time of the Macedonians and invariably built the temple of Karli and even the most ancient viharas of Elephanta and Ellora. There are no slightest data for such a conclusion; it is contradicted by the Puranas, like other records and all the traditions of India, even the very laws of Manu. Immutable and indisputable, they forbid the hand of a mleсhchha (unclean foreigner, non-Brahmin), just like the hand of an unclean Pariah, to touch the smallest stone prepared for a sacred building. Otherwise, “in case of such a desecration,” we read in Manu, “the temple, even if it is almost finished, should be destroyed in the part where such a hand touched it; the material should be purified, and then only the construction could be continued” (Manava Dharmasastra and Vāstu-Śastras).

But all these arguments mean absolutely nothing to the dissentient and stubborn indophobes. The Puranas are all lies; the laws of Manu were written and subjected to forgeries by the Brahmins already after the conquest of India by the Moguls, etc. In a word, the Indians, “neither ancient nor modern, could never create anything like these wonders of architecture.” Could they, these lazy idlers, erect these transparent, airy, like illusion, and strong, like a rock, walls! Could they design these chambers and palaces, these reach-through balustrades, that look against the blue sky of Hindustan, like Venetian glass on the blue satin of a beautiful woman's dress?.. And really, how could they?..

Suppose, perhaps, that not only the “eighth wonder of the world,” Taj Mahal, but that all palaces, monuments and pagodas, as well as the mosques of Lakhnau, Delhi and the northeastern provinces, were all built by the Moguls and fugitive Greeks; that these buildings unique in their style and beauty in the whole world, the likes of which cannot be found either in Greece or among the ruins of ancient Rome, were not touched by the hand of a Brahmin. But who built them, whose hand carved on the granite walls of the temples of Ellora and Jaisalmer, the Jains pagodas of Uraidin Karjuraho[5] and other less remarkable ones – these stone sculptures, the perfection of the design and decoration of which make the very same Englishmen (of cause, only those, who is able to understand) be indescribably delighted and surprised? We see such art only in the silver and gold works by Benvenuto Cellini; but even in Italy there is no such thing on granite or marble. Whose hands worked with these granite blocks decorated with sculpting from top to bottom? If not Hindus, then the “magicians-yogis” must be supposed. With such blind hatred, the English, backed into a corner by facts, would rather believe the tales about “magicians” than dare to give the Brahmins their due.

Let the above be applied only to those monuments whose decorations include all the gods and goddesses of the pantheon of India – plots so disgusting for Muslims, who consider the image of a human figure on a par with the Jews for the greatest “abomination” and sin. But the English[6] deny the participation of the Hindus in the construction of temples and monuments, even in the “Saracen” taste with no less difficulty. The hands that worked on them belonged to the native artists, not the newcomer Moguls; and if the Greeks built something in India, they nevertheless built according to the plans of the Indians, and not the Moguls, and this is precisely due to the following:

The Moguls, as everyone knows, have always been (in India at least) great artists in matters of destruction and bloodshed; and fine arts, although some of the caliphs patronized them and knew a lot about them, they did not practice. The Spanish Moors and the Saracens, who built the Alhambra, are not an example for them, if only because the Moguls who seized India are not at all the Moors or Saracens like the enlightened knight Saladin, and even in majority they are not Arabs at all, but simply forefathers for the most part of the present heroes-robbers of Kabulistan and the Hindu Kush, that is, the barbaric tribes of Central Asia that had just been converted to Islam by that time, and the Afghans and ancient Turkmens. To this day, the purely Turanian and Mongolian type prevails in the Moguls of India, and to be convinced of this, we invite our opponents to look at the Muslim population from Bombay to the northern provinces. Their small-bearded (if not completely beardless) faces with prominent, like the Kalmyk, cheekbones indicate their complete absence of the Semitic element.[7]

From Muhammad bin Qasim, who conquered Sindh for the Caliph Omar II in 718 AD (in 99 Hegira), until the end of the reign of Al-Mansur (775), that is, for more than half a century, there were no Muslims in India: they conquered Sindh and left. Next Caliphs were too busy with Western Christians and Caspian Huns to think about India. In those days the real Saracens fought and defeated Roderic, the last Goth of Andalusia; fought and were defeated by Karl Martel at Tours in France; but in those days they did not even show up in India. As mentioned above, they were the Afghans,[8] in general the peoples of Central Asia (whose descendants are plundering to this day), of whom the armies of the caliphs were made up and who then took possession of India. And they finally took possession of it only in 975 AD, that is, more than 150 years after Harun al-Rashid, a contemporary of Charlemagne, gave Khorasan, Sindh and Hindustan to his second son, Al-Mamun. Then Hindustan was inhabited by really Muslims, only by no means enlightened Saracens. In addition to the kings, direct descendants of Mohammed through Baghdad caliphs, the rest of the Mogul population, people and army, were the scum of Islam from Central Asia.

So, knowing all this, should we really believe the orientalists, who are trying to convince us that they were not the Hindus, but the Moguls, and that fugitive Greeks made these wonders of art, that it was not the descendants of glorious Rishis and whole generations of mathematicians, geometers and poets who built these incomparable in originality buildings, but the robber tribe of Central Asia, which still does not have the slightest idea of the arts? Where a purely Arab element has established itself for centuries and prevails, after all, Muslims do not build for themselves, as they have never built, such tombs, palaces and mausoleums, which we now find in India alone, do they? There is nothing like the Taj Mahal, the tombs of Akbar, the Caliph Hainuman, the mosques and palaces of Delhi, Lucknow and Deeg in Persia, or in modern Egypt, or in Syria or Baghdad, or even in semi-European Turkey. Let somebody now take a look at the monuments and palaces of southern India; at the carvings and sculptural decorations of the temples of Madura, Srirangam and others in the Madras Presidency; at the pyramidal block of the Tanjavur Great Pagoda, the oldest in the country. Covered 200 feet [60.96 m] in height with statues, twice the height of a man, gods, goddesses and avatars, with its giant black granite bull in front of the facade and sculptural decorations on columns and ceilings, this pagoda is considered “one of the finest works of art in Brahmin India” (Bishop Geber). Did the Muslims build it too? So let the deniers of all talent in the Indians travel, as we did, along and across Rajputana, Mewar, Sindh and Malwa. Let them look at this huge territory, scattered, literally like a field of peas, with the ruins of Hindu temples, fortresses and palaces – and then take a decision who built them. Here, in Rajputana and Mewar, the Moguls did not stay for a long time, for the simple reason that they were brutally beaten here, unlike by other peoples of India. Here, they did not build anything, although they destroyed a lot. And it is here where the tourist who will find such statues and stucco work on the dilapidated walls, such a variety of works of art, before which, perhaps, Homer's description of the Achilles' shield will pale...[9]

Who of the Europeans ever heard about the Baroli temple, near Chittor, so famous in the annals of Rajasthan? It was discovered in a dense forest and described by Colonel Tod and Captain Waug. I will allow myself a few excerpts from the descriptions of these officers. They will best show the difference between the opinions of the educated, impartial Englishmen of the time of the East India Company and the opinions of modern “chandlers” in India. Sent from London to ruin and suppress, they judge about all native things only according to their own petty, envious minds, thereby causing damage to both science and truth.

“Among the age-old forest,” writes Tod, “we suddenly saw the Baroli temple. Approaching the sacred ruins, we left our horses and went up the wide stone stairs to the temple porch. I positively refuse to describe the amazing and varied architecture of this ancient monument: here a pencil is needed, whose work would be simply endless. Human art, having reached its extreme limits here, seemed to be exhausted; and only here and for the first time we received a completely conscious notion of the beauty and originality of Indian architecture and sculpture. Columns, walls, ceilings, external stucco and the carved decorations of the domes – where each individual stone depicts a miniature temple, as if sculpted by the fingers of a sorceress – all this piles up one above the other, up to the top of the main dome crowned with the urn-shaped symbol of Shiva, and produces a positive dizziness in the viewer. The carvings alone on the capitals of each column would have required pages of description and explanation. The whole building, despite its deep antiquity, is still in an amazing state of preservation, and we attribute it to two main reasons: (1) each stone of this building is carved from fine-grained quartz – perhaps the hardest, as well as the most durable stone in the world, but also the most difficult for the chisel; and, then, (2) due to the well-known Muslim utmost intolerance for iconoclasm, from bottom to top, that is, from its steps to the top of the dome, the entire outer part of the temple remained for several centuries covered with thin marble cement...[10] The sculptural decoration is as clean and beautiful as if it had just emerged from the artist's chisel yesterday. One of the halves of a dilapidated door is the height of perfection, beauty and taste. The main figures on it are the god Shiva and his goddess Parvati with her retinue. He is depicted standing on a lotus, with a snake twining as a garland around him. As the god of war and destruction, he holds in his right hand a damaru (drum), the sounds of which inspire his soldiers; in the left hand he holds a kapala (bowl) made of a human skull, from which he drinks the blood of the killed soldiers. “The daughter of the mountain” stands, to the left of her husband, on a kurma (turtle). She is depicted with long, finely braided braids and shells in her ears instead of earrings. Every part of the body in this graceful group is full of that charming naturalness that is as remarkable for its presence in ancient Indian sculpture as it strikes with its absence in the present one. The courageous, dignified pose of the proud figure of Baba Adam (father Adam), as one Rajput called the Mahadeva in my presence, can only be compared with the gentle feminine appearance and grace of the goddess figure. Serpents and lotus flowers are intertwined over their heads. Below the chimerical beast Grasse, like a horned lion, is presented, and near a hermit playing the guitar, and two deer, reverently listening to the sacred melody. Each group is separated from the other by garlands of flowers and leaves. Captain Wang is sketching one of these groups, agreeing with me that matchless, incomparable examples of the highest art have opened up before us. Among them there are such parts – especially the heads of some figures – that Canova himself would have envied. The groups are made in high relief, almost separating from the slab...”

“In the altar of Trimurti ... one face of the “Destroyer” remained intact.[11] The tiara crowning the three-faced head is an example of excellent work. The genius of the sculptor cannot be greater ... the figures are colossal, seven feet [2.13 m] each...”

“It is almost impossible to describe the dome over the munduf (porch, ancient pronaos[12]): anyone who wants to get the right idea about it and see the smallest details of this magical work of the chisel should look at this work with a microscope. We found in this mass of decoration a harmony as a whole, not found anywhere else even in other buildings of this kind. Even the miniature elephants are sculptured anatomically correctly and perfect in details...”

This is followed by twelve pages describing the dii minorum gentium [Minor gods (Lat.)] and other wonders of the Barolli temple. “It would take a dozen artists and six months of incessant work for the most superficial description of all the wonders of this wonderful temple,” concludes Tod.[13]

There was no indication to posterity when and by whom this little-known, even in India, temple was built. Some rajah Hoon is the legendary hero of the area. But even Tod, who wrote two thick volumes to prove that the Rajputs are Scythians, Mahadeva-Shiva is Adam, and Manu is Noah, even he did not manage to introduce the Huns to the mythology of the Hindus. Only one thing was done by the political agent for the Company in Rajputana: he found in the Barolli temple and translated the inscription on the Mahadeva's bas-relief, with the date in it: 13 karttika (a month dedicated to the Mars of India) of the Sulivan era 981 or 925 AD. This inscription says about the offering to the Mahadeva (the patron of the yogis) “by his slave” (the name has been erased by the hand of time) the necessary amount to repair his ancient temple.

If in 925, almost a thousand years ago and half a century before the Muslim invasion to India, the Barolli temple was already considered “ancient,” then it is obvious that it was not built by the Moguls, much less the Greeks. In all its enormous structure, there is neither any architectural style nor in its sculptures any feature reminiscent of the Hellenes. There is not even a hint of a Doric, even less of an Ionic style. Everything about it is so peculiar everything is in a purely Hindu taste.

Apologizing for the long digression and not promising not to make my usual mistake, I wish to explain the reason for it. Firstly, since I myself visited this temple later, I would still have to describe it, and my story, after my many descriptions of other temples, might seem monotonous; and secondly, in this case, I wanted to rely on the testimony of – that I am not partial to India, but only give it justice – the writer well-known as an accurate one, Anglo-Indian archaeologist and dignitary. Tod lived for years in India, and the delight that breaks through in every line of his description of the wonders of the ancient Indian art is much greater than mine.

Then the very question, “Who built all this in India, the Moguls or the Hindus,” served in the first hours of our arrival in Deeg a reason for a very unpleasant acquaintance, which ended in an equally unpleasant quarrel.

As soon as we went up to the terrace and entered the hall, we found there, to the great displeasure of our entire company, two unknown Englishmen. On their way from Jeypore somewhere, they stopped to have breakfast in Deeg at the expense of the Maharaja and treated themselves to free liquors and champagne. Apparently, they have already made friends with the latter, as these brought them out of their arrogant restraint usual to the sons of Albion. Forgetting “etiquette,” they bowed to us when we appeared and even spoke first with O***, glancing all the time, however, at our native fellows and winking at the colonel. Perhaps it was just a good-natured joke on their part, but their grimaces seemed to me very impudent and especially offensive to the Hindus. I immediately left with Narayan to inspect the “tower,” and O*** stayed with the English in the durbar room, where they had settled down at the table prepared for us alone before we came. There was no other table, neither large nor small, in the entire palace, the vast and dusty halls of which looked like some kind of marble desert. We had to wait against our will. However, the English left in two hours; but even in this short period of time they managed to offend our friends and start a personal confrontation with me.

When, tired of walking round the countless corridors and stairs, I returned an hour later, they were still sitting at the table and arguing with O***, who defended the ancient arts of India and stood up for the natives in general. Our Hindus were sitting in another room on mats, listening gloomily to the conversation. Narayan, noticeably sullen and boring from the very morning, went straight to his friends without going into the durbar room, and I sat down at the very end of the table for coffee, deciding not to take any part in the conversation. Lacking the good-natured composure of our honorable president, I felt that I could flare up if I had to argue with them, and therefore stubbornly kept silent. My caution was not crowned with success: the colonel ruined the whole plan.

Forgetting the name of a well-known geometer of the ancient India, he raised his voice, calling Narayan and the Babu for help, and at last called both out of the next room. While he was explaining to them whose name he wished to remember, one of the Anglo-Indian, unceremoniously looking at me, addressed me.

“Are they your servants ... of course?” asked he, nodding contemptuously at Narayan and the Babu.

I flushed with indignation and annoyance at this obvious deliberate audacity.

“Servants!.. You are mistaken: both gentlemen are our dear friends and brothers,” I added, strongly emphasizing the word “gentlemen.”

Insolence and sauce develop rapidly in the Anglo-Indian. Both of them laughed loudly at my answer.

“Friends ... this, let's say, is still possible ... as tastes differ,” the Englishman sarcastically drawled, slowly finishing his glass of champagne with ice. “But what about ... “brothers?” Are you probably a native of Europe?”

“I think so. But fortunately for me, I am not English. That is why I am proud of the privilege of calling these two native gentlemen not only friends, but even brothers,” I answered very dryly and looking straight into the eyes of the lanky rude man.

In turn, he flushed all over.

I do not know what he was going to object to my answer, but his friend did not give him time to collect his thoughts. Grabbing his arm, he almost forcibly dragged him to the other end of the room, where he immediately began to instill something in him in an undertone. I guessed that he was explaining to him about our Society and who I was. And so it happened.

At the first words of our major conversation, the dark faces of the natives turned green, and their eyes sparkled with an unkind, so familiar to me, phosphoric glitter. They stood like two motionless statues ... The colonel alone was fussing, hastily getting up from the table.

The English took up their hats and bags and, nodding their heads to O***, prepared to leave. The eldest of them apparently wanted to avoid an unpleasant quarrel, and, muttering something about not arguing with women, went to the exit. But my opponent, flushed by both champagne and the rebuff I gave him, did not calm down. Stopping in the middle of the room and swaying slightly from the intoxication that was taking possession of him, he made a half turn in my direction and, arrogantly turning his head to me, said angrily over his shoulder:

“I just found out that you are the same Russian lady, about whom our newspapers talked so much, warning the government ... Now I understand your fraternal relations and feelings for the black rabble (sic). But let me warn you that – in spite of your just expressed gratitude to Providence for the fact that you were not born an Englishwoman, I can assure you that it is safer to belong to our nation than to your nation, at least here in India,” added he meaningfully.

“Very likely. But I am still happy and proud that I am not an Englishwoman ...” I said, getting up and holding back as much as I could.

“In vain. Our government does not like to allow Russians, even ladies, to fraternize too much with the Asians we conquered...”

“What is this, a joke or a threat?” interrupted the colonel, changing in turn in his face.

“Of course, a threat,” I said, laughing. “Have you forgotten that we have already received factual evidence and that the Anglo-Indian government, either out of stupidity or cowardice, is sending military spies and officers to follow us like a shadow from the very Bombay?

“Beware ... and be careful in choosing your words!” muttered the completely furious Englishman through his teeth even more arrogantly. “Do not count on the patience of our government, whose actions and policies you allow yourself to blame ... but rather find out, if you have not yet learned about it, that there is no place for Russians in our British possessions ... Do not forget this next time.”

“It is you who is forgetting oneself, sir!” exclaimed fiercely the colonel, who had lost all patience. “You are insulting a woman and threatening her!.. Besides, she is a citizen of free America and is not at all Russian ... that is, not as Russian as you take her for!” corrected he himself, meeting my indignant look.

“Excuse me, Colonel, and leave it to me, please, to defend myself ... First of all, I am Russian; I was born Russian and I will die Russian, I am Russian at heart, if not on my passport ... Be ashamed! Do you really want these gentlemen to leave, taking with them the impression that before their absurd trick and insolence I was ready to renounce my homeland and even my nationality?!..”

“It would have been more prudent, perhaps,” the other Englishman said venomously.

“Maybe more prudent, but no way more honest. In any case,” I added, turning again to the first one, “I am very sorry if your remark that there is no place for Russians in the “British possessions” is a fact, and not an empty audacity on your part. In our Russian possessions, as, for example, in Georgia and the Caucasus, there is a place for every foreigner, even for dozens of poor Englishmen who come to us without boots and leave with millions in their pockets...”

It must be that the quarrel is not sobering, but helps the champagne ... My opponent was sitting completely drunk and his friend was answering for him.

“Every country has its own political views on things. Your remark proves nothing against the policy of the Anglo-Indian government...”

“It may be true to you; but on the other hand, to us, foreigners, and at the same time to your native subjects, it probably clearly proves one thing: that while you, the English Messrs, are afraid of the Russians even at home in your colonies, the Russians are not at all afraid of you. A trifle that is not worth talking about...”

And seeing how the face of the defender of British privileges was distorted at these words, I called the Hindus and, turning my back to the others, went into the garden. Narayan's eyes became bloodshot, and the Babu, whose face was sweating at every pore because of restrained rage, rushed, being dressed, under a high-impact water cannon and began to jump, snorting under the spray of water, “in order to refresh himself a little and cleanse himself of the defiled by bar-sahibs atmosphere!” – shouted he very loudly.

I felt unspeakably bitter; not for myself, of course, but for these innocent offended Hindus, condemned by some fatal force to an eternal, undeserved abuse. That I was taken for a spy now became obvious, which under other circumstances would only amuse me. Even now I felt only contempt for the “winners,” so cowardly that they obviously feared the influence of a lonely woman on the minds of millions of the “defeated.” At other times it would, perhaps, even very much flatter my vanity and, in general, it would be very funny “when it were not so sad,” and at the same time it could be dangerous. I was afraid that instead of favour for the Hindus – members of our Society, I can become, because I am Russian, a pretext for their persecution and various nagging on the part of their “bosses.” Russia and everything Russian is the endless nightmare for the Anglo-Indian. The closer to the Himalayas, the more the Russian “brownie” strangles every British official at night. And fear, they say, has big eyes, and it will probably make black out of white...

Even at the first appearance of our Society in India, rumours began to reach me about the displeasure of various dignitaries, in whose offices many of the Bombay native members of the Theosophical Society served. “The greats of this world,” the bar-sahibs, dryly advised their timid subordinates “not to be very friendly with the newly arrived adventurers from America.”

In short, the situation was very unpleasant.

I sat down on a bench by the water cannon, near which the Babu was now shaking himself off in the sun, like a wet dog. Narayan was silent as if killed. Glancing at him, I was stunned: dark circles under his huge eyes darkened even more, teeth bared as if of a wild beast, and he shuddered as if in a fever...

“What's the matter with you, Narayan?” I asked fearfully. For a minute he said nothing; only white, strong teeth gnashed even more ... Suddenly he sat down on the sand of the path and somehow at once fell face down into the flower bed of the bright scarlet aralis – flowers dedicated to the goddess Kali...

Whether the flower, beloved by the bloodthirsty goddess of vengeance, inspired our meek, patient Narayan, or something else inspired him with a terrible thought, but he raised his head and, fixing his bloodshot eyes at me, asked in a changed voice:

“Well ... do you want me to kill him?” asked he in a hissing voice.

I jumped up as if stung.

“Well, come to your senses! Is this drunken fanfare really worth it that honest people should stick their necks out because of his audacity? Are you joking or raving, my dear?”

“It is not he... It is his hated nation that I see in his face. Killing him, I would avenge the years of suffering, humiliation ... blood grievances ... I would avenge many of my friends, and at the same time, for the insult inflicted on you!” said he hoarsely with despair.

“Stop it! Are you really capable of thinking that I feel seriously offended?.. Well, I'm just laughing at his trick!”

But he did not hear me. Lowering his head to the crushed plants and, as if addressing an invisible interlocutor underground, he continued to speak in the same hoarse, changed voice. He seemed to be pouring out a wave of suffering that suddenly broke through full of powerless love that had boiled in him during this time in the bowels of the Mother Earth... I had never seen him in such an agitated state. He seemed inexpressibly pathetic, but at the same time absolutely scary.

“What has happened to him?” I thought. “Is it all because of this stupid story?”

“You are being insulted ... because of us ... because of us alone,” he continued in a half-whisper. “Well, the worst is yet to come!.. You will soon be persecuted... Leave us, turn away from us... tell them that you were joking, laughed at us, and you will be forgiven, they will call you, offer their friendship and society... But you will not do this, otherwise the maha-sahib would not treat you as he does now... Therefore, a lot of grief awaits you in your future... grief and slander. No, it is dangerous to be friends of poor Hindus! There is no happiness for the sons of the Kali Yuga, and he is a madman who gives us a hand, because sooner or later, he will have to pay dearly for his crime!..”

With surprise, almost with horror, I was listening to this unexpected incoherent speech, but could not find what to say to him in consolation and kept silent. Involuntarily, I was trying to catch sight of the Babu. He was lying on a bench, about thirty steps away from us, and, drying himself in the sun, must have been dozing.

“Don't be angry with me, upasika[14], and forgive me for disturbing you,” Narayan's voice rang out again, more even and calm.

“Am I angry with you, my poor Narayan? Why should I be angry; you were joking weren’t you?” I interrupted him, not knowing myself what to say.

He got up and sat down again on the walkway in his usual position. With his powerful hands clasping both knees and resting his chin on them, he was sitting now, swaying back and forth and fixing his eyes on the perished aralis. He was apparently struggling to control himself, and finally succeeded: his voice was no longer trembling or wheezing; but when he spoke again, there was so much unfeigned suffering in his voice that I involuntarily shuddered.

“No, I wasn't joking,” he said slowly and firmly. “One word and I would have killed him ... Who cares? After all, my life has somehow gone...”

“But why? What happened? Could it be that you are so worried about this fool alone? Tell me is it not because of him?”

“No, not because of him alone,” he whispered, barely audibly, “but it would still be easier for me if I could kill before death at least one of this intolerable race for us!!”

“Kill... How easy you say it... It's a terrible crime! And what would the Thakur say?”

“He wouldn't say anything. What do I matter to him?” said he even more quietly.

“But you are... his chela, aren’t you?”

He shuddered all over, and his face twisted, as if someone had slashed him in the heart with a knife. He dropped even lower to his knees, and suddenly such a cry of despair escaped from his chest that I was completely at a loss ... I felt that I was turning pale and unable to endure this scene any longer.

“No, I am not his chela. He refused me ... He drives me away!” sobbed the poor colossus, like a five-year-old child.

“That's it!” I suddenly guessed. “It means, the Englishman is here only a drop overflowing the cup!” And suddenly I remembered a vision ... a dream ... that I saw or seemed to me as if I had seen the night before in Bhurtpore. Narayan with his arms around the Thakur’s legs. But was it a dream? Or did that really happen and I saw the scene in reality?

“When did he refuse you?”

Suddenly hasty steps were heard. Narayan jumped up and, bending down quickly, told me in a whisper...

“I beg you, keep my secret unbreakable!.. Not a word about this to anyone... I will still be useful to you!.. But do not tell Mr. O*** ... I am leaving.”

But he didn't have time.

“Why have you hidden here, as if you are invoking underwater bhoots?” – the colonel's voice suddenly rang out near us, – “and where is Narayan and where is the Babu?..” he continued, coming up to us with the "silent general", “Ah ... here they are ... Do not hide: both fanfarons left ... I explained to them a lot that they did not know, for example, the rules and objects of our Society ... They became interested and even admitted that they were wrong.”

“Haven’t you found another place and other persons for acting as a missionary,” I remarked with annoyance, interrupting this stream of words. “Perhaps you would like to add those two “patriots and thinkers” to our Society?.. Do not blush and do not be embarrassed, my dear President, but better agree with me that they would be a great pendant to Mr. G*** and Miss B***.”

Mr. G*** was and still is a fairly high-ranking official in the northern provinces of Hindustan. Pretending to be an enthusiastic follower of the great Hindu philosophy, he pressed for membership in the Society when we had not yet left New York. Arriving in India, we learned that there was no more violent Hinduphobe in the whole country than Mr. G***; that he hated the natives, dishonoring two families of Brahmins (with impunity, as always happens in such cases); and most importantly, a number of mocking, letters against Theosophy and ourselves, printed in 1879 and 1880 in the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore, were the work of the “patriot and thinker,” as the colonel in New York spoke of him delighted with the “most beautiful, most noble Anglo-Indian fellow.”

“Well, now you ... again remember the old things!” muttered the colonel in embarrassment. “Well! Who is never wrong?.. After all, I do not pass myself off as an infallible Pope... However not all Anglo-Indians are scoundrels and traitors!”

“Probably not all, but I bet there will not be more than two dozen Anglo-Indians who would respect the Hindus ... Well, as I now see, you have to be very, very careful ... Why are you laughing, Mulji?” I asked the “silent general,” smiling from ear to ear.

“Because of your generosity, ma’am-sahib, two dozen Englishmen in India, who respect us, negros? Are there too many?”

“Indeed,” picked up the awakened and completely dried out Babu. “Even if we had "two dozen" of them, I assure you that all 250 million Hindus,“without distinction of castes or religions,” he quoted from the Theosophical statutes, would pray, and perform puja in the morning and evening to Calcutta and other bar-sahibs!”

“I have known only one in my entire life, and they even wanted to put him in an asylum, but luckily he died,” Mulji blurted out.

“Who is he?” the colonel asked curiously.

“Mr. Peters, former Madras Collector in the Madras Presidency. He died over twenty years ago ... When I was still a boy.”

“What was that Peters guilty of?”

“He started out as a materialist, like our Babu ... and ended up as a pujist (idolator).”

“"Our Babu" does not intend to end up yet,” the Bengali replied coolly to this personal remark. He was busy gluing sticky flower petals over the nose of Kali, whose idol towered over the arali bushes.

“Became a pujist? What do you mean by that? Can you tell us his story more clearly?” pestered the colonel, already pricking up his ears.

“All right, Mr. President, but I do not know how to tell.”

But he told us all the same, and the “story” turned out to be very curious. I will convey the story as I wrote it down from the words of the narrator. In Madras, it is known to everyone.



  1. Russian Herald, November 1885, vol 180, pp. 304-323.
  2. See footnote on page (letter 29). – Ed.
  3. HPB had used a word-play here, originaly she wrote: “the English, although they had been seating by the sea, but they did not wait for the weather.” This refers to the idiom: “wait for the weather by the sea,” which means wait in vain or wait for uncertain circumstances. – Ed.
  4. Here HPB had used a word “foolish”. – Ed.
  5. “Shelter for two and a half days” is the name given to the temple as a result of the legend that its builders, yogi-magicians, having built it in 60 hours, lived in it for only two and a half days and then disappeared.
  6. For example, an architect-archaeologist Fergusson and his admirer Simpson, an artist and now a correspondent for Illustrated News in Central Asia.
  7. Over the course of five years, we constantly asked our Mohammedan acquaintances about their origins. Wherever there was an Aryan or pale-faced type with regular features, we discovered Hindus in their forefathers, who were forcibly converted to Islam by the Moguls.
  8. If you believe the historian Ferishta, then, perhaps, the Afghans will turn out, if not the ancient Arabians, then the present “Arabs” of Egypt, that is, the Copts. He says that when the Afghans first met Muslims, they lived around Koh-e-Soliman. That was in 62 year of the Hegira. Ferishta writes: “The Afghans were the Copts under the rule of the Pharaohs and many of them accepted the laws of Moses; most of them repented and, returning to the gods, left Egypt and wandered until they came to Hindustan (?), finally settling on the outskirts of Koh-e-Soliman. Qassim (Mohammed bin Qassim, commander-in-chief of Omar, conqueror of Sindh) visited them and converted them into Islam. In 143, the Afghans had already taken possession of the provinces of Kerman, Peshawar and many other neighbouring lands.” Is it because of this conversion to the laws of Moses that one of the ten lost tribes of Israel is suspected of being the Afghans? But we will say something about the Afghans later.
  9. The shield of Achilles is a shield forged overnight by Hephaestus for Achilles, the son of Thetis. A detailed description of the shield can be found in Homer's poem The Iliad. On the shield, Hephaestus depicted the earth, the sky, the stars, as well as numerous episodes of urban and rural life. – Ed.
  10. This cement was removed after Shivaji of Maratha Empire put an end to the dynasty and house of Timur, two centuries ago.
  11. Trimurti is presented with three faces (murti is a face), but always on one head.
  12. Pronaos (Greek) is the vestibule of the temple. – Ed.
  13. Personal narrative (Rajasthan), vol. II, pp. 645-654. Tod lived in Rajputan for 22 years without a break as a political agent.
  14. Upasika is literally a “female disciple of philosophy,” under the guidance of a guru – “teacher,” usually from the monastic brethren. Chela is a disciple or student of arcane sciences and a mystic.