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Letter IX[1]

We saw Logarh[2], a fortress which was captured by Shivaji from the Moguls in 1670, and the ruins of the hall, where the widow of Nana Phadnavis[3], under the pretext of an English protectorate, became de facto the captive of General Wellesley[4] in 1804, with a yearly pension of 12,000 rupees. We then started for the village of Vadgaon, once fortified and still very rich. We were to spend the hottest hours of the day there (from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon) and proceed afterwards to the historical caves of Birsa and Badjah, about three miles [4.83 km] from Karli.

Vadgaon[5] is famous for two shameful (for the Englishmen) events. Quite a mighty army was beaten there by a handful of the Marathas on the 12th and 13th of January 1779. After that Bombay Governor, Hornby, conspired with the former Peshwa[6], Raghunath Rao[7], to confirm him [Raghunath Rao] as a Regent in Pune. Hornby sent four thousand soldiers, of whom 600 were the Anglo-Indians, to bring into force the Treaty of the President of the Council, Carnac[8]. That Carnac has disgraced his country and the honour of the East India Company, betraying both the Regent and his government. Being afraid of a small army of the Marathas, under the command of Nana Pharnavis, Shinde and Tokaji Holkar, Carnac first ordered to retreat, and then went in with a triumphant Marathas in the shameful deal, betraying Peshwa by this deal and was preparing to betray his new allies. Surrounded by the enemy, Carnac threw guns, ammunition into the lake, and ordered the people to flee even before the battle, leaving rearguard to the mercy of the attacking Marathas: 15 English officers were killed that day. Colonel Cockburn, deciding that the battle was lost and they themselves were in enemy’s hands, first advised Carnac to surrender. Then, Carnac sent an officer to surrender, and according to Grant Duff (Marattas, Vol. II, p. 363)[9] “was not ashamed to send Bombay Governor a letter which consoled him that all the concessions and promises made that day to the Marathas was made with the secret agreement among the English not to carry them out. So as soon as the valiant Committee of diplomats crossed the mountains and found themselves in security, all the promises that the Marathas believed without hesitation, immediately flew to the wind. The auxiliary army being nearly stopped was called from Bengal; Shinde had not received a penny of the promised amount, and many of the hostages were put to death. The people of “the highest chosen race” once again proved the superiority of their civilized notions of honour over the prejudice of brown “savages.”[10]

At about two P.M. when, in spite of the huge punkhas[11] waving to and fro, we were grumbling at the heat, appeared our friend the Maratha Brahmin, whom we had lost on the way. Accompanied by half-a-dozen Daknis (inhabitants of the Dekhan plateau) he was slowly advancing, seated almost on the ears of his horse, which snorted and seemed very unwilling to move. When he reached the verandah and jumped down, we saw the reason for the horse behaviour: across the saddle was tied a huge tiger, whose tail dragged in the dust. There were traces of dark blood in his half opened mouth. He was taken from the horse and laid down by the doorstep.

“Was it our visitor of the night before?” the thought flashed in my mind. I looked at Gulab-Sing. He lay on a rug in a corner, resting his head on his hand and reading. He knitted his brows slightly, but did not say a word. The Brahmin who had just brought the tiger was very silent too, giving some orders, as if making ready for some solemnity. We soon learned that, in the eyes of a superstitious people, what was about to happen was a solemnity indeed...

A bit of hair cut from the skin of a tiger that has been killed, neither by bullet, nor by knife, but by a word, is considered the best of all talismans against his tribe.

“This is a very rare opportunity,” explained the Marathi. “It is very seldom that one meets with a man who possesses the word. Yogis and Sadhus do not generally kill wild animals, thinking it sinful to destroy any living creature, be it even a cobra or a tiger, so they simply keep out of the way of noxious animals. There exists only one brotherhood in India whose members possess all secrets, and from whom nothing in nature is concealed. Here is the body of the tiger to testify that the animal is dead not because of a fall (tigers never make false steps) and that it was not killed with a weapon of any kind, but simply by the word of Gulab-Lal-Sing. I found it, very easily, in the bushes exactly under our vihara, at the foot of the rock over which the tiger had rolled, already dead... Gulab-Lal-Sing, you are a Raj-Yogi, and I bow before you!” added the proud Brahmin, acting after saying and kneeling before the Thakur.

“Do not use vain words, Krishna Rao!” interrupted Gulab-Sing. “Get up; do not play the part of a Shudra… The tiger simply fell off a cliff and broke its neck in the fall. Otherwise, we would have to use weapons, not words...”

“I obey you, Sahib, but... forgive me, I trust my own judgment. No Raj-Yogi ever yet acknowledged his connection with the brotherhood, since the time Mount Abu came into existence.”

And he began distributing bits of hair taken from the dead animal. No one spoke, I gazed curiously at the group of my fellow-travelers. The colonel (President of our Society) sat with downcast eyes, very pale. His secretary, Mr. Y***, lay on his back, smoking a cigar and looking straight above him, with no expression in his eyes. He silently accepted the hair and put it in his purse. The Hindus stood round the tiger, and the Sinhalese traced some kabbalistic signs on its forehead. Gulab-Sing alone continued to lie in the corner quietly reading his book. Miss B*** quietly suggested to me the question: “Does our government know about the existence of this brotherhood, and are the Raj Yogis friendly to the British?”

“Oh, extremely friendly!” the Rajput answered seriously, before I had time to open my mouth, “if they only exist: only Raj Yogis have prevented the Hindus until now from cutting the throats of all your compatriots; holding them... with a word.”

The Englishwoman did not understand.

Our psychological research in India seemed to start off well, promising a harvest as rich for our society as archaeological research.

The Birza cave, about six miles [9,66 km] from Vadgaon, is constructed on the same plan as Karli. The vault-like ceiling of the temple rests upon twenty-six pillars, eighteen feet [5,49 m] high, and the portico on four, twenty-eight feet [8,53 m] high; over the portico are carved groups of horses, oxen, and elephants, of the most exquisite beauty. The “Hall of Initiation” is a spacious, oval room, with pillars, and eleven very deep cells cut in the rock. The Bajah caves are older and more beautiful. Inscriptions may still be seen showing that all these temples were built by Buddhists, or, rather, by Jainas. Modern Buddhists accept just one Buddha – Gautama, Prince of Kapilavastu (six centuries before Christ) whereas the Jainas recognize a Buddha in each of their twenty-four divine teachers (Tirthankaras) the last of whom was the teacher (guru)[12] of Gautama. This disagreement is very embarrassing when people try to conjecture the antiquity of this or that vihara or chaitya. The origin of the Jaina sect is lost in the remotest, unfathomed antiquity, so the name of Buddha, mentioned in the inscriptions, may be attributed to the last of the Buddhas as easily as to the first, who lived (according to Tod's genealogy) a long time before 2,200 B.C. One of the inscriptions in the Baira cave, for instance, in cuneiform characters, says:

“By an ascetic from Nashik to the holy Buddha, purified from sins, primordial, heavenly and great.”

This tends to convince scientists that the cave was cut out by Buddhists.

Another inscription, in the same cave, but over another cell, contains the following:

“An agreeable offering of a small gift to the moving force (life), to the mind principle (soul), to the much-beloved material body, fruit of Manu, priceless treasure, to the highest and here present Heavenly One.”

It looks like the building does not belong to the Buddhists, but to the Brahmins, who admit Manu.

Here are two more inscriptions from Bajah caves.

1) “An agreeable gift of the symbol and chariot (vehicle) of the purified from sins Saka-Saka.”

2) “Gift of the vehicle of Radha (wife of Krishna, symbol of perfection) to Sugata who is gone for ever.”

Sugata, again, is one of the names of Buddha. A new contradiction!

It was somewhere here, in the neighborhood of Vadgaon, that the Marathis seized Captain Vaughan and his brother, who were hanged after the battle of Khirki.

Next morning we drove to Chinchor, or, as it is called here, Chinchvod. This place is celebrated in the annals of the Dekkan. Here one meets with a repetition in miniature of what takes place on a larger scale at Lhasa in Tibet. As Buddha incarnates in every new Dalai-Lama, so, here, Ganapati (the god of wisdom with the elephant's head) is allowed by his father Shiva to incarnate in the eldest son of one or another Brahmin family. There is a splendid temple erected in his honor, where the avatars (incarnations) of Ganapati have lived and received adoration for over two hundred years. This is how it happened.

About 250 years ago a poor Brahmin couple were promised, in sleep, by the god of wisdom that he would incarnate in their eldest son. The boy was named Maroba (one of the god's titles) in honor of the deity. Maroba grew up, married, and begot several sons, after which during the dream he was commanded by the god to relinquish the world and finish his days in the desert. There, during 22 years, according to the legend, Maroba wrought miracles and his fame grew day by day. He lived in an impenetrable jungle, in a corner of the thick forest that covered Chinchvod in those days. Ganapati appeared to him once more, and promised to incarnate in his descendants for seven generations. After this there was no limit to his miracles, so that the people began to worship him, and ended by building a splendid temple for him. At last Maroba gave orders to the people to bury him alive, in a sitting posture, with an open book in his hands, and never to open his grave again under penalty of his wrath and maledictions. After the burial of Maroba, Ganapati incarnated in his first-born, who began a conjuring career in his turn. So that Maroba-Deo (god) I, was replaced by Chintaman-Deo I. This latter god had eight wives and eight sons. The tricks of the eldest of these sons, Narayan-Deo I, became so celebrated that his fame reached the ears of the Emperor Alamgir[13]. In order to test the extent of his “deification,” Alamgir sent him a piece of a cow's tail (the most sinful touch for a Hindu) wrapped in rich stuffs and coverings. On receiving it Narayan sprinkled the parcel with water, and, when the stuffs were unfolded, there was found enclosed in them a nosegay of white syringa, instead of the ungodly tail. This transformation rejoiced the Emperor so much that he presented the god with eight villages, to cover his private expenses. Narayan's social position and property were inherited by Chintaman-Deo II, whose heir was Dharmadhar, and, lastly, Narayan II came into power. He drew down the malediction of Ganapati by violating the grave of Maroba. That is why his son, the last of the gods, is to die without a successor...

When we saw him he was an aged man, about ninety years old. He was seated on a kind of platform. His head shook and his eyes idiotically stared without seeing us, the result of his constant use of opium. On his neck, ears, and toes, shone precious stones, and all around were spread offerings. We had to take off our shoes before we were allowed to approach this half-ruined relic.

On the evening of the same day we returned to Bombay. Two days later we were to start on our long journey to the North-West Provinces, and our route promised to be very attractive. We were to see Nashik, one of the few towns mentioned by Greek historians, its caves, and the tower of Rama; to visit Allahabad, the ancient Prayaga, the metropolis of the Moon dynasty, built at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna; Benares, the town of 5,000 temples and as many monkeys; Kanpur, notorious for the bloody revenge of Nana Saheb[14]; the remains of the city of the sun, destroyed, according to the computations of Colebrooke, 6,000 years ago; Agra and Delhi; and then, having explored Rajasthan with its thousands of Thakur castles, fortresses, ruins, and legends, we were to go to Lahore, the metropolis of the Punjab, and, lastly, to stay for a while in Amritsar. There, in the Golden Temple, built in the center of the “Lake of Immortality,” was to be held the first meeting of the members of our Society, Brahmins, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc. – in a word, the representatives of the one thousand and one sects of India, who all sympathized, more or less, with the idea of the brotherhood of all humanity of our Theosophical Society.



  1. Moscow News, № 332, 31.12.1879, pp. 2-3; Russian Herald, January 1883, Supplement, vol 163, pp. 89-96.
  2. Here, apparently, Lohagad ("Iron Fort") is meant – a mountain fortress in the state of Maharashtra near Pune, which Shivaji captured in 1648, then was forced to cede to the Mughal Empire in 1665 according to a peace treaty, and captured again five years later in 1670. The city of Lohgarh, which was at one time (1710-1716) the capital of the Sikhs, is located in northern India at the foot of the Himalayas, where the Maratha Empire expanded much later. – Ed.
  3. Nana Phadnavis [1742-1800] was the influential minister during the Peshwa administration of young Madhavrao. Phadnavis held Madhavro quite sternly in hand. Madhavro once received publicly a reprimand from his minister. As a result, on the morning of October 26, 1796, Madhavro threw himself down from the terrace of his castle in Pune and died.
  4. Richard Colley Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley of Norragh (1760-1842) was the 6th Governor-General of India (1797-1805). – Ed.
  5. Vadgaon (formerly spelled Wadgaon or Wargaum) is a town in Pune district of Maharashtra state. – Ed.
  6. The Peshwa was the appointed (and later hereditary) Prime Minister of the Maratha Empire. Originally, the Peshwas served as subordinates to the Chhatrapati (the Maratha king); later, under the Bhat family, they became the de facto leaders of the Maratha Confederacy with the Chhatrapati becoming a nominal ruler. – Ed.
  7. Raghunath Rao (1734-1783) was the 11th Peshwa in 1773-1774, but as a result of the coup organized by Nana Phadnavis, he was banished and entered into an agreement with the British East India Company for help in returning the throne in exchange for concessions. – Ed.
  8. John Carnac (1716-1800) was a British officer who served three times as Commander-in-Chief of India and was dismissed from the East India Company bacause of the named Convention of Wadgaon in 1779. – Ed.
  9. A History of the Marattas by James Grant Duff, in three volumes, 1826. – Ed.
  10. One of the last in this kind of political and diplomatic tricks, but one of the most nefarious, a betrayal of the Judas kind was done by our friends the Anglo-Indians in 1857, during the rebellion. Of all independent and dangerous for them princes, Maharaja Shinde remained the most loyal and faithful to the English. They wanted – for their security from the sepoys of Shinde, whom he with difficulty restrained – a fortress renowned for its firmness and impregnability, and which was located on the mountain almost directly above the Maharaja's Palace. The English never managed to take the fortress, and even did not try. Using the favour of Shinde and his sincere desire to help his allies, they tried to get the fortress out of him for a while, sworn on their honour to leave it immediately after the suppression of the rebellion. Shinde was a true Maratha, that is hard and unforgiving with an enemy, but ready to sacrifice his life in order to keep his word given to a friend or an ally. He agreed. The English took possession of the famous fortress, into which they were introduced by Maharaja himself: the rebellion was pacified, and after a year he began to ask the government to give him the castle back. But now 22 years have passed, and the English, under various pretexts, still “have not handed over the apartment,” from which it is very convenient to observe their helpful ally. Now, as it is known, they even are plotting to destroy the army of Shinde.
  11. Punkha is a large suspended fan to stir the air. – Ed.
  12. HPB spelled it in English as “gourou”. – Ed.
  13. Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad (1618-1707) was the sixth Mughal emperor, who ruled over almost the entire Indian subcontinent for a period of 49 years, hence commonly known by his regnal title Alamgir (Persian: "Conqueror of the World"). – Ed.
  14. Nana Saheb, born as Dhondu Pant (1824-1859) led the rebellion in Kanpur during the Great Revolt of 1857. Read Letter 26 (p. ) for description of his “revenge”. – Ed.