National Geographic : 1940 Dec
The National Geographic Magazine giants flank the way, sheltering troops of incredibly long-tailed gray monkeys, which swing at dizzy heights and grimace at the passing car. On all roads is encountered that bane of the Indian motorist's existence, the oxcart. Whether drawn by temperamental oxen or by the more stolid water buffalo, these carts have one thing in common-a driver so firmly in the arms of Morpheus that we frequently sus pected the old god had choked him to death. Horn-blowing was effective only after pro tracted use (we finally broke the horn ring on the Buick that led the procession), and then the long line of plodding animals would pull over only one by one. Drivers Beware of Hitting Sacred Cows! But woe betide the unfortunate motorist who bumps any of the sacred cattle of the Hindus! Running down a man would prob ably be a far less heinous offense. And as for peacocks in Rajputana! In some States it is a seven-year offense to kill any of these long tailed birds that are constantly parading in front of the car. Dust and the Indian bus are two other men tal hazards. The dust is thick, choking, and all-pervad ing. It can even penetrate a light-sealed film magazine carried inside a presumably hermeti cally closed trailer. The buses, usually built by an American manufacturer to carry a ton and a half, rarely are loaded with less than three tons of human cargo and its baggage. To be appreciated, they must be met speeding on the tortuous roads that cross the Nilgiri Hills at Ootacamund, or on the Ghats between Poona and Bombay. Our first stop after leaving Delhi was the Indian State of Alwar, where the British resi dent entertained us delightfully in the guest palace, and the Maharaja visited us. Here we came into low hills, the first we had seen since leaving the Khyber a thousand miles be fore. We were on the dividing line between the Mohammedan north of India, with its 100 million Moslems, roughly, and the vast south, with its 300 million Hindus. North lay the Punjab. South and west lay Rajputana. Only 81 miles out of Alwar we came to one of the four great Rajput States: Jaipur, founded by the Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1728. The name "Sawai" was a complimen tary title given to Jai Singh by the Mogul Emperor of Delhi, and it means "one and a quarter." All subsequent rulers have used it. Warmly greeted by the young Maharaja, we were escorted to a truly magnificent suite in the palace itself. His Highness was just getting off crutches, having broken both his legs in an airplane accident a few months be fore. As one of the foremost international polo players, he was irked by this forced in activity, which also prevented him from accom panying us on our trips through his domains. Peggy grew homesick for our two sons when she met the four charming children of the Maharaja, three boys and an older girl (Plates XV and XVI). We wandered through the interesting streets of Jaipur City. Behind the Hawa Mahal, or Hall of the Winds, built by Jai Singh, we interrupted a crap game. The dice were cowrie shells thrown in the Harlem manner, and a score was kept on a sort of a checkerboard. Also, one day, we witnessed a wedding pro cession on one of Jaipur's broad streets. First came a saddled but riderless horse; then an empty sedan chair (these first two apparently props to make the procession longer); next, a band playing a popular American tune of fif teen years ago in fifteen different keys, fol lowed by the groom and best man on an elephant with gorgeous papier-mache tusks over his stumps; then the bride in an enclosed sedan chair; and finally, most delicate touch of all, the bridal bed (Plate IV). Five miles out of Jaipur City lies Amber, ancient capital of the State before the days of Jai Singh. The old citadel, captured by the Rajputs in 1037, towers high above the village. It is a stiffish climb and His Highness had thoughtfully provided elephants to take us and our half a ton of camera equipment to the top (Plate V). The howdahs were sidesaddle affairs de signed to seat three people on either side, back to back. They are not to be recommended for hill travel when attempting to hold on to sev eral dozen pieces of camera equipment. We walked down! Jodhpur, Home of Riding Breeches Skirting the edge of the great Indian Desert, we continued southwestward to Jodhpur known in this country for the style of riding breeches that originated there. When still an hour's travel away, the great fort could be seen in the clear desert air, rising sheer from the plain, its perpendicular cliffs soaring from the as yet invisible town at its base (page 731). For a fortnight we enjoyed the hospitality of His Highness the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Our cars and trucks were left with him while we traveled by train north to Bikaner-a diffi cult desert crossing by road-and south to Baroda, impossible to reach by trailer because of unbridged rivers.