Experiences in India 1822-1845
The journal of Edward Hume Townsend and that of Henrietta Townsend both afford a fascinating insight into the work of a Resident and Political Agent in the East India Company (Indian Civil Service) during the first half of the 19th century. However, both journals are long and in this page I have extracted relevant parts to create a more concise portrayal of Edward's life in India between 1822 and 1845. Extracts from the journals are shown in italics.
Details of the system of governance in the East India Company can be seen in the article Company Rule in India. In its simplest form India was divided into the Bengal Presidency, the Madras Presidency and the Bombay Presidency; each was divided into a number of Districts and administration was effected through Residents, Political Agents and Collectors.
Edward Hume Townsend in India 1822-1828
Having completed his education at the East India College in Hertfordshire (now Haileybury) in the winter of 1821, Edward set sail from Plymouth on 13 March 1822 and arrived in Bombay on 13 June 1822. He spent three months in the city learning Hindustani and was then posted for a short time to Poona "a large military station and very gay place".
There I remained for a short time and was then moved to Bankote in S. Konkan - a very quiet place where some good Scotch missionaries were living. Here I had good opportunities of learning the Marathi language, the prevalent tongue in the Bombay Presidency. I also had the good examples and conversations of the missionaries - a great benefit to a youth with scarcely formed principles. After this I was moved from Bankote to Ratnagiri in the same district; here I first became acquainted with NT Webb, a young man somewhat my senior, who from that day to the present has been my steadiest and most truly useful friend and Christian helper.
The south Konkan, where I was appointed third (or junior) assistant to the Collector, is the line of coast south of Bombay, a quiet, rural district. It contains a few small towns - two of these Bankote and Ratnagiri were the only places in it where a few European families lived. In this district I lived the first three years of my sojourn in India. In 1825 I was moved from Southern Konkan to Northern Konkan and was appointed second assistant to the Collector, JB Simson Esq, a clever and wise man who always befriended me, where I remained nearly four years.
During this period my health failed to some extent and I was sent for a change of air to the Nilgiri Hills in 1827 - a range that runs along the western coast of India to the south. I sailed down the coast from Bombay about 300 miles as far as Calicut, a small town celebrated as being the spot where the first European traveller, Vasco de Gama the great Portuguese navigator, landed after accomplishing the first voyage known to history around the Cape of Good Hope. Calicut is in the Madras Presidency; the language of the people is called Malayalam and it is quite unlike either Hindustani or Marathi. The dress, appearance and manners of the natives were in many respects different from what I was accustomed to in or near Bombay. Here I remained a few days to rest after which I proceeded by land a few miles to the south, then I turned to the east and travelled through a deep gorge between high mountains. After a day or two travelling I reached the foothills of the mountains called Nilgiri Hills or the ‘Blue Mountains’. The ascent which I rode was long and steep; the elevation was about 7,000 feet above the level of the sea. The change of climate was great - from oppressive heat I had entered a region rather too cold, though delightfully bracing. My appetite and sleep, which had failed, immediately returned.
There were two stations inhabited by Europeans on the Nilgiris viz Kotagiri and Ootacamund, the latter being the principal and loftier station. At neither of these places could I find a house or lodging but I ultimately hired a solitary one near the road leading from Kotagiri to Ootacamund about 15 miles from the latter place. The climate of the Nilgiris is delightful; I reached the hills in about November when they were enveloped in mists and clouds with more or less rain caused by the Madras monsoon which finishes in November or December. The mists which interrupted the view on all sides added to the solitude of my house at Kalea. I occasionally visited Ootacamund where there was some pleasant society. I made especial acquaintance with two friendly families, viz those of Dr Young and Dr Alexander - the former was Scotch, an intelligent and amusing man, a capital singer. Dr Alexander was Irish and was my principal friend in the hills. Both were Madras officers from which Presidency all the Europeans in the hills came. As the spring advanced the climate became more delightful and from January the mists cleared.
The hills are inhabited by 2 or 3 tribes of natives, who are simpler than those of the plains. The principal tribe, the Todas, are a remarkably fine, large and muscular race of men who claim to be the original inhabitants of the hills. Their language differs from all the other dialects of the plains. There are two other tribes, very inferior in appearance and character to the Todas. They are called Kotas and Badagas and speak the languages of the plains. After a while I wrote an old and much valued friend in the Madras Civil Service - John Walker (they were students together at the East India College). I soon had a letter from him from Madras, an old city in the far south where he very cordially invited me to visit him. I descended from the hills on the south eastern side and travelled in a palkee (palanquin) for 2 or 3 days, mostly by night, until I reached Madras. Here I was most cordially welcomed by my old friend and his amicable wife. I spent a month with them very happily and profitably for they were truly pious people. During my visit to them a zealous and highly gifted Prussian missionary (under the Church Missionary Society) visited the Walkers on his way from Tirunelveli to Tanjore.
On leaving Madras Edward decided to return to Bombay by land through Seringapatam. Where he stayed with the Resident who had invited him.
At Seringapatam is the Court of the Rajah of Mysore, a Hindu chief whose family had been temporarily deposed by the Mohammedan sultans Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan; the latter of these, the implacable enemy of the English, was killed at the last siege of Seringapatam - the British commanded by General Sir David Baird, under whose command Colonel Arthur Wellesley began to gain the celebrity that followed him in after years to Waterloo.
From Seringapatam Edward travelled 70 miles to Bangalore where contracted a serious fever. Once recovered he continued his long journey passing through Belgaum, where he was to serve later as Collector and Politcal Agent, on his way to Bombay.
Thus ends his journal in 1828. Correspondence with his wife-to-be shows that in August 1828 he was visiting his childhood home at Glenalla, so he must have left Bombay soon after his arrival there following his illness. Between August 1828 and February 1831 the correspondence also shows Edward stayed with several relatives and friends in both England and Ireland, including seven months with his mother who was then living at Mount Terrace in Taunton, Somerset.
Edward returned to India sometime after his marriage in March 1831 and spent the next 21 years of his life there, working for the East India Company as a Resident and Political Agent.(1a) His marked ability brought rapid promotion from Lord Clare who was Governor of Bombay 1830 to 1834. Later Edward was appointed Secretary to the Bombay Government and then Revenue Commissioner to the Bombay Presidency.
In 1841 Edward and his family took long leave in South Africa; they were joined there on 21 September 1841 by his sisters-in-law Henrietta Townsend and Katherine Corker Townsend and brother-in-law Richard William Townsend who had set sail on the ‘Childe Harold’ from Portsmouth on 23 July 1841. They were also joined by Edward’s mother, Henrietta wife of Rev Richard Townsend who, aged 60, set out from Ireland in 1839 to join Edward in South Africa. During the course of her journey she rode across the isthmus of Suez on a donkey and was lost in the desert for a time, having ridden ahead of her party.
Henrietta Townsend's visit to India 1842-1845
Having spent five months travelling in South Africa, with her brother Richard, her sister Katherine, her brother-law Edward, and Edward's mother, Henrietta, Edward and his family arrived in Bombay on 13 May having set off from Cape Town on board the 'Dartmouth' on 1 March 1842. They spent a few days in the city staying with Edward’s friend Mr Webb and set off for Belgaum on 21 May.
Arrival in Bombay 13 May 1842
The native boats are extraordinary looking concerns and the brown creatures, some half-naked, and some more than half, squat on the boats and navigate their spoon-like oars or stand to display their picturesque forms to greater advantage, to strike the newly arrived stranger with amazement and amusement. Indeed, long before we left the Dartmouth, many boats had come alongside of her, managed by natives, whose great head dresses and little concern about any other dress (tho’ none were absolutely naked) greatly amused me. The full trousers of the Mohammedans, the scanty drawers of some of the Hindoos and the sans culottism of others are enough to make one ponder on the “Philosophy of Dress”. Mr Webb’s carriage was waiting for us into which we stepped and were driven to him through the Esplanade and Bazaar, as that part of the town where the natives chiefly reside is called, to his own large house where we stay for the present. The varieties of people and nations that we passed and that passed us, completely bewildered me. Carriages full of Parsees in stiff conical turbans and white dresses, some with fine and all with sallow faces, groups of Mohammedan priests in long white robes and beards, the flowing black locks of the Persians, the black bearded Jews &c (all pointed out to me by Edward and Susy) made me fancy myself transported to the land of Phantasy, not to mention Dewars and Sepoys and Coolies and a host more whose style and titles it is impossible for me now to recollect. The street called the Bazaar is a curious scene – the houses are irregular, some very low, others imposing as to height and with ornaments in relief, in which style of architecture I know not. The rooms are so open, from windows and doors innumerous, that we can see into all the stories and could almost fancy the house had no wall to the street. The balconies or verandah doors and windows are crowded by native men, women and children. Almost all the women wrapped from head to foot in saurees, the children generally quite naked. The sights, the sounds (of tom toms and some tinkling sort of instrument) are so new, the smell from incense and spices &c so peculiar, that Bombay is really like a new world to me. There is nothing European in its aspect. This house is a large one and very nicely furnished – floors covered with fine China mats and everything that can promote coolness is arranged for the desired effect. The windows have all venetians and some have China blinds and the doors from the parlour and drawing room to the bedrooms are generally left open and a sort of half-door, which leaves a space above and below for the circulation of air is the only one used, and this is of plaited silk – ornamental as well as useful. Last night a servant with a long rod bent at one end and at the same end blazing like a candle came into the room and before I could settle in my mind whether this was to be held behind his master’s chair or how it was to be used he gracefully lighted little high lamps which hung in glass globes from the ceiling and disappeared. Besides these were lower lamps lighted in a less Promethean like style and candles with glass shades as there was a cool draft through the room. It takes some days to make me feel like myself among strange places and customs but I daresay I shall soon be able to give my eyes rest, and to open my mouth.
Arrival in Vengurla on a Pattymar 23 May 1842
To describe a Pattymar to one who has never seen any but trim yachts and large ships, is not easy, but my dear reader (it is a long time since I addressed you) imagine a large rudely built (80 or a 100 ton) vessel half thatched (with bamboo canes and large boab leaves) with two masts, two large lateen sails and a gib it may be. In the stern is a tolerably sized cabin and you are to get on the poop from the locker within thro’ a hatchway which opens over the storm windows. Your elbows and toes are to serve as ladders by which to raise yourself for while standing on the latter, the former may be made to rest on the poop. The greater deck is roofed as I have before described, and floored with split bamboo. Under this, in the hold, the luggage is stowed and under the forecastle is a place for horses, four of whom belonging to Ed were settled on board before we arrived. We dined &c under the awning and the children slept in the cabin. Edward on a couch and Susy and I in our palanquins, sleep on the quarter deck. Ten half-naked savages manage the vessel and besides these are ten or twelve servants of Ed’s with some wives and children who sleep all day and night under a sheet on the forcastle. On the whole it was a very curious and amusing scene. The ease with which the copper-coloured native strut about with just as much clothing as Adam and Eve had when turned out of Paradise is not a little amusing.
Safely arrived. I don’t know how many boatloads of furniture were taken on shore. The horses were first lifted out, and each with his ghora wallah (groom) holding his head from a little canoe swam on shore. I was rowed from the Pattymar and packed into a palanquin. Susy had gone first with Horace and was waiting at the bungalow for us. The scenery about here is very pretty. The foliage, consisting of a mixture of bamboo, coconut, mango and peepal &c whose forms and names I am just beginning to remember, is beautiful. There is a scattered native village here and just now a curious group of men, thirty or forty in number who had brought our luggage from the boat here (1/4 of a miles’ distance) were ranged before us. We had scarcely done dinner when eight or ten dewars ie- mounted native police bringing a letter for Edward from Belgaum, and shortly after followed twenty ponies with guides or riders each, for luggage &cc, besides coolies for carrying burdens. Hamaals (porters) for the palanquins are yet to arrive. We shall make a great cavalcade. All these Ed had written for from Bombay. Before we retired for the night we were called out to see the Hamaals who had all arrived and were seated in a ring before the bungalow under a brilliant moon. It seems an immense number of people for our family to employ, and presents altogether to me a most amusing scene.
Vingurla to Belgaum
Tuesday evening. We left Vingurla, Susy and I in our palanquins, she with Horace and I with “Heetie” as my companion, and proceeded thro’ a beautiful country to Banda.
Indian travelling is different from European. The Government Bungalows are perhaps not very commodious or highly finished but you carry your own furniture with you (rather it goes before you) and on your arrival find everything in order, and dinner or tea &c ready. When the division of loads &c is arranged it seems troublesome enough and from the great number employed it is a scene of confusion, and to me, who am ignorant of the language in which all are chattering and also ignorant of the different offices of each of the men, it appears of course doubly confused. Each palanquin has twelve bearers who relieve each other. They carry on a sort of monotonous chorus answering each other.
Untill we came to the foot of the Ghat I could see but little. Even though it was only by moonlight that I could catch glimpses of the beauty by which I was surrounded, the trees were magnificent. The bearers turned the palanquin on coming to the ascent so that I went head foremost as we approached the top. I opened the doors and looked out on the magnificent scene – wooded hills and vales stretching away to a great extent, the sea in the distance and some white buildings which the Sepoy told me were churches in Goa. The shrieking and shouting of the men was vociferous as they (twelve of them) came up the tremendously steep pass. Edward was seated in the verandah as I was brought to the Bungalow on the top. Susy and her palanquin followed closely
Belgaum 31 May 1842
We passed the barracks on our right and entered this place which is of great extent, an indescribable sort of settlement. There is a native part, the bazaar and a fort, a mile and a half in circumference, filled with pretty bungalows, fine trees and beautiful shrubs. We live in a house taken from Mr Seymour the missionary, neither in the fort or camp but near the former with the advantage of a good open view to the south which in the fort cannot be enjoyed on any side as there is an embankment all round. We have a pretty garden and altogether a commodious house. All the rooms open on a verandah which goes round the house, besides opening into each other. Galleries and passages are not necessary here, or not thought so. There is a publicity in our private rooms and ways that I have not learned to like yet. You are sure to meet Hamaals perambulating somewhere, if not in your own room or bathroom, then passing the open windows or doors, looking in. Or if it be a stranger come to see Sahib or Madam sahib, he would bow to the ground and you of course acknowledge his near neighbourhood. Last evening Mr Taylor, the London Missionary came with his daughter Miss Lechman, and gave Susy and me a drive through the bazaar round the fort and out over the high breezy campground where officers and ladies were driving and riding. Ed’s horses and carriage are not yet in order. We found him on our return lying on the sofa, a respectable-looking, a white-robed native speaking at his ear and telling what seemed a very long tale of some political misdemeanours that occurred during Ed’s absence. Edward is Collector and Political Agent. This morning at breakfast a peon (attendant) came in to announce that some great Lady, a native, had sent Sahib a “breakfast” as a welcome back, and presently four men marched in bearing different eatables – a huge cake, mangoes, small cakes &cc, which he graciously received, and off went the great Lady’s servants. Numbers of old acquaintances come to see Edward and Susy, natives I mean, who bow to the ground, leaving their slippers outside the door as a mark of respect.
Belgaum 15 June 1842
A fortnight has made me quite at home here, and Ed and Susy have resumed acquaintances with all their old friends, and received the visits of several strangers. We have driven out constantly, and occasionally taken a morning’s ride. Susy has had a sore throat which has confined her to the house for a week. The neighbourhood, I mean the scenery of it, is nothing remarkable, generally flat, except it be for the size and beauty of some of the trees. There are groves of mangoes and some beautiful tamarind trees. The bamboo grows luxuriantly in the gardens around; the shoe plant, a lacy shrub of which hedges are formed, and which bears a brilliant scarlet blossom, is plentiful here and there is now in bloom in our own garden a yucca or Adam’s needle - something of the Aloe kind bearing rich spikes of large white Campanula-like blossoms. It is four or five feet high. Belgaum is rich in hedges of a species of Aloe or Agave now in bloom. The blossoming stem rises to a height of 20 or 30 feet and from the great number of these stems looks like a light fence of feathery larch. There seems no petal. A calyx (perhaps containing minute flower leaves) and a very prominent anther of a buff colour (but not so brilliant as those of the Agave Mexicano that blossomed at Castle Freke some years ago) form the blossom of this Aloe.
I have been surprised to find in India most of the work is done by men. Hamaals sweep out the rooms and make the beds, fill the baths &c. The Ayah seems only to help at a lady’s dressing or to dress the children. The sort of seclusion which one enjoys at home from the approach of men servants to your bedroom is not to be thought of here, and a lady will go and give orders to her servants in her dressing gown and night cap without seeming to feel it anything out of the way, and why should she not? She is to all intents and purposes more dressed than when she receives a large party of an evening.
I cannot put down all that strikes me as curious and amusing in the manners and habit of the natives – their low bows, foreheads touching the ground at your feet – or the graceful salaam, the right hand raised to the forehead – and their use of their feet. All is so different to England. I saw a porter, with a heavy load on his head, who had dropped his walking stick, just slip off his sandal, take the stick up by his toes, and raising it to the height of his hand, get possession of it without the least danger to his load. In doing needle work, the men invariably hold the work steady by their toes and always sit on the ground.
Belgaum 3 August 1842
More than a year now since I began this journal, exactly a year I see by referring to the first page. Now I hear the distant sound of the Hamauls (porters) carrying a palanquin into the Fort - that is not a home sound - and frogs are croaking and grasshoppers chirping in foreign accents. Now comes a peon rushing along the verandah with a message from “Sahib” to the ghora wallahs (grooms) which he delivers at the highest pitch of his voice, and Ayah follows wrapped in her white and red sauree to get supper for the children and slowly (for no power on earth would make a native woman walk fast) pacing backward and smiles at me who sits at an open window, sharing the bright red of the inner part of her black lips, red from some strong plant or leaf she chews. Now the Masaul, with my lamp for the night and a candle, enters the room and with an air that would make an English (or Irish) houseman very indignant, walks up to my dressing table and there lays the “buttys”. Remember the Masaul is a man – this is the fashion here.
Most of the Hindoo women wear nose rings, which are very ugly, and their ears are sometimes laden from top to bottom with brass rings covered with beads. Some have necklaces. The men too wear earrings and necklaces too when they are particularly dandified. One of the pony-leaders today was very well-dressed – an overwhelming turban, trousers actually to his heels, a long white surtout (overcoat), a scarf wrapped round him, and a necklace of large, garnet-coloured beads. (The lowest castes are those who wear the fewest clothes.) But this is not common – a turban, a girdle and an umbrella are quite enough to make a well-dressed man, rings and earrings perhaps too.
Belgaum 20 August 1842
We went on the 11th to Mr Taylor’s school and were much impressed in the proceedings. 80 boys were present – 100 are on the books. English is the language spoken in school and they read it and pronounce it remarkably well. Some of the pupils are men. There is a native master but Mr Taylor and his son attend daily and Mr Rey occasionally. The latter has schools at Shakpore, a native town about a mile from here. The variety of costumes is as great as the variety of sizes and makes the school a very picturesque one. Unlike the usual uniformity at home in schools, this is a scene of varied and brilliant effect. The Parsee and Brahmin headdresses are the most curious. The Hindoo, of different castes (I suppose), colours and forms add too to the effect. A class read some chapters in St Matthew’s gospel and were examined by Edward. They answered pretty well. Another class did the same. We saw a class in Geography, Mathematics and closed by going through a scene taken from a play where a colonist receives persons of various trades and professions. They pronounced the English very well and seemed to understand what they said. I have several sketches of that day’s visit.
The Bazaar here, tho’ of course very inferior to that of Bombay, is a curious scene. We drive thro’ it occasionally in the mornings and see the natives squatting in their wretched porches or verandahs, wrapped up (this is the cold weather) in shawls or cotton cloths, the women perhaps sweeping out the miserable habitations. In the rains they look very wretched, mats often their only shelter against the weather, but this must be from choice or indolence, for most of them could build better houses. They are a dirty race. Some of the houses look well among the luxurious vegetation that surrounds them in some places – the broad-leafed plantain, the castor oil plant, varieties of creepers, gourds, flowering shrubs &cc. The dress and figures of the women are occasionally graceful and their carriage good but for every one you see ten squalid looking creatures. Their jaws, one sunk, one apparently swelled from a hunk of pans supari (betel nut) kept there for chewing which blackens their teeth and their scanty saurees barely covering their limbs. The women grow old very early.
Belgaum 5 September 1842
This evening we saw in the course of our drive a flock of pretty green parakeets, to me a new sight, but my companions were used to such and say that sometimes these beautiful little creatures have been very troublesome, screaming and chattering in the trees under which their tents were pitched. We occasionally see a brilliant bird and used often to see large butterflies in the garden before the rains were heavy. The varieties of insects seem endless – spiders of all sizes, sorts and colours, jumping spiders and spiders flying on their gossamer railroads all over the room, seeming to diverge from the bouquet on the centre table. I wish my dear Dick were here – he would find much amusement and instruction in these curious creatures.
Belgaum 12 October 1842
Preparations have been going on for the last two days for a trip to Gokak to see a fine waterfall. It will be an expedition of four or five days. In Europe the number of persons and cattle employed would denote a removal for months, but here it is nothing. We are all going. Edward has now got camels. I have often stopped lately when in a room that looks on the paddock where they are kept, to watch them slowly-moving their thin, curious necks and to wonder how they can be used as beasts of burden, laden as they already seem by nature with huge humps on their backs. Yesterday, however, I saw the whole process of packing as the patient creatures knelt down outside my verandah, and tents, tent poles &cc were swung in huge bundles at their sides, a sort of thick saddle covering their backs. Some of them groaned and grunted as if unwilling to be laden. We go this evening to Chundoor over ten miles from here, in palanquins. Early this morning I went out to sow some seeds and on my return to my room I found it empty, minus at least bed and bedstead, that had been carried off by the packers, and are now well on their way to Chundoor.
Gokak 13 October 1842
We almost despaired of sleep last night from the noises made by a procession of men riding bullocks and ponies to the river, (this is the last day of some festival) and returning, with drums and cymbals shouting &cc and occasionally a discharge of artillery. However, the “dud artillery” of heaven soon put the meaner noises to shame. A thunder storm came on and the rain drove the natives home and their noise ceased and I, at least, slept until 3 this morning.
Again in the palanquin with my little companion, who slept till sunrise, we proceeded gaily to this place thro’ a sandy jungle, full of a curious sort of a cactus tree and a great deal of prickly pear, occasionally passing thro’ fields of grain and under hedges shaded with mango trees. We passed the village or town of Chundoor, outside which were great flocks of cow and buffaloes disporting themselves in a muddy tank. On reaching Gokak we found Ed had arranged one of the curious pagodas near the falls for our reception and breakfast was ready as soon as we were dressed. After this we sallied forth to see the falls. Only a few feet of the fall are visible from this pagoda, as we are a little raised above it. It is said to be 130 feet high, but does not look more than 100. The body of water is not very great now. It rushes down this little chasm, perfectly perpendicular, with great force and a rainbow sits at the spray at the bottom.
Padshapoor 15 October 1842
The evening was lovely as is customary here and after tea and evening prayer we returned to rest till 4 o’clock when we were again stirring. Instead of stopping at Chundoor as before, we proceeded here, a little further on, where is a large village and the residence of Annah Sahib and his brother – native chiefs. They have three residences in different parts of this neighbourhood and their families live together, moving about to each. To describe our reception here would be impossible. Edward had let the Sahib know we would call here, consequently the whole village turned out to greet us and we were ushered in by the beating of drums, the bellowing of huge brass trumpets and a running accompaniment of servants of our host and passed through crowds of men, women and children gaping at the palanquins. The tumult did not cease untill we were safely landed in the courtyard round which the house is built and ushered into the little apartments prepared for us. One of the sahibs was at the door to greet us with a tribe of youngsters decked in gold, jewels and brilliant turbans. By the way I was amused to hear some days ago that each family of distinction keeps a goldsmith to enlarge or diminish the gold and silver chains, rings &cc according to the size of the wearer.
When ready for breakfast, we came up to the gallery which is open to the air round the small centre court, supported on wooden pillars. We had scarcely sat down to breakfast when two or three men bearing dishes with garlands and bouquets of beautiful little roses came and distributed their presents. Then followed various mixtures served on leaf dishes, of most of which the man who brought them took out a handful or a pinch as his judgement directed and crammed our plates – such a mess as all mixed together would have made! and did make for I tried it, but soon gave up the idea of eating it. We got also cakes of flower (flour?) and sugar, hollow balls and puffs and flat asafoetida cakes, which latter delicacy we quietly put aside. The simplicity of Hindu cooking certainly has been lost among the higher classes. One dish was pickled mango, another raw peas and chopped eggs and salt (as well as I could analyse it), other “varieties of the season” quite incomprehensible to me were added to these - a sweet rice by the fingers of our attendant, no spoon intervening (fingers were made before spoons). On one occasion a wooden ladle was used to distribute almonds chopped and boiled in milk. At last the feast was over and here I sit, having survived its effects. I could fancy myself now in an inferior Italian hotel as far as the building goes – the sights and sounds are different. A deck gallery looks down into the centre court. Susy and I are writing in our end of it. Opposite us at the other end are a number of children, some swinging in a large swing and others listlessly hanging over the balustrade, and sitting on the floor and inside against the wall are a number of men squatted, servants or retainers of some sort, dressed in their best, I presume. On the gallery to my right, Edward holds his office and to the left Captain and Mrs Reynolds have, with tent walls, enclosed an apartment for themselves. The Master (one of them) of the mansion, I see at this moment sitting in the gallery or verandah rather, apparently just out of the bath or preparing to go in. At all events he is enjoying an air bath, being without turban or vest, a white cloth around his shoulders serving to be his only covering.
Honoor 5 January 1843
A new year has opened on us, finding us all well, thank God, enjoying many blessings and mercies and desirous to be made more thankful for them. On Christmas Day we attended divine service in the Fort Church in the morn and at the Missionary’s Chapel in the evening (there was no C of E evening service). We almost always attend evening service at the missionary’s Chapel and invariably have excellent sermons from either of the two Missionaries. I have avoided (rather omitted) writing anything of our friends and daily doings at Belgaum in this book as my letters home are full of everyday life and it would make this work swell to an enormous size.
Now we are setting out on our travels through Edward’s districts, and to the Mahabaleshwar Hills so I prepare to write down all that strikes me in our mode of life. Ed returned to Belgaum on Thursday the 29th Dec and on Monday the 2nd January we left Belgaum. The tents had been sent on two days before and pitched at Honoor, 8 or 10 miles on the way to Hookary. Edward rode, Susy and I and the children went in palanquins. We reached the tents by torch light and it is time for me now, gentle reader, to ask if you know what an Indian tent is? It is none of your gaudy, summerday marquee concerns, but a solid canvass house, with double walls, a passage left between (wide enough for the palanquins to rest in) and each wall of double or treble canvass, the inners being a chintzy pattern that gives the appearance of a paper’d wall to the interior. We require four tents – three sleeping ones and a large sitting room, besides a bechooa or dressing tent for Ed, and smaller tents, for the servants, of an inferior kind. On a day that we rest, the tents rest too as is but fair. On a travelling day, as soon as we have left our sleeping tents, they are carried off to the next stage and prepared for us. The one allotted to me divides into two rooms, and in one of these we spend the evening after our arrival, before the large sitting room can be brought on for of course it does not move until after our dinner and when we are on our evening journey. We have camels, bullocks, ponies, porters, to an almost incredible amount of bodies, for bringing luggage of all sorts, and the arrangements for moving such a cavalcade require no little care and forethought. We have all our servants and their families – peons, sewars, and a guard of fifty native soldiers. This may give you some idea, good reader, of what great people we are.
Hookery 7 January 1843
We rested a day at Yemcunmundy and as Edward carries on his business in the tent, we had full opportunity of seeing all of his native visitors and being seen by them. At our end of the tent Susy and I sit at our work or drawing &cc and at the other, in all variety of graceful and extraordinary attitudes, squat the writers &cc (karkoons as they are called) and Ed sits at a table in the centre. One day petitions are heard and the crowd of petitioners outside is very great. Another day the vakeels (or lawyers) belonging to the different native sirdars (person of high rank such as a hereditary noble) come and chairs &cc are placed for them. The chobdars (macebearer or attendant of a dignitary) grasp their silver sticks and shout “Melibaum salaam” at the in- and egress of each distinguished visitor. “Melibaum salaam” as I understand it means “Your Excellency’s worship” or “Please your Honour, Sir, My Lord” as a poor Irishman may say. I have not an idea of what the business is about, but I know they are often convicted of bribery, corruption &cc. I sometimes sketch them. Gadgoor, where we spent this day and last night, is a dusty, windy spot, with nothing that I saw to recommend it. This place possesses more natural beauty. The Curandwar-kar (kar is an affix denoting “Lord” or “Chief”) and his three brothers are here to see Ed and have some showy tents about ¼ a mile from ours. They came in state to our tents, with a large attendance of retainers &cc. Our guard were drawn up to receive them. The two Chobdars in scarlet robes and with silver sticks shouted the titles of these chiefs. Ed met them at the hut door. Chairs had been placed and they all sat. Only the great people or very respectable visitors are allowed chairs – a chair is considered an honourable distinction so much so that on occasion when a sirdar or chief came who was of a low caste, the peons were uncertain whether to allow him a chair of not, but Ed instantly ordered one for the poor old man.
The Curandwar-kar brought his little son, about four years old, dressed in a beautiful turban, diamond agritte, and pearl necklace. His father shone in yellow satin. The other brothers were more simply dressed but had all handsome turbans and good cloth shawls in their hands. A respectable native invariably has a shawl in his hand or thrown in a roll over his left shoulder. We who sit at the head of the tent are seldom or never noticed by these gentry. They send their children however to us. Some come over with little vessels of confits, when “Sahib” allows these and many a curious glance is cast to see what we are doing. The Curandwar-kar offered to send an elephant for the ladies to ride in the evening and we accepted the offer to give me the opportunity of trying how I liked the motion. When Ed thinks his visitors have stayed long enough, conversation (when not on business) very soon exhausted, for these poor great people are ignorant and uneducated, he calls for the rosewater and the “pans souparree”. (1) Silver vessels are brought, one containing rose-water, a little of which he sprinkles on the visitors’ handkerchiefs (a drop of some rich scent is put also on the same with a wee silver spoon). The eatable leaf in which the silvered and gilded spices are wrapped - the “pans souparree” - is then offered and presently the guests vanish, amidst the shouting of the chobdars &cc. This is the regular routine.
(1) A blend of sugar, areca nut, dry dates, aniseed, vegetable oil, sorbitol, betel leaves, gulkand, menthol, liquid glucose, sodium saccharine, turmeric with added paan flavour.
Cagul 16 January 1843
In the evening the elephant came. The huge creature kneeled, a ladder (slung at his side) was unslung and I ascended into a scarlet tray, Edward following into another. The motion was a curious, violent, rocking one and going down or up a steep ascent or descent we were obliged to hold on firmly. As we neared the Indian tents, at the command of his Mahout the elephant knelt, and Ed descended and I continued my elevated jaunt, Susy being carried in the toujou alongside. On our return to our tents, I sketched the elephant and the children fed him. Encamped in a native garden at Cagul. I must try and describe what a native garden is. It is like a wilderness, in want of taste or order – fields of “gram” (a pulse for cattle) and perhaps, as here, a splendid hedge of bamboo on the river side, and acre of rose trees, thickly planted and without a walk in between! Plantains in groves, guava trees, custard apple trees, orange trees, vines creeping over a low frame and all stuck in without order or arrangement, besides the babul (Acacia Mimosa) and various flowering trees of the pea kind whose names I know not.
Kolapoor 23 January 1843
We arrived here on the 19th making two stages from Cagul. As we approached Kolapoor, we were met and joined by horsemen and men on riding camels to give warning of our approach and we soon observed a large body advancing, in the centre of whom were the great people, or Karbarries (guardians of the Rajah), two elephants (still greater people) and innumerable horsemen, runners and of course crowd of gazers. On meeting the Karbarries, Edward dismounted and saluted then was saluted by each. They touched his hands, and bent on each side as if to whisper in his ear or kiss his cheek. A few words were exchanged, he remounted and we rode quickly on for the horses were made fidgety by the near neighbourhood of the elephants. It was a very gay scene – the white turbans (generally speaking) and dresses of the men contrasting with the dark shawls, and occasionally dark dresses, richly caparisoned horses, camels &cc and even the guns carried by some of the men were carried in cases of bright coloured cloth.
Our tents were pitched on a hill outside the town of Kolapoor, which is surrounded with trees and of whose buildings we can only see a clumsy round tower; part of the Rajah’s palace, I am told. We are pitched in a mango grove but the trees are small and do not give much shade. Here we found Susy and the children, who in palanquins, and Horace, on his pony, had arrived before us. Friday evening, we took a drive, I at least did, on the fields and rough ways (for there is no decent carriage road) by which we had come here. The horses were nearly wild so long out of harness. Susy went in the palanquin’s easier mode. Saturday, we thought Edward would probably visit the Rajah but the toujou came so late to say that His “Great Kingship” and Dewar Sahib (the Regent Mother) expected him, that Ed would not go. He said he must give the ladies a drive and we heard later that the court was thrown into the greatest consternation at this, and wondered what the cause of delaying to visit them was. The fact is these little great people must be required to treat the English agent with all respect. In the evening, the native tutor of the princes came, and Ed had a long conversation with him (he speaks English very well) on the attainments of the Rajah and his brother (a fortnight younger than him, both nearly 13 years old; children of different mothers). It seems that learning does not flourish at the court of Kolapoor. The five hours of the day set apart for attending the tutor are seldom strictly observed. Meals, bathing, wrestling and doing pooja or worship are more congenial occupations, both to the children and their courtiers.
Today a large procession arrived at an early hour to conduct Edward to the palace. Two elephants with howdas, on one of which he was requested to go, but preferring not to be shaken to pieces, he chose to go in the toujou. Some of the Karbarries came, old Dinker Rao looking very handsome, with a scarlet and gold shawl and as usual, a tasty little white turban. A gold stick-in-waiting, stood behind his chair and little Lord of Bowra Fort, a boy of 12 who has been going about the country with Ed at his desire came into the tent at the same time, and threw himself into his chair with the air of a very great man. He is a pretty boy; Ed is anxious to improve him, and show him a little of the world. He has not been well treated at the Court here, so Ed has brought him under his wing, and is taking him today to meet the Rajah and his brother.
I have passed over yesterday, Sunday. It was spent quietly and enjoyably to us all. Ed reads Morning Service and the three English writers attend. He reads an excellent sermon and most of the day is spent studying the Scriptures. We had a book of Mr J’s questions and amused ourselves answering them. In the evening we took a quick walk. It is impossible, rather would be unpleasant, for a lady to walk out alone here. One meets so many natives and such droves of cattle in the evenings. The respectable natives are usually armed with a sword, or have attendants who are so. Europeans would have but a small chance in a scuffle if they got into one with an armed native, and they are a desperate set, reckless of life and sometimes very vindictive. The English resident at Secunderland was shot at by a revengeful Musselman and killed; and even now it not safe for a European to pass through the streets of Hyderabad (tho’ we have a large force encamped near it) unless he be mounted on an elephant. Then he would be quite safe.
Edward visited the Rajahs today accompanied not only by the native procession who came for him but also by the guard of fifty men who have come from Belgaum with us. He was much pleased at the progress of the eldest in English. He spent nearly the whole day in Kolapoor - a deputation had come to escort him, among others, Dinker Rao and the little Lord. After sitting in the hut for a short time, Ed got into the toujou, escorted by the guard, and the procession followed and the two elephants, their bells tinkling, and the whole of our people going until 3 o’clock when he returned in the same state again, some of the Rajah’s ministers came, rosewater and pans was distributed and they departed.
Kolapoor 24 January 1843
I may never again see a Rajah, or two, as I have today therefore I must not delay putting on paper my first impressions with regard to the species. The large tent was prepared for their reception about 12 o’clock – chairs placed for them and their people. I stayed on a sofa in our corner (my drawing stand before me). Susy was obliged to keep her bed today in consequence of cold. The children’s sleeping hour was come, so I had nothing to direct eye or ear from the expected sounds and sights. The former was first distinguishable – the tinkling of the elephant’s bells and all the sounds incidental to an approaching crowd (and that a crowd of Easterns who love noise) were heard some time before the gold and silver sticks in waiting shouted forth the titles of the two delicate looking boys who were met at the tent door by Edward, and led to their seats. They had come, each on a state elephant, and descended into palanquins about 20 yards from the tent, not being allowed to walk even so far. When seated and their numerous attendants camped around the tent, I had time to examine these little Regents, or rather little puppets of Royalty. They are nearly the same age – 13 years, a fortnight between them – and the eldest is the Chief, tho’ this distinction does not involve the same proportion of power on his side that it would in a European state. The Chief power is nominally his but the younger brother is also Rajah and has a larger share of the wealth and influence in the little kingdom. Kolapoor and Sattara were once united and are now two kingdoms, having been divided to satisfy the claims of brothers. The two little Rajahs are, especially the eldest, melancholy looking boys, dressed exactly alike, all in gold cloth (a sort of muslin of red silk and gold threads), long trousers of this material, angrikhas (a sort of surtout) of the same, rich red and gold shawls carelessly thrown over their shoulders, white stockings, red slippers (the only natives in the room who wore such) and beautiful turbans decked with jewels and a bunch of splendid pearls dangling on the right side of each, completed the dress. Besides they wore necklaces long and short of pearls, emeralds, shells, gold anklets, bracelets, rings also. In short, poor little boys, they were covered with gold and jewels. They seemed not much interested in what was going on around them – an air of indifference and careless pride seemed to be the natural expression on their pale faces. That of the eldest was more gentle and intelligent in its expression than the younger; and I hear the difference of their characters is the same. The younger is the pet of the Dewar’s (the Regent) and at one time there was some suspicion that poison had been put into the food of the elder Rajah. Their adherents, instead of strengthening the kingdom by uniting the brothers as much as possible in affection and interests, endeavour to separate them in every way. I stared and sketched and they often cast a curious glance at the corner where I sat. They sat nearly half an hour. The little lord of Bowra was present too, but was quiet in the background. He is a feudal chief of the two Rajahs of Kolhapur, but looks as if he thought himself a much greater man than either.
Wurgaon 27 January 1843
Edward has had a great many interviews with the Rajahs and the Regent – she is not mother to either, but is the widow of their uncle and is a bad regent and a bad woman and very likely to be removed unless she submits to the Regulations laid down for her as to expenses &cc. Edward has been very much pleased with the elder Rajah’s attention to his tutors. Sensible and quiet and eager to please, he might be, under proper training, a valuable head to the now wretchedly neglected kingdom of Kolapoor. His brother is more boyish and self-willed, being a favourite of the lady Regent, who has addled him. The eldest Rajah’s mother is alive.
This was petition day and the crowds were enormous who came for justice, a scarce article at Kolapoor as barely the semblance of a kutcherry (court of law) is kept up there. After the palanquins went off and the tents were taken down, Ed sat at work until 5 o’clock as usual, and then we set off on horseback. Queen Victoria herself could scarcely be gazed at with more earnest eyes than was I, a lady on horseback being quite a rarity. Indeed, on horseback or not, we ladies are well-watched. Our ride here was a very pretty one. The numerous villages in the Kolapoor Valley, shaded generally by trees of a large size, remind one of parks, tho’ the lawns are parched and yellow.
Before we left Wurgaon today we received a visit from Chintaman Rao and his children. He is a fine old man – was a companion in arms of the Duke of Wellington, and his name appears in the Mahratta History of those wars and days. He lost a son some twenty years ago and hopeless of the birth of another had adopted one, allowed to do so by the British Government on payment of a large sum. However, in his old age, Tatta Sahib, the little boy whom we saw today was born. He is now four years old and Afra or Abra Bye, the little girl is eight. Chintaman Rao is one of the few Sirdars of Maharashtra who really are anxious to improve their people and land. He has a large fortune, three or four lakhs (2) of rupees, and has I hear, improved his place in a very unusual manner for a native of India. He brought a large party of relatives today, and a bodyguard of at least fifty Sepoys dressed as English soldiers, besides horsemen, camels, elephants &cc. The old chieftain himself rode but his little boy came in on an elephant and the girl in a palanquin. He was dressed very plainly. Tata Sahib had a few handsome ornaments, bracelets, earrings and a turban diamond agritte, besides little vagaries stuck in his girdle of gold and mother of pearl to imitate a gunpowder case &cc. but the young lady was indeed laden with ornaments.
Both were very pretty children. She had lovely, black eyes but her nose and mouth were spoiled and the latter almost concealed by a ring with immense pearls on it. She wore pearl armlets, each three rows, ditto bracelets, two thick necklaces of pearls and 14 separate strings of pearls, each larger than the other, the lowest reaching below her waist, diamond ornaments in the centre of each string, diamond bracelets besides. A solid gold ceinture over her little hips, and gathering in her crimson silk sauree which was bordered with gold. Her slender ankles were laden with silver chains, and ditto rings on her toes. By the way, I forgot two rings diamond and emerald on her wee fingers. Now for her head. Her long black hair was plaited in one thick mass and from the top of her head to the end of this tail were inserted a series of highly wrought gold ornaments, terminating in a huge silk tassel, the silk tassels which tied all her necklaces lay on her neck under this hair. This young lady carried her fortune, and that not a trifling one, on her little person, which was beautifully formed. She wore, as is usual among Mahratta females, a little spenser with short sleeves, and her sauree gathered around her hips, a separate one covering her neck and shoulders, except when, to gratify me, she removed it. How could I have forgotten! Her ears were almost concealed by pearl ornaments which hung from their tops over them. In short, Rundell and Bridges (3) could not have imagined a more valuable little girl than Abra Bye of Sanglee. I sketched the whole family, to their evident gratification, and they sat a long time, the old man conversing with Edward. Two young elephants were made to dance before the tent door for our amusement and a huge creature, their father I suppose, at the command of his Mahout, reared repeatedly, throwing his huge paws high in the air.
(2). Lakh is a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand
(3). Rundell & Bridge were a London firm of jewellers and goldsmiths founded in 1787.
Warna 3 February 1843
We are expected everywhere. The Mamlatdar (Head of revenue administration) of Musoor came out to meet us and brought us to a beautiful spot where our tents were pitched in a grove of mangos. He was a very merry, courtly little man with diamond rings and a beautiful cashmere shawl round his waist, and sat some time in the tent, when tea was laid, offering to do anything and everything for us. “Serving the English was the same as serving the Maharajah himself.” Susy says this great civility was not general in the Satara territory, but as it is to fall to the English on the death of the present Rajah (who has been ill lately, and is even now completely under English control owing his throne to us, on the deposition of the late Rajah) the authorities think it worth their while to go out of their way even to be civil. However this may be, we have been very well received. Our encampment at Mussoor was a very nice one. It was near the dwelling of a Gosaen, a holy beggar, who seems to have a very comfortable establishment here. Grants of land to such people are called Enams and this man seems to have a very tolerable share of the Church endowment of Hindooism for a beggar, but these holy beggars are a most extorting, impious class of people.
The Mahabaleshwar Hills. 13 April 1843
More than a month has elapsed since I wrote and an important event has taken place, which calls for a place in my records. The birth of a little nephew – of a fourth son to dearest Susy. The babe was born on the 26th March, Easter Sunday, and is a fine little creature and to be named Chambre Corker Chambre Corker Townsend. Susy is, thank God, remarkably well and is now sufficiently recovered to join our party. Edward came to us a fortnight before the baby’s birth, and was just able to remain untill dear Susy was well.
4 May 1843
I find days slip so quickly away, that our stay here is nearly at a close and regret that I have told nothing of our doings. Life here is so like, in many things, life at home that there seems nothing to tell, tho’ all is so enjoyable. We have many Christian friends here and meet once a week for the purpose of reading the Scriptures and prayer, at each other’s houses. The scenery that I admired much at first has imposed still more and the beauty of the rides, drives and walks has become familiar, altho’ not the less admired, and certainly more dear. I walk or ride each morning and drive almost every evening. We have all enjoyed excellent health. Heelie, for whose health we principally came here, tho’ subject to cold, is generally well. Mr Webb, whom we saw first on our arrival in Bombay, a very dear friend of Edward’s, is staying here, in a separate bungalow in our garden and we are a very happy party. We want only Edward to make our circle complete.
22 May 1843
On the hill where we were was a village of iron smelters (Dhowars as they are called in Mahratta). These poor people have for years unknown been so employed in their trade – generation following generation in the same occupation. They are Mahomedans they say, but have no priests, no mosques, no tombs of saints even. Iron is dug from the earth and they burn the earth and thus procuring a coarse iron, make the rude implements which they and their neighbours use. They are a hardy, half-savage race.
In another valley, which runs parallel to the Krishna, the Yena falls from a rocky precipice and makes a very pretty cataract. At present time there is but little water but the height of the fall and the beauty of the spot make it well worthy of a visit. I have seen it from both sides and sketched it too. In one of our rugged rides across the country, we met an extraordinary figure, a devotee of the Deity Kundaka – the tiger destroying God of the Hindoos. This man wore a heavy iron chain around his neck as a mark of his holiness, from his childhood he had been made to wear one. This seemed dreadfully heavy, almost like the anchor chain of some large vessel. He had a pouch of tiger skin in front and a tiger skin hanging on his right arm. In his left he carried a long spear. Mr Webb spoke to him, while I sketched. He had a great many black woollen tassels hanging about him and altogether made a curious figure.
Padshapoor 27 December 1843
Again, on our district tour, I find time for noting our departure from Belgaum. We left our abode there on the 19th of this month. The week before had been spent in making preparations for this move, which, as we propose going again to Mahabaleshwar, will be one of some months. There seems also an uncertainty about our returning to Belgaum at all again, so we feel as if we are saying a long adieu to friends and places there. Early on Tuesday morning, the 19th, Edward and I set out on horseback for Motikee, a village five or six miles from Belgaum on the Koludghee road. As we passed under the fort walls the guns fired a salute to announce the departure of the Collector to his districts.
Khonoor 1 January 1844
This morning we saluted the first sun of the new year, 1844, on horseback. Here we arrived from Padshapoor on the morning of the 28th. Long before sunrise we were on horseback and I had the pleasure of seeing my old, unchanging friend, the Great Bear, high in the heavens. Our ride was rather a pretty one and we reached Khonoor long before the palanquins or carriages.
Ghouziry 12 February 1844
Edward had a heavy, feverish cold which made us leave our last resting place sooner than we otherwise would have done……….Our kind friend, Doctor Doig surprised us here from Belgaum the morning after our arrival. He was anxious to see Edward and judge for himself whether his illness was of no consequence or requiring a change of air to the coast and he has decided against the latter so we may go on our way, rejoicing in the goodness and mercy of our God the Father. Ed is every day improving.
Hingougaon 26February 1844
On our way to the Hills again! Few pages back and I was leaving them! We have left Belgaum, not to return again. Edward is appointed Secretary in the R and F Department (Revenue & Forestry) of Bombay and thither we turn our faces. We parted from Edward at Hookaree where we remained for three weeks, some of us suffering from colds. We had friends with us for the last few days. We have proceeded by stages hither, enjoying the pleasures of native travelling and enduring its fatigues, which on this journey have rather been greater than usual, as the children have coughs and disturb us at night. Suzy and I frequently travel in the Phaeton on every stage, as the roads are sufficiently good and the horses quiet.
Mahabaleshwar 6 March 1844
We left Satara on Friday evening and sleeping at Mhera reached Mahabaleshwar the morning of Saturday 2nd of March. Edward had arrived a few hours before us. We are in a better house than we had last year and have a larger domain, but not so pretty a one. Everything is so like last year – the same lovely views, the same deep purple hills, lights and shades - that I expect to see the same faces too. Edward left us for Bombay on Monday evening and we have been occupied settling ourselves and receiving visitors. Gentle Reader, do not expect me to say much of this place here. My book is nearly done… I want to keep a little room for Poona (4), whither I hear we go next and I shall see nothing here (in the way of “sights”) that I did not put down in black and white before now.
(4) Edward's first cousin, Major Edward Townsend and married to Henrietta’s sister, Isabella Townsend was stationed at Poona at this time. On several occasions whilst there he met his cousin Edward Hume and in a letter from Poona to his mother dated 5 February 1850 Major Edward wrote "he (Edward Hume) looks very well; that is two thirds of him, the other third being invisible in a long beard and green spectacles”.