Anthropology Friday: Travels into Bokhara, pt. 3/3

Hello! Today we are finishing up with Alexander Burnes’s Travels into Bokhara with Burnes’s arrival in Lahore (at least until I locate the volume where he actually makes it to Bokhara.)

15th Sikh Regiment arrives in France, World War I. (The text reads, "Gentlemen of India marching to chasten the German hooligans".
15th Sikh Regiment arrives in France, World War I. (The text reads, “Gentlemen of India marching to chasten the German hooligans”.

“The bravery of our Seik friends had been already exhibited to us by their attacking the wild hog with a sword, on foot; but a nobler specimen of their courage was displayed in the death of a tiger. We disturbed the animal in a thicket of tamarisk close to our boats; and the Mihmandar immediately invited us to see the sport. Mr. Leckie accompanied the party; but our elephant was not at hand, and I did not go. …”

EvX: I get the impression that Sikhs have an active relationship with the military.

According to Wikipedia:

By the beginning of World War I, Sikhs in the British Indian Army totaled over 100,000 (20 percent of the force). …

During World War I, Sikh battalions fought in Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Gallipoli and France. Six battalions of the Sikh Regiment were raised during World War II, serving in the Second Battle of El Alamein, the Burma and Italian campaigns and in Iraq and receiving 27 battle honours. Around the world, Sikhs are commemorated in Commonwealth cemeteries.[81]

In the last two world wars 83,005 turban wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and 109,045 were wounded fighting for the British Empire. During shell fire, they had no other head protection but the turban, the symbol of their faith. — General Sir Frank Messervy[82]

British people are highly indebted and obliged to Sikhs for a long time. I know that within this century we needed their help twice [in two world wars] and they did help us very well. As a result of their timely help, we are today able to live with honour, dignity, and independence. In the war, they fought and died for us, wearing the turbans. — Sir Winston Churchill[83]

So who are the Sikhs?

Sikh regiment in the Indian army
Sikh regiment in the Indian army

A Sikh … is a follower of Sikhism, a monotheistic religion which originated during the 15th century in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent.[16]… A Sikh, according to Article I of the Sikh Rehat Maryada (the Sikh code of conduct), is “any human being who faithfully believes in One Immortal Being; ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh; Guru Granth Sahib; the teachings of the ten Gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru“.[19]

“Sikh” properly refers to adherents of Sikhism as a religion, not an ethnic group. However, because Sikhism has seldom sought converts, most Sikhs share strong ethno-religious ties. Many countries, such as the United Kingdom, therefore recognize Sikh as a designated ethnicity on their censuses.[20]

3/5s of the Sikh articles of faith--I have heard that the dagger is "so that they are always prepared to stop criminals." Kind of like Batman.
3/5s of the Sikh articles of faith–I have heard that the dagger is “so that they are always prepared to stop criminals.” Kind of like Batman.

Further:

The fundamental beliefs of Sikhism, articulated in the sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib, include faith and meditation on the name of the one creator, unity and equality of all humankind, engaging in selfless service, striving for social justice for the benefit and prosperity of all, and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder’s life.[6][7][8] Being one of the youngest amongst the major world religions, with 25-28 million adherents worldwide, Sikhism is the ninth-largest religion in the world.

EvX: You know, the way information scales always amuses me. There are more Sikhs than Jews, but I know way more abut Judaism than about Sikhism. Of course, this is probably due to there being more Jews than Sikhs in the US (I assume,) leading to me having more Jewish than Sikh friends, but that is precisely the point–we have so much more data about the proximate than about the far-off.

Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, Pakistan
I assume he means the Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, Pakistan, built by the 6th Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, between 1671 and 1673.

Back to Burnes: “At noon, on the 14th of July, we came in sight of the lofty minarets of the King’s mosque at Lahore and might have reached the ancient capital of the Moghul empire, and the termination of our protracted voyage; but the ceremonial of our entree required arrangement, and we halted three or four miles from the city, at the earnest request of our conductors. As the sun set, I saw, for the first time, the massy mountains which encircle Cashmere, clothed in a mantle of white snow. I felt a nervous sensation of joy as I first gazed on the Himalaya, and almost forgot the duties I owed to our conductors, in contemplating these mighty works of nature. …

The Alamgiri Gate and Hazuri Bagh gardens, 1870, built by Ranjit Singh to celebrate the capture of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond
The Alamgiri Gate and Hazuri Bagh gardens, 1870, built by Ranjit Singh to celebrate the capture of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond

“About 9 A. M., when the Maharaja had reached the ancient palace that stands within the walls Court of Lahore, he sent a deputation of his nobles to conduct us to Court. All the Sirdars and officers who had been from time to time sent to us were previously in attendance, besides a numerous escort ; and the pageant was further swelled by a detachment of Bengal sepoys which Captain Wade had brought from Lodiana. The coach, which was a handsome vehicle, headed the procession; and in rear of the dray-horses we ourselves followed on elephants, with the officers of the Maharaja. We passed close under the walls of the city, between them and the ditch, and entered Lahore by the palace gate. The streets were lined with cavalry, artillerv, and infantry, all of which saluted as we passed.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh, [date], ruler of the Sikh Empire
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, 1780-1839, ruler of the Sikh Empire
“The concourse of people was immense; they had principally seated themselves on tlie balconies of the houses, and preserved a most respectful silence. On entering the first court of the palace, we were received by Raja Dihan Sing, a fine soldierlike looking person, dressed in armour, by whom we were conducted to the door of the palace. While stooping to remove my shoes at the threshold, I suddenly found myself in the arms and tight embrace of a diminutive old-looking man, — the great Maharaja Runjeet Sing.”

EvX: Right, so at this time, Lahore was part of the Sikh Empire (or kingdom,) ruled by Ranjit Singh, not part of the Mughal Empire (Muslim.)

According to Wikipedia:

[Singh] survived smallpox in infancy but lost sight in his left eye. He fought his first battle alongside his father at age 10. After his father died, he fought several wars to expel Afghans in his teenage years, and was proclaimed as the “Maharaja of Punjab” at age 21.[6][8] His Empire grew in the Punjab region under his leadership through 1839.[9][10]

Sikh Empire
Sikh Empire

Ranjit Singh married many times, by various ceremonies, and had twenty wives.[24][25] Some scholars note that the information on Ranjit Singh’s marriages is unclear, and there is evidence that he had many mistresses. According to Khushwant Singh, in an 1889 interview with the French journal Le Voltaire, his son Dalip (Duleep) Singh remarked, “I am the son of one of my father’s forty six wives”.[26] …

On June 27 1839, Ranjit Singh died in his sleep.[24] Four of his wives, and seven concubines with royal titles given by Ranjit Singh, committed sati by burning themselves on the pyre of Ranjit Singh, during his official cremation ceremony.[24][37]

Our tour guide recommends:

“the stranger must cross the Ravee to behold the finest ornament of Lahore, — the “Shah Dura,” or tomb of the Emperor Juhangeer, which is a monument of great beauty. …

The Koh-i-Noor diamond in its original setting
The Koh-i-Noor diamond in its original setting

“In compliance with a wish that I had expressed, he produced the “Koh-i-noor” or mountain of light, one of the largest diamonds in the world, which he had extorted from Shah Shooja, the ex-King of Cabool. Nothing can be imagined more superb than this stone; it is of the finest water, and about half the size of an egg. Its weight amounts to 3 [number didn’t scan properly] rupees, and if such a jewel is to be valued, I am informed it is worth 3[something] millions of money, but this is a gross exaggeration. The Koh-i-noor” is set as an armlet, with a diamond on each side about the size of a sparrow’s egg.

Did you guess where the Koh-i-Noor diamond ended up? In Queen Mary's Crown in the Tower of London
Did you guess where the Koh-i-Noor diamond ended up? In Queen Mary’s Crown in the Tower of London

“Runjeet seemed anxious to display his jewels before we left him; and with the diamond was brought a large ruby, weighing 14 rupees. It had the names of several kings engraven on it, among which were those of Aurun[?]zebe and Ahmed Shah. There was also a topaz of great size, weighing 11 rupees, and as large as half a billiard ball: Runjeet had purchased it for 20,000 rupees.”

According to Wikipedia:

Many sources say that the diamond was discovered in the 1650s, in diamond mines of Golkonda and presented by Mir Jumla to Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, who had the stone placed into his ornate Peacock Throne. In 1658, his son and successor, Aurangazeb, confined the ailing emperor at nearby Agra Fort. While in the possession of Aurangazeb, it was cut by Hortenso Borgia, a Venetian lapidary so clumsy that he reduced the weight of the stone from 793 carats (158.6 g) to 186 carats (37.2 g).[14] For this carelessness, Borgia was reprimanded and fined 10,000 rupees.[15]

That would be quite the accident! The British cut the stone down further to make it sparklier. I am not a gem-ologist, so I suppose I don’t have a right to an opinion about such matters, but I find the notion just a little horrifying.

Let us close with the earthquake of 1819:

Sindhri Fort before 1819
Sindhri Fort before 1819

“… there occurred, in June, 1819, a severe shock of an earthquake, by which some hundreds of the inhabitants of Cutch sindree perished, and every fortified stronghold in the [unreadable] country was shaken to its foundations. Wells and rivulets without number changed from fresh to salt water; but these were trifling alterations, compared with those which took place in the eastern branch of the Indus, and the adjacent country. At sunset, the shock was felt at Sindree, the station at which the Cutch Government levied their customs, situated on the high road from Cutch to Sinde, and on the banks of what had been once the eastern branch of the Indus. The little brick fort of 150 feet square, which had been built there for the protection of

Sindhri fort in 1838
Sindhri fort in 1838

merchandise, was overwhelmed by an inundating torrent of water from the ocean, which spread on every side, and, in the course of a few hours, converted the tract, which had before been hard and dry, into an inland lake, which extended for sixteen miles on either side of Sindree. The houses within the walls filled with water, and eight years afterwards I found fish in the pools among them. The only dry spot was the place on which the bricks had fallen upon one another. One of four towers only remained, and the custom-house officers had saved their lives by ascending it, and were eventually transported to dryland by boats on the following day.”

Or as Wikipedia puts it:

The 1819 Rann of Kutch earthquake occurred at about 18:45 to 18:50 local time on 16 June. It had an estimated magnitude ranging from 7.7 to 8.2 on the moment magnitude scale and a maximum perceived intensity of XI (Extreme) on the Mercalli intensity scale. It triggered a tsunami and caused at least 1,543 deaths. The earthquake caused an area of subsidence to that formed the Sindri Lake and a local zone of uplift to the north about 80 km long, 6 km wide and 6 m high that dammed the Koree / Kori / Puram river.

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5 thoughts on “Anthropology Friday: Travels into Bokhara, pt. 3/3

  1. If you haven’t read Fraser’s Flashman and the Mountain of Light, about the First Anglo-Sikh War, you may enjoy it. And now I think of it, the first book in the series also features Burnes himself.

    Like

  2. Interestingly enough the author Alexander Burnes advised against the British invasion of Afghanistan, which happened anyway and he was killed during it.

    Still enjoyed the series.

    Like

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