0Saturday. 23rd [December 1905]—Bikaner
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23 December 1905 — Bikaner
Saturday. 23rd [December 1905]. We had a comfortable carriage & slept well in the night arriving at Bikaner abt 8 a.m. At the station we [were] met by His Highness’ private secy Mr Cooper—a Parsee gentn. A well appointed carriage was waiting & with Mr C. we drove to the Palace Lallgarh abt 3 miles from the town– We were much struck with the smart air of everything, carriage streets, & houses which was passed. We drove through large private grounds & through 2 fine gate ways—one erected in remembrance of the D. of Connaught’s visit & one a clock tower. We came to a fine redstone building in the Saracenic style in a pleasant flower garden at a very short distance was the state guest house in which pleasant rooms had been prepared for us. They were fitted up with the best modern furniture & had electric light & European bath rooms. Our luggage & servants were brought up from the station in camel carts. Mr Cooper told us breakfast would be in the Palace at 10 o’cl & that we should meet other of the Maharaja’s European guests. He fetched us to show us the way in at 10 & we found ourselves in a palatial & comfortable building—with large rooms built round a courtyard covered with green grass. Amongst our fellow guests were a Col. & Mrs Smithson, Genl & Mrs Parsons & a daughter & 2 other young men. All the rooms in the palace had kind of upper galleries with lattice work screens behind which the Zenana ladies could see & hear all that is going on. The rooms are of fine proportions & furnished with the best taste. The servants seemed to be mostly Portuguese & wore tidy liveries—red mess coats—& waited well. The Maharaja himself appeared to welcome us. He is abt 25 but looks 40, speaks English perfectly & has very good manners & is nice looking with the dark Indian complexion. He excused himself from breakfasting with us saying it was past his hour. He wore European costume as did his secy. We had an excellent breakfast to wh we did full justice—then retired to our rooms to rest till lunch time when we assembled again at 2. The Maharaja lunched with us have quite emancipated himself of all caste prejudices on this score. I sat next to him & found him pleased & easy to talk to. After lunch he showed us over the house, the state apartments wh he had just fitted up anew for the P. & Pss of Wales—all in very good taste. The billiard room on the walls of wh hang all the trophies of his chase, heads & tiger & other skins, his own work room with the council table in centre, the drawing room where a good fire was burning on the hearth—all well appointed, well kept & comfortable. In the entrance hall was a beautiful wide white marble seat wh he said he had brought here from the old Palace in the Fort. It is meant to be covered with carpets or cushions & the back of it is made of beautiful pierced lattice work. H.H. asked Nela & me if we should not like to go for a drive & sent us out in a carriage to see his family cenotaphs with his tennis master on the box who speaks English & could explain things like a guide. We drove about 4 miles to the E. to see these cenotaphs wh are very well kept—walled in & the gates kept shut. There was a little difficulty in finding the old man who kept the key but after a while he came & explained to us the names of the Maharajahs in whose honor they had been built & how many widows had done suttee for each– The largest number of suttee for one husband was 22!! & on the tablet on that cenotaphs were 2 rows of little figures engraved—4—6—& sometimes 18 were on others. The old man recounted how when he was young in the fifties he had seen the last suttee 2 widows having been burnt before him. He told us that they sat side by side with the corpse laid across their laps– One of the women remained looking intently down on the husband’s face, the other was looking up at the setting sun. As the pyre blazed up he saw the one fall forward—the other backward into the flames & disappear. It is said these poor women were generally drugged to enable them to go through it– I hope this may have always been the case. Altho’ our Govt has forbidden the custom it is said it is even now done surreptitiously. We returned to Bikaner just after sunset. The Maharaja gave a state dinner party in the evening to all the English in the station. Genl & Mrs                had joined the party by that time—we were a large party– The table was well appointed—the dinner good & the silver & decorations handsome. The Maharaja wore European dress & a pink turban–

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