CALCUTTA, THE CAPITAL OF INDIA
On the lawn behind the grand stand, under the shade of groups of palm trees, tables and chairs were placed, and tea was served between the events. Ladies whose husbands are members of the Jockey Club can engage tables in advance, as most of them do, and issue their invitations in advance also, so that Viceroy's day is usually a continuous tea party and a reunion of old friends, for everybody within traveling distance comes to the capital that day. Every woman wore a new gown made expressly for the occasion. Most of them were of white or of dainty colors, but they did not compare in beauty or elegance with the brocades and embroidered silks worn by bare-legged natives. Half the Hindu gentlemen present had priceless camel's hair and Cashmere shawls thrown over their shoulders - most of them heirlooms, for, according to the popular impression, modern shawls do not compare in quality with the old ones. Under the shawls they wear long coats, reaching to their heels like ulsters, of lovely figured silk or brocade of brilliant colors. Some of them are finished with exquisite embroidery. No Hindu women were present, only Parsees. They never appear in public, and allow their husbands to wear all of the fine fabrics and jewels. With shawls wrapped around them like Roman togas, the Hindus are the most dignified and stately human spectacles you can imagine, but when they put on European garments or a mixture of native and foreign dress they are positively ridiculous, and do violence to every rule of art and law of taste. Usually when an oriental - for it is equally true of China, Japan and Turkey - adopts European dress he selects the same colors he would wear in his own, and he looks like a freak, as you can imagine, in a pair of green trousers, a crimson waistcoat, a purple tie, a blue negligee shirt and a plaid jacket.
If you want to see a display of fine raiment and precious stones you must attend an official function in India, a reception by Lord or Lady Curzon, for in the number, size and value of their jewels the Indian princes surpass the sovereigns of Europe. One of the rajahs has the finest collection of rubies in the world, purchased from time to time by his ancestors for several generations, most of them in Burma, where the most valuable rubies have been found. Another has a collection of pearls, accumulated in the same way. They represent an investment of millions of dollars, and include the largest and finest examples in the world. When he wears them all, as he sometimes does, on great occasions, his front from his neck to his waist is covered with pearls netted like a chain armor. His turban is a cataract of pearls on all sides, and upon his left shoulder is a knot as large as your two hands, from which depends a braided rope of four strands, reaching to his knee, and every pearl is as large as a grape. You can appreciate the size and value of his collection when I tell you that all of the pearls owned by the ex-Empress Eugenie are worn in his turban, and do not represent ten per cent of the collection.
Other rajahs are famous for diamonds, or emeralds, or other jewels. There seems to be a good deal of rivalry among them as to which shall make the greatest display. But from what people tell me I should say that the Nizam of Haidarabad could furnish the largest stock if these estimable gentlemen were ever compelled to go into the jewelry business. We were particularly interested in him because he outranks all the other native princes, and is the most important as well as the most gorgeous in the array. His dominions, which he has inherited from a long line of ancestors - I believe he traces his ancestry back to the gods - include the ancient City of Golconda, whose name for centuries was a synonym for riches and splendors. In ancient times it was the greatest diamond market in the world. It was the capital of the large and powerful kingdom of the Deccan, and embraced all of southern India, but is now in ruins. Its grandeur began to decay when the kingdom was conquered by the Moguls in 1587 and annexed to their empire, and to-day the crumbling walls and abandoned palaces are almost entirely deserted. Even the tombs of the ancient kings, a row of vast and splendid mausoleums, which cost millions upon millions of dollars, and for architecture and decoration and costliness have been surpassed only by those of the Moguls, are being allowed to decay while the ruling descendant of the men who sleep there spends his income for diamonds.
The magnificence and extravagance of these princes are the theme of poems and legends. There is a large book in Persian filled with elaborate and graphic descriptions of the functions and ceremonies that attend the reception of an envoy from Shah Abbas, King of Persia, who visited the court of Golconda in 1503. Among other gifts brought by him from his royal master was a crown of rubies which still remains in the family, although many people think the original stones have been removed and imitations substituted in order that the nizam may enjoy the glory of wearing them. When his ambassador went back to Persia he was accompanied by a large military escort guarding a caravan of 2,400 camels laden with gifts from the nizam to his royal master.
The present capital of the province, the city of Haidarabad, was founded in 1589 by a gentleman named Kutab Shah Mohammed Kuli, who afterward removed his household there on account of a lack of water and a malarial atmosphere at Golconda. He called the city in honor of his favorite concubine. The name means "the city of Haidar." The province includes about 80,000 square miles of territory, and has a population of 11,141,946 of whom only 10 per cent are Moslems, although the ruling family have always professed that faith.