JEYPORE AND ITS MAHARAJA
A board of geographic names, similar to that we have in Washington, is badly needed in India to straighten out discrepancies in the nomenclature on the maps. I was told that only three towns in all the vast empire have a single spelling; all the rest have several; some have many; and the name of one town - I have forgotten which - is given in sixty-five different ways. Jeypore, for example, is given in fifteen. The sign over the entrance to the railway station reads "Jeypure;" on the lamps that light the platform it is painted "Jeypoor"; on the railway ticket it was "Jaypur"; on the bill of fare in the refreshment-room of the station it was "Jaipor"; on a telegram delivered by the operator at the station it was spelled "Jaiphur." If the employes about a single establishment in the town can get up that number of spells, what are we to expect from the rest of the inhabitants of a city of 150,000 people, and Jeypore is one of the simplest and easiest names in the gazetteer. The neighboring city of Jodpore, capital of the adjoining native state of Marwar, offers an even greater variety of orthoepy, for it appears in a different spelling on each of the three maps I carried around - a railway map, a government map, and the map in Murray's Guide Book. This is a fair illustration of the dissensions over nomenclature, which are bewildering to a stranger, who never knows when he gets the right spelling, and sometimes cannot even find the towns he is looking for.
Jodpore is famous for its forts, which present an imposing appearance from a wide spreading plain, as they are perched at the top of a rocky hill three hundred feet high, with almost perpendicular sides. The only way to reach it is by a zigzag road chiseled out of the cliff, which leads to a massive gateway. The walls are twenty-eight feet high, twenty-eight feet thick, and are crowned with picturesque towers. During ascent you are shown the impressions of the hands of the fifteen wives of one of the rajahs who were all burned in one grand holocaust upon his funeral pyre. I don't know why they did it, but the marks are there. Within the walls are some very interesting old palaces, built in the fifteenth century, of pure Hindu architecture, and the carvings and perforated marble work are of the most delicate and beautiful designs. The treasury, which contains the family jewels and plate, is the chief object of tourist curiosity, and they are a collection worth going far to see. The pearls and emeralds are especially fine, and are worth millions. The saddles, bridles, harness and other stable equipments are loaded with gold and silver ornaments set with precious stones, and the trappings for elephants are covered with the most gorgeous gold and silver embroidery.
About half a mile outside the city walls is a temple called the Maha Mandir, whose roof is supported by a hundred richly decorated columns. On each side of it are palaces intended exclusively for the use of spirits of former rulers of the country. Their beds are laid out with embroidery coverings and lace, sheltered by golden canopies and curtains of brocade, but are never slept in by living people, being reserved for the spirits of the dead. This is the only exhibition of the kind to be seen in India, and why the dead and gone rulers of Marwar should need lodgings when those of the other Indian states do not, is an unsolved mystery.
In the royal cemetery, three miles to the north, rows of beautiful but neglected cenotaphs mark the spots where the remains of each of some 300 rajahs were consumed with their widows. Some of them had more and some less, according to their taste and opportunities, and sutti, or widow burning, was enforced in Jodpore more strictly than anywhere else in India. You can imagine the thoughts this extraordinary place suggests. Within its walls, in obedience to an awful and relentless custom, not less than nine hundred or a thousand innocent, helpless women were burned alive, for these oriental potentates certainly must have allowed themselves at least three wives each. That would be a very moderate estimate. I have no doubt that some of them had forty, and perhaps four hundred, and we know that one had fifteen. But no matter how many times a rajah went to the matrimonial altar, every wife that outlived him was burned upon his funeral pyre in order that he might enjoy her society in the other world. Since widow burning was stopped by the British government in the sixties, the spirits of the rajahs of Jodpore have since been compelled to go to paradise without company. But they do not take any chances of offending the deities by neglect, for on a hill that overlooks their cemetery they have erected a sort of sweepstakes temple to Three Hundred Million Gods.