TWO HINDU WEDDINGS
There was a notable wedding at Baroda, the capital of one of the Native States of the same name, while we were in India, and the Gaikwar, as the ruling prince is called, expressed a desire for us to be present. He has a becoming respect for and appreciation of the influence and usefulness of the press, and it was a pleasure to find so sensible a man among the native rulers. But, owing to circumstances over which we had no control, we had to deny ourselves the gratification of witnessing an event which few foreigners have ever been allowed to see. It is a pity winter is so short in the East, for there are so many countries one cannot comfortably visit any other time of year.
Baroda is a non-tributary, independent native state of the first rank, lying directly north of the province of Bombay, and its ruler is called a "gaikwar," which signifies "cowherd," and the present possessor of that title is one of the biggest men in the empire, one of the richest and one of the greatest swells. He is entitled to a salute of twenty-one guns, an honor conferred upon only two other native princes, the Maharajah of Mysore and the Nizam of Hyderabad. He is one of the ablest and one of the most progressive of the native princes. His family trace their descent back to the gods of mythology, but he is entirely human himself, and a handsome man of middle age. When we saw him for the first time he had half a dozen garlands of flowers hanging around his neck, and three or four big bouquets in his hand, which, according to the custom of the country, had been presented to him by affectionate friends. It was he who presented to the City of Bombay the beautiful statue of Queen Victoria which ornaments the principal public square. It is one of the finest monuments to be seen anywhere, and expressed his admiration of his empress, who had shown particular interest in his career. The present gaikwar was placed upon the throne in 1874 by Lord Northbrook, when he was Viceroy of India, to succeed Malhar Rao, one of those fantastic persons we read about in fairy stories but seldom find in real life. For extravagant phantasies and barbaric splendors he beat the world. He surpassed even those old spendthrifts of the Roman Empire, Nero, Caligula and Tiberius. He spent a million of rupees to celebrate the marriage ceremonies of a favorite pigeon of his aviary, which was mated with one belonging to his prime minister. But the most remarkable of his extravagant freaks was a rug and two pillow covers of pearls, probably the greatest marvel of all fabrics that were ever woven since the world was made.
The carpet, ten feet six inches by six feet in size, is woven entirely of strings of perfect pearls. A border eleven inches wide and a center ornament are worked out in diamonds. The pillow covers are three feet by two feet six inches in size. For three years the jewel merchants of India, and they are many, were searching for the material for this extraordinary affair. It cost several millions of dollars and was intended as a present for a Mohammedan lady of doubtful reputation, who had fascinated His Highness. The British Resident at his capital intervened and prohibited the gift on the ground that the State of Baroda could not afford to indulge its ruler in such generosity, and that the scandal would reflect upon the administration of the Indian Empire. The carpet still belongs to the State and may be seen by visitors upon a permit from one of the higher authorities. It is kept at Baroda in a safe place with the rest of the state jewels, which are the richest in India and probably the most costly belonging to any government in the world.
The regalia of the gaikwar intended for state occasions, which was worn by him at the wedding, is valued at $15,000,000. He appeared in it at the Delhi durbar in 1903. It consists of a collar and shoulder pieces made of 500 diamonds, some of them as large as walnuts. The smallest would be considered a treasure by any lady in the land. The border of this collar is made of three bands of emeralds, of graduated sizes, the outer row consisting of jewels nearly an inch square. From the collar, as a pendant, hangs one of the largest and most famous diamonds in the world, known as the "Star of the Deccan." Its history may be found in any work on jewels. There is an aigrette to match the collar, which His Highness wears in his turban.
This is only one of several sets to be found in the collection, which altogether would make as brave a show as you can find at Tiffany's. There are strings of pearls as large as marbles, and a rope of pearls nearly four feet long braided of four strands. Every pearl is said to be perfect and the size of a pea. The rope is about an inch in diameter. Besides these are necklaces, bracelets, brooches, rings and every conceivable ornament set with jewels of every variety, which have been handed down from generation to generation in this princely family for several hundred years. One of the most interesting of the necklaces is made of uncut rubies said to have been found in India. It has been worn for more than a thousand years. These jewels are kept in a treasure-room in the heart of the Nazar Bgah Palace, guarded night and day by a battalion of soldiers. At night when the palace is closed half a dozen huge cheetahs, savage beasts of the leopard family, are released in the corridors, and, as you may imagine, they are efficient watchmen. They would make a burglar very unhappy. During the daytime they are allowed to wander about the palace grounds, but are carefully muzzled.