Maharajahii Indiei / The Maharajahs of India (II).
(Ann Morrow, „Highness. The Maharajahs of India”, „Introdiction”)
Opposite ‘Occupation’ in their red passports, it said ‘Ruler’. They loved dhoom-dham, the ceremonial,the gun salutes. In the Punjab, there was an Officer for the Trousers.
Beneath the veneer of Western civilisation, life behind the arras was medieval and full of intrigue. Some sat all day in iced baths, drinking gimlets, playing mah-jong, and being showered with rose petals, or they built canals, turned deserts into granaries, and educated their people.
Their eyes were as dark as the Medicis’; they made dynastic marriages with princesses of twelve. Their women grew into stately matriarchs in purdah guarded by rippling-skinned eunuchs. There was an Inspector General for Dancing. Concubines were wheeled to their beds so that silken skin would not be sullied with perspiration, and might be thrown to the crocodiles if their breasts were not like Alfansa mangoes. Crushed diamonds were their aphrodisiac.
In their palaces today your bath stopper may be tied with wire or made of gold shimmering against green marble;attar of roses mingles with the acrid smell of yhe bearers’ bidi cigarettes;cardamon competes with Cardin; modern white ceramics are next to ancient blue Persian tiles.
They travelled by elephant or gold Rolls-Royce; their carts had solid gold wheels. Barefoot, they led their people on spiritual pilgrimages and believed in their astrologers. Tigers were reduced to rugs, then hunters became conservationists.
Mocking cliches refer to ‘cruel-lipped Princes’ and their ‘dusky slim-hipped girls’. They could be lascivious yet prudish; a maharajah shocked by a vicereine’ s decolletage remarked, ‘She is not a very gentlemanly lady.’
-to be continued-