The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - 'Diary of a Tour in the Naga Hills, 1922-1923' by Henry Balfour

caption: Boat trip on the Ganges; visit to Sarnath ruins and museum
medium: diaries
date: 18.12.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Mon. Dec. 18.
text: I was up at 6 a.m. At 7 I started in a carriage for the River. I went to one of the Ghats & embarked on a quaint, ramshackle sort of small house-boat, on the top of which a chair was put for me, and was rowed along past the front of the Ghats where thousands of people were gathered, bathing in the sacred river, playing, contemplating and loafing. Priests sat about everywhere under huge basketry umbrellas. Stark-naked fakirs, covered with ashes, sat immobile in a state of unsavoury 'sanctity', looking anything but holy. The whole colour effect was very fine. many of the people appeared really devout & in earnest. Others were laughing & joking & far from serious. Sacred cattle were strolling about. Corpses were being carried down to the Burning Ghat, wrapped merely in thin white fabric. White vultures with black flight-feathers were well in evidence. Sandpipers & wagtails ran over the mud. Kites & crows were in hundreds, and thousands of pigeons (mostly like Stock-doves), which are protected on this side of the Ganges, flew around or went into holes in the buildings. Macaques played about in the trees. Several of the buildings, erected by various Maharajas are fine; some have come to grief, owing to their foundations having given way & there is a lot of ruin. After going some way upstream, the boat was turned downstream and, passing the place of embarkation, went past the old Observatory Palace and the Burning Ghat & others of the lower ghats. I went ashore to visit a Durga temple, which is very elaborately carved - a series of complete-relief stone carvings of musicians runs right round below the eaves. Various instruments are represented, including performers on the Indian iron jews harp; the temple was built by Rajah Ameti, about 150 years ago. I next visited the Nepalese Temple, which, like the other, stands high above the Ghats. It is chiefly remarkable for some very good teak carvings, & for a partly-gilt roof hung with bells which have leaf-ended clappers for sounding in a wind. Many of the carvings are highly [] & the priest carefully points these out to the exclusion of the more interesting carvings. Returning to the boat I returned to the ghat where I had embarked & paid 3 rupees for the boat & 1 rupee to the men, & got back to the hotel for breakfast at 9.45 a.m. In the afternoon I drove to Sarnath (c. 4 or 5 miles from the hotel) along a road shaded with tamarind & mango trees, to visit the famous Buddhist site. The buildings are mostly in ruins, but part of a very large stupa of brick faced with stone remains standing & exhibits good carvings (linked swastikas etc.) on the outside stone-work. Many carved stones remain standing among the ruins, and small stupas, elaborately carved, are fairly well preserved. A great many carvings (both Buddhist & Hindu) are preserved in the adjoining Museum, which is full of interest. Returned to the hotel & paid 13 rupees for the carriage for two days, and 6 rupees to Mohammed Hussain, my guide, also for the two days. I turned in a 10 p.m. in view of an early start in the morning.