Man-Animal Conflict in British India

The news reports published on losses to human life inflicted by the wild animals in British India shed indirect light on the relative abundance of wildlife and the issues of man-animal conflict experienced during the British times. The statistics quoted in these reports can best be regarded as rough estimates and broadly indicative of the underlying trends.

WILD ANIMALS IN INDIA

Published on Thursday the 31st of January 1889 in Mercury and Weekly Courier, Vic.

A writer on the “‘The Game and Game-Laws of India,” in the current number of the Quarterly Review, says that the recent enactment of a law for the protection of wild birds and game in India marks a notable era in the progress of Western thought and civilization in that country.

THE PROTECTION OF WILD ELEPHANTS

In Lord Dufferins’ new Game Law a power has been taken to enable the local Governments to extend the provisions of the Act to any animals of game other than birds. This may, perhaps, be looked on with suspicion by some people. But there are several kinds of game animals, such as nilghai and antelopes, which really need protection. Nor is this the first effort of the Government in this direction. “Nearly ten years ago the Viceroy found himself obliged to legislate to prohibit the wanton destruction of wild elephants, and to assert the Government rights of ownership in all that might be captured, whether by its own special officers or by licensed hunters. It seemed as if the elephants of India were about to become an extinct species. The supply of newly caught wild elephants was decreasing from year to year. The mortality among the tame elephants employed for military purposes had largely increased, especially during the protracted campaigns of the Mutiny of 1857. The elephant, though of huge strength, is of delicate constitution, and requires to be treated with much more care than it usually receives when engaged on military duties. The market value of elephants showed how seriously the supply was becoming exhausted. Their price more than doubled itself for all young and serviceable animals. Then the Government interposed, and as tame elephants do not breed in captivity, the law was passed to protect the wild elephants from being hunted for the sake of their ivory; and to require the professional hunters of elephants to take out a licence, under which the Government would have the first choice of all newly captured elephants for the wants of the Commissariat and for other military purposes.”

THE EXTERMINATION OF BEASTS OF PREY

It has, the writer remarks, been probably too much the habit of English sportsmen in India to deplore the general decrease of the wild animals which they used to hunt. “Wherever there has been a marked diminution or disappearance of the beasts of prey, it is usually due to one of three causes. The first and principal cause has been the gradual increase of cultivation throughout the country. The second case is referable to the policy adopted by the Government of India, of giving pecuniary rewards for the extermination of wild animals and poisonous snakes; and the third cause is to be found in the assiduous endeavours of English sportsmen, during the last century, to kill as many wild beasts as they could find time and opportunity to destroy. With regard to the first cause, it is a simple fact that the clearance of the forest and the spread of cultivation have been fatal, not only, to the larger beasts of prey, but also to the innocent herds of deer and antelopes. The policy which has been pursued by the English Government, in attempting to exterminate wild beasts, leaves very little reason to fear that it will permit its new Game Law to be abused, so as to encourage the growth of any noxious animals. On the contrary, if according to the old fable of Aesop, a council of wild beasts could now be held, it would be for the animals to complain that the English Government had encroached on their rights and privileges in a manner utterly unknown to the original rulers of India. It has been made a systematic business to encourage the destruction of all wild beasts. A table of rewards, setting a value on the head of each tiger and other dangerous animal, hangs in every public office and market place.”

DESTRUCTION OF HUMAN LIFE BY WILD ANIMALS

In British India during the year 1886 the Government paid 189,006 rupees in rewards for the destruction of wild animals and poisonous snakes collectively. “The total number of human beings reported as killed by wild animals in 1886 was 2,707, as follows :- Killed by wild elephants 57, by tigers 928, by leopards 194, by bears 113, by wolves, 222, by hyenas 24, by other animals, 1169. The account per contra, showing the number of wild animals destroyed and the amount of rewards paid for their destruction, stands as follows :- Wild elephants 7; 300 rupees- tigers 1,464; 48,000 rupees – leopards 4,051; 70,632 rupees – bears 1,668; 7,783 rupees – Wolves 6,725; 24,138 rupees – total, 22,417 animals, 163,438 rupees. This it will be seen that, on the whole, the wild beasts had much the worst of the conflict. As between tigers and men unfortunately the numbers were more nearly equal.”

THE JACKAL’S SHARE OF BLOOD

It will have been observed that 1160 of the deaths are attributed to “other unspecified animals,” whilst 6852 animals coming under this indefinite heading were killed. “From some of the details which have been given, particularly in Bengal, it appears that jackals’ take the highest place in this class; and it is probable that many more young children are carried off by jackals than the returns show. A woman, whose hut is on the outskirts of a village surrounded by trees and low brushwood, may go over to a neighbor’s house to borrow a little rice or some fire-wood. Her absence may be but for a minute; but when she returns, the little child that she left playing at her door has disappeared. No cry was heard, for the jackal seized the child by the back of the neck and death was instantaneous. The men of the village are away at their daily work in the fields; and, before the afflicted woman can summon her neighbors to the rescue, every morsel of her missing child has been devoured by the jackal and its hungry whelps.”

 

A MAN-EATER’S RECORD

Published on Saturday, the 14th of January 1905 in World’s News, Sydney, NSW

In an official report issued at Simla (India) it is mentioned that nearly all of the 48 human deaths from tigers reported last year in Sambalpur district, Central Provinces, were caused by a single tigress, which had been infesting the Ambabhana jungles for some years; also that one or two man-eating wolves are responsible for almost all the deaths attributed to these pests in Budaun, Cawnpore and Fatehpur districts. During the year human deaths from wild animals in the whole of India numbered 2749 against 2536 in 1902, and from snakebite 21,827 as compared with 23,167 in 1903. Number of cattle destroyed by wild animals was 86,232, and by snakes 9994, compared with 83,999 and 9919 in the preceding 13 months.

 

WILD ANIMALS IN INDIA

Published on Tuesday 31st of December 1907 in West Gippsland Gazette, Warragul, Vic.

The total number of people killed by wild animals in India during 1906 was 2084, as against 2051 in 1905. This is according to a Government return. Wolves are reported to have killed 175 persons in the United Provinces. In the Madras Presidency tigers were responsible for the greater mortality reported, while a mad wolf in the Sholapur district of Bombay caused 16 deaths. In Bengal the number of persons killed by elephants rose from 9 in 1906 to 15 in 1906, and a proposal has, it is stated, been made by the magistrate of Cuttack for the organisation of a khedda in that district. Tigers killed a larger number of persons than in 1905 in Madras, Bombay, the United Provinces, and Burma and steps have been taken for the destruction of man-eating tigers in these provinces. Three man-eating tigers were destroyed in Sambalpur, Angul, and Mandular in 1906. The persons reported to have died from snake-bites numbered 22,834 against 21,797 in 1905, the increased mortality being ascribed to high floods, which drove snakes into houses and homesteads.

 

INDIA’S MORTALITY FROM WILD ANIMALS

Published on Tuesday the 16th of November 1909 in Mercury, Hobart, Tas.

It is a remarkable fact that in spite of the opening out of the country by railways and roads, and the clearing of jungle-tracts, the number of persons killed by wild animals in India does not show any decrease. In fact (says an exchange) last year the figures rose to 2,166, an actual increase of 200 in comparison with the deaths-in 1907. In Bengal, tigers killed 100 more persons; while in the Central Provinces and Berar the increase was 64. In the Chanda district one tiger alone killed 19 before he was shot, while panthers and bears accounted for 95, practically double the total of the preceding year. In the United Provinces the mortality was 194 against 159. This increase was due to the ravages of leopards, and wolves in the Kumaon and Fyzabad divisions respectively. Leopards seem to abound in Kumaon, and one particularly given to man-eating was still at large at the close of the year, though, a reward of Rs. 500 had been offered for his extinction. In Bahraich wolves have become so dangerous that special measures have been taken for their extermination. The number of cattle killed was 87,097, a decrease of 1200. In the United Provinces, however, there was a remarkable rise; and in the Almora district this is said to have been due to the wholesale destruction of game, which has resulted in a serious diminution of the natural food supply of tigers and leopards.

 

WILD ANIMALS IN INDIA

Published on Saturday the 7th of December 1912 in The W.A. Record, Perth, WA

A Blue Book just issued gives statistics for the number of persons killed by wild animals and snakes in British India from 1880 to 1910. The figures show, as usual, that the tiger is the animal most destructive to human life; it is responsible for 38 per cent, of the total number of deaths caused by wild animals in the last five years, leopards, wolves and bears accounting for 16, 12, and 4 per cent, respectively. Elephants and hyenas are two other classes whose ravages are distinguished in the returns. Of the 629 deaths attributed to “other animals,” 244 are assigned to alligators and crocodiles, 51 to wild pigs, 16 to buffaloes, 24 to wild dogs, and 223 to unspecified animals. In 1910 there were 22,478 deaths from snake bite compared with 21,364 in the previous year. The statistics regarding the number of cattle killed by wild animals and snakes are naturally not very perfect. For the five years ending 1910 the number of cattle killed was about 100,000.

 

HEAVY TOLL IN INDIA

Deaths from Wild Animals and Snakes

Published on Saturday the 25th of March 1933 in The Telegraph, Brisbane, Qld. 

CALCUTTA. March 25.

Wild animals and snakes have been responsible for the death of 1,395 persons in the Central Provinces last year. Of these 1,199 died from snake bite, 43 from attacks by tigers, 17 by leopards and panthers, and 36 by wild bears.

The Man-Eater of Dhari

The Man-Eater of Dhari

By

Dorothy M. Leslie

Chronicle, Adelaide, SA

Thursday the 12th of October, 1933

 

ABOUT five years ago a man-eating tiger appeared in the vicinity of Dhari in the Kumaon Hills of India and speedily became the terror of the district. It killed no fewer than ninety people and the Government offered a reward of a thousand rupees for its hide.

The efforts of the various shikaris who went after it, however, met with no success. One man, it is true, got a shot at the brute after sitting up all night over the body of a woman it had murdered but ‘Stripes’ escaped, and thereafter the task of other hunters became more difficult, for the tiger grew very wary, seldom returning to his ‘kills.’

About this time I arrived at my house in Bhim Tal seven miles from Kathgodam railway station, to spend the hot weather there. Hearing about the man-eater I decided to have a shot at earning the reward. I had already bagged leopard and bear, and was keen to get my first tiger— particularly such a notorious beast as this.

I had been out camping ‘on my own’ on several occasions, but it is always nicer to have companions, so I asked an I.C.S. man, one Collins, who was holidaying in Bhim Tal with his sister if they would care to join me. He said that they would both love It, whereupon I arranged for tents, coolies and stores.

The very day before that fixed for the start, however, Collins cried off; his sister, I believe, got ‘cold feet’ when she heard how dangerous the tiger was. I was very disappointed, but wired to my husband, down in the plains, asking him to get a week’s leave in order to accompany me on the trip, everything was already fixed up, I told him. That evening I received his reply: — ‘Leave impossible. You must cancel plans. On no account go after man-eater alone.’

I was annoyed, and it didn’t help matters when the postmaster who handed me the wire remarked blandly: ‘Now. I suppose, Memsahib will have to give up trying for the tiger?’

‘On the contrary, Babu,’ I replied, firmly, ‘I shall go out tomorrow as arranged.’

I had received news that the man-eater had killed about a week previously at the village of Ratikhet between Dhari and Mornaula. Next morning, therefore, I set out by myself, riding a sturdy hill-pony, with the coolies and my shikari and bearer trudging behind. My first objective was Dhari, which is about ten miles away from Bhim TaL

May is not a very pleasant month in Bhim Tal, which lies only five thousand feet above sea level, so I was quite glad to get out of the valley and climb the steeply-rising road to Dhari, eight thousand feet up. It was a wonderful morning, and on either side of the mountain road the pine trees, stirred by the fresh, cool breeze, nodded and whispered to each other.

At Dhari we halted for tiffin and a rest. Finally, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, we arrived at Ratikhet. I found the little village in a state of great commotion. The people were scurrying about round its score or so of miserable huts, some collecting their few belongings, others rounding up the cows and buffaloes ready for departure. I learnt that the dreaded man-eater had killed yet again, barely three quarters of an hour before I arrived!

Five or six women who had gone out to cut grass in the jungle had come rushing back screaming. The tiger had sprung on one of their number as she was working breaking her neck and killing her instantly. It had not succeeded in carrying away the body however, for the other women had run up shouting and very bravely driven the beast off with their haswas, or hand-slckles.

This was the second visit that the evil brute had paid to Ratikhet within eight days, and altogether it had accounted for five people in that one small village. Now the people’s nerve had gone — and small wonder! They declared that they dared not spend another night in their jungle surrounded homes, but were moving en masse to the larger village of Dhari, which was in more open country. There, they said, they would remain until the tiger was killed or had left the district.

They were already starting to move off in the direction of Dhari, except for a small party of men— mostly friends or relations of the dead girl— who were setting out with a charpoy to bring back her body. I decided to accompany this party to inspect the spot where the tiger had killed and to judge if there was any chance of its return.

When we arrived at the grassy glade in the jungle where the poor girl had met her death, however, I found that my luck was out. A couple of white hunters, summoned to the scene by a passing herd boy, had arrived before me.

They were a Major Hutchins and a Captain Cunningham, and were on the same quest as myself, but had approached from Muktesar, in the opposite direction. They seemed rather surprised to find a woman going out alone after the man-eater, but I ‘put it over them’ by confessing modestly to having hunted in these hills for several years, during which time I had accounted for more than one leopard, and a host of smaller game, whereas they owned that this was their first experience of big game hunting.

We inspected the body together, taking care not to touch it. The tiger had apparently had no time to do anything to the corpse, and it seemed to me that if the ‘kill’ was not disturbed there was quite a good chance of the brute returning. The difficulty was to get the villagers to agree to leave the body there all night. Here my knowledge of the hill dialect came to the aid of the soldiers’ halting Hindustani.

The relatives, as I had expected, were anxious to take the corpse away at once in order to burn It. The girl was a high caste Rajputni, and they said that if the tiger returned and carried away the body, so that it could not be cremated, her dispossessed spirit would become a bhut (ghost) and haunt the mountain.

We pointed out. however, that the only way of getting rid once and for ever of the dreadful beast which had killed so many of their friends was to give the shikaris a chance of sitting up all night over the body. Furthermore, the soldiers promised that if the tiger returned they would not let it carry the girl away; if it was possible for them to see the brute, they added, they would certainly kill it.

The villagers evidently had faith in the Sahib log, tor the father and brother of the dead girl, who were the chief members of the burial-party, eventually agreed to leave the corpse where it was till the next day, without even touching It. Then the sad little procession went off down the hill, having arranged to return, the following morning.

I had no wish to butt into the soldiers’ sport, and naturally recognized their prior claim to ‘sit up’ over the ‘kill’. So, after having seen them start building their machan (platform) in a fair-sized oak about 15 yards from where the dead girl lay, at the foot of a deodar tree, I wished them luck and went off to make my own arrangements for the night.

By this time, it was about 5 o’clock, and nearly dusk. I retraced my steps to the now deserted village of Ratikhet, a mile away. Here my bearer, and the shikari suggested that I should sleep, barricaded into one of the strongest of the houses, where they said I should be safe. But I declined this; I have no love for the smells of an Indian village. They then hinted that perhaps I should like to return to Dhari, where there was a comfortable dak bungalow, but I have had unfortunate experiences in dak bungalows.

Finally, overruling their objections, I made them pitch the two tents, one for me and one for them, in a small clearing a few hundred yards above the village. Then I sent my pony and the coolies up to Dhari to wait for me on the morrow.

The place where I had decided to camp was a newly-cleared space in the jungle. The trees and brushwood had been cut down, and some of the wood already burnt for charcoal. The next step, I supposed, would be to plant potatoes to break up the soil; but at the present moment I could not have found a more ideal site. The ground was well cleared and fairly level. Nearby ran a small stream— a mere trickle but quite sufficient to supply me with water.

Very soon my servant had performed the usual Indian miracle of producing a marvelously tasty three-course meal over three stones and a fire of brushwood. I ate my dinner by the dusky light of the rising moon, while the jungle rose dark and forbidding all round. Then, being pleasantly tired after the day’s journey, I turned in, telling the bearer and the shikari— who were now, I noticed, looking rather nervous — to wake me at the first signs of dawn. Their pal (tent) was only about 15 yards from my own, and there were hurricane-lanterns for both,

I woke with a start, hearing something stumbling into one of the tent ropes. The flimsy poles creaked and swayed, and a shiver ran over the canvas as if some weighty body had brushed against it. By the light of the dimly-burning lantern I looked at my watch. Three o’clock— much too early for my bearer to be waking me. Yet there was surely something or somebody at the flap of the tent.

‘Diljonah!’ I called out. ‘Is that you?’

There was no answer, but the movement outside ceased. I sat up in bed, intending to reach out and jerk open the tent-flap to see who was outside. Just then, however, a cold terror seized me and chilled my blood, for through the thin tent walls there was wafted a pungent, unmistakable smell, curiously reminiscent of a menagerie tiger!

I reached out for my rifle and pumped a round into the breech. Then I heard the animal pawing at the flap, but— thank heaven— I had laced it tight across. The brute next moved round to the back of the tent, and for a moment I saw part of its outline pressed against the canvas as it sneaked under the tent ropes. I thought of trying a shot, but the servants’ tent was directly behind. I might hit one of them, or, if I only wounded the tiger. It might charge my tent and topple it over, when I should be as helpless as a pig in a net.

So I waited, sitting bolt upright in bed, my rifle at full cock, following the animal’s movements. My heart was pounding so furiously that It seemed the tiger must hear it! Presently the beast padded round to the front again, and sniffed at a point where there was a small space between the bottom of the tent and the ground. An instant later a great paw was thrust in! My heart missed a beat, for I fully expected to see the canvas ripped up. But the paw was withdrawn and the tiger circled to the back once more, stepping on a tent-rope as it passed and sending another shiver through the canvas.

For fully three minutes— each an eternity of terror for me –the animal padded softly round the tent. I was afraid to make any movement, save to turn my head and swing my rifle to cover where I thought the tiger was. Finally it must have decided that the tent was something outside its ken, and not so easy to break into as a grass-thatched hut. Anyway, the padding ceased, and I heard a twig crack, as the animal moved off into the jungle.

I waited for ten minutes, to make sure that it had gone; then, cautiously opening the front flap of the tent, I peered out. All I could see was the moonlit clearing and the gloomy surrounding Jungle. I called for my servant and the shikari, but the only answer was the echo thrown back by the dark wall of trees. I called more loudly, again and again, but the forest continued to mock my anxiety.

Then a dreadful thought struck me. Had the tiger visited the servants’ tent before it came to me? Hurriedly I threw a coat over my pyjamas and scrambled out, carrying on electric torch, and my rifle. Anxiously I flashed the light into the servants’ tent. It was empty, and. There was no sign of their bedding. I realized that the two cowards must have quietly slipped off to the safety of some village, leaving me all alone in the clearing.

Returning to my tent, I laced down the flap as tightly as possible. Sleep was out of the question, so I sat with my rifle across my lap until, about on hour later, I heard the koklass (hill pheasants) calling as they fluttered from tree to tree. Looking out, I discovered that the sky was already grey with the dawn. Never have I welcomed the rising sun with more relief than I did that morning!

An hour later my bearer and the shikari turned up, looking decidedly sheepish, but I hadn’t the strength to be angry with them for their treachery. I was feeling very ill, and realised that I had a fever coming on. I was not even interested when they told me they had heard that the tiger had mauled one of the Sahibs who had sat up for it.

As soon as I could I packed up, sent all my things back to Bhim Tal, and hurried into Naini Tal, giddy with fever. There the doctor diagnosed my trouble as enteric, and for the next month I lay in a hot delirium, my dreams haunted by the padding of the man-eater’s feet round my tent.

In the next ward to me at the hospital was Major Hutchins, recovering from being mauled by the same tiger and when I was convalescing I heard from him another chapter in the moving story of the Dhari man-eater.

It appeared that Major Hutchins and Captain Cunningham had been out after the tiger for a week before I met them. It was not by sheer chance that they happened to be near Ratikhet when the beast made his latest ‘kill’ there. They had been studying its movements, and had discovered the one weak spot in its armor of cunning. The man-eater had a regular beat!

They had carefully marked out on the map the times and places of the ‘kills,’ and came to the conclusion that for the last two months at least the tiger had been following a circuit in the vicinity of the villages of Dhari, Mornaula, and Muktesar. It travelled this round in, roughly speaking, seven days, sometimes killing in one of the small hamlets on the way, but more often snatching a woman who had gone out to cut grass in the jungle or a child that had strayed.

The two soldiers had therefore planned their camps so as to be, every day, at just about the same place where the tiger had killed on his circuit the week before. This explains their nearness to Ratikhet on the day I met them.

The night after I left them Major Hutchins end Captain Cunningham, as arranged, sat up together in their machan in the oak-tree; their shikari was in another machan nearby. The pair took it in turns to watch. It was very cold, and there was a pale half-moon, by whose misty beams they could just see the white, huddled shape of the dead girl. It was eerie work keeping their eyes fixed on that dread example of the man-eater’s handiwork.

Nothing whatever happened all night, and about four-thirty a.m. Hutchins suggested giving up and getting down for at least ten minutes to restore the circulation to their numb limbs. Cunningham, however, persuaded his companion to ‘stick it’ until the sun had actually risen.

Just in that weird half-hour when the grey light of dawn supplants the paling moon and the tired stars, Cunningham saw a long, sinewy shape appear in the circle of cut grass where the girl’s body lay. The tiger materialized out of the shadows without a sound or even a movement of the bushes. Cunningham touched his companion, and very slowly, as they had been advised to do, the pair raised their rifles to their shoulders.

‘Stripes,’ however, must have heard some light sound from the machan, for Hutchins said that as they lifted their weapons the brute looked straight up at them. Cunningham fired first, followed immediately by Hutchins. Both aimed at the shoulder, but in the deceptive light of early dawn they cannot have seen very clearly, and probably they took too full a sight. The tiger gave a roar of pain and rolled over into the bushes, but the next moment it recovered itself and went crashing away through the undergrowth.

Cunningham was sure he’d hit it; Hutchins also thought his shot had found a billet. From subsequent examination, however, it was discovered that only one bullet had got home -through the near fore-leg. At the moment the officers believed the tiger must be very badly, if not mortally wounded, so they got down from their machan to hold a consultation with their shikari as to what was the best thing to do.

The shikari suggested that they had better wait until the villagers could collect a heard of buffaloes to be driven along the track of the wounded beast. But this would have meant waiting for at least two hours, and the soldiers were impatient. By that time, they said, the brute might have limped down to the thicker jungle of the lower valley, where not even buffaloes could follow It. There it might lick its wounds and eventually recover, to be twice as ferocious and cunning as before.

Moreover, they had promised the villagers to do all in then- power to destroy the man-eater, and they were eager to follow it at once and finish it off.

The shikari urged them not to go; the risk was too great. But the soldiers were determined. This was their first experience with big-game, and to let ‘Stripes’ get away so easily would be a great disappointment. Finally they did what every hunter is tempted to do, and what even an experienced shikari, in the circumstances, might not have been able to resist doing—they set off after the tiger on foot.

Hutchins went first, with his .450 rifle in his hand. Cunningham followed with an army .303; and both men had their service revolvers. The trail was easy to follow, for the wounded animal seemed to have crashed forward blindly and the bloodstains were large and frequent. As they went on the blood-spoor became more frequent, as if the tiger had slowed down, and at one place there was a large pool of blood, apparently indicating that it had stopped to lick its wounds. Hutchins turned round to his companion.

‘Looks as if he’s badly hit,’ he remarked. ‘We may find him dead any minute now, so we had better – ‘

Just at that moment the man-eater gave a mighty roar and sprang straight at the major from some low bushes to the rights. Hutchins was in the act of swinging his rifle up to his shoulder when the impetus of the brute’s spring knocked the weapon out of his hands, and he fell backwards with the tiger on top of him. As the great beast stood over him, about to go for his throat, Hutchins aimed a blow at its nose with his right first. The tiger snapped at his hand, and directly its mouth opened the major forced his hand as far down its throat as he could and tried to twist his fingers round the base of the tongue.

This almost-instinctive action saved Hutchins’ life; for a few seconds the startled tiger could not close its mouth. By this time Cunningham, who was close behind, had whipped out his revolver. He dare not use his rifle, for his friend was’ lying directly under the man-eater and he was afraid of hitting him.

Cunningham fired twice at the tiger’s hindquarters, which were clear of Hutchins’ body. Both bullets grazed its left flank without entering the body, but they had the effect of driving the beast off. Wrenching its head free from Hutchins’ hand, it turned and sprang away. Cunningham fired twice more at its retreating form, but missed.

Meanwhile the major was in a pretty bad state. As the tiger freed its mouth from, his grip its fangs ripped up the back of his hand: His chest and shoulders had also been mauled by the brute’s claws, but luckily for him they were partly protected by his thick cardigan.

With the help of the shikari and Cunningham, Hutchins managed to stagger back to the clearing where the machan was; and there he collapsed. Cunningham rendered first-aid with a strong solution of permanganate; then the Ratikhet villagers— who arrived shortly afterwards — carried the injured man away to hospital on the charpoy which they had brought for the girl’s body.

The rest of the story of the man eater of Dhari I heard when I came out of hospital. There must be many people in the Naini Tal district who remember it. for it all happened only four years ago. Captain Cunningham was the hero of the tale; he performed what is surely one of the bravest deeds recorded in the annals of shikar.

The tiger apparently recovered from its wounds, for within ten days It was killing again in its old haunts. From the pug-marks it seemed to be lame in the near foreleg; otherwise it was just as vigorous, but twice as cunning and ferocious as before.

A real reign of terror ensued in the Dhari district. Several small hamlets were entirely deserted, and the women going to the jungles to cut grass never went out less than ten strong. Even then the man-eater continued to take its toll of them. It also carried away boys as they were driving the cattle home within half a mile of the village; it snatched men and women silently from the fields and clearings in which they worked.

Once, fully two hours before dusk, it seized a woman who was cutting grass in company with a dozen others without her companions being aware that she had disappeared until they found her sickle lying on the ground, and the marks where the beast had dragged her into the jungle. The tiger had learnt its lesson now; It never returned to its ‘kills,’ and Captain Cunningham— who had obtained special leave to go after the evil beast— abandoned sitting-up in machans as hopeless.

The man-eater had become a positive obsession with him. He had shot at it and wounded it twice, and he was determined to go on until, he had finished it off. The promise he had made to the Ratikhet Villagers— that he would kill the tiger if they would leave the girl’s body that night— weighed on his conscience. They had reluctantly yielded to his persuasion, and nothing had come of it; the brute’s depredations continued as before. Cunningham felt that he had ‘let down’ the people who trusted him.

Fortunately, however, the man-eater still kept to its regular habits; and the beast that contracts habits will sooner or later fall a victim to the enemy who studies those habits and has enough patience to wait.

On two successive weeks the tiger had killed at a lonely spot on a stretch of jungle road between Mornaula and the still-deserted- village of Ratikhet. The first victim was a villager who wet driving back a cow that had strayed into the jungle. Next week it had killed a bannia (merchant) riding his pony up to Dhari, where he was going to collect the interest due on loans made to the very-nearly-starving Ratikhet villagers.

The hapless moneylender’s body, half-eaten, was found by some people travelling along the road, armed with spears, who encountered the riderless pony. Cunningham sat over the body, but in accordance with its new rule the tiger did not come back. Then Cunningham decided on a very bold course. He realised that this particular stretch of road, with thick jungle on either side, was a favorite spot with the man-eater. It had already killed there twice, and almost In the same spot. So Cunningham decided to act as a bait himself!

Every day at dawn and dusk he strolled up and down that mile or so of lonely road. For the first six days he had no luck. The tiger seemed to be at the other end of its beat, near Muktesar, where it carried away a child from inside a hut in a village. On the seventh day, exactly a week after the brute had killed the money-lender on the same stretch of road, Cunningham was taking his usual evening stroll. He was keenly on the alert, for he expected his adversary any day now. However, he walked along as casually as he could, with Hutchins’s .450 rifle in his hands, and a blank spectacle frame on his nose.

This spectacle frame was an important part of his plan. He had bought it a week before in Naini Tal; he had also obtained a small mirror that could be slipped into either side as if it were a spectacle lens. Once this was in position he could see behind him without turning his head. It was a trick he had learnt at school, and be used it now because he realised that, if he was continually turning his head, the tiger would in all probability grow suspicious and decline to come out into the open.

The sun had sunk over the brow of the hill; night was falling fast, and Cunningham had almost come to the end of his daily tramp. Peering into the looking glass in front of his left eye, he imagined he saw a movement in some long grass on, the hillside to his left— a movement rather too pronounced to be caused by the evening breeze. He walked steadily on without turning his head, staring fixedly into the little mirror. Thirty yards behind him, in a gap in the bushes, he presently observed a striped form sneaking along. He was being stalked!

He must have required every ounce of his nerve and courage not to turn round then and there, but he was not going to risk a blind shot into the bushes and allow the tiger to get away a second time. Accordingly he walked steadily on.

Fifteen yards ahead the track took a sharp turn to the left round a corner where there was an outcrop, of large, smooth boulders, known locally, from their massive shape, as the ‘Elephant Rocks,’ Cunningham had often noticed them on his daily stroll. If he could only reach them before the brute decided to spring, he thought, he might become the hunter instead of the hunted.

Fifteen yards is a terribly Ions way to walk with seeming nonchalance when a bloodthirsty man-eater is stalking you, but this gallant officer did it. In his tiny looking glass he again caught sight of the beast as it slunk between the sparser bushes on the rocky slope, and finally dropped silently down on to the track behind him. It was appreciably nearer, but Cunningham devoutly hoped it would not decide to charge just yet. It had killed the money-lender farther on, round the corner.

That casual stroll of fifteen yards, the captain, said afterwards, was the most nerve-racking thing in his life. Every instinct urged him to turn round and shoot or else run for the shelter of the rocks. It was with a sigh of intense relief that he eventually rounded the angle and sank on his knee, his rifle at his shoulder, behind the cover of the boulders.

There he waited, finger on trigger, every muscle tense. The man-eater came creeping round the corner. For a second it stood absolutely still. Just glaring at the man. Then, as it gathered itself for a spring Cunningham’s bullet crashed into its brain at point blank range. The tiger rolled over— stone dead!

The news of the killer’s death spread like wild-fire. That very night the hill-men flocked out from all the neighboring villages, waving torches and spears and beating their tom-toms. Cunningham became a hero— more, a demi-god. They crowded round shouting his praises and hurling insults at the now lifeless body of the tiger.

‘Take that for killing my sister!’

‘Roar now, slayer of my child!’

They kicked and beat the lifeless body, and some dug their spears into it: it was only with great difficulty that Cunningham prevented them from utterly ruining the skin. As it was, the pelt was badly damaged, and almost all the whiskers were pulled out by the superstitious hill-men to be used as charms.

The hide of the man-eater of Dhari, therefore, does not look very fine; but I think that Captain Cunningham has every reason to be proud of it!

 

Note:

The Tramp has been looking for some additional evidence for establishing the authenticity of the tale. The search for Dorothy M. Leslie who was born at Inverness, who had a summer bungalow at Bhimtal, who shot a leopard on a hill near Bhimtal and whose husband was employed ín the plains’at the United Provinces has not been very fruitful. No further information could be found about the valiant Captain Cunningham who shot the ‘Man-eater of Dhari’ on the road between Mornaula and Ratikhet sometime in 1929. Or of his colleague Major Hutchins who got mauled by the tiger at Ratikhet. Or Mr. Collins ICS and his sister who failed to join Mrs. D M Leslie for the hunt.

Dhari is the headquarter of a sub-division in Nainital District about 20 KM from Bhimtal. Mornaula lies some 35 KM from Dhari via the State Highway.

The online search revealed that a somewhat truncated version of the story was published in the Issue No. 13 of the Dutch Magazine on Cinema and Theatre – ‘Het Weekblad’ on 9th of April, 1938 under the title – ‘De Menscheneter Van Dhari’.

The story does not talk of the adventure that Dorothy M. Leslie had with the man-eater or the mauling of Hutchins. The form of the narrative is, however, largely identical and the story seems to have been written by the same writer.

The Leopard of the Holy Mountain

The Leopard of the Holy Mountain

By

Dorothy M. Leslie

Chronicle, Adelaide, SA

Thursday, 22nd January 1931

Bhim Tal lies up in the Kumaon hills in the United Provinces of India, twelve miles from a railway-station, and letters are brought by a native post-runner. He carries, as a protection against wild animals, a lance with a collar of little bells fixed below the spear-head. These, however, seem to attract beasts of prey, rather than to scare them, and in consequence they are ominously known as ‘leopards’ dinner-bells. One day we heard them jingling loudly as the runner panted up the sharp incline to our bungalow.

‘A telegram for the Sahib,’ he announced.

Hurriedly my husband tore it open. ‘What a confounded nuisance, Dolly!’ he cried. ‘That man Lockhart wants me to go down to the plains on some urgent business. I’d better go at once; the wire was sent off yesterday afternoon.’

This was a nasty blow, for we had only just come up to the hills and were looking forward to a full month’s shooting in the forests, which abounded in game of all sorts.

‘I hope to be back in two or three days,’ he added more cheerfully, as he went to pack his bag. ‘You’ll just have to hang, on till I return.’

‘Why was this telegram not delivered last night?’ I asked the post-runner. The man looked down, embarrassed, digging his toes nervously into the ground. ‘The leopards have been roaming of late, Mem Sahib,’ he said at last, ‘and not a moon ago a runner was attacked after dark. The unlucky one was never found again. He was my brother,’ he added, sorrowfully.

A few hours later, when my husband had set out for the station on his small hill pony, I was finishing my lonely ‘tiffin’ on the verandah when our shikari hurried up, dragging a reluctant hillman behind him. The shikari was greatly excited. It appeared that early that morning a large hill leopard had carried off a goat belonging to his companion from a village three or four miles away.

In such circumstances I should have expected voluble lamentations and demands for vengeance from the owner, but the stranger was curiously silent. All I could gather from him was that the leopard had seized his goat and escaped to the Holy Mountain, and that he and his friends had not dared to track the animal beyond a thicket at the foot of the slope.

I had already heard of this Holy Mountain, but had only seen it from a distance, when I noticed that there was a small Hindu temple at the summit. Holy Mountain or no Holy Mountain, however, the opportunity was too good to be lost, and I was greatly cheered at the prospect of stealing a march on my husband and showing him a leopard skin when he returned; for so far nothing bigger than bear or gourral (mountain deer) had ever come our way on our shooting trips.

Hastily summoning my bearer, I told him to get out the Express rifle, as I was going to try for a leopard that night. But here a new complication occurred. My husband had taken away with him the keys of his shooting case, and the locks were too strong to be forced! There remained only my 12-bore shot-gun; but I knew that a shot-gun loaded with ball was quite good enough for even the largest leopard. So I set forth quite confidently with my gun, an electric torch and a packet of biscuits.

An hour’s walk over rough hill paths brought us to the foot, of the Holy Mountain; and now, for the first time, I observed its strange shape. The hill— for it was scarcely more— rose up perfectly conically from the centre of a large valley plain bounded on all sides by towering walls of slate-grey rock. The native village lay a little farther up the valley, by the side of a small river, which, lower down, wound round one side of the hill.

Some of the villagers turned out to meet – us and accompanied us to the foot of the hill — but they absolutely refused to go farther, standing about in frightened groups as we advanced into the thickets where the leopard had disappeared.

The traces of the animal were fairly easy to follow, for it had dragged the unfortunate goat along with it, but it was fully five o’clock before we came upon the body of the victim lying under a small tree. The goat had probably been killed instantaneously; its neck was broken. The leopard had not started to eat the body, so it seemed likely that it would return later that night.

So far, so good! The next thing was to construct a machan (platform) above the kill. The small tree under which the goat lay stood in the middle of a little clearing about thirty yards in radius, and there was no larger tree near enough to suit our purpose.

I sent my bearer off to ask the villagers to help us to construct a platform with such planks and ropes as they might possess. After a quarter of an hour he returned, in a great state of panic

‘Mem Sahib,’ he told me breathlessly; ‘the men say that a spirit haunts this hill! It is sacred to the gods, and they cannot venture on it. They think that the Mem Sahib would be wise not to hunt the leopard on the mountain.’

‘Diljonah,’ I replied, angry at this set-back to my hopes, ‘you are a naniker-dum (goat’s tail)!  If the villagers will not help, try and get some planks yourself, but come back before the moon rises; I don’t want you to frighten the leopard away.’

With that Diljonah hurried off, though I could see he was not very keen on his mission. An hour went by, and dusk was falling fast, but still he did not return. Finally, at eight – o’clock, there being no sign of my bearer or any of the villagers, I decided to climb up into the tree straight away. As I have said, it was only a small one, but there was a fair-size forked branch about 10 feet above the ground, practically overhanging the kill.

I scrambled up this branch, and my shikari, who was armed only with an antiquated musket, tried to climb to another. Directly he put his weight on it, however, it broke with a loud crack, precipitating the shikari to the ground. As he landed his musket went off, the ball coming perilously dose to my ear.

This mishap unsettled both of us, and I had serious thoughts of abandoning the venture altogether, but the shikari’s obvious nervousness irritated me and made me decide, whatever befell, to see the matter through. Accordingly I relegated him to a large tree -some 30 yards away, with strict orders not to make a movement till I had my shot.

Once by myself in my own little tree I began to have considerable doubts as to the wisdom of my action. My branch seemed dangerously close to the ground— and leopards, I reflected, can easily jump ten feet; they can also climb with cat-like ease. However, I was not going to back out now, so I strapped myself firmly to the bole of the tree with a long belt, and composed myself to the interminable hours of waiting in the darkness.

It was a starry, cloudless night, and a light wind occasionally rustled the leaves of my pepal tree, in the yillage a mile away a native pariah dog was howling mournfully; otherwise everything was deathly silent, and I could hear my wrist-watch ticking as I sat stiff and cramped against the tree.

I think I must have been half asleep when I realised suddenly that the sky had become bright. Over the ragged cliffs which enclosed the valley a clear full moon was throwing its beams into every crevice.

By this time it was past midnight. In the misty light the dead goat was visible almost underneath me, and 30 yards away, huddled up in his tree, I could just distinguish the motionless figure of my shikari. The man, I thought, was probably fast asleep; and I reflected bitterly on his general uselessness and the large retaining fees we were paying him.

Suddenly, through the darkness, came the startled note of a nightjar. ‘Chec-chec!’ it shrieked, as if fluttered out of the bushes and flew in a zigzag way over the clearing. For a moment my heart turned to water, but the next instant I was watching with every muscle taught with excitement, for out of the shadows, lithe and noiseless, glided the huge catlike form of the leopard!

It advanced half-way into the clearing; then it suddenly stopped and turned to one side. At first I thought it must have seen me, but then I realised what had happened. The beast had caught the scent of the sleeping shikari!

Looking back on it now, I do not know whether I was justified in acting as I did. In the excitement of the moment I did not realise the risk to which I was exposing my shikari. I had ordered him not to move or shoot till after I had had my shot, but when I did so it had not occurred to me that he might act as a living bait! Had he not been asleep I am sure he would have fired straight away, disregarding my orders. As it was, the big beast crept noiselessly round the edge of the clearing, resembling for all the world a cat stalking a sparrow, the ‘sparrow’ in this case being the slumbering shikari, hunched up in his tree.

With a few swift paces the leopard covered the distance still separating it from the tree. Had it chosen to make an immediate spring no shot of mine, however quick, could have saved the sleeping man! Fortunately ‘Spots’ circled round, inspecting the position. Finally he came toward the side of the clearing again, and stopped directly underneath the shikari. I saw the animal gather its limbs for the spring, and then the silence of the moonlit clearing was rudely shattered as I fired both barrels of my shot-gun.

The leopard sprang straight up in the air, fell backwards, and rolled over; then it picked itself up and glided away into the thickets. Before it had disappeared a figure fell to the ground with a thud, and for the second time the shikari’s ancient musket sent a bullet whizzing into the air.

This ludicrous situation, coming after the strain of the last few minutes, was too much for me, and I burst out laughing. I laughed as I unstrapped myself and climbed down the tree; I laughed as I ran across the clearing, and I laughed as I stood over the dazed shikari.

‘Oh! Son of a sleeping draught and father of ten blunderbusses!’ I cried. ‘What possesses you to keep on falling out of trees and letting off that terrible musket of yours?’

The poor man nursed the offending weapon in downcast silence. His dejection set me off giggling again, and in my excited elation a spirit of generosity came over me.

‘Look here,’ I said, ‘that musket will kill both of us some day, and I, at least, have no wish to enter Paradise just yet. I shall give you my shot-gun; then you won’t explode unexpectedly anymore.’

Both my mirth and my generosity, however, were rather premature. Dawn was still at least three hours away, and there were we in the jungle, with a wounded leopard somewhere close by.

The pair of us sat in silence under the pepal tree, up-wind from the goat, to whose carcass insects were already starting to pay their attentions. Two hours passed while we shivered in the cold wind which came sweeping over the mountains. The moon had now been obscured by clouds, but about half-past 3 a faint grey light came creeping into the eastern sky.

At last I could bear the inactivity no longer. I got up and told the shikari that I was going to try to find the leopard’s body.

‘Mem Sahib!’ exclaimed the man, in great agitation. ‘Who knows that the bhag (leopard) is dead? it may be alive and lurking in a thicket, and dawn is hardly here.’

‘I cannot endure the waiting,’ I answered irritably. ‘I am going. If you do not wish to come, you can stay here with that horrible goat.’

But the man had no wish to be left behind, and so, flashing my torch in my left hand, and with my gun cocked ready in my right, we advanced carefully along the little path down the hill. The shikari, with that sixth sense which hillmen are endowed with, followed the few tracks the leopard had left.

The path was narrow, but we were trying to keep abreast, with the result that before long I trod on a dead branch which cracked with the noise of a pistol-shot. We stopped in startled silence, and as we held our breath and listened, a blood-curdling snarl, followed by the crack of another branch, sounded a little farther down the hill.

For fully five minutes we waited in horror and expectation, our eyes straining into the darkness for any further movement on the part of the leopard. Finally we continued our advance. Fifty yards on we came across the leopard’— stone dead! In its death struggle — the sounds of which we had heard— it had snapped in its mouth a branch as thick as a man’s arm.

An hour later the whole village had turned out. Led by my bearer, Diljonah, and elated at the news of my kill they ventured up the mountain to where the animal lay. With great difficulty I prevented their tearing out its whiskers, which they regard as healing charms, and eventually persuaded some of the men to sling the body on a pole and set off down the hill.

We had gone some little way when one of the villagers uttered a wild cry. Forthwith, the bearers dropped the leopard, and the whole crowd disappeared into the bushes, leaving Diljonah, the shikari, the me standing beside the carcass. While we were wondering what all the panic was about there advanced towards us along the path the tall, thin figure of a man in a white loincloth.

Fixing his close-set, piercing eyes on me, he said something in the hill dialect, which I did not understand. My shikari translated it into Hindustani.

‘The priest of the Holy Mountain wishes to know is the Mem Sahib shot the leopard,’ he explained in quavering tones.

‘Tell him that I am proud to say Yes,’ ‘ I answered.

Thereupon the old man stepped up to within a foot of me, and touching both my gun and my head, muttered a number of words. I was beginning to feel nervous and frightened, but I decided to treat the matter as a joke.’

‘What is the priest saying?’ I asked.

The shikari replied’ in an awestricken voice. ‘He says that the violator of this Holy Mountain will be dead in three days or mad in three months, and that your gun will never shoot again!’

I laughed. ‘That,’ I said, ‘is a pity, because I had given the gun to you!’

But the poor shikari was obviously too frightened to see the joke.

Without another word the tall, thin priest swept past up and strode off up the hill. Not until he was out of sight did the villagers dare to emerge from the cover of the bushes, and only by offering large gratuities did I persuade the men to pick up my leopard again. They seemed to have lost all heart, and it was a very silent procession that finally deposited the carcass outside my bungalow.

For myself, however, I regarded their terrors and the old priest’s curse as superstitious nonsense. ‘Dead in three days or mad in three months,’ the old man had prophesied, but I felt particularly lively, and did not regard myself as mad or even liable to madness. I soon dismissed the whole incident from my mind, and set about making arrangements for the skinning of my trophy.

That night I locked my door— more through force of habit than through any lurking fear that the old priest might attempt to make sure that his sinister prophecy was fulfilled. The night passed quietly, and next morning I sat down to my breakfast as usual.

My first. course was porridge, for I was born in Inverness. This morning it was my only one. It had, it seemed to me, a strange taste, but I ate it almost without noticing— the milk, I thought, might be tainted. Shortly afterwards, however, I was violently sick for about an hour. I realised that I had been poisoned and hoped that the sickness would act as an efficient if exhausting emetic.

The attack left me weak and very ill, and once I fainted. Of the rest of the day I have little recollection. My husband arrived in the afternoon and I remember, like a ghastly nightmare, the jolting journey in a rough palanquin over ten miles of hilly road to the nearest hospital.

A fortnight later I was able to up again, though still very weak, and doctor told me that I had better be invalided home.

‘Someone gave you an overdose of poison — arsenic, I think. Thank your lucky stars the natives have no artistic restraint; they invariably overdo things. However, they don’t often make a mistake when they set out to ‘get’ someone. But tell me,’ he added, as an afterthought. ‘How did you get on the wrong side of them?’,

Then, for the first time, I related the story of my kill and the prophecy of the old priest with the piercing eyes.

The doctor nodded his head thoughtfully.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I have heard of this Holy Mountain. Some very sacred personage, I believe, is buried in the temple you noticed there. Two years ago an Englishman shot a gourral on that mountain. I was called out next day to attend the poor fellow— a broken neck was his trouble. All his servants swore that he had fallen over one of the valley cliffs while trying to catch his hat, which had been blown away by a wind— and every one of them, including his old bearer, told exactly the same story!

‘I don’t expect any of your servant’s, however faithful, would dare to give evidence about that priest’s threat. They’re dead scared of these old superstitions, and it’s wisest to keep away from their holy places.’

‘Six months in England soon put me right again; and a fine leopard-skin is the only souvenir of my adventure in single-handed, big-game hunting. Whether my gun ever shot’ again I don’t know; the poor shikari was probably too frightened to try! I did not go mad’ in three months, but I realise that I only just escaped ‘death in three days’— and the recollection of my narrow escape is enough to prevent my shooting again on that or any other Holy Mountain.

 

Note:   The story was also published under the title ‘An Unfulfilled Prophecy’ in Mullumbimby Star, NSW on Thursday, 21st of July, 1932.

The Legend of the Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag

It was on 2nd of May, 1926 when ‘Jim’ Corbett finally nailed the notorious man-eating leopard that had terrorized travelers and villagers on the pilgrim road to Badrinath/ Kedarnath for 8 long years – claiming 125 victims. The leopard showed exceptional cunning in evading traps, poisoned baits and the bullets of shikaris and bounty hunters. Its depradations found echo in the British Parliament and was believed to be possessed by an evil spirit by the superstitious hill people. The Tramp chanced upon a newsreport that was published some six months after Corbett shot the ‘fiend’ and is reproducing the same for his readers:

Man-eating Leopard Shot

Terror of Northern India

The World’s News

Sydney, New South Wales

Saturday 6 November 1926

There was recently shot by Captain Corbett, of the Indian Army, a giant man-eating leopard, which for eight years had terrorised 350 square miles of Northern India, and had killed in that time no fewer than 125 human beings.

It was in the tiny village of Rudraprayag, in Western Garhwal, near the Himalayan Mountains that the man-eater was first seen.

A village woman woke, shivering, to see the brute back slowly out of her hut. When she and her husband had overcome their fright enough to light a rush lamp, they found their seven-year-old boy gone. They had caught only a glimpse of the leopard, but it was enough to mark him as a man-eater.

Rarely do leopards carry of their prey, for the simple reason that they are not big enough, unless the prey is a child.

But this beast was huge, especially for a hill leopard, and invariably he dragged off his prey, alive or dead, to feast upon it in the jungle. The best village hunters followed the trail as far as they could but always it disappeared.

Rudraprayag will never forget that summer in 1918. Despite the withering heat, all doors were barricaded at sundown. Sleep was unthinkable, until, sometime before dawn, screams would herald the kill. Then the luckier ones would stifle a few hours more, thankfully, until daylight brought release.

The priests made charms and prayed, that the Scourge be taken from them. Hunters from other villages came, set traps for the killer, laid in wait for him, put poison in tit-bits left on the edge of the jungle. Nothing availed.

The priests prepared sacrifices to the goddess Kali, who is the Indian deity of death. It is she who is supposed to send pestilence and plagues into the villages. Surely if there was ever a pestilence, this leopard was one, and so Kali might be induced to send him away. Goats and sheep were lifted up to the top of tall poles and there left slowly to die. But the sacrifices were as ineffective as the drums, the traps, and the charms.

At last the priests said that the leopard was the incarnation of some robber, some ravager of long ago. He sought human lives not alone for food, but because of dimly remembered human desires, and he would continue to seek them until those desires were sated. So they determined that the choicest maiden of the village should be offered the leopard, and her entreaties to the contrary were of no avail. A dead-fall was constructed—three huge spiked logs propped against a tree, their lower ends resting on a stick. The least pressure on the stick, and the logs would drop. It was a trap into which they hoped the, leopard would fall and the maiden be saved.

Just at sundown the girl was led, with all ceremony, to the tree, to which she was lightly bound. This would give her a chance of escape if the unforeseen happened. Far into the night the priests chanted and the young men watched. Only the usual jungle sounds and the whimpers of the girl broke the stillness. Then came a soft rustle. It was the leopard, pausing on the edge of the jungle. For a long time he waited, until when the moon rose; the young men could see him, a blur in the grass.

He stalked out, lithe, silent. Straight to the tree and the girl he went. Not three feet, from the trigger of the dead-fall he crouched, and his tail waved in anger. He had discovered the trap. He disappeared. Suddenly the leaves parted and the tethered girl stared straight into the eyes of an immense leopard. It was the Scourge which had detected and evaded the trap set for it beside the sacrifice, and had appeared at the one spot where it could move safely. As she shrank with terror against the tree, it seemed to look at her contemptuously—and then swiftly it swept a paw down over her face and breast as though to mark her for his own, and, turning, disappeared in the jungle.

When dawn broke, the watchers mustered up courage to approach the maiden. There was blood around her, but not a bone –was broken. But from the forehead straight down her face were three deep furrows. The leopard had marked her for life.

Thereafter the leopard disappeared from Rudraprayag, but not from the hill country. For miles around he ranged, striking down men and women whenever he came across them, sometimes in the daylight. Finally the Government took action. Sixteen picked shikaris—expert trackers and hunters—were paid to go after the leopard. They were promised a – greater reward if they slew him. For months they pursued him. Once he was caught in a trap, but freed himself before the shikaris arrived. Another time they drove him into a cave, but he fought his way to freedom, clawing up several of the shikaris who were too slow to get out of the way.

Then Captain Corbett took up the hunt. For a month he and A. W. Ibbotson, Deputy Commissioner of Garhwal, stalked the leopard, but he evaded them. During the month they came almost to believe with the natives that the leopard was possessed with a human spirit. He avoided gun-traps, gin-traps, and poison with an intelligence that was almost human. The more he was hunted, the more wary he became.

Sometime later Captain Corbett established himself in the rest-house at Rudraprayag and re-opened the campaign against the leopard. For several months he carried out experiments with patent traps, gun-traps, flashlights, and poisons. And during this time the leopard, as if to taunt him, returned to Rudraprayag for his hunting.

Early in April he carried-off a young boy. Six days later he carried off an 85-year-old woman from a village near Rudraprayag, and partially ate her. A week later he took another boy from Rudraprayag.

Captain Corbett came upon one of these bodies, partially devoured. The captain poisoned the body and Iay in wait. Sure enough, the leopard returned and began to eat. But he ate only the un-poisoned portions of the corpse! Captain Corbett was not near enough for a shot.

He was tracked after his next kill—getting careless, evidently. Two rifles were lashed to a tree, aimed at the corpse. Fishing- lines joined their triggers to it. The leopard would shoot himself, the captain thought. Of course, if he moved the body toward the rifles, instead of away from them, the guns would not go off until the leopard was behind them. To avoid this, bushes were thrust firmly into the ground between the corpse and the rifles. Unbelievable though it may seem, the leopard first pulled up the bushes, dropped them some distance from the trap, and then came back to the corpse and dragged it toward the rifles. Not until the lines came taut around the tree did the rifles go off, and -then, of course, the leopard was behind.

Startled, he sprang directly into a 7 feet gin-trap. But when Corbett and Ibbotson came up there was nothing in the trap but a tuft of hair.

Then the Captain decided to sit up for the leopard near Golabrai chatti—a grass shelter for pilgrims, half a mile from Rudraprayag on the pilgrim road.

For 10 nights he sat in a machan, or hunting platform, in a tree. On the road below was a goat with a bell round its neck. There was no sign of the animal for the 10 nights, but the captain decided to try one night more.

On the 11th night, about 10 o’clock, the Captain heard something rush down the road, and the goat bell tinkled. Looking down, he saw a blur, and at this he aimed his rifle. He switched on his torch. Through sheer luck he had drawn a bead on the leopard! He fired. The animal bounded away. The moonlight showed no sign of it. The Captain did not know whether he had scored a hit or not. But at daybreak he found blood tracks, and these led him to hole in which the dead leopard had fallen.

There was no doubt that it was the Scourge. All its kills had shown three teeth marks instead of four. The dead leopard lacked a tooth. The girl offered as a propitiatory sacrifice had been scored with three claws. The dead animal lacked a claw and there was a tuft of hair missing from a hind leg, where the captain’s trap had almost held it.

And its length was exceptional. Seven feet ten inches it measured, even after it had been dead all night and shrunk a bit.

But its last human kill was its hundred and twenty-fifth, and no white man can ever persuade the people of Garhwal that the Scourge was not possessed of a demon.

Corbett published his account of the hunt of the man-eating leopard in his book, ‘The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag’ in 1947 at the age of 72, some 21 years after he shot the animal. This account has no mention of the leopard having clawed but otherwise spared a ‘human offering’. The newsreport that was published 6 months after the man-eater was shot accurately describes the length of the leopard, its injuries and other details. It attributes the three-claw scarring of the village girl offered as bait to the leopard to its missing fourth claw. As per Corbett’s account it was the left hind foot that had an old bullet wound and a missing claw. It seems unlikely, however, that the leopard would have inflicted an injury with its hind-paw unless it was accidental. Did Corbett miss a detail/ confuse the injury or was the story of a human offering purely a reporter’s embellishment of the account?

Shikar stories from Morni and around

The thick jungles that once clothed the Shivalik hill region west of Yamuna with its characteristic rugged, clay and boulder topography – a region with numerous seasonal soats (streams); dark narrow khols (rocky ravines); flat, wide duns (valleys); precipitous deep khuds and sharp mud escarpments – enjoyed a rich presence of wildlife till the end of the 19th century. The Morni hills, the Pinjore Dun, the Kiyarda Dun, the Nahan hills and the Kalesar forests were all known for the big game hunting opportunities they had to offer. Ahmad Shah Abdali, the Afghan raider is said to have camped at Pinjore in 1765 for tiger hunting.

The improvements in the firepower of sporting rifles and the easy availability of motor transport after the first World War brought in waves of thrill seeking big-game hunters to these once inaccessible forests and they all but wiped out most of the wild life of this area. The forests were simultaneously cleared for agriculture to cater to the needs of a booming population.

The diaries and books written by some of the shikaris of the yesteryears and the newspaper reports of that bygone era contain many interesting accounts of shikar and other encounters with the wild cats in this area.  Sher Jung – the poet, author, hunter, naturalist and freedom fighter – has written about his encounters in the wild in these parts – in his books- Tryst with Tigers (1967) and Ramblings in Tigerland (1970). The Tramp has made an endeavour to compile and reproduce these accounts about the forests in and around Morni for his readers, to give a feel of those times.

Col. Wilson’s Gural hunt in Morni

(Morni Hills, 1890s)

Lt. Col Alban Wilson of the 8th Gurkha Rifles describes a hunting trip to Morni in his ‘Sport and Service in Assam and elsewhere (1924),’ a popular account of his days in the British Indian Army.

Lt. Col. Alban Wilson

Alban Wilson was attending a signalling class at the ‘School of Army Signalling’ at Kasauli, sometime in early 1890s when he undertook this trip. He had a week off before the examination and he set off with a man from the 11th Hussars ‘for a lake at the foot of the hills, about thirty miles away, named Morni Tal, where there was said to be very decent sport with rod or gun.’ The duo rode till Pinjore where they spent a night at the gardens. ‘Next day we had a very rough march across the wide, stony beds of several small rivers, and camped on the bank of the farthest one. Early next morning we set off for the lake, which was another ten miles off, across a high ridge. By noon we had reached the crest, where there was a fine old castellated Sikh fort, whence we could see the lake, still four miles distant and some 2000 feet below us, shimmering in the sunlight and surrounded by jungle. A Sikh policeman came out of the post in the little village, and when he heard our kit had not come along, very kindly made us tea whilst we waited for it. He told us that there had been much fighting round about the castle in bygone days, and amongst other things, that it was full of ghosts. The baggage ponies did not turn up till nearly three o’clock, and were very tired, the delay having been caused by the loads having to be man-handled over some ticklish parts of the road. So as we saw that we should get in very late if we continued the journey, we decided to stay where we were and see what sport we could get near at hand. The fort was in very fair preservation, and two rooms had been kept in repair in one of the towers for the use of travellers, so we were able to make ourselves fairly comfortable. The Sikh informed us that there were a good many gural in the cliffs about a mile away, which we might get a shot at in the early morning. So while our kit was being unpacked we had a look around the place. A small orange grove had lately been started close by, and as we were going to it we realised that what the policeman had said about the fighting was true enough, for from the side of a small cutting made for the path, a mass of men’s ribs were sticking out, just as if a lot of old baskets had been buried in there. The only local man who could show the ground for gural was the old sweeper, who looked after the rooms we occupied. And when we appeared for that purpose next morning, clad in a red serge jumper and a pair of tartar trews, I thought our chance of bagging one of these little Indian chamois would be small. However, after we had gone about a mile, he suggested my companion should go down the hillside through the jungle to the lower part of the cliffs, while he and I kept on along the top. After some distance we came to what seemed to be the edge of a cliff, when, just as I was going to look over cautiously, I heard a sharp whistling sound, which was the gural’s alarm signal. A careful peep over in the direction of the noise revealed three alert little animals standing about sixty yards down amongst the rocks, looking out below them. Selecting the one which seemed to be the biggest, I pressed the trigger, but for some seconds the smoke obscured everything, though a rattling of stones made it seem probable one was hit. when the smoke cleared away no animal could be seen so I told the sweeper to go down and prospect. He looked over the edge, sat down at once and said in English, “Your highness, I no hill man, I fall down and get killed.” It wasn’t a nice place, almost a sheer drop, and covered with loose stones, but I put down the rifle and proceeded to climb down. The ground was very steep, but I got to the place where the gural had been standing without much difficulty, and there found a good patch of blood and hair on the stones. Twenty yards below this the little beast was lying dead under a rock. Tying his legs together and passing my head through them, I got him on my back, but climbing up again was not easy. The old sweeper was lying on the top with only his head showing, and kept calling out each time a stone slipped, “Mind yourself Sahib, mind yourself!” On reaching the top I made him take the gural, and went back to the castle. My friend came in soon afterwards, and said the shot had evidently scared everything in his neighbourhood, for he had seen nothing, and as it was such vile walking he gave it up. So we had breakfast and went out again afterwards, but had no more luck that day or the next.’ The duo returned to the riverside camp the following afternoon where they spent time fishing. The following day they hunted for peafowls as they made their way back to Pinjore and Kasauli.

 

Cattle-lifter of Kalesar

(Kalesar forest, 1888)

The ‘Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser’ a 19th century daily newspaper published from Grafton, New South Wales, Australia (now published under the name of ‘ The Daily Examiner’) carried a story from India in its edition of 16th October, 1888 about a panther (leopard) hunt at Kalesar. As per the news report the residents of Fiazpore, a village situated about a mile from the forest bungalow at Kalesar were harassed by the depredations of a notorious cattle-lifting panther. They approached the Forest Department to kill this large panther after it had killed yet another cow. Mr. E.A. Down of the Forest Department decided to sit over the ‘kill’ in wait for the panther but the vile cattle raider sensed his presence and stayed away from the ‘kill’ that day. He put in an appearance at half-past-six in the evening the following day but on finding Mr. Down still on the vigil he slunk into the surrounding forest. A cattle herd then crossed this spot and not being able to resist the temptation it offered, the panther sprang out of his cover and killed one of the cattle. Mr. Down fired a shot at the rogue to punish him for this brazen attack. The panther got badly injured but managed to get away from the spot. Mr. Down then organized a search for the injured animal with the help of a forest guard and the villagers to despatch him to the Happy Hunting Grounds! The injured panther, however, did not prove to be an easy kill. Here is the first person account of the deadly encounter by Mr. Down as reported in the newspaper- “One of the men suddenly pulled up short, pointing to the beast lying within a couple of yards of me. We all thought him dead. However, not being sure, I ordered the men back. Having got to a safe distance, as I thought I threw a stone into the bush, when I was promptly charged. I received the brute at close quarters, hitting him in the chest; he reared up on his hind legs and knocked me down, seizing me in the right thigh, lacerating the big muscle and tearing it from the bone. I also received six claw-wounds in the hands. The villagers had all fortunately cleared out; but the forest guard was less lucky; although he tried to get away. The panther dropped me and made for the retreating guard; he brushed past me: then I gave him the remaining barrel, catching him in the stomach and blowing a hole as big as my head on the opposite side. I had hoped to stop him with this; but he seized the guard who called to me for assistance. As soon as I could reload I went to the poor fellow, whom I found on the ground with the panther lying on him. It was quite dusk, and I had to get within about ten paces before I could see well enough to make sure of my shot. I saw the panther turn his head in my direction, and I fully expected another charge; but he funked me and turned to make off, when I hit him in the shoulder and killed him. I picked up the poor guard who was badly mauled. No bones were broken, so we managed to reach the village.”

 

A Shikar accident

(Nahan-Dagshai Hills, 1876)

Australian Town and Country Journal that was published at Sydney, New South Wales carried a news report in its edition dated 23rd September, 1876 of the unfortunate death of Lieutenant Thomas Boydell, the adjutant of the 39th Foot Regiment stationed at Dagshai, in a shikar accident. It was the June of 1876 when the Lieutenant, accompanied by a shikari went out on a hunt in the vicinity of Nahan (a march and a half beyond the town). They spotted a tiger on the bank of a nullah and emptied both the barrels of their rifles at the tiger. The tiger rolled into the nullah and although badly wounded, it survived the double assault. It now turned on his assailants with vengeance and charged Lt. Boydell. Boydell’s desperate attempt to reload his rifle got foiled as his rifle got jammed and would not shut. As destiny would have it, his spare rifle was with his shikari companion and was not loaded. He now raced up the bank and tried to stave off the tiger with the muzzle but the enraged tiger pulled him down and buried his terrible fangs into his shoulder. The tiger then left his unfortunate victim taking him to be dead. To his ill-luck, Boydell made a movement that was seen by the vengeful tiger and it attacked him a second time, biting viciously into his knee. The shikari had managed to reload in the meantime and finally despatched the tiger. But it was too late for Lt. Boydell who died of his injuries the next day at Dagshai.

Reference:

The London Gazette, 25th August,1876

P.S. Sher Jung mentions the age-old adage about tigers in his book, Ramblings in Tigerland (1970) – ‘This animal (the tiger) is just a heavy bodied cat, noble and shy — nothing more and nothing less. Only when it is wounded it becomes the tiger of popular conception: a horror incarnate, a bloodthirsty killer.’

 

 

The Capricornian, a newspaper of late 19th century that was published at Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia carried a beautiful bear hunting account from the Sirmoor Hills in its Saturday edition of 11th December, 1897. The story by H.R.K. was originally published in ‘The Field’,  a magazine founded in England in 1853- as a  ‘Country Gentleman’s Newspaper’ for the men who loved hunting and shooting. The Capricornian carried the Saturday Story under the ‘Children’s Column’!!

In a Bear’s Den

(Sirmoor Hills, 1897)

– by H.R.K. in ‘The Field’

It was an Indian Midsummer — that oppressive week or ten days which precedes the burst of the monsoon and much-longed-for rain — the stillness of the air gathering clouds, and grumbling of distant thunder foretelling the coming storms. I was hunting the chamois which frequent the lower, though very precipitous, hills of the outer Himalayas ; my camp being pitched in a hot, shut –in spot, a sort of basin with high cliffs surrounding it— a very wild piece of country and full of game. The short June nights were anything but a blessing, for day break was before 4 a.m., and one had to be off after the chamois— in fact among their haunts —as soon as it was possible to see, which meant very early rising. On this particular occasion, after half-dressing by light of lantern, I had finished breakfast, and was about to complete my toilet— for, on the appearance of the hot porridge and coffee, I had sat down just as I was — when a shower of stones on the far side of a ravine which ran close in front of my tent.

My shikari— Besan Singh— was sitting close by, smoking his early-morning hubble-bubble; down went his pipe, and almost before I was out of my tent be exclaimed that there was a bear clambering along the opposite cliffs. Catching up my rifle, I quickly ran to the edge of a ravine, a deep and thickly wooded rift, with a mountain torrent roaring down its rocky bed. More stones came rattling down, and high upon the cliff-side we saw a bear slowly climbing along the very precipitous rocks, evidently returning from the night’s raid into one of the cultivated valleys, and now making for some cool shady sleeping-place in one of the secluded gullies higher up among the hills. It was scarcely daylight: five minutes earlier and I could not have seen to shoot; even as it was the light was so bad that I could only just make out the sights of my rifle. Waiting till the bear was exactly in front, though about 150 or 170 yards above up, I fired. Smack! A cloud of white dust came out of the face of the cliff, bear, with a scramble, quickened his pace. Bang again; a loud acknowledgement and he came rolling down, clutching and clawing at rocks and trees amid a perfect avalanche of stones. I fully thought he would crash down right into the bottom of the ravine; but, steep as the place was, he managed to stop himself and was off back towards a precipitous gorge, going as strong as if he had never been touched.

Meanwhile Besan had brought me more cartridges, and off we ran, I without coat or hat, down into the ravine, and as fast as we could climb, up the opposite slope. There was any amount of blood: so tracking was easy but led us along the cliffs into such precipitous places that it was difficult to realise that they were practicable to such an unwieldy animal as the object of our pursuit. The trail was so direct and unhesitating that the bear evidently had his point, and was making for some well-known refuge. And so it proved: for after half an hour’s really difficult climbing, we ran him to ground. A huge cleft in the cliff, as if caused by an earthquake, led to the mouth of the cave; a narrow passage about 3ft. wide, with a perpendicular wall of rock on either side, ending in a dark triangular hole.

With considerable difficulty we lowered ourselves into this passage, crept quietly along it, and cautiously peered into the cave. I may say very cautiously ; for, if the bear had come out, there was no room for it to pass except over us. The cave proved of great depth, going down at a steep slope for about forty yards, then appearing to open out into a large vault, with other recesses branching out of it. Far away down a small ray of light shot in through some crevice, and as soon as my eyes got accustomed to the gloom, it enabled me to make oat a large dark place which looked like either a continuation of the cave itself, or else a branch of it; but of the bear there were no signs except a splash of blood on the rock at the entrance, which it had brushed against while squeezing itself in.

Thinking there might possibly be an exit somewhere near where we saw the glimmer of daylight, I clambered out again and round on the outside till I found the crevice; but it was a mere crack in the rock not large enough for a cat to get through ; so, returning to Besan Singh, who I had left to watch at the main entrance, we threw down some stones. The only result was lo drive out a lot of large bats, which, after much squeaking and fluttering in the daylight, flew in again, and I could soon see them hanging on to the rocks.

Besan said that, when we threw the stones, he thought he saw something move far away down; one’s imagination is very apt to run riot on these occasions. However, putting my head in, I again peered down. Could that dark place at the bottom be the bear? It might have been anything, but looked uncommonly like a hole in the rock. However, a shot could do no harm; so I lay flat, took a steady aim and fired. The report was magnified tenfold, making a tremendous noise, and the smoke prevented us from seeing anything for some seconds; but, when it cleared off, there was the black thing still in the same place ; so I came to the conclusion that it must be part of the cave, and that the wounded bear was stowed away in some recess.

While thinking what to do, for I was very loath to lose the brute, Besan remarked: “We will get torches, and if you will come with me with the rifle, I will go down into the cave.” It was a rather startling proposition, and not quite ‘sound business’; however, as Besan had suggested it, I scarcely liked to back out. Moreover, after all our trouble I was keen on bringing the affair to a successful termination, so replied, – “All right; we will go back to camp now, get torches and ropes, and return in the afternoon.”

This settled, we securely blocked the mouth of the cave by wedging in some enormous boulders, then started back for camp ; and a really nasty climb we had too. One place which we had found bad enough to climb up was even more difficult to negotiate when it was a case of descending. The sun, too, had become very powerful, and I had to improvise a hat of fig leaves tied on with tendrils — a kind of Bacchanallan head dress – and by no means a bad protection.

About midday a tremendous storm came on — lightning such as one sees only in the tropics; but provided with rope, taken off my tent, and several torches made of dry resinous wood, we returned to the cave, taking with as five hillmen to help to haul up the bear, if we bagged it.

Besan Singh commenced operations by stripping to his loin cloth (dhoti), and arming himself with my big hunting knife, then lighting a torch, we crept into the cave, I loading the rifle. On first entering there was a drop of several feet, and then the floor sloped downward at a steep incline; so that Besan, with the flaming torch, was able to advance, lighting up the place, while I could with safety fire over his head.

Clambering slowly down the rough incline, holding the light well to the front, and now and then knocking it against the rocks and sending out showers of sparks, the dark, thing at the end was gradually approached. It was an exciting few minutes. A few yards more, and, leaning forward, Besan shouted: “Why, it is the bear; and he is dead!” Sure enough, there it lay stone dead, with a bullet hole right in the middle of its forehead — a very lucky shot ; for I could not at the time tell it was a bear I was aiming at when I fired down into the cave ; but it must have been sitting looking straight up at us, and Besan was right when he said he thought he saw the “dark thing” move. The wound I had given it in the early morning was a very slight one, through the fleshy part of one of its hind legs, the bone not being touched.

Two of the hill-men clambered down with the rope, which we made fast round the bear’s neck; then, they pushing from below and the rest of us hauling from above, we got it up to the mouth of the cave, which was so small that it was as much as we could do to get the beast out into the open.

The storm was still going on, peels of thunder echoing through the hills, and the rain coming down in torrents; so I made for home, leaving my men to bring the bear. A couple of hours later they arrived in camp: and, the weather having cleared, I laid out and measured the slain— a Himalayan black bear, length in a straight line 5 feet 6 inches, age about five years.

Before closing this, a word of tribute to the best and pluckiest shikari I ever shot with— a marvellous cragsman and of undisputed nerve, whether in an awkward fix among the precipices or in following up dangerous game.

Alas! When comparatively young, and at his best, he joined the great majority— losing his life by the accidental explosion of some cartridges which he was breaking open.

Years roll by, old age too soon creeps on, and the time will come when one can no longer handle the rifle and climb the steep hillside; but often shall I think of my happy days stalking among the Sirmoor Hills with Besan Singh of Sererar.

 

Monkey Business!

(Simla Hills, 1911)

‘The West Australian’ carried a rather comic account of a botched-up Shikar outing of two ‘Sahib-log,’ newly arrived from England – in its Saturday Edition of 29th April, 1911. The duo was holidaying in the Simla Hills when they decided to try their hand at Shikar. As these wannabe Shikaris blunder their way through the short hill excursion they discover that this wild sport is not quite as much fun as some of their compatriots had them believe with their overly dramatized accounts of their Shikar exploits in India! The story, was supposedly written by a ‘Shikari’ and was published with the title – ‘Our First Shikar.’

‘My friend Bert Dootles and I had just arrived from home to take up our newly-obtained appointments in the Indian police. We had set out from England two months before the date on which we were actually to take up our duties in order to spend some time in seeing the country before we began work. We were at present in Simla, the charming summer capital of the Viceroy, living, with an old friend of my father’s, Colonel Bagliffe.

One morning old Bagliffe suggested that we might enjoy shooting some deer on the neighbouring hills. We jumped at the idea, and immediately breakfast was over proceeded to get suitable guns. We had brought a veritable armoury with us, with the vague idea of shooting elephants and lions, and things of that sort. Colonel Bagliffe said he would send for a native shikari, whom he knew, who would act as guide. In about an hour’s time Dootles, myself, and Bassenthwaite, a young sub. who had travelled out with us, were well on our way. After a couple of hours’ walking over a good road we came to a halt, and the shikari, Sucheta, pointed to a place about a thousand yards down what appeared to be a blank precipice.

“Wh-what!” said Dootles, “is that where we’ve got to go? I say, I’m not an angel yet, you know.”

Sucheta missed the point of this remark, and said, “Plenty much deer round that corner, Sahib, plenty good shoot. Come.” And he led the way down a corkscrew path such as we had never travelled on in our lives before. I held on to the hillside like grim death, and kept my eyes fixed on the shikari in front. I felt giddy as soon as I attempted to look down the khud.

“I-I say, s-stop a minute, I–am awfully g-giddy,” gasped Dootles.

“Always thought so,” remarked Bassenthwaite, facetiously. We paused, however, on a little flat about two-thirds of the way down.

“My gracious!” remarked Dootles, “this old scarecrow must have discovered we are police officers and wants to put us out of harm’s way. Let me get at him.” And here he made a murderous lunge at the astonished, shikari, who would certainly ever afterwards have had a broken nose had not Bassenthwaite put up his gun in time and received the full force of the blow on its butt. I will not here record the edifying remarks which Dootles proceeded to make with regard to Bassenthwaite’s brains, etc. They were very rude. When Dootles’ wrath subsided somewhat, we resumed our journey and reached the place which had been indicated to us by the shikari, with nothing worse than a few scratches and stings from the brambles and nettles. We heaved a sigh of relief and Dootles said he thought he would apologise to Sucheta someday.

We were now at the bottom of the ravine and Suchet Singh otherwise Sucheta, informed us that he would proceed by a round route up the ravine and drive down anything he came across so that it would pass us. Dootles never could sit still when we were in school, and this failing he has ever since retained. A short time after the shikari left us he began to fidget.

“I’m sure that old image has cracked his neck, or has given us the slip,” said this cheerful companion. “I’m sure I’m right in thinking he wants to do for us. He must be one of those seditionists. What on earth possessed me to trust myself to – ow! That’s a bomb.”

“No it isn’t, you duffer; it’s only an innocent furcone thrown by those monkeys. Look out! Here’s another. They’ve evidently recognised you for – “

“By Christmas,” quoth Dootles. “I’ll stop their knavish tricks,” and he raised his gun.

“Stop!” yelled Bassenthwaite, diving at him; but he was too late – one of the simians had dropped to the ground dead.

“Now you’ve done it,” said Bassinthwaite grimly. He had been in India as a boy. “Don’t you know the monkey’s sacred? Follow me; we’ll have to run for it.”

Dootles and I were startled; we were unaware that the monkey was sacred. We followed Bassey as quickly as we could, hoping that we had not been seen. Unfortunately we had, and in a few minutes we heard a hue and cry rather too close to our heels to allow us to be comfortable. Dootles said it was disgraceful for police officers to be running away from a mob and was for turning back and fighting the lot. We told him he could stay if he liked, but that we were going on. The natives had turned out with their usual weapon – a six-foot bamboo pole with a brass head studded with nails. These weapons can do some damage; and we did not feel inclined to tackle thirty natives armed with them. Dootles said no more and followed us meekly.

“This way,” panted Bassenthwaite. “They have lost sight of us amongst the trees, and we might reach the main road sooner by this path.” We got a good way without being discovered, and were beginning to congratulate ourselves on our escape when our pursuers saw us and raced up the Hill. Now, anyone who has not tried to run up a hillside on the Himalaya Mountains on a hot day cannot imagine what a delightful experience, it is for a novice. Up we went, using hands and knees and feet-grabbing a bramble for support and letting go quickly, getting flicked in the face by nettles; going up two steps and slipping back three on the slippery pine needles, puffing, blowing, panting. We were almost done up and our pursuers were almost at our heels, when Dootles slipped off a ledge on to which he had clambered and plumped with a yell down on to the foremost native’s head, causing him to lose his balance, also with a yell, and the two rolling down scattered confusion amongst the pursuing host. Dootles pulled up with a thump against a pine tree, scrambled up and joined us. We, taking advantage of the confusion darted through a neighbouring hedge and pulled up panting in a friendly garden.

“Here, get out of my flower-beds, you idiots!” We heard a bellow. Glancing down hastily, I noticed I had my left foot on a pansy plant while my right had done sad havoc to some beautiful mignonette. I quickly got on to the path and tried to look innocent. Then I looked round for the owner of the voice, and found him explaining, more forcibly than politely, to my two chums what he thought of fellows who broke through a gentleman’s hedge and trampled upon his flowers. He also kindly offered to get us a lift to the neighbouring lunatic asylum.

In the midst of it all, however, Sucheta arrived with the crowd at his heels. This turned the old gentleman’s attention from us. After much haranguing and a liberal donation of rupees to the neighbouring temple (they never got there), we disposed of the natives. The Major (Major Charles Augustus Archibald Piffles, of the Bengal Lancers) accepted our apology and invited us to lunch, an invitation we gladly accepted, for the exercise had made us hungry.

During the meal Dootles suddenly asked, “What on earth makes the Hindus consider the monkey sacred? Is it the resemblance?”

“It’s this way,” said the Major. “Long ago, before the birth of Christ, a king of the Hindus had a son named Rama, who was a very brave and worthy prince, quite a Paladin. Once, while he was on his travels, he was attacked by the giant King of Lanka (Ceylon), who carried off his beautiful wife Sita. Rama set off in pursuit, and was often beset by terrible dangers, especially amongst the strange, dark people of the south of India. Rama was a prince of the north, an Aryan, but Hanuman, king of the monkeys, gave him his aid, and finally Sita was rescued, and Rama returned safely to his own country. For this reason, because Rama is a divinity of the Hindus the monkey is held to be a sacred animal.”

 

Pinjore’s missed date with The Prince of Wales

(1922)

Bernard C. Ellison, a former curator of the Bombay Natural History Society, wrote a book on Prince Edward’s shikar adventures during his tour of India in 1921-22. Edward VIII, The Prince of Wales was the eldest son of King George V and Queen Mary. He became the UK’s Monarch in 1936 after the death of his father but abdicated less than a year later for marrying an American lady who had divorced her husband. Ellison’s book ‘H.R.H. The Prince of Wales’s Sport in India (1925)’ describes Pinjore’s missed date with Prince Edward, during his three day stay at Patiala as a guest of Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala. This is what Ellison had to write about the aborted shoot planned by the Maharaja for the visiting British Royalty, “The Prince of Wales was at Patiala from the morning of February 22nd till the evening of the 24th (1922). Originally a shoot for his entertainment had been planned in the Pinjaur jungles, some fifty miles distant from the city of Patiala, situated on the State boundary between the lower Himalayan mountains and the Siwalik range. Much sport would undoubtedly have been enjoyed, as the country abounds in tiger, leopard, sambhur, chital, hog deer, goral, barking deer, black bear, blue bull, wild boar, hyena, kalij pheasants, jungle fowl, and grey and black partridges. In 1918 Lord Chelmsford, and in 1920 the Crown Prince of Rumania, had very successful shoots there. Owing to the limited time of the Prince’s visit, it was decided, however, to have the shoot arranged near Patiala, viz., a general shoot from elephants at Bunerhari, and pig-sticking in Sanaur and Bahadurgarh. Formerly around the city of Patiala there used to extend a thick scrub jungle, and it was impossible to cultivate the land owing to the number of wild animals of all descriptions ; so orders were given to exterminate them, and to burn down the jungles. Since then few places have been reserved for shikar purposes. The last tiger was shot in these parts in 1907, but leopards are still often killed. Just before the Prince’s visit, two were shot in the deer park behind the Moti Bagh Palace, having presumably been enticed down from the higher ridges of forests by the Chamba shepherds, who pass through Patiala territory with their flocks of sheep. The jungles are strictly reserved and looked after by the forest and shikar departments jointly”

Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala invited all his special guests to Pinjore for a shoot. A day long shikar adventure was followed by an idyllic evening in the terraced gardens of the Fort-Palace with the guests being treated to music, dance and best of cuisine.

One such celebrity visitor to Pinjore was Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy of India who was accompanied by E S Montagu, the Secretary of State. The Viceroy was received by the Maharaja and his entourage at the Kalka Railway Station on Saturday the 19th of January, 1918. An extravagant shoot had been organized for the guests. The Maharaja’s lavish lifestyle did make an impression on Montagu who later wrote, ‘ In the evening Maharaja Bhupinder Singh left the … party… and motored back to his home, taking an hour and twenty minutes to go seventy miles. This is the man who drives his Rolls-Royce across country after blackbuck. When you come to think of it, there were 3500 beaters, horsemen etc., out to kill 100 farmyard chickens, and yet I cannot deny that the day was extra-ordinarily amusing …’

Two years later, on the 29th of April, 1920 – Carol the Crown Prince of Romania came for a shoot to Pinjaur while on a State Visit to Patiala. The Prince was taken for the shikar on elephant back with an army of beaters and horsemen. Photographs of the shoot survived the day and were bequeathed by Mrs. Irvine Bailey, the wife of Lt. Col. F.M. Bailey (the famous naturalist, explorer, adventurer – a British Intelligence Officer who was made famous by his travels in Tibet and Tashkent) on her death in 1988 to the India Office Library and are today held by the British Library in UK. The Tramp, shall get them for his readers someday!!

A decade or so later the Maharaja managed to get Jardine, the Captain of the English cricket team on a tour of India to Pinjore for a tiger shoot!

References:

  1. The Magnificent Maharaja, K. Natwar Singh (1998)

 

Pig-sticking at Patiala

Visit of Edward the Eighth, Prince of Wales at Patiala (1922)

Edward the Eighth, The Prince of Wales

Edward the Eighth, The Prince of Wales

Edward the Eighth, the Prince of Wales arrived at Patiala on the 22nd of February, 1922 on a three-day game hunting holiday on the invitation of Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala. On the way to Patiala while motoring from Delhi, several members of the party travelling with the Prince were fired at by unknown assailants who disappeared before they could be identified or apprehended. None from the Prince’s party were injured.

Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, 1922

Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, 1922

The Crown Prince and the other important dignitaries invited for the shoot in his honour by the Maharaja,  stayed at the opulent Moti Bagh Palace at Patiala. The Prince reviewed the parade and played polo on the first day of the visit.

Motibagh Palace (Patiala) 1922

Motibagh Palace (Patiala) 1922

Prince of Wales and Maharaja Patiala leaving the parade ground after the review (1922)

Prince of Wales and Maharaja Patiala leaving the parade ground after the review (1922)

A veteran salutes the Prince of Wales, Patiala 1922

A veteran salutes the Prince of Wales, Patiala 1922

The following morning Edward drove with the Maharaja to the Sinaur Bir, a thick scrub jungle of babool and kikar reserved for shikar, for a session of pig-sticking – the hunting of wild boars on horseback with a spear.

Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupendar Singh driving Edward VIII, Prince of Wales in his Rolls-Royce during the 1922 Patiala Visit

Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh driving Edward VIII, Prince of Wales in his Rolls-Royce during the 1922 Patiala Visit

The horses were kept in readiness for the hunting party that was divided into four ‘heats’. The Prince was to ride the ‘Moti’ – one of the fastest ponies in Maharaja’s stables.

Prince of Wales on Maharaja's Champion Pig-sticking pony (Moti)

Prince of Wales on Maharaja’s Champion Pig-sticking pony (Moti)

Prince of Wales- Pig Sticking at Patiala 1922

Prince of Wales- Pig Sticking at Patiala 1922

The beat was arranged in three lines – the spectators (including the lady guests) on elephant-back in howdahs formed the first line. This gave them the opportunity to shoot the small-game and to see the sounders rush through the beat with the hunters giving chase in the open country. The infantrymen with blank cartridges formed the second line and the cavalry with spears formed the third line. Shikaris and watchmen were placed strategically on high trees as look outs for the boars. Any sighting was immediately signalled to the ‘sirdar’ of the nearest heat (each heat was accompanied by a sirdar who maintained a record of the bag of each sportsman to avoid mixing of trophies!!). The beat started on the Maharaja’s signal at 7:30 am. The beaters fired their blank ammunition and the sounders came charging out of the scrub with ear-splitting squeals.

Beaters at work - Prince of Wales Pig-sticking at Sinaur Bir, Patiala

Beaters at work – Prince of Wales Pig-sticking at Sinaur Bir, Patiala

The spirited boars charged and knocked down beaters and riders as they smashed their way through the thorny scrub. They slashed vengefully at their hateful pursuers with their vicious tusks injuring the horses and not sparing even the elephants. The jungle was beat six times that day with the ecstatic parties of hunters giving chase to their deadly, tusked game, unmindful of the bleeding from the vicious scratches by the thorny kikars. The Maharaja’s hospitality was at its best with refreshments being served out despite the general melee.  The Prince got two boars, including one with a single spear through the heart. The party returned to the Palace for lunch. The Prince had so enjoyed the day at pig-sticking that when plans were being made during the evening ball for the mixed shooting the following day at Bunerhari Bir – he decided to opt out and go for a repeat of pig-sticking at Sinaur-Bahadurgarh. He got another pig that day.

Prince of Wales - Pig Sticking at Patiala (1922)

Prince of Wales – Pig Sticking at Patiala (1922)

The bag being carried on camels - Patiala pig-sticking (1922)

The bag being carried on camels – Patiala pig-sticking (1922)

The Maharaja, the Prince of Wales and Captain Metcalfe with some of the bag (1922)

The Maharaja, the Prince of Wales and Captain Metcalfe with some of the bag (1922)

The hunting party at Bunerhari started off on elephants in howdahs from the Maharajahs hunting lodge. The Maharajah had his impressive collection of sporting rifles and guns laid out for his guests to choose from.

Maharaja Patiala's Sporting Guns and Rifles

Maharaja Patiala’s Sporting Guns and Rifles

The elephants in the hunting party included the large tusker that Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy of India rode when he was bombed in Delhi on December 23rd 1912. The elephant still bore the marks of the injury that it received from the bomb. The beaters sounded the bugle and flushed out the game to be pointed out by the shikaris for their excited guests who then let loose a fusillade to bring down their ‘trophies’.

Beaters and Shikaris at Bunerhari Bir, Patiala 1922

Beaters and Shikaris at Bunerhari Bir, Patiala 1922

The day’s bag included 254 head of game – big and small – leopards, nilgais, hog-deer, blackbuck, boars, porcupines, pea-fowls, partridges, sand-grouse, quails, curlews and pigeons.

The 'bag' being carried on camels

The ‘bag’ being carried on camels

Amongst the illustrious guests who were part of the hunting party was the twenty-two year old Lord Louis Mountbatten, the naval ADC to the Prince, who later became famous as the Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asia Command in World War II and was made India’s last Viceroy in 1947.

References:

  1. H.R.H. The Prince of Wales’s Sport in India (1925), Bernard C. Ellison
  2. Prince of Wales’ Eastern Book (1922)
  3. Western Mail, Perth, 27th April, 1922

P.S.

The 1400 piece silver-gilt dinner set that was commissioned by the Maharaja for the visit of the Prince of Wales was auctioned for $ 3 million by Christies’ London in July 2013!

 

A Jolly Pigstick at Patiala

(By Victor Carndini of Melbourne, in the “Gymkhana” – 1897)

The Australasian, Melbourne, Saturday 12th June 1897

It may be interesting to those who are fond of this kingly sport, and who have not had the good fortune to visit Patiala as a guest of the Maharajah for the usual annual sporting week there, to hear a littleof how things are done when the item of pigsticking on the week’s programme is come to. Before going into details I think it would not be amiss to give some idea of the immense amount of trouble taken, in the first instance, to comfortably “put up” the 80 guests, which, I think, was about the number of ladies and gentlemen who availed themselves of the Maharajah’s invitation for the week’s fun. In addition to the usual state carriages, which are always available for attendance on guests at ordinary times, some additional conveyance had been hired from Umballa for the week, so that nearly every guest had a “gharry” to him or herself, and found plenty for it to do in visiting the Moti Bagh, seeing the city museum, Crown jewels, and driving out to the polo, races, etc. from day to day. On arrival at the railway station we were met by that best of * Mr. Wingrove, or his assistant Mr, Cook, and escorted to the camp in the palace-gardens and given each one of the huge double-roomed tents of which the camp was composed: and here our bearers soon made things shipshape and comfortable and I think after our next move of * for the Maharajah and members at the Rajinder Club, and regaling ourselves with an excellent tiffin, we felt firmly established, and prepared to make the best ot what promised to be a real good week. The * pig-sticking outing, one of the * that came off, is the one I am now sending you some particulars of, and it took place, the morning after our arrival. On going to the club, from whence we were to make a start at 7 a.m., we found about twenty gharries and four large four-in-hand brakes waiting to take us out to the nearest available point of cover. In a few minutes the signal of “All aboard” was given by His Highness, and, to the merry cracks of the * whips Gen. Pretum Singh. Col. Babington, and Major Kuper * excellent horn-blowing, away we went at a hand-canter through the city, then over some excellent crop country, to a spot some five miles out, where we were met by our esteemed friend, Mr. Scott. the manager of the state stables, and well known trainer of the Patiala Viceroy Cup winner.

Here a pleasant sight met our eye; namely, two double lines of saddle horses (being two to each rider) and six elephants. After the best “pigstickers” had been given to the most distinguished of the guests we were all soon satisfactorily accommodated with horse and spear. After we were mounted and told off in parties of four or five each, a move was made for cover. Although not an expert at the game, I was invited to make one of a party with His Highness, Gen. Symons, Col. Babington. ,and Capt. Apthorp, and all being well mounted, I think the boldest of piggies would have thought ours a very formidable-looking team indeed. A canter of … brought us to cover, and after the Maharajah had satisfactorily “placed his field” of parties, our party took up its position behind some shelter to wait events. We were not long kept in suspense. The * for beating the cover, which must have been a mile and a half across, was so thoroughly well managed by poor, old Colonel Hurnam Singh and his five hundred beaters, that regular families of pigs began , to make for the open.

I think our party was the first to get a run and singling out a regular scaly old daddy of a boar, the Maharajah made the * but unfortunately not for any distance * the fact that our esteemed friend Gen. Symons had come to grief. His horse seemed to me to almost turn a somersault, and apparently from * cause, too, as the General was a good rider, the horse a first-class pigsticker, and the country was fair enough, the worst of it only being ploughed land. It was * seen that the purler had resulted in a dislocated shoulder and some ugly flesh wounds of the face: but the General pluckily insisted on our keeping to our pigs; and an elephant (rather a shaky ambulance, I should think) ; soon whipped our disabled friend off back to camp.

Col. Babington and Capt. Apthorp, who had gone on, soon came up with the scaly old gentleman above referred to,and after an excellent run he fell to the Colonel’s spear. Having stayed back for some little time with the General, I had missed the balance of my party, and in endeavouring to find them I came across another gentleman who had got off the track too. We had not been talking for two minutes, when we espied a good, old black boar coming in our direction but some distance from cover, so we lost no time in showing ourselves; and, being on the quickest horse I soon came up with him, and got my first spear; found he was a sulky fighter, and of no pace to speak of, his defence being a series of sudden zig-zag dodges, during which I got in Nos. 2 and 3; and I think if I galloped over him once, I must have done so half-a-dozen times,and it was not till, with my friend, who had now joined me, we got both our spears home, that our bristly foe turned over.

Desperate charge by a Wild Boar, Pig-Sticking Scenes from 'Modern Pig-Sticking', Maj AE Wardrop (1914)

Desperate charge by a Wild Boar, Pig-Sticking Scenes from ‘Modern Pig-Sticking’, Maj AE Wardrop (1914)

The chase, Pig-Sticking Scenes from 'Modern Pig-Sticking', Maj AE Wardrop (1914)

The chase, Pig-Sticking Scenes from ‘Modern Pig-Sticking’, Maj AE Wardrop (1914)

At this stage a move was made for the temporary camp of our second mounts, and after seeing our saddles changed, and refreshing the inner man with some of the good things that had been thoughfully provided for the half-time spell, a fresh start was made. In the interval, however, the crowd of beaters had been reorganised, and a new beat started. Our party was again one of the first to get away, and a very short run brought a fair pacer to His Highness’s spear. This second beat, however, was not so successful as the first, and very little being done in the hour that followed, we took the hint from old “Sol,” who was now making himself felt, and retraced our tracks to the brakes and gharries.

* indicates missing text

Boar charges the horse- Pig-Sticking Scenes from 'Modern Pig-Sticking', Maj AE Wardrop (1914)

Boar charges the horse- Pig-Sticking Scenes from ‘Modern Pig-Sticking’, Maj AE Wardrop (1914)

Escaping the Inferno- Pig-Sticking Scenes from 'Modern Pig-Sticking', Maj AE Wardrop (1914)

Escaping the Inferno- Pig-Sticking Scenes from ‘Modern Pig-Sticking’, Maj AE Wardrop (1914)

Chasing into the river, Pig-Sticking Scenes from 'Modern Pig-Sticking', Maj AE Wardrop (1914)

Chasing into the river, Pig-Sticking Scenes from ‘Modern Pig-Sticking’, Maj AE Wardrop (1914)

 

The ‘Rolls-Royce’ Shikari

(1931)

Bhupinder Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala who was famous for his opulent (decadent?) lifestyle in the British India of the early 20th century was believed to be the only man in the world who went for game hunting in a Rolls-Royce. The eccentric Maharaja had special roads laid out through his hunting reserves, the Birs, and would sit by the driver as he raced along these tracks in search of game.

A Saturday feature on the Maharaja’s luxury hunting vehicles from the Morning Bulletin, Rockampton, Queensland 30th May 1931 is reproduced for the readers:

Luxury Vehicles for Indian Maharaja

Maharaja's Coaches

Window glass which enables the occupants to see out, but prevents people from looking in, chromium plated table legs, bell pushes and fire extinguishers, an Egyptian silver wash-bowl, solid silver cutlery, the finest English china, silken damask curtains, a 225,000 candle power searchlight-these are some of the features of two remarkable coaches which have just been shipped to India by an English company for the Maharaja of Patiala. It is a matter for gratification that these two vehicles-embodying as they do all the skill and resources of present day automobile engineering, and Coach-building practices, have been made throughout by British labour. They are both mounted on swift, powerful chassis.

lt is doubtful if any two vehicles of such power and speed, and of such ornateness and luxury have ever before been sent out to the East. They are to be used by the Maharaja of Patiala, for shikar (hunting) expeditions, one being designed as a, travelling coach seating 27 persons, and the other as a dining saloon with accommodation for 16 at one sitting.

Outwardly the vehicles are the same – both finished in two shades of maroon, both having entrances and exits in the same places, and both bearing a searchlight on the roof. This searchlight is of 225,000 candle power, throws a beam 1000 yards long, and can be manipulated through a complete circle by a handle in the interior. Adding to the effectiveness of the exterior are chromium plated bumper bars, and the word “Patiala” affixed to the radiator.

In each case a Walman sliding roof is fitted, and Triplex “purdah” blue tinted safety glass used for the windows. This glass has the remarkable property of allowing a perfectly clear vision to the occupants of the vehicle, but at the same time, shields them from the gaze of passers-by. From the exterior it appears quits opaque.

For the interiors teak, polished and bees-waxed by hand, has been used in both eases. This matches in the travelling coach with blue moquette covered seats, and in the dining car, with a decorative scheme of blue and brown. Many of the interior fittings and appointments are common to both vehicles.

There is in each, for Instance, a rack for seven sporting guns fitted to the front bulkhead which also bears on the left hand side a blue flambeau light, a 6 1/2 in. diameter luminous clock, a mirror in the centre, and on the right band side a luminous speedometer of the same diameter, and another blue flambeau light. Projecting through the roof immediately above are the handles for working both the searchlight and the movable roof, and below the mirror, the searchlight switch. A little further down the centre panel is the handle controlling the heating which is by means of Thermorad exhaust heaters and flush aluminium radiator plates in the floor. Both floors are laid with blue coloured Paraflor rubber laid on Sponge rubber, which eliminates what very little vibration is apparent when running.

The luxuriousness of the interior is enhanced in each case by the chromium plated parcel racks, window fittings, handles, table legs, switches, cigar receptacles and light fittings, and an unusual charm given to its aspect by the silken damask curtains that are suspended on each side of the windows. These are surmounted by pelmets of the same material. To the supports between each window are affixed switches for both the white lights overhead, and the blue flambeau lights at each corner of the vehicle, a buzzer for signalling to the driver or calling the “bearer,” and an electric cigar lighter.

The travelling coach, which contains specially sprung seats covered in blue flowered moquette trimmed with leather, has two cabinets erected over the wheel arches, one for carrying cigarettes,

cigars and glasses, and the other for holding bottles of wine. The top drawer of this is lined with zinc for carrying ice. At the rear of these is a three divisioned table which can be quickly erected across the full width of the vehicles.

The dinning saloon, carried out in a decorative scheme of brown, is provided with five folding tables fitted with spring rimmed silver bottle containers. These tables occupy the front part of the vehicle, and immediately behind is a curtained toilet recess fitted with a wash-bowl of Egyptian silver, mirrors and convenient drawers. The water supply is obtained from an 18 gallon tank in the roof immediately above.

Beyond this comes a full width partition separating the kitchenette from the dining part of the coach. This is fitted with cabinets for the reception of all crockery and cutlery, and for the storing of foodstuffs. It also contains a zinc lined sink, a chromium plated tap fed from a 32-galion water tank in the roof and a large primus stove. An electrical indicator indicates at which of the four tables the “bearer” ¡s wanted.

The appointments of the dining saloon include 24 sets of solid silver cutlery, teapot, coffee-pot, sugar basin, cream jug, etc., engraved with the Maharajah’s crest, and a large number of  china pieces also bearing the crest. A silver cocktail shaker is included in the fitments of the travelling coach.

From the above it can be easily imagined that these two vehicles, not only in their concession to utility-but in their luxury and refinement are outstanding pieces of work. It is to be hoped they will draw attention in India to the unparalleled skill and craftsmanship of British motor engineers and coach-builders.

 

Australian Cricket Team’s loss to India at Lahore and duck-shooting at Patiala

(1936)

Wendell Bill, the right-handed Australian batsman from Waverley, New South Wales chronicled the India Tour of the Australian cricket team in 1935-36. The accounts were published in the ‘The Sydney Mail’. Here is an account of the experiences of the Australian team in travelling to Patiala after the first ever loss to the Indian side at Lahore.

“After several days of sightseeing etc. (at Lahore) we commenced our match against the All Indian Eleven on a picturesque ground (Lawrence Gardens, Lahore), quite the equal of grounds at Bombay and Calcutta, only that the grass was not as soft or as green at these centers. During the match great amusement was caused when a spectator, a very interested one, too, rushed onto the arena with a handful of rupees and eventually succeeded in presenting them to the batsman, who was the Indian Captain Wazir Ali. This player had saved the total collapse of his side, so deserved the rupees; but the incident seemed to upset him, because shortly afterwards he was dismissed. At this match the spectators were allowed to have lunch on the playing arena, a queer idea, with the result that when play was resumed the entire ground excepting the wicket, which was roped off, was littered with orange peel, bread etc., giving the large kite-hawks that hovered around a great meal. Never before have I seen a game of cricket stopped by birds, but here, on several occasions the swoopings of these birds for scraps off the ground became so annoying for batsmen and fieldsmen alike that the umpires stopped the game until the birds were driven off. . . At the conclusion of the match- which by the way India won, thus inflicting the first defeat on our team in the country – an amazing scene was witnessed. The great crowd literally mobbed the ground and pavilion … All the Indian players were garlanded with beautiful flowers and carried shoulder-high to the pavilion, where from a quickly erected platform, all were forced to say a few words to the crowd… the Indian people are absolutely “cricket mad” and this was the first international match ever won by their team.

When finally we managed to escape from this scene of excitement we set forth to our hotel for lunch and a quick change, because a fleet of16-cylinder Rolls-Royce cars was waiting to take us to Patiala, the place we had long looked forward to visiting. From Lahore to Patiala is nearly 150 miles, but in such powerful and beautiful cars – the Maharajah has 244 of them- were we driven that 120 miles of the journey was accomplished in under 3 ½ hours- some going considering that many large caravans drawn by bullocks barred the center of the road on numerous occasions. Here we entered the State of Patiala, and, just by way of change, transferred to two luxurious parlour coaches. One was a dining bus and the other contained a cocktail and drink bar. Each coach sent by the Maharajah, was capable of seating 25 and contained every luxury possible, even a shower and a radiator. So we finished our journey very pleasantly indeed, arriving at Patiala to the accompaniment of musical honours provided by a band which had been brought out specially for the occasion. The next day being a free one from cricket, many of our team went out shooting ducks- not panthers and tigers-as had been hoped as time did not permit our indulging in this thrilling sport. The duck-shooting took place some thirty miles from the palace on the shores of a beautiful blue lake. Here ducks were to be found by the thousand, so no difficulty was experienced in bringing back something to show for the day’s outing.”

Wendell Bill ended up with a broken-jaw in the match played between Indian and Australian Teams at the Baradari Ground, Patiala that ended in a draw.

References:

  1. The Sydney Mail, Wednesday, 26th February 1936.

 

Motorists attacked by a Tiger

(Nahan, 1938)

Western Argus, a newspaper published in Kalgoorie, Western Australia in its edition dated 11th January, 1938 reported a freak incident near Nahan involving an attack by a man-eating tiger. A European couple, Mr. and Mrs. H.G. Mills were driving to Dagshai from Dehradun for spending a weekend with their friends. On their way near Nahan they found a tiger blocking their path. Mr. Mills, reportedly sounded the hooter, which infuriated the tiger and it sprang on the car and mauled the couple. They were later found unconscious and were taken to a hospital where both succumbed to their injuries. A shikari party later tracked the tiger to the outskirts of Dehra Dun where it had been terrorizing the villagers and had claimed half-a-dozen victims. The vicious man-eater managed to fatally maul one of the bearers in the shikari party before it was finally accounted for.

 

 

Lions at Hissar (1811)

An article published in India Gazette dated ‘Hansi, 8th of March, 1811’ carried an account of lions being hunted near Hansi and Hissar. This arid, scrub country does not fall under the ‘Around Morni’ category but The Tramp cannot resist the temptation of reproducing the article for the readers as today the Asiatic Lions are surviving only at Gir.

“A few days ago five horsemen, stationed at a village about 14 coss from hence, hearing that a pig had been taken by a tyger, went on foot to the spot, where they found a lion and a lioness feeding on it, The female, on the patch of grass being set on fire, went off: but the lion advanced slowly towards the men with his mane and tail erect. Taking a sure aim with their match-locks, they fired a volley upon him with such effect as to be able to attack him with their swords, with which they dispatched him, one of the party being however wounded by him before he could be killed.The animal was sent to Hansi, and appeared to be a full-grown lion,in every respect like the African lion, except that the colour of the mane, which was very thick, was rather lighter.

A few days prior to the above, a lioness had been sent in from Hissar, having been killed by a party of horsemen, one of whom was severely wounded, as were also two horses.

From the above account it consequently must appear that lions are to be found in Asia as well as Africa, a fact that had not before been known to us.

References:

  1. The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Saturday 30th November,

References:

  1. Some of the Shikar stories have been taken from the digitized newspapers available on the website of the National Library of Australia.