A couple of years ago the National Archives of India launched a ‘Reprint Series’. The intent was to make high quality published books accessible to the present-day readers. Many of the original editions of those books are to be found in our collection at the National Archives of India.
I am delighted Through Town and Jungle: Fourteen Thousand Miles A Wheel Among the Temples and People of the Indian Plain by William Hunter Workman and Fanny Bullock Workman. I trust this Will generate greater interest in reprinting classics published under the Raj.
Scattered over the broad expanse of the Indian peninsula from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas and beyond are ruins of architecture and art, which show that, at a time when the greater part of Europe was slumbering in the darkness of barbarism, civilizations existed in India, that produced remarkable monuments expressive of Eastern habits of thought and embodying features never attained in the West, which to-day excite the admiration of all who study them.
Since these structures were built the genius which created them has died out, the civilizations have faded, and building art has fallen to a low level. The centres of population have changed, whole peoples have disappeared, and where the former builders lived by the million many of the works of their hands stands to-day in the midst of lonely and not easily accessible jungles.
Without including the art of Burma, which is quite different from that of India, there are six styles of architecture in India, each distinct in itself though possessing more or less affinity to the others, each the outcome of religious thought and traditions viz.-Buddhist, Indo-Aryan, Jain, Dravidian, Chalukyan, and Mohammedan. The remains now existing embrace structural temples, cave temples cut in rock hills and in huge boulders, sculptures on rock, figures of animals, towers, palaces mosques, and tombs.
Our object in visiting India was chiefly to study these remains. To see even a tithe of the comparatively few now left required extensive travel of a primitive kind and the endurance of much hardship.
We set out to make the necessary journey on cycles so far as the existence of roads would permit, and in the execution of our purpose we cycled with some interruptions, where roads failed, from near the southern extremity of India northward far into Kashmir, and from Cuttack on the eastern coast over Calcutta across the whole breath of India to Somnath Patan on the Arabian Sea, besides leaving the main lines at many points to travel in the interior. This journey occupied three cold weathers, and in the course of it we cycled above fourteen thousand miles as measured by cyclometer, besides covering thousand more by rail, steamboat, tonga, tum-tum, bullock-cart, palki, and on foot, visiting nearly all parts of the Peninsula.
With a several weeks’ tour in Burma we also cycled extensively Ceylon, and from Batavia through the island of Java to Soerabaya at its eastern extremity, visiting the remarkable temples at Boro Boedor, Brambannan, the Dieng Plateau, Singasari and other places, and spent ten days at the great temples at Angkor in Siam, all off which show a strong Indian influence and are considered to be largely the work of Indian artisans.
During a second visit to India of two years’ duration we were able to verify our first impressions. We were present at the great Durbar at Delhi, where was a display of Oriental magnificence, the like of which has not been seen in India for a time, could now be seen nowhere else, and may be seen again.
In the summer of 1903, while we were absent on our expedition Srinagar hotel were destroyed in the great flood which swept over the Kashmir Valley, and destroyed in the great flood which swept over the Kashmir Valley, and among them many hundred photographs and negatives of Indian scenes, from which this book was to have been illustrated. To partially replace these three months of the winter of 1903-1904 were devoted to revisiting as many temple centres as possible but the number that could be reached was comparatively small, and lost negatives of many types and objects of interest mentioned in the following pages could not be replaced. Quite a number of photographs more or less damaged have however been used.
In the course of our Indian wandering we found many things of interest, besides architectural remains, in the country itself and manners and customs of the people, some of which we attempt to describe in this narrative.
Careless readers are apt to distort the meaning of and to make unwarrantable deductions from the statements of authors and to ascribe to the latter conclusions which their writings do not justify. Authors may mention facts, which are patent to all, without making themselves responsible for any opinions as to their bearing or the conditions which underlie them. Facts speaks for themselves, and may be taken as straws to show which way the wind blows, but we would say here, that any conclusions, except such as we ourselves state, based on straws we may drop, are made on the responsibility, of those making them and not on ours.
While it is impossible for any one with his eyes open to travel extensively in a country like India teeming with millions of different races and religious without meeting with conditions that might in his opinion be improved, yet one must also be impressed with the magnitude f the task, which the Government of India had has on its hands, and of the immense difficulty in the face of human limitations of correcting abuses, which have their origin in and religious customs and prejudices, that cannot lightly be interfered with.
Hence realising that on traveler, unless he has lived a long time in a country and had special opportunities of studying its institutions, is in a position to understand fully the problems that confront its Government, much less to criticise the administration of its affairs, we leave all questions of politics to those better equipped in such matters.
It is, however, a well-known fact that an alert traveler sees more of a country in certain ways than its inhabitants. His impression are more vivid, he notices much that familiarity and habit cause them to overlook, and from the point of view of a disinterested party he can see the true bearing of events, in regard to which their judgment may be biased.
The difficulties of travel, the study of nature, architecture and sculpture, the manners and customs of the people, and the conditions of existence, gave us enough to do furnished more material than can be crowded into one volume.
A cycle tour in India id quite a different things form what it is in the countries of Europe, in Algeria, or even in Ceylon and Java. In all of these countries what may night in something that passes under the name of an inn or hotel, where one’s most pressing necessities are provided for. At least a bed, be it ever so poor, with a mattress and coverings, towels, and food, are to be had.
In India hotels, many of which are exceedingly uncomfortable places to stop at, are found only in the larger cities, which are comparatively few in number and scattered over a wide area. The cyclist has to find shelter on the greater part of hi in dak bungalows, the only places accessible to the public that represent an inn, which are by no means always to be found in localities convenient to him, or in inspection or engineer bungalows built at certain places for the use of Government officials when on duty, which can only be occupied by permission of the Executive Engineer or some other office of the district, who usually lives too far away from the bungalow to admit of the required permission being readily obtained.
The bungalows are generally, through not always, provided with bedsteads or charpoys consisting of a wooden frame held together by an interlacing or broad cotton tape, tables, chairs and a heterogeneous, often exceedingly small amount of china. This lat we have more than once seen reduced to two or three pieces. Mattresses, pillows, and linen, are rarely found.
Failing to meet with a bungalow the cyclist may occasionally find a refuge in the waiting-room of a small railway station, containing two wooden chairs and a wooden bench, or he may be obliged occupy the porch of some native building. On rare occasions a missionary or planter may take pity on him and lodge him, which hospitality he regards as a godsend and duly appreciates.
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