Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/28

This page has been validated.




A native Suwarree, or train of a great personage, in India always forms a picturesque and splendid pageant, but in the present dwindled state of Asiatic pride, none can stand a comparison with that of Runjeet Singh. In addition to all the glittering groups which the king of Oude can bring in support of his dignity, the chief of Lahore displays a martial host of followers, who have added many broad lands to his dominions, and rendered numerous warlike tribes tributary to the state.

Runjeet Singh, in the centre of a brilliant cavalcade, composed of superb-looking men, mounted upon stately elephants or gallant steeds, and shining in all the panoply of polished weapons, jewels, and gold, realizes the beau-ideal which the most vivid imagination can have formed of the gorgeous splendours of an Asiatic prince. The scene represented in the accompanying Plate was sketched upon the river Sutlej, near a fortified Seik town, commanding a view of the snowy peaks of the Himalaya mountains, at the distance of a hundred and twenty miles.

Runjeet Singh, like other native potentates, when appearing in public, is attended by hawk and hound, his falconers bearing the regal birds upon their wrists, and a pack of dogs being led before him: his elephants, camels, and horses are of the finest breed, and amongst the latter, he is particularly pleased with a specimen presented by Lord William Bentinck—a noble, though what is esteemed in his native land a clumsy animal, employed only as a beast of draught in the great brewing establishments in England, but which has sometimes the honour of carrying the maha-rajah himself, and has had the title of hathee-sa-ghora bestowed upon it, (elephant-horse.) Runjeet Singh himself is a slim, active personage, and would probably have even been considered handsome, but for the ravages of the small-pox, which has deprived him of the sight of one eye. He dresses richly, and is upon state occasions distinguished for a remarkably fine diamond, called the kohi noor, or hill of light, which is said to be unique, and to exceed in size and splendour any specimens of the gem known in Europe. The manner in which the maha-rajah is stated to have possessed himself of this jewel is not greatly to his credit.

In September, 1812, the queens of Shah Sujah, and Zeman Shah, of Cabul, took refuge from the troubles of their country, and were received in Lahore with every demonstration of respect. Sujah, the deposed king, having been made prisoner by treachery, was conveyed by the governor of Attock to his brother, who at this period ruled over Cashmere. Two grand objects of the Seik's ambition and avarice, the possession of the celebrated valley, and of the hill of light, appearing now to be brought by fortuitous circumstances within his grasp, he determined, if possible, to make the attainment of the one, a pretence for the concession of the other. With this view he gave the queen to understand, that he was resolved to espouse the cause of her husband in the most chivalrous manner; to liberate him from his confinement, and bestow upon him the fort of Rotas, together with a sufficient territory for the maintenance of his dignity. The afflicted lady, overjoyed and gratified, expressed a deep appreciation of the intended