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This is indeed India! the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the mouldering antiquities of the rest of the nations—the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined. Even now, after the lapse of a year, the delirium of those days in Bombay has not left me, and I hope never will. It was all new, no detail of it hackneyed. And India did not wait for morning, it began at the hotel—straight away. The lobbies and halls were full of turbaned, and fez'd and embroidered, cap'd, and barefooted, and cotton-clad dark natives, some of them rushing about, others at rest squatting, or sitting on the ground; some of them chattering with energy, others still and dreamy; in the dining-room every man's own private native servant standing behind his chair, and dressed for a part in the Arabian Nights.
(Following the Equator)

Ian Strathcarron has provided a concise introduction to what India was in Twain's day in comparison to what we know of it today.

 "The great Indian revolt against British rule that occurred in the summer of 1857 is known to the British as “The Indian Mutiny” and to the Indians as “The First War of Independence”. Neither is really satisfactory: the former is euphemistic and the latter overblown. I’ve called it the Sepoy Uprising because that is what is was, an uprising by Indian soldiers, known as sepoys, against their British colonial rulers. Although the uprising happened 39 years before Mark Twain’s Grand Tour, the heroic legends arising from it and its aftermath had a big effect on him and on the British Raj side of India that he saw."

"Lastly, the word Raj and the concept of India. Strictly speaking, the Raj refers to the direct rule of India by the British Crown from the Sepoy Uprising to Independence, so for the ninety years from 1857 to 1947. For one hundred years before 1857 India was ruled—amazingly enough—by a private stock company, the Honourable East India Company. Nowadays most Indians use the word Raj to describe the whole period of British rule and I’ve followed suit."

"India as we know her today did not really exist as one unified country until the takeover of Goa from the Portuguese in 1961. At the time of Mark Twain’s Grand Tour “India” included what we now call India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, parts of Nepal and Burma or Myanmar, and was actually a collection of 560 princely states under British “protection” with the land in between them under direct British control. For the sake of simplicity I’ve called the whole area he visited “India”.

(The Indian Equator)

From Following the Equator:
There is only one India! It is the only country that has a monopoly of grand and imposing specialties. When another country has a remarkable thing, it cannot have it all to itself—some other country has a duplicate. But India—that is different. Its marvels are its own; the patents cannot be infringed; imitations are not possible. And think of the size of them, the majesty of them, the weird and outlandish character of the most of them!

There is the Plague, the Black Death: India invented it; India is the cradle of that mighty birth.

The Car of Juggernaut was India's invention.

So was the Suttee; and within the time of men still living eight hundred widows willingly, and, in fact, rejoicingly, burned themselves to death on the bodies of their dead husbands in a single year. Eight hundred would do it this year if the British government would let them.

Famine is India's specialty. Elsewhere famines are inconsequential incidents—in India they are devastating cataclysms; in one case they annihilate hundreds; in the other, millions.

India has 2,000,000 gods, and worships them all. In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.

With her everything is on a giant scale—even her poverty; no other country can show anything to compare with it. And she has been used to wealth on so vast a scale that she has to shorten to single words the expressions describing great sums. She describes 100,000 with one word—a 'lahk'; she describes ten millions with one word—a 'crore'.

In the bowels of the granite mountains she has patiently carved out dozens of vast temples, and made them glorious with sculptured colonnades and stately groups of statuary, and has adorned the eternal walls with noble paintings. She has built fortresses of such magnitude that the show-strongholds of the rest of the world are but modest little things by comparison; palaces that are wonders for rarity of materials, delicacy and beauty of workmanship, and for cost; and one tomb which men go around the globe to see. It takes eighty nations, speaking eighty languages, to people her, and they number three hundred millions.

On top of all this she is the mother and home of that wonder of wonders—caste—and of that mystery of mysteries, the satanic brotherhood of the Thugs.

India had the start of the whole world in the beginning of things. She had the first civilization; she had the first accumulation of material wealth; she was populous with deep thinkers and subtle intellects; she had mines, and woods, and a fruitful soil. It would seem as if she should have kept the lead, and should be to-day not the meek dependent of an alien master, but mistress of the world, and delivering law and command to every tribe and nation in it. But, in truth, there was never any possibility of such supremacy for her. If there had been but one India and one language—but there were eighty of them! Where there are eighty nations and several hundred governments, fighting and quarreling must be the common business of life; unity of purpose and policy are impossible; out of such elements supremacy in the world cannot come. Even caste itself could have had the defeating effect of a multiplicity of tongues, no doubt; for it separates a people into layers, and layers, and still other layers, that have no community of feeling with each other; and in such a condition of things as that, patriotism can have no healthy growth.

It was the division of the country into so many States and nations that made Thuggee possible and prosperous. It is difficult to realize the situation. But perhaps one may approximate it by imagining the States of our Union peopled by separate nations, speaking separate languages, with guards and custom-houses strung along all frontiers, plenty of interruptions for travelers and traders, interpreters able to handle all the languages very rare or non-existent, and a few wars always going on here and there and yonder as a further embarrassment to commerce and excursioning. It would make intercommunication in a measure ungeneral. India had eighty languages, and more custom-houses than cats. No clever man with the instinct of a highway robber could fail to notice what a chance for business was here offered. India was full of clever men with the highwayman instinct, and so, quite naturally, the brotherhood of the Thugs came into being to meet the long-felt want.

How long ago that was nobody knows—centuries, it is supposed. One of the chiefest wonders connected with it was the success with which it kept its secret. The English trader did business in India two hundred years and more before he ever heard of it; and yet it was assassinating its thousands all around him every year, the whole time.

Mark Twain’s party arrived at Ceylon’s (now Sri Lanka’s) capital, Colombo, January 13, 1896. He stayed there one night before taking a six day cruise, aboard the Rosetta, to Bombay (now Mumbai), India.

January 30. What a spectacle the railway station was, at train-time! It was a very large station, yet when we arrived it seemed as if the whole world was present—half of it inside, the other half outside, and both halves, bearing mountainous head-loads of bedding and other freight, trying simultaneously to pass each other, in opposing floods, in one narrow door.

Watercolor Painting of Pune

Watercolor painting of Pune in the late Peshwa era at the confluence of the Mula and Mutha Rivers by British artist Henry Salt
By Henry Salt (1780-1827) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pune Skyline 2018.jpg
By Akshit 77 [CC BY-SA 4.0 from Wikimedia Commons

Mark Twain and Smythe left Poona twenty-four hours after they arrived, presumably with slim regrets to go with the slim pickings, to rejoin Livy and Clara back in Bombay’s VT for the change of trains up to Baroda, in this case the overnight Dehradun Express. Livy and Clara would have taken one compartment, Twain and Smythe another. Then and now it arrives at crack of dawn.

Breakfast was a satisfaction. Across the lawns was visible in the distance through the open window an Indian well, with two oxen tramping leisurely up and down long inclines, drawing water; and out of the stillness came the suffering screech of the machinery—not quite musical, and yet soothingly melancholy and dreamy and reposeful—a wail of lost spirits, one might imagine. And commemorative and reminiscent, perhaps; for of course the Thugs used to throw people down that well when they were done with them.

We left Bombay for Allahabad by a night train. It is the custom of the country to avoid day travel when it can conveniently be done. But there is one trouble: while you can seemingly "secure" the two lower berths by making early application, there is no ticket as witness of it, and no other producible evidence in case your proprietorship shall chance to be challenged. The word "engaged" appears on the window, but it doesn't state who the compartment is engaged, for.

Allahabad means "City of God." I get this from the books. From a printed curiosity—a letter written by one of those brave and confident Hindoo strugglers with the English tongue, called a "babu"—I got a more compressed translation: "Godville." It is perfectly correct, but that is the most that can be said for it.

We arrived in the forenoon, and short-handed; for Satan got left behind somewhere that morning, and did not overtake us until after nightfall. It seemed very peaceful without him. The world seemed asleep and dreaming.

February 4, 1896: In the afternoon the Clemens party started for Benares, some 90 miles from Allahabad.

You have a long drive through the outskirts of Benares before you get to the hotel. And all the aspects are melancholy. It is a vision of dusty sterility, decaying temples, crumbling tombs, broken mud walls, shabby huts. The whole region seems to ache with age and penury. It must take ten thousand years of want to produce such an aspect. We were still outside of the great native city when we reached the hotel. It was a quiet and homelike house, inviting, and manifestly comfortable. But we liked its annex better, and went thither.

“A comfortable railway journey of seventeen and a half hours brought us to the capital of India, which is likewise the capital of Bengal, Calcutta.” I assume they must have traveled on the 13152 Sealdah Express which is supposed to take fourteen hours—although yesterday it took sixteen hours.
(The Indian Equator p 99)

...the capital of Bengal—Calcutta. Like Bombay, it has a population of nearly a million natives and a small gathering of white people. It is a huge city and fine, and is called the City of Palaces. It is rich in historical memories; rich in British achievement—military, political, commercial; rich in the results of the miracles done by that brace of mighty magicians, Clive and Hastings. And has a cloud kissing monument to one Ochterlony.

In chapter 48 Twain wrote about the inability to secure one's sleeping sofa on Indian trains. His agent, Smythe, had been waiting for an opportunity to exact some revenge for his own loss of a berth on a previous journey. This trip provided him with just such an opportunity.

We were leaving on a 24-hour journey to Darjeeling. Mr. Barclay, the general superintendent, has made special provision for our accommodation, Mr. Smythe said; so there was no need to hurry about getting to the train; consequently, we were a little late.

Mark Twain and his party arrived in Darjeeling Saturday, February 15, 1896. He lectured at the Darjeeling Town Hall that evening and slept in Sunday morning while Livy and Clara went to see the mountains. Later that day he socialized at the Planter's Club and did some site seeing. Livy and Clara started on their return to Calcutta. Twain followed the next day, Monday, February 17.

Ian Strathcarron's visit to Darjeeling stands in stark contrast to Twain's:

February 18 Tuesday – Sam and Carlyle Smythe arrived back in Calcutta at 11 a.m. (Day By Day) from Darjeeling.

Sam and Carlyle G. Smythe left Calcutta at 9:30 p.m. for Muzaffarpur, some 354 miles, on a private
rail car. Parsons: “In a partly backtracking lecture itinerary, the Clemenses were soon traveling northwest
through fields of poppies to Muzaffarpur,... (Day By Day)

February 19 Wednesday – The Clemens party arrived in Muzaffarpur at noon. He gave his lecture at
9:30 p.m. (Day By Day)

There is little mention of Muzaffarpur in Twain's book but he did, apparently, make notes on it. Ian Strathcarron does go into quite a bit of detail on this location.

TO SAY THAT Muzaffarpur is the back of beyond is to give beyond slightly more recognition than it deserves. It’s not at all certain why Mark Twain chose to lecture here at all, apart from the fact that Smythe must have rounded up a good fee from the local planters. A lonely old life it must have been for them stuck out here too.

February 20 Thursday – A travel day. Sam and Smythe left Muzaffarpur at 1 a.m. on the train. At 5 a.m. they took a boat and landed near Dinapur, then traveled on to Benares. Sam’s notebook suggests Livy and Clara took a train from Calcutta to meet the pair, as they had not left with them on Feb. 18.
Up at 5 & soon on boat — landed between Dinapore & [illegible] — ran down to [illegible] found Livy & Clara on up-train at 7; all went to Benares, arriving about noon, to stay 24 hours [NB 36 TS 50]. (Day By Day)

Twain devotes chapter 48 of Following the Equator to the "Great Mutiny". "It seems to be settled, now, that among the many causes from which the Great Mutiny sprang, the main one was the annexation of the kingdom of Oudh by the East India Company—characterized by Sir Henry Lawrence as "the most unrighteous act that was ever committed." That is the extent of his sympathy for the mutineers, most is expressed for the British.

"Lucknow was the epicenter of the highly evolved Indo-Islamic civilization, a unique post-Moghul center of fine art, poetry, high Urdu and gracious manners. This first disaster, the Sepoy Uprising, was primarily caused by the greed of the East India Company, which after many years snipping away at the edges of the Kingdom of Oudh decided to annex it all, including of course its capital Lucknow.

Twain visited Kanpur because of his "growing fascination with the Sepoy Uprising and especially what he saw as the heroic stand of his British hosts. Certainly Smythe would not have been too pleased with the receipts, for Twain’s performance was more an after-dinner speech in the officers’ mess than the usual Talk in a town hall or theatre.

February 27 Thursday – The Clemens family left Kanpur and traveled 45 miles to Agra, staying at the Government House occupied by Colonel P.L. Loch.
(Fears: Day By Day)

Robert Cooper, Around the World with Mark Twain, reports the distance as 150 miles, taking seven and one half hours to travel. (page 246). He writes that Colonel Loch oversaw the local rulers of three states. "Nine months ago there was a Rajah deposed, and it has brought much extra work upon him."

Twain arrived in Agra February 27th and departed on the 29th of 1896. The Taj Mahal and Twain's reaction to it are the main topics of what is written about his visit. Ian Strathcarron, however, goes beyond this by including two additional topics: Agra of today and Twain's relationship with travel writers. There is a particular parallel to The Innocents Abroad in that the Taj Mahal represents an awakening from one's expectations from readings to actually experience. The Innocents Abroad is a long series of such awakenings.

February 29 Saturday – At 10 p.m. the Clemens party left Agra and traveled 140 miles to Jaipur. (Day by Day)

February 29 Saturday – At 10 p.m. the Clemens party left Agra and traveled 140 miles to Jaipur. (Fears)

Departed Jaipur 6 pm March 15 and arrived in Delhi March 16 Monday "at half-past midnight. They stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Burne of the Bank of Bengal, “in the great old mansion built by a rich orientalized Englishman” [Ahluwalia 19; NB 36 TS 57].

We had a refreshing rest, there in Delhi, in a great old mansion which possessed historical interest. It was built by a rich Englishman who had become orientalized—so much so that he had a zenana. But he was a broadminded man, and remained so. To please his harem he built a mosque; to please himself he built an English church. That kind of a man will arrive, somewhere. In the Mutiny days the mansion was the British general's headquarters. It stands in a great garden—oriental fashion—and about it are many noble trees.

We wandered contentedly around here and there in India; to Lahore, among other places, where the Lieutenant-Governor lent me an elephant. This hospitality stands out in my experiences in a stately isolation. It was a fine elephant, affable, gentlemanly, educated, and I was not afraid of it. I even rode it with confidence through the crowded lanes of the native city, where it scared all the horses out of their senses, and where children were always just escaping its feet.

We drifted as far as Rawal Pindi, away up on the Afghan frontier—I think it was the Afghan frontier, but it may have been Hertzegovina—it was around there somewhere—and down again to Delhi, to see the ancient architectural wonders there and in Old Delhi and not describe them, and also to see the scene of the illustrious assault, in the Mutiny days, when the British carried Delhi by storm, one of the marvels of history for impudent daring and immortal valor. Following the Equator

March 22 Sunday – At 10 a.m. the entire Clemens party left Lahore on a 1,443 mile train trip to Calcutta [Ahluwalia 19].
March 23 Monday – A travel day on the cars for the Clemens party, en route to Calcutta.
March 24 Tuesday – The Clemens party reached Howrah and crossed the Hooghly River by way of a floating bridge, arriving in Calcutta at sunrise. They took rooms at the Hotel Continental [Parsons “MT India” 92; NB 36 TS 59].

From Day by Day: