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.
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.
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.
(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
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!
- 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
- H.R.H. The Prince of Wales’s Sport in India (1925), Bernard C. Ellison
- Prince of Wales’ Eastern Book (1922)
- Western Mail, Perth, 27th April, 1922
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.
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
The ‘Rolls-Royce’ Shikari
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
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
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.
- The Sydney Mail, Wednesday, 26th February 1936.
Motorists attacked by a Tiger
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.
- The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Saturday 30th November,
- Some of the Shikar stories have been taken from the digitized newspapers available on the website of the National Library of Australia.