During the time of the British rule in India (1757-1947) and after, many Scots to include members of our own family saw India as the place for expats to go. Employment came in various guises; the East India Company or its regiments, the British Army in India, independent British interests such as the tea trade and of course working for the British civil authorities in the region. We are therefore pleased to offer you excerpts from a Lady’s diary regarding a trip through India to Ceylon, written by the hand of the wife of Col Nigel Mitchell Carruthers, of the Holmains line who was there at the time. We hope you enjoy the parts as they are published.
As the official home of the Clan and Family of Carruthers, we are fortunate enough to have access to information and documentation from within the family itself. This includes, amongst other pieces, a diary written in India by the grandmother of our European Clan Commissioner, Cécilia Mitchell-Carruthers, and the second wife of Colonel Nigel Laurie Carruthers, who served in the British Army in India and Ceylon.
Having enjoyed the illuminations around the Maharajah’s Palace celebrating his birthday, we returned to the hotel and had dinner on our veranda. Next day we got up at 7:30 am and visited the silk-factory after breakfast. It was very new having only been built 5 years before. We were lucky to have been shown around and received an explanation of how it all worked. We saw the silk from the cocoon to the finished pieces to include the dying and ironing and chose to by some small items to remember it by.
We drove 10 miles outside of town to the old fortress of and saw the Tipu Sultans’s summer palace, set in a lovely garden. The pictures on the wall were very interesting, with one drawing was so childish in its content. A few pieces of of furniture were left in the upper rooms. We also saw the spot where the Tipu sultan was killed and the water gate where he had been wounded. We also saw the breach in the walls by the opposing army. In the fort itself was a ‘swaying’ archway made of country bricks by a Frenchman employed by the Sultan called de Havillan. The arch is 180 feet long and 9 feet wide. It is a place where small children congregate to jump on the middle of as sways about. The sway is around 3 inches. Inside the fort itself there is a few temples and a mosque but what was noticeable was the trees, they were enormous.
According to Wikipedia; The Fourth Anglo-Mysore War between the British East India Company and the Tipu Sultan reached its conclusion at the Siege of Seringapatam. The British achieved a decisive victory after breaching the walls of the fortress at Seringapatam and storming the citadel (during which Tipu Sultan was killed). After the fall of Tipu Sultan, the British restored the Kingdom of Mysore to the original Hindu Rajas (the Wodeyar Dynasty), from whom Hyder Ali had usurped the Mysore State. The Fort of Seringapatam was made into a garrison town of the Madras Army of the East India Company.
We drove back to Mysore by ‘Scott’s Bungalow’ and the garrison cemetery there. Scotts Bungalow was extraordinary as it had been left exactly as it was 200 years before. It was very sad through this charming little place that had seen such tragedies. The story is that Capt Scott was in Ganjam and on returnig to his home he found his wife and two children had died of Cholera, while he was away. Apparantly he was that overcome with grief, that he mounted his charger and rode down the steps at the end of his garden into the Cauvery River. When this story came to the ears of the Maharajah of Mysore, he ordered that in memory of Scott, his house had to be left as it was forever.
After lunch in the hotel we drove around the city admiring the architecture. We also tried to get up to the hill above Mysore where there is a famous temple but lost the road and ended up in the foot hills instead. We had to turn back as the pass was getting into becoming hlong steps. We decided to rather see the new guest house, whic was a huge building, but with no gardens or plan to put them in, yet the view down to Mysore is lovely.
We did some shopping on the way back to the hotel and got some Mysore soap and a small tin of Mysore sandlewood oil.
The next day we were ready to leave at 8:45 am but Nigel noticed at the last moment that he had left his cigarette case, keys and glasses, but found them again. We had an awful drive to Sode, bad road and lots of traffic. We went down into the ghats with 7 miles of 29 hairpin bends, although there was a wonderful view from the top when we climb,ed out again. Many of the corners were newly built with enormous drops down on the otherside.
We arrived at Sode at 4:15 pm and stayed in the military bungalow, but again with no cook or sweeper so we went to do some marketing with the Choki dai. Living must be very inexpensive in that part of India as for a few rupee we had a marevellous dinner and next day we had a picnic lunch. We also had managed to get some oil for the one and only hurrican lamp. In the afteroon, went down to the Imperial Bank to get some money.
On June 17th we left Sode at 8:30 and drove to Trichnopoly, again a bad road, but went to the dak bungalow, which was filthy and Nigel found that there was retiring rooms at the railway station. They were most co,mfortable with long baths and a very good dining room, all very modern and clean. In the evening we drove to the big temple on the hill. It rather reminded us of the Mont St Mucheal near St Malo.
To get there we climbed hundreds of steps and on different floors a different God was housed with many pilgrims and beggars. Although it was a bit run down, the view over the town was unique and we could see the large factory where the famous cigars are made. This was the first time I’d ever been inside an Indian temple, it was fascinating.
Next day we started the journey at 9.00 am, paying the little man who had so carefully looked after the car while we were there. We drove 97 miles to Maduria on a good road and lunched beside a bridge and we were very amused to see men fishing in a small pool left under the arch and catching small fish with their hands.
At Maduria we had to put the car on the train, and the wagon was ready for us. We stayed at the retiring rooms at the railway station, which was quite comfortable and had a siesta after lunch as it was warm. In the evening we went to visit the famous temple of Muduria and its wonderful carvings in stone.
We were again taken in by one of the junior priests and also our own guide. The entrance to it is almost like a market as it was full of small shops selling ‘souvenirs’ to the pilgrims. We then went under a large brass arch with thousands of small lights, and into the temple ‘cloister’ where the many shrines lay surrounded by masses of devotees.
In a cloister corner a priest was reading a book and about 50 devotees were listening intently to his voice. Also a women and child were doing their devotions to a stone statue of a God, putting bits of grey ash from its base onto their foreheads with their fingers.
We walked through numerous rooms, galleries and cloisters, all beautifully carved into a most intriquing dark sanctury and passages where we could not go as it was a holy place. The main hall was amazing, filled with lovely colours worn by the pilgrims. The temple also contains many jewels, all well-guarded. The large doors took seven people to open the numerous to see them. The hall of a thousand pillars, dated to the 16th century was also very interesting. At one of the small alters we were garlanded with flowers with a very strong scent. At this point we gave monies to the poor and blind of the temple. It was all explained in perfect English that the donation was for charity and not the temple itself.
In another corner of a room, a God was covered with offerings of food, pastries and fruits of all sorts which had been placed there for the poor. The whole building had a heavy scent from the perfumed flowers, and people. The temples carvings were lovely while the plaster and stone carvings are said to depict over 33 million figures. On one corner of the temple, there were 2 stone columns each composed of 22 slender pillows carved out of a single block of granite. We left the temple and drove out to a large holy place near a large banyan tree, 200 years old and the canopy was 60 yards in diameter, the trunk itself was 70 feet round.
Next day we left Maduria by train at 10:30 am and had lunch in the dining car being the only ones there. We arrived at the pier at 5.00 pm and thankfully the train had not been too hot. The countryside we went through was a mass of palm trees and rice fields. The car was at the pier waiting for us to arrive, and was being loaded on the boat.
The crossing took two hours and we sat on the deck surrounded by our luggage. It was a new motor ferry and on arriving at Talaimannar (Ceylon – Sri Lanka), the car was unloaded and out on the pier at the railway track. It was then dark and we had dinner in the dining car of the Colombo mail train. We had decided to stay at Talaimannar but there was nowhere to stay so we went back to the boat and spent the night in the saloon, and tried to sleep in the bench. Sadly they were unloading cargo all night, so sleep was not an option. We were up at 6.00 am the next morning and hoped to start early, but the car refused to move as the battery had given out altogether. Even with men trying to push us, it would not go. We had to go to Mannar, 20 miles away for a battery and it was getting hot, but the few people still at Talaimannar all wanted to help. The Station Master even put on a special engine to the pier next to the mail train, which was waiting on the evening ferry. It was on the other train engine that we had breakfast. We were made very comfortable and given a place to wait, which was very clean with lovely linen covers to the seats and windows. At 2.00 pm we had our new battery and started off and the road was very narrow. The palm trees were lovely at Mannar, we crossed the bit of sea over a bridge for 41 miles of narrow road again, this time with the sea on both sides.
We drove to Anuradhapura, ancient capital of Ceylon and stayed at the Grand Hotel, it was very comfortable and our rooms were upstairs, beautiful tiled floor and French and English furniture.
It was more like a country hotel in Europe. There was also a large veranda where we had tea and rested before dinner. It was lovely and peaceful and the staff were polite and very well trained in their roles.
The next day, the 21st June, we started at 9.00 am to drive through to Colombo and Mt Lavinia. The road was very good and tarmacked the whole way and the scenery was stunning. We had lunch by the side of the road under all those beautiful coconut trees.
We arrived at the Grand Hotel, Mt Lavinia at 3 pm and chose a very nice room. The hotel is on the front and has the sea on three sides of it. Our own rooms were numbered 51 and 52 and the sea came right up to the windows. We have a very large sitting room and bed rooms with bathroom and a long bath, which is accessed through a small entrance. We had one of the rooms made into a bed utility room so we could enjoy the sea all the time from the bed room. We also used it as a dressing room.
It is lovely and cool and peaceful and we took our time unpacking and settling in before going down to the terrace for a drink. The dining room was also pleasantly cool and the food was good and the bottle of St Julian was such a pleasant change after nearly a month on the road.
More to follow in part 5