Thursday, November 6, 2008

Guide to the Fable of Kashmiri Beauty as given in a Tourist Book

By the start of 20th century, tourists started to pour into Kashmir. And good tourists need a good Guidebook to a comfortable holiday.
The journal was written day by day, and the sketches were all done on the spot; and if this account--bald and inadequate as I know it to be--of a very happy time spent in rambling among some of the finest scenery of this lovely earth, may induce any one to betake himself to Kashmir, he will achieve something worth living for, and I shall not have split ink in vain.
- Writes T. R. Swinburne in preface to A Holiday in The Happy Valley with Pen (1907), a book “with” no less than “24 Coloured Illustrations”.

The journal starts with lines of Arthur Hugh Clough’s Amours de Voyage (1849), a novel written in Verse form that was inspired by the siege of the Roman Republic.
"Over the great windy waters, and over the clear crested summits,
Unto the sea and the sky, and unto the perfecter earth,
Come, let us go!"
Having reached the "perfecter earth" Kashmir, Swinburne notes:
While the gentlemen of the Happy Valley have been lashed by the tongue and pen of every traveller, the ladies, on the contrary, have been rather overrated.

In all communities where the men are invertebrate the women become the real heads of the family, doing not only most of the actual work, but also taking the dominant position in affairs generally. This I have observed strikingly in the case of the three "slackest" male races I know—the Fantis of the Gold Coast, the Kashmiri, and the crofters of the West Highlands.
Further on the subject of "female loveliness in Kashmir" he notes that the "opinion is divided" and writes:
Marco Polo (who probably only got his ideas of "Kesmur" from hearsay) echoed the prevalent opinion by saying, "The women although dark are very comely" (ch. xxvii.). Bernier is enthusiastic: "Les femmes surtout y sont très-belles," and hints at their popularity among the Moguls.

Moorcroft, Vigne, and others swelled the laudatory chorus until Forster, "having been prepossessed with an opinion of their charms, suffered a sensible disappointment," and even was so rude as to criticise the ladies'legs, which he considered thick!

Lawrence saw "thousands of women in the villages, and could not remember, save one or two exceptions, ever seeing a really beautiful face;" but the heaviest blow was dealt them by Jacquemont, who, as a gay Frenchman, should have been an excellent judge: "Je n'avais jamais vu auparavant d'aussi affreuses sorcières!"

Again, in one corner, we had Bernier and his extremely beautiful ladies and on in the other corner we had Jacquemont and his hideous witches. The rest of the opinions could be placed somewhere in between these two extreme end.

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This is page 8 of the series Fables of Kashmiri Beauty
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previous pages
  • Fable of Kashmiri Beauty: page 1
  • Fable of Kashmiri (not so) Beauty as told George Forster: page 2
  • Fable of Kashmiri (un) Beauty as told by Victor Jacquemont: page 3
  • Fable of Kashmiri Beauty (yet) as told by G.T. Vigne : page 4
  • Fable of Kashmiri Beauty (types) as told by Walter Lawrence: page 5
  • Fable of Ugly Kashmiri as explained in a Magazine: page 6
  • Fable of Kashmiri Beauty (generally) as told by Younghusband: page 7

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