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India

VARANASI, THE HAUNTED TEMPLE

  Dagmar, our friends’ delightful and brilliant daughter, who had stayed at Varanasi, told me about this temple on the Ghats that is greatly haunted and feared by everyone in its vicinity. And suddenly I remembered an Indian man I met in Paris many years ago, who told me about the most harmful of sorcerers…

THE LAST KING OF OUDH

In the 17th century, the English devised a rich and powerful kingdom, that of Oudh, around the lavish and marvellous capital of Lucknow, to counterbalance power relations, however weakened they had become, in the Great Moghol in Delhi. In the middle of the 19th century, the sovereign of Oudh was Wajid Ali Shah. He was…

THE MAHARAJAHS OF INDORE

Prince Richard Holkar is the only male heir to Indore’s powerful dynasty of maharajahs. It is by no means an ancient dynasty, but revealed itself to be particularly remarkable and marked by rather original figures. Richard’s great-great-grandfather, the Maharajah of the time, was a local boxing champion.                …

THE VULTURES OF THE TOWERS OF SILENCE

Thousands of years ago, the Persians were of Zoroastrian confession. Founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in the 6th century B.C., this religion ‘of fire’ was in fact one of the first, if not the first, monotheist schools of thought in History. Later, the Muslim invasion and fanaticism forced an entire colony of Zoroastrians into exile….

MANDU THE SULTAN AND THE DANCER

Not far from Maheshwar, Mandu was the capital of a vast and extremely wealthy Islamic sultanate. In the 14th century, it was the biggest city in India with a million inhabitants. One of the sultans had returned from a trip to Africa with 150,000 baobab saplings. With their strange, unique forms, they still stand proudly…

THE EMPEROR AKBAR’S WIVES

  Like all great sovereigns, the Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great, had an immense harem, but only a limited number of wives. Naturally, one of them was a Muslim. And his favourite was the Princess of Jaipur. She was a Hindu, and her marriage with the Emperor was a symbol of his tolerance and above…

TURTLES FROM THE GANGES

In order to reach Paradise, a deceased Indian must be burned on a log on the Ghats, and his/her ashes be thrown into the Ganges. The cadaver can also be thrown into the sacred river. Many decades ago, the Indian government had some trouble with this practice. It greatly harmed the tourism industry. In fact,…

THE QUEEN WHO HAD 92 TEMPLES

In the 17th century, powerful kingdoms appeared in the north-western part of India, arising out of the decadence of the Great Moghul Empire. Resourceful men had carved out these states which they governed with great efficiency. And so it was that the Kingdom of Indore came into being. A century later, the ruling Maharajah decided to…

Alwar

In the early 19th century, the Maharaja of Alwar, a princely state south of Delhi, was a tall and remarkably handsome man. He was also a rather scandalous character surrounded by a number of strange rumours. The British had little to do with him until he committed what they saw as an unforgivable crime. The…

Maheshwar

Maheshwar is one of the most enchanting places in India, not far from the city of Indore and others built not by a king but by a queen. At the end of the 18th century, the Maharani of Indore, Ahilya, was a widow and the regent of her young son. Over the years, she exercised…