In the Presence

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. We are grateful to Alastair Wilson for various comments and suggestions and to Roger Ayers for guidance on military matters in the Indian Army. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of A Diversity of Creatures, as published and frequently reprinted between 1917 and 1950.


[Page 217 line 10] Subadar-Major Roger Ayers writes:

a Subedar-Major was the senior of the Viceroy’s Commissioned Officers (VCOs), of whom there would be one in each infantry battalion of the Indian Army. VCOs were introduced on the formation of the “post-Mutiny” army, replacing the East India Company’s native officers, and existed until Independence. While junior to British subalterns, the Subedar-Major of a battalion, whose rank badge was a crown, was a highly respected and influential officer. (Spelt as Subedah in some contemporary Indian Army documents and by current commentators.)

His equivalent in a cavalry unit was the Rissaldar-Major. Second in the VCO ranks were the Rissaldars in the cavalry and Subedars in the infantry, with two stars indicating their rank, while the third rank was that of Jemadars, common to both arms, indicated by a single star. [R.A.]

See also Sharad Keskar’s note on the Rissaldar in Kim p. 65 line 33.

extreme undress Undress in a military context is the everyday uniform – perhaps what is known in the Navy as ‘working-rig’. But here there is a play on words indicating that he is wearing very little – perhaps just a loin-cloth.

[Page 217 line 11] Havildar-Major A Havildar-Major, however young, was actually the most senior Indian non-commissioned officer in an Indian infantry battalion and much more senior than the Indian equivalent of corporal. His equivalent in the cavalry was the Daffadar-Major and both wore the Royal Arms on their sleeves as their badge of rank, as did the Regimental Sergeant Major of a British unit. [R.A.]

[Page 217 line 15] Mian Mir Mir Mohammed Muayyinul Islam (c. 1550-1635) known as Mian Mir, a Sufi saint who lived in Lahore. The Mian Mir cantonment appears in many of Kipling’s Indian stories and “The Honours of War” earlier in this volume.

[Page 217 line 16] Jehangir Salim Nurred-din Mohammed (1569-1627) ascended the throne of Delhi and Agra on the death of his father, Akbar, in 1605.

Guru Har Gobind Guru Har Gobind Ji (1595-1644) sixth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism following his father Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

[Page 217 line 21 and overleaf] the Holy Book of the Grunth Sahib Sri Granth (sic) Saheb (also known as ‘Guru Grunth Sahib’) is the holiest book of the Sikhs (granth, meaning book, sahib meaning supreme). It is called ‘Guru’ because Guru Gobind Singh (1660-1708), the tenth and last guru of the Sikhs, declared that after him there will be no Guru, and the diktat of Granth Saheb will be final.

The Holy Book is kept at the Durbar Sahib, the Golden Temple at Amritsar. See page 226, line 22 below. [Dr. Jyotsna Kamat First Online]

[Page 218 line 9] iron bracelet one of the Five Articles of the Sikh Faith: worn on the wrist, it signifies bondage to Truth and freedom from material and aesthetic entanglement.

[Page 218 line 23] Pishapur, near Thori in the Banalu Tehsil not traced – probably invented.

[Page 218 line 24] Patiala State a city and former princely state in the Punjab.

[Page 219 line 9] even the cotton-seed seed of the genus Gossypium, family Malvaceae, then added to cattle-feed to make it more palatable but now more likely to be pressed into oil.

[Page 220 line 6] the elders under the trees the evening meeting of the senior men of the village like that described in “Tiger ! Tiger” (The Jungle Book, page 96.)

[Page 220 line 14-15] let him who desires the four great gifts… an echo of various passages in the Bible.

[Page 220 line 24] Naik the equivalent of an Infantry Corporal in the British Army, a non-commissioned rank below Sergeant. A drill-naik would have had special responsibility for drill.

[Page 222 line 26] not under British law an independent State whose Ruler would be advised by a Resident appointed by the Government of India – see The Naulahka, page 89, passim.

[Page 223 line 22] Siri wah guru ji ki Khalsa ! Sri wali guru ji ki futteh ! Urdu greetings used by an orthodox Sikh to another, the first of which should strictly read; ‘Siri waheguru ji ka khalsa’. Both are an invitation, concluding with ‘God’s Victory!’ or ‘Let God’s Will Prevail!’. (Source: Ralph Russell, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.)

[Page 223 line 29] cartouches in this context an old-fashioned term for ammunition

[Page 222 line 30] shinan Purification, to prepare for death (see line 6 above).

[Page 223 line 32] Mussulman a Muslim.

[Page 224 lines 2 – 6] Though hundreds of amusements are offered to a child… this sounds like a quotation, but it has not been traced.

[Page 224 line 11] the sound of meal being ground in a quern A quern is a handmill (right) and meal in this context is the result of grinding grain. (See “Dayspring Mishandled” in Limits and Renewals page 10, line 9, and page 13 line 2.)

[Page 224 line 21] Amritsar city in North-West India in the State of Punjab, 32 miles (51 km) east of Lahore, Pakistan. Home of many sacred Sikh sites.

[Page 224 line 29] terains He means trains. The London Underground, a metro that serves a large part of Greater London, is the world’s oldest underground railway system. Services began on 10 January 1863 on the Metropolitan Railway, now part of the Hammersmith & City line.

[Page 225 line 5] pun ORG explains this play on words by reference to page 224 line 32, moto-khar (motor-car); and page 225 line 2, Kahar-ki-nautch, ‘the Bearer’s dance’.

[Page 225 line 21] the King Edward VII, (1841 – 1910) succeeded his mother, Queen Victoria, when she died in 1901.

[Page 226 line 16] a certain Temple Westminster Hall – the walls were built in 1097-99, as part of an intended reconstruction of the whole palace. It is the oldest building in the Palace of Westminster, and one of the largest mediaeval halls in Europe.

[Page 226 line 22] Durbar Sahib at Amritsar see Page 217 line 21 above.

Akal Bunga the abode of the Timeless One, a building in the precincts of the Durbar Sahib at Amritsar.

[Page 226 line 23] Baba-Atal one of the Sikh religion’s places of worship in Amritsar. built in commemoration of the life of Baba Atal Rai, the son of Guru Hargobind. Its nine storeys echo the nine years of life when he died in 1628.

[Page 226 line 31] the place of his fathers, which is at Wanidza Windsor Castle, some 20 miles (32 km) west of central London, contains St. George’s Chapel, where a number of British sovereigns are buried. (Queen Victoria and her Consort, Prince Albert, are actually buried in the Mausoleum at Frogmore nearby but he would not be expected to know that).

[Page 227 line 15] koss a measure of distance used in India – it varies in different parts of the country – See Hobson-Jobson under coss, page 261.

[Page 227 line 26] the Ravi a river in India and Pakistan, one of the five which give the Punjab its name. See Hobson-Jobson, p.741.

[Page 228 line 5] Eight kings In addition to King George V (King Edward’s son) there were 8 crowned heads in the procession – the German Emperor, the Kings of Norway, Greece and Spain, of Bulgaria, Denmark and Portugal, and the King of the Belgians; in addition to the British Royal Princes, about 30 others, including the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, were present.

commanded he exaggerates – they would have been invited.

[Page 228 line 9] I made pilgrimage twice: once for my Salt’s sake Salt, in this context, is Salt rations – Latin Salarium – from sel – salt, served, with other necessities to Roman soldiers and civil servants. The term salary survived when money was substituted, (Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and fable)

[Page 228 line 13] lakhs of lakhs, crores of crores a lakh in India is 100,000. A crore is a hundred lakhs, i.e. 10,000,000. He meant ‘inconceivable numbers of people’.

[Page 228 line 30] Goorkhas see the note on p. 228 line 31 below.

Sikhs See “The Honours of War” page 105 line 11 earlier in this volume, and Hobson-Jobson, p. 835.

[Page 228 line 31] Pathans Muslims from North-West Pakistan and Afghanistan, a martial race.

Rajputs another martial race, see Hobson-Jobson, p.754.

Jats A people from the Punjab – in Kipling’s day mainly farmers and soldiers – the Jat Regiment is one of the longest serving and most decorated regiments of the Indian Army. A Jat cultivator figures in chapter II of Kim.

[Page 228 line 31 and overleaf] Goorkhas Now usually spelt Gurkhas. Fine soldiers from Nepal, who have been recruited into the British army since about 1815. Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh empire in 1801, admired their fighting qualities at the Battle of Ganesh Ghati in 1809. (See Patwant Singh, The Sikhs, John Murray, 1999, page 117).

crores of crores a crore is a hundred lakhs (Hobson-Jobson)

[Page 229 line 1] Tirah mountainous country in the Kurram and Khyber Agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan between the Khyber Pass and the Khanki Valley. The ‘Tirah Campaign’ was an Indian frontier war in 1897-98, known as the ‘Tirah Expedition’. The Afridis, the people of the area, had received a subsidy from the government of British India for sixteen years for guarding the Khyber Pass, the government also maintained a local regiment of Afridis there.

The tribesmen rose, captured the posts held by their own countrymen, and attacked the forts on the Samana Range near the city of Peshawar. The Battle of Saragarhi was fought during the Tirah Campaign on 12 September 1897 between twenty one Sikhs of the 4th Battalion (then 36th Sikhs) of the Sikh Regiment of British India, defending an army post, and 10,000 Afghan and Orakzai tribesmen, in a last stand. The battle occurred in the North-West Frontier Province, now a part of Pakistan, which then formed part of British India.

The contingent of twenty-one Sikhs from the 36th Sikhs was led by Havildar Ishar Singh. They all chose to fight to the death. Saragarhi Day is commemorated annually on 12 September.

[Page 229 line 22] caste-clean their food had to be prepared in a certain manner in accordance with their religion.

[Page 230 line 1] Granadeers his pronounciation of ‘Grenadiers’, the Grenadier Guards.

[Page 230 line 3] bearskins the tall head-dress worn by regiments of the Guards since 1815.

[Page 231 line 17] the stock A high stand-up collar worn round the neck in the 18th and 19th centuries to prevent chafing from the collar of the tunic. We cannot, though, trace any records of Gurkhas wearing anything but a low stand-up collar. Kipling may have introduced the word ‘stock’ instead of ‘collar’ just to make the reader feel more sympathy for the strain placed on the Gurkhas in Westminster Hall. [R.A./A.W.]

[Page 231 line 20] He knew every button…. the late King was familiar with the uniforms of his armies.

[Page 232 line 21] maund Hindi man, the Anglo-Indian name of a weight current all over Asia from time immemorial. Hobson-Jobson (page 564), makes it just over 82 lb (37 kilos) but it varied considerably in different parts of India.

[Page 233 line 10] Forty-sixth Pathans a regiment we have not traced. Possibly invented.

[Page 234 line 30] twenty koss or more At 2.25 miles to the kos this is some 45 miles. An exaggeration, since Windsor is some 20 miles west of central London.

[Page 235 line 27] to be laid among the older kings the funeral was on 20 May, 1910.