The Miracle of Purun Bhagat

Notes on the text

These notes, by Alan Underwood, are mainly based on the ORG, with various additions. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of The Jungle Book, as published in 1899 and frequently reprinted thereafter.


[Page 35] Title ‘pronounced ‘Poorhan Bhuggat’, means ‘Purun the Holy Man’. (Kipling’s List of Names).

[Page 35, lines 1-13] Verse: “Dirge of the Langurs” Three four-line stanzas, included in Songs from Books as a ‘Chapter Heading’ without the title. Kipling explains: Langurs, pronounced “Lun-goors”, are the big monkeys of the Himalayas.

Philip Holberton notes:The poem echoes the climax of the story. Purun Bhaghat has retired as a holy man to a shrine above a village in the Himalayas, where he sits and meditates, so still that the wild animals decide he is harmless. When in the night, langurs first, they sense that there will be a landslide, they come to warn him. They lead him to safety but he dies from the exertion:

The night we felt the earth would move
We stole and plucked him by the hand…

…We saved him, we the Little Folk,
But lo! He does not come again!

[Page 35, line 17] Native States not given a name here, but called Mohiniwala at the end of the story, page 57, line 3.

[Page 35, line 21] Brahmin Of very high caste (social status).

[Page 36, line 20] State dispensaries Provided some medical treatment as well as medicine. Kipling saw a dispensary at Boondi (Letters of Marque, From Sea to Sea Vol 1, pp. 161-164) and also a more impressive hospital at Jeypore pp. 30-31) in 1887.

[Page 37, line 10] the Pioneer The leading daily newspaper in India at that time. It was British-owned and published at Allahabad. Kipling worked on the paper for his last two yrars in India after five years on its sister paper the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore.

[Page 37, line 25] Grand Cross of the Star of India The Maharajah became a Knight Grand Commander of the ‘Most Exalted Order of the Star of India’, the highest class of that Order. It was instituted by Queen Vctoria in 1851, imitating British Orders of Chivalry instituted in the Middle Ages, like the Order of the Garter, and was a useful means of expressing respect for loyal Indian Princes.

[Page 37, line 29] Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire. This Order was established in 1878 and later enlarged to three classes paralleling the ‘Star of India’. Purun Dass received the middle class of this lower order. Many Indian Princes, and indeed British officials, were very interested in decorations, which signified respect for their work and status. In “A Legend of the Foreign Office” in Departmental Ditties Rustum Beg, Rajah of Kolazai, lusts for a C.S.I. (Commander of the Star of India) and is disappointed to receive nothing more than a C.I.E. (Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire) Purun Dass clearly thought little of such things.

[Page 38, line 15] General Post A ‘parlour game’ played in Victorian households, involving much changing of seats.

[Page 38, line 19] Dewan The Prime-Minister of a native state, from the arabic divan for ‘Finance Minister’.

[Page 39, line 6] coco-de-mer or double cocoanut, from the palm tree Lodoicea maldivica, native to the Seychelles. A fleshy fibrous envelope covers the very large hard nut.

[Page 40, line 10] kala pir Not traced.

[Page 40, line 11] jogis or yogis Adherents of ‘yogic’ philosophy and ascetic practices, with a view to achieving mental abstraction and ‘supernatural powers’. Today widely developed in many forms, using physical exercise to achieve calm, relaxation, and bodily and mental health.

[Page 40, line 22] Rohtak Some fifty miles north-west of Delhi.

[Page 41, line 26] Himalaya-Thibet road It runs east and then nrth-east from Simla. Kipling has journeyed along it.

[Page 42, line 7] little bag of Borax Alerted by a correspondent in Washington State, Alexander J Forbes, we pursued the issue of these bags of borax. Borax, used as a flux for welding and other industrial purposes, and as a mild disinfectant, was found in dry lake beds in Tibet in the late 19th Century, and exported via the Silk Road. Robert von Schlagintweit reports in General Hypsometry of India, the Himalaya, and Western Tibet (Brockhaus, 1862):

In the frontier country bordering Tibet, herds of sheep and goats are used for the transport of merchandize. They are driven over the passes to Tibet, laden with grain (a full grown sheep carrying about seven pounds), and return at the end of the summer with salt and borax.

Kipling must have seen them on that road.

[Page 42, line 7] Lamas The title ‘Lama’ is a Tibetan word, meaning ‘superior’, which should strictly only be used for the heads of Buddhist Monasteries, like the Lama in Kim. However it may be politely extended to refer loosely to all Buddhist priests and monks. [ORG on Kim]

[Page 42, line 11] ring-streaked or straked (archaic Biblical), marked with streaks around the body.

[Page 42, line 14] black bear The black or sloth bear is common throughout India in rocky hills and forests, and the Himalayan black bear is found in the north from the Punjab to Assam.

[Page 42, line 19] Mutteeanee Pass or Matiana Pass, between Simla and Narkunda on the Himalaya-Tibet road.

[Page 43, line 4] Kali Pronounced ‘Kar-li’ (Kipling’s list of names. An Indian Goddess, ‘Kali Mai’ “Dark Mother”, in Hindu tradition a cult-title of Durga, wife of Siva. Usually seen as a goddess of death and destruction.

[Page 43, line 4] bairagii Explained in the text as a crutch, but in “A Song of Kabir” at the end of the story, used to mean a wandering holy man.

[Page 44, line 23] turmeric A plant of the ginger family, widely used in cooking. It gives a yellow colour and a spicy flavour to food.

[Page 44, line 23] bannock A Scottish word, referring to a flat round home-made loaf, usually unleavened.

[Page 44, line 27] chela Strictly a novice qualifying for initiation into esoteric Buddhism, but as in Kim also used to mean a ‘pupil’ of a monk.

[Page 45, line 27] Ladakhi trader from Ladakh, a vast mountainous treeles territory north of the Himalayas, on the border between India and China.

[Page 46, line 13] Indian corn maize.

[Page 46, line 14] buckwheat A cereal grown in the hills of Northern India.

[Page 46, line 15] amaranth a poetical word for long-lasting flowers. Here a plant with red flowers, yielding seeds for food.

[Page 46, line 20] barasingh Means ‘big horn’, ‘pronounced ‘Burra Sing’ (Kipling’s List of Names). A large Indian deer Rucerrus duraucelli.

[Page 48, lines 6-7] musk-deer … mushick-nabha Moscus moschiferus an aberrant deer, having no antlers, but the upper canine teeth of the male form tusks; it lives in the Himalayan forests as far west as Gilgit. It takes its name from the secretion of musk in a sac, only present in the male. The name for this deer is given as Mussuch-naba in Mammalia Of India by Robert A Sterndale, (p. 494).

[Page 48, line 13] Bhai! Bhai! ‘Brother! Brother!

[Page 48, line 15] Himalayan Black Bear See the note on page 42 line 14 above.

[Page 53 line 6] withers The ‘withers’ (usually used of a horse) rise from the dip where the neck ends, and rising slightly over the tops of the shoulder-blades, slope away into the back.

[Page 56, line 4] scarp a steep slope produced by folding or erosion.

[Page 57, line 1] K.C.I.E. D.C.L. ‘Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire’, and ‘Doctor of Civil Law.’

[Page 57, line 2] Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy, awarded for research, not necessarily into Philosophy.

[Page 57, line 3] Mohiniwala An invented name.

“A Song of Kabir”

Four four-line stanzas, later collected in Songs from Books (1912).

[Title] Kabir Kabir, was a disciple of Ramanand (c. 1400-1470) who founded a Hindu sect. The mendicant members of the sect were known as Bairagis. Kabir taught that distinctions of creed were unimportant. He influencd bith Hindua and Muslim thought, and in particular the Sikh religion. His utterances form much of the text ofthe Abi Granth, the sacred book of Sikh priests.
[we may substitute a passage from Durand for the above]

[Line 2] fiefs a fief, originally a feudal benefice, has come to mean something over which one has control, a domain or dominion.

[Line 3] guddee a throne, or seat of office.

[Line 4] bairagi the crutch or staff carried by a holy man, but in this context the holy man himself.

[Line 6] sal Shovea robusta a timber tree, with wood like teak.

[Line 6] kikar Acacia arabica which produces a gum and a tannin widely used in northern India for tanning leather.

[Line 8] the Way by tradition, the Buddha said:

There is a path which opens the eyes and bewstows understanding. which leads to peace., to insight, to thr higher wisdom. Verily it is this Noble Eightfold Path: that is to say, Right Views, Right Aspirations, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindedness, and Right Raptire.
[R. Durand, A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling 1914, p. 182]

It is not always clear what Kipling meant by ‘The Way’, but there is probably something to be said for the ORG suggestion that he meant:

‘the road to beatitude, nirvana, external bliss, or paradise, without any reference to formal religion’

[Line 11] the Red Mist of Doing ‘The Hot Mist of Doing’in the Pall Mall Budget.

[F. A. U.]

©F A Underwood 2007 All rights reserved