In 1903, Delhi, India, witnessed The Durbar, a celebration of the British monarch Edward VII’s succession. The king at that time was also titled the Emperor of India and was the great-grandfather of the present British Monarch named Queen Elizabeth II.
The Delhi Durbar was proposed and carried out by the Indian Viceroy at the time, Lord Curzon. The actual plan for the Durbar was for the King to come down to India himself for the coronation rituals. But the King refused, and it seemed like he was not interested at all to come down to India. Therefore, Lord Curzon had to stage something as a spectacle for the people of Delhi.
And that is when it all began!
The Delhi Durbar
This coronation ceremony was planned for about two years and commenced on 29th December 1902. It all started with a parade of elephants walking down the streets of Delhi. The guests of this ceremony were popular Indian kings and princes. The Duke of Connaught was given the responsibility for representing the British Royal Family.
After the inauguration processions were over, the actual Delhi Durbar began on 1st January 1903. The Durbar was set on a large plain at the outskirts of Delhi. It was intended to highlight the glory of the British Monarchy and the vast British Empire. This assembly also showcased the collection of precious jewels that were rare to be seen in one place.
Indian princes and kings were fascinated by the look of these jewels and gems. Curzon entered the festivities area along with some Indian kings on elephants. But the main spectacle was yet to come! Even though the elephants were forged with gold candelabras over their tusks to impress the guests and audience, it was the two giant guards that took away all the attention.
The King of Jammu and Kashmir had brought two tall men along with him to the Durbar. These men seemed the tallest of all living humans at the time.
The Two Giants from Kashmir
The Kashmir giants were the spectacle that took all the attention of the crowd. One of the Kashmir giants had a stature of 7’9″ (2.36m) tall. And the other giant had a height of 7’4″ (2.23m). As per the sources, they were twin brothers.
The heads and shoulders of these two Kashmir giants stood high up to create an outstanding impression at the Durbar. These giants were also elite riflemen who dedicated their lives to the service of their King. These Kashmiri brothers were originally from a place named Balmokand. The place is still not on records, as the name might have changed over a century and more.
The brothers headed to the Durbar with spears, maces, matchlocks, and even hand grenades. They seemed like they were prepared for any situation, to protect their king at all costs. Each of the contingent at the event was headed by one elephant, and the king had his bodyguards walking on either side.
Their Fame Spreads Wide
The international journalists and photographers gathered for the Durbar were also fascinated by these giants. You can imagine the amount of impression that they might have created back in 1903. These giants made the King of Kashmir famous around the globe.
The Brisbane Courier printed an article in Australia in February 1903 that had the title, “The Retinue of the Ruler of Kashmir.” An article was dedicated to the two giants who were the guardsmen and servicemen of the ruler of Jammu & Kashmir.
One of the American travelers and a photographer took slightly more interest, taking photos with these giants. The name of this American traveler was James Ricalton. In the pictures, Ricalton’s top line of the head doesn’t even seem to reach the chest of the shorter giant amongst the two.
The photographers James Ricalton and George Rose headed out to Kashmir to take more pictures of these Kashmir giants. There was a photo in which the largest giant was compared to the shortest dwarf, to see the difference. Ricalton was also in the photo to create a hierarchy pose.
The King of Jammu and Kashmir brought some devil dancers from Ladakh and artifacts of Kashmir, but his guardsmen were the center of attention. And, you can imagine the amount of threat the enemies would feel with two giants protecting the King of Jammu and Kashmir.
Hence, this was the power and strength statement that the King wanted to showcase in the Durbar. The British representatives were also awestruck with this majestic appeal of the Indian King.
It is very rare to meet someone who is taller than 7 feet (2.1m). In fact, there are only 2,800 people across the globe who are more than 7 feet (2.1m) in height, and only around 14.5% of the US Population is 6 feet (1.8m) or taller. And for women with 6 feet (1.8m) or more in the US, the statistic is just 1%.
As of today, the average height of men across the world is 5 feet and 7.5 inches (1.7m). And for women, it is 5 feet and 3 inches (1.6m).
The Delhi Durbar never forgot the spectacle, and people have passed on this story of giants escorting the king to their children, and they have passed the same to their children, and the chain continues.
Top Image: James Ricalton with the two Kashmir giants. Source: Unknown Author / Public Domain
By Bipin Dimri