JACQUEMONTS JOURNAL is an account of the travels of Victor Jacquemont who had been sent out by the French Natural History Museum on the recommendation of Cuvier whose pupil he had been “to study the botany and geology of India, together with liberty to conduct any other investigation that he might deem of importance.”Jacquemont landed in India, at Calcutta, on 6 May 1829 and died at Bombay on 7 December 1832 as a result of abscess of liver. On his arrival at Calcutta, he was received by Lord William Bentinck, then Governor General of India, and it was with his help that he was able to visit both the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the Sikh province of Kashmir.The Journal is divided into four main divisions.

Part I deals with his stay in Calcutta until November 1829 and contains a graphic account of the social life of that city. Part II describes his journey from Calcutta to Delhi via Varanasi and Agra bringing the diary up to March 1830. Part III covers his travels to Shimla and the hill states up to the Tibctan frontier and then back to Delhi in early 1831. Part IV deals with Jacquemont`s travels through Punjab and Kashmir.

Leaving Delhi on 26 January 1831, he made his way to Panipat, “a large city only surpassed in extent by Delhi among the cities I have seen in Northern India,” and reached, on 30 January, Karnal, a city which he describes as “a mere cesspool, a mass of filth.” Thancsar is described as “a village built on a leap of ruins and not in the least picturesque.” On 8 February, he reached Ambala, “a tumbledown place but of great importance as the headquarters of the Political Agent of the cis Sutlej territory.” He reached Ludhiana on 24 February via Sirhind (11 February), which he refers to as “the biggest ruin I have seen in India after Delhi.

” Ludhiana was then a part of the Sikh state of Jind and also the seat of the Political Agent who exercised the powers of the Company.Population of this city was then estimated at about 20,000 among whom a large number were weavers. Jacquemont further remarks that the city “lias possessed for the last twenty years a new industry which is growing every day: that is manufacture of Kashmir! shawls.” He reached Lahore on 11 March 1831 and had the opportunity of meeting Maharaja Ranjit Singh on a few occasions.

His description of the Maharaja`s person is interesting: “… a thin little man with an attractive face, though he has lost one eye from smallpox… his nose is fine and slightly turned up, his mouth firm, his teeth excellent.He wears slight moustaches which he twists incessantly with Ins fingers and long thin white beard which falls to his chest. His expression shows nobility of thought, shrcwdness and penetration… He wore a little turban of white muslin rather carelessly tied, a kind of long tunic with a little cape falling over his shoulders, like a French riding cloak, tight trousers with bare feet. His clothes were of white Kashmir tissue with a little gold trimming on the collar, cuffs and sleeves; of a very comfortable and old fashioned cut it seemed to me.

For ornaments he wore large round gold earrings with pearls in them, a collar of pearls and ruby bracelets almost hidden under his sleeves. At his side hung a sword, the gold hilt of which was encrusted with diamonds and emeralds.” Jacquemont`s conversation with the Maharaja, which according to him was devoid of all formality, ranged from politics to metaphysics and medicine. He was struck by the inquisitiveness of the Maharaja who asked him many questions about the personal habits and background of Governor General and about life in general in France and England.

Jacqucmont provides considerable information about the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh as well as about his administration. His description of Kashmir which was then under Sikh rule but which was never visited by the Maharaja himself is far from flattering. A series of extracts from the Journalwcre published in Paris under the title `Etat Politique et Social de L `Inde du sud en 1832. The Punjab a Hundred Years Ago (1934), translated and edited by H.L.O. Garrett, is based on these extracts. Jacquemont`s Letters from India, translated into English from the original in French, is also based on his Journal.

References :

1. Fauja Singh, Historians and Historiography of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1978
2. Khurana, Gianeshwar, British Historiography on the Sikh Power in the Punjab. Delhi, 1985