The Delhi Durbar was a grand assembly organized by the British in Coronation Park, Delhi, India, to commemorate the succession of an Emperor or Empress of India. It was also known as the Imperial Durbar and took place three times during the peak of the British Empire: in 1877, 1903, and 1911.
In 1903, a significant celebration called the Durbar was held in India to mark the crowning of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra as the new Emperor and Empress of India. This elaborate event lasted for two weeks and was meticulously planned by Lord Curzon, the ruler of India at that time. It was a magnificent display of grandeur, power, and precise timing, unmatched by any similar celebration before or after.
Initially, Lord Curzon intended for King Edward to attend the special coronation ceremony in India, but the King showed no interest. Instead, his brother, the Duke of Connaught, represented him and arrived in Delhi with a large group of dignitaries by train from Bombay.
The ceremony commenced on December 29, 1902, with a parade of elephants parading through the streets of Delhi. The guests of honor for this ceremony were popular Indian kings and princes from various regions of the country.
The assembly showcased an incredible collection of jewels gathered from all over India, forming perhaps the most extensive exhibition of its kind. Each Indian prince wore their most spectacular gems from centuries-old collections.
The Durbar ceremony itself took place on New Year’s Day and was followed by days filled with polo matches, other sports events, dinners, balls, military reviews, bands, and exhibitions. Prominent journalists, artists, and photographers from around the world were dispatched to cover the proceedings.
On the first day, Indian kings and princes from different regions arrived with their entourages, some meeting for the first time. Meanwhile, the Indian armies, led by Commander-in-Chief Lord Kitchener, marched in formation, accompanied by the lively tunes of their bands, as they kept the excited onlookers at bay.
As the Kings and Princes made their grand entrance, they rode atop majestic elephants adorned with magnificent gold candelabras attached to their tusks, leaving the audience in awe. However, it was the towering figures of two giant guards that stole the show, commanding attention with their imposing presence.
These two giants were brought to the Durbar by the King of Jammu and Kashmir. The crowd found them captivating, as they stood at impressive heights. One giant measured 7 feet and 9 inches (2.36 meters) tall, while the other measured 7 feet and 4 inches (2.23 meters). According to sources, they were twin brothers.
Not only were they giants, but these brothers were also elite riflemen who dedicated their lives to serving their King. Hailing from a place called Balmokand, which might not be recorded as the name might have changed, they arrived at the Durbar armed with spears, maces, matchlocks, and even hand grenades. Their sole purpose was to protect their King at all costs.
As the King rode through the streets atop an impressive elephant, his giant bodyguards marched alongside him on either side. The international journalists and photographers present at the event were fascinated by these giants. The Brisbane Courier, an Australian newspaper, even published an article in February 1903 titled “The Retinue of the Ruler of Kashmir,” which highlighted the two giants as the guardsmen and servicemen of the ruler of Jammu & Kashmir.
The giants’ presence made the King of Kashmir famous worldwide. One particular individual intrigued by them was James Ricalton, an American traveler and photographer who managed to take a few pictures with them.
In addition to the giants, the King of Jammu and Kashmir added to the excitement of the event by showcasing mesmerizing devil dancers from Ladakh and ancient artifacts from Kashmir. However, it was his well-trained guardsmen, the giants, who stole the show and captivated everyone’s attention.