The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Azerbijan

Garden lantern feast

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When they were all seated in order, they began the drinking, which lasted a long time. They gave the women their wine, with the same ceremonies which have been described to you, when I told you of the entertainment given in the tents of Hausada. The lord called the ambassadors before him, and gave the master of theology a cup of wine with his own hand, for he now knew that Ruy Gonzalez never drank wine. Those who took drink from the hand of the lord, observed the following ceremonies. First they knelt down with their right knees, then they went forward a little, and knelt with both knees. They then took the cup, got up, and walked backwards a little, so as not to turn their backs, knelt down again, and drank so as not to leave a drop in the cup. Each of the ambassadors was held under the armpits by two knights, who did not leave them, until they had returned to the place where they were before. Near the great pavilion there were many tents and awnings, for ambassadors, who had come to the lord, and under each awning there was a jar of wine, for those to drink who sat there; and the lord ordered two of his own jars to be sent to the retinue of the ambassadors. Before the lord, there were certain poles and cords, on which men climbed and performed. The lord, also, had fourteen elephants, and each one had a wooden castle, covered with silk, with four yellow and green banners; and in each castle there were five or six men, and on the neck of each there was a man with a goad, who made the elephants run, and perform tricks {Timur brought ninety captured elephants from India, and they were employed in carrying stones from the quarries, for his magnificent buildings at Samarkand.-Price}. These elephants were black, and had no hair except upon their tails, which were like those of camels. The animals were very large, equal in size to four or five great bulls, and their bodies were quite shapeless, like a full sack. Their legs were very thick, and the same size all the way down, and the foot round and without hoofs, but with five toes, each with a nail, like those of a black man. They had no neck whatever, and their heads were fixed, so that they could not touch the ground with them. Their ears were very long, round, and scolloped, and their eyes very small. A man sat across their ears, who guided them, with a goad in his hand, and made them go where he liked. Their heads were very large, and, instead of noses, trunks came out of their heads, and reached down to the ground. These trunks are pierced, and they drink through them. When an elephant wants to drink, he puts the trunk in the water, and brings it up to his mouth. He also browses with his trunk, as he cannot do so with his mouth. He takes the grass in this trunk, when he wants to eat, and, turning it up, tosses the food into his mouth. He is thus supported by this trunk, and he winds it about like a serpent, so that there is no part of his body that he cannot touch with it. Under this trunk, is the mouth; and he has jaws like a pig, and two tusks, as thick as a man's leg, and as long as an arm. When they make them fight, they bind their trunks with spikes of iron, and fasten swords upon them. The elephant is a very intelligent animal, and obeys very readily what his guide wishes him to do. The man who guides him, sits on his neck, with his legs across the beast's ears. He carries a goad in his hand, with which he scratches its head, and makes it go where he wishes, for when he makes a sign with the goad, it goes in the direction pointed out. When it fights, the guide is armed, as well as the elephant. It walks like a bear, in jumps, and at each jump, it wounds with the swords. When they wish these elephants to fight, the guides hit them on the forehead with the goad, and make great wounds; and when they feel the wounds, they give loud grunts, like pigs, and, with open mouth, rush on in the direction pointed out by the guide. The wounds heal in the night, if they leave the beasts in the open air, but if they are put under a roof, they will die. When the guide orders the elephant to take anything off the ground, however heavy it may be, it raises it with its trunk, and gives it to the men who are in the castle on its back; and when those in the castle want to come down, they order it to stoop, and it stretches out its fore and hind legs in opposite directions, and touches the ground with its belly, while the men descend by cords which hang from the castle. On this day they had much entertainment with these elephants, making them run with horses and with the people, which was very diverting; and when they all ran together, it seemed as if the earth trembled. I hold it to be true, from what I then saw, that one elephant is worth a thousand men in a battle; for when they are amongst men, they rush about wounding every one; and when they are themselves wounded, they become more fierce, rush about more wildly, and fight better. As the tusks are too high up for them to wound with them, they fasten swords to them, so that they may wound the people under them. They go a day or two without eating, and they are even able to go three days without food.