Kalākaua’s Worldwide Voyage, Part 2: India

#85 in the Moʻolelo series. For those who are not reading these in order, Kalakaua’s trip around the world took him to San Francisco, Japan, where he met with the emperor and discussed a confederation, Siam (Thailand), Malaysia, Burma, India, Egypt, where he was inducted into the (Egyptian order of freemason)], Naples and Rome in Italy, where he had an audience with the pope, Portugal, London, New York, Boston, New Bedford, Chicago, Omaha, Ogden, and finally back to San Francisco and Hawai’i. The trip took about nine months.

In May, 1881, Kalākaua arrived in India, having travelled from Rangoon, Burma (aka Myanmar). He travelled across India and visited Calcutta (Kolkata) and Bombay (Mumbai):

The intense heat of an Indian summer seems to have very much been felt by the King and all his suite, both during his stay in Calcutta, and during the subsequent railway journey across the [Indian] peninsula. The anticipation of this had, no doubt, led to the arrangement by which the visit to India was made so short and hurried.

Pacific Commercial Advertiser, August 6, 1881.
“Kalākaua and aides during trip around the world” (Wikimedia commons)

But what is interesting is the (normally patronizing) British description of Kalākaua based on their impressions of him made during the trip. They are consistent with his reception around the world, including in the US. The following account is from the Calcutta Englishman (keep in mind, dear reader, that India was solidly under British colonial rule at this time – no “bond of resistance” here as there may have been in Siam):

Kalākaua’s interest in warfare is not often commented on, as it flies in the face of the received image of the “broken man” post-Bayonet Constitution. In reality, Kalākaua was a high-level officer in the Hawaiian military before it was disbanded and even his name means “day of war.”

After “a dreary” journey across India, Kalākaua’s entourage arrived in Bombay (now called Mumbai) and remained there for a week, taking in the numerous sites including the university library, the bazaars, and the Parsee Tower of Silence (Parsees are Persians who practice the Zoroastrian religion emigrated to India centuries ago but remained culturally distinct). The PCA article states that an enumeration of the places visited by Kalākaua’s entourage would be “quite a lengthy affair.” Kalākaua sailed for Suez on June 7th.

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