JACQUEMONT'S 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 Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh and the Sikh province of Kashmīr.
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 Vārāṇasī and Āgrā bringing the diary up to March 1830. Part III covers his travels to Shimlā and the hill states up to the Tibetan frontier and then back to Delhi in early 1831. Part IV deals with Jacquemont's travels through Punjab and Kashmīr. Leaving Delhi on 26 January 1831, he made his way to Pānīpat, "a large city only surpassed in extent by Delhi among the cities I have seen in Northern India, and reached, on 30 January, Karnāl, a city which he describes as "a mere cesspool, a mass of filth." Thānesar is described as "a village built on a heap of ruins and not in the least picturesque." On 8 February, he reached Ambālā, "a tumble-down place but of great importance as the headquarters of the Political Agent of the cis-Sutlej territory." He reached Ludhiāṇā on 24 February via Sirhind (11 February), which he refers to as "the biggest ruin I have seen in India after Delhi." Ludhiāṇā was then a part of the Sikh state of Jīnd 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 "has possessed for the last twenty years a new industry which is growing every day : that is manufacture of Kashmiri shawls." He reached Lahore on 11 March 1831 and had the opportunity of meeting Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh on a few occasions. His description of the Mahārājā's person is interesting :"... a thin little man with an attractive face, though he has lost one eye from small pox... his nose is fine and slightly turned up, his mouth firm, his teeth excellent. He wears slight moustaches which he twists incessantly with his fingers and long thin white beard which falls to his chest. His expression shows nobility of thought, shrewdness 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 Kashmīr 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 Mahārājā, which according to him was devoid of all formality, ranged from politics to metaphysics and medicine. He was struck by the inquisitiveness of the Mahārājā who asked him many questions about the personal habits and background of Governor-General and about life in general in France and England. Jacquemont provides considerable information about the court of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh as well as about his administration. His description of Kashmīr which was then under Sikh rule but which was never visited by the Mahārājā himself is far from flattering.
A series of extracts from the Journal were 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.
B. J. Hasrat