Mark Twain: On India | Mark Twain: Part 2

Vidisha Pandey
Sep 24, 2019   •  187 views

Mark Twain (pen name) or Samuel Clemen was an American writer, publisher and entrepreneur. In this article, we will look into his trip to India and his experiences in India!

"In religion, all other countries are paupers. India is the only millionaire.” - Mark Twain

This quote by Mark Twain, outlines his views on

the religious diversity of India..


India Map - Source: Rough Guides



Source: Smithsonian Magazine

Twain was given a number of honorary titles in his life. He was called "the greatest humorist his country has produced" and also "the father of American Literature". His works are most often satirical and witty. The Oxford University bestowed Twain an honorary doctorate in letters in the year 1907.

He was also a member of the Society for Psychical Research.

Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens, even had a great bonding with Nikola Tesla, because of their scientific interests!

The death of one of his daughters, Susie lead Twain into depression. Later, the death of his wife Olivia and youngest daughter Jean worsened his pain.


Mark Twain Family - Source: History

According to Wikipedia, Twain was born shortly after the appearance of Halley's Comet, and he predicted that he would "go out with it" as well; he died the day after the comet returned!


He made this trip back in 1896 with his wife Olivia, his daughter Clara and a colleague Mr Smythe. He was 60 when he made this visit and stepped into the then British India as a Journalist. Mark's trip, though, was not all sunshine and rainbows in all aspects! He was going through bankruptcy and seeked to gain money through various performances, speeches and orientations.

"The world is not real. It never existed, it does not exist, and it will not come into existence in future. We all dream, and, while sleeping, we think that the things we see in the dream are real, but as soon as we wake up we perceive the mistake…as soon as true knowledge will dawn on us we shall be able to know that the world is but a dream, a shadow and not substance. "

- Mark Twain

(John Campbell Oman, The Mystics, Ascetics, and

Saints of India, 1903)

Mark Twain considered India a very beautiful avenue , he once said the following, referring toIndia -

“an imaginary land — a fairy land, dreamland, a land made of poetry and moonlight for the Arabian Nights to do their gorgeous miracles in”

The trip to India is considered to be one of themost prominent and interesting tours of his!

“The lobbies and halls were full of turbaned, and

fez’d, and embroidered, Cap’d, and barefooted,

cotton-clad dark natives, some of them rushing

about, others at rest squatting, or sitting on the


- Mark Twain


His trip across India and Sri Lanka included

explorations of cities like Bombay,Varanasi,

Baroda, Darjeeling, Agra and Calcutta.


Twain met Lord Elgin in Calcutta. Mark had also been invited for a session by the Supreme Legislative Council, a session for which only some immediate/important members and provincial leaders were designated!


Calcutta - Source: Times of India


Lord Elgin - Source: Wikipedia

In Bombay, he had met the Provincial Governor-Lord Sandhurst, at Malabar Hill.


Bombay - Source: Royal Caribbean


His observation was that “the people were

pleasant and accommodating. They are kindly

people… The face and bearing that indicate a surly spirit and a bad heart seemed rare among


Mark Twain also started realizing the Industrial

and technological prospects of the British Rule, for India.

When he was in Kaashi (or Varanasi), he felt a deep interest in Sacred writings and found solace in a hut to study and examine them!


Varanasi- Source:

Twain has reflected on India and his experience in India, in his book- Following The Equator.

Another characteristic of Indian people has been

their skin tones, which has been under discrimination as well as on debate, constantly.

It's really great to know that Twain throws light on the same, through what he said-

"The white man’s complexion makes no concealments. It can’t. It seemed to have been designed as a catch-all for everything that can damage it. Ladies have to paint it, and powder it, and cosmetic it, and diet it with arsenic, and enamel it, and be always enticing it, and persuading it, and pestering it, and fussing at it, to make it beautiful; and they do not succeed."

Mark Twain in India, is a book written on India, that you would love to read, if you're interested in getting deeper insights into Twain's perspectives.

My Opinion!

"All in all, Twain has tried to reflect on most

aspects of Indian Traditions, Cultures, practices

and aptly resonated with its sensibilities!"

Blog Banner Courtesy: The Conversation