The Kashmir Giants: Defenders of the Durbar

There are billions of human beings in the world and every one of them looks different. Different skin tones, hair colors, and shapes.

Height is a characteristic that many people notice as they travel around the world. Since that is something that can be broadly noticed in a crowd or recognized almost immediately upon meeting someone.

The world’s average height of a human is around 5 foot 9 inches, but there are thousands of people at the fringes of the height distribution. While the tallest people in history have managed to exceed 8 feet tall, anyone over six and a half feet tall is generally seen as excessively tall.

So when an American photographer captured images of two Indian men who both exceeded 7 feet tall in a crowd of ordinary people, people were entranced by their appearance. 

Two Kashmir giants, and the man who photographed them, Professor Ricalton

A New Reign

At the turn of the century, the English empire was celebrating the coronation of a new regent: King Edward VII. His mother, Queen Victoria, had reigned over England for over 60 years and defined a historical era.

When she passed away in January of 1901, Edward ascended to power. While the crown regent lived in England, they held power over all of the holdings of the British Empire, which at the time still included India.

While Edward took on the role of the emperor of India in this capacity, he did little to actually govern the state. Instead, there was a governor-general or viceroy who handled the direct governance.

At the time of Edward’s coronation, Lord George Curzon was the viceroy of India. He wanted to host a celebration worthy of the new king, called the Delhi Durbar, named as such for the city hosting the celebration. 

The Dehli Durbar of 1903

The Durbar was an event for celebrating a new ruler, and only occurred a total of four times. Lord Curzon made sure that the Durbar of 1903 was the greatest in the history of India, but Edward did not attend.

While Victoria had demonstrated much interest in India, Edward refused to visit India even for an extravagant celebration. He instead sent his brother, the Duke of Connaught, in his stead.

Regardless, Lord Curzon spared no expense in making it an unmatched celebration. He planned every second of the ceremony down to the second.

It took over two years of organizing but Lord Curzon summoned the most elite residents of India in an impressive display of India’s wealth. He was determined to create an unforgettable experience celebrating King Edward.

Amongst these elites were a number of maharaja, or Indian princes, who brought with them some of the most impressive collections of gems in the world, parades of elephants decorated in gold, and small armies of men.

While the crowds at the Durbar were amazed at these spectacles, their attention was stolen by two specific men, standing tall above their peers, literally, as the armies of India marched through Delhi. 

The Giants of Kashmir

The two men were twin brothers who served in the army of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.

The taller of the two men stood at an impressive 7 feet 9 inches tall, while the other was 7 foot four inches tall. They are believed to have been the tallest men in the world at the time.

Their likeness was captured by James Ricalton, an American teacher and photographer who traveled to India to document the event. Ricalton believed that photography was a useful educational tool and could be used to inform people of things previously unknown.

Therefore, he took many photographs during his visit, with a small collection of intriguing pictures that seemed to capture the likeness of two giant men. Ricalton clearly was enthralled with the pair, as he took half a dozen photographs with them.

These photographs show Ricalton posing with the two men, demonstrating the ridiculous proportions of the giants, as he was of average height. In one photograph Ricalton is seated between the two men’s legs, sitting at the same level as them but not even coming up to their chins.

Another sees Ricalton standing between the two men as their hands rest on his shoulders, his head at their waist and mid-chest. The proportions of the men are so absurd that without photographs, it is likely no one would have believed the tale of the giant men. 

Professor James Ricalton (1844-1929) posing with one of the Kashmir giants.

The Tall Tale of the Giants

Seeing as Lord Curzon designed a spectacle for the ages, Ricalton was only one of many people who traveled to India to witness the celebration and report back the tales.

Journalists from around the world took photographs and recorded the tale of the extravagant parades and giant men. They then returned home to share the news.

The story of the two giants in India made its way around the world, most famously in an Australian article titled “The Retinue of the Ruler of Kashmir.” This documented that the two men were in service to the maharaja and that they were from Balmokand.

Historians have since tried to identify where Balmokand is but it is not on any recorded map. Those who have researched it believe the area must have changed its name since the early 20th century. But that has not hindered the legacy of the two Giants of Kashmir.

Although there have been taller men in history, the Giants of Kashmir have an undeniable legacy due to their photographs with Ricalton and their widespread notoriety immediately following the Durbar. The men, both over 7 feet tall, were an impressive sight for the average man.

They certainly aided in their efforts to protect their employer. Little else is known about the two men, but they live on as almost a myth, just out of place enough to seem unreal despite the photographic evidence. 


Ben-Halliday, Reginald. “The Giants of Kashmir.” Medium, March 21, 2023.

Cartwright, Mark. “Delhi Durbar.” World History Encyclopedia, November 25, 2022.

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