Most of the action in The Far Pavilions takes place in 19th century India. The majority of places mentioned in the story are real geographical locations, with a few exceptions such as the State of Gulkote where Ash spends part of his childhood and the State of Bhithor which he visits later in the book.
Ash escorts two Indian princesses and their entourage to their wedding in Rajputana, the present-day Indian state of Rajasthan. Located south of the Punjab, Rajasthan is the largest state in India.
Ash and his foster mother Sita live for a while in the Hawa Mahal, which translates as 'Palace of the Winds'. In the book, the palace is located in the fictional state of Gulkote. However, there is a real Hawa Mahal in Jaipur. It was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh.
The Punjab is the cross-border region currently made up of the Indian state of Punjab and the Pakistani province of Punjab. In the 19th century, Pakistan did not exist as a separate state – it was established in 1947 after the British rule of India came to an end.
The name 'Punjab' means 'five waters', referring to the Ravi, Chenab, Jhelum, Beas and Sutlej rivers.
In The Far Pavilions, we visit various parts of the Punjab, including the city of Rawalpindi where Ash and his friend Wally are stationed. In 1851, Rawalpindi became a permanent garrison of the British army and in the 1880s a railway line into Rawalpindi was opened. The climate is cool and wet in winter and extremely hot in summer, often with monsoons and storms. The famous Murree Road and Grand Trunk Road both pass through Rawalpindi.
Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan. It is an ancient city, thought to have been established between 2000 and 1500 BC. The city is located in the Hindu Kush mountains, along the Kabul River.
In 1878, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, a British mission was installed in Kabul, led by Sir Pierre Louis Napoleon Cavagnari. On September 3, 1879, Cavagnari and the other members of the mission were massacred at the Bala Hissar fortress.
The North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) is today one of Pakistan's four provinces. Most of the population are Pashtuns (referred to as Pathans in The Far Pavilions), with Pashto being the main language used in the province. The area has a beautiful and varied landscape, with a contrasting mixture of mountainous and hilly regions, forests and green plains.
The Khyber Pass links the province to Afghanistan in the north-west.
Peshawar, the capital city of the NWFP, is located on the edge of the Khyber Pass. As part of the historic Silk Road, Peshawar became a centre of trade between South and Central Asia, Afghanistan and the Middle East, and was able to draw on the culture and learning of all of these different civilisations.
Peshawar is frequently mentioned in The Far Pavilions, along with other NWFP cities such as Mardan, where the British regiment, the Corps of Guides, established their frontier cantonment.