Dumoise was very thankful for the suggestion-he was thankful for anything in those days-and went to Chini on a walking-tour. Chini is some twenty marches from Simla, in the heart of the Hills, and the scenery is good if you are in trouble.

This is from "By Word of MouTh" by Rudyard Kipling.

I don't understand the word "twenty marches"

I am glad if someone would kindly teach me.

2 Answers 2


One 'march' is the distance that can be travelled by marching or walking in one day. It may vary depending on the route and type of terrain.

Rudyard Kipling was a careful writer and professional journalist. Even at the age of 18, when he wrote 'By Word of Mouth', his first published work, he would have taken the trouble to make his story accurate.

I am certain that 'Chini' in Kipling's story is the scenic Himalayan (mountain) village formerly known as "Chini Village", "Chini Gaon", and now officially called Kalpa. It is in the Sutlej River valley in the Kinnaur district of India, some 160 miles north-east of Simla (now Shimla). The area was popular for walking tours. In 1863, two years before Kipling's birth, Samuel Bourne, a Victorian photographer, travelled to India to take scenic photographs.

[He went to] Simla, visiting en route Benares, Agra, Delhi and Umballa. In Simla he commenced photographic work and on 29 July 1863 left the hill station for a trip into the Himalayas. With a retinue of 30 coolies he travelled to Chini, 160 miles north-east of Simla, and spent some time photographing in the Chini-Sutlej River area before heading west to Spiti and returning to Simla on 12 October with 147 negatives.

Pictures of India (Cambridge University archive)

One tourist map gives a total distance of 255 kilometres, which equals 158.45 miles.

enter image description here

Estimates of the length of a "march" (one day's march) will differ depending on the terrain to be covered, and e.g. whether some the daylight hours are to be used for breaking and making camp, meals, rest, etc. A common estimate used with Roman legions was 10 miles per day.

It is feasible that a distance of 160 miles would be considered a march of 'some' (appoximately) 20 days, especially in a hilly or mountainous region.

This is not one of Bourne's photgraphs!

enter image description here



"March" is short for "a day's march," which is the distance that can be marched by a group, usually soldiers, in a single day. This is Kipling, after all, an Englishman, so it's not some other archaic or obscure meaning but this meaning, the very English meaning. But exactly how far is that? Well, it's never been set in stone, but the low-end is 10 miles, the high end is 20 miles, and the average appears to be about 15 miles, while Kipling himself, as far as I know, never gave his estimation or opinion.

Therefore, "20 marches" would indicate a distance of 200 to 400 miles, but probably around 300 miles. That, however, is not consistent with the actual distance from Chini to Simla, which is about 1,300 miles. No one can march 65 miles a day. No one. And certainly not over that terrain, the terrain between Chini and Simla. Apparently, Kipling didn't have a solid grasp of how far it actually is from Chini to Simla when he wrote that bit of fiction.

  • Kipling wrote the story at the age of 18. It was his first published work. Jul 14, 2021 at 8:02
  • But he had maps, and worked in a newspaper office. I wonder if his Chini is your Chini? Jul 14, 2021 at 8:17
  • "some 20" could be more than 20, it's an approximation. but that doesn't alter the figues enough to change your conclusion,
    – Jasen
    Jul 14, 2021 at 10:20
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    He apparently didn't. And, yes, his Chini is my Chini. There's only one Chini, the one Kipling says in in Persia, which is the one in Iran, what Persia is called nowadays. Jul 17, 2021 at 23:54
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