To-day a religious festival; from the earliest hour everybody had donned new clothes, and in the [Pg 262]afternoon in the bazaar there was a masquerade of the lowest class—embroidered dhotis, white robes, light-coloured turbans displaying large discs of green, red or blue. The men, even old men, ran after each other with bottles of coloured water, which they sprinkled far and near. One indeed had neither more nor less than a phial of violet ink, which, on the face and hands of a little black boy, shone with metallic lustre. One boy, in a clean garment, fled from a man who was a constant beggar from me, and who was pursuing him with some yellow fluid; and the fugitive was quite seriously blamed for disregarding the will of the gods and goddesses, whose festival it was.
The sweepers, the saises, the bearers, the whole tribe of noisy, idle servants—men, women, and children—all sleep out of doors in the hotter weather. And all day long the camp-bed, the two mats, and half a dozen pots, which constitute the[Pg 285] whole furniture of a family, move round the house with the shade, only settling down after dark.On the stone ceiling of almost every temple four large women's faces and certain crouching[Pg 75] gnomes appear in fresh red paint. In the very dim twilight that comes in through the narrow windows hung with blue gauze, the idols are visible behind lattices: white Buddhas blazing with sparkling gems that hang on their wrists and ankles, or form a perfect breastplate; and every one, without exception, has an enormous glittering imitation diamond in his forehead.
From the broad steps on the shore other narrower flights lead to archways and porticoes, or zigzag up to the lanes that make a gap of distant blackness in the light-hued mass of palaces and embankments.The matter was evidently very serious. The three constables consulted together in an undertone, and then went off after desiring that I would forthwith telegraph to Sealkote and bring the reply to the police office.
In the streets the people, all wrapped in long shawls of a neutral brown, were only distinguishable amid the all-pervading greyness by their white head-dress. Men and women alike wear the same costume—a full robe of dirty woollen stuff with[Pg 258] long hanging sleeves, and under this they are perfectly naked. The rich put on several such garments one over another; the poor shiver under a cotton wrapper. And all, even the children, look as if they had the most extraordinary deformed angular stomachs, quite low down—charcoal warmers that they carry next their skin under their robe.Seen through the blue glass under the low, broad carapace that covered the carriage, the landscape circled past, the colour hardly subdued to that of Europe; even in the dusk, with the windows open, everything was still intolerably, crudely white, with reflections of fiery gold. Everything vibrated in the heat, and at the stations the walls after baking all day scorched you when you went near.
As we went down to the shore a whole swarm of little dark boys wanted to sell scarabs, rattans, birds' nests shaped like pockets, and dream-flowers, gathered from the creepers on the temples; large almond-scented lilies, and hanging bunches of the ebony-tree flowers, so fragile in texture and already faded in the sun, but exhaling till evening a faint perfume of verbena and lemon.In the shops the salesmen, to weigh their merchandise, had a strange collection of curious weights—dumps, rings, balls of copper, iron, or lead, stamped or inlaid with symbols and flowers; fragments of spoons to make up too light a weight, even pieces of wood; and they used them all with perfect readiness and never made a mistake.At our feet lay old Gwalior, sacked again and again, and as often rebuilt out of its own ruins;[Pg 202] and now the princely residences, all of marble wrought in almost transparent lacework, serve to shelter wandering cattle.
The actors spoke their parts like lessons, with a gesture only now and then, and invariably wrong;[Pg 229] and they all spoke and sang through the nose in an irritating voice pitched too high.Between the cliff-walls of the defile, in a sort of bay, stands Ali Musjid, a little white mosque where travellers tarry to pray.And as they went home at nightfall enormous bats came out and flew across above the tall trees in heavy, steady, straight flight. Without a sound they made for the last gleam on the horizon, where[Pg 98] the vanished sun had left a crimson line; and what an insistent image of death and oblivion were those great black fowl, slowly flapping their five-fingered wings spread out round their bodies, headless as they would seem, so small is the head, and so close-set on the neck. One might fancy that they were bearing away the day, gliding noiseless and innumerable towards the west, where already the last gleam is dead.
A rosy light flooded the whole scene with fiery radiance, and then suddenly, with no twilight, darkness blotted out the shape of things, drowning all in purple haze; and there, where India had vanished, a white mist rose from the ocean that mirrored the stars.
These gentlemen of the Civil Service would put in an appearance "now and then"—the eternal "now and then" that answers every question in India. They stepped out of a buggy, walked quickly round, had seen, and were gone again in a great hurry to finish some important work for the next European mail.Inside the temple was the fragrance of fresh flowers, brought as offerings, with grains of rice threaded like semi-transparent beads on the flexible pale green stem. A huge Buddha here, of many-coloured stones bedizened with gold, gleams in the[Pg 128] shade of the altar, and two bonzes in front of the idol were quarrelling at great length, with screams like angry cats and vehement gesticulations, for the possession of some small object which constantly passed from one to the other.
The old king is at once cured; he embraces his sons again and again. After this emotion the first thing he remarks is the new palace that has sprung from the ground exactly opposite his own.We drove across a succession of parks to visit[Pg 175] Sumer Mundir, a too elaborately carved temple, the panels representing scenes from the Ramayana set in ornamental borders. On the roof, which bristled with sculptured stone, thousands of blue pigeons were perched asleep, their iridescent plumage scarcely stirring in the sunshine. Beyond a tank at the end of the park was a palace in the Arab style with incredibly delicate ornaments of wrought marble, open halls painted in subdued colouring, and lighted by the golden reflections from the water. The pool had steps all round it, in which crowds seat themselves on the occasions of pilgrimage, and far away the enchanting vision of Benares, the holy city, in every shade of amber and honey.详情
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