"Export business!" says Abibulla.The Maharajah of Benares sent his carriage this morning to take me to him. We went to the Ganges, where a palankin was in waiting to carry me across the narrow strip of sand between the road and the boat, escorted by a worthy who held a tall red umbrella, fringed with gold, over my head.
The train, now travelling northwards again, ran for a long way across the scorched plain through groves of dead trees and sandhills covered with lichen, till, in the golden sunset close to Gwalior, suddenly, at the foot of a hill, we came upon the greenery of fine parks with palaces rising above cool marble tanks.The Jumna Musjid, in the middle of the bazaar, is a reminder of the mosque at Cordova. A thousand[Pg 63] unmatched columns stand in utter confusion of irregular lines, producing a distressing sensation of an unfinished structure ready to fall into ruins. Every style is here, and materials of every description, brought hither—as we are told by the inscription engraved over one of the lofty pointed doorways—from the temples of the unbelievers destroyed by Shah Mahmoud Bogarat, the taker of cities, that he might, out of their remains, raise this mosque to the glory of Allah. In the centre of the arcade a large flagstone covers the Ja?n idol, which was formerly worshipped here; and my servant Abibulla, as a good Moslem, stamped his foot on the stone under which lies the "contemptible image." Some workmen were carving a column; they had climbed up and squatted balanced; they held their tools with their toes, just chipping at the marble in a way that seemed to make no impression, chattering all the time in short words that seemed all of vowels."Dog! traitor! cruel wretch! eater of meat!——"
All alike were fevered from the deafening music of harmoniums and tom-toms performing at the back of each gambling-booth—a din that drowned shouts of glee and quarrelling.
Beyond this point among the mountains the road seemed to vanish, to lead nowhere, lost in pale red among the red cliffs, as if it stopped at the foot of the rocky wall.
Next came a whole row of very small shops, where there was an endless variety of trifles for sale, toys made of wood painted red and green; and finally, on the ground floor of houses ornamented with carvings and slender colonnades, in a cool and shady and silent street, were the sellers of silk and cloth.
On the road the people bowed low as we passed, almost to the earth. The women, in token of respect, turned their backs and crouched down.At the entrance into one of the chapels is the trunk of an Akshai bar or b? tree, a kind of fig such as the Buddhists place in front of their sanctuaries. The tree is living in the subterranean[Pg 185] vault, and after thrusting its head through the heavy layer of stones forming the roof of the temple, it spreads its branches under the light of day. Endless absurd legends have grown up about the mystery of this tree, which is said to be no less than twenty centuries old; and my guide, who talks aloud in the presence of the idols he despises, being a Mohammedan, bows reverently to the tree and murmurs, "That is sacred; God has touched it."
Shops of the same trade are found in rows; carpenters joining their blocks, and workmen carving ornaments with very simple tools—clumsy tools—which they use with little, timid, persistent taps. Further on, coppersmiths are hammering the little pots which are to be seen in everybody's hands; under the shade of an awning stretched over the tiny booth, the finished vessels, piled up to the roof, shed a glory over the half-naked toilers who bend over their anvils, perpetually making jars of a traditional pattern, used for ablutions. There are two men at work in each shop, three at most, and sometimes an old man who sits smoking with half-closed eyes.Here are carvers of painted wooden toys—red[Pg 10] and green dolls, wooden balls, nests of little boxes in varied and vivid colours.
On the outside, all round the lower part of the monument, carved borders frame flowers of pale mosaic in the walls; the ornament is in such faint relief that at a short distance it is invisible, and the Taj is seen only in the perfect elegance of its[Pg 206] proportions. The mausoleum is built on a broad terrace of white marble at a height of 270 feet, overhanging the Jumna; and the impressive, harmonious outline commands the plain from afar.详情
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