Beyond the new town of broad avenues planted with trees and bordered with gardens, was a brand-new bridge of gaudy bricks over a river, almost dry, where a swarm of naked natives were performing their ablutions—washing linen and shaking out red and white cloths, as far as the eye could see. Buffaloes lying in the mud were sleeping among the tame ducks, the ibis, and the herons, all seeking their food. An elephant plunged into the water, splashing it up and scaring thousands of bright birds, which flew up against the intensely blue sky.As we returned past a village—a hamlet of houses gathering round a well surmounted by a kiosk shading a gaudy idol crowned with red[Pg 176] pinks—a perfectly naked fakir, his straight black hair bound twice round his head like a turban, stood basking in the sun, leaning against a wall, and chanting in a rapid monotone, while two babies, under the shade of a fan-palm leaf, stared up at him and sucked their thumbs.A forest in flower: Indian almond trees white, other trees yellow, a kind of magnolia with delicate pink blossoms; and among these hues like perfume, flew a cloud of birds, black, shot with glistening metallic green, and butterflies of polished bronze and dark gold flashed with blue, and others again sprinkled with white on the nacreous, orange-tinted wings.
A port crowded with steamers taking in coal, and very light barks high out of the water, kept in equilibrium by parallel outriggers at the ends of two flexible spars. These crank boats, made of[Pg 124] planks that scarcely overlap, were piled with luggage, and the boatmen jostle and turn and skim close under the fast-steaming transatlantic liners, amid a bewildering babel of shouts and oaths, under a sun hot enough to melt lead.
A company of the Khyber Rifles are quartered there in the old buildings and the officers' deserted bungalows; over all hangs an atmosphere of icy desolation and overpowering melancholy. Above our heads a flight of eagles wheeled against the sky.
In the twilight of the great galleries the gods are assembled in groups, standing or sitting, rigid or contorted into epileptic attitudes, and thin bodies of human aspect end in legs or arms resembling serpents or huge fins, rather than natural limbs: Kali, the eight-armed goddess, leaping in the midst of daggers, performing a straddling dance while she holds up a tiny corpse on the point of the short sword she brandishes; impassible Sivas wearing a tall mitre; Krishna playing the flute to the thousand virgins who are in love with him, and who fade into perspective on the panel. And every divinity has eyes of jade, or of white plaster, hideously visible against the pale grey stone softly polished by time.Inside, a subdued light, rosy and golden, comes in through the myriad interstices, casting a glow of colour on the pierced marble screens which enclose the tomb of Shah Alam, Sultan of Gujerat. The tomb itself, hung with a red cloth under a canopy on posts inlaid with mother-of-pearl, is dimly seen in the twilight, scarcely touched here and there with the pearly gleam and lights reflected from ostrich eggs and glass balls—toys dedicated by the faithful to the hero who lies there in his last sleep. Yet further away, under the trees, is another tomb, almost the same, but less ornamented, where the sultan's wives repose.
Higher on the hills, amid the rich bright verdure of the tea-plantations, we find magnolias, pines, and the Campeachy medlar, all wreathed with climbing plants and invaded by the young growth of palms, by rattans which have succeeded in piercing the awning of parasites that hangs, starred with flowers, from tree to tree—flowers like lamps shining among the ripe coco-nuts, mango fruit, and papaws.
COLOMBOAt sunrise we reached Nandgaun, whence I went on towards Ellora in a tonga, the Indian post-chaise, with two wheels and a wide awning so low and so far forward that the traveller must stoop to look out at the landscape. A rosy haze still hung over the country, rent in places and revealing transparent blue hills beyond the fields of crude green barley and rice. The road was hedged with mimosa, cassia, and a flowering thorny shrub, looking like a sort of honeysuckle with yellow blossoms, and smelling strongly of ginger.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."
CAWNPOREA tonga arrived just as we drove up, bringing an English official, travelling in his own carriage; gaiters, shooting jacket, a switch in his hand. He seated himself outside the bungalow in a cane chair, close by mine. Out of a case that was brought before him a hatchet and a pistol were unpacked, documentary evidence of the crime into which he was to inquire.Coolies in white turbans were busy round the machines. They are very skilful, but work with determined slowness as a mute rebellion against the humiliating coercion of obeying a thing of wood and iron, and above all of obeying it without stopping, for the ideal of every Hindoo is to do nothing. And this rose to positive martyrdom when, in the absence of our own servants, who were nowhere to be found, one of these craftsmen, a Brahmin, strictly forbidden by his religion ever to touch the food of the disbelievers, or even the[Pg 294] vessels they use, was obliged to make tea for us. Looking utterly miserable, the poor fellow weighed out the leaves, put them into little antique earthenware pots, and poured on the boiling water. A sand-glass marked how long the infusion was to stand. He even brought us some pretty little crackle basins that looked as if they had come out of some old-world convent pharmacy; but the poor man could not bring himself to pour the tea out—he fled.
[Pg 25]The road lay among flowers, all-pervading; in the fields, on the rocks, on the road itself, pink flowers or lavender or white; bright moss, shrubs and trees in full bloom, and hovering over them birds of changing hue and golden butterflies.详情
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