The little palace of Nilam Bagh, panelled inside throughout with carved wood, looks like a jewel-casket dropped in a vast park of green shade and[Pg 85] broad lawns. Rawl Shri Bhaosinhji, Rajah of Bhawnagar, is very young, almost a child, and still very shy, dressed in the European fashion in a long grey overcoat, with a voluminous turban of turquoise-blue gauze.
In every shop of the High Street jewellers are on the look-out for customers, hale them in, tease them to buy, and open for inspection little bags or cardboard boxes kept in safes, and containing the finest sapphires in the world. The day slips by in bargaining for the gems, in endless discussions and feigned departures. The indefatigable vendors return to the charge, run after the customer, wait for him at the door of a rival dealer, and drag him back again. Then there is a fresh dispute over prices, till irresistible argument at last brings down the estimates to a third or a quarter of what they were at starting.
A little way off an old man was wrapping the naked body of a poor woman in a white cloth; then he fastened it to two poles to dip it in the river; finally, with the help of another Sudra, he laid the corpse on a meagre funeral pile, and went off to fetch some live charcoal from the sacred fire which the Brahmins perpetually keep alive on a stone terrace overlooking the Ganges. He carried the scrap of burning wood at the end of a bunch of reeds, and, praying aloud, walked five times round the pyre, which completely concealed the body. Then he gently waved the bunch of reeds, making them blaze up, and placed them beneath the wood, which slowly caught fire, sending up dense curling clouds of white vapour and slender tongues of flame, creeping along the damp logs that[Pg 167] seemed to go out again immediately. But suddenly the fire flared up to the top of the pile; the flesh hissed in the flame, and filled the air with a sickening smell.Really the prison this time! in the midst of a large enclosure with high walls; a building on a star-shaped plan, with large windows to admit air and daylight. The prisoners, in a white uniform, with chains on their feet, were manufacturing various articles in basket-work, and in a shed with a cotton awning a hundred or so of convicts were weaving carpets. The brilliancy of colour was indescribable; the vividness of the medley of worsted piled by the side of the gorgeous looms, the light hues of the dresses, the faded turbans touched with light, the glitter of the steel chains, the bronze skins, glorified to gold in the quivering sunshine, which, scarcely subdued by the awning, bathed the[Pg 87] scene in a glow so intense that it seemed to proceed from the objects themselves. Behind each loom sat a warder, with the pattern of the carpet on his knees, dictating the colours to the weavers, chanting out his weariful litany of numbers and shades in a monotonous voice.In an alley of the bazaar girls were lounging in hammocks hung to nails outside the windows, smoking and spitting down on the world below.
Far away a murmur is heard, a long-drawn chant, suddenly arousing the birds; they flap their wings, stretch themselves clumsily, and then fly towards one of the towers.
Then an elder of the family deliberately lights the first fire—a lamp hanging in the vestibule; and as soon as they see the flame the High Dastour and all those present bow in adoration with clasped hands. The bridegroom and the priest go into the house and have their hands and faces washed; then, preceded by the band and followed by all the guests, they proceed to the home of the bride.
"What is the Virgin Mary?"In a wonderful garden, amazing after the sandy waste that lies between Benares and Allahabad—a garden of beds filled with flowers showing no leaves, but closely planted so as to form a carpet of delicate, blending hues—stand three mausoleums, as large as cathedrals, in the heart of cool silence, the tombs of the Sultan Purvez, of his father Khusru, and of his wife, the Begum Chasira.And in the evening at mess—a dinner given in honour of a regiment marching through—news was brought in that close to Bunnoo, in the Kurrum valley, two travellers had been murdered in the night.
The drill sergeant shouts the word of command in wonderful English—lept, meaning left.
In a consecrated hall we came to a plaster image of a camel modelled over stone. To prove that you are without sin you must be able to pass under the beast, or at least between the front legs and the girth of the belly without touching any part; and so very narrow is this little gateway of Ja?n virtue that, to preserve my character in the presence of my escort, I did not attempt it.On the shore, on the steps in front of the temples and round the holy images, in short, everywhere on this day, red powder was sprinkled to inaugurate[Pg 179] the month just beginning; a beggar, to secure the favour of the gods, had smeared his head and hands with it.
Two or three thousand haggard and fleshless beings were digging or carrying earth to form an embankment for a railway or a road. With arms scarcely thicker than the handles of the tools they wielded, the labourers gasped in the air, tired in a minute, and pausing to rest in spite of the abuse of the overseers. Emaciated women, so small in their tattered sarees, carried little baskets on their heads containing a few handfuls of earth, but which they could scarcely lift. One of them, wrinkled and shrunken, looked a hundred years old tottering under her load; on reaching the spot where she was to empty out the soil, she leaned forward a little and let the whole thing fall, indifferent to the dust which covered her and filled her mouth and eyes; and after taking breath for a moment, off she went again as if walking in her sleep.The ripe rice, in golden ears, is cut with sickles; a row of women in red gather it into sheaves, which men carry on their back, at once, to the next village, and there it is threshed out forthwith on floors but just swept.Servants carrying large trays offer the company certain strange little green parcels: a betel-leaf screwed into a cone and fastened with a clove, containing a mixture of spices and lime, to be chewed after dinner to digest the mass of food you may see spread out in the tables in the dining-room.
Before daybreak, in the doubtful light of waning night, dim masses are visible—grey and purple mountains—mountains shaped like temples, of which two indeed seem to be crowned with low squat towers as if unfinished.Making my way among the too numerous gods in relief against the overwrought walls heavy with carving, I came to a wonderful balcony where, in broken cages, I found the parrots that had betrayed me, and among them an exquisite pale yellow cockatoo of great rarity.详情
Copyright © 2020