Towards noon the mass of Kinchinjunga again lifted its head above the clouds, now white with a dust of rosy gold or violet on the snow in the shadows; and again, as the clouds swept across, of every changing tint of steel and copper, pearl and sunshine, till, following on the ardent glory of sunset, a purple and living fire, like a flame within the very substance of the ice-fields, all died into[Pg 153] mysterious blueness under the broad pure light of the moon.The orchestra, consisting of a harmonium, a violin, and a darboukha, played a languishing, drawling air to a halting rhythm, while the chorus, standing in a line on the stage, sang the introductory verses.
On our way back to the hotel, in a park through which we had to pass, we suddenly heard overhead a shrill outcry proceeding from a banyan tree to which a number of vampires had hung themselves up. Clinging together side by side, like black rags, and hardly visible in the thick foliage, the creatures formed a sort of living bunch, creeping, swaying, and all uttering the same harsh, monotonous, incessant cry.So at last the door was opened.
As we passed the sacred tanks, where a smell of decay filled the air that still rang with the cries of the bats, our horses suddenly shied and refused to go forward, terror-stricken by some invisible danger suggested to them by that reiterated shriek or the corpse-like smell. A very long minute passed as we sat in the carriage, a minute of dread that left us quite excited by this mysterious peril of which we had somehow felt the awe. Nor was it till we had left the great trees by the tanks behind us that the impression wore off under the comforting light of the stars.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.A spell seemed to linger over this little bazaar, to slacken every movement and give the people an indolent grace. They spoke languidly in the shade of the awnings spread by the flower-sellers and the jewellers, who, with little ringing taps, were [Pg 95]hammering out minute patterns on silver anklets and necklaces.
The fourteen hundred and fifty-two gods of the Ja?n paradise are represented on a sculptured pyramid under a pagoda: little tadpoles of white stone crowded together, two black dots showing for eyes in the middle of the round featureless faces; on one side a more important god, sitting alone, has a rather less elementary countenance.Our boat stole slowly past the palaces, where there were no lights, through the haze rising from the river, and all things assumed a dissolving appearance as though they were about to vanish; all was shrouded and dim with mystery.
And there, under the open sky, stands the crowning marvel of Ellora, the temple or Kailas, enclosed within a wall thirty metres high, pierced with panels, balconies, and covered arcades, and resting on lions and elephants of titanic proportions. This temple is hewn out of a single rock, isolated from the hill, and is divided into halls ornamented in high relief. Covered verandahs run all round the irregular mass in two storeys, reminding us, in their elaborate design, of the Chinese balls of carved ivory with other balls inside them. Nothing has been added or built on. The complicated architecture—all in one piece, without cement or the smallest applied ornament—makes one dizzy at the thought of such a miracle of perseverance and patience.The coachman we engaged at the station was a giant, with an olive skin and a huge, pale pink turban. He was clad in stuffs so thin that on his box, against the light, we could see the shape of his body through the thickness of five or six tunics that he wore one over another.
The roof, upheld by a double row of stone blocks set on end, and somewhat atilt, weighs on the building, which is already giving way; and the next monsoon will destroy this marvel of the Ja?n to spare the trouble of military constructors—the builders of barracks.Opposite a large tank, where a tall column rises from the water in memory of the victims of the Mutiny, and where a party of the votaries of Siva are performing their pious ablutions, a building stands in the Hindoo-Jesuit style of architecture. It is heavy, with white carvings above its pink paint, and with columns supporting turrets crowned with large lion-faces, the masks only, in the Indian manner, daylight showing through the jaws and eyes, and the profiles absurd, shapeless, and unmeaning. This is the college of La Martinière.
All the sufferers lay on thin mattresses spread on low camp beds; they were all quiet, torpid in the sleep of fever. The doctor showed them to me, one after another; there was nothing distressing to be seen in their naked bodies lying under a sheet. Some, indeed, had dressings under the arm, or on the groin. One, who had just been brought in, had a large swelling above the hip, a gland which was lanced to inject serum.
For our noonday rest I took shelter under a wood-carver's shed. On the ground was a large plank in which, with a clumsy chisel, he carved out circles, alternating with plane-leaves and palms. The shavings, fine as hairs, gleamed in the sun, and gave out a scent of violets. The man, dressed in white and a pink turban, with necklaces and bangles on his arms of bright brass, sang as he tapped with little blows, and seemed happy to be alive in the world. He gave us permission to sit in the shade of his stall, but scorned to converse with Abibulla.In order that I might be far from the noise of the street the merchant had the objects I wished to see brought to me in a little room over the shop. Everything was spread before me on a white sheet, in the middle of which I sat. Refreshments were[Pg 227] brought, fruits and sweetmeats, while a coolie waved a large fan over my head—a huge palm-leaf stitched with bright-hued silks.详情
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