In the middle of the town, which consists entirely of small houses carved from top to bottom, are two massive towers, joined by the remains of the thick wall that formerly enclosed the immensity of the sultan's palace and its outbuildings. The towers now serve as prisons; the stone lattice which screened the private rooms has been replaced by iron bars, the last traces of ornamentation covered up with fresh plaster. Behind the wall the ancient garden, kept green of old by legions of gardeners, is a mere desert of dust; a mausoleum in the middle, transformed into a court of justice, displays all the perfection of Indian art in two pointed windows carved and pierced in imitation of twining and interlaced branches; marvels of delicacy and grace left intact through centuries of vandalism.The crimson sky seen above the tall coco-palms turns to pink, to pale, vaporous blue, to a warm grey that rapidly dies away, and almost suddenly it is night.The Viharas, monasteries of cells hollowed out in the hillside, extend for more than half a mile; briars and creepers screen the entrances leading to these little retreats, a tangle of flowers and carvings.
A marble balustrade, of flowing design and astounding delicacy, exquisitely harmonious and artistic, encloses the white sarcophagus, which is inlaid with mindi and basilic flowers in costly agate, linked by inscriptions looking like lacings of narrow black braid. This balustrade alone, in the Taj, under the marble pile which forms the tomb of the empress, and on which 20,000 craftsmen laboured for twenty years, would, in its indescribable beauty of workmanship, have amply fulfilled Shah Jehan's vow.[Pg 57]
Then from afar came the sound of tom-toms and bagpipes, nearer and nearer, and the musicians became visible at the top of one of the stair-like alleys. First came the men, then the women. One of these, robed in pale green with a violet and silver saree, carried a child in her arms wrapped in a red dress embroidered with gold. He was this day six[Pg 160] months old; he had eaten rice, and was brought to see the sacred Ganges for the first time. The family, friends, and neighbours had assembled in honour of the great ceremony, which consisted in holding the infant face downwards over the water, which he scarcely saw with half-shut eyes; and then the procession went back again to the sound of the music, and was gone."And how many die every day?"
The morning mist shrouds everything; the scene insensibly passes through a series of pale tints, to reappear ere long in the clear rosy light, which sheds a powdering of glowing gold on the broad roadstead of Bombay.
But at Byculla, in Grant Road, the street of gambling-houses, there was a glare of lights; gaudy lanterns were displayed at the windows where spangles and tinsel trinkets glittered. And then, between two brightly illuminated houses where every window was wide open, there was the dark gap of a closed house, in front of it a pan of sulphur burning. The green and purple flame flickered grimly on the faces of the passers-by, making their dhotis look like shrouds wrapping spectres.
The long table was filled with officials and their wives, as happy as children—pulling crackers at dessert, putting on paper caps, singing the latest music-hall nonsense; while outside, jackals whined, suddenly coming so close that they drowned the voices and the accompaniment on the piano.After an hour's passage we reached the island, which is thickly planted with fine large trees.
It was melancholy to return under the gloomy, spreading banyans, through the dimly-lighted suburbs, where the people were still at work and selling their wares; and the dungeon, the dead stones, the guns now for ever silenced and pointed at vacancy, were lost in blue darkness.Behind a ponderous wall, dinted all over by shot, and showing broad, light patches once covered by earthenware tiles, is the palace of Runjeet Singh, inlaid with enamelled pictures in green, blue, and yellow of tiger-fights and horse-races, mingling with flowers and garlands of boughs. The durbar, the hall or presence chamber, opens by a verandah on a forecourt paved with marble; in its walls are mirrors and panels of coloured glass over a ground of dull gold, agate-like tints iridescent with a nacreous, silvery, luminous lustre.详情
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