As soon as he had bid us welcome, bunches of chrysanthemums were presented to us tied round a little stick. The Rajah hung garlands of jasmine round our neck, and a servant sprinkled us with otto of roses. The conversation turned on Europe, which Rawl Shri regards as a land of marvels, where fairy-like manufactures are produced and extraordinary forces have subjugated nature. He, like his cousin of Palitana, has a passion for horses, and he took me to visit his stud.
Here in southern India the women wear hardly any trinkets, and their garb consists of sarongs and sarees, so thin that their shape is visible through the light stuff. In their hair, which is knotted low on the neck, they stick flowers, and occasionally light trailing sprays fall down on the throat. They all have gold studs screwed into the two upper front teeth; hideous are these two red-gold teeth among the others, sound and white under young lips!
At two or three leagues from Lahore, in a city of ruins, opposite a tumble-down mosque which is strewing a powdering of rose-coloured stones on its white marble court, stands the tomb of Jehangir, splendid, and more splendid amid the squalor that surrounds it.Bombay, towering above the sea in a golden glory—the tall towers and minarets standing out in sharp outline against the sky, splendid in colour and glow. Far away Malabar Hill and a white speck—the Towers of Silence; Elephanta, like a transparent gem, reflected in the aqua-marine-coloured water.The music played louder, light flashed out on all sides, the god stood still, and bayadères performed their worship. With slow gestures, their hands first hollowed and held to the brow, then their arms flung out, they bowed before the idol with a snake-like, gliding motion, while the music played very softly and the lights burnt faintly. The nauchnees, in dark muslin drapery spangled with gold, bangles on their arms, their necks, and their ankles, and rings on their toes, swayed as they danced, and swung long, light garlands of flowers which hung about their necks. And there were flowers in their hair, in a bunch on each side of the head, above two gold plates from which hung strings of beads. The flying, impalpable gauze looked like a swirl of mist about their limbs.
The night was spent in travelling: an oppressive night of crushing heat, with leaden clouds on the very top of us; and next day, in the blazing sunlight, nothing seemed to have any colour—everything was white and hot against a blue-black sky that seemed low enough to rest on the earth. Wayfarers slept under every tree, and in the villages every place was shut, everything seemed dead. It was only where we changed horses that we saw anyone—people who disappeared again immediately under shelter from the sun.
In the middle of the station groups of women and children squatted on the flagstones, their little bundles about them of red and white rags, and copper pots looking like gold; a huddled heap of misery, in this enormous hall of palatial proportions, handsomely decorated with sculptured marble.On the stone ceiling of almost every temple four large women's faces and certain crouching[Pg 75] gnomes appear in fresh red paint. In the very dim twilight that comes in through the narrow windows hung with blue gauze, the idols are visible behind lattices: white Buddhas blazing with sparkling gems that hang on their wrists and ankles, or form a perfect breastplate; and every one, without exception, has an enormous glittering imitation diamond in his forehead.
The pile of the girl with marigold wreaths and the shroud stained crimson and purple flung her ashes to the winds, reduced to mere atoms of bone and light cinder, and the servants of the place drowned a few still glowing sticks in the river;[Pg 169] the family and friends slowly went up the yellow stone steps and disappeared through a gateway leading into the town.
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.From the broad steps on the shore other narrower flights lead to archways and porticoes, or zigzag up to the lanes that make a gap of distant blackness in the light-hued mass of palaces and embankments.
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Still the tonga; uphill and down, over the hilly country, with a horizon of dull, low mountains, and the horses worse and worse, impossible to start but by a storm of blows. Towards evening a particularly vicious pair ended by overturning us into a ditch full of liquid mud. The sais alone was completely immersed, and appealed loudly to Rama with shrieks of terror. Abibulla on his part, after making sure that the sahibs and baggage were all safe and sound, took off his shoes, spread his dhoti on the ground, and made the introductory salaams of thanksgiving to the Prophet, while the coolie driver returned thanks to Rama.We were off by break of day. Among hanging creepers, shrubs, and trees, temples, gilded by the rising sun, gleamed dimly through the rosy mist, and faded gradually behind a veil of white dust raised by the flocks coming down from Roza, or melted into the dazzling blaze of light over the distance.
The south-western side of the great rock of Gwalior is hewn into temples sheltering gigantic statues of Tirthankar; there are the usual bas-reliefs all over the walls, idols squatting under canopies and pagodas, slender columns supporting arches, standing out in contrast with the ochre-coloured stone. Other temples, vast halls as at Ellora—a vale of pagodas, "the happy valley"—have all disappeared under the picks of engineers, to make a dusty road to the new town of bungalows all adobe and straw thatch.Two days later the roofs were covered with tulips of sheeny white and red, as light as feathers swaying on their slender stems; and the crowd, all in bright colours, went about in muslins in the clean, dry streets. Only a few very pious persons still wore the garments stained at the festival.Another magnificent temple, with marble arcades wrought to filigree, curved in frilled arches, on spindle-like columns that soar to support the cupolas, as light as flower-stems. A gem of whiteness and sheen in the desert of ruins where yet stand three matchless marvels: the tower of Khoutab, the gate of Alandin, and the column of Dhava.详情
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