The old woman's bones and ashes were cast into the Ganges, her husband still vacantly looking on, as all that was left of his life's companion floated for a few moments, and then was swallowed up in an eddy.A kind of grey snipe, as they rose to fly, spread white wings which made them look like storks or gulls, and then, dropping suddenly, became dull specks again, scarcely distinguishable on the margin of the tank. Ibis, on the watch, with pretty, deliberate, cautious movements, stood on one leg,[Pg 105] their bodies reflected in the mirror on which lay the lotus and the broad, frilled leaves of the water-lily, and a sort of bind-weed hanging from the edge in festoons of small, arrow-shaped leaves, with a crowd of tiny pink starry flowers that looked as if they were embroidered on the water.
In the afternoon, while it was still broad daylight and very bright outside, it was already dusk under the arches of the temple, and bats were flitting about.
With day came the grip of fire, the overwhelming[Pg 302] mastery of the heat. The sunshine pierced through every crack in the shutters and blinds, intolerably vivid. In feverish exhaustion, helpless to withstand the glow and light, we could but lie under the waving punkah and await the blessed return of night.PESHAWURPast the buildings, and palaces with gardens enclosed behind pierced stonework, and then across fresh green fields full of flowers, under the shade of banyans and palm trees, we reached the temple of the monkeys. This temple, dedicated to the fierce and bloodthirsty goddess Durga, is painted all over of a vivid red colour, blazing in the sunshine with intolerable brightness. Inside the sanctuary a black image of the goddess may be seen, mounted on her lion, and flowers are arranged about her in radiating lines mingled with gold thread, and producing very much the effect of a theatrical sun. In the [Pg 162]forecourt, on the carvings and the roof of the temple monkeys swarm, rushing after each other, fighting for the grains of maize that are thrown to them, and tormenting the wretched mangy dogs that seek refuge in the temple precincts, where they, too, are kept alive by the faithful.
As we returned the wind had fallen, and the men rowed. The moon rose pale gold, and in the distance, in the violet haze, the lights of Bombay mingled with the stars. The boatmen's[Pg 23] chant was very vague, a rocking measure on ascending intervals.
A Ja?n temple. A confusion of ornament, carved pillars, capitals far too heavy, with a medley of animals, gods and flowers, under a roof all graven and embossed. In the sanctuary, where the walls are riddled with carving, is an enormous Buddha of black marble decked out with emeralds, gold beads and rare pearls, hanging in necklaces down to his waist. A large diamond blazes in his forehead above crystal eyes, terrifically bright. Every evening all this jewellery—the gift of Hati Singh, a wealthy Ja?n merchant who built the temple—is packed away into a strong-box, which we were shown in the cellar.
First went six armed regulars, then a party on horseback, for the most part Persians, one of whom was carrying in his arms an enormous sheaf of roses, which hid him completely and drooped over the saddle.Near the sepoys' tents long lines of mules picketed by their feet stood by the guns; and further on baggage-camels, lying down, were hardly distinguishable from the russet grass and the scorched ochre sand.
Instead of the usual wreath of flowers for my neck the Rajah gave me a necklace of silver threads, to which hung a little bag of purple and green silk, closely embroidered, and looking like a scent-sachet, or a bag to hold some precious amulet.Legends have gathered round the Taj Mahal as about every old building in India, and this one seems to me not impossible in its barbarity.
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In the circular marble crypt there is a large cracked bell, inscribed "Lieutenant-Colonel Martin, 1788," also a bust of the corporal, and, in an adjoining cell, the tomb of Colonel Martin, who,[Pg 187] having left his native town of Lyons for Pondicherry, after having painfully worked his way up to the grade of corporal in the French king's army, departed from thence and travelled to Oudh. There as a favourite of the Moslem king's and generalissimo of his troops, he amassed a large fortune, and spent it in building the palaces and colleges which perpetuate his name in several towns in India. He was an eccentric adventurer, whom some now remember here, and whose name pronounced in the Indian fashion, with a broad accent on the a, suggests an almost ironical meaning in conjunction with the idea of a college.
All round the sanctuary, in niches under a square cloister, are three hundred and fifty alabaster Buddhas, all alike, with the same jewel in their forehead, and on their shoulders and round their bodies[Pg 61] gold bands set with imitation gems and cut glass. An old woman, who had come thither at daybreak, had prayed to each of these Buddhas; to each she had offered up the same brief petition, she had struck the three bells on her way, and she was now in the sanctuary, calling out a prayer while beating a gong that hangs from the arch. Meanwhile other worshippers were murmuring their invocations prostrate before the jewelled Buddha.In the evening, in the open street, we came upon a circle of bystanders all beating time, while in the midst four little girls were dancing, wearing the sarong, but naked to the waist. They leaned very much over to the right, resting the right elbow on the groin, clapping the right hand with the left, and throwing back the left leg. All four did the same, round and round, and this went on again and again without a pause, under the pale light of the stars filtering through an enormous banyan tree. Occasionally a woman among the crowd would give a slow, long-drawn cry, and the dancers answered in very short notes, piercingly shrill.By three in the morning we had started on our way. At the very first streak of day, in front of us, on the road, was a snow-leopard, a graceful supple beast, with a sort of overcoat above its grey fur spotted with black, of very long, white hairs. It stood motionless, watching some prey, and it was not till we were close that it sprang from the road with two bounds, and then disappeared behind a rock with an elastic, indolent swing.详情
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