Beyond the temples is the merchants' quarter: a few very modest shops, the goods covered with dust; and in the middle of this bazaar, a cord stretched across cut off a part of the town where cholera was raging.
The last train gone, all round the station there was quite a camp of luckless natives lying on the ground, wrapped in white cotton, and sleeping under the stars, so as to be nearer to-morrow to the train[Pg 20] which, perhaps, might carry them away from the plague-stricken city.
A fortified wall encloses Lashkar, the residence of the Maharajah of Gwalior; the bridges, which form part of the enclosure crossing the river that flows through the estate, have thick bars filling up the arches.Then, from a bridge across the Ganges, for a moment we had a last glimpse of the sacred city—the gold-coloured umbrellas, the throng of bathers on the steps to the river—and then Abibulla gravely remarked, "If only India had three cities like Benares it would be impossible ever to leave it."
The palace of the Rajah of Nagpoor, with its two towers, overlooks the river from above a broad stairway. A balcony quite at the top is supported on a massive cornice lightly carved into acanthus leaves. The damp has subdued the red colour of the building, fading it especially at the base, and from a distance it might be fancied that a veil of thin gauze had been hung over the palace, and fastened beneath the carved parapet.
Outside the palace is a large garden, devoid of shade, with pools of water bowered in flowers and shrubs that shelter myriads of singing birds. At the end of the park is a tank full of crocodiles. A keeper called the brutes, and they came up facing us in a row, their jaws open to catch the food which the Rajah amuses himself by throwing to them.In a coach-house, through which we passed on our way to see the prince's favourite horses with the state carriages—quite commonplace and comfortable, and made at Palitana—was a chigram,[Pg 68] off which its silk cover was lifted; it was painted bright red and spangled with twinkling copper nails. This carriage, which is hermetically closed when the Ranee goes out in it, was lined with cloth-of-gold patterned with Gohel Sheri's initials within a horseshoe: a little hand-glass on one of the cushions, two boxes of chased silver, the curtains and hangings redolent of otto of roses.In one vast hall were ancient weapons, swords and pistols, enriched with precious stones; suits of armour damascened with gold, guns with silver stocks set with pearls, and a whole battery of field-pieces to be carried on camels' backs and spit out[Pg 237] tiny balls—enormously, absurdly long, still perched on their saddle-shaped carriages. And in a window bay two toy cannon made of gold and silver, with which Dhuleep Singh used to play as a child before he lost his realm.
A giant rock and natural fortress command the plain, towering above the garden-land. Two roads, hewn in the stone, lead by easy ascents to the top. All along the rock wall bas-reliefs are carved, warriors riding on elephants, and Kalis in graceful attitudes. There are openings to the green depths of reservoirs, small temples, arcades sheltering idols bowered in fresh flowers. Arches in the Ja?n style of architecture span the road, and at the summit, beyond the inevitable drawbridge, stands Mandir, the palace of King Pal, a dazzling structure of yellow stone, looking as if it had grown on the hill-rock that it crowns with beauty. Towers carrying domed lanterns spring skywards above the massive walls. The decoration is playfully light, carvings alternating with inlaid tiles; and all round the lordly and solemn edifice wheels a procession of blue ducks on a yellow ground in earthenware.
The manager also traded in clocks, and a selection was displayed for sale at one end of the stalls.
At mess there were two newly-arrived officers, come from Tochi; they had been attacked on the road in the night by sixteen men. The driver and the horse were killed; they themselves had not a scratch, and they told the story very much at their ease, relating the comic features of the incident—how a bullet had lodged itself in a pot hanging to a mule's pack, and the frightened creature had kicked "like mad."Birds, green, red, black, and gold-colour, fluttered gaily among the palms, the bamboos as tall as pine trees, the baobabs and mango trees; butterflies with rigid tails and large wings beating in uncertain flight, floated over the bright verdure flecked with sunshine. Round one pagoda, towering over a wretched village that lay huddled in the shade of its consecrated walls, a proud procession of stone bulls stood out against the sky, visible at a great distance in clear outline through the heated, quivering air.
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.
Inside, a subdued light, rosy and golden, comes in through the myriad interstices, casting a glow of colour on the pierced marble screens which enclose the tomb of Shah Alam, Sultan of Gujerat. The tomb itself, hung with a red cloth under a canopy on posts inlaid with mother-of-pearl, is dimly seen in the twilight, scarcely touched here and there with the pearly gleam and lights reflected from ostrich eggs and glass balls—toys dedicated by the faithful to the hero who lies there in his last sleep. Yet further away, under the trees, is another tomb, almost the same, but less ornamented, where the sultan's wives repose.In the native town, on a tank in front of a temple, a raft was moving very slowly. Under a dazzlingly gorgeous canopy stood an idol of gold, covered with garlands and jewels. A dense crowd, white and fragrant with jasmine and sandal-wood, stood about the sacred pool and on the steps, and bowed reverently as the divinity floated past.详情
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