We saw the Jasmine tower from a corner of the garden in the glow of sunset. With its gilt cupola blazing in the low beams, its amber-hued walls as transparent as melting wax, and its pierced screen-work, it looked so diaphanous, so fragile, that it might be carried away by the evening breeze. And beyond the pavilion, above the ramparts carved with huge elephants, lies the old Hindoo palace, deserted by Jehangir for his house of pale marbles—an endless palace, a labyrinth of red buildings loaded to the top with an agglomeration of ornament supporting flat roofs. And pagodas that have lost their doors, a work of destruction begun by Aurungzeeb. One court is still intact, overhung by seventy-two balconies, where the zenana could look on at the dancing of bayadères. Perfect, too, is the queen's private apartment, with two walls between which an army kept guard by day and by night.
The large town lies along the bank of the Jellum; the houses are of wood, grey and satiny with old age, and almost all tottering to their end on the strand unprotected by an embankment. The windows are latticed with bent wood in fanciful designs. Large houses built of brick have thrown out covered balconies and verandahs, supported on tall piles in the water, and on brackets carved to represent monsters or flowering creepers.
In the city, which is swept and cleaned till it is hard to believe oneself among Hindoos, there are six hundred tanks, for the most part stagnant, in which the natives wash themselves and their clothes. Round others, which are gradually being appropriated to the use of the residents, and all about the houses, bamboos are planted and "flame of the forest," covered with enormous red star-shaped blossoms as solid as fruit, and trees curtained with creepers of fragile growth—one long garden extending almost to the bazaar.We could see the procession coming straight up a hollow ravine from the valley to the Dokma, a path that none but Parsees are allowed to tread;[Pg 31] eight bearers in white, the bier also covered with white, and, far behind, the relations and friends of the dead, all robed in white, two and two, each pair holding between them a square of white stuff in sign of union. They came very slowly up the steps of the steep ascent with a measured chant, in muffled tones, on long-drawn vowels. And from the surrounding trees, from far and near, with a great flutter of wings, the vultures flew to meet the corpse, darkening the sky for a moment.
"Export business!" says Abibulla.Presently all the company is assembled, robed in long white tunics. The bridegroom, likewise dressed in white, has a chain of flowers round his neck; orchids, lilies, and jasmine, falling to his waist. In one hand he holds a bouquet of white flowers, in the other a coco-nut. A shawl, neatly folded, hangs over one arm.In the silence of a moonless night nine o'clock struck from the great tower of the Law Courts—a pretty set of chimes, reminding me of Bruges or Antwerp; and when the peal had died away a bugle in the sepoys' quarters took up the strain of the chimes, only infinitely softer, saddened to a minor key and to a slower measure; while in the distance[Pg 32] an English trumpet, loud and clear, sounded the recall in counterpart.
The song of birds in the mitigated atmosphere of the dying day came in from outside, for a moment almost drowning the pleader's weariful tones as he poured forth his statement, emphasized by sweeping gestures.
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.Back to the station, where we lived in our carriage, far more comfortable than a hotel [Pg 58]bedroom. T., my travelling companion in Gujerat, received a visit from a gentleman badly dressed in the European fashion, and followed by black servants outrageously bedizened. When this personage departed in his landau, rather shabby but drawn by magnificent horses, T. was obliged to tell me he was a rajah—the Rajah of Surat—quite a genuine rajah, and even very rich, which is somewhat rare in these days among Indian princes.In a very quiet little alley, fragrant of sandal-wood, men may be seen in open stalls printing patterns with primitive wooden stamps, always the same, on very thin silk, which shrinks into a twisted cord reduced to nothing when it is stretched out to dry.
AHMEDABADAt the end of a passage that runs round the temple an old woman who had just been bathing was changing her wet saree for a dry one, and appeared quite stripped, dropping her garments, and careful only not to let her face be seen.
In an alley of the bazaar girls were lounging in hammocks hung to nails outside the windows, smoking and spitting down on the world below.Then, on the right, endless pools and rivers; naked men were ploughing in the liquid mud and splashed all over by the oxen drawing a light wooden plough, their bronze bodies caked ere long with a carapace of dry, grey mud.
A poor sick ape, beaten by all the others, sat crying with hunger at the top of a parapet. I called her for a long time, showing her some maize on a tray. At last she made up her mind to come down. With the utmost caution she reached me, and then, after two or three feints, she struck the platter with her closed fist, sending all the grain flying. Utterly scared, she fled, followed to her perch by a whole party of miscreants roused by the gong-like blow on the tray. Others stole into the temple to snatch the flowers while the attendant priest had his back turned; and when I left they were all busily engaged in rolling an earthenware bowl about, ending its career in a smash. In front of the temple the crimson dust round a stake shows the spot where every day the blood is shed of a goat sacrificed to the Divinity.详情
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