Very early in the morning, on emerging from[Pg 164] the gloom of the narrow streets, there is a sudden blaze of glory, the rising sun, purple and gold, reflected in the Ganges, the waters throbbing like fiery opal. The people hurry to the shore carrying trays piled high with flowers and offerings. The women carry little jars in their hands looking like burnished gold, and containing a few drops of scented oil to anoint themselves withal after bathing. These jars are covered with roses and jasmine blossoms, to be sent floating down the sacred stream as an offering to the gods. The steps are crowded already with the faithful, who have waited till Surya the day-star should rise, before going through their devotional ablutions. With a great hubbub of shouts and cries, and laughter and squabbling, this throng pushes and hustles, while those unimaginable priests sit stolidly under their wicker sunshades, mumbling their prayers, and accepting alms and gifts. All along the river there are people bathing on the steps which go down under the water, the men naked all but a loin-cloth, the women wearing long veils which they change very cleverly for dry ones after their bath, and then wait in the sun till their garments are dry enough to carry away.Beyond this point among the mountains the road seemed to vanish, to lead nowhere, lost in pale red among the red cliffs, as if it stopped at the foot of the rocky wall.The actors spoke their parts like lessons, with a gesture only now and then, and invariably wrong;[Pg 229] and they all spoke and sang through the nose in an irritating voice pitched too high.
In a little alley of booths was a shop with no front show, and behind it a sort of studio full of carvers and artists working on sandal-wood boxes, ivory fans as fine as gauze, and wooden lattices with elaborate flower patterns, used to screen the zenana windows. And in little recesses workmen dressed in white, with small copper pots about them in which they had brought rice for their meals, were chasing and embossing metal with little taps of their primitive tools, never making a mistake, working as their fancy might suggest, without any pattern, and quite at home in the maze of interlacing ornament.The heavy door, plated with iron, was shut. Hubbub, shouts, thumps on the wood with gun-stocks—nothing stirred, no reply.
The Maharajah was out, at his devotions; I could see everything. Up a staircase with a gilt paper and gilt banisters, leading to rooms where crystal lustres hang like tears above Oxford Street furniture, and lovely chromo-lithographs in massive and glittering frames.
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.
One mosque alone, a marvel of workmanship, its stones pierced with a thousand patterns, remains intact amid the Indian dwellings built, all round the sacred spot, of the remains of ancient magnificence, of which, ere long, nothing will be left standing.
A wide avenue paved with marble, rising in broad steps, crosses the hilltop between temples on either side, intersecting narrower alleys, likewise bordered with pagodas crowded together in the inextricable mazes of a labyrinth, whence our guides were frequently required to lead us out—temples crowned with a cupola or a cone, a bristling throng of little extinguishers all covered with carving. The same subjects and patterns are repeated to infinity, even in the darkest nooks: figures of gods, of gigantic beasts rearing or galloping, of monstrous horses and elephants, of tiny birds sheltering the slumbers of the gods under their outspread wings.Adinath, a Ja?n temple, is roofed with huge blocks of stone. The airy architecture is a medley of balconies, of pierced panels, of arcades in squares, in lozenges, in octagons; the two stories, one above the other, are on totally different plans, and along every wall, on every column and every balustrade runs a fatiguing superfluity of ornament, figures and arabesques repeated on the stone, of which not an inch is left plain.
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.Whenever there was a pause in the dance the performers, to amuse themselves, sang a scale, always the same, beginning on a very high note, or sometimes taken up from the lowest bass pitch, and marking time with their stamping feet.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.
The highest peak of the chain that overlooks Bunnoo looks like the ruins of a fortress. A legend, which must have had its origin at some time when a man-eating tiger lurked in the neighbourhood, relates that it is the lair of a ferocious ogre always on the look-out for prey. Nothing on earth would induce any of the natives to go up the mountain; nay, for a long distance even the plain is not too safe.On the remains of the pyre was placed a corpse of spectral emaciation, which had been lying at the top of the bank since the day before for its turn, as a pauper, to be cremated at the cost of the municipality. The head alone was wrapped in a wretched rag, and creeping flies formed a cuirass on the dark skin, already torn in places by the kites. Petroleum was poured over the hapless body, and it flared up with the wood in a livid pink and green blaze, sending up a cloud of acrid red smoke.
In the distance, across the plain, herds of deer were feeding, and hardly looked up as the train went by.详情
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