Spread before us in the iridescent atmosphere, the view extends over Palitana under its blue veil of light smoke, over the verdant plain chequered with plots of brown earth, and the winding ribbon of the Satrunji, a river as sacred to the Ja?ns as the Ganges is to the Brahmins. And far away, vague in the distance, a light shimmering more brightly where all is bright, lies the luminous breadth of the sea.
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.
When we left he was in a coppersmith's shop, singing with wide open, staring eyes; his face had a strangely sad expression while he sang a gay, jigging tune to foolish words that made the people laugh.
Colaba is the port; the docks, with tall houses between the enormous warehouses. The silence is appalling; windows, doors—all are closed. Only a few coolies hurry by in the white sunshine, with[Pg 13] handkerchiefs over their mouths to protect them against the infection in these streets, whence came the plague which stole at first through the suburbs, nearer and nearer to the heart of the city, driving the maddened populace before it.
Round a temple, with iron roofs ending in copper balls at the top, a crowd was watching, some seated on steps cut in the soil and some squatting on the hillside, here almost perpendicular. By the temple long white streamers, fluttering from bamboo poles, were covered with painted prayers. A Lama was enthroned in an armchair under an arbour of pine-branches; he wore a yellow robe, and above a face like a cat's he had a sort of brass hat surmounted by a coral knob; his little beard was quite white, and he turned his praying machine with a steady, dull movement, perfectly stolid. Two women stood by his side fanning him, dressed in close-fitting aprons of dark cloth bordered with a brighter shade, and opening over pale pink satin petticoats, on their heads crowns of flowers of every hue.
A smart affair altogether is this carriage! two very high wheels, no springs, a tiny cotton awning[Pg 269] supported on four sticks lacquered red, and sheltering the seat which has three ropes by way of a back to it. Portmanteaus and nosebags are hung all round, and even a kettle swings from the near shaft, adding the clatter of its cymbal to the Indian symphony of creaking wheels, the cracking whips, the driver's cries of "Cello, cello," and Abibulla's repeated "Djaldi," all intended to hurry the horse's pace.The draught-oxen all had their horns painted[Pg 134] in gaudy colours, generally one horn blue and the other green.
"Ah, your Kali, then?"There is a never-ending traffic of elephants, baggage-camels, and vehicles with shouting drivers; and on the ground are spread heaps of fruit, baskets for sale, glass baubles and weapons. In all the pink and white throng not an European dress is to be seen, not even one of the vile compounds adopted by the baboo, a striped flannel jacket over the dhoti. Men and women alike wear necklaces of flowers, or flowers in their hair; the children are gaudy with trinkets and glass beads.
In the middle of the town, which consists entirely of small houses carved from top to bottom, are two massive towers, joined by the remains of the thick wall that formerly enclosed the immensity of the sultan's palace and its outbuildings. The towers now serve as prisons; the stone lattice which screened the private rooms has been replaced by iron bars, the last traces of ornamentation covered up with fresh plaster. Behind the wall the ancient garden, kept green of old by legions of gardeners, is a mere desert of dust; a mausoleum in the middle, transformed into a court of justice, displays all the perfection of Indian art in two pointed windows carved and pierced in imitation of twining and interlaced branches; marvels of delicacy and grace left intact through centuries of vandalism.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.Then a Parsee woman stopped my servant to ask him if I were a doctor.
Immediately on entering we were in the maze of vaults, sanctuaries, great halls and arcades, where stall-keepers sell their goods, priests keep school, and flower-sellers wander. Statues, repeated in long rows, lead up to temples all alike, of a bewildering uniformity of architecture and identical decoration.
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.[Pg 211]详情
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