In front of a statue of Kali with a hundred arms, surrounded by rough votive offerings carved in wood, most of them representing legs, a man was pouring out rice, and a whole flight of grey leilas—birds like magpies—almost settled on his hands: birds of the temple, so familiar that one even allowed me to catch it, and did not fly away at once when I set it at liberty. There are rows of black Buddhas, white Buddhas, Sivas painted red—terrible—straddling in fighting attitudes; pilgrims without end bow and pray in front of each idol.When the dead are to be honoured in this land each true believer lays a pebble as homage on the tomb, and the dead man's repute is estimated by the size of the pile of stones that covers him.
Another fakir, a young man, had come to sit at the elder's feet, and when I had finished my business the "holy man" began to knead his disciple's muscles, wringing and disjointing his arms and dislocating his left shoulder; and, as if in mockery of my distressed expression, he bent the lad's back inwards till his face was between his heels, and left him for a long minute in that torturing position.At the end of the court, over which enormous bread-fruit trees cast a cool shade, above some steps and a marble terrace where some musicians were performing, stands the holy spot which we dared not go near. In the dim light we could see a square object, red embroidered in gold—the couch of Ram-Roy—and hanging to the wall a silver curtain. All this, though perhaps it is but tinsel, looked at a distance and in the shadow like brocade and magnificent jewels. Round the main building there are four kiosks dedicated to the Guru's four wives.
In the side streets the natives lay sleeping on the bare earth in the coolness of night. On every house were the spots of red paint that told how many of the inhabitants had died of the plague;[Pg 304] and the smaller the house the closer were the dabs of paint, almost framing the door with a chain of red spots.In another hut was a woman, brought hither yesterday with her husband, who had died that morning. She had an exquisite, long, pale face and blue-black hair. On her arms were many[Pg 35] bangles, and gold earrings glittered in her ears. For a moment she opened her large gazelle-like eyes, and then with a very sad little sigh turned to the wall, making her trinkets rattle. She was still dressed in her blue choli. A striped coverlet had been thrown over her; by her bed she had a whole set of burnished copper pans and canisters. Charmingly pretty, and not yet exhausted by the disease, which only declared itself yesterday, she was sleeping quietly, more like a being in a storybook than a plague-stricken creature, who must infallibly die on the morrow under the incapable treatment of the Hindoo "bone-setter."In the middle of a large garden outside the town was the visitors' bungalow, the divan, where the prince's prime minister received us, and made us welcome on behalf of his master. Hardly were we seated when in came the Rajah, driving two wonderful horses drawing a phaeton. Dressed in a long black coat over very narrow trousers of white muslin, Gohel Sheri Man Sinjhi wore a turban, slightly tilted from the left side, and made of hundreds of fine pale green cords rolled round[Pg 65] and round. The Prince of Morvi, and another of the Rajah's cousins, followed in perfectly appointed carriages, drawn by thoroughbreds. Last of all, carried by an attendant from her landau to the large reception-room where we sat gravely in a circle, came a little princess of seven years old, the Rajah's daughter. Enormous black eyes with dark blue lights, her tawny skin a foil to her jewels, and the gold and silver embroidery of a little violet velvet coat open over a long tunic of green silk, trousers of pink satin, and yellow leather slippers. A plum-coloured cap, worked with gold trefoils, was set very straight on her black hair; she wore, in her ears, slender rings of gold filigree, and had a nose-stud of a fine pearl set in gold. She stood between her father's knees, squeezing close up to him with downcast eyes, never daring to stir but when we seemed to be paying no heed to her.
"The mother of Christ."On entering this portal, lo, a miraculous vision! At the end of an avenue of dark cypress trees stands the tomb of Mumtaj-Mahal, a dream in marble, its whiteness, crowned by five cupolas that might be pearls, mirrored in a pool edged with pink stone and borders of flowers.
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.A large open niche, supported on massive columns and enclosed by a carved parapet, built by some king with a long, high-sounding name, looks as if it were made of gold; the stone is yellow and flooded with sunshine, which, where the hard material is not too thick, shines through and makes it seem transparent, with the peculiar vibrant glow of molten metal. The shadows, blue by contrast, are as soft as velvet; twinkling sparks are lighted up in the angles of the architrave, by the reflected rays, like stars in the stone itself.
A man by the roadside was mixing mud with[Pg 265] chopped straw; then when his mortar was of the right consistency he began to build the walls of his house between the four corner posts, with no tools but his hands. A woman and child helped him, patting the concrete with their hands until it began to look almost smooth.One boy, who being very tall looked even more emaciated than the rest, dragged an enormous leg swollen with elephantiasis, which had not diminished with the reduction of the rest of his body.
Above the road lie dark cliffs; a rose-coloured waterfall of melted snow tumbled mixing with the clay—pink with lilac depths, and the foam iridescent in the sunbeams. The ruins of a large temple of green stone carved with myriads of fine lines stood in solitude at the edge of a wood, and the background was the mountain-range, the Himalayas, lost in the sky and bathed in blue light. Only a portico remains standing—a massive, enduring frame for the infinite distance of snow-capped giants. The stones have lost their hue; they are darkly streaked by the rains and a growth of grey and purple mosses, and russet or white lichens have eaten into the surface.
A very solid structure, with walls like a fortress, contains the treasury of the sacred mount. Five guards in turn came to open as many padlocks, and at last the ponderous door turned slowly on its hinges. A car, an elephant, and a vehicle to which are harnessed two prancing horses, are all brought out to convey the idols when they go forth in a[Pg 81] procession. The animals are chased with almost artistic skill. The harness, starry with precious stones, all takes to pieces.
Then an elder of the family deliberately lights the first fire—a lamp hanging in the vestibule; and as soon as they see the flame the High Dastour and all those present bow in adoration with clasped hands. The bridegroom and the priest go into the house and have their hands and faces washed; then, preceded by the band and followed by all the guests, they proceed to the home of the bride.Here again the cars of the gods were neglected in the open air, and one of them, older than the rest, was fast being transfigured into a pyramid of shrubs and flowers.
A tall wide gate beyond the bridge opens into the ferocious fortress of Hyderabad.详情
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