And once more in a barge on the Ganges. The atmosphere seemed faintly iridescent, like mother-of-pearl, the silence serenely lulled by the distant sound of a flute. The palaces and temples, reflected in the still water, looked in the distance like forts crowned with turrets of gold, and their little windows like loopholes. The broad stairs of the quays, where the priests' umbrellas glitter, assumed a spacious, unfamiliar dignity, the red colour shading paler towards the bottom, where it was washed off by the lapping Ganges, looking as though a fairy hanging of gauze were spread under the wavelets in honour of the Apsaras and the divinities of the river.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.
After passing through the town, all flowery with green gardens, at the end of a long, white, dusty road, where legions of beggars followed me, calling me "Papa" and "Bab," that is to say father and mother, I arrived at the residence of the Gaekwar, the Rajah of Baroda. At the gate we met the palace sentries released from duty. Eight men in long blue pugarees and an uniform of yellow khakee (a cotton stuff), like that of the sepoys, with their guns on their shoulders, looked as if they were taking a walk, marching in very fantastic step. One of them had a bird hopping about in a little round cage that hung from the stock of his gun. Three camels brought up the rear, loaded with bedding in blue cotton bundles.In the evening, at the railway terminus, there was a crush of coolies packed close up to the ticket-office of the third-class, and holding out their money. Never tired of trying to push to the front, they all shouted at once, raising their hands high in the air and holding in their finger-tips one or two shining silver rupees. Those who at last succeeded in getting tickets slipped out of the crowd, and sang and danced; others who had found it absolutely impossible to get anything retired into corners, and groaned aloud.On the outside, all round the lower part of the monument, carved borders frame flowers of pale mosaic in the walls; the ornament is in such faint relief that at a short distance it is invisible, and the Taj is seen only in the perfect elegance of its[Pg 206] proportions. The mausoleum is built on a broad terrace of white marble at a height of 270 feet, overhanging the Jumna; and the impressive, harmonious outline commands the plain from afar.
As we returned, vistas of unreal definiteness showed us endless valleys lost in the distance, and vast spaces cultivated in green and russet stripes—the tea plantations that spread below the now vanished splendour of the snows. At a turning in the road stands a cross, erected there in memory of an epidemic of suicide that broke out among the soldiers of the English fort—a small structure of stone with an iron roof that faces the heaven-scaling range.
The barge was screened by a crimson awning and rowed by four men in red. The water, a broad sheet of silky sheen, seemed motionless, and in the distance, under a soft, powdery haze, Benares showed like a mass of dim gold, the two slender minarets of Aurungzeeb's mosque towering above the town.
"Here lies Jehangir, Conqueror of the World."In a quiet, darkened corner a girl was lying on a bier, a girl of the Brahmin caste, all in white, veiled by a transparent saree. By her side an old man, a bearded patriarch, seemed to wait for someone. Then another Brahmin came out from a little house, carrying the fire wherewith to light the funeral pile in a little pot hanging from his girdle. The two old men took up their burthen—so light that even to them, tottering already towards their end, it seemed to be no weight. They made their way cautiously, so as not to tread on the [Pg 305]sleeping figures strewn about the street, going very slowly in devious zigzags. A dog woke and howled at them; and then, as silence fell, I could hear again the dying sounds of harmoniums and tom-toms, and the clatter of the games.
Women porters came on foot, hidden under bales, nets full of crocks, faggots, and trusses of hay.[Pg 248] Children, and women in sarees—fine ladies—had nothing to carry; some were wrapped in yashmacks, shrouding them from head to foot with a little veil of transparent muslin over their eyes.Flocks of almost tame partridges and wood-pigeons occupying the road did not fly till they were almost under the horses' feet, and all the way as we went, we saw, scampering from tree to tree, the scared little squirrels, grey with black stripes and straight-up bushy tails.
From Kusshalgar we were travelling in a tonga once more. The landscape was all of steep hills without vegetation; stretches of sand, hills of clay—lilac or rosy brick-earth scorched in the sun, green or brown earth where there had been recent landslips, baked by the summer heat to every shade of red. There was one hill higher than the rest, of a velvety rose-colour with very gentle undulations, and then a river-bed full of snowy-white sand, which was salt.
In the town is the tomb of the Ranee Sipri: walls of lace, balconies of brocade carved in stone. Opposite this mausoleum are an open mosque and two minarets as slim as sapling pines, wrought with arabesques as fine as carved ivory. There are lamps carved in relief on the walls, each hung by chains under-cut in stone with Chinese elaboration; and this lamp is everywhere repeated—on the mosque, on the tomb, and on the base of the minarets. The building, which has the faintly russet tone of old parchment, when seen in the glow of sunset takes a hue of ruby gold that is almost diaphanous, as filmy as embroidered gauze.The colouring in all these rock-temples is a softened harmony of yellow stone, hardly darkened in some places, forming a setting for the gaudier tones of the idols, all sparkling with gold and showy frippery.详情
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