There, again, they all sit down in the garden. The same little packets of betel, only wrapped in gold leaf, are offered to the company, and bunches of chrysanthemum sprinkled with scent.One of these mausoleums served us for a bungalow. The distance was visible from the window openings, which were fringed with cuscus blinds[Pg 39] that would be pulled down at night: the spreading dark plain, broken by gleaming pools, and dotted with the lamps in the temples to Vishnu, of which the cones were visible in silhouette, cutting the clear horizon.The actors were exclusively men and boys, those who took female parts wore rusty wigs over their own long, black hair; these were plaited on each side of the face, and waxed behind to fall over the shoulders. The costumes of velvet and satin, heavily embroidered with gold and silver, were hideous.
He came into ours as if he were at home, and amused himself by worrying me. At first he made believe to throw my rings out of window, substituting others, I know not how, which I saw fall on the line and roll into the grass on the bank. My watch got into his hands and vanished; I found it in my friend T——'s pocket, and afterwards in a basket of provender closed at Bhawnagar, and which I unpacked with my own hands.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.
From the parapet of one of the bastions the Ganges may be seen in the distance, of a sickly turquoise-blue, shrouded in the haze of dust which hangs over everything and cuts off the horizon almost close in front of us, and the tributary Jumna, translucent and green. At the confluence of the rivers stands a native village of straw and bamboo huts, swept away every season by the rains. This is Triveni, containing 50,000 souls, which enjoys a great reputation for sanctity, and attracts almost as many pilgrims from every part of India as does Benares. The people come to wash away their sins in the Saravasti, the mystical river that comes down from heaven and mingles its waters at this spot with those of the sacred Ganges and the Jumna. The faithful who bathe at Triveni observe an additional ceremony and cut their hair; each hair, as it floats down stream in the sacred waters, effaces a sin, and obtains its forgiveness. In front of the barracks, a relic of past magnificence, there stands alone on a porphyry pedestal, in the middle of a broad plot[Pg 184] trampled by soldiers on parade, an Asoka column carved with inscriptions to the top, and decorated half-way up with a sort of capital.
A large building of red and white stone, with spacious arcades and a central dome, as vast as a cathedral, stands at the angle of two avenues—the[Pg 6] railway terminus; and a great market of iron and glass—Crawford Market. Here are mountains of fruit, greenery, and vegetables of every colour and every shade of lustre; and a flower garden divides the various market sheds, where little bronze coolies, in white, scarcely clad, sell oranges and limes.And from every stone, and in the rifts in the rocks, hung stalactites, like glittering icicles, and these too were of salt.At the entrance into one of the chapels is the trunk of an Akshai bar or b? tree, a kind of fig such as the Buddhists place in front of their sanctuaries. The tree is living in the subterranean[Pg 185] vault, and after thrusting its head through the heavy layer of stones forming the roof of the temple, it spreads its branches under the light of day. Endless absurd legends have grown up about the mystery of this tree, which is said to be no less than twenty centuries old; and my guide, who talks aloud in the presence of the idols he despises, being a Mohammedan, bows reverently to the tree and murmurs, "That is sacred; God has touched it."
A marble balustrade, of flowing design and astounding delicacy, exquisitely harmonious and artistic, encloses the white sarcophagus, which is inlaid with mindi and basilic flowers in costly agate, linked by inscriptions looking like lacings of narrow black braid. This balustrade alone, in the Taj, under the marble pile which forms the tomb of the empress, and on which 20,000 craftsmen laboured for twenty years, would, in its indescribable beauty of workmanship, have amply fulfilled Shah Jehan's vow.
Men were carrying mud in enormous turtle-shells that they used for baskets.
In the atmosphere floated a pale blue smoke, rising from a heap of weeds that some children were burning, a weird sort of incense, acrid and aromatic, fading against the too-blue sky.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.
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At the end of the garden are the bird sellers, their little cages packed full of parrots, minahs, and bulbuls; and tiny finches, scarcely larger than butterflies, hang on the boughs of ebony trees and daturas in bloom.
Beyond Siliguri, where we left the main line, a little toy railway, going very slowly, jostles the travellers across rice plantations and woods of giant trees, under whose shade tree-ferns expand on the banks of the streams. By the side of the water springs are hung prayers written on strips of rice-paper that flutter in the wind from the shrubs and bamboos, mingling with the blossoms of rhododendron and funkia, spots of bright colour showing against the forest of mighty cedars and sycamores and gloomy palms. Clinging to the highest branches, orchids like birds are to be seen, and from bush to bush hang bright green threads covered with white stars, tangled into hanks and hooked on to every thorn. The vegetation of banyans, ph?nix, and other tropical plants gradually becomes mixed with oak, box, and plane trees, and then disappears altogether as we get higher; and presently, as we pass through a belt of great dark firs, the shrubs, the mosses, and even the flowers are those of Europe. Higher up, the mountain side is mapped out into lines and squares, green and russet, looking from a distance[Pg 146] like ribbed velvet; these are the tea plantations. The horizon grows broader, spreading away and out of sight towards the vision-like mountains forming the outposts of the Himalayas; up to the very verge of the eternal snows they are cultivated in the same rib-like strips, all tea plantations; and amid the shrubs are the little factories where the precious leaves are dried, and villages of little homesteads lost among the greenery, or peeping through the opalescent haze, intensely blue under the pure, cold sky and crude sunshine. The natives here wear skins with the fur inside; the leather outside is patterned with red or blue cloth. Men and women alike go about in felt boots, which give them an unsteady and straddling gait.[Pg 205]详情
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