As we went down to the shore a whole swarm of little dark boys wanted to sell scarabs, rattans, birds' nests shaped like pockets, and dream-flowers, gathered from the creepers on the temples; large almond-scented lilies, and hanging bunches of the ebony-tree flowers, so fragile in texture and already faded in the sun, but exhaling till evening a faint perfume of verbena and lemon.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.In the evening I was to dine with the officers of the Artillery mess, and in going I lost my way. Suddenly before me stood the amber palace, with blue shadows, moon-coloured, the carvings like opal in changing hues of precious gems. Half hidden by a growth of jasmine that loaded the air with fragrance, up rose the cupolas of the little mosque, like pearls reflecting the sparkle of the stars.
Inside the mausoleum numberless lustres hang from the roof, and fine large standing lamps with crystal pendants burn round two tombs covered with antique hangings and wreathed with jasmine; beneath these lie the two last kings of Oudh. Small models of two famous mosques, one in gold and one in silver, are placed on the tombs, round which a whole regiment of obsequious moollahs and beggars mount guard. On the walls childish paintings, representing scenes of the Anglo-Indian conflict, alternate with mirrors in gilt frames, and silk standards exquisitely faded, embroidered with dim gold and silver, and surmounted by tridents.Steaming over the transparent and intensely blue sea, we presently perceived an opaquer streak of sandy matter, getting denser, and becoming at last liquid, extremely liquid, yellow mud—the waters of the Ganges, long before land was in sight. Between the low banks, with their inconspicuous vegetation, a desolate shore, we could have fancied we were still at sea when we had already reached the mouth of the sacred stream. Some Hindoos on board drew up the water in pails to wash their hands and face, fixing their eyes in adoration on the thick sandy fluid. Enormous steamships crossed our bows, and in the distance, like a flock of Ibis, skimmed a whole flotilla of boats with broad red sails, through which the low sun was shining. The banks closed in, the landscape grew more definite—tall palm trees, plots of garden ground, factory chimneys, a high tower. On the water was an inextricable confusion of canoes and row-boats flitting among the steamships and sailing barks moored all along the town that stretched away out of sight.
There was always the same torture of the horses, too small and too lean for their work, galloping the five miles of the stage and then stopping dead on the spot, incapable of moving, hustled by the fresh team that rushed off on its wild career.In the town a zebu cow was trotting along with an air of business. To avoid a vehicle she jumped on to the footpath and went her way along the flagstones, and every Hindoo that she passed patted her buttock and then touched his forehead with the same hand with great reverence.
CALCUTTAOne after another I made my salaam to Siva, seated on a peacock; to Ganesa, looking calm and knowing; to Parvati, riding a bull; to Siva again, this time pinning a dragon to the ground with a fork, a writhing reptile with gaping jaws and outspread wings; the same god again, with a child in[Pg 121] his arms; and again, holding his leg like a musket up against his shoulder with one of his four hands, the other three lifting a bull, a sceptre, and a trophy of weapons above his head.At a goldsmith's I stood to watch a native making a silver box. He had no pattern, no design drawn on the surface, but he chased it with incredible confidence, and all his tools were shapeless iron pegs that looked like nails: first a circle round the box, and then letters and flowers outlined with a firm touch that bit into the metal. He had no bench, no shop—nothing. He sat at work on the threshold of his stall, would pause to chat or to look at something, and then, still talking, went on with his business, finishing it quite simply at once without any retouching.
Tazulmulook finds Bakaoli asleep in her garden, and after plucking the miraculous flower he exchanges the ring for that of the princess and departs. Bakaoli awakes, and discovering the theft of the flower and of her ring is much disturbed, and gives orders that the thief is to be caught.
AMRITSURIn the middle of the station groups of women and children squatted on the flagstones, their little bundles about them of red and white rags, and copper pots looking like gold; a huddled heap of misery, in this enormous hall of palatial proportions, handsomely decorated with sculptured marble.A prodigious palace has left the skeleton of its walls pierced with large windows, and in the blackened stone, almost at the top of the building, a balcony with a canopy over it, resting on fragile columns, is still uninjured; of a pale yellow, like lemon-tree wood, it looks as if it had come into existence only yesterday, a flower risen from the death of the ruins.
The baboo who has lost caste and been half-civilized in the Anglo-Indian colleges, is always the middleman between the Government and the poor; and he, barefaced and with no pretence of concealment, took twenty per cent. of the wages he was supposed to pay the labourers. And there were none but baboos to superintend the poorhouses and the famine-camps. It is said that during the previous famine some made fortunes of six to eight lacs of rupees (the lac is ￡10,000).
A portico, supporting two stories of an unfinished building, forms the principal entrance; the pilasters are crowned with massive capitals scarcely rough-hewn in the stone. This porch alone gives an impression of repose, from its simplicity of line amid the medley of statues and incongruous ornaments loaded with strong colours, which, diminishing by degrees, are piled up to form each temple, ending almost in a spire against the sky. Vishnu, reclining on the undulating rings[Pg 112] of Ananta Sesha the god of serpents, whose name is the Infinite; idols with human faces riding on bulls, and elephants, and prancing horses; terrible Kalis with two fists rammed into their mouth, and six other arms spread like open wings; Ganesa, the elephant-headed god, ponderously squatting, his hands folded over his stomach; Garudha, the bird-headed god, ridden by Vishnu when he wanders through space; Hanuman, the monkey god, perched on a pedestal in an acrobatic attitude, the face painted bright green; gods of every size and every colour mixed up in a giddy whirl, round and round to the very summit of the structure.Beyond the temples is the merchants' quarter: a few very modest shops, the goods covered with dust; and in the middle of this bazaar, a cord stretched across cut off a part of the town where cholera was raging.
Finally, in a third mosque, lies Shah Alam's brother. On the stone that covers him a sheet of lead bears the print of two gigantic feet, intended to perpetuate to all ages the remembrance of his enormous height.
"But rice is very good, and it is very dear, and some of them have been ill for three weeks."详情
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