By the side of the Manumenka stand two stel?, on which two carved figures, represented as surrounded by flames, preserve the memory of the time when the funeral pyre consumed the living wife with the dead husband.I rode to Tiger Hill. Overhead hung a dense mist, like a roof of shadow, perfectly still, wrapping us in damp and frightfully cold vapour. After two hours' ride in the darkness we reached our [Pg 151]destination. Suddenly the cloud fell like a curtain pulled down, the sky appeared, and then the earth at our feet became visible in the starlight. Some vestiges of a temple could be discerned among the grass—the foundations of enormous halls, and still standing in solitude, the brick chimneys in which the devout were wont to burn their prayers, written on rice-paper. Far away, in the transparent air, above a wall of grey cloud—the dull, dingy grey of dirty cotton-wool—a speck showed as a beacon of lilac light, of the hue and form of a cyclamen flower; this turned to rose, to brick-red, to warm gold colour, fading into silver; and then, against the blue sky, showed immaculately white. This was Gaurisankar—Mount Everest—the top of the world, appallingly high, inconceivably vast, though lost in the distance, and seen from a hillock three thousand metres above the sea.
Then a quiet little street. Our guide paused in front of a whitewashed house. An old woman came out, and with many salaams and speeches of welcome led us into a large, low room.The pile of the girl with marigold wreaths and the shroud stained crimson and purple flung her ashes to the winds, reduced to mere atoms of bone and light cinder, and the servants of the place drowned a few still glowing sticks in the river;[Pg 169] the family and friends slowly went up the yellow stone steps and disappeared through a gateway leading into the town.
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.On the sloping bank to the river stood a large wooden mosque falling into ruins. In front of this building was a plot full of tombstones, some overthrown, some still standing on the declivity.In a long narrow bark, with a pointed white sail—a bunder-boat—we crossed the roads to Elephanta, the isle of sacred temples. Naked men, with no garment but the langouti, or loin-cloth, navigated the boat. They climbed to the top of the mast, clinging to the shrouds with their toes, if the least end of rope was out of gear, hauled the sail up and down for no reason at all, and toiled ridiculously, with a vain expenditure of cries and action, under the glaring sky that poured down on us like hot lead.
Out of doors, meanwhile, one funeral procession almost trod on the heels of the last; at the latest gleam of day, and out towards the west, above the Field of Burning, a broad red cloud filled all one quarter of the sky.In one of the alleys by the outer wall was a little house with a door in carved panels framing[Pg 243] inlaid work as delicate as woven damask. A crowd surrounding it could not be persuaded by Abibulla's eloquence to make way for me, a suspicious-looking stranger.
Instead of the usual wreath of flowers for my neck the Rajah gave me a necklace of silver threads, to which hung a little bag of purple and green silk, closely embroidered, and looking like a scent-sachet, or a bag to hold some precious amulet.Two or three thousand haggard and fleshless beings were digging or carrying earth to form an embankment for a railway or a road. With arms scarcely thicker than the handles of the tools they wielded, the labourers gasped in the air, tired in a minute, and pausing to rest in spite of the abuse of the overseers. Emaciated women, so small in their tattered sarees, carried little baskets on their heads containing a few handfuls of earth, but which they could scarcely lift. One of them, wrinkled and shrunken, looked a hundred years old tottering under her load; on reaching the spot where she was to empty out the soil, she leaned forward a little and let the whole thing fall, indifferent to the dust which covered her and filled her mouth and eyes; and after taking breath for a moment, off she went again as if walking in her sleep.[Pg 245]
Then he closed his eyes and fell asleep at once, and so would he sleep till the end.When I went away home to the fort, where I was living with my friend Lieutenant F——, the sentinel's challenge, the tall grey walls casting sharp shadows on the courtyard silvered with moonlight, and another sentry's cry; and still, in contrast with the cheerful evening, I could remember nothing but the tonga post-horse—a thing so frequent in this land of fanatics, so common that no one gives it more than a passing thought.
"Would you be willing to pay thirty-five rupees?""Then twenty-eight?"LUCKNOW
In a jungle we now see Tazulmulook banished and solitary, and he relates his woes.
The play was Gul-E-Bakaoli.详情
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