Near one pagoda, where the highly venerated footprints of Adishwara are preserved, a tree—a gran tree—was cut down to the root, and, as the legend tells, grew again in a single night as large as it now is; and it would grow again if it were again felled, to screen with its shade the holy spot touched by the god.
From the roof, consisting of terraces between cupolas, there is a view of many temples glorified in the golden sunset, and nearer at hand stand ten[Pg 123] imposing columns, very tall—the last remaining vestiges of the rajah's elephant-house.
The ground here and there is stained with large pink patches of a disinfectant, smelling of chlorine,[Pg 9] strewn in front of the house where anyone lies dead. And this of itself is enough to recall to mind the spectre of the plague that is decimating Bombay; in this excitement, this turmoil of colour and noise, we had forgotten it.
On the landing-stage we read in large letters: "Beware of sunstroke," and lower down, "Avoid it by buying the best umbrellas and the best pith helmets of John Dash." The streets are the commonplace highways of a commercial town; the houses tall, with shops below. Dust and light alike were blinding; jinrickshaws were passing to and fro, drawn by almost naked coolies running as fast as horses.On the very summit of the hill, all over the ravine which divided it from another, and which has been filled up at an enormous cost, and then on the top of that other hill beyond, temples are piled up, shining against the too-blue sky, with pointed roofs of stone, scorched by the sun or stained by the rain, and patterned with pale-hued lichens. Above each a spear stands up, impaling a metal ball. In infinite variety, differing in materials, style, and proportions, some quite small, as if they had sprouted round the base of others that are gigantic, there are here five thousand temples built by the faithful, who are incessantly erecting more, devoting great fortunes to the vanity of leaving a chapel that bears their name.
[Pg 73]Stations for prayer stand all along the road; little open shrines, where footprints are worshipped, stamped on flags of white marble, a large footprint surrounded by a dozen of a child's foot.
Out in the street a woman, bare-backed, was submitting to be brushed down the spine by a neighbour with a brush of cuscus; she scorned to answer me when I asked whether she felt better, but shutting her eyes desired the operator to go on more slowly.
The ground here and there is stained with large pink patches of a disinfectant, smelling of chlorine,[Pg 9] strewn in front of the house where anyone lies dead. And this of itself is enough to recall to mind the spectre of the plague that is decimating Bombay; in this excitement, this turmoil of colour and noise, we had forgotten it.Wherever the alleys cross in the bazaar, open cages are placed on pillars of carved marble or wood, and in these, charitable hands place grain for the birds; thus every evening, round these shelters there is a perpetual flutter of pigeons, minahs, and sparrows, pushing for places, and finally packed closely together, while the little lanterns flash out on all sides, giving a magical aspect to the shopfronts, turning copper to gold, fruit to flowers, and falling like a caress on the wayfarers in thin pale-hued robes.Then, suddenly, there was a clatter of tom-toms, and rattling of castanets, a Hindoo funeral passing by. The dead lay stretched on a bier, his face painted and horrible, a livid grin between the dreadful scarlet cheeks, covered with wreaths of jasmine and roses. A man walking before the corpse carried a jar of burning charcoal to light the funeral pile. Friends followed the bier, each bringing a log of wood, to add to the pyre as a last homage to the dead.
In another place two elephants of bright indigo, and some musicians all green, with red parrots on their wrists, are painted on the walls of a hall where the prayer-bell is incessantly tolled. Here many worshippers were prostrate. An idol, flanked by two statues on guard in stiff hieratic attitudes, was almost hidden under gold chains and a crown of inordinate splendour, while a priest, wearing only a loin-cloth, stood calmly sluicing the white plaster and putting the god through his toilet, sometimes splashing the congregation.The Rajah's residence, of plaster like the rest of the town, is pink too outside, but the interior is aggressive with paint of harsh colours. In the living rooms is shabby furniture, gilt chairs turned one over the other, as on the day after a ball. The curtains over the doors and windows are of silk,[Pg 214] but frayed and threadbare. In the shade of a marble court with carved columns, clerks are employed in counting money—handsome coins stamped with flowers and Indian characters, laid out in rows. They count them into bags round which soldiers mount guard.详情
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