In the shops the salesmen, to weigh their merchandise, had a strange collection of curious weights—dumps, rings, balls of copper, iron, or lead, stamped or inlaid with symbols and flowers; fragments of spoons to make up too light a weight, even pieces of wood; and they used them all with perfect readiness and never made a mistake.
A very solid structure, with walls like a fortress, contains the treasury of the sacred mount. Five guards in turn came to open as many padlocks, and at last the ponderous door turned slowly on its hinges. A car, an elephant, and a vehicle to which are harnessed two prancing horses, are all brought out to convey the idols when they go forth in a[Pg 81] procession. The animals are chased with almost artistic skill. The harness, starry with precious stones, all takes to pieces.Close to a shop where I was bargaining for some old bronzes, in an open booth, and quite alone among the metal jars and trays, sat a boy of four, his only garment a green silk jacket bordered with blue velvet, stitched with silver thread; there was nothing between the little vest and his bright bronze skin. He had a blue cap embroidered with gold, and his eyes were darkened with khol. He was drawing lines very neatly on a slate, and then wrote beneath them the pretty Hindoo letters that look like cabalistic signs, saying them as he went on, pa, pa, pa, pi, pi, pi, pa?, pa?, pa?, pom, pom, pom, till at last, seeing that I was looking at him and smiling, quite fascinated by his pretty ways, he burst out laughing, a hearty, happy, baby laugh, and then gravely went on with his business again.
On the road the people bowed low as we passed, almost to the earth. The women, in token of respect, turned their backs and crouched down.Traversing the narrow avenues that intersect the bazaar, we came to a series of quiet courts; here were the police-station, the small barracks, and stables for camels and elephants. In a blind alley we found a white mosque, where men were praying robed in pink and green; while opposite, below a house consisting of three stories of arcades, some Syrian horses, as slender as gazelles, were exercising on the bright-hued mosaic floor of the open stable.A town in mourning. In the suburban stations, so crowded but three weeks since, there was nobody, and nobody in the train we travelled by. No coolies for the baggage, no carriages, and the tramcars running down the wide, deserted road carried no passengers. The hotel was closed, all the servants had fled in terror of the plague, which was raging with increased violence. Every shop[Pg 92] had the shutters up; the great market, full of golden fruit and shaded by the flowering trees, was equally empty, and in the bazaar the rare wayfarers hurried by in silence.
In the heart of Agra towards evening people were busy in the square of the Jumna Musjid stretching pieces of stuff over rather low poles to form a tent. Then in long file came the labourers from a famine-camp, with their sleep-walking gait, their glassy eyes, their teeth showing like those of a grinning skull. Rags in a thousand holes scarcely covered the horrors of their fleshless bodies.
In a dirty stable, strewn with withered plants, stood some forlorn, sickly-looking beasts, the sacred bulls of Madura.
Past the buildings, and palaces with gardens enclosed behind pierced stonework, and then across fresh green fields full of flowers, under the shade of banyans and palm trees, we reached the temple of the monkeys. This temple, dedicated to the fierce and bloodthirsty goddess Durga, is painted all over of a vivid red colour, blazing in the sunshine with intolerable brightness. Inside the sanctuary a black image of the goddess may be seen, mounted on her lion, and flowers are arranged about her in radiating lines mingled with gold thread, and producing very much the effect of a theatrical sun. In the [Pg 162]forecourt, on the carvings and the roof of the temple monkeys swarm, rushing after each other, fighting for the grains of maize that are thrown to them, and tormenting the wretched mangy dogs that seek refuge in the temple precincts, where they, too, are kept alive by the faithful.
Yellow palaces, mirrored as gold in the luminous waters of the Ganges, came into view; cupolas quivering with dazzling lustre against the intense sky—and then the whole city vanished. Nothing was to be seen but a suburb of shabby buildings, the commonplace railway station crowded by a Burmese pilgrimage of Buddhists come from so far—who knows why?—to the holy Indian city. Yellow priests and white doll-like figures dragging bundles that fell open, dropping the most medley collection of objects to be picked up and stowed into the parcels again, only to roll out once more. A yelling crowd, hustling and bustling, shouting from one end of the station to the other, and finally[Pg 155] departing, like a flock of sheep, in long files down the dusty road, to be lost at last in the little bazaar.详情
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