In every shop of the High Street jewellers are on the look-out for customers, hale them in, tease them to buy, and open for inspection little bags or cardboard boxes kept in safes, and containing the finest sapphires in the world. The day slips by in bargaining for the gems, in endless discussions and feigned departures. The indefatigable vendors return to the charge, run after the customer, wait for him at the door of a rival dealer, and drag him back again. Then there is a fresh dispute over prices, till irresistible argument at last brings down the estimates to a third or a quarter of what they were at starting.Only one entrance to the temple remains, built of polished red stone mingled harmoniously with marble, toned by time to a warm golden hue almost rose-colour. All the profusion of Indian design is lavished on this gateway framing the marvel erected by Pal. Tangles of interlacing letters incised and in relief, mingling with trails of flowers as lissom as climbing plants, and supporting figures of gods; while a fine powdering of white dust over the dimmed warm yellow of marble and sandstone softens yet more the carved flowers and sinuous patterns, amid which the images sit in tranquil attitudes.
A causeway of white stone, with a fragile [Pg 234]balustrade and columns bearing lanterns of gold, leads from the shore to the temple.
Between the cliff-walls of the defile, in a sort of bay, stands Ali Musjid, a little white mosque where travellers tarry to pray.
A salesman of whom I had bought several things, wishing to do me a civility, called a tom-tom player, who was to escort me home rapping on his ass's[Pg 215] skin; and when I declined very positively, the poor man murmured with a piteous, crushed look:From Lahore hither is an almost uninterrupted series of encampments—English and native regiments established in huts in the open fields far from every town, close only to the railway line. At one station a detachment of Indian guards were drawn up, and Abibulla declared from the number of men that they must be expecting a general at least; but nothing was discharged from the train but some cases of rupees, checked off by two English officers, and then carried to the barracks under the escort of sepoys.
A dark street corner where there were no shops. Under a canopy constructed of four bamboos thatched with straw, a young man in a light-coloured dhoti was sitting on a low stool; about him were women singing. Presently one of them came forward, and dipping her fingers into three little copper pots that stood on the ground in front of the youth, she took first oil, then a green paste, and finally some perfume with which she touched seven spots—the lad's feet, knees, shoulders, and turban. Then she wiped her fingers on the saree of the bridegroom's mother—for he was to be[Pg 252] married on the morrow—who was standing behind her son.
DELHI.The god having been placed in the shrine, which was enormously heavy, and took a hundred men to carry it, the procession set out. First two drums, then some children burning coloured fire and whirling fireworks round above their heads. Three oxen with housings of velvet, richly embroidered in gold, carried tom-tom drummers, and behind them came the priests and the god, hardly visible among the lights and flowers on the shrine. A breath of awe fell on the crowd as the divinity came by; they bowed in adoration with clasped hands and heads bent very low.
Outside the palace is a large garden, devoid of shade, with pools of water bowered in flowers and shrubs that shelter myriads of singing birds. At the end of the park is a tank full of crocodiles. A keeper called the brutes, and they came up facing us in a row, their jaws open to catch the food which the Rajah amuses himself by throwing to them.
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Inside the temple was the fragrance of fresh flowers, brought as offerings, with grains of rice threaded like semi-transparent beads on the flexible pale green stem. A huge Buddha here, of many-coloured stones bedizened with gold, gleams in the[Pg 128] shade of the altar, and two bonzes in front of the idol were quarrelling at great length, with screams like angry cats and vehement gesticulations, for the possession of some small object which constantly passed from one to the other.BOMBAYWhile all this is going forward in the jungle, Bakaoli, disguised as an astrologer, comes to the king, to whom she promises the coming of the miraculous flower, and even while she is speaking the return of the four princes is announced.
We set out from Srinagar in an ekka, drawn at a trot by our only horse. The driver, perched on the shaft almost by his steed's side, dressed in green with an enormous pink pugaree, flogged and shouted incessantly. The monotonous landscape went on and on between the poplars that border the road, extending as far as the blue circle of distant Himalayas. The valley was green with the first growth of spring; as yet there were no flowers. And till evening fell, the same horizon shut us in with mountains that seemed to recede from us.At the end of the passage was a sort of den, where, through the open door, I caught sight of a marvellous Indian hanging of faded hues on a pale ground, hidden in places by stains; the noble pattern represented a peacock spreading his tail between two cypresses.Beyond the new town of broad avenues planted with trees and bordered with gardens, was a brand-new bridge of gaudy bricks over a river, almost dry, where a swarm of naked natives were performing their ablutions—washing linen and shaking out red and white cloths, as far as the eye could see. Buffaloes lying in the mud were sleeping among the tame ducks, the ibis, and the herons, all seeking their food. An elephant plunged into the water, splashing it up and scaring thousands of bright birds, which flew up against the intensely blue sky.详情
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