The rice, lately sown, was sprouting in little square plots of dazzling green; it was being taken up to transplant into enormous fields perpetually under water. All the "paddy" fields are, in fact, channelled with watercourses, or if they are on higher ground, watered from a well. A long beam is balanced over the mouth of the well, and two boys run up and down to lower and raise the bucket; a man tilts the water into the runlets out of a large vessel of dusky copper, or perhaps out of a leaky, dripping water-skin.Ekkas, and chigrams closed with thick curtains, came galloping past with loud cries from within. All was noise and a shifting of many colours, seeming more foolish here, in this large island, with its deserted avenues of tall trees, than anywhere else.
Outside the town of Delhi a road bordered by great trees leads across the white plain, all strewn with temples and tombs, to Khoutab, the ancient capital of the Moguls—a dead city, where the ruins still standing in many places speak of a past of unimaginable splendour. There is a colossal tower of red masonry that springs from the soil with no basement; it is reeded from top to bottom, gradually growing thinner as it rises, with fillets of letters in relief, and balconies on brackets as light as ribbands alternating to the top. It is an enormous mass of red stone, which the ages have scarcely discoloured,[Pg 219] and was built by Khoutab-Oudeen Eibek to commemorate his victory over the Sultan Pithri-Raj, the triumph of Islam over Brahminism.[Pg 40]
At every street-corner there were blocks of salt,[Pg 298] which the cows and goats licked as they went past.
The forest round Kandy is glorious, an exuberance, a crush of trees growing as thick as they can stand, the dense tangle of boughs and leaves outgrown by some enormous ficus, or tall terminalia, whose sharp, angular roots have pushed through the soil while its trunk, twisting in a spiral, has made its way to a prodigious height, ending a thick dome of foliage. This, again, is overgrown by delicate creepers decking the green mass with their flowers. Spreading banyans, with a hundred stems thrown out like branches and ending in roots, form colonnades of a rosy grey hue like granite, and might seem to be the vestiges of some colossal church with a dark vault above, scarcely pierced here and there by a gleam of blue light from the sky beyond. Among these giants of the forest dwells a[Pg 131] whole nation of bending ferns as pliant as feathers, of clinging plants hanging in dainty curtains of flowers from tree to tree. Sometimes between the screen of flowers a bit of road comes into view, deep in impalpable brick-red dust, of the same tint as the fruits that hang in branches from the trees.
Very late in the evening came the sound of darboukhas once more. A throng of people, lighted up by a red glow, came along, escorting a car drawn by oxen. At each of the four corners were children carrying torches, and in the middle of the car a tall pole was fixed. On this, little Hindoo boys were performing the most extraordinary acrobatic tricks, climbing it with the very tips of their toes and fingers, sliding down again head foremost, and stopping within an inch of the floor. Their bronze skins, in contrast to the white loin-cloth that cut them across the middle, and their fine muscular limbs, made them look like antique figures. The performance went on to the noise of drums and singing, and was in honour of the seventieth birthday of a Mohammedan witch who dwelt in the village. The car presently moved off, and, after two or three[Pg 49] stoppages, reached the old woman's door. The toothless hag, her face carved into black furrows, under a towzle of white hair emerging from a ragged kerchief, with a stupid stare lighted up by a gleam of wickedness when she fixed an eye, sat on the ground in her hovel surrounded by an unspeakable heap of rags and leavings. The crowd squeezed in and gathered round her; but she sat perfectly unmoved, and the little acrobats, performing in front of her door, did not win a glance from her. And then, the noise and glare annoying her probably, she turned with her face to the wall and remained so. She never quitted her lair; all she needed was brought to her by the villagers, who dreaded the spells she could cast. Her reputation for wisdom and magic had spread far and wide. The Nizam's cousin, and prime minister of the dominion, never fails to pay her a visit when passing through Nandgaun, and other even greater personages, spoken of only with bated breath, have been known to consult her.
[Pg 168]The heavy door, plated with iron, was shut. Hubbub, shouts, thumps on the wood with gun-stocks—nothing stirred, no reply.
Next came a long file of carts, conveying cases of goods "made in Manchester," or loaded, in unstable equilibrium, with dry yellow fodder like couch grass, eaten by the horses here; and they struggled along the road which, crossing the limitless plain, appeared to lead nowhere.In the centre of the modern fort, a belt of walls with gates that form palaces under the arches, is the ancient residence of the Moguls. Beyond the barracks full of native and English soldiers, we reached the cool silence of the throne-room. Colonnades of red stone surround a throne of white marble inlaid with lilies in carnelian on tall stems of jasper. All round this throne, to protect it from the tourists, but also as if to emphasize its vanity, is a railing.
In the sacred tank, where Vishnu bathes when[Pg 165] he comes on earth, an old woman was standing pouring the stagnant green water over her body, while others of the faithful, seated on the steps, were piously drinking the stuff from a coco-nut that they handed round. In one corner of this pool was an exquisite bower of floating wreaths—yellow, white, and violet—a splash of bright colour on the squalid water.[Pg 168]详情
Copyright © 2020