Here in southern India the women wear hardly any trinkets, and their garb consists of sarongs and sarees, so thin that their shape is visible through the light stuff. In their hair, which is knotted low on the neck, they stick flowers, and occasionally light trailing sprays fall down on the throat. They all have gold studs screwed into the two upper front teeth; hideous are these two red-gold teeth among the others, sound and white under young lips!
A humble poet, more venerated than the kings whose superb mausoleums are crumbling to dust in subjugated India, who, though she forgets her past, is still true to her dreams.In a wonderful garden, amazing after the sandy waste that lies between Benares and Allahabad—a garden of beds filled with flowers showing no leaves, but closely planted so as to form a carpet of delicate, blending hues—stand three mausoleums, as large as cathedrals, in the heart of cool silence, the tombs of the Sultan Purvez, of his father Khusru, and of his wife, the Begum Chasira.
Making my way among the too numerous gods in relief against the overwrought walls heavy with carving, I came to a wonderful balcony where, in broken cages, I found the parrots that had betrayed me, and among them an exquisite pale yellow cockatoo of great rarity.
The sweepers, the saises, the bearers, the whole tribe of noisy, idle servants—men, women, and children—all sleep out of doors in the hotter weather. And all day long the camp-bed, the two mats, and half a dozen pots, which constitute the[Pg 285] whole furniture of a family, move round the house with the shade, only settling down after dark.
A different scene indeed next day, with none of the magnificence of yesterday, was the temple of magical lights. There was a dense crowd of shouting and begging pilgrims. Along the pyramidal roofs, as at Srirangam, there were rows of painted gods, but in softer and more harmonious hues. Over the tank for ablutions was a balcony decorated in fresco, representing in very artless imagery the marriage of Siva and Parvati. The couple are seen holding hands under a tree; he a martial figure, very upright, she looking silly, her lips pursed, an ingénue. In another place Siva sits with his[Pg 120] wife on his knees, she has still the same school-girl expression. Finally, on the ceiling, is their apotheosis: they are enthroned with all the gods of Ramayana around them, and she looks just the same. The red and green, subdued by the reflected light from the water, were almost endurable.Towards evening the sky turned to a dull, dark green, and in the sudden gloom down came the rain in floods, tremendous, solid, for about five minutes; then as suddenly it was as hot as ever again, dry and overpowering.
In a little alley of booths was a shop with no front show, and behind it a sort of studio full of carvers and artists working on sandal-wood boxes, ivory fans as fine as gauze, and wooden lattices with elaborate flower patterns, used to screen the zenana windows. And in little recesses workmen dressed in white, with small copper pots about them in which they had brought rice for their meals, were chasing and embossing metal with little taps of their primitive tools, never making a mistake, working as their fancy might suggest, without any pattern, and quite at home in the maze of interlacing ornament.Two days after, the people would burn in great state, on an enormous wood pile, an image of Time, to ensure the return next year of the festival of colours.Within the gateway, carved all over with foliage and rosettes, a footway, paved with bright mosaic, leads to the interior of the temple. All along a corridor, enormous prancing horses, mounted by men-at-arms, support the roof which is deeply carved all over, and at the foot of these giants a sacred tank reflects the sky. In front of us were gaps of black shadow, and far, far away, lamps, shrouded in incense, were twinkling behind the gratings.
Over the gate and the door of the house light garlands, made of single flowers threaded like beads, swing in the breeze and scent the air.Then into a garden with a number of quite narrow, straight paths bordered with nasturtiums, tall daisies, and geraniums, while a tangle of jasmine, china roses, bougainvillea, and poinsettia flourished freely under the shade of tamarind and palm trees. Over a clump of orange trees in blossom a cloud of butterflies was flitting, white patterned with black above, and cloisonnés beneath in red and yellow with fine black outlines.
A marble balustrade, of flowing design and astounding delicacy, exquisitely harmonious and artistic, encloses the white sarcophagus, which is inlaid with mindi and basilic flowers in costly agate, linked by inscriptions looking like lacings of narrow black braid. This balustrade alone, in the Taj, under the marble pile which forms the tomb of the empress, and on which 20,000 craftsmen laboured for twenty years, would, in its indescribable beauty of workmanship, have amply fulfilled Shah Jehan's vow.A great crowd round the bungalow and along the road, and a mass of sepoys and police, made Abibulla remark:详情
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