This cell is as dark as a cellar, barbarously squalid. But to all our questions the moollah who was our guide only replied: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.
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.A road between ancient trees and green fields which are perpetually irrigated leads to Sicandra-Bagh. Here, at the end of a wretched village of huts and hovels, is the magnificence of a stately portal of red stone broadly decorated with white; and then, through a garden where trees and shrubs make one huge bouquet, behold the imposing mass of the tomb of Akbar the Great. The mausoleum is on the scale of a cathedral. There are two stories of galleries in pink sandstone crowned by a marble pavilion with lace-like walls; and there, high up, is the sarcophagus of white stone, covered with inscriptions setting forth the nineteen names of Allah.Fakirs, holding out their begging-bowls as they squatted round an opening in the ground, showed that it was the entrance to a temple; a few steps down, a long corridor with little niches on each side, and then hall after hall full of grimacing gods, lighted up by our guide's torch, till at last we reached an immense vault where impenetrable darkness filled the angles lost in a labyrinth of arcades converging to some mystery. Here all the Hindoo gods, carved in stone, have been crowded together, with their horrible contortions, their stolid beatitude, their affected grace; and in their midst is a huge idol, hacked with a great cut by Aurungzeeb, the Moslem emperor, at the time of his conquest. Suddenly all about us was a crowd of Brahmins, appearing from what dark corners we could not discover. They looked nasty and half asleep, and vanished at once with a murmur of whispered speech that hung about the galleries in an echo.
That evening, near the temple where the god, having left the tank, was receiving the flowers and scents offered by his votaries, there was howling and yelling from the crowd of Hindoos, all crushing and pushing, but going nowhere. And louder yet the noise of the tom-toms, which the musicians raised to the desired pitch by warming them in front of big fires throwing off clouds of acrid smoke.Among the officers was a young lady on horseback, her black habit covered with dust. Instead of the pith helmet that the English ladies disfigure themselves by wearing, she had a straw hat with a long cambric scarf as a pugaree. She was pretty and sat well, and at the last turning she pulled up and watched the men, the ammunition and the baggage all march past, saluted them with her switch, and cantered off to the town of "cottages." I saw her again in the afternoon, taking tea in her garden as she sat on a packing-case among eviscerated bales, and giving orders to a mob of slow, clumsy coolies, who were arranging the house.
In a central space was a hideous rajah, a benefactor, with his six wives, all gaudily coloured with jewels in coloured paper stuck on to the images, and all kneeling in attitudes of idiotic ecstasy, doubly absurd under the daubing of vermilion and indigo. These were greatly admired by my servant, a convinced connoisseur in Indian art. Further on we saw, on the ceiling of a polychrome corridor, monsters carved to fit the shape of squared beams ending in a griffin's or a bird's head.
A Ja?n temple. A confusion of ornament, carved pillars, capitals far too heavy, with a medley of animals, gods and flowers, under a roof all graven and embossed. In the sanctuary, where the walls are riddled with carving, is an enormous Buddha of black marble decked out with emeralds, gold beads and rare pearls, hanging in necklaces down to his waist. A large diamond blazes in his forehead above crystal eyes, terrifically bright. Every evening all this jewellery—the gift of Hati Singh, a wealthy Ja?n merchant who built the temple—is packed away into a strong-box, which we were shown in the cellar.In one tent there was a display of innumerable gilt images, very suggestive of Jesuit influence—mincing, chubby angels, martyrs carrying palm-branches, and ecstatic virgins with clasped hands, all serving to decorate the shrine in which the god was to be carried back to the temple. Coloured fires lighted the workmen, and in the background the temple was darkly visible, with only a few dim lamps shrouded in incense, and burning before Rama, whose festival was being kept.
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.
While I was talking to the postmaster the fakir smoked a hookah, burning amber powder and rose-leaves. The air was full of the narcotic fragrance; a piercing perfume that mounted to the brain.
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After breakfast a party of jugglers appeared in front of the hotel; they performed on a little carpet spread under the shade of a banyan tree. Acrobatic tricks first, human ladders, feats of strength; then nutmegs were made to vanish and reappear; and finally they conjured away each other in turn, in little square hampers that they stabbed with knives to prove that there was nobody inside;[Pg 11] and to divert the spectators' attention at critical moments they beat a tom-tom and played a shrill sort of bagpipe.When we left he was in a coppersmith's shop, singing with wide open, staring eyes; his face had a strangely sad expression while he sang a gay, jigging tune to foolish words that made the people laugh.详情
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