In the evening I was to dine with the officers of the Artillery mess, and in going I lost my way. Suddenly before me stood the amber palace, with blue shadows, moon-coloured, the carvings like opal in changing hues of precious gems. Half hidden by a growth of jasmine that loaded the air with fragrance, up rose the cupolas of the little mosque, like pearls reflecting the sparkle of the stars.While I spent the hot hours of the day in the bungalow, a flock of birds came in through the open doors, and quietly picked up the crumbs on the floor. They were followed by grey squirrels, which at first crouched in the corners, but presently, growing bolder, ended by climbing on to the table, with peering eyes, in hope of nuts or bread-crusts.
"Yes. But how much is this?"As soon as the last customer's beard was trimmed, the barber took down the cage and carried the bird to another spot whence we could hear its scream.
There was a large encampment round the bungalow that night: tents for the soldiers, and under the vehicles men sleeping on straw; others gathered round the fires, over which hung the cooking-pots, listening to a story-teller; and in a small hut of mud walls, with the door hanging loose, were the two prisoners with no light, watched by three dozing soldiers.
The priests slowly mounted the stairs, the music died away in echoes more and more confused, ceasing at last, while the sacred animal, going off to the right at the foot of the steps, disappeared into its stable.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 midst of a large room crowded with women in light-hued sarees, the bridegroom takes his seat between two tables, on which are large trays of rice. Facing him is a chair, and one is occupied by the bride, who is brought in by a party of girls. She is scarcely fourteen, all in white; on her head is a veil of invisibly fine muslin ten folds thick; it enfolds her in innocence, and is crowned with sprays of myrtle blossom.
A very good quail that is often the victor, is worth eight or ten rupees. At a funeral a day or two since one of the bearers had his quail in a cage hanging from his girdle—a champion bird he would not part from.The maiden was placed on a very high pile of saplings and dry crackling boughs. Her father fetched the sacred fire, and then, with the same ceremonials and prayers, set light to the wood, which flashed up in a golden glow with a sweet odour. The flame rose clear against the sky for a long time before the smell of her burnt flesh mingled with that of the poor woman, whose limbs, under the action of the heat, seemed to stretch to an inordinate length. One arm, sticking out from the fire, seemed to clench its fist, which was bright yellow, as if it would clutch at something; and then all was consumed—the wood pile fell in, the skull cracking with a dull snap, and nothing was left but a heap of embers, into which the attendants raked the cinders that rolled down the sloping bank.
The sultan's bath is lined with panels of lapis lazuli framed in gold, and inlaid with [Pg 210]mother-of-pearl, or looking-glass, and the walls have little hollow niches for lamps, over which the water fell in a shower into a bath with a decoration of scroll-work. And in front of Jehangir's room, again a series of basins hollowed in the steps of a broad marble stair, where a stream of water fell from one to another.Above the throne, in the white marble wall, is a round hole, the mark of a cannon-ball at the time of the Mutiny. Out of this came a parrot, gravely perching to scratch its poll; then, alarmed at seeing us so close, it retired into its hole again.
In another place two elephants of bright indigo, and some musicians all green, with red parrots on their wrists, are painted on the walls of a hall where the prayer-bell is incessantly tolled. Here many worshippers were prostrate. An idol, flanked by two statues on guard in stiff hieratic attitudes, was almost hidden under gold chains and a crown of inordinate splendour, while a priest, wearing only a loin-cloth, stood calmly sluicing the white plaster and putting the god through his toilet, sometimes splashing the congregation.
A fortified wall encloses Lashkar, the residence of the Maharajah of Gwalior; the bridges, which form part of the enclosure crossing the river that flows through the estate, have thick bars filling up the arches.A wide avenue paved with marble, rising in broad steps, crosses the hilltop between temples on either side, intersecting narrower alleys, likewise bordered with pagodas crowded together in the inextricable mazes of a labyrinth, whence our guides were frequently required to lead us out—temples crowned with a cupola or a cone, a bristling throng of little extinguishers all covered with carving. The same subjects and patterns are repeated to infinity, even in the darkest nooks: figures of gods, of gigantic beasts rearing or galloping, of monstrous horses and elephants, of tiny birds sheltering the slumbers of the gods under their outspread wings.详情
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