Near the statues, which are placed in a row close to the wall, other statues, finer, slenderer, and more graceful, stood before the pedestals, anointing the stone with some oil which in time soaks in and blackens it, or else hanging lanterns up over the divinities. These were the temple servants, wearing nothing but the langouti tied round their loins; they either shuffle about barefoot, or remain motionless in rapt ecstasy before the little niches where the idols grin or scowl among branches of roses and amaryllis.Fields of betel pepper, broad-leaved and fleshy, carefully enclosed with matting, were watched over by two or even three men, armed with heavy cudgels.
In order that I might be far from the noise of the street the merchant had the objects I wished to see brought to me in a little room over the shop. Everything was spread before me on a white sheet, in the middle of which I sat. Refreshments were[Pg 227] brought, fruits and sweetmeats, while a coolie waved a large fan over my head—a huge palm-leaf stitched with bright-hued silks.
Another fakir, a young man, had come to sit at the elder's feet, and when I had finished my business the "holy man" began to knead his disciple's muscles, wringing and disjointing his arms and dislocating his left shoulder; and, as if in mockery of my distressed expression, he bent the lad's back inwards till his face was between his heels, and left him for a long minute in that torturing position.In the distance we heard a sound of pipes, and the merchant hastened out to call the nautch-girls, who began to dance in the street just below us, among the vehicles and foot-passengers. There were two of them; one in a black skirt spangled with silver trinkets, the other in orange and red with a head-dress and necklace of jasmine. They danced with a gliding step, and then drew themselves up with a sudden jerk that made all their frippery tinkle. Then the girl in black, laying her right hand on her breast, stood still, with only a measured swaying movement of her whole body, while the dancer in yellow circled round, spinning as she went. Next the black one performed a sort of goose-step with her feet on one spot, yelling a so-called tune, and clacking her anklets one against the other. Then, after a few high leaps that set her saree flying, the dance was ended; she drew a black veil over her head, and turned with her face to the wall. The other boldly asked for backsheesh, held up her hands, and after getting her money, begged for cakes and sugar.BENARES
Then a fat native lawyer began to speak, and silence fell on the crowd of three or four hundred listeners sitting behind the accused, as if they were in church. The monotonous voice went on and on, urging every plea.
The heavy door, plated with iron, was shut. Hubbub, shouts, thumps on the wood with gun-stocks—nothing stirred, no reply.
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 the native town the houses are lower and closer together, without gardens between. Down the narrow streets, between booths and shops, with here and there a white mosque where gay-coloured figures are worshipping, or polychrome temples where bonzes are drumming on deafening gongs, run tramways, teams of oxen, whose drivers shriek and shout, and hackney cabs, jingling and rattling. Among the vehicles there moves a compact crowd of every race and every colour: tall Afghans, in dingy white garments, leading Persian horses by the bridle for sale, and crying out the price; bustling Parsees; naked Somalis, their heads shaven and their[Pg 7] oiled black skins reeking of a sickening mixture of lotus and pepper; fakirs, with wild, unkempt hair, their faces and bodies bedaubed with saffron and the thread of the "second birth" across their bare breast; Burmese, with yellow skins and long eyes, dressed in silks of the brightest pink; Mongolians, in dark-hued satin tunics embroidered with showy colours and gold thread.
Under a loggia, flowery with mosaics of jasper and carnelian, the emperor, seated on a white marble throne embroidered with carving, administered justice. At his feet, on a raised stone flag, the divan, his prime minister took down the despot's words, to transmit them to the people who were kept at a respectful distance under a colonnade, forming a verandah round the imperial palace.
In front of a statue of Kali with a hundred arms, surrounded by rough votive offerings carved in wood, most of them representing legs, a man was pouring out rice, and a whole flight of grey leilas—birds like magpies—almost settled on his hands: birds of the temple, so familiar that one even allowed me to catch it, and did not fly away at once when I set it at liberty. There are rows of black Buddhas, white Buddhas, Sivas painted red—terrible—straddling in fighting attitudes; pilgrims without end bow and pray in front of each idol.详情
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