The orchestra, consisting of a harmonium, a violin, and a darboukha, played a languishing, drawling air to a halting rhythm, while the chorus, standing in a line on the stage, sang the introductory verses.
First went six armed regulars, then a party on horseback, for the most part Persians, one of whom was carrying in his arms an enormous sheaf of roses, which hid him completely and drooped over the saddle.Then all went out, died gently away; the tom-toms and pipe attending the god's progress alone were audible in the silence; till in the distance a great blaze of light flashed out, showing a crowd of bright turbans and the glittering splendour of the shrine going up the steps to the temple where, till next year, Rama would remain—the exiled god, worshipped for his wisdom which enabled him to discover the secrets, to find the true path, and win the forgiveness of his father.The gateway looks as if it had been carved by the dints of bullets in the stone, and close by, a breach in the huge enclosing wall scored all over by shot gave ingress to the murderous host. Inside,[Pg 189] on the walls that are left standing, and they are many, the bullets seem to have scrawled strange characters. In the bath-house with its graceful columns and arabesque ornaments, in Dr. Fayrer's house, of which the proportions remind us of Trianon, where Sir Henry Lawrence died among the ruins of the mosque—everywhere, we see tablets of black marble commemorating the numerous victims of the rebellion. In one barrack two hundred and forty-five women and children were murdered; in another forty-five officers were buried in the ruins. And close by the scene of carnage, in a smiling cemetery, their graves hidden in flowers, under the shadow of the English flag that flies from the summit of the ruined tower which formerly commanded the country round, sleep the nine hundred and twenty-seven victims of Nana Sahib's treachery.
Immediately on entering we were in the maze of vaults, sanctuaries, great halls and arcades, where stall-keepers sell their goods, priests keep school, and flower-sellers wander. Statues, repeated in long rows, lead up to temples all alike, of a bewildering uniformity of architecture and identical decoration.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.At the station pilgrims again, bewildered, shouting, rushing about in search of their lost luggage. One group presently emerged from the crowd, led by a man bareheaded, who rang a big bell with great gesticulations, his arms in the air, and the whole party marched off towards the temples in silent and orderly procession.
In front of a Buddhist temple were some tanks in which enormous tortoises were swimming. On the building, above carvings of elephants in relief on the stone, were a number of mural paintings, artless and terrible scenes set forth with the utmost scorn of perspective and chiaroscuro: a place of torment where green monsters thrust the damned against trees of which the trunks are saws, and enormous red and yellow birds devour living victims.In the heart of an extensive park, where wide lawns are planted with gigantic baobabs and clumps of bamboo and tamarind, stands an important-looking building, hideously modern in a mixture of heterogeneous styles and materials, of a crude yellow colour, and much too new. There is no attempt at unity of effect. A central dome crowns the edifice and a square tower rises by the side of it. Some portions, like pavilions, low and small, carry ornaments disproportioned to their size; while others, containing vast halls, have minute windows pierced[Pg 52] in their walls, hardly larger than loopholes, but framed in elaborate sculpture and lost in the great mass of stone. Arcades of light and slender columns, connected by lace-like pierced work of alarming fragility, enclose little courts full of tree-ferns and waving palms spreading over large pools of water. The walls are covered with niches, balconies, pilasters, and balustrades carved in the Indian style, the same subjects constantly repeated.
An aggressive capital! Palaces of concrete and stucco washed with yellow stand cheek by jowl with commission agencies and hovels, and all without a suspicion of style, not even giving one the impression of a southern city. In the streets, thick with dust, an all-prevailing turmoil as of a fair is prolonged to the latest hours of night. Red uniforms and "young England" tourist suits ending their career in rags on half-breed coolies—a wearisome staleness and total effacement of local colour, worse than commonplace; and then, above all, a very strong and nauseating smell of lotus and tallow, with an after-gust of something peppery and acrid.The south-western side of the great rock of Gwalior is hewn into temples sheltering gigantic statues of Tirthankar; there are the usual bas-reliefs all over the walls, idols squatting under canopies and pagodas, slender columns supporting arches, standing out in contrast with the ochre-coloured stone. Other temples, vast halls as at Ellora—a vale of pagodas, "the happy valley"—have all disappeared under the picks of engineers, to make a dusty road to the new town of bungalows all adobe and straw thatch.
Where the roads cross there are basins where flowers are kept fresh, and above them white pigeons are always fluttering. Public scribes, squatting cross-legged on the ground, trace letters that look like arabesques, on rice-paper with a reed pen. Those who dictate them crouch beside them with an absorbed and meditative expression, dropping out the words one by one with long pauses between.At night, when the fog had at last cleared off, a column of fire was piled up on the engine; it shone[Pg 154] on the smooth trunks of the "flame of the forest," which looked like the pillars of a cathedral, on the sparkling water-springs all hung about with prayer-strips, on the veronica shrubs covered with flowers and as tall as trees, and the sheaves of bamboo and fern; or it lighted up the hanging screen of creepers, the impenetrable jungle growth that shut in the silence of the sleeping forest.
At the end of a passage that runs round the temple an old woman who had just been bathing was changing her wet saree for a dry one, and appeared quite stripped, dropping her garments, and careful only not to let her face be seen.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!
In the town is the tomb of the Ranee Sipri: walls of lace, balconies of brocade carved in stone. Opposite this mausoleum are an open mosque and two minarets as slim as sapling pines, wrought with arabesques as fine as carved ivory. There are lamps carved in relief on the walls, each hung by chains under-cut in stone with Chinese elaboration; and this lamp is everywhere repeated—on the mosque, on the tomb, and on the base of the minarets. The building, which has the faintly russet tone of old parchment, when seen in the glow of sunset takes a hue of ruby gold that is almost diaphanous, as filmy as embroidered gauze.
On our way back through the temple-quarter a sudden wild excitement possessed the worshippers and priests; out of a side street rushed a large troop of monkeys, grey, with black faces. They galloped past in a close pack and fled to the trees, shrieking shrilly. One, however, lagged behind, bent on stealing some rice that had been brought as an offering to a plaster image of Vishnu. A Brahmin stood watching the monkey, and tried to scare it away with a display of threatening arms, but he dared not hit the beast sacred to Hanuman, the god of the green face. The creature, never stirring from the spot, yelled aloud, bringing the rest of the pack back on to the roof of the neighbouring pagodas. Then the ringleader, with a subdued, sleepy, innocent gait, stole gently up to the tray of offerings. He was on the point of reaching it when the priest raised his arm. This was a signal for the whole tribe to scream and dance with terror, but without retreating. The performance seemed likely to last; the bazaar and the temples were in a hubbub of excitement; the doors of the shops and the sanctuaries were hastily shut, till, at the mere sight of a man who came out[Pg 299] with a long bamboo in his hand, the whole pack made off and appeared no more, and Hardwar relapsed into its somnolent sanctity."How do you expect to pay?" asked his master, an officer.At night the sound of a remote tom-tom attracted me to a large square shaded by giant trees. In a very tiny hut made of matting, a misshapen statue of Kali, bedizened with a diadem, a belt, nanparas, and bangles made of beads and gold tinsel, stood over a prostrate image in clay of Siva, lying on his back. In front of this divinity, under an awning stretched beneath the boughs of a banyan tree, two nautch-girls in transparent sarees were dancing a very smooth sliding step to the accompaniment of two bagpipes and some drums. The Hindoo spectators sat in a circle on the ground—a white mass[Pg 142] dimly lighted by a few lanterns—and sang to the music a soft, monotonous chant.详情
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