"No; Kali is a cruel, bloodthirsty goddess, while the Virgin——"The coachman we engaged at the station was a giant, with an olive skin and a huge, pale pink turban. He was clad in stuffs so thin that on his box, against the light, we could see the shape of his body through the thickness of five or six tunics that he wore one over another.
The heavy door, plated with iron, was shut. Hubbub, shouts, thumps on the wood with gun-stocks—nothing stirred, no reply.
Images of horses recurred at intervals, singly, or in pairs face to face; and as evening came on we saw round a pagoda a whole procession of horses in terra-cotta, some very much injured, arranged as if they were running round, one after another, in search of the heads and legs they had lost.
Towards evening Ellora came in sight, the sacred hill crowned with temples, in a blaze of glory at first from the crimson sunset, and then vaguely blue, wiped out, vanishing in the opalescent mist.Then some men go past who have a stick like a distaff thrust through their belt with a net wound round it; they net as they walk, heedless of jostling, their eyes fixed on their work.Gauze and muslin dresses moved gracefully about against the background of bamboos and roses. Light footsteps scarcely bent the grass; the ripple of talk, with its sprinkling of Indian words, was sweet and musical. Fireflies whirled above the plants making little tendrils of light; there was dreaminess in the air—an anticipation of fairyland to which the music seemed the prelude.
At the end of the court, over which enormous bread-fruit trees cast a cool shade, above some steps and a marble terrace where some musicians were performing, stands the holy spot which we dared not go near. In the dim light we could see a square object, red embroidered in gold—the couch of Ram-Roy—and hanging to the wall a silver curtain. All this, though perhaps it is but tinsel, looked at a distance and in the shadow like brocade and magnificent jewels. Round the main building there are four kiosks dedicated to the Guru's four wives.Adjacent to this temple was the court-house, a hall of ancient splendour in the time of the kings of Kandy. It stood wide open, the walls lined with carved wood panels. The court was sitting under the punkhas that swung with regular monotony, the judges robed in red. One of the accused, standing in a sort of pen, listened unmoved to the pleading. A large label bearing the number 5 hung over his breast. Behind a barrier stood other natives, each decorated with a number, under the charge of sepoys. One of them, having been wounded in the murderous fray for which they were being tried, lay at full length on a litter covered with pretty matting, red and white and green, stretched on bamboo legs. A long robe of light silk enveloped his legs, and he alone of them all had charming features, long black eyes with dark blue depths, his face framed in a sort of halo of silky, tangled hair. He, like the man now being sentenced and those who had gone through their examination,[Pg 129] seemed quite indifferent to the judges and the lawyers. He mildly waved a palm leaf which served him as a fan, and looked as if he were listening to voices in a dream, very far away.
Deeply graven in the stone of one of the walls is the giant hand of Ali the Conqueror, the terrible, who came from the land of the Arabs, killing all on his way who refused to be converted to Islam. And he died in the desolate Khyber, where all who pass do him honour, and entreat his protection on their way.Under an enormous banyan tree, far from any dwelling, two fine statues of an elephant and a horse seemed to guard an image of Siva, rigidly seated, and on his knees an image of Parvati, quite small, and standing as though about to dance.
Children were selling whortleberries in plaited baskets; they came up very shyly, and as soon as they had sold their spoil hurried back to hide in their nook. Further on a little Afghan boy, standing alone and motionless by the roadside, held out three eggs for sale.In the evening, on my way to dine with a friend by Malabar Hill, I could hardly recognize some parts of the town: houses, a camp of little huts and tents, a whole district had been swept away.
Here, one by one, in came the nautch-girls, dancers. Robed in stiff sarees, their legs encumbered with very full trousers, they stood extravagantly upright, their arms away from their sides and their hands hanging loosely. At the first sound of the tambourines, beaten by men who squatted close to the wall, they began to dance; jumping forward on both feet, then backward, striking their ankles together to make their nanparas ring, very heavy anklets weighing on their feet, bare with silver toe-rings. One of them spun on and on for a[Pg 29] long time, while the others held a high, shrill note—higher, shriller still; then suddenly everything stopped, the music first, then the dancing—in the air, as it were—and the nautch-girls, huddled together like sheep in a corner of the room, tried to move us with the only three English words they knew, the old woman repeating them; and as finally we positively would not understand, the jumping and idiotic spinning and shouts began again in the heated air of the room.
Grain was now at five times the usual price, and would continue to rise till the next harvest-time. Official salaries and the wages of the poor remained fixed, and misery was spreading, gaining ground on all sides of the devastated districts.There was not a living thing in the silence and overheated air—not a bird, not a fly; and beyond the houses lay the plain once more, a monotonous stretch of dead whiteness, the unspeakable desolation of murderous nature, henceforth for ever barren.详情
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