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.
The bargaining was interminable, something in this manner:—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.
"Can you suppose I should have insulted you by coming here without asking you some favour?"Outside the fort which guards the opening of the pass there was confusion; a mad scurry of men, running, shouting, hustling. Quite a complicated mêlée of animals bolting, elephants and camels let loose and impossible to overtake, but caught at last.
And on the man's replying that he would try, the sultan, who chose that the monument should have no rival, caused the architect to be thrown into the Jumna on the spot, where he was dashed to pieces at the foot of his masterpiece, which remains unique.
A company of the Khyber Rifles are quartered there in the old buildings and the officers' deserted bungalows; over all hangs an atmosphere of icy desolation and overpowering melancholy. Above our heads a flight of eagles wheeled against the sky.The fog seemed to turn to solid smoke, impenetrably black, wrapping us in darkness which was suddenly rent by a red flash, blood-red, ending in a green gleam. The mist retained a tint of sulphurous copper for some time; then a second flash, and far away among the lurid clouds we had a glimpse of the Himalayas, pallid purple with green shadows against an inky sky. The[Pg 254] thunder, deadened by the masses of snow and very distant, rolled to and fro with a hollow sound, frightening the horses which struggled uphill at a frantic pace. And the dense fog closed round us once more, a dark green milkiness streaked with snow, which was falling in large flakes formed of four or five clinging together like the petals of flowers. Then it hailed, which completely maddened the horses, and then again snow, and it was literally night at ten in the morning when at last we reached this spot and the shelter of a bungalow.
The sweepers, the saises, the bearers, the whole tribe of noisy, idle servants—men, women, and children—all sleep out of doors in the hotter weather. And all day long the camp-bed, the two mats, and half a dozen pots, which constitute the[Pg 285] whole furniture of a family, move round the house with the shade, only settling down after dark.
All alike were fevered from the deafening music of harmoniums and tom-toms performing at the back of each gambling-booth—a din that drowned shouts of glee and quarrelling.The front of the temple is covered with paintings. Decorations in the Persian style divide the panels, on which are depicted the principal scenes from the sacred books of the Brahmins. There are two perfect things to be seen here: two nude female figures standing, one white, the other brown, exquisitely refined in colouring, admirably drawn in a style reminding me of early Italian art; and then, just beyond these, tasteless imitations of chromos—goddesses with eyes too large and a simper like the advertisements of tooth-paste, and some horrible caricatures of English ladies in the fashion of ten years ago holding parasols like a nimbus.
And certainly the most comical of all is the representation of a baboo donor, to whom two servants, prostrate before him, are offering a glass of water.Towards noon the mass of Kinchinjunga again lifted its head above the clouds, now white with a dust of rosy gold or violet on the snow in the shadows; and again, as the clouds swept across, of every changing tint of steel and copper, pearl and sunshine, till, following on the ardent glory of sunset, a purple and living fire, like a flame within the very substance of the ice-fields, all died into[Pg 153] mysterious blueness under the broad pure light of the moon.
In the twilight of the great galleries the gods are assembled in groups, standing or sitting, rigid or contorted into epileptic attitudes, and thin bodies of human aspect end in legs or arms resembling serpents or huge fins, rather than natural limbs: Kali, the eight-armed goddess, leaping in the midst of daggers, performing a straddling dance while she holds up a tiny corpse on the point of the short sword she brandishes; impassible Sivas wearing a tall mitre; Krishna playing the flute to the thousand virgins who are in love with him, and who fade into perspective on the panel. And every divinity has eyes of jade, or of white plaster, hideously visible against the pale grey stone softly polished by time.Under the central dome sleeps Mumtaj-Mahal, the well-beloved sultana, for whom Shah Jehan erected the most beautiful mausoleum in the world.详情
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