We saw the Jasmine tower from a corner of the garden in the glow of sunset. With its gilt cupola blazing in the low beams, its amber-hued walls as transparent as melting wax, and its pierced screen-work, it looked so diaphanous, so fragile, that it might be carried away by the evening breeze. And beyond the pavilion, above the ramparts carved with huge elephants, lies the old Hindoo palace, deserted by Jehangir for his house of pale marbles—an endless palace, a labyrinth of red buildings loaded to the top with an agglomeration of ornament supporting flat roofs. And pagodas that have lost their doors, a work of destruction begun by Aurungzeeb. One court is still intact, overhung by seventy-two balconies, where the zenana could look on at the dancing of bayadères. Perfect, too, is the queen's private apartment, with two walls between which an army kept guard by day and by night.It was a miserable assemblage of booths and tumble-down dwellings, crowded round a sumptuous old palace with porticoes carved with divinities. The new town consists of modern buildings, devoid of[Pg 86] style, the residence of wealthy Parsee merchants. Here are libraries, archives—all kinds of offices, which seem so useless here, and which, till I was told what they were, I took to be a prison.The fort, rising from a rock wall of rose-red sandstone, is reached by a series of drawbridges and bastions, now no longer needed and open to all comers.
At a turn in the road the view opened out to a[Pg 249] distant horizon; the plain of Peshawur, intensely green in contrast with the rosy tone of the foreground; and far away the Himalayas, faintly blue with glaciers of fiery gold in the sun, against a gloomy sky where the clouds were gathering.At night, in the crowded station, a guard of honour was waiting, composed of sepoys. There was shouting among the crowd, a fanatical turmoil, a storm of orders, and heavy blows. Some great[Pg 93] magnate got out of the train, surrounded by secretaries and officers. The soldiers, bearing torches, attended him to his carriage; they remounted their horses, following the vehicle, in which a light dress was visible. Very fast, and with a great clatter, they rode away into the silent night fragrant with rich scents; they were lost under the trees to reappear in the distance on a height, the torches galloping still and the smoke hanging in a ruddy cloud above the bright steel and the white cruppers. Then, at a turn in the road, they all vanished.
A kind of grey snipe, as they rose to fly, spread white wings which made them look like storks or gulls, and then, dropping suddenly, became dull specks again, scarcely distinguishable on the margin of the tank. Ibis, on the watch, with pretty, deliberate, cautious movements, stood on one leg,[Pg 105] their bodies reflected in the mirror on which lay the lotus and the broad, frilled leaves of the water-lily, and a sort of bind-weed hanging from the edge in festoons of small, arrow-shaped leaves, with a crowd of tiny pink starry flowers that looked as if they were embroidered on the water.The night was spent in travelling: an oppressive night of crushing heat, with leaden clouds on the very top of us; and next day, in the blazing sunlight, nothing seemed to have any colour—everything was white and hot against a blue-black sky that seemed low enough to rest on the earth. Wayfarers slept under every tree, and in the villages every place was shut, everything seemed dead. It was only where we changed horses that we saw anyone—people who disappeared again immediately under shelter from the sun.My friend Captain McT——, with whom I stayed, had a house with a peaked, reed-thatched roof. Round the verandah where we slept at night hung festoons of jasmine and bougainvillea. Bamboos, ph?nix, and curtains of creepers at the end of the lawn made a wall of verdure, fresh and cool; and through this were wafted the perfumes shed on the air—the scent of roses and verbena, of violet[Pg 290] or of rosemary, according to the side whence the wind blew, mingling with that of the amaryllis and honeysuckle in bloom close at hand. And in this quiet garden, far from the bazaar where the darboukhas were twanging, birds sang all night, and the fireflies danced in mazes from flower to flower.
At the first ray of sunrise I went down to the temples, hewn out of the side of the hill and extending for above a mile and a quarter. Gigantic stairs are cut in the rock, and lead to caves enshrining immense altars, on which Buddha or other idols of enormous size are enthroned. Hall after hall is upheld by carved pillars. Bas-reliefs on the walls represent the beatitudes of Krishna surrounded by women, or the vengeance of Vishnu the terrible, or the marriage of Siva and Parvati; while on the flat roof, on the panels and architraves—all part of the solid rock—there is an endless procession of Krishnas and Vishnus, on a rather smaller scale, producing utter weariness of their unvaried attitudes and beatific or infuriated grimacing."And how many die every day?"
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.
The old king is at once cured; he embraces his sons again and again. After this emotion the first thing he remarks is the new palace that has sprung from the ground exactly opposite his own.
On the tomb, in elegant black letters, is this inscription:On the landing-stage we read in large letters: "Beware of sunstroke," and lower down, "Avoid it by buying the best umbrellas and the best pith helmets of John Dash." The streets are the commonplace highways of a commercial town; the houses tall, with shops below. Dust and light alike were blinding; jinrickshaws were passing to and fro, drawn by almost naked coolies running as fast as horses.
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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.详情
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