The sun cast broad satin lights on its bay coat, already dry; the light hoofs, the pretty head with dilated nostrils gave the creature dignity—it looked like a thoroughbred, really noble in its last rest; while the vultures and kites hovered round, waiting for us to be gone.[Pg 245]
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 crimson sky seen above the tall coco-palms turns to pink, to pale, vaporous blue, to a warm grey that rapidly dies away, and almost suddenly it is night.
For our noonday rest I took shelter under a wood-carver's shed. On the ground was a large plank in which, with a clumsy chisel, he carved out circles, alternating with plane-leaves and palms. The shavings, fine as hairs, gleamed in the sun, and gave out a scent of violets. The man, dressed in white and a pink turban, with necklaces and bangles on his arms of bright brass, sang as he tapped with little blows, and seemed happy to be alive in the world. He gave us permission to sit in the shade of his stall, but scorned to converse with Abibulla.
On the shore, on the steps in front of the temples and round the holy images, in short, everywhere on this day, red powder was sprinkled to inaugurate[Pg 179] the month just beginning; a beggar, to secure the favour of the gods, had smeared his head and hands with it.
And this morning I had seen in the place of Akbar or Jehangir, a sturdy, blowsy soldier, in his red coatee, his feet raised higher than his head, spread out in his wicker deck-chair, and reading the latest news just brought by the mail from Europe.The sultana's mosque is quite small, of translucent milky-white marble, and close by it is a[Pg 208] red wall, hardly pierced by a narrow window with a stone screen, behind which Shah Jehangir was kept a prisoner for seven years.
In the street of native shops the possible purchaser is attacked by storm, every voice yelps out prices. The dealers scrambled into my carriage with a whole catalogue of bargains poured out in a mixed lingo, and with such overpowering insistence that I had to fly. An electric tram-car, provided with a loud bell that rings without ceasing, runs through the suburbs, a dirty swarming quarter[Pg 140] where the streets are alive with naked children, fowls and pigs wallowing in heaps of filth and the mud made by watering the road.
[Pg 27]Stones flying, sticks thrown—at a little pariah girl, whose shadow as she passed had defiled the food of a Brahmin. He merely threw away the rice, which the dogs soon finished; but the bystanders who had witnessed the girl's insolence in going so near the holy man—she so base and unworthy—flew at the unhappy creature, who ran away screaming, abandoning a load of wood she was carrying on her head.
And side by side with history a pleasing legend tells that King Anang-Pal yearned to atone for his faults and redeem the earth from sin. So by the[Pg 220] counsels of a wise Brahmin he caused this vast iron spike to be forged by giants, to be driven into the earth and pierce the serpent Sechnaga, who upholds the world. The deed was done, but because certain disbelieving men denied that the monster was dead, the king caused the weapon to be pulled up, and at the end of it behold the stain of blood; so the iron beam was driven in again. But the spell was broken—the creature had escaped. The column remained unstable, prefiguring the end of the dynasty of Anang, and the serpent still works his wicked will.The carriage of the Rajah of Palitana awaited us this morning at Songad. As an escort two sowars in long blue cloaks and red turbans, their guns slung behind them, galloped by our vehicle. On each side of the road lay fields of scorched grass, quite burnt and very fine, glistening like silk, reflecting the sun as far as we could see.
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Just within the enclosure to our right is a tomb. A Mohammedan who came forth to take the sacred[Pg 74] hill, the brother of an emperor of Delhi, fell dead at the foot of a Ja?n idol, which he had dared to touch with his staff. How the legend developed it is impossible to say; but this warrior, buried on the spot where he was stricken down by the divinity, has the miraculous power of curing barrenness in the women who invoke him. Votive offerings, little cradles daubed with yellow and red, are heaped on the pavement and hang to the railing.Toglackabad, again an ancient Delhi, a rock on the bank of the Jumna after crossing a white desert; walls of granite, massive bastions, battlemented towers of a Saracen stamp, rough-hewn, devoid of ornament, and uniform in colour—bluish with light patches of lichen. The enclosure has crumbled into ruin, in places making breaches in the walls, which nevertheless preserve the forbidding aspect of an impregnable citadel.详情
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