Stations for prayer stand all along the road; little open shrines, where footprints are worshipped, stamped on flags of white marble, a large footprint surrounded by a dozen of a child's foot.
[Pg 205]Out of doors, meanwhile, one funeral procession almost trod on the heels of the last; at the latest gleam of day, and out towards the west, above the Field of Burning, a broad red cloud filled all one quarter of the sky.
The pile of the girl with marigold wreaths and the shroud stained crimson and purple flung her ashes to the winds, reduced to mere atoms of bone and light cinder, and the servants of the place drowned a few still glowing sticks in the river;[Pg 169] the family and friends slowly went up the yellow stone steps and disappeared through a gateway leading into the town.By the side of the road, in the town, the walls are still standing, all that remains of a great hall in the palace of Secundra Bagh, in which, after the suppression of the Mutiny in 1857, two thousand sepoys who refused to surrender were put to death.
There, again, they all sit down in the garden. The same little packets of betel, only wrapped in gold leaf, are offered to the company, and bunches of chrysanthemum sprinkled with scent.A kshatriya, a very old man, had seen me yesterday returning from Ramnagar with my necklet of silver threads. Convinced by this that I must be "a Europe Rajah," he tormented me to grant him a title. He wanted to be Raj Bahadur; this was the height of his ambition. After following me about the bazaar all the morning, he sat for a long time in my room. So, to get rid of him, seeing[Pg 180] that he persisted in hoping that I should call him Raj Bahadur, I did so; this, however, did not satisfy him: I must write it down on paper. At last I consented. Quite delighted now, he went off to shout the words to his friends, who had been waiting for him in the garden, and then, very solemn, and conscious of his new dignity, he disappeared down the road.Then a fat native lawyer began to speak, and silence fell on the crowd of three or four hundred listeners sitting behind the accused, as if they were in church. The monotonous voice went on and on, urging every plea.
We sailed past the holy city in a heavy, massive junk, the prow formed of a snake with its head erect and jaws yawning, down the Ganges, all rippled with rose and blue. Palaces, and more palaces, with thick walls and towers, that look like bastions, stand in perspective as far as the eye can see. Windows and balconies are cut in the ponderous masonry at the level of the third floor, and high above these rajahs' dwellings rise the domes of the temples, pointing skywards among tall trees that spread their shade on the russet stonework. At the foot of the palaces, steps lead down to the river, divided by little stages covered with wicker umbrellas that shine in the sun like discs of gold; under these, Brahmins, after bathing, were telling their beads. Now and again they dipped their fingers in the sacred waters and moistened their eyes, forehead, and lips."Export business!" says Abibulla.
In front of us were men loaded with bundles or with children; old women gasping as they leaned on long staves; chattering women with green or pink or white veils, their arms full of sheaves of flowers. By each little temple—between which there are[Pg 71] kiosks, sheltering innumerable grinning idols—trees grow, and under their shade the pilgrims break the climb with a short rest. In a palankin, carried by two men, a slim woman's figure was borne past, in a pink gauze dress spangled with silver; her feet and hands, beringed with silver and gold, were exquisitely delicate. For an instant her veil blew aside, showing her face, rigid with horrible white leprosy, only her almond-shaped black eyes—beautiful eyes—were alive with intense brilliancy, full of unfathomable woe.The ancient palace of the kings of Lahore. Amid the ruins there is a mosque of red stone flowered[Pg 236] with white marble, the cupola of a material so milky that it might be jade; and the structure is mirrored in a pool of clear water, dappled with sun-sparks over the rose-coloured stones at the bottom.
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.Even more than the assembly of their relatives and friends, the prisoners at the bar maintained the impassive mien of men who attach no disgrace to a sentence pronounced by a conquering race; they would take the penalty without a murmur, as one of the inevitable incidents of this life, which to them is but a stage, a passage to a higher existence.
The pile of the girl with marigold wreaths and the shroud stained crimson and purple flung her ashes to the winds, reduced to mere atoms of bone and light cinder, and the servants of the place drowned a few still glowing sticks in the river;[Pg 169] the family and friends slowly went up the yellow stone steps and disappeared through a gateway leading into the town.CALCUTTA
A funeral came pushing past me in the silence of this sleeping district: the body, wrapped in red, hung from a bamboo that rested on the bearers' shoulders. No one followed him, and the group disappeared at once in the deep gloom of the narrow alley.The two chairs are now placed side by side, and the priest goes on chanting his prayers to a slow measure, in a nasal voice that is soon lost again in the chatter of the bystanders. Rice is once more shed over the couple, and incense is burnt in a large bronze vessel, the perfume mingling with that of the jasmine wreaths on the walls.详情
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