DARJEELINGThere are two towns of Peshawur: one a distracted, silly place, with no beginning nor end, straggling along something in the manner of Madras, with an embryonic bazaar and all the amusements demanded by soldiers; the other enclosed in walls of dried mud, which are preserved only "to protect the town from robbers.""A doctor? I cannot say," replied Abibulla, "but the sahib knows many things." The woman's eyes entreated me. Would I not come? it would comfort the sick man, and help him, perhaps, to die easily if the gods would not spare him.
There was a children's garden-party to-day in the grounds of the English Resident; a crowd of fair-haired babies, excessively Greenaway in their long, light frocks with bright-hued sashes. They shouted with joy at the swings and wooden horses, clapping their hands when it came to their turn to ride the elephant that marched about the park—so fair, so bright, with their nurses or Indian ayahs wrapped in crude showy muslins.We changed horses every five miles; ill-kempt little beasts, and only half fed, who got through their stage only by the constant application of the whip, and shouts from the sais standing on the step; when released from harness they stood forlorn and hobbled off, lame of every leg, to their stables with no litter. Day broke, a dingy grey, dark with woolly cloud and heavy rain; a wall of fog rose up around us, while the road was uphill towards the mountains.
At the bottom of the steps, almost in the street, was another school at the entrance to a temple. The children, in piercing tones, were all spelling together under the echoing vault, a terrible noise which seemed to trouble nobody.Beyond these ruins, at the end of a long avenue bordered with tamarind trees, beyond an artificial lake, is the tomb of Shah Alam. A wide marble court; to the right a mosque with three ranks of columns; above, a massive roof crowned with a[Pg 56] bulbous dome, flanked by fragile minarets. The fountain for ablutions in the midst of the court is surmounted by a marble slab supported on slender columns. To the left, under the shade of a large tree, is the mausoleum of marble, yellow with age, looking like amber, the panels pierced with patterns of freer design than goldsmith's work.
The country was nowhere deserted. Labourers in the rice-fields were transplanting the young seedlings or watering the taller growth that waved in delicate transparent verdure. Or again, there were the watchers perched on their platforms in the middle of the fields; fishermen pushing little nets before them, fastened to triangular frames, or grubbing in the mud in search of shell-fish—small freshwater mussels, which they carried away in clay jars of Etruscan form. A motley crowd, with animated and graceful gesticulations; the women red or white figures in fluttering sarees, with flowers in their hair, and a few glittering bangles on their arms; the children quite naked, with bead necklaces and queer charms of lead or wood in their ears or their nose; the men slender and active, wearing light-coloured turbans made of yards on yards of twisted muslin, their brown skin hidden only by the langouti or loin-cloth.Through the half-open doors in the courtyards bones were bleaching, almost buried under the fine powder that lies on everything. And from this dust, as we trod it, rose a sharp smell of pepper and smoke. Twisted branches drooped forlorn from the skeletons of a few trees that were left standing. Parasitic creepers had woven a flowing robe of tangle over a statue of Kali, left unbroken in front of a small temple in ruins; and all over the withered[Pg 198] and faded growth the fine white dust had settled in irregular patterns, a graceful embroidery rather thicker in the folds.
Abibulla delivered a long harangue through the closed door; at last a wicket was opened, framing an eye. I was invited to approach, and then, after examination, the wicket in the polished door was abruptly closed!
Then the dancing began again, interrupted for a minute by the call of the night-watchman as he went past carrying a long bamboo. He paused for a moment to watch the performance, and then was lost in the darkness.The walls are covered with bas-reliefs carved in the rock, the roof adorned with architraves of stone in infinite repetition of the same designs. The stone is grey, varied here and there with broad, black stains, and in other spots yellowish, with pale gold lights. Some of the sculpture remains still intact. The marriage of Siva and Parvati; the bride very timid, very fragile, leaning on the arm of the gigantic god, whose great height is crowned with a monumental tiara. Trimurti, a divinity with three faces, calm, smiling, and fierce—the symbol of Siva, the creator, the god of mercy, and of wrath. In a shadowed corner an elephant's head stands out—Ganesa, the god of wisdom, in the midst of a circle of graceful, slender, life-like figures of women. Quite at the end of the hall, two caryatides, tall and elegant, suggest lilies turned to women. In the inner sanctuary, a small edifice, with thick stone walls pierced with tiny windows that admit but a dim light, stands the lingam, a cylinder of stone crowned with scarlet flowers that look like flames in the doubtful light; and in deeper darkness,[Pg 22] under a stone canopy, another such idol, hardly visible. The Brahman priests are constantly engaged in daubing all the statues of these divinities with fresh crimson paint, and the votaries of Siva have a spot of the same colour in the middle of the forehead. Two lions, rigid in a hieratic attitude, keep guard over the entrance to a second temple, a good deal smaller and open to the air, beyond a courtyard, and screened with an awning of creepers.
One temple to Buddha only, on an elongated plan, ends in a vault forming a bulb-shaped cupola supported on massive columns, quite Byzantine in character and wholly unexpected. The dim light, coming in only through a low door and two small windows filled in with pierced carving, enhances the impression of being in some ancient European fane, and the Buddha on the high altar has a look of suffering and emaciation that suggests a work of the fourteenth century.
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