Then there were races of baggage-mules, and competitions of speed in harnessing horses and in striking the tents. Finally the English officers rode a race, and then the prizes were distributed—money to the men and blue pugarees with gold thread to the native officers.In an ancient mosque, somewhat dilapidated, was an infant-school. Little heaps of stuff, pink and yellow and white, and above them emaciated little faces with large dark eyes that had greenish-blue lights in them, all moving and rocking continually, and spelling aloud out of open books set up on wooden folding desks. The master in his pulpit listened stolidly with half-shut eyes, and detected the mistakes in all this twitter of little voices.
On the road the people bowed low as we passed, almost to the earth. The women, in token of respect, turned their backs and crouched down.Between the houses tiny garden-plots full of flowers surround gravestones, on which fresh roses are constantly laid.Instead of the usual wreath of flowers for my neck the Rajah gave me a necklace of silver threads, to which hung a little bag of purple and green silk, closely embroidered, and looking like a scent-sachet, or a bag to hold some precious amulet.
Wide strands of golden sand; here and there among the rice-fields the palms and bamboos are less crowded. In the moist air, that grows hotter and hotter, the daylight is blinding, hardly tolerable through the blue glass of the windows. Scorched, russet rocks stand up from the short grass, tremulous in the noontide heat. The cattle, the very birds, silent and motionless, have sought shelter in the shade; all the people have gone within doors. And then, towards evening, in an oasis of gigantic trees, amid bamboos and feathery reeds, behold the huge temples of Madura, in sharp outline against a rosy sky.
There was at the top of the temple a sarcophagus in a shrine, on which were masses of impalpable silk gauze embroidered with gold, which looked like a peacock's breast, so subtle were the transparent colours lying one above another—green, blue, and yellow predominating, gauze so light that the slightest breath set it floating in glistening and changing hues; and on the snowy white pavement of the floor was strewn a carpet of very pale lilac lilies and mindi flowers.NANDGAUN
In front of a Buddhist temple were some tanks in which enormous tortoises were swimming. On the building, above carvings of elephants in relief on the stone, were a number of mural paintings, artless and terrible scenes set forth with the utmost scorn of perspective and chiaroscuro: a place of torment where green monsters thrust the damned against trees of which the trunks are saws, and enormous red and yellow birds devour living victims.We met a strange caravan; a small party of men surrounding more than a hundred women wrapped in dark robes, and bearing on their veiled heads heavy bales sewn up in matting, and large copper pots. A little blind boy led the way, singing a monotonous chant of three high notes. He came up to my tonga, and to thank me for the small coin I gave him he said, "Salaam, Sahib," and then repeated the same words again and again to his[Pg 37] tune, dancing a little step of his own invention till the whole caravan was hidden from me in a cloud of dust.To the right of the forecourt is the high priest's room; lustres, glass shades, gilt chairs, coloured photographs, incongruously surrounding an antique silk carpet, soiled and stained.
A salesman of whom I had bought several things, wishing to do me a civility, called a tom-tom player, who was to escort me home rapping on his ass's[Pg 215] skin; and when I declined very positively, the poor man murmured with a piteous, crushed look:Under the white dome a wooden ceiling, gilt in the hollows of the carving, has taken the place of an earlier ceiling of massive silver, worth seventy lacs of rupees, which was carried off by the conquerors after some long-ago seizure of the city. Inside, by way of walls, are carvings in marble of twisted lilies, inconceivably graceful and light. And then, at one of the entrances, those marble lattices, once gilt and now bereft of their gold, look just like topaz in the midday sun. After that magic splendour of gold and marbles fused to topaz and amber, the rest of the palace—the sleeping-rooms, the couches inlaid with mosaic flowers, the pierced stone balconies overlooking the Jumna—all seemed commonplace and familiar.
A man in the fort always struck out the hours on a gong, very slowly, in the heat of the day. Twelve at noon was interminable—one, two, three were so feeble as to be scarcely audible. And then when it was cooler and the tom-toms could be heard in the distance, the strokes had a queer dislocated rhythm, and sometimes even a stroke too many, smothered in a hurried roll.The Prince of Morvi came before sunrise to take us to the temples of Satrunji. On the way we outstripped carts packed full of women and children in light shimmering muslins. They were all making a pilgrimage to the sacred hill, singing shrill chants in time to the jolting of their springless vehicles,[Pg 70] and broken by oaths and imprecations at the stoppages occasioned by our expedition.
When the dead are to be honoured in this land each true believer lays a pebble as homage on the tomb, and the dead man's repute is estimated by the size of the pile of stones that covers him.详情
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