Close to a temple, of which the cornice is decorated with female figures holding musical instruments, on a sort of terrace a party of youths were making a distracting din with brass instruments, acutely shrill, and, of course, tom-toms. Two very small temples covered with brass that shines like gold stand in the bazaar to mark the beginning and end of the coppersmiths' quarter, where every stall rings with the tinkle of the little hammers tapping the metal that is beaten into trays and pots and a thousand vessels for the worship of the gods and for domestic purposes. Workmen aged four, the great-grand-sons of the master-smith, were already trying their 'prentice hand, chiselling the hard metal with a free touch, and ornamenting cups and bowls of traditional shape. And this is the only part of the calm and lazy city, living on its temples and its sacred river,[Pg 161] where the visitor feels himself a "tourist." Here the shops for the special craft of Benares are furnished with the unwonted luxury of chairs, and some display of signs and wares is made. Further on is a large open place full of piles of flowers, garlands of jasmine and marigold, and heaps of rose petals to be strewn on the water.Further on we came to a courtyard surrounded by a cloister, where the market for precious stones was held. The empress, invisible under her wrappers of gauze as thin as air, and surrounded by her women fanning her, would come out on her high balcony to choose the gems that pleased her for a moment by their sparkle, and then disappear into the gardens behind insurmountable walls. In another court, a[Pg 209] pool kept stocked with fish gave Shah Jehangir the pleasure of fancying he was fishing.
As we reached Bunnoo green cornfields extended as far as the eye could see, under mulberry trees just unfolding their leaves. Numberless channels of water irrigated the land; the bed of the Kurrum[Pg 275] alone, quite white, was flecked here and there with blue pools, and was presently lost in the rosy distance of the hills on the Afghan frontier.Then her bedroom: no bed, only a vast mattress rolled up against the wall, and spread over the floor every night—it must cover the whole room.
Under the central dome sleeps Mumtaj-Mahal, the well-beloved sultana, for whom Shah Jehan erected the most beautiful mausoleum in the world.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.
We visited a temple where the natives treasure the couch of the Guru Ram-Roy, a very holy and much venerated fakir.
A spell seemed to linger over this little bazaar, to slacken every movement and give the people an indolent grace. They spoke languidly in the shade of the awnings spread by the flower-sellers and the jewellers, who, with little ringing taps, were [Pg 95]hammering out minute patterns on silver anklets and necklaces.
ELLORAA 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.
We set out from Srinagar in an ekka, drawn at a trot by our only horse. The driver, perched on the shaft almost by his steed's side, dressed in green with an enormous pink pugaree, flogged and shouted incessantly. The monotonous landscape went on and on between the poplars that border the road, extending as far as the blue circle of distant Himalayas. The valley was green with the first growth of spring; as yet there were no flowers. And till evening fell, the same horizon shut us in with mountains that seemed to recede from us.The long table was filled with officials and their wives, as happy as children—pulling crackers at dessert, putting on paper caps, singing the latest music-hall nonsense; while outside, jackals whined, suddenly coming so close that they drowned the voices and the accompaniment on the piano.
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.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.
In another place two elephants of bright indigo, and some musicians all green, with red parrots on their wrists, are painted on the walls of a hall where the prayer-bell is incessantly tolled. Here many worshippers were prostrate. An idol, flanked by two statues on guard in stiff hieratic attitudes, was almost hidden under gold chains and a crown of inordinate splendour, while a priest, wearing only a loin-cloth, stood calmly sluicing the white plaster and putting the god through his toilet, sometimes splashing the congregation.KOHATAnd certainly the most comical of all is the representation of a baboo donor, to whom two servants, prostrate before him, are offering a glass of water.详情
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