Then, from a bridge across the Ganges, for a moment we had a last glimpse of the sacred city—the gold-coloured umbrellas, the throng of bathers on the steps to the river—and then Abibulla gravely remarked, "If only India had three cities like Benares it would be impossible ever to leave it."This native regiment, after many victories, was presented by the Empress Queen with a sort of mace. A little shrine contains two crossed knives, and is surmounted by three Ghoorkhas bearing a royal crown in silver. This object is preserved in a case in the ammunition store. An officer is appointed to guard it, and the soldier who took it out to show me touched it really as if it had been the Host. And it is a fact that on high festivals the soldiers come to sacrifice goats before the house where this fetish is treasured.On a square, shaded by an awning, with porticoes all round, coolies in white dresses sat on the ground making up little bunches of flowers, the blossoms without stems tied close to a pliant cane for garlands—jasmine, roses, chrysanthemums, and sweet basil—for in India, as in Byzantium of old, basil is the flower of kings and gods. The basil's fresh scent overpowered the smell of sandal-wood and incense which had gradually soaked into me in the presence of the idols, and cleared the atmosphere delightfully. A woman rolled up in pale-tinted muslins under the warm halo of light falling through the[Pg 80] awning, was helping one of the florists. She supported on her arm a long garland of jasmine alternating with balls of roses. Almost motionless, she alone, in the midst of the idols, at all reminded me of a goddess.
Men were carrying mud in enormous turtle-shells that they used for baskets.In the hotel compound—more absurd than all the rest, lost in a waste of open land beyond the seething native town—there was a swarm of coolie servants, their wives and their children, who played all day at climbing about the coaches put up under the trees. And, without ceasing, a maddening hubbub of laughter and crying came up from this litter of brats, more weariful than the silence of vacancy all around.
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.
At night, in the crowded station, a guard of honour was waiting, composed of sepoys. There was shouting among the crowd, a fanatical turmoil, a storm of orders, and heavy blows. Some great[Pg 93] magnate got out of the train, surrounded by secretaries and officers. The soldiers, bearing torches, attended him to his carriage; they remounted their horses, following the vehicle, in which a light dress was visible. Very fast, and with a great clatter, they rode away into the silent night fragrant with rich scents; they were lost under the trees to reappear in the distance on a height, the torches galloping still and the smoke hanging in a ruddy cloud above the bright steel and the white cruppers. Then, at a turn in the road, they all vanished.At Mazagoon, one of the suburbs of Bombay, behold a Parsee wedding.
Then all went out, died gently away; the tom-toms and pipe attending the god's progress alone were audible in the silence; till in the distance a great blaze of light flashed out, showing a crowd of bright turbans and the glittering splendour of the shrine going up the steps to the temple where, till next year, Rama would remain—the exiled god, worshipped for his wisdom which enabled him to discover the secrets, to find the true path, and win the forgiveness of his father.Then an elder of the family deliberately lights the first fire—a lamp hanging in the vestibule; and as soon as they see the flame the High Dastour and all those present bow in adoration with clasped hands. The bridegroom and the priest go into the house and have their hands and faces washed; then, preceded by the band and followed by all the guests, they proceed to the home of the bride.In the midst of the Lake of Immortality stands a marble temple with a roof and decorations of gold. All round the sacred lake palaces of delicate hue form a circle about the sanctuary, which glistens in the sun, its gilding and pale-tinted marbles reflected like the gleam of precious stones in the calm, sheeny, deeply transparent water.
"Farewell," said he, "and may the Almighty protect you, for you look kind."The matter was evidently very serious. The three constables consulted together in an undertone, and then went off after desiring that I would forthwith telegraph to Sealkote and bring the reply to the police office.
So, after waiting for the reply of the gentleman whose business it was to give me this free pass, seeing that he could not make up his mind, I left the town without it.详情
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