A Catholic church flanking the Jesuit college persistently sent up to us the shrill tinkle of a little bell, rattling out its quick, harsh strokes like a factory bell for workmen.
The air is heavy with indefinable perfume. We are already coasting the Indian shore, but it remains invisible, and gives no sign but by these gusts of warmer air laden with that inscrutable aroma of musk and pepper. A lighthouse to port, which we have for some time taken for a star, vanishes in the light mist that hangs over the coast, and then again there is nothing but the immensity of waters under the clear night, blue with moonlight.All day long in front of the houses the women were busy clumsily pounding grain with wooden pestles in a hollow made in a log; stamping much too hard with violent energy, they scattered much of the grain, which the half-tamed birds seized as they flew, almost under the women's hands. And then the wind carried away quite half the meal. But they pounded on all day for the birds and the[Pg 263] wind, and were quite happy so long as they could make a noise.
In the distance we heard a sound of pipes, and the merchant hastened out to call the nautch-girls, who began to dance in the street just below us, among the vehicles and foot-passengers. There were two of them; one in a black skirt spangled with silver trinkets, the other in orange and red with a head-dress and necklace of jasmine. They danced with a gliding step, and then drew themselves up with a sudden jerk that made all their frippery tinkle. Then the girl in black, laying her right hand on her breast, stood still, with only a measured swaying movement of her whole body, while the dancer in yellow circled round, spinning as she went. Next the black one performed a sort of goose-step with her feet on one spot, yelling a so-called tune, and clacking her anklets one against the other. Then, after a few high leaps that set her saree flying, the dance was ended; she drew a black veil over her head, and turned with her face to the wall. The other boldly asked for backsheesh, held up her hands, and after getting her money, begged for cakes and sugar.
After passing through the town, all flowery with green gardens, at the end of a long, white, dusty road, where legions of beggars followed me, calling me "Papa" and "Bab," that is to say father and mother, I arrived at the residence of the Gaekwar, the Rajah of Baroda. At the gate we met the palace sentries released from duty. Eight men in long blue pugarees and an uniform of yellow khakee (a cotton stuff), like that of the sepoys, with their guns on their shoulders, looked as if they were taking a walk, marching in very fantastic step. One of them had a bird hopping about in a little round cage that hung from the stock of his gun. Three camels brought up the rear, loaded with bedding in blue cotton bundles.Inside, after going through a long array of rooms filled with sham European furniture—handsome chairs and sofas covered with plush, Brussels carpets with red and yellow flowers on a green ground—we came to the throne-room, an enormous, preposterous hall, which, with its rows of cane chairs and its machine-made Gothic woodwork, was very like the waiting-room or dining-room of an American hotel.
In the native town the houses are lower and closer together, without gardens between. Down the narrow streets, between booths and shops, with here and there a white mosque where gay-coloured figures are worshipping, or polychrome temples where bonzes are drumming on deafening gongs, run tramways, teams of oxen, whose drivers shriek and shout, and hackney cabs, jingling and rattling. Among the vehicles there moves a compact crowd of every race and every colour: tall Afghans, in dingy white garments, leading Persian horses by the bridle for sale, and crying out the price; bustling Parsees; naked Somalis, their heads shaven and their[Pg 7] oiled black skins reeking of a sickening mixture of lotus and pepper; fakirs, with wild, unkempt hair, their faces and bodies bedaubed with saffron and the thread of the "second birth" across their bare breast; Burmese, with yellow skins and long eyes, dressed in silks of the brightest pink; Mongolians, in dark-hued satin tunics embroidered with showy colours and gold thread.In a suburb of little houses beyond a great open square stands a gateway—a monumental portico of pink sandstone inlaid with white marble, on which the texts from the Koran, in black marble, look green in the intense light.The priests slowly mounted the stairs, the music died away in echoes more and more confused, ceasing at last, while the sacred animal, going off to the right at the foot of the steps, disappeared into its stable.
"Could you design another tomb as beautiful as this?" asked the emperor.Two days after, the people would burn in great state, on an enormous wood pile, an image of Time, to ensure the return next year of the festival of colours.
Colaba is the port; the docks, with tall houses between the enormous warehouses. The silence is appalling; windows, doors—all are closed. Only a few coolies hurry by in the white sunshine, with[Pg 13] handkerchiefs over their mouths to protect them against the infection in these streets, whence came the plague which stole at first through the suburbs, nearer and nearer to the heart of the city, driving the maddened populace before it.
The south-western side of the great rock of Gwalior is hewn into temples sheltering gigantic statues of Tirthankar; there are the usual bas-reliefs all over the walls, idols squatting under canopies and pagodas, slender columns supporting arches, standing out in contrast with the ochre-coloured stone. Other temples, vast halls as at Ellora—a vale of pagodas, "the happy valley"—have all disappeared under the picks of engineers, to make a dusty road to the new town of bungalows all adobe and straw thatch.In the courtyard a tall and gaudy cock was keeping the crows in order, driving them relentlessly away from the kitchen precincts. On the roof of the servants' quarters, always in the same spot, perched a kite, ready to pounce as soon as anything was thrown out. The doves, the house-pigeons, the fowls fled at once and squatted in corners; but the cock stood his ground, his feathers all on end, his crest erect, chuckling with rage and stalking round the yard within ten paces of the bird of prey.
Stones flying, sticks thrown—at a little pariah girl, whose shadow as she passed had defiled the food of a Brahmin. He merely threw away the rice, which the dogs soon finished; but the bystanders who had witnessed the girl's insolence in going so near the holy man—she so base and unworthy—flew at the unhappy creature, who ran away screaming, abandoning a load of wood she was carrying on her head.In the middle of the town, which consists entirely of small houses carved from top to bottom, are two massive towers, joined by the remains of the thick wall that formerly enclosed the immensity of the sultan's palace and its outbuildings. The towers now serve as prisons; the stone lattice which screened the private rooms has been replaced by iron bars, the last traces of ornamentation covered up with fresh plaster. Behind the wall the ancient garden, kept green of old by legions of gardeners, is a mere desert of dust; a mausoleum in the middle, transformed into a court of justice, displays all the perfection of Indian art in two pointed windows carved and pierced in imitation of twining and interlaced branches; marvels of delicacy and grace left intact through centuries of vandalism.And the figures go down after long discussions, till at last the question as to whether I know the worth of pashmina begins all over again—endless.详情
Copyright © 2020