The Viharas, monasteries of cells hollowed out in the hillside, extend for more than half a mile; briars and creepers screen the entrances leading to these little retreats, a tangle of flowers and carvings.It was a miserable assemblage of booths and tumble-down dwellings, crowded round a sumptuous old palace with porticoes carved with divinities. The new town consists of modern buildings, devoid of[Pg 86] style, the residence of wealthy Parsee merchants. Here are libraries, archives—all kinds of offices, which seem so useless here, and which, till I was told what they were, I took to be a prison.
But for once he was mistaken.Above the mausoleum a fort with battlements towers over the pass, "an impregnable position," the guides tell us.
"Then twenty-eight?"In a copse, women, surrounded by naked children, were breaking stones, which men carried to the road. The women screamed, hitting the hard pebbles with a too small pick, the children fought, the men squabbled and scolded, and amid all this hubbub three Parsees, sitting at a table under the shade of a tamarind tree, were adding up lines of figures on papers fluttering in the wind. There was not a dwelling in sight, no sign of an encampment, nothing but these labouring folk and the bureaucracy out in the open air, under the beating sun.
In the town camels were harnessed to a sort of carriage like a hut perched on misshapen wheels, and rumbling slowly through the streets, seeming very heavy at the heels of the big beast with its shambling gait."Here lies Jehangir, Conqueror of the World."In the case of a Brahmin it is the judge who hurries to the threshold, and affects to touch the priest's feet.
At another station, a man, standing on the carriage step, held out a broad sheet to a servant, the two ends falling to the ground. Then a lady stepped out, hid herself under the stuff, which wrapped her from head to foot, and walked along the platform with a woman-servant. She was the wife of some superior clerk, not rich enough to have a palankin, but of too high caste to uncover her face—a white bundle tottering along the platform. One of her antelope-skin slippers came off; for a second a tiny foot was put out with silver anklets. The woman put her mistress's shoe on again, and then both went to the waiting-room reserved for ladies.
At our feet lay old Gwalior, sacked again and again, and as often rebuilt out of its own ruins;[Pg 202] and now the princely residences, all of marble wrought in almost transparent lacework, serve to shelter wandering cattle.[Pg 205]
This Dilbar was a boy with a more woolly wig than the others, and to emphasize her sex wore a monstrous display of trinkets round her neck and arms, in her ears and nose.
The other victim, the night watchman of a neighbouring village, was suspected of treachery towards the hill-tribes in a recent skirmish. One ball through the head had killed him, and his arms had been cut off.
A wide avenue paved with marble, rising in broad steps, crosses the hilltop between temples on either side, intersecting narrower alleys, likewise bordered with pagodas crowded together in the inextricable mazes of a labyrinth, whence our guides were frequently required to lead us out—temples crowned with a cupola or a cone, a bristling throng of little extinguishers all covered with carving. The same subjects and patterns are repeated to infinity, even in the darkest nooks: figures of gods, of gigantic beasts rearing or galloping, of monstrous horses and elephants, of tiny birds sheltering the slumbers of the gods under their outspread wings.A tank here is deep below ground, down three flights of galleries. Quite at the bottom is a little stagnant water, into which children leap from the top of the structure, a plunge of twenty metres, ending in a great splash of green mud that smells of water-lilies and grease.
A flight of regular steps, hewn in the rock, under the shade of banyans and bamboos, all tangled with flowering creepers, leads straight up to the temple. It is a vast hall, dug out of granite and supported by massive columns, with capitals of a half-flattened spheroidal shape—columns which, seen near, seem far too slender to support the immense mass of the mountain that rises sheer above the cave under a curtain of hanging creepers. The temple opens[Pg 21] to the north, and a very subdued light—like the light from a painted window—filtering through the ficus branches, lends solemnity and enhanced beauty to this titanic architecture.详情
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