One temple to Buddha only, on an elongated plan, ends in a vault forming a bulb-shaped cupola supported on massive columns, quite Byzantine in character and wholly unexpected. The dim light, coming in only through a low door and two small windows filled in with pierced carving, enhances the impression of being in some ancient European fane, and the Buddha on the high altar has a look of suffering and emaciation that suggests a work of the fourteenth century.At the last moment some porters, preceded by two sowars in uniform and holding pikes, bore a large palankin, hermetically closed, to the door of a first-class carriage, and softly set it down. The carriage was opened for a moment: I could see within a party of women-servants, shrouded in white muslin, who were preparing a couch. An old negress handed out to the porters a large sheet, which they held over the palankin, supporting it in such a way as to make a covered passage screening the carriage door. There was a little bustle under the sheet—the end was drawn in, and the sheet fell over the closed door.
The horizon is the Himalaya range; the slopes are covered with the ribbed velvet of the tea plantations, and on one hill stand the scattered bungalows of Mussoree, looking no bigger than pebbles.There is a very small and simple niche against the wall of a larger building, and in this, without even a railing to protect it, stands the image of a goddess robed in silk embroidered in gold; and in[Pg 78] such another little recess, not far away, is the sister of this divinity, also dressed in magnificent stuffs, renewed by the faithful at each high festival.
Close to us on each level spot of the scarped rock was a little fortified look-out where three or four soldiers kept watch, with here and there a larger tower, reached only by a ladder, and in these six or eight men.
Here, a white marble mosque with three flights of open arcades, with white domes to roof it, is paved with rectangular flags, each bordered with a fillet of black marble ending in an arch-like point, immovable prayer-carpets turned towards Mecca. Behind the marble lattices that form one wall of this mosque, the women of the zenana come to hear the moollah recite prayer.
All about the town of pink plaster, in the dust of the roads and fields, are an endless number of dead temples—temples of every size and of every period; and all deserted, all empty; even those that are uninjured look like ruins.
One old man, indeed, bowed so low that he fell into the water, and all the worshippers shouted with laughter.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.
Next morning—so far, so high on the horizon! I saw a pink spot; then, as day broke, the rose colour spread—broader, lower, turned paler, then to white, and the Himalayas lay before me in blinding glory of size and light. Kinchinjunga, at a measureless distance, looked in the clear air as if it were quite close; and round the sovereign giant other giants rent their wrappings of cloud, an amphitheatre of peaks of dazzling whiteness lost against the sky, and almost insensibly fading away behind the vapour that rolled up from the abysses, grew[Pg 148] thicker, and settled into a compact mass over the lost summits, hiding the nearer heights and shrouding Darjeeling in opaque white fog.At night the sound of a remote tom-tom attracted me to a large square shaded by giant trees. In a very tiny hut made of matting, a misshapen statue of Kali, bedizened with a diadem, a belt, nanparas, and bangles made of beads and gold tinsel, stood over a prostrate image in clay of Siva, lying on his back. In front of this divinity, under an awning stretched beneath the boughs of a banyan tree, two nautch-girls in transparent sarees were dancing a very smooth sliding step to the accompaniment of two bagpipes and some drums. The Hindoo spectators sat in a circle on the ground—a white mass[Pg 142] dimly lighted by a few lanterns—and sang to the music a soft, monotonous chant.
The sun cast broad satin lights on its bay coat, already dry; the light hoofs, the pretty head with dilated nostrils gave the creature dignity—it looked like a thoroughbred, really noble in its last rest; while the vultures and kites hovered round, waiting for us to be gone.In the silence of a moonless night nine o'clock struck from the great tower of the Law Courts—a pretty set of chimes, reminding me of Bruges or Antwerp; and when the peal had died away a bugle in the sepoys' quarters took up the strain of the chimes, only infinitely softer, saddened to a minor key and to a slower measure; while in the distance[Pg 32] an English trumpet, loud and clear, sounded the recall in counterpart.
As the sun sank, a magical light of lilac fading into pink fell on the mountain temples, on the rock partly blackened by ages or scorched to pale yellow, almost white; it shed an amethystine glow, transfiguring the carved stone to lacework with light showing through. A wheeling flock of noisy parrakeets filled the air with short, unmeaning cries, intolerable in this rose and lavender stillness, where no sound could be endurable but the notes of an organ. A ray of fiery gold shot straight into the red temple, falling on the marble Buddha. For a moment the idol seemed to be on fire, surrounded by a halo of burning copper.
A day in the tonga. Early in the morning through snow, and past forests where huge pines were felled by yesterday's storm; then, after descending a hill in a thaw that melted the clay soil into red mud, we came to a felted carpet of flowers as close as they could lie, without leaves; violets, and red and white tulips swaying on slender stems. And here again were the song of birds, and fragrance in the soft, clear air.详情
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