[Pg 196]Traversing the narrow avenues that intersect the bazaar, we came to a series of quiet courts; here were the police-station, the small barracks, and stables for camels and elephants. In a blind alley we found a white mosque, where men were praying robed in pink and green; while opposite, below a house consisting of three stories of arcades, some Syrian horses, as slender as gazelles, were exercising on the bright-hued mosaic floor of the open stable.Here, once more, is the spectre of the mutiny that broke out in the Residency, of which the ruins may be seen in the middle of a park intersected by watercourses, the English flag still proudly waving over them.
A little way off, in the burning sandy plain, is a pagoda sacred to the pigeons. Lying as close as tiles, in the sun, they hide the roof under their snowy plumage. Round pots are hung all about the building, swaying in the wind, for the birds to nest in, a red decoration against the russet stone; each one contains an amorous and cooing pair.Every year pilgrims set up the tallest tree from the neighbouring jungle in front of the sanctuary, and twist round it an enormous red flag. The[Pg 291] mast now standing was at least a hundred feet high, and held in place by guys attached to banyan trees and houses standing near. Close to the ground ties of coloured worsted, the offerings of the faithful, held the crimson hanging to the pole.
In the midst of a large room crowded with women in light-hued sarees, the bridegroom takes his seat between two tables, on which are large trays of rice. Facing him is a chair, and one is occupied by the bride, who is brought in by a party of girls. She is scarcely fourteen, all in white; on her head is a veil of invisibly fine muslin ten folds thick; it enfolds her in innocence, and is crowned with sprays of myrtle blossom.After her another woman repeated the ceremony, and then they went away, still singing. This went on for part of the evening. When it was all over they went to eat rice at the bridegroom's house, and meanwhile the same ceremony had been performed with the bride, whom her neighbours had taken it by turns to anoint and perfume, in a house closed against prying eyes.
DERWALTazulmulook arrives in the same town, and is on the point of ringing at Dilbar's door when he is hindered by his father's vizier, who tells him how many times this dangerous woman has been the ruin of kings' sons. But Tazulmulook, in a discourse on valour addressed to the audience, who stamped applause, rejects the counsels of prudence and rings at the dancer's door. Tazulmulook wins the game with Dilbar, and compels her to release his brothers, but only after branding each on the back of his neck.
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.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.
All round the Royal Hill ancient buildings are piled in stages, the remains of still majestic magnificence. The thorn-brakes cover supporting walls as broad as crenellated terraces; fragments of light and fantastic architecture stand up from amid golden blossoms; tottering colonnades overhang tanks, all green at the bottom with a pool of brackish water.
"It must be the tax-collector to bring such a mob together."
The external decoration is broken by broad flat panels, incised in places so delicately that the patterns look like faded fresco, scarcely showing against the gold-coloured ground of yellow stone. In front of the Kailas stand two tall obelisks, carved from top to bottom with an extraordinary feeling for proportion which makes them seem taller still, and two gigantic elephants, guardians of the sanctuary,[Pg 42] heavy, massive images of stone, worm-eaten by time into tiny holes and a myriad wrinkles, producing a perfect appearance of the coarse skin of the living beast.
A carriage with four horses, and servants in dark green livery thickly braided with silver, and gold turbans with three raised corners very like the cocked hats of the French Guards, were standing in the Court of Honour. The little princess took a seat between her father and me. To drive out she had put on an incredible necklace with bosses of diamonds and heavy emerald pendants. With her talismans round her neck in little gold boxes, with this necklace of light, and rings of precious stones in her ears, she looked like a too exquisite idol, motionless and silent. It was not till we were returning and the falling night hid her glittering jewels that she chirped a few words, and consented to give me her hand, and even sang a few crystal notes of a favourite song. A little princess of seven years who can already read and write, sew[Pg 69] and embroider, sing in time, and dance as lightly, I should fancy, as a butterfly with her tiny feet, that fidget in her gold slippers when she hears the music—though, frightened lest the Rajah should make her dance before me, she denied it altogether—a little princess, an only child, whom her father takes with him everywhere that she may see something of the world before she is eleven years old, for after that she will never leave her mother's zenana but to marry and be shut up in another harem.Legends have gathered round the Taj Mahal as about every old building in India, and this one seems to me not impossible in its barbarity.详情
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