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    The rice, lately sown, was sprouting in little square plots of dazzling green; it was being taken up to transplant into enormous fields perpetually under water. All the "paddy" fields are, in fact, channelled with watercourses, or if they are on higher ground, watered from a well. A long beam is balanced over the mouth of the well, and two boys run up and down to lower and raise the bucket; a man tilts the water into the runlets out of a large vessel of dusky copper, or perhaps out of a leaky, dripping water-skin.A golden mass, an enormous shrine chased all over and starred with tapers, now came forward, borne by a score of naked men. Against the gold background, in a perfect glory of diamonds and pearls, sat Vishnu, decked out with flowers and jewels, his head bare with a huge brilliant in his forehead.At Srinagar you live under the impression that the scene before you is a panorama, painted to cheat the eye. In the foreground is the river; beyond it spreads the plain, shut in by the giant mountains, just so far away as to harmonize as a whole, while over their summits, in the perpetually pure air, hues fleet like kisses of colour, the faintest shades reflected on the snow in tints going from lilac through every shade of blue and pale rose down to dead white.In one room we heard musicguzlas, drums, and a vina. There were three dancing-girls. At first they only performed the Indian "goose-step," the slow revolutions growing gradually quicker. But urged by the soldiers who filled the room and beat time with their sticks on the floor, the nautch-girls marked their steps, wriggled with heavy awkward movements, and tried to dance a Highland jig, taught by two Scotch soldiers.From the parapet of one of the bastions the Ganges may be seen in the distance, of a sickly turquoise-blue, shrouded in the haze of dust which hangs over everything and cuts off the horizon almost close in front of us, and the tributary Jumna, translucent and green. At the confluence of the rivers stands a native village of straw and bamboo huts, swept away every season by the rains. This is Triveni, containing 50,000 souls, which enjoys a great reputation for sanctity, and attracts almost as many pilgrims from every part of India as does Benares. The people come to wash away their sins in the Saravasti, the mystical river that comes down from heaven and mingles its waters at this spot with those of the sacred Ganges and the Jumna. The faithful who bathe at Triveni observe an additional ceremony and cut their hair; each hair, as it floats down stream in the sacred waters, effaces a sin, and obtains its forgiveness. In front of the barracks, a relic of past magnificence, there stands alone on a porphyry pedestal, in the middle of a broad plot[Pg 184] trampled by soldiers on parade, an Asoka column carved with inscriptions to the top, and decorated half-way up with a sort of capital.

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    All alike were fevered from the deafening music of harmoniums and tom-toms performing at the back of each gambling-bootha din that drowned shouts of glee and quarrelling.

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    [Pg 119]

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    White clouds grew opalescent against the deep, infinite, blue-velvet sky, and their edges next the moon were fringed with silver. The stars, of a luminous pale green like aqua marine, seemed dead and had no twinkle.

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    In the afternoon, while it was still broad daylight and very bright outside, it was already dusk under the arches of the temple, and bats were flitting about.

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    And then night, the real night, transparently blue and luminous with stars, appeared above the last cloud that vanished with the last clap of thunder. Unspeakable freshness and peace reigned over nature, and in the limpid air the mountain-chains, the giant Himalayas, extended to infinity in tones of amethyst and sapphire. Nearer to us, lights sparkled out in the innumerable huts built even to the verge of the eternal snows, on every spot of arable ground or half-starved grass land.

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    There are women, too, in the throng of men, but fewer in number. Parsee ladies, draped in light sarees of pale-hued muslin bordered with black, which shroud them entirely, being drawn closely over the narrow skirt, crossed several times over the bosom, and thrown over the right shoulder to cover the head and fall lightly on the left shoulder. Hindoo women, scarcely clothed in red stuff, faded in places to a strong pink; a very skimpy bodice, the chol, embroidered with silk and spangles, covers the bust, leaving the arms and bosom free; a piece of thin cotton stuff, drawn round the legs and twisted about the waist, covers the shoulders and head, like a shawl. On their wrists and ankles are silver bangles; they have rings on their fingers and toes, broad necklaces with pendants, earrings, and a sort of stud of gold or copper, with coloured stones, through the left nostril. They go barefoot, pliant[Pg 8] forms avoiding the jostling of the crowd, and carrying on their head a pile of copper pots one above another, shining like gold, and scarcely held by one slender arm with its bangles glittering in the sun. The tinkle of the nanparas on their ankles keeps time with their swinging and infinitely graceful gait, and a scent of jasmine and sandal-wood is wafted from their light raiment. Moslem women, wrapped from head to foot in sacks of thick white calico, with a muslin blind over their eyes, toddle awkwardly one behind the other, generally two or three together. Native children beg, pursuing the passenger under the very feet of the horses; their sharp voices louder than the hubbub of shouts, bells, and gongs, which exhausts and stultifies, and finally intoxicates the brain.
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    At a goldsmith's I stood to watch a native making a silver box. He had no pattern, no design drawn on the surface, but he chased it with incredible confidence, and all his tools were shapeless iron pegs that looked like nails: first a circle round the box, and then letters and flowers outlined with a firm touch that bit into the metal. He had no bench, no shopnothing. He sat at work on the threshold of his stall, would pause to chat or to look at something, and then, still talking, went on with his business, finishing it quite simply at once without any retouching.