Little beggar-girls with a depraved look, artful little hussies, pursued us coaxingly: "Give something, sahib, to pretty Cingalee girl, who wants to go over sea to where the gentlemens live."Along the line were hedges of glaucous aloes, of[Pg 106] gynerium all plumed with white, and over every plant an inextricable tangle of baja, its pink flowers hanging in bunches.
The long table was filled with officials and their wives, as happy as children—pulling crackers at dessert, putting on paper caps, singing the latest music-hall nonsense; while outside, jackals whined, suddenly coming so close that they drowned the voices and the accompaniment on the piano.Inside the temple was the fragrance of fresh flowers, brought as offerings, with grains of rice threaded like semi-transparent beads on the flexible pale green stem. A huge Buddha here, of many-coloured stones bedizened with gold, gleams in the[Pg 128] shade of the altar, and two bonzes in front of the idol were quarrelling at great length, with screams like angry cats and vehement gesticulations, for the possession of some small object which constantly passed from one to the other.
Immediately on entering we were in the maze of vaults, sanctuaries, great halls and arcades, where stall-keepers sell their goods, priests keep school, and flower-sellers wander. Statues, repeated in long rows, lead up to temples all alike, of a bewildering uniformity of architecture and identical decoration.Only one entrance to the temple remains, built of polished red stone mingled harmoniously with marble, toned by time to a warm golden hue almost rose-colour. All the profusion of Indian design is lavished on this gateway framing the marvel erected by Pal. Tangles of interlacing letters incised and in relief, mingling with trails of flowers as lissom as climbing plants, and supporting figures of gods; while a fine powdering of white dust over the dimmed warm yellow of marble and sandstone softens yet more the carved flowers and sinuous patterns, amid which the images sit in tranquil attitudes.Such as were able to work at making rope or straw mats earned an anna a day, the children half an anna. This was extra to their food, a cake of gram flour, which was all the allowance for twenty-four hours. But among those admitted to the poorhouse about a quarter of the number were unable to work. In a similar but smaller enclosure adjacent was the infirmary, a hospital with no physician, no remedies. The shrunken creatures lay shivering in the sun, huddled under rags of blanket. All were moaning, many were unconscious, wandering in delirium, shrieking, and writhing. One man, too weak to stand, came up grovelling on his hands and knees, taking me for a doctor, and beseeching me to go to his wife who was lying over there, and by her a dusky moist rag as it seemed—her very inside purged out by dysentery.
There are two towns of Peshawur: one a distracted, silly place, with no beginning nor end, straggling along something in the manner of Madras, with an embryonic bazaar and all the amusements demanded by soldiers; the other enclosed in walls of dried mud, which are preserved only "to protect the town from robbers."[Pg 27]
"What is the Virgin Mary?"Finally, in a third mosque, lies Shah Alam's brother. On the stone that covers him a sheet of lead bears the print of two gigantic feet, intended to perpetuate to all ages the remembrance of his enormous height.When the road was made through Bunnoo a pile of stones was heaped up in the middle of the village. The Moslems finally persuaded themselves that this was a saint's grave; and they come hither to perform their devotions, planting round it bamboo flagstaffs with pennons, and adding to the mound the stones they piously bring to it day by day.
Three musicians in white, with red turbans, squatted down on the ground in front of us. One sang to the accompaniment of a viol with three strings and nine frets, and a darboukha; a drawling strain, all on the upper notes, and rising higher to a shrill monotonous wail, retarded, as it were, to a rhythm against the accompaniment; then by degrees more lively, faster and faster, ending with a sudden stop on a word of guttural consonants. But the man began again; he sang for a long time, varying the tunes, always returning to the first. But nothing of them remains in my mind, not even the rhythm, only a vague recollection, a singular echo, confused but [Pg 67]charming, in spite of the weirdness of the too high pitch.All round the Rajah's palace crowds a town of palaces, mosques, and temples dedicated to Vishnu; and outside the walls, on a plain lying between the hills of Amber, is another town, still thick with ruins amid the forest of encroaching trees. And it is all dead, deserted, dust-coloured, unspeakably sad, with the sadness of destruction and desertion in the midst of a landscape gorgeous with flowers and groves. In the palace of Amber, guides make a good[Pg 216] business of showing us the public rooms, baths, and bedrooms, all restored with an eye to the tourist. In the gardens, heavy with perfume, the trees display swinging balls of baked earth full of holes, which protect the ripening fruit from the monkeys; a whole tribe of them scampered off at our approach, and went to torment the peacocks that were solemnly promenading a path, and that presently flew away.
On reaching the temple of Vishnu, on the very threshold, we met an elephant marching in front of the Brahmin priests, who were carrying water in copper amphor? to bathe the idols withal. Musicians followed the elephant, playing on bagpipes, on a kind of little trumpet, very short and shrill-toned, and on drums; and the beast, with its trunk swaying to right and left, begged a gift for the expenses of the temple.
In the town, at a spot where several alleys meet, stood a mob of people holding out the ends of their sarees or dhotis to catch handfuls of grain which a kshatriya was throwing to them from a[Pg 170] window, though he looked almost as ragged as the beggars collected in front of the house.One old man, indeed, bowed so low that he fell into the water, and all the worshippers shouted with laughter.
Next day was kept as the spring festival. Every man had a rose stuck into his turban, and a shirt embroidered in gold on the shoulders and breast. The women appeared in stiff and gaudy veil cloths, bedizened with trumpery jewellery. Everybody was gay; a little excited towards evening by arrack, and dancing, and singing to the eternal tom-toms. Even the fiercest men from the hills, with black[Pg 279] turbans and enormously full calico trousers that once were white, and shirts embroidered in bright silks, had set aside their ferocious looks and stuck roses in their pugarees, smiling at those they met.Close to a field that had just been reaped four oxen yoked abreast were threshing out the grain, tramping round and round on a large sheet spread on the ground. The driver chanted a shrill, slow tune; further away women in red were gleaning, and a patriarch contemplated his estate, enthroned on a cart in a halo of sunset gold.
There was not a living thing in the silence and overheated air—not a bird, not a fly; and beyond the houses lay the plain once more, a monotonous stretch of dead whiteness, the unspeakable desolation of murderous nature, henceforth for ever barren.Music attracted us to where the cross-roads met, darboukhas struck with rapid fingers and a bagpipe droning out a lively tune. The musicians sat among stones and bricks, tapping in quick time on their ass's-skin drums, beating a measure for some masons to work to. Women carried the bricks men spread the mortar; they all sang and worked with almost dancing movements in time with the music, as if they were at play.The jugglers being gone, a boy, to gain alms, opened a round basket he was carrying, and up rose a serpent, its hood raised in anger, and hissing with its tongue out.详情
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