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天堂小屋

类型:奇幻地区:µ发布:2020-10-31 12:11:55

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"What a pity that the sahib does not like music!"On the very summit of the hill, all over the ravine which divided it from another, and which has been filled up at an enormous cost, and then on the top of that other hill beyond, temples are piled up, shining against the too-blue sky, with pointed roofs of stone, scorched by the sun or stained by the rain, and patterned with pale-hued lichens. Above each a spear stands up, impaling a metal ball. In infinite variety, differing in materials, style, and proportions, some quite small, as if they had sprouted round the base of others that are gigantic, there are here five thousand temples built by the faithful, who are incessantly erecting more, devoting great fortunes to the vanity of leaving a chapel that bears their name.

On the edge of a pool, where, like a huge, full-blown lotus flower, stands a kiosk of sculptured marble, dedicated to the Rajah's mother, we came upon the shoe market, the last survival of a time not so very long ago, when shoemakers, as working on the skins of dead beasts, dared not come within the precincts of a town.

In the third-class carriages, where the compartments are divided by wooden lattice, among the bundles, the copper jars, and the trunks painted in the gaudiest colours, sit women in showy saree and decked in all their jewels; children in little silk[Pg 59] coats braided with tinsel, and open over their little bare bodies; men with no garment whatever but a loin-cloth or dhouti. There is endless chatter, a perpetual bickering for places, the bewilderment of those who lose themselves, shouts from one end of the station to the other, and in the foreground of the hubbub the incessant cries of the water and sweetmeat sellers.

The carriage of the Rajah of Palitana awaited us this morning at Songad. As an escort two sowars in long blue cloaks and red turbans, their guns slung behind them, galloped by our vehicle. On each side of the road lay fields of scorched grass, quite burnt and very fine, glistening like silk, reflecting the sun as far as we could see.In the evening calm, the silence, broken only by the yelling of the jackals, weighed heavy on the spirit; and in spite of the twinkling lights and the village at our feet, an oppressive sense of loneliness, of aloofness and death, clutched me like a nightmare.

Not far from Ahmedabad, in a sandy desert[Pg 62] where, nevertheless, a few proliferous baobabs grow, there is a subterranean pagoda drowned in stagnant water that has filled three out of the six floors. These are now sacred baths, in which, when I went there, Hindoos were performing their pious ablutions. Sculptured arcades, upheld by fragile columns, skirt the pools; the stones are green under the water, and undistinguishable from the architecture reflected in the motionless surface that looks blue under the shadow of the great banyan trees meeting in an arch over the temple. A sickly scent of lotus and sandal-wood fills the moist air, and from afar, faint and shrill, the cries of monkeys and minah-birds die away into silence over the calm pool.

We landed at Ramnagar, a marble palace looking like a fortified town, its massive walls rising[Pg 174] from the river and crowned by balconies and fairy kiosksa lacework of stone against the brilliant sky.In the circular marble crypt there is a large cracked bell, inscribed "Lieutenant-Colonel Martin, 1788," also a bust of the corporal, and, in an adjoining cell, the tomb of Colonel Martin, who,[Pg 187] having left his native town of Lyons for Pondicherry, after having painfully worked his way up to the grade of corporal in the French king's army, departed from thence and travelled to Oudh. There as a favourite of the Moslem king's and generalissimo of his troops, he amassed a large fortune, and spent it in building the palaces and colleges which perpetuate his name in several towns in India. He was an eccentric adventurer, whom some now remember here, and whose name pronounced in the Indian fashion, with a broad accent on the a, suggests an almost ironical meaning in conjunction with the idea of a college.

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As we went further south Moslem tombs became more and more rare; the lingam was to be seen here and there among the rice-fields: a gross idol made of stone and looking like a landmark, set up under a tree or sheltered by a little kiosk. Soon temples of Vishnu were seen, raising their[Pg 104] pyramidal piles of ten stories to the sky. Amid the cool shade of palms and bamboos, close to each temple, was a fine tank with steps all round it; and surrounded by this magnificence of architecture and vegetation Hindoos might all day be seen bathing, dwellers in hovels of plaster or matting, sometimes in mere sheds supported on sticks, within the shadow of the splendid building full of treasure, in which the god is enshrined.In the native town the houses are lower and closer together, without gardens between. Down the narrow streets, between booths and shops, with here and there a white mosque where gay-coloured figures are worshipping, or polychrome temples where bonzes are drumming on deafening gongs, run tramways, teams of oxen, whose drivers shriek and shout, and hackney cabs, jingling and rattling. Among the vehicles there moves a compact crowd of every race and every colour: tall Afghans, in dingy white garments, leading Persian horses by the bridle for sale, and crying out the price; bustling Parsees; naked Somalis, their heads shaven and their[Pg 7] oiled black skins reeking of a sickening mixture of lotus and pepper; fakirs, with wild, unkempt hair, their faces and bodies bedaubed with saffron and the thread of the "second birth" across their bare breast; Burmese, with yellow skins and long eyes, dressed in silks of the brightest pink; Mongolians, in dark-hued satin tunics embroidered with showy colours and gold thread.

Under the central dome sleeps Mumtaj-Mahal, the well-beloved sultana, for whom Shah Jehan erected the most beautiful mausoleum in the world.Before daybreak, in the doubtful light of waning night, dim masses are visiblegrey and purple mountainsmountains shaped like temples, of which two indeed seem to be crowned with low squat towers as if unfinished.

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