人民电子书→十九届四中全会学习资料

At the bazaar we were positively hunted as customers; the clamour was harassing, and everything was displayed for sale in the open street, while the owner and his family crowded round us and hindered us from going a single step further.

When I went away home to the fort, where I was living with my friend Lieutenant F, the sentinel's challenge, the tall grey walls casting sharp shadows on the courtyard silvered with moonlight, and another sentry's cry; and still, in contrast with the cheerful evening, I could remember nothing but the tonga post-horsea thing so frequent in this land of fanatics, so common that no one gives it more than a passing thought. 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.

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.

In the mystery of a polychrome temple, whose walls are closely covered with sculptured bas-reliefs of gods in the shape of men or animals, is a relic, the sacred tooth of Buddha; and all about the precious object, which is enclosed in a series of shrines within impenetrable walls, there is no sign of respect, but all the noise and bustle of a fair, a perfect turmoil of hurrying, chattering folk, whose only anxiety is to keep unbelievers away from the sacred spot. One of these mausoleums served us for a bungalow. The distance was visible from the window openings, which were fringed with cuscus blinds[Pg 39] that would be pulled down at night: the spreading dark plain, broken by gleaming pools, and dotted with the lamps in the temples to Vishnu, of which the cones were visible in silhouette, cutting the clear horizon.

One of my sepoys was lying asleep in the [Pg 82]verandah of the bungalow. A variety of articles hung from his belt: an antelope's horn made into a powder-flask, several tassels of red and green silk threaded in a row, a triple chain of copper serving to hang up lamps in front of the sacred images, a small damascened knife in a crimson velvet sheath, and a tiny yellow earthenware bottle containing kohl.

The road goes on. Trees cast their shade on the flagstone pavement, but between the houses and through open windows the sandy plain may be seen, the endless whiteness lost in a horizon of dust.

The natives here were an even finer race than those at Peshawur, and more uncultured, never bowing when we met them, but eyeing us as we passed as if they were meditating some foul blow.

Near a temple some bells and tom-toms animated the silence with their clang and clatter. Worshippers stole in noiselessly, barefoot on the stones, and entered the sanctuary, within which tapers were burning.

Halting at noon at Kohala, we found a barber in the open street shaving and snipping his customers. In a cage hanging to the bough of a tree above his head a partridge was hopping aboutblack speckled with white, and gold-coloured wings. It had a strident cry like the setting of a saw.

"And no medicine?"

A fortified wall encloses Lashkar, the residence of the Maharajah of Gwalior; the bridges, which form part of the enclosure crossing the river that flows through the estate, have thick bars filling up the arches.