Amid the cool rush of a myriad streams is a garden, the loveliest in the world; the broad paths are shaded by cedars, banyans, palms, and crotons with purple and orange leaves. Under the garlands of gorgeous flowered climbers are hedges of roses of every shade, and shrubs starred with lavender and blue. In the ditches, above the water-plants strewn with petals like hoar-frost, grows a carpet of pale lilac cineraria. Then follow more trays with tufts of jasmine stuck into the heart of a pink rose; and as the guest takes one of these bouquets the servant sprinkles first the flowers and then him with rose-water.

At the railway station a woman, who would accept no gratuity, strewed flowers on the cushions of my carriage, and put garlands along the grooves of the open windowsbunches of ebony flowers, of Indian cork-flowers, lilies, and China roses on the point of dropping, only hanging to the calyx by the tip of the petals.

Last year he and his brother had gone into the mausoleum of a Moslem saint with their shoes on; both had gone mad. The other brother died in a madhouse, where he was cared for; this one, incurable but harmless, went about the highways, followed by the dogs.

A stone parapet runs along the river road, and below it the grassy bank slopes gently to the clear and limpid stream of the Ganges. On the shores[Pg 141] of the sacred river fine trees overshadow many idols, and fresh flowers are constantly laid at their feet. We could see the procession coming straight up a hollow ravine from the valley to the Dokma, a path that none but Parsees are allowed to tread;[Pg 31] eight bearers in white, the bier also covered with white, and, far behind, the relations and friends of the dead, all robed in white, two and two, each pair holding between them a square of white stuff in sign of union. They came very slowly up the steps of the steep ascent with a measured chant, in muffled tones, on long-drawn vowels. And from the surrounding trees, from far and near, with a great flutter of wings, the vultures flew to meet the corpse, darkening the sky for a moment.

Whenever our green driver meets another ekka-driver they both get off their perch and take a few puffs at the hookah that hangs in a bag at the back of the vehicle.

Far away, at the end of the bazaar, in a street where no one passes, are the shoemakers' booths littered with leather parings; old cases or petroleum tins serve as seats. Among the workmen swarm children in rags, pelting each other with slippers.

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.

THE END

A different scene indeed next day, with none of the magnificence of yesterday, was the temple of magical lights. There was a dense crowd of shouting and begging pilgrims. Along the pyramidal roofs, as at Srirangam, there were rows of painted gods, but in softer and more harmonious hues. Over the tank for ablutions was a balcony decorated in fresco, representing in very artless imagery the marriage of Siva and Parvati. The couple are seen holding hands under a tree; he a martial figure, very upright, she looking silly, her lips pursed, an ingnue. In another place Siva sits with his[Pg 120] wife on his knees, she has still the same school-girl expression. Finally, on the ceiling, is their apotheosis: they are enthroned with all the gods of Ramayana around them, and she looks just the same. The red and green, subdued by the reflected light from the water, were almost endurable.

The music played louder, light flashed out on all sides, the god stood still, and bayadres performed their worship. With slow gestures, their hands first hollowed and held to the brow, then their arms flung out, they bowed before the idol with a snake-like, gliding motion, while the music played very softly and the lights burnt faintly. The nauchnees, in dark muslin drapery spangled with gold, bangles on their arms, their necks, and their ankles, and rings on their toes, swayed as they danced, and swung long, light garlands of flowers which hung about their necks. And there were flowers in their hair, in a bunch on each side of the head, above two gold plates from which hung strings of beads. The flying, impalpable gauze looked like a swirl of mist about their limbs.

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.