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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.

Near a small station oxen were filing slowly past. On their heads were hoops hung with bells, and little ornaments at the tips of their horns dangled with quick flashes of light. After bathing, during their long prayers to the gods of the river, almost as sacred here as it is at Benares, the pilgrims threw grain to the half-tame fish. Steering vigorously with their tails, the creatures turned and rolled, making eddies of light in the water, and hurrying up to the falling grain occasionally upset the equilibrium of some old woman still taking her bath. At the top of the bank, in the blazing sunshine, two fakirs, squatting in the dusty road, remained unmoved by all this turmoil, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, absorbed in a fixed thought which concentrated their gaze[Pg 297] on an invisible point. The fall of an old woman into the Ganges, with all the shouting that such an incident entails in India, left them quite indifferent; they did not stir, did not even glance at the river as the woman was taken out unconscious.

MADRAS

In the sleeping town of Darjeeling a bell and drum were sounding to announce the Tibetan Christmas. The Brahmin paradise remained invisible and mysterious behind a clear sky studded with stars. Further on, in the temple stables, open to the sky and surrounded by a colonnade of carved and painted pillars, some women, in silken sarees of dark hues, were waiting on the bulls and the tiny zebu cows, feeding them with the flower offerings strewn on the mosaic pavement of the courtyard.

Close to the monumental trophy of Khoutab is a temple with columns innumerable, and all different, overloaded with carvings incised and in relief, with large capitals; beams meet and cross under the roof, also carved in the ponderous stone, and the whole forms a cloister round a court; while in the centre, amid Moslem tombs, an iron pillar stands, eight metres high, a pillar of which there are seven metres sunk in the grounda colossal casting placed here in 317, when half the civilized world was as yet ignorant of the art of working in metal. An inscription records that "King Dhava, a worshipper of Vishnu, set up this pillar to commemorate his victory over the Belikas of Sindhu."

When a native comes to ask a favour he brings a few rupees in his hand, and the patron must take them and hold them a few minutes. A retired Sikh trooper had come to see his son, now a soldier in the regiment, and met the colonel, who asked him whether he could do anything for him, to which the other replied:

Another temple, Sas Bahu, likewise elaborately carved under a roof too heavy for it, has a terrace overhanging the hill, whence there is a view over Lashkar, the new palace, gleaming white among the huge trees of the park.

A roofless mausoleum is that of the Sultan[Pg 221] Altamsh, who desired to sleep for ever with no vault over his tomb but that of the heavens; a vast hall, its walls wrought with inscriptions in Persian, Hindostanee, and Arabic, built of brick-red granite and yellow marble softened to pale orange in the golden sunshine. Here and there traces may be seen of wall-paintings, green and blue, but quite faded, and now merely a darker shadow round the incised ornament. Hibiscus shrubs mingle their branches over the tomb and drop large blood-red blossoms on the stone sarcophagus. Further on is another mausoleum, in such good preservation that it has been utilized as a bungalow for some official.

Inside the building, under a silken Persian rug, stretched like an awning, there were piles of coin on a cloth spread on the ground, with flowers, rice, and sweetmeats offered there. In a recess was a band of musicianstom-toms and fiddlesscarcely audible in the turmoil of shouted prayers and the chatter of the faithful.

Then into a garden with a number of quite narrow, straight paths bordered with nasturtiums, tall daisies, and geraniums, while a tangle of jasmine, china roses, bougainvillea, and poinsettia flourished freely under the shade of tamarind and palm trees. Over a clump of orange trees in blossom a cloud of butterflies was flitting, white patterned with black above, and cloisonns beneath in red and yellow with fine black outlines.

Then into a garden with a number of quite narrow, straight paths bordered with nasturtiums, tall daisies, and geraniums, while a tangle of jasmine, china roses, bougainvillea, and poinsettia flourished freely under the shade of tamarind and palm trees. Over a clump of orange trees in blossom a cloud of butterflies was flitting, white patterned with black above, and cloisonns beneath in red and yellow with fine black outlines.