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BOMBAY In one brilliantly-lighted hall, priests, dressed in long yellow dalmatics, were adoring idols, elephants, Anantas; and from an enormous gold lotus sprang the Mandeel, rising through the dome, its tip standing in the outer air to bear the white flag that is hoisted on high festivals. At the entrance to this shrine parrots in cages suddenly set up a hostile outcry as I passed them, and were only pacified by the coming of a priest, who gave them some food. The clatter, however, had attracted other Brahmins; one of them desired me to leave, "and[Pg 117] at once." I declined to obey, so he sent for the elephant who does duty as police, to turn me out.

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.

A portico, supporting two stories of an unfinished building, forms the principal entrance; the pilasters are crowned with massive capitals scarcely rough-hewn in the stone. This porch alone gives an impression of repose, from its simplicity of line amid the medley of statues and incongruous ornaments loaded with strong colours, which, diminishing by degrees, are piled up to form each temple, ending almost in a spire against the sky. Vishnu, reclining on the undulating rings[Pg 112] of Ananta Sesha the god of serpents, whose name is the Infinite; idols with human faces riding on bulls, and elephants, and prancing horses; terrible Kalis with two fists rammed into their mouth, and six other arms spread like open wings; Ganesa, the elephant-headed god, ponderously squatting, his hands folded over his stomach; Garudha, the bird-headed god, ridden by Vishnu when he wanders through space; Hanuman, the monkey god, perched on a pedestal in an acrobatic attitude, the face painted bright green; gods of every size and every colour mixed up in a giddy whirl, round and round to the very summit of the structure.

Further yet lay the artificial lake of Meer Alam, reflecting the palace of Baradari and the russet plain, infinite as far as the eye could reach towards the north, where other superb mausoleums were visible in their whiteness.

Then a man rose, and standing on the bayadres' carpet, he recited, in verses of equal measure, a sort of heroic legend, making his voice big, and emphasizing his words with grand gesticulation. One of the dancers spoke the antistrophe, and this went on interminably, till their voices gradually sank to mere hollow and expressionless intoning, while they swayed their bodies to and fro like children who do not know their lesson.

The children of the bazaar watched them pass, holding out in their fingers scraps of foodthe remains of cakes, green fruit, or handfuls of rice, and the famishing creatures quarrelled for the morsels, frightening the little ones, who fled. Then they disappeared silently under the awnings, filling the air with a smell of dust and pepper, scaring the pigeons away from the pool for ablutions, and the birds fluttered up in dismay in the rosy sunset glow, seeking some other refuge for the night.

In the train again, en route for Ahmedabad. As we crossed the fertile plain of Gujerat the first monkeys were to be seen, in families, in tribes, perched on tall pine trees, chasing each other, or swinging on the wires that rail in the road, and solemnly watching the train go by. Peacocks marched about with measured step, and spread their tails in the tall banyan trees tangled with flowering creepers. Shyer than these, the grey secretary birds, with a red roll above their beak, seemed waiting to fly as we approached. On the margin of the lakes and streams thousands of white cranes stood fishing, perched on one leg; and in every patch of tobacco, or dahl, or cotton, was a hut perched on four piles, its boarded walls and leaf-thatch giving shelter to a naked native, watching to scare buffaloes, birds, monkeys, and thieves from his crop.