张雪迎玉米烫发型登封面

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.

All along the narrow streets, paved with broad flagstones up and down in low irregular steps, stand the five hundred temples of Benares, and between them houses with carved stone porticoes. The ochre-coloured stone, of which they all are built, is toned in places by a coating of reddish purple, faded by the rain and sun to pale flesh-colour, with an undertone of the yellow wall; and this takes on a glow as of ruby and sunset fires in the watery ripple reflected from the rivera mingling of every hue of intense sunshine, filtering through the awnings spread over the balconiesa glory of repose, tender and clear, which seems to emanate from the objects themselves, and to envelop them in a fine powder of light. 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.

In one of the alleys by the outer wall was a little house with a door in carved panels framing[Pg 243] inlaid work as delicate as woven damask. A crowd surrounding it could not be persuaded by Abibulla's eloquence to make way for me, a suspicious-looking stranger.

In front of a statue of Kali with a hundred arms, surrounded by rough votive offerings carved in wood, most of them representing legs, a man was pouring out rice, and a whole flight of grey leilasbirds like magpiesalmost settled on his hands: birds of the temple, so familiar that one even allowed me to catch it, and did not fly away at once when I set it at liberty. There are rows of black Buddhas, white Buddhas, Sivas painted redterriblestraddling in fighting attitudes; pilgrims without end bow and pray in front of each idol.

A palankin, hung with heavy red curtains, went by very quickly, borne by five men. They chanted a sort of double-quick march, marking the time with a plaintive sigh and a slight bend of the knees, which gave their pace the appearance of a dance, the litter swaying very gently.

To light the way, coolies carried long iron tridents tipped with balls of tow soaked in oil. The mass moved slowly forward through the people, suddenly soothed to silence. The procession paused at the wayside altars, and then, in the middle of a circle formed by the torch-bearers and coloured lights, the sacred bayadres appearedthree girls with bare heads, dressed in stiff new sarongs heavy with tinkling trinkets, and an old woman crowned with a sort of very tall cylindrical tiara of red velvet embroidered with gold. Very sweet-toned bagpipes and some darboukhas played a slow tune, and the dancers began to move; they spun slowly round, their arms held out, their bodies kept rigid, [Pg 137]excepting when they bowed to the shrine. The crude light of the red fire or the sulphurous flare of the torches fell on their glittering ornaments, alternately festive and mysterious, shedding over the performance an atmosphere at once dreamy and magically gorgeous.

Two fakirs, squatting in a corner, gazed at the sacred stone, their bodies rigidly motionless; they did not seem to be of this world, rather to be statues of gods themselves; their eyes alone were aliveburning.

Before us the road lay pink in colour, with purple lines where the pebbles were as yet un-crushed; it was hedged with blossoming thorn-bushes, and among the yellow and violet flowers parrots were flitting, and screaming minahs, large black birds with russet-brown wings, gleaming in the sun like burnished metal.

[Pg 228]