新华网评·“疫”中人|为了“神”速前进,他们拼了!

The holy hill, bristling at top with the conical roofs of the pagodas, rises isolated in the vast stretch of silky grass, enclosed by a distant fringe of pale violet heights. At the foot of the ascentin some places an incline, and in others a flight of steps going straight up to the templesbearers were waiting for us, and an armed escort. A mob of pilgrims were shouting at the top of their voices, and did not cease their squabbling till we began the climb in our most uncomfortable palankins, etiquette forbidding us, alas! to get out of them. One of my bearers, almost naked, with a mere rag of white cotton stuff round his hips, had hanging from his left ear a ring with three pearls as large as peas and of luminous sheen.

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.

At the further end of the last turning I saw a fire like blazing gold, the soaring flames flying up to an enormous banyan tree, turning its leaves to living fire. All round the pile on which the dead was being burned was a crowd drumming on copper pots and tom-toms.

By the side of the Manumenka stand two stel?, on which two carved figures, represented as surrounded by flames, preserve the memory of the time when the funeral pyre consumed the living wife with the dead husband. All round Domel there were fields of lilac lilies among the silky young grass, and the cliffs were[Pg 271] hung with a yellow eglantine exhaling a penetrating scent of almonds.

In this Peshawur the houses are crowded along narrow, crooked alleys, and there is but one rather wider street of shops, which here already have a quite[Pg 242] Persian character, having for sale only the products of Cabul or Bokhara. The balconies, the shutters, the verandahs and galleries are of wood inlaid in patterns like spider-net. The timbers are so slight that they would seem quite useless and too fragile to last; and yet they are amazingly strong, and alone remain in place, amid heaps of stones, in houses that have fallen into ruin. In the streets, the contrast is strange, of tiny houses with the Afghans, all over six feet high, superb men wearing heavy dhotis of light colours faded to white, still showing in the shadow of the folds a greenish-blue tinge of dead turquoise. Solemn and slow, or motionless in statuesque attitudes while they converse in few words, and never gesticulate, they are very fine, with a fierce beauty; their large, open eyes are too black, and their smile quite distressingly white in faces where the muscles look stiff-set. Even the children, in pale-hued silk shirts, are melancholy, languid, spiritless, but very droll, too, in their little pointed caps covered with gold braid, and the finery of endless metal necklaces, and bangles on their ankles and arms.

"Here lies Jehangir, Conqueror of the World."

In the case of a Brahmin it is the judge who hurries to the threshold, and affects to touch the priest's feet.

The ceremony now begins. The dastour chants his prayers, throwing handfuls of rice all the time[Pg 17] over the young couple. A sheet is held up between the two, and a priest twines a thread about the chair. At the seventh turn the sheet is snatched away, and the bride and bridegroom, with a burst of laughter, fling a handful of rice at each other.

Then, suddenly, there was a clatter of tom-toms, and rattling of castanets, a Hindoo funeral passing by. The dead lay stretched on a bier, his face painted and horrible, a livid grin between the dreadful scarlet cheeks, covered with wreaths of jasmine and roses. A man walking before the corpse carried a jar of burning charcoal to light the funeral pile. Friends followed the bier, each bringing a log of wood, to add to the pyre as a last homage to the dead.

Then some gardens looking like hothouses, concealing bungalows, and a gleaming lake among the greeneryand this was Kandy.

The front of the temple is covered with paintings. Decorations in the Persian style divide the panels, on which are depicted the principal scenes from the sacred books of the Brahmins. There are two perfect things to be seen here: two nude female figures standing, one white, the other brown, exquisitely refined in colouring, admirably drawn in a style reminding me of early Italian art; and then, just beyond these, tasteless imitations of chromosgoddesses with eyes too large and a simper like the advertisements of tooth-paste, and some horrible caricatures of English ladies in the fashion of ten years ago holding parasols like a nimbus.