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BENARES
Yellow palaces, mirrored as gold in the luminous waters of the Ganges, came into view; cupolas quivering with dazzling lustre against the intense sky—and then the whole city vanished. Nothing was to be seen but a suburb of shabby buildings, the commonplace railway station crowded by a Burmese pilgrimage of Buddhists come from so far—who knows why?—to the holy Indian city. Yellow priests and white doll-like figures dragging bundles that fell open, dropping the most medley collection of objects to be picked up and stowed into the parcels again, only to roll out once more. A yelling crowd, hustling and bustling, shouting from one end of the station to the other, and finally[Pg 155] departing, like a flock of sheep, in long files down the dusty road, to be lost at last in the little bazaar.

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 river—a mingling of every hue of intense sunshine, filtering through the awnings spread over the balconies—a glory of repose, tender and clear, which seems to emanate from the objects themselves, and to envelop them in a fine powder of light.

Squeezed in and crushed between houses that tower above it, rises the pointed dome of Biseshwar Matti, covered with leaves of chased gold; smaller cones surround the principal dome, bristling with tiny pyramids of gold, carved into flowers round statues of Kali with her eight arms, of Ganesa, and of peacocks with spread tails. Under this splendid cupola, dazzlingly bright against the sky,[Pg 156] the temple itself is quite small, and strictly closed against the unbeliever. Some pious hands had hung chains of jasmine and roses above the entrance, and they gave a touch of beauty to the stonework, very old, and soiled with large stains of oil. A sense of intense piety hangs about this sanctuary, subdues every voice, and bends the head of every passer-by in reverence of the mystery, and they all bring flowers.

Under an arcade, lightly tinted with faded colours, and supporting a heavy stone roof elaborately carved, a marble bull stands facing the well which Vishnu touched when he came down from heaven. This is the Court or Well of Wisdom.

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 alive—burning.

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.

[Pg 157]

From the top of the observatory, where instruments, all out of order, are to be seen on the deserted terraces, a staircase in a half-circle of stonework leads straight up to the open sky, and there the eye is dazzled by the view of Benares, all spread out below: the vast city of yellow stone, the cupolas of its temples, and its palaces stretching far along the Ganges, which slowly rolls its milky green waters under a sky of almost pearly whiteness; and in the distance the grassy plain of bright emerald green, lost on the horizon that throbs with the heat. Everything was wrapped in a halo rather than a haze, faintly blue with the smoke that went up from the funeral piles of the Hindoo dead.

One of the servants of the place, sitting in the shade of the arcade, was painting, after a strange method. He sprinkled powdered colour on the surface of some water in a tub, outlining the colour with black; then, with a feather, he massed and arranged the colours, taking some off and replacing it in infinitesimal quantities. Finally the result was a representation of Siva and Ourasi, robed in blue and violet, against a background of crude red. When they were quite finished he jerked the bowl, giving the figures a curtseying motion, and stood a little way off to contemplate the general effect;[Pg 158] and then, quite satisfied, stirred the whole thing up and began again, the same picture, with the same precise care.

We sailed past the holy city in a heavy, massive junk, the prow formed of a snake with its head erect and jaws yawning, down the Ganges, all rippled with rose and blue. Palaces, and more palaces, with thick walls and towers, that look like bastions, stand in perspective as far as the eye can see. Windows and balconies are cut in the ponderous masonry at the level of the third floor, and high above these rajahs' dwellings rise the domes of the temples, pointing skywards among tall trees that spread their shade on the russet stonework. At the foot of the palaces, steps lead down to the river, divided by little stages covered with wicker umbrellas that shine in the sun like discs of gold; under these, Brahmins, after bathing, were telling their beads. Now and again they dipped their fingers in the sacred waters and moistened their eyes, forehead, and lips.

One of the largest buildings once slid into the river during an earthquake, and stands there complete and unbroken, its magnificence surviving under water. Some minarets only rise above the surface like kiosks, and form a landing-stage, invaded by[Pg 159] the bathers, who wash themselves with much gesticulation, flourishing their long sarongs and white loin-cloths, which they spread out to dry on the steps.

Between the large parasols are thousands of little pagodas, formed of four columns and a roof, and sheltering idols wreathed with flowers, to whom the faithful pray and bring offerings. Garlands are for ever floating down-stream, jasmine and Indian pinks, and patches of scattered rose petals; and on the banks of the river, where the sand forms little bays, flowers lie in a hem of delicate colours.

Down the middle of the Ganges a white bundle is being borne, and on it a crow pecking the body of a child wrapped in its winding-sheet.

From the broad steps on the shore other narrower flights lead to archways and porticoes, or zigzag up to the lanes that make a gap of distant blackness in the light-hued mass of palaces and embankments.

Then from afar came the sound of tom-toms and bagpipes, nearer and nearer, and the musicians became visible at the top of one of the stair-like alleys. First came the men, then the women. One of these, robed in pale green with a violet and silver saree, carried a child in her arms wrapped in a red dress embroidered with gold. He was this day six[Pg 160] months old; he had eaten rice, and was brought to see the sacred Ganges for the first time. The family, friends, and neighbours had assembled in honour of the great ceremony, which consisted in holding the infant face downwards over the water, which he scarcely saw with half-shut eyes; and then the procession went back again to the sound of the music, and was gone.

Close to a temple, of which the cornice is decorated with female figures holding musical instruments, on a sort of terrace a party of youths were making a distracting din with brass instruments, acutely shrill, and, of course, tom-toms. Two very small temples covered with brass that shines like gold stand in the bazaar to mark the beginning and end of the coppersmiths' quarter, where every stall rings with the tinkle of the little hammers tapping the metal that is beaten into trays and pots and a thousand vessels for the worship of the gods and for domestic purposes. Workmen aged four, the great-grand-sons of the master-smith, were already trying their 'prentice hand, chiselling the hard metal with a free touch, and ornamenting cups and bowls of traditional shape. And this is the only part of the calm and lazy city, living on its temples and its sacred river,[Pg 161] where the visitor feels himself a "tourist." Here the shops for the special craft of Benares are furnished with the unwonted luxury of chairs, and some display of signs and wares is made. Further on is a large open place full of piles of flowers, garlands of jasmine and marigold, and heaps of rose petals to be strewn on the water.

Next came a whole row of very small shops, where there was an endless variety of trifles for sale, toys made of wood painted red and green; and finally, on the ground floor of houses ornamented with carvings and slender colonnades, in a cool and shady and silent street, were the sellers of silk and cloth.

Past the buildings, and palaces with gardens enclosed behind pierced stonework, and then across fresh green fields full of flowers, under the shade of banyans and palm trees, we reached the temple of the monkeys. This temple, dedicated to the fierce and bloodthirsty goddess Durga, is painted all over of a vivid red colour, blazing in the sunshine with intolerable brightness. Inside the sanctuary a black image of the goddess may be seen, mounted on her lion, and flowers are arranged about her in radiating lines mingled with gold thread, and producing very much the effect of a theatrical sun. In the [Pg 162]forecourt, on the carvings and the roof of the temple monkeys swarm, rushing after each other, fighting for the grains of maize that are thrown to them, and tormenting the wretched mangy dogs that seek refuge in the temple precincts, where they, too, are kept alive by the faithful.

A poor sick ape, beaten by all the others, sat crying with hunger at the top of a parapet. I called her for a long time, showing her some maize on a tray. At last she made up her mind to come down. With the utmost caution she reached me, and then, after two or three feints, she struck the platter with her closed fist, sending all the grain flying. Utterly scared, she fled, followed to her perch by a whole party of miscreants roused by the gong-like blow on the tray. Others stole into the temple to snatch the flowers while the attendant priest had his back turned; and when I left they were all busily engaged in rolling an earthenware bowl about, ending its career in a smash. In front of the temple the crimson dust round a stake shows the spot where every day the blood is shed of a goat sacrificed to the Divinity.

A garden of roses and lilies was the dwelling-place of a very ancient fakir, who had taken a vow[Pg 163] to live naked, and only put on a loin-cloth when ladies were expected. He was venerated by all, yes, even by Abibulla, who knelt before him, touched the holy man's feet and then his own forehead. The old fellow was surrounded by pilgrims wearing wreaths of flowers round their neck; he came to meet me, took me by the hand, and led me under the shade of a kiosk, where he showed me a large book he had written, containing an account of the joys and ecstasies of his life of asceticism and prayer. This old man had a magnificent brow, and the deep gaze of his kind, smiling eyes was fine in a face puckered with a thousand wrinkles. Infinite calm and peace characterized this happy soul—a naked man in the midst of flowers.

At the end of the garden, in a little temple, is a statue of the holy man of the size of life, in his favourite attitude, sitting on his crossed legs. Round the image were the most absurd toys—and a photograph of the German Emperor! As I was leaving, the fakir called me back, asked me to think of him sometimes, and gave me one of the splendid yellow roses that hung about him like a glory.

Very early in the morning, on emerging from[Pg 164] the gloom of the narrow streets, there is a sudden blaze of glory, the rising sun, purple and gold, reflected in the Ganges, the waters throbbing like fiery opal. The people hurry to the shore carrying trays piled high with flowers and offerings. The women carry little jars in their hands looking like burnished gold, and containing a few drops of scented oil to anoint themselves withal after bathing. These jars are covered with roses and jasmine blossoms, to be sent floating down the sacred stream as an offering to the gods. The steps are crowded already with the faithful, who have waited till Surya the day-star should rise, before going through their devotional ablutions. With a great hubbub of shouts and cries, and laughter and squabbling, this throng pushes and hustles, while those unimaginable priests sit stolidly under their wicker sunshades, mumbling their prayers, and accepting alms and gifts. All along the river there are people bathing on the steps which go down under the water, the men naked all but a loin-cloth, the women wearing long veils which they change very cleverly for dry ones after their bath, and then wait in the sun till their garments are dry enough to carry away.

In the sacred tank, where Vishnu bathes when[Pg 165] he comes on earth, an old woman was standing pouring the stagnant green water over her body, while others of the faithful, seated on the steps, were piously drinking the stuff from a coco-nut that they handed round. In one corner of this pool was an exquisite bower of floating wreaths—yellow, white, and violet—a splash of bright colour on the squalid water.

Below one of the palaces is a huge statue of Vishnu Bhin in a reclining attitude, daubed with ochre, the face flesh-colour and white; a statue which is carried away every year by the floods and restored every year in its pristine grossness.

The palace of the Rajah of Nagpoor, with its two towers, overlooks the river from above a broad stairway. A balcony quite at the top is supported on a massive cornice lightly carved into acanthus leaves. The damp has subdued the red colour of the building, fading it especially at the base, and from a distance it might be fancied that a veil of thin gauze had been hung over the palace, and fastened beneath the carved parapet.

On the bank of the river, where there are no more steps, only beaten earth, in a little raised pit a pile of wood was slowly dying out. A man with[Pg 166] a cane raked back the sticks as they fell and rolled away. A squatting crowd were waiting till their relation was altogether consumed to cast his ashes on the sacred waters.

Then a girl's body was brought out, wrapped in white muslin; the bier, made of bamboo, was wreathed with marigolds, and on the light shroud there were patches of crimson powder, almost violet. The bearers, on reaching the river, placed the body in the water, leaving it there for a time.

A little way off an old man was wrapping the naked body of a poor woman in a white cloth; then he fastened it to two poles to dip it in the river; finally, with the help of another Sudra, he laid the corpse on a meagre funeral pile, and went off to fetch some live charcoal from the sacred fire which the Brahmins perpetually keep alive on a stone terrace overlooking the Ganges. He carried the scrap of burning wood at the end of a bunch of reeds, and, praying aloud, walked five times round the pyre, which completely concealed the body. Then he gently waved the bunch of reeds, making them blaze up, and placed them beneath the wood, which slowly caught fire, sending up dense curling clouds of white vapour and slender tongues of flame, creeping along the damp logs that[Pg 167] seemed to go out again immediately. But suddenly the fire flared up to the top of the pile; the flesh hissed in the flame, and filled the air with a sickening smell.

The maiden was placed on a very high pile of saplings and dry crackling boughs. Her father fetched the sacred fire, and then, with the same ceremonials and prayers, set light to the wood, which flashed up in a golden glow with a sweet odour. The flame rose clear against the sky for a long time before the smell of her burnt flesh mingled with that of the poor woman, whose limbs, under the action of the heat, seemed to stretch to an inordinate length. One arm, sticking out from the fire, seemed to clench its fist, which was bright yellow, as if it would clutch at something; and then all was consumed—the wood pile fell in, the skull cracking with a dull snap, and nothing was left but a heap of embers, into which the attendants raked the cinders that rolled down the sloping bank.

The old woman's bones and ashes were cast into the Ganges, her husband still vacantly looking on, as all that was left of his life's companion floated for a few moments, and then was swallowed up in an eddy.

[Pg 168]

On the remains of the pyre was placed a corpse of spectral emaciation, which had been lying at the top of the bank since the day before for its turn, as a pauper, to be cremated at the cost of the municipality. The head alone was wrapped in a wretched rag, and creeping flies formed a cuirass on the dark skin, already torn in places by the kites. Petroleum was poured over the hapless body, and it flared up with the wood in a livid pink and green blaze, sending up a cloud of acrid red smoke.

And so on, in an endless file, come the bodies of the faithful dead, some from long distances, so that their souls may rise at once to paradise from their ashes burnt on the Manumenka.

A dome of smoke hangs like a vault over the fires, motionless, veiling the sun. The relations of the dead, sitting on their heels, gaze at the flames with an expression almost of indifference; no one weeps, and they converse calmly in no subdued tones.

The pile of the girl with marigold wreaths and the shroud stained crimson and purple flung her ashes to the winds, reduced to mere atoms of bone and light cinder, and the servants of the place drowned a few still glowing sticks in the river;[Pg 169] the family and friends slowly went up the yellow stone steps and disappeared through a gateway leading into the town.

The attendants threw water on the pauper's pyre, and then with their long bamboos pushed the mass of burnt wood and flesh into the Ganges, where it looked like some enormous black frog with a white patch for the head.

They shoved it under water, but it presently rose to the surface and floated down the stream, followed by a flock of hawks that snatched at the burnt remains and fought over them in the air, while crocodiles below swam up and snapped at them, dragging them down in their enormous jaws, which appeared for a moment above the water.

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.

In the town, at a spot where several alleys meet, stood a mob of people holding out the ends of their sarees or dhotis to catch handfuls of grain which a kshatriya was throwing to them from a[Pg 170] window, though he looked almost as ragged as the beggars collected in front of the house.

Close to a shop where I was bargaining for some old bronzes, in an open booth, and quite alone among the metal jars and trays, sat a boy of four, his only garment a green silk jacket bordered with blue velvet, stitched with silver thread; there was nothing between the little vest and his bright bronze skin. He had a blue cap embroidered with gold, and his eyes were darkened with khol. He was drawing lines very neatly on a slate, and then wrote beneath them the pretty Hindoo letters that look like cabalistic signs, saying them as he went on, pa, pa, pa, pi, pi, pi, pa?, pa?, pa?, pom, pom, pom, till at last, seeing that I was looking at him and smiling, quite fascinated by his pretty ways, he burst out laughing, a hearty, happy, baby laugh, and then gravely went on with his business again.

Then, under a portico in front of us, a man began to undress. He threw off his dhoti and his sarong, keeping on his loin-cloth only. With outstretched arms he placed a heavy copper pot full of water on the ground, took it up between[Pg 171] his teeth, and without using his hands tilted his head back till the water poured all over him in a shower, which splashed up from the pavement, sprinkling the spectators in the front row. Next he tied his dhoti round the jar, which he refilled, and fastened the end to his long hair. Then, simply by turning his head, he spun the heavy pot round him. It looked as if it must pull his head off, but he flung it faster and faster till he presently stopped.

There were people performing their devotional ablutions below stream from the place of burning, and one old man took a few drops of water in the hollow of his hand and drank it, quite close to a shapeless black mass at which a kite was pecking as it floated by.

At sunset, when the glow fired the stones to a semblance of transparent, burning light, at the top of one of the flights of steps rising from the river to the town, and in front of a gate with large brass nails, glittering like sparks, the figure appeared of a holy beggar in yellow rags, with a copper jar blazing with reflected light; he was set in a halo of gold, and looked like the vision of some pagan god. He stood motionless for a[Pg 172] long time, and then, as the last sunbeam went out, he vanished beyond the fire-studded gate, while all the scene faded into rosy lilac, rapidly dying into blue night.

A distant noise of tom-toms—big drums thumping out minims in the bass, small ones rattling out semiquavers in very short, sharp notes; and to this accompaniment came the sharp trill of a metal flute. The music came nearer at a brisk pace, heralded by two tall baggage camels, a rare sight in Benares, where the streets are so narrow and straight, and only foot passengers are to be seen. Then followed saddle-horses, led by hand, and a large number of men on foot, and after an interval there appeared a band, atrociously out of tune, immediately in front of a palankin hung with a shawl embroidered all over in palms of different shades of gold and beads. In this sat a little bridegroom of eight, dressed in pale yellow satin, a wreath of marigolds round his neck, and above his turban a cap made of jasmine, the ends hanging all round his head—a little bridegroom, eight years old, very solemn, sitting cross-legged with a huge bouquet in his hand, and facing him his two little brothers in white silk and necklaces of jasmine.

[Pg 173]

In the evening the priest would say prayers over the couple—the bride being probably about five—and the bridegroom would stay with the little bride's parents. Next day she would spend with the boy's parents, and after that they would both go back to their lessons and probably never meet again, unless they were very near neighbours, till he, having attained the age of fifteen, they would be really married.

The Maharajah of Benares sent his carriage this morning to take me to him. We went to the Ganges, where a palankin was in waiting to carry me across the narrow strip of sand between the road and the boat, escorted by a worthy who held a tall red umbrella, fringed with gold, over my head.

The barge was screened by a crimson awning and rowed by four men in red. The water, a broad sheet of silky sheen, seemed motionless, and in the distance, under a soft, powdery haze, Benares showed like a mass of dim gold, the two slender minarets of Aurungzeeb's mosque towering above the town.

We landed at Ramnagar, a marble palace looking like a fortified town, its massive walls rising[Pg 174] from the river and crowned by balconies and fairy kiosks—a lacework of stone against the brilliant sky.

A crowd of servants in red came down the flight of steps to the landing-place, and stood on each side, while at the top the Maharajah stood to receive me, in a tunic of yellow brocaded with silver, and silk trousers of various shades of violet and gold tissue; his turban was quite small, with an aigrette and a spray of diamonds.

From the open loggia at the end of the vast reception-room, lined with white marble and hung with thick carpets, there was an extensive view over the green plain inundated with water and sunshine to the holy city of dazzling domes that looked as if they had just risen from the Ganges. The air was full of heady fragrance; the Rajah described the springtide festivals, barges carrying troupes of dancing bayadères on the Ganges sparkling with a myriad lights.

Instead of the usual wreath of flowers for my neck the Rajah gave me a necklace of silver threads, to which hung a little bag of purple and green silk, closely embroidered, and looking like a scent-sachet, or a bag to hold some precious amulet.

We drove across a succession of parks to visit[Pg 175] Sumer Mundir, a too elaborately carved temple, the panels representing scenes from the Ramayana set in ornamental borders. On the roof, which bristled with sculptured stone, thousands of blue pigeons were perched asleep, their iridescent plumage scarcely stirring in the sunshine. Beyond a tank at the end of the park was a palace in the Arab style with incredibly delicate ornaments of wrought marble, open halls painted in subdued colouring, and lighted by the golden reflections from the water. The pool had steps all round it, in which crowds seat themselves on the occasions of pilgrimage, and far away the enchanting vision of Benares, the holy city, in every shade of amber and honey.

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 cloisonnés beneath in red and yellow with fine black outlines.

As we returned past a village—a hamlet of houses gathering round a well surmounted by a kiosk shading a gaudy idol crowned with red[Pg 176] pinks—a perfectly naked fakir, his straight black hair bound twice round his head like a turban, stood basking in the sun, leaning against a wall, and chanting in a rapid monotone, while two babies, under the shade of a fan-palm leaf, stared up at him and sucked their thumbs.

Then the sunset, in the furnace of heavy purple and red, reflected in the water in fiery copper-colour streaked with violet, till soon it all faded together, to gold, to lemon-colour; the mist rising from the river spread over all the country, and everything looked the same in the cloudless gloom. One quarter of the sky glowed faintly, through the haze a crimson globe rose into view, the moon appeared, and soon lighted up all the sky with a soft greenish glow, pallid but deep, lying on the tranquil Ganges in broad rippling sheets of gold and green, spangled with light where a fish leaped, or a white bird dipped its wing as it skimmed swiftly across without a sound. The gold grew cold and dead, the moon turned to steel against the intensely blue sky, to cold blue steel on the lustrous face of the waters.

We went into the observatory, where the servants were sleeping in the open air on camp beds, lying across each other and blocking the entrance.[Pg 177] I went to gaze at the north star, looking very small, a tiny spangle of blue in the blue velvet sky, visible at the top of a crazy flight of steps that goes up to nowhere in the air from the topmost terrace.

Down in the streets the houses looked ghostly blue in the moonlight, the cross roads, lighted with the warmer glow of a few lamps in red paper shades, alternating with the black darkness, in which it was just possible to discern cows and goats lying on the ground.

Near a temple some bells and tom-toms animated the silence with their clang and clatter. Worshippers stole in noiselessly, barefoot on the stones, and entered the sanctuary, within which tapers were burning.

Further away, in another quite small temple, a young Brahmin robed in white, and very handsome, was reading the Ramayana to two women; the three quite filled the little building. The entrance was screened by a curtain composed of jasmine flowers threaded on fine string, and behind this veil of flowers the three figures looked like the creatures of a legend. Outside the sanctuary, seated on the steps and flagstones and obstructing the street, were a score or so of women redolent of lemon and[Pg 178] sandal-wood, and listening to the scripture distinctly chanted out by the young priest.

In the street were bayadères, and women at every window, the pretty faces brightly illuminated, the plainer in a skilfully subdued light. The sound of tom-toms and pipes could be heard, and the guttural, quavering song of a dancing beauty performing for some amateur; quite young boys were wandering about the street, almost children, all in white. Where the roads met, a mosque was illuminated in honour of this month of Ramadan, and the believers were trooping out in a crowd.

A woman on the river-bank was flinging into the water, with devout unction, scraps of paper on which the name of Rama was written, rolled up in a paste made of flour. Not far from her another woman was praying; she stopped to wash her copper cooking-pots, then prayed again; gave her baby a bath, and then, squatting on the lowest step, prayed once more, and for a long time, after which she picked up her pots and her little one and went her way.

On the shore, on the steps in front of the temples and round the holy images, in short, everywhere on this day, red powder was sprinkled to inaugurate[Pg 179] the month just beginning; a beggar, to secure the favour of the gods, had smeared his head and hands with it.

And once more in a barge on the Ganges. The atmosphere seemed faintly iridescent, like mother-of-pearl, the silence serenely lulled by the distant sound of a flute. The palaces and temples, reflected in the still water, looked in the distance like forts crowned with turrets of gold, and their little windows like loopholes. The broad stairs of the quays, where the priests' umbrellas glitter, assumed a spacious, unfamiliar dignity, the red colour shading paler towards the bottom, where it was washed off by the lapping Ganges, looking as though a fairy hanging of gauze were spread under the wavelets in honour of the Apsaras and the divinities of the river.

A kshatriya, a very old man, had seen me yesterday returning from Ramnagar with my necklet of silver threads. Convinced by this that I must be "a Europe Rajah," he tormented me to grant him a title. He wanted to be Raj Bahadur; this was the height of his ambition. After following me about the bazaar all the morning, he sat for a long time in my room. So, to get rid of him, seeing[Pg 180] that he persisted in hoping that I should call him Raj Bahadur, I did so; this, however, did not satisfy him: I must write it down on paper. At last I consented. Quite delighted now, he went off to shout the words to his friends, who had been waiting for him in the garden, and then, very solemn, and conscious of his new dignity, he disappeared down the road.

At the station pilgrims again, bewildered, shouting, rushing about in search of their lost luggage. One group presently emerged from the crowd, led by a man bareheaded, who rang a big bell with great gesticulations, his arms in the air, and the whole party marched off towards the temples in silent and orderly procession.

Then, from a bridge across the Ganges, for a moment we had a last glimpse of the sacred city—the gold-coloured umbrellas, the throng of bathers on the steps to the river—and then Abibulla gravely remarked, "If only India had three cities like Benares it would be impossible ever to leave it."


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