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ALLAHABAD
In a wonderful garden, amazing after the sandy waste that lies between Benares and Allahabad—a garden of beds filled with flowers showing no leaves, but closely planted so as to form a carpet of delicate, blending hues—stand three mausoleums, as large as cathedrals, in the heart of cool silence, the tombs of the Sultan Purvez, of his father Khusru, and of his wife, the Begum Chasira.

High in the air, in the first mausoleum, at the head and foot of the white marble cenotaph, covered with letters that look like creepers, are tablets bearing inscriptions which record the life of the hero; and above the sarcophagus rises an almost impossibly light and airy structure—a canopy of white marble supported on columns as slender as flower-stems.

In the Begum's tomb the sarcophagus is on the ground, surrounded by a pale-tinted mosaic pavement. The windows, screened by pierced stone, admit a rosy light, and the walls are painted to imitate Persian tiles, with tall Cyprus trees in blue and green. Incense was burning in one corner, the[Pg 182] perfume mingling with that of the flowers, wafted in at every opening. Doors of massive cedar, carved with the patience of a bygone time, rattle on their hinges as the wind slams them to, but still endure, uninjured by ages.

There was nobody in the garden of the mausoleums, not even the usual obsequious and mendicant attendant. Only by the tomb of Purvez a moollah was kneeling in prayer, motionless, and wrapped in some very light white material, which the wind gently stirred and blew up. All the time I was examining the mausoleums he prayed on, prostrate, immovable; and even from afar, from the road, I could see him still, like a stone among the marble work, at the feet of the hero who sleeps his last in mid-air.

The fort of Allahabad, the fort of the mutiny of 1857, is a complete citadel where, in the thickness of the walls, behind screens of acacia trees, lurk doors into palaces. Among the gardens there are clearings full of guns and ambulance waggons, and enormous barracks and huts for native soldiers. Then on the ponderous stonework of the ramparts rise little kiosks in the light Hindoo-Mussulman style, elaborate and slender, built by Akbar the [Pg 183]conqueror, who took Prayag and razed it, to build on the site a city dedicated to Allah. And now modern architecture is slowly invading it, adding to the flat walls which hide under their monotony the gems of stonework with their elegant decoration.

From the parapet of one of the bastions the Ganges may be seen in the distance, of a sickly turquoise-blue, shrouded in the haze of dust which hangs over everything and cuts off the horizon almost close in front of us, and the tributary Jumna, translucent and green. At the confluence of the rivers stands a native village of straw and bamboo huts, swept away every season by the rains. This is Triveni, containing 50,000 souls, which enjoys a great reputation for sanctity, and attracts almost as many pilgrims from every part of India as does Benares. The people come to wash away their sins in the Saravasti, the mystical river that comes down from heaven and mingles its waters at this spot with those of the sacred Ganges and the Jumna. The faithful who bathe at Triveni observe an additional ceremony and cut their hair; each hair, as it floats down stream in the sacred waters, effaces a sin, and obtains its forgiveness. In front of the barracks, a relic of past magnificence, there stands alone on a porphyry pedestal, in the middle of a broad plot[Pg 184] trampled by soldiers on parade, an Asoka column carved with inscriptions to the top, and decorated half-way up with a sort of capital.

Fakirs, holding out their begging-bowls as they squatted round an opening in the ground, showed that it was the entrance to a temple; a few steps down, a long corridor with little niches on each side, and then hall after hall full of grimacing gods, lighted up by our guide's torch, till at last we reached an immense vault where impenetrable darkness filled the angles lost in a labyrinth of arcades converging to some mystery. Here all the Hindoo gods, carved in stone, have been crowded together, with their horrible contortions, their stolid beatitude, their affected grace; and in their midst is a huge idol, hacked with a great cut by Aurungzeeb, the Moslem emperor, at the time of his conquest. Suddenly all about us was a crowd of Brahmins, appearing from what dark corners we could not discover. They looked nasty and half asleep, and vanished at once with a murmur of whispered speech that hung about the galleries in an echo.

At the entrance into one of the chapels is the trunk of an Akshai bar or b? tree, a kind of fig such as the Buddhists place in front of their sanctuaries. The tree is living in the subterranean[Pg 185] vault, and after thrusting its head through the heavy layer of stones forming the roof of the temple, it spreads its branches under the light of day. Endless absurd legends have grown up about the mystery of this tree, which is said to be no less than twenty centuries old; and my guide, who talks aloud in the presence of the idols he despises, being a Mohammedan, bows reverently to the tree and murmurs, "That is sacred; God has touched it."


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