淮北中国碳谷 绿金淮北 新华网安徽频道

At night the sound of a remote tom-tom attracted me to a large square shaded by giant trees. In a very tiny hut made of matting, a misshapen statue of Kali, bedizened with a diadem, a belt, nanparas, and bangles made of beads and gold tinsel, stood over a prostrate image in clay of Siva, lying on his back. In front of this divinity, under an awning stretched beneath the boughs of a banyan tree, two nautch-girls in transparent sarees were dancing a very smooth sliding step to the accompaniment of two bagpipes and some drums. The Hindoo spectators sat in a circle on the grounda white mass[Pg 142] dimly lighted by a few lanternsand sang to the music a soft, monotonous chant.

At the first ray of sunrise I went down to the temples, hewn out of the side of the hill and extending for above a mile and a quarter. Gigantic stairs are cut in the rock, and lead to caves enshrining immense altars, on which Buddha or other idols of enormous size are enthroned. Hall after hall is upheld by carved pillars. Bas-reliefs on the walls represent the beatitudes of Krishna surrounded by women, or the vengeance of Vishnu the terrible, or the marriage of Siva and Parvati; while on the flat roof, on the panels and architravesall part of the solid rockthere is an endless procession of Krishnas and Vishnus, on a rather smaller scale, producing utter weariness of their unvaried attitudes and beatific or infuriated grimacing.

Evening fell, purple and orange tinging the princes' muslins to delicate hues; then very quickly all was dark. Deep melancholy came over us; we all sat without speaking a word, while from afar came the clatter of tom-toms from the temple, sometimes drowning the music, which droned on in a minor key, a maundering strain without a close but constantly repeating itself. 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.

When we left he was in a coppersmith's shop, singing with wide open, staring eyes; his face had a strangely sad expression while he sang a gay, jigging tune to foolish words that made the people laugh.

In the town camels were harnessed to a sort of carriage like a hut perched on misshapen wheels, and rumbling slowly through the streets, seeming very heavy at the heels of the big beast with its shambling gait.

At night, in the crowded station, a guard of honour was waiting, composed of sepoys. There was shouting among the crowd, a fanatical turmoil, a storm of orders, and heavy blows. Some great[Pg 93] magnate got out of the train, surrounded by secretaries and officers. The soldiers, bearing torches, attended him to his carriage; they remounted their horses, following the vehicle, in which a light dress was visible. Very fast, and with a great clatter, they rode away into the silent night fragrant with rich scents; they were lost under the trees to reappear in the distance on a height, the torches galloping still and the smoke hanging in a ruddy cloud above the bright steel and the white cruppers. Then, at a turn in the road, they all vanished.

The ugliest of these palaces is that of the Maharajah, with galleries of varnished wood, of which the windows overlooking the river are filled with gaudy stained glass. In the garden is a pagoda painted in crude colours crowned with a gilt cupola; the zenana has bright red walls striped with green, and in the grounds there is a cottage exactly copied from a villa in the suburbs of London.

They were all flying from the plague, which was spreading, and emptying the bazaars and workshops. The Exchange being closed, trade was at a standstill, and the poor creatures who were spared by the pestilence were in danger of dying of hunger.

And under an arcade priests were hanging the shrine with wreaths of pink and yellow flowers, in preparation for its nocturnal progress, while an old woman, all alone, was bathing in the tank, with much splashing and noise of waters.