新疆维吾尔自治区关心下一代工作委员会—天山网

In the distance we heard a sound of pipes, and the merchant hastened out to call the nautch-girls, who began to dance in the street just below us, among the vehicles and foot-passengers. There were two of them; one in a black skirt spangled with silver trinkets, the other in orange and red with a head-dress and necklace of jasmine. They danced with a gliding step, and then drew themselves up with a sudden jerk that made all their frippery tinkle. Then the girl in black, laying her right hand on her breast, stood still, with only a measured swaying movement of her whole body, while the dancer in yellow circled round, spinning as she went. Next the black one performed a sort of goose-step with her feet on one spot, yelling a so-called tune, and clacking her anklets one against the other. Then, after a few high leaps that set her saree flying, the dance was ended; she drew a black veil over her head, and turned with her face to the wall. The other boldly asked for backsheesh, held up her hands, and after getting her money, begged for cakes and sugar.

Then follow more trays with tufts of jasmine stuck into the heart of a pink rose; and as the guest takes one of these bouquets the servant sprinkles first the flowers and then him with rose-water.

In booths between these houses, the gamblers, standing round a board with numbered holes, were watching the ball as it slowly spun round, hit the edge, seemed to hesitate, and at last fell into one of the cups. Four-anna pieces, ten-rupee notesanything will serve as a stake for the Hindoo ruffian in a starched shirt-front, low waistcoat and white tie, above the dhouti that hangs over his bare legs; or for the half-tipsy soldier and sailor,[Pg 28] the cautious Parsee who rarely puts down a stake, or the ragged coolie who has come to tempt fortune with his last silver bit. A portico, supporting two stories of an unfinished building, forms the principal entrance; the pilasters are crowned with massive capitals scarcely rough-hewn in the stone. This porch alone gives an impression of repose, from its simplicity of line amid the medley of statues and incongruous ornaments loaded with strong colours, which, diminishing by degrees, are piled up to form each temple, ending almost in a spire against the sky. Vishnu, reclining on the undulating rings[Pg 112] of Ananta Sesha the god of serpents, whose name is the Infinite; idols with human faces riding on bulls, and elephants, and prancing horses; terrible Kalis with two fists rammed into their mouth, and six other arms spread like open wings; Ganesa, the elephant-headed god, ponderously squatting, his hands folded over his stomach; Garudha, the bird-headed god, ridden by Vishnu when he wanders through space; Hanuman, the monkey god, perched on a pedestal in an acrobatic attitude, the face painted bright green; gods of every size and every colour mixed up in a giddy whirl, round and round to the very summit of the structure.

In the afternoon, while it was still broad daylight and very bright outside, it was already dusk under the arches of the temple, and bats were flitting about. Afternoon, in the bazaar, in the warm glow of the sinking sun, wonderfully quiet. No sound but that of some workmen's tools; no passers-by, no shouting of voices, no bargaining. A few poor people stand by the stalls and examine the goods, but the seller does not seem to care. Invisible guzlas vibrate in the air, and the piping invitation of a moollah falls from the top of a minaret.

In the town a zebu cow was trotting along with an air of business. To avoid a vehicle she jumped on to the footpath and went her way along the flagstones, and every Hindoo that she passed patted her buttock and then touched his forehead with the same hand with great reverence.