古人为何如此重视风俗

A different scene indeed next day, with none of the magnificence of yesterday, was the temple of magical lights. There was a dense crowd of shouting and begging pilgrims. Along the pyramidal roofs, as at Srirangam, there were rows of painted gods, but in softer and more harmonious hues. Over the tank for ablutions was a balcony decorated in fresco, representing in very artless imagery the marriage of Siva and Parvati. The couple are seen holding hands under a tree; he a martial figure, very upright, she looking silly, her lips pursed, an ingnue. In another place Siva sits with his[Pg 120] wife on his knees, she has still the same school-girl expression. Finally, on the ceiling, is their apotheosis: they are enthroned with all the gods of Ramayana around them, and she looks just the same. The red and green, subdued by the reflected light from the water, were almost endurable.

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

In the chief temple, whose walls were painted all over, a huge Buddha of gold and silver was hidden under wreaths of flowers round his neck, and a diadem of flowers on his brow, where blazed a luminous diamond; and flowers were arranged in a canopy over his head, and were strewn like a carpet on the steps of the shrine. After him came another little Hindoo, dragging a mongoose, very like a large weasel with a fox's tail. He took a snake out of a bag, and a battle began between the two brutes, each biting with all its might; the sharp teeth of the mongoose tried to seize the snake's head, and the reptile curled round the mongoose's body to bite under the fur. At last the mongoose crushed the serpent's head with a fierce nip, and instantly a hawk flew down from a tree and snatched away the victim. The baboo who has lost caste and been half-civilized in the Anglo-Indian colleges, is always the middleman between the Government and the poor; and he, barefaced and with no pretence of concealment, took twenty per cent. of the wages he was supposed to pay the labourers. And there were none but baboos to superintend the poorhouses and the famine-camps. It is said that during the previous famine some made fortunes of six to eight lacs of rupees (the lac is 10,000).

"No; the Virgin Mary." [Pg 40]

On the river-bank were some eagles devouring a dead beast. One of them fluttered up, but came back to the carrion, recovering its balance with some difficulty, its body was so small for its large, heavy wings. Then they all rose together straight into the air with slow, broad wing-strokes, smaller and smaller, till they were motionless specks against the sky, and flew off to vanish amid the snowy peaks. Coolies in white turbans were busy round the machines. They are very skilful, but work with determined slowness as a mute rebellion against the humiliating coercion of obeying a thing of wood and iron, and above all of obeying it without stopping, for the ideal of every Hindoo is to do nothing. And this rose to positive martyrdom when, in the absence of our own servants, who were nowhere to be found, one of these craftsmen, a Brahmin, strictly forbidden by his religion ever to touch the food of the disbelievers, or even the[Pg 294] vessels they use, was obliged to make tea for us. Looking utterly miserable, the poor fellow weighed out the leaves, put them into little antique earthenware pots, and poured on the boiling water. A sand-glass marked how long the infusion was to stand. He even brought us some pretty little crackle basins that looked as if they had come out of some old-world convent pharmacy; but the poor man could not bring himself to pour the tea outhe fled.

The artist sat at work in a corner of the window, copying minutely, for the thousandth time perhaps, a Taj or a Moti Musjid. Quite unmoved while his[Pg 226] shopman displayed his wares, he worked on with brushes as fine as needles; but when, on leaving, I asked him where I could procure some colours I needed, "Then the sahib paints?" said he; and he rose at once, insisted on my taking a seat, pressed me to accept a little sandal-wood frame, as a fellow-artist, and then would positively paint my portrait.