联播+丨统筹做好经济社会发展工作 习近平的战“疫”方略

In the island of Srirangam we visited a temple to Vishnu, enclosed within eight walls, of which the three first only contain any dwellings. A crowd of pilgrims swarmed about the steps, where everything was on sale: little gods in bronze, in painted marble, in clay, and in wood; paper for[Pg 111] writing prayers on; sacred books; red and white face-paints, such as the worshippers of Vishnu use to mark their foreheads with a V; little baskets to hold the colours, with three or four divisions, and a mirror at the bottom; coco-nuts containing kohl; stuffs of every dye; religious pictures, artless indeed, and painted with laborious dabs of the brush in the presence of the customer; chromo-lithographs from Europe, sickeningly insipid and mawkishly pretty.

Women porters came on foot, hidden under bales, nets full of crocks, faggots, and trusses of hay.[Pg 248] Children, and women in sareesfine ladieshad nothing to carry; some were wrapped in yashmacks, shrouding them from head to foot with a little veil of transparent muslin over their eyes.

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.

The forest round Kandy is glorious, an exuberance, a crush of trees growing as thick as they can stand, the dense tangle of boughs and leaves outgrown by some enormous ficus, or tall terminalia, whose sharp, angular roots have pushed through the soil while its trunk, twisting in a spiral, has made its way to a prodigious height, ending a thick dome of foliage. This, again, is overgrown by delicate creepers decking the green mass with their flowers. Spreading banyans, with a hundred stems thrown out like branches and ending in roots, form colonnades of a rosy grey hue like granite, and might seem to be the vestiges of some colossal church with a dark vault above, scarcely pierced here and there by a gleam of blue light from the sky beyond. Among these giants of the forest dwells a[Pg 131] whole nation of bending ferns as pliant as feathers, of clinging plants hanging in dainty curtains of flowers from tree to tree. Sometimes between the screen of flowers a bit of road comes into view, deep in impalpable brick-red dust, of the same tint as the fruits that hang in branches from the trees. By three in the morning we had started on our way. At the very first streak of day, in front of us, on the road, was a snow-leopard, a graceful supple beast, with a sort of overcoat above its grey fur spotted with black, of very long, white hairs. It stood motionless, watching some prey, and it was not till we were close that it sprang from the road with two bounds, and then disappeared behind a rock with an elastic, indolent swing.

In every shop of the High Street jewellers are on the look-out for customers, hale them in, tease them to buy, and open for inspection little bags or cardboard boxes kept in safes, and containing the finest sapphires in the world. The day slips by in bargaining for the gems, in endless discussions and feigned departures. The indefatigable vendors return to the charge, run after the customer, wait for him at the door of a rival dealer, and drag him back again. Then there is a fresh dispute over prices, till irresistible argument at last brings down the estimates to a third or a quarter of what they were at starting. A Mohammedan funeral now. The body was in a coffin, covered with red stuff, sparkling with gold thread. The bearers and mourners chanted an almost cheerful measure, as they marched very slowly to the[Pg 24] burial-ground by the seaside, where the dead rest under spreading banyans and flowering jasmine. A flight of regular steps, hewn in the rock, under the shade of banyans and bamboos, all tangled with flowering creepers, leads straight up to the temple. It is a vast hall, dug out of granite and supported by massive columns, with capitals of a half-flattened spheroidal shapecolumns which, seen near, seem far too slender to support the immense mass of the mountain that rises sheer above the cave under a curtain of hanging creepers. The temple opens[Pg 21] to the north, and a very subdued lightlike the light from a painted windowfiltering through the ficus branches, lends solemnity and enhanced beauty to this titanic architecture.

The regiment is housed under sheds, the horses picketed to the ground by one fore and one hind foot. They are thoroughbred and magnificent beasts, almost all from the prince's stud, and affectionately cared for by the men, who were delighted to be complimented on their steeds.

The sultan's bath is lined with panels of lapis lazuli framed in gold, and inlaid with [Pg 210]mother-of-pearl, or looking-glass, and the walls have little hollow niches for lamps, over which the water fell in a shower into a bath with a decoration of scroll-work. And in front of Jehangir's room, again a series of basins hollowed in the steps of a broad marble stair, where a stream of water fell from one to another.

"I shall pay as much as I can myself, and by-and-by my son will earn money, and we shall pay between us."

The Ghoorkhas, small men and very active, young too, with Chinese features, were practising gymnastics. And recruits were being drilled, two of them barefoot, though wearing their gaiters.