七一党课:严书翰教授谈重温“不忘初心”

"Could you design another tomb as beautiful as this?" asked the emperor. The Viharas, monasteries of cells hollowed out in the hillside, extend for more than half a mile; briars and creepers screen the entrances leading to these little retreats, a tangle of flowers and carvings.

After the giant a whole chain of lavender and rose-coloured peaks turning to blue came into sight in the marvellously clear atmosphere; then the sun rose below us, in the throbbing tide of heat the mountains seemed to come closer to us, but immediately the mist gathered about Gaurisankar. "The Apsaras wearing impenetrable veils, that mortals may not gaze too long on the throne of the gods,"[Pg 152] said my sa?s, who had fallen on his face since the first appearance of the snow-crowned colossus, with hands upraised towards the paradise of Indra.

One of the largest buildings once slid into the river during an earthquake, and stands there complete and unbroken, its magnificence surviving under water. Some minarets only rise above the surface like kiosks, and form a landing-stage, invaded by[Pg 159] the bathers, who wash themselves with much gesticulation, flourishing their long sarongs and white loin-cloths, which they spread out to dry on the steps. At Mazagoon, one of the suburbs of Bombay, behold a Parsee wedding.

All round the sanctuary, in niches under a square cloister, are three hundred and fifty alabaster Buddhas, all alike, with the same jewel in their forehead, and on their shoulders and round their bodies[Pg 61] gold bands set with imitation gems and cut glass. An old woman, who had come thither at daybreak, had prayed to each of these Buddhas; to each she had offered up the same brief petition, she had struck the three bells on her way, and she was now in the sanctuary, calling out a prayer while beating a gong that hangs from the arch. Meanwhile other worshippers were murmuring their invocations prostrate before the jewelled Buddha. They shoved it under water, but it presently rose to the surface and floated down the stream, followed by a flock of hawks that snatched at the burnt remains and fought over them in the air, while crocodiles below swam up and snapped at them, dragging them down in their enormous jaws, which appeared for a moment above the water.

A wide avenue paved with marble, rising in broad steps, crosses the hilltop between temples on either side, intersecting narrower alleys, likewise bordered with pagodas crowded together in the inextricable mazes of a labyrinth, whence our guides were frequently required to lead us outtemples crowned with a cupola or a cone, a bristling throng of little extinguishers all covered with carving. The same subjects and patterns are repeated to infinity, even in the darkest nooks: figures of gods, of gigantic beasts rearing or galloping, of monstrous horses and elephants, of tiny birds sheltering the slumbers of the gods under their outspread wings.

[Pg 94]

The little princess had made her way between the seats, close up to us; she was wrapped in dark-coloured gauze, with woven gold borders, so light! scarcely less light than the diaphanous material of the dress. And as I admired this wonderful silk, the Rajah had some bayadres' dresses brought out for me to see: twelve or fifteen skirts, one above another, pleated and spangled with gold, yet, hanging to one finger, scarcely the weight of a straw.

Along Back Bay lies the Malabar Hill, a promontory where the fashionable world resides in bungalows built in the midst of gardens. Palm trees spread their crowns above the road, and on the rocks which overhang the path ferns of many kinds are grown by constant watering. The bungalows, square houses of only one storey, surrounded by wide verandahs, and covered in with a high, pointed roof, which allows the air to circulate above the ceilings, stand amid clumps of bougainvillea and flowering jasmine, and the columnar trunks of coco-palms, date trees, baobabs and areca palms, which refresh them with shade.

In the depths of a deserted temple in the bazaar, amid heaps of rags, bones, and colourless debris, dwelt an old man, a very highly venerated fakir, motionless in his den, while around him were gathered all the masterless dogs of Srinagar, who allowed no one to come near him and flew at anybody who tried to enter the temple.

"And is that all?"