【图解】山西“1+2”帮扶文件 筑牢防贫“堤坝”

By noon, under the torrid blaze which takes the colour out of everything, exhaustion overpowers the city. Vehicles are rare; a few foot-passengers try to find a narrow line of shade close to the houses, and silence weighs on everything, broken only by the buzzing of flies, the strident croak of birds of prey.

Very early in the morning we met a many-coloured caravan of men, women, and children riding astride on asses, amid baskets and bundles. They were on their way to a wedding: they had stopped to rest for the last time; and alone, far from the merry, noisy group, a "bad woman" sat down on a stone. She was on the way to the same festival, and was allowed to travel with the[Pg 288] caravan for succour in case of need; but she was not permitted to join the party.

The bridegroom sits awaiting his guests, in his garden all decorated with arches and arbours, and[Pg 14] starred with white lanterns. An orchestra is playing, hidden in a shrubbery. The two chairs are now placed side by side, and the priest goes on chanting his prayers to a slow measure, in a nasal voice that is soon lost again in the chatter of the bystanders. Rice is once more shed over the couple, and incense is burnt in a large bronze vessel, the perfume mingling with that of the jasmine wreaths on the walls.

The hills are left behind us; the plateau of Cashmere spreads as far as the eye can see, traversed by the glistening Jellum, that slowly rolling stream, spreading here and there into lakes.

And there, under the open sky, stands the crowning marvel of Ellora, the temple or Kailas, enclosed within a wall thirty metres high, pierced with panels, balconies, and covered arcades, and resting on lions and elephants of titanic proportions. This temple is hewn out of a single rock, isolated from the hill, and is divided into halls ornamented in high relief. Covered verandahs run all round the irregular mass in two storeys, reminding us, in their elaborate design, of the Chinese balls of carved ivory with other balls inside them. Nothing has been added or built on. The complicated architectureall in one piece, without cement or the smallest applied ornamentmakes one dizzy at the thought of such a miracle of perseverance and patience. The fog seemed to turn to solid smoke, impenetrably black, wrapping us in darkness which was suddenly rent by a red flash, blood-red, ending in a green gleam. The mist retained a tint of sulphurous copper for some time; then a second flash, and far away among the lurid clouds we had a glimpse of the Himalayas, pallid purple with green shadows against an inky sky. The[Pg 254] thunder, deadened by the masses of snow and very distant, rolled to and fro with a hollow sound, frightening the horses which struggled uphill at a frantic pace. And the dense fog closed round us once more, a dark green milkiness streaked with snow, which was falling in large flakes formed of four or five clinging together like the petals of flowers. Then it hailed, which completely maddened the horses, and then again snow, and it was literally night at ten in the morning when at last we reached this spot and the shelter of a bungalow.

The same ubiquitous terminus on a sandy plain, remote from everything; then a drive jolting through bogs, and we reached the dirty, scattered town crowded with people who had collected round a sort of fair with booths for mountebanks, and roundabouts of wooden horses.

We changed horses every five miles; ill-kempt little beasts, and only half fed, who got through their stage only by the constant application of the whip, and shouts from the sais standing on the step; when released from harness they stood forlorn and hobbled off, lame of every leg, to their stables with no litter. Day broke, a dingy grey, dark with woolly cloud and heavy rain; a wall of fog rose up around us, while the road was uphill towards the mountains.

A rosy light flooded the whole scene with fiery radiance, and then suddenly, with no twilight, darkness blotted out the shape of things, drowning all in purple haze; and there, where India had vanished, a white mist rose from the ocean that mirrored the stars.

A tame white antelope was wandering about the garden of the old rajahs' palace, under a shower of gardenia-like flowers that hung by a stem[Pg 88] scarcely thicker than a thread. The whole of one avenue was strewn with this snow, on which the graceful little beast, with its large sad eyes, was feeding. Further on, under some other trees with red blossoms, stands a little mausoleum built by the prince over Jacky, his dog, "who was faithful and good."

Beyond the temples is the merchants' quarter: a few very modest shops, the goods covered with dust; and in the middle of this bazaar, a cord stretched across cut off a part of the town where cholera was raging.

In the mystery of a polychrome temple, whose walls are closely covered with sculptured bas-reliefs of gods in the shape of men or animals, is a relic, the sacred tooth of Buddha; and all about the precious object, which is enclosed in a series of shrines within impenetrable walls, there is no sign of respect, but all the noise and bustle of a fair, a perfect turmoil of hurrying, chattering folk, whose only anxiety is to keep unbelievers away from the sacred spot.

"You know it is pashmina?"