新疆昭苏:天山深处醉金秋(图)

In the middle of a garden, full of clumps of flowering shrubs standing on green lawns, is the Nadjiff Ackraff, a vast rotunda crowned with gilt[Pg 188] cupolas and spires, and all round the building is an arcade built in a square and studded with iron pins on which thousands of wax lights are stuck on the evenings of high festivals.

Towards evening Ellora came in sight, the sacred hill crowned with temples, in a blaze of glory at first from the crimson sunset, and then vaguely blue, wiped out, vanishing in the opalescent mist. Outside the town the carriage went on for a long time through a poverty-stricken quarter, and past plots of ground dug out for the erection of factories. Fragile flowers, rose and lilac, bloomed in the shade of banyans and palm trees. Hedges of jasmine and bougainvillea, alternating with rose trees, scented the air. Then we came to Parel, a suburb where, in a spacious enclosure, stands the hospital for infectious diseases. It is a lofty structure of iron, the roof and walls of matting, which is burnt when infected with microbes, and which allows the free passage of the air. In spite of the heat outside it was almost cool in these shady halls.

All alike were fevered from the deafening music of harmoniums and tom-toms performing at the back of each gambling-bootha din that drowned shouts of glee and quarrelling.

I rode to Tiger Hill. Overhead hung a dense mist, like a roof of shadow, perfectly still, wrapping us in damp and frightfully cold vapour. After two hours' ride in the darkness we reached our [Pg 151]destination. Suddenly the cloud fell like a curtain pulled down, the sky appeared, and then the earth at our feet became visible in the starlight. Some vestiges of a temple could be discerned among the grassthe foundations of enormous halls, and still standing in solitude, the brick chimneys in which the devout were wont to burn their prayers, written on rice-paper. Far away, in the transparent air, above a wall of grey cloudthe dull, dingy grey of dirty cotton-woola speck showed as a beacon of lilac light, of the hue and form of a cyclamen flower; this turned to rose, to brick-red, to warm gold colour, fading into silver; and then, against the blue sky, showed immaculately white. This was GaurisankarMount Everestthe top of the world, appallingly high, inconceivably vast, though lost in the distance, and seen from a hillock three thousand metres above the sea. Then from afar came the sound of tom-toms and bagpipes, nearer and nearer, and the musicians became visible at the top of one of the stair-like alleys. First came the men, then the women. One of these, robed in pale green with a violet and silver saree, carried a child in her arms wrapped in a red dress embroidered with gold. He was this day six[Pg 160] months old; he had eaten rice, and was brought to see the sacred Ganges for the first time. The family, friends, and neighbours had assembled in honour of the great ceremony, which consisted in holding the infant face downwards over the water, which he scarcely saw with half-shut eyes; and then the procession went back again to the sound of the music, and was gone.