Two old women had a quarrel, and all the neighbourhood came out to look on.
In the shrine of Chaumuc, the god of many faces, the four masks grin down from the sides of a square pillar of white stucco. The walls, vault, and pavement of this temple are all red, with borders of green and yellow; the colours scream in contrast to the whiteness of the images, with their staring eyes made of crystal balls that look like spectacles.
Images of horses recurred at intervals, singly, or in pairs face to face; and as evening came on we saw round a pagoda a whole procession of horses in terra-cotta, some very much injured, arranged as if they were running round, one after another, in search of the heads and legs they had lost.
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.
Traversing the narrow avenues that intersect the bazaar, we came to a series of quiet courts; here were the police-station, the small barracks, and stables for camels and elephants. In a blind alley we found a white mosque, where men were praying robed in pink and green; while opposite, below a house consisting of three stories of arcades, some Syrian horses, as slender as gazelles, were exercising on the bright-hued mosaic floor of the open stable.
A very solid structure, with walls like a fortress, contains the treasury of the sacred mount. Five guards in turn came to open as many padlocks, and at last the ponderous door turned slowly on its hinges. A car, an elephant, and a vehicle to which are harnessed two prancing horses, are all brought out to convey the idols when they go forth in a[Pg 81] procession. The animals are chased with almost artistic skill. The harness, starry with precious stones, all takes to pieces.
A heavy, rusty-red cloud hung over the field of Hindoo funeral fires. Tambourines and bells could be heard in the distance, and as we went nearer the noise grew louder in the foul air, stifling and stagnant; till when we got close to the place the noise and singing were frantic and the smell of burning was acrid, sickening.
So at last the door was opened.
At a station where we stopped, a man with a broad, jolly, smiling face got into the carriage. He was a juggler and a magician, could do whatever he would, and at the time when the line was opened[Pg 90] he threatened that if he were not allowed to travel free he would break the trains into splinters. The officials had a panic, and the authorities were so nervous that they gave way; so he is always travelling from one station to another, living in the carriages.
This cell is as dark as a cellar, barbarously squalid. But to all our questions the moollah who was our guide only replied: