"Nothing could be fine enough to be worthy of[Pg 212] Akbar, so this was made in a hurry that he might at least rest in peace without delay." But for once he was mistaken.

Then, from a bridge across the Ganges, for a moment we had a last glimpse of the sacred citythe gold-coloured umbrellas, the throng of bathers on the steps to the riverand then Abibulla gravely remarked, "If only India had three cities like Benares it would be impossible ever to leave it."

And once more in a barge on the Ganges. The atmosphere seemed faintly iridescent, like mother-of-pearl, the silence serenely lulled by the distant sound of a flute. The palaces and temples, reflected in the still water, looked in the distance like forts crowned with turrets of gold, and their little windows like loopholes. The broad stairs of the quays, where the priests' umbrellas glitter, assumed a spacious, unfamiliar dignity, the red colour shading paler towards the bottom, where it was washed off by the lapping Ganges, looking as though a fairy hanging of gauze were spread under the wavelets in honour of the Apsaras and the divinities of the river. The walls are covered with bas-reliefs carved in the rock, the roof adorned with architraves of stone in infinite repetition of the same designs. The stone is grey, varied here and there with broad, black stains, and in other spots yellowish, with pale gold lights. Some of the sculpture remains still intact. The marriage of Siva and Parvati; the bride very timid, very fragile, leaning on the arm of the gigantic god, whose great height is crowned with a monumental tiara. Trimurti, a divinity with three faces, calm, smiling, and fiercethe symbol of Siva, the creator, the god of mercy, and of wrath. In a shadowed corner an elephant's head stands outGanesa, the god of wisdom, in the midst of a circle of graceful, slender, life-like figures of women. Quite at the end of the hall, two caryatides, tall and elegant, suggest lilies turned to women. In the inner sanctuary, a small edifice, with thick stone walls pierced with tiny windows that admit but a dim light, stands the lingam, a cylinder of stone crowned with scarlet flowers that look like flames in the doubtful light; and in deeper darkness,[Pg 22] under a stone canopy, another such idol, hardly visible. The Brahman priests are constantly engaged in daubing all the statues of these divinities with fresh crimson paint, and the votaries of Siva have a spot of the same colour in the middle of the forehead. Two lions, rigid in a hieratic attitude, keep guard over the entrance to a second temple, a good deal smaller and open to the air, beyond a courtyard, and screened with an awning of creepers.

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.

The heavy door, plated with iron, was shut. Hubbub, shouts, thumps on the wood with gun-stocksnothing stirred, no reply.

MADRAS