From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan
Елена Блаватская. From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan
On The Way To Karli
In The Karli Caves
A City Of The Dead
A Witch's Den
The Banns Of Marriage
The Caves Of Bagh
An Isle of Mystery
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It is an early morning near the end of March. A light breeze caresses with its velvety hand the sleepy faces of the pilgrims; and the intoxicating perfume of tuberoses mingles with the pungent odors of the bazaar. Crowds of barefooted Brahman women, stately and well-formed, direct their steps, like the biblical Rachel, to the well, with brass water pots bright as gold upon their heads. On our way lie numerous sacred tanks, filled with stagnant water, in which Hindus of both sexes perform their prescribed morning ablutions. Under the hedge of a garden somebody's tame mongoose is devouring the head of a cobra. The headless body of the snake convulsively, but harmlessly, beats against the thin flanks of the little animal, which regards these vain efforts with an evident delight. Side by side with this group of animals is a human figure; a naked mali (gardener), offering betel and salt to a monstrous stone idol of Shiva, with the view of pacifying the wrath of the "Destroyer," excited by the death of the cobra, which is one of his favourite servants. A few steps before reaching the railway station, we meet a modest Catholic procession, consisting of a few newly converted pariahs and some of the native Portuguese. Under a baldachin is a litter, on which swings to and fro a dusky Madonna dressed after the fashion of the native goddesses, with a ring in her nose. In her arms she carries the holy Babe, clad in yellow pyjamas and a red Brah-manical turban. "Hari, hari, devaki!" ("Glory to the holy Virgin!") exclaim the converts, unconscious of any difference between the Devaki, mother of Krishna, and the Catholic Madonna. All they know is that, excluded from the temples by the Brahmans on account of their not belonging to any of the Hindu castes, they are admitted sometimes into the Christian pagodas, thanks to the "padris," a name adopted from the Portuguese padre, and applied indiscriminately to the missionaries of every European sect.
At last, our gharis—native two-wheeled vehicles drawn by a pair of strong bullocks—arrived at the station. English employes open wide their eyes at the sight of white-faced people travelling about the town in gilded Hindu chariots. But we are true Americans, and we have come hither to study, not Europe, but India and her products on the spot.
Besides, the full moon was about to rise at eight p.m. Three hours' ascent of the mountain, on such a moonlit, tropical night as would tax the descriptive powers of the greatest artists, was worth any sacrifice. Apropos, among the few artists who can fix upon canvas the subtle charm of a moonlit night in India public opinion begins to name our own V.V. Vereshtchagin.
Having dined hurriedly in the dak bungalow we asked for our sedan chairs, and, drawing our roof-like topees over our eyes, we started. Eight coolies, clad, as usual, in vine-leaves, took possession of each chair and hurried up the mountain, uttering the shrieks and yells no true Hindu can dispense with. Each chair was accompanied besides by a relay of eight more porters. So we were sixty-four, without counting the Hindus and their servants—an army sufficient to frighten any stray leopard or jungle tiger, in fact any animal, except our fearless cousins on the side of our great-grandfather Hanuman. As soon as we turned into a thicket at the foot of the Mountain, several dozens of these kinsmen joined our procession. Thanks to the achievements of Rama's ally, monkeys are sacred in India. The Government, emulating the earlier wisdom of the East India Company, forbids everyone to molest them, not only when met with in the forests, which in all justice belong to them, but even when they invade the city gardens. Leaping from one branch to another, chattering like magpies, and making the most formidable grimaces, they followed us all the way, like so many midnight spooks. Sometimes they hung on the trees in full moonlight, like forest nymphs of Russian mythology; sometimes they preceded us, awaiting our arrival at the turns of the road as if showing us the way. They never left us. One monkey babe alighted on my knees. In a moment the authoress of his being, jumping without any ceremony over the coolies' shoulders, came to his rescue, picked him up, and, after making the most ungodly grimace at me, ran away with him.