Friday, August 12, 2005

Summer Vacation 1929: Part the first--Sultry India!

"Our journey begins in the holy city of Banaras, capital of India's Barnaras District. The city is located along the north bank of the Ganges River for three and a half miles. The city was probably founded about 1200 B.C. Splendid temples and costly palaces are reflected in the waters, as sacred to the Hindus as Jordan is to Christians. Thousands of pilgrms come here each year to undergo the rites of purification from sin. At intervals along the bank there are flights of steps by which pilgrms may go down to bathe in the water. The Hindus believe that to die in Banaras and have one's ashes scattered upon the Ganges is to be certain of gaining salvation. The city is a maze of alleys, many line by temples and shrines."

"Next we travel eleven miles south of the capitol Dehli to Kutb Minar, considered to be the most perfect tower in the world. Surely it is one of India's architechura wonders! It is built in five stories and rises to a height of over two hundred feet. The sumit is reach by flights of steps. A cupola was added, but it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1803."

"Buddh Gaya, in Bihar, is oe of the most holy places of the Buddhist religion becdause there Gautama Buddah, the 'Light of Asia' is believed to have received enlightenment. A huge pagoa markes the holy spot. The terrace, as shown here, runs around the temple, and the strange stone ornaments to the right of the seated yellow turbaned man are shrines that have been erected by pilgrims."

"A rainbow of color, some girlst perform a folk dance in the streets of a village. They slap their sticks and jangle their golden bracelets to keep the rhythm of the dance. The flashing metal, the bright hues of their dress and the flowing of their gauze-like head-coverings add grace and gaiety to their stylized motions. In dancing, they move only their arms and the upper part of their bodies, so that they stand, like tossing flowers, in one place."

"The keeper of a shrine sits before an open-air temple, tolling a bell throughout the day. The bell calls passers-by to come to prayer. Imposing masks, one black and one white, crowned with exotic headdresses, represent the gods. Spread before them are offerings of food, some of it served to the deities in brightly copper pots and dishes!"

"The Hindu temple of Gujarat was built in the eleventh century. The elaborate carvings that decorate its entrace are a superb example of Hindu craftmanship. The temple is dedicated to Surya, the sun-god, the personification of sunlight and the vivifier of man. Representations of Surya show him riding in a splended chariot pulled by seven fiery steeds."

"These dancing girls execute intricate movements without apprent effort, but the smooth flow of the steps is really the result of long training. The dances are usually in a slow rhythm and every gesture has a meaning, even the flick of a single finger. One performance is supposed to represent incidents in the life of Krishna, considered by the Hindus as the incarnation of God and worshiped as invincible in war and love. With his worship are associated brilliant color, the perfume of flowers, milk and honey and all things joyous."

"The market places in towns and cities of India resound to the cries of fruit and vegetable vendors, tempting passers-by with their succulent wares. Since the merchants seldom of scales, they accurately weigh the produce in their hands. The fruits and vegetables are usually spread on open tables for the inspection off the customer."

Next destination: the forbidden land of Tibet!

(Lands and Peoples: The World in Color, Volume IV: Southern Asia and the Far East. New York: The Grolier Society, 1929.)

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