Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/639

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619
REGARDING MATTERS IN INDIA.

side. The next way, which is more comfortable by far, is by the palanquin, carried by men on their shoulders, and you go along very easily. But if you are heavy it is a great misfortune, for more bearers are required to carry it, and consequently more money to pay them. But this is now almost obsolete, except in the native states, and so you are obliged to fall back upon the bullock-coach, which I will show you.

That is the vehicle in which you have to travel all over the south of India, except on the few spots where there may be railroads. This one is occupied by natives; turn them out and get in, and be sure to sleep with one eye open, or you will not travel very far. If you close your eyes the man will immediately stop, and the bullocks will lie down and go to sleep too, and the man will get under the carriage, and you will be lucky if you get over two miles instead of twenty. I have known a native go three times round his own village, and come back to his own door, and when you awoke, thinking you were twenty miles on the road, and routed him out from his own house, and asked him where it was, he would tell you it was a village eight or nine miles off, but you saw it was the same man and the same bullocks, which you ought to have changed long before getting that distance.

Nominally, there are plenty of roads in India, and good ones, too. The government pay enormous sums to keep them in repair. The contractors are natives, and they keep them in good order for five or six miles out of the town where the Europeans are likely to drive, because if they saw bad roads they would make a row; but nothing is more execrable than they are farther on; there are holes big enough and deep enough to bury a man in; you will often be 24 hours doing 12 miles.

However, we go on to Madura, the Rome of India. It is one of the largest and most noted places, and has one of the richest temples. The first building we are going to see is a mundapum. Opposite the entrance to all these mundapa are what are called the guardians of the gods, of which you see one here. There he stands, carved out of a single block of granite 15 feet high, beckoning with one hand, and with the other warning you not to come unless you are properly prepared, with his foot on the head of a cobra—whether typical of the triumph of the Hindoo religion over the worship of the serpent, is a question I dare not go into, for it is enough to mention that one subject among savants and you set them all arguing. However, passing in beyond this, we see one of the most beautiful buildings in the whole of India. It is a mundapum, and was built by the last King of Madura before we took it. It cost one million of money, and took 22 years to build. The story is, that the reason of his doing so was that he asked the god to come and pay him a visit. The god said he had no objection, but he had not a house fit to receive him in. So the king at once set to work and built what you see, and, though he is long since dead and gone, the god is brought ten days every year to pay a visit to this mundapum. It is 333 feet long and 84 feet wide, and is considered