Moving Forward

20. Januar 2015

At half-past twel­ve the train stop­ped at the­re. The big legend assert that this city is built on the site of the old Casi, which, like Mahomet’s tomb, was once sus­pen­ded bet­ween hea­ven and earth; though the Ben­a­res of to-day, which the Ori­en­ta­lists call the Athens of India, stands qui­te unpoe­ti­cal­ly on the solid earth, Pas­se­par­tout caught glim­p­ses of its brick houses and clay huts, giving an aspect of deso­la­ti­on to the place, as the train ent­e­red it.

Ben­a­res was Sir Fran­cis Cromarty’s desti­na­ti­on, the tro­ops he was rejoi­ning being encam­ped some miles nor­thward of the city. He bade adieu to Phi­leas Fogg, wis­hing him all suc­cess, and expres­sing the hope that he would come that way again in a less ori­gi­nal but more pro­fi­ta­ble fashion. Mr. Fogg light­ly pres­sed him by the hand. The par­ting of Aou­da, who did not for­get what she owed to Sir Fran­cis, betray­ed more warm­th; and, as for Pas­se­par­tout, he recei­ved a hear­ty shake of the hand from the gallant general.

The rail­way, on lea­ving Ben­a­res, pas­sed for a while along the val­ley of the Gan­ges. Through the win­dows of their car­ria­ge the tra­vel­lers had glim­p­ses of the diver­si­fied land­s­cape of Behar, with its moun­tains clothed in ver­du­re, its fiel­ds of bar­ley, wheat, and corn, its jun­gles peo­p­led with green alli­ga­tors, its neat vil­la­ges, and its still thic­kly-lea­ved forests. Ele­phants were bat­hing in the waters of the sac­red river, and groups of India­ns, des­pi­te the advan­ced sea­son and chil­ly air, were per­forming solemnly their pious ablu­ti­ons. The­se were fer­vent Brah­mins, the bit­te­rest foes of Bud­dhism, their dei­ties being Vish­nu, the solar god, Shi­va, the divi­ne imper­so­na­ti­on of natu­ral for­ces, and Brah­ma, the supre­me ruler of priests and legis­la­tors. What would the­se divinities think of India, angli­cis­ed as it is to-day, with stea­mers whist­ling and scud­ding along the Gan­ges, frigh­tening the gulls which float upon its sur­face, the turt­les swar­ming along its banks, and the faith­ful dwel­ling upon its borders?

The pan­ora­ma pas­sed befo­re their eyes like a flash, save when the steam con­cea­led it fit­ful­ly from the view; the tra­vel­lers could scar­ce­ly dis­cern the fort of Chu­pe­nie, twen­ty miles south-west­ward from Ben­a­res, the anci­ent strong­hold of the rajahs of Behar; or Gha­zipur and its famous rose-water fac­to­ries; or the tomb of Lord Corn­wal­lis, rising on the left bank of the Gan­ges; the for­ti­fied town of Buxar, or Pat­na, a lar­ge manu­fac­tu­ring and tra­ding-place, whe­re is held the princi­pal opi­um mar­ket of India; or Mong­hir, a more than Euro­pean town, for it is as Eng­lish as Man­ches­ter or Bir­ming­ham, with its iron found­ries, edge­tool fac­to­ries, and high chim­neys puf­fing clouds of black smo­ke heavenward.

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