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Across India by Oliver Optic

Sir Modava wrote this down in his memorandum book


The

dancing had been renewed, and this conversation continued till later. At this wedding Lord Tremlyn met a gentleman whom he introduced to some of his party as Sahib Govind. This gentleman had just invited him to visit a theatrical performance at a private house, such as a European can very rarely witness.

"I never went to a theatre in my life!" protested Mrs. Belgrave.

"But this is a representation in connection with the religious traditions of the Hindus," argued his lordship.

It was decided to go, the scruples of the Methodists being overcome by the fact that it was a religious occasion, and not at all like the stage performances of New York. The carriages conveyed them to the house indicated by Sahib Govind, and they were conducted to a hall, at one end of which was a stage, with a thin calico curtain in front of it. The performance was just beginning.

A Brahmin came out in front of the curtain, with some musicians, and set up an image of Ganesa, the god of wisdom; then he prayed this idol to enlighten the minds of the actors, and enable them to perform their parts well, which was certainly very untheatrical, the Americans thought, when Sir Modava had translated the substance of the invocation. The Brahmin then announced that the subject of the play was the loves of the god Krishna.

"Who is the hero of

the piece, Sir Modava?" asked Mr. Woolridge, who was a theatre-goer at home.

"He is really Vishnu, one of the Hindu trinity, known as the preserver. Vishnu has a considerable number of forms, or incarnations, one of which is Krishna, the most human of them all."

The curtain rose, and cut short the explanation. The scene, painted on canvas, was an Indian temple. A figure with an enormous wig, his half-naked body daubed all over with yellow paint, was seated before it, abstracted in the deepest meditation. The interpreter told them it was Rishi, a supernatural power, a genius who is a protector to those who need his services. Then a crowd of gods and goddesses rushed on the stage, and each of them made a long speech to the devotee-god, which Sir Modava had not time to render into English, even with the aid of Sahib Govind.

The actors were fantastically dressed. One had an elephant's head, and all of them wore high gilt mitres. Krishna enters, and the other divinities make their exit. He is a nice-looking young man, painted blue, and dressed like a king. His wife enters, and throws herself at his feet. Then she reproaches him for forsaking her, in a soft and musical voice, her eyes raining tears all the time. She embraces his knees.

Then appears the rival in her affections with Krishna, Rukmini, an imperious woman, and tells by what artifices she has conquered the weak husband. Then follows a spirited dialogue between the two women. The rival boasts of her descent from Vishnu, and of her beauty and animation, and reproaches Krishna with his unworthy love. Sir Modava wrote this down in his memorandum book, and handed it to the Americans.


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