« ПредишнаНапред »
proceedings of the Moslems, and to so closely that no human being could act vigorously on the defensive, if issue from it unchallenged by the beattacked. A tall slender figure, wear- leaguers. ing a red rajpoot turban, with a shin- The siege of Chittore, like that of ing badge, or ornament, round his Troy, had been caused by a woman's neck, stood conspicuous among them, charins. Not like the Trojan siege, and was easily guessed, even at a dis- however, to restore an erring wife to tance, from his majestic air, to be the her husband ; but on the contrary, to Ranah of Mewar, the sovereign of allure (if possible) a wife from her husChittore.
band_to induce the beautiful Princess The Mogul army halted within bow. of Mewar to exchange the palace of the shot of the walls; the trumpeters raised Ranah for the harem of the Mogul. silver trumpets to their lips, and sound. The Rajab, or rather Ranah, of ed—not a point of war, but a tender Mewar, was of that proud rajpoot and amorous-toned melody, which was caste that called itself Suryasvanti, or echoed from every crag and every hol- Children of the Sun; boasting its delow of the mountain. When the strain scent from Surya, the Indian Apollo, had ceased, the troops formed into line. and reckoning among its mortal ancesEach man was armed with a bow and try Porus, who so bravely resisted the one gilded arrow, fledged with gaily arms of Alexander the Great. The coloured feathers. The arrows were royal race of Mewar was too haughty all without barbs, but had attached to to ally itself with any of mere earthly the top some one beautiful, natural lineage, and intermarried, therefore, flower, with a slip of white silk, on only with its own kindred. The reignwhich a short poem was written. The ing Ranah had espoused his cousin Sultan raised his bow, and shot his rose- Padmani-a princess of such surpassheaded dart over the walls of the for- ing beauty and endowments, that she tress. His example was immediately was the favourite theme of the Bhâts followed by all bis troops, and the air (or bards of the rajpoots), who wan. was filled with a variegated flying cloud dered about Upper India, singing the of flowers of every hue, with their silken praises of their gods, the valour of their pennants fluttering; and as it fell in a heroes, and the charms of their women. fragrant shower within the fortress, the Some of these bards had visited Delhi, noblest among the Mogul's omrahs rode and bad sung before the Emperor Ak. up to the closed gate, and proclaimed bar, and their descriptions of Padmani in a loud voice-Honour to Padmani, had awakened in his excitable Oriental the most beautiful, most beloved prin- heart a violent passion for the beauticess! May she smile on the homage ful Hindoo. Stimulated by curiosity of Akbar the Great, the most magni- and beated fancy, he inquired concern. ficent of monarchs, but her humblest ing her from all who had seen her, or slave."*
heard of her; and the reiterated praises The Hindoos on the ramparts an
of her rare loveliness which filled, but swered with a loud and insulting shout never wearied, his ear, enslaved him to of derision, and immediately hurled the charms of the unseen Princess. He back again over the walls the flower- said to himself :-" To whom should laden arrows. The baughty Moslems the most beautiful of princesses belong seemed insensible to the insult; and, but to the greatest of monarchs! A with true Mahometan gravity, formed gem is wanting in the crown of Akbar, into marching order, and returned to while yon Indian unbeliever keeps in their camp. There all the military his own paltry circlet the brightest duties were regularly performed, with diadem of the East." And with a every demonstration of maintaining a Mahometan contempt for the feelings rigorous blockade. For notwithstand- of a man of another creed, the haughty ing all the display of courtesy towards Sultan wrote to the Ranab,soliciting the fortress, the Mogul had invested it him to separate from his wife and yield
"The Mogul at the beginning of the siege made war like a prince passionately enamoured. He ordered arrows to be shot into
the fortress, to which were attached letters for Padmani." See Catrou's History of the Mogul.
† Absurd as this may seem to European ideas, Oriental history asserts that Akbar became enamoured of Padmani from description alone.
her to Akbar ; offering to the Hindoo The Sultan then resolved, ere he Prince in return the hand of a lovely made a final appeal to arms, on atrelative of the Mogul, together with a tempting to influence the fair Rannee vast treasure and a large accession of in his favour, by exalting her imagiterritories. The Sultan, at the same nation (for thus are women often won). time, addressed letters to Padmani, He thought to attract her by the mingoffering his hand, and the throne of ling of ambition and romance, and to Delhi, with undying love, and all ima- dazzle her by his incomparable magni. ginable wealth and power; and gently ficence. Hence all the gorgeousness reproaching her with injustice to her of his camp, all the extravagances of own beauty, in sharing the musnud of his mililary courtship. Bands of men a petty prince while the first throne in were constantly employed in collecting Asia awaited her.
the emblem-flowers, which, with their The joint reply of the Ranah and accompanying amatory verses (the lahis wife was haughty and determined. bours of countless poets and transcribThey loved each other too well to weigh ers), were daily shot into the fortress, ambition or wealth against affection; as we have seen, in the wild hope that they scorned as an insult the offer of some of them, at least, would meet the alliance with Akbar, as a man far in- eye of Padmani; that the flattering ferior to the Children of the Sun; and tale of his magnificent wooing would reminded the Mogul it was the law of reach her ears. And though his floral honour among the rajpoots that their homage was daily
hurled back by order women should die rather than fall into of the offended Princess, still Akbar the hands of the alien.
had persisted for nearly a month in his Ștung with rage, Akbar wrote again, strange and costly siege, trusting in febut in a different tone. He threatened male curiosity and female vanity. the destruction of Chittore and all the The Mogul was reclining in the door Suryasvanta, and reminded the Ranah of his tent, shaded by the
peepul-tree, of the irresistible progress of his mighty in deep consultation with his friend and arms in India. The only reply of the confidant, the Sheik Soliman, who sat Hindoo was a contemptuous defiance. on the ground before him-a ruddy
Indignation prompted the Sultan to visaged, keen-eyed old man, in a plain march against Chittore, but his ardent green turban ; his hands drawn back love (so he termed his insane passion) into the ample sleeves of his coarse made him pause ere he attacked that brown woollen garment, for be was a royal fortress with the weapons of war. devotee. He feared for the consequences to the “Soliman, my hopes begin to flag; Rannee, the beautiful Padmani. He
my homage avails not~the beautiful knew that the rajpoots were not only Indian is unmoved. By thine eyes! a brave and chivalrous, but also a fe. canst thou not devise some expedient rocious people. They worshipped Siva before I am forced to bare the scimitar the Destroyer and his cruel consort in wrath, and to endanger the life of Kali, who, according to their dark my soul's sultana by the horrible sue creed, delighted in human sacrifices. perstitions of her race.” To avert the danger of their women “ Let the Asylum of the Universe falling into captivity, a mortal disgrace no longer waste time and treasures on to their nation, they would plunge their the thankless daughter of the infidels
. daggers into the fairest and fondest Forget her, my Sultan ; as fair can be bosoms, though their own hearts should found to share the throne of Delhi.” burst with anguish. And in impend. “ Earth holds none so worthy of my ing calamities the rajpoot females often throne as Padmani. Do not all agree devoted themselves to death, to pro- in her perfections? Say they not that pitiate their stern and cruel gods by she is beautiful as a houri, graceful as the performance of the Joar, a self- the twining liana, light-footed as the sacrifice by suffocation. If the Mogul antelope, gentle as the dove, wise as arms shook Chittore, what might be Lokman,* good as the Daughter of the fate of the lovely Rannee amid Imran ;f with a voice sweet as that of such fearful superstitions ?
the angel Israfil, and a smile like the
* Lokman, the Indian Æsop.
ripple on the river of Paradise. She well meeting with yon idolatrous prince; is a priceless gem, and my crown is and I would pray thee present to him, imperfect without her."
as a parting gift of reconcilement, that is Draw then the invincible scimitar, string of matchless pearls that hangs Take the fortress, slay the Ranah_his round thy tower-like neck." spoils will be thine.”
“ Akbar's rage would have burst " But not his widow ! Madness, forth with vehemence, but for a pecuSheik! Knowest thou not, that to slay liar smile on the Sheik's countenance, the Ranah is to slay my love? She which told that he meant more than he would be compelled by her religion to expressed. The old man continued sacrifice herself upon her husband's * But I fear the string is scarcely burning funeral pile.”
strong enough for its purpose.
It The Sheik mused for a time with his might break on the Ranah's neck, and eyes fixed on the ground, while Akbar some of the pearls be lost. With the gazed anxiously upon bim. After a Sultan's leave I would crave to show silence of some minutes Soliman looked how such valuable pearls ought to be up.
strung, so that the string shull run no “If thy condescension would hear risk of breaking." me without anger, I would say, let the The Sultan observed the emphasis Sultan prepare to leave Chittore." of the Sheik on the last words.
Akbar stared angrily at the speaker. “ Come into my tent, O Sheik, in
" Leave Chittore like a baffled hound! the name of the Prophet, and turn Give the infidel leave to say, Ha! the jeweller if thou wilt. And while thou face of the Sultan is blackened, we art stringing my pearls anew, explain laugh at his beard! By thy head, O the secret of thy unwonted counsels." Sheik! I scorn such counsel.”
So spake Akbar, hurrying Soliman “ Yet, my Sultan,” resumed the old into the royal tent, and closing the man quietly, “ I still counsel thee to entrance, after commanding the senproclaim that thou dost yield up the tinel to prohibit the approach of any siege. Also demand graciously a fare- intruder whatever.
WITHIN the mountain-fortress of Chittore was a small lake, covered with the leaves and flowers of the blue water. lotos, and in its centre, on a rocky islet, stood the palace of the Rannee Padmani, a low, heavy, stone building, adorned with a quantity of mythological sculpture. The communication with the mainland was maintained by means of two decorated boats. In the favourite apartment of Padmani, the small windows were set round with a frame of shining mica; the smoothly plastered walls and ceiling were painted with subjects from the most agreeable Hindoo legends. There was Cama, the Indian Cupid, with his bow of sugar cane, and its string of bees, and his five arrows tipped with flowers, accompanied by his consort, Reti (affection), and his friend, Vasanta (the spring). There was Nareda, son of the god Brahma, inventing the vina, or Indian guitar ; and Parvati, in the guise of a mountain girl, winning back the estranged affections of her consort, the god Iswara. The floor was covered with striped cotton, lined and quilted,
so that the foot-tread fell noiseless; cushions of brocade were laid upon it, and two musnuds covered with rich shawls. In a niche stood a silver idol of Surya, or the sun, before which lay, as a votive offering, a garland of mougrees, purely white fragrant flowers, resembling jessamine. The room was cool and darkened; and wetted mats, of an odoriferous grass, were laid wherever the rays of the sun sought to penetrate.
On a pile of cushions sat Padmani. Her under robe was of white silk; the upper, of silver gauze. A chaplet of emerald leaves and pearl berries bound the luxuriant knot of her shining black hair, and splendid ornaments encircled her slender arms, waist, and ankles. Her figure was the perfection of symmetry and grace; and her face was so exquisitely beautiful as to surpass even the imaginings of Sultan Akbar. She held a vina, or Indian guitar, whose melancholy music she accompanied with a voice of infinite sweetness, but of deep sadness, often interrupted by tears.
on him with a tender but melancholy Who will be with thee at the rest of Even smile, and dropped the vina. (Those sacred hours, so tranquil and so Clasping her delicate hands in his lone),
he inquired Gazing with thee upon the dark’ning heaven, “Why is thy song so sad, my PadBreathing soft thoughts by tender impulse
mani? What bath grieved thee this given,
day more than the preceding days ? When I am gone?
Even yet the invaders shew no inten
tion of actual aggression, but still conWho will be with thee by the murmuring
tinue their extravagant courtesies." fountain,
“But how soon, my Ranah, may List’ning to mellow horn at distance blown;
not these insulting courtesies be exOr sigh of breeze awaking on the mountain,
changed for cruel war? The Moslems Or the wild night-bird all his bliss recount- are countless ; the fortress is closely ing,
surrounded ; we must yield at length When I am gone? to famine, if not to the sword, And
I-I am the cause of threatened ruin Day, active day, its aspect ever changing, to Chittore and its prince. Am I not With hopes pursued, or needful duties
a degenerate daughter of the sun to done, Will lure thro' varied scenes thy spirit rang
have lived so long? Ah! if I were ing,
gone, Akbar would no longer desire Thy busy thoughts awhile from me estrang.
the conquest of Chittore.". ing,
The Ranah uttered a cry of horror, When I am gone.
for he perceived that she was contem
plating self-sacrifice to propitiate the But thou wilt miss me in the evening's gods, who, according to their dark leisure,
creed, were best pleased by human When all the hopes and cares of day victims. bave flown ;
• What, Padmani ! wouldst thou Who then for thee will search out fancy's
forsake me? Wouldst thou hy to treasure,
another world, and leave me alone Or sing to thee in strain of tranquil pleasure, When I am gone ?
among my enemies? Or canst thou think I would survive thee? Rannee!
dost thou forget our people? We Be happy in the day's meridian splendor; Take up each flower that on thy path
must not desert them in the hour of is strown;
danger. I must live to encourage and But still at eve to me thy heart surrender ;
direct them; thou must live to soothe Call back our love in mem'ry true and tender, When I am gone.
Padınani replied only by tears.
The Ranah saw that she had some While she sang, the Ranah appeared unusual cause for depression. He drew at the door of the apartment. Like her closer to his heart, and soothed the rajpoots of high birth, he was her with caressing words, till he won' taller and fairer than the other Hin- from her a confession that she had doos. He was young and bandsome, been alarmed by an ominous dream, and bore a striking resemblance to “I dreamed," she said, “that Kali, Padmani. His dress was of cream- the awful goddess, stood before me. coloured silk, embroidered with gold ; Her necklace of skulls rattled; she his turban and sash were of the na- brandished the weapons in her many tional colour, bright red. The raj- bands, and her black countenance poot badge, a gold medallion repre- loured upon me as she exclaimed, senting a man on horseback, hung from • Daughter of the Suryasvanta! why a gold chain round his neck. The is Kali's image dry so long? When rajpoot string of twisted cotton was it bathed last in the warm crimson threads was passed across his breast tide?' Ah, Zalim ! she demands a and shoulder, and his forehead was sacrifice of blood for Chittore." marked with the streak of high caste. “And she shall have it, Padmani ! In his hand he held the rose-headed The battle-field shall be the altar, and arrow that had been shot by Akbar. yon Moslems the victims. Smile, Hiscountenance grew sad as he listened then, my Rannee, thy dream is good, to Padmani. When she had ceased to and shall be fulfilled." We bave Aung sing he approached her. She gazed back Akbar's last insult in disdain ;
but the next we will answer with a Padmani, almost breathless with fierce volley from our ramparts. We anxiety, leaned on her husband's have cleared our fortress from the shoulder as he read it aloud for her. flight of flower-laden shafts; but this It was couched in the inflated style of gem-freighted arrow, shot by the Sul- the Orientals, but its purport in plain tan himself, the Brahmin Madeo has terms was, that the Mogul, perceiving reserved to offer upon the shrine of that the offers of his magnificence, and Surya, while he calls on the sun god the menaces of his hostility, were alike to deliver his children from the Bel- disregarded by the Ranah and Ranlatee (Barbarian). Let us see what nee, admired their constancy too much this scroll says of the rose and its to molest them farther. He withdrew diamond chain
his unsuccessful suit, and would re
tire from before Chittore on the fol“Be mine, O fairest! be but mine,
lowing morning. But he desired preAnd I along thy path will strew Wealth's gems, with purest ray that shine, viously to clasp in friendship the hand And love's own flowers of brightest hue.
of a prince whom he had learned to The richest gem, the fairest flower,
esteem; and he requested permission Seem they not well united ?
to visit the Ranah in his fortress, So I the monarch, chief in power,
pledging the faith of a true believer, And thou the loveliest
and the word of an Emperor, that he
would be attended only by a train of “ Cease, Ranah, cease! It beseems forty persons; and that no Moslem not a faithful wife to hear the flatteries should quit the camp during the Moof a stranger."
gul's visit to the Hindoo prince, with The Ranah smiled with pleasure. whom henceforth he would be allied in
“ What, my Princess ! art thou amity. afraid of being bewitched by the spells “ Praised be our Father Surya for of the Mogul? Yet I see among the the barbarian's departure!" exclaimed flowers in yonder vase some sprigs of Padmani, raising her eyes with a look the imperial tree, * a sure preservative of joy. “But O, my Ranah, let not against magic."
the Mogul come hither, to profane “ Here,” replied Padmani, return. with his footsteps the dwelling of the ing bis smile, “here is a flower that rajpoots." is a more certain preservative from « Nay, Padmani, I may not refuse Akbar's spells," and she gave him a a demand upon my bospitality; he mougree. “This is my favourite would think I feared his presence. flower, for it was the first interpreter Let him come and behold the strength of thy love, Zalim. Can any of Ak- of our position, and look upon the debar's flowers speak to my heart as the fying eyes of our defenders.” mougree spoke when first given to me “ Be it as thou wilt, Zalim. Still I by thee."
feel an instinct of some impending The Ranah was pressing the hand evil-may Surya avert it lm-but surely, that held the mougree, when a voice I think, some trial is before us. We without eraved admittance.
may be placed in circumstances that “ Enter !" cried the Prince, impa- will force us to dissemble with the tiently, and an old muktar, or cham- world. Let us, then, establish a sign berlain, approached with profound re- of private intelligence between us ; spect, and laid at his sovereign's feet let the mougree-flower be our secret a splendid bag of brocade, saying- token. When we are apart from
“ From the Mogul," and retired. each other, let no embassy, no re
The Ranah hastily cut the string of quest from the one to the other be gold-twist, and took out a letter, of weight, or be conceded, or obeyed, written on a gold-besprinkled paper, unless it comes accompanied by a having the impression of the Sultan's mougree; this flower alone shall give signet at the side (a conciliatory token it validity - this shall be the token of of equality), and addressed « To the earnestness and truth.
Take some Maha-Rajah of Mewar, from Akbar, mougrees, Zalim, ere thou leavest the servant of Allah, and Emperor of Delhi.”
He placed some mougrees in his bo
The mimosa, or sensitive plant, esteemed in India a preservative against witchcraft.