Ch. 19, Ponies, Trains, and Walking on the Nawab’s Grave
Normality is a paved road: It's comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.
~ Vincent Van Gogh
Waiting patiently outside the Hazarduarti Palace grounds in Murshidavat, are a number of “horse” drawn carriages. The horses are small—more like ponies—and they carry five of us, two facing forward and two facing backwards, plus the driver who sits below on the framework of the carriage and in front of one forward-facing passenger (me, in this case).
|There I am, in the back which is really the front, with the visor.|
We travel through the bumpy streets and wave at the people who see us coming. These streets seem positively rural when compared to the crush of people in the bazaar and museum.
|Approaching the railroad tracks.|
The pony is urged to speed up, and it does, as we approach a railroad crossing. The idea is to crest the small rise with enough speed to get across the tracks easily and without getting stuck on the rails. Passengers are advised to hang on.
Another block or so after that, we arrive at the ruins of Katra mosque, an Islamic structure built in 1723 A.D., by Nawab Murshid Quli Khan, who also founded this city. As the sign reads, it is famous not only as a large site of Islamic learning, but also because the Nawab requested to be buried beneath the entrance steps so that those entering the temple would walk through his body.
As creepy as that sounds, he is actually buried in a typical Muslim grave capped with stone, and it is—as he requested—in a small crypt beneath the main stairs. I, however, had to make things difficult and crawled into every dark cubbyhole I found before asking where it was.
|And when I finally found it, it wasn't necessary to crawl.|
After the swarms we encountered earlier, this place is the epitome of peace and quiet with few other visitors and I am enveloped in a great and welcome silence.
The two towers at the corners of the mosque served multiple purposes. They were high places from which men could communicate by signals, could serve as lookouts, and from which the calls to prayer were made. There were also slits built into the sides to provide for musket fire.
Our visit concludes, it’s back aboard the pony carts for a return to the river. This time, the race to the crest of the railroad crossing is halted by the crossing arms deployed and a train rolling past. Then comes the race to the crest for the poor pony which does not have the benefit of a running start.
I attempted to video the approach to the railroad crossing, but the ride was so bumpy I twice accidentally shut off the camera, as you can see....
|Note the rising safety arms for the railroad crossing.|
Over the tracks
And through the streets,
Back to the river we go...
|A vendor's colorful display.|
We remain anchored to the dock for the evening as there is to be a dance exhibition after dinner. I skip dinner and the exhibition, opting instead for bed and a much-needed night’s sleep.
The river portion of this trip is quickly reaching its end, and I’m not sure I’m real pleased about that because I have greatly enjoyed the villages along the sacred Ganga. But, there is much more of India to be explored.
|Flickering firelight on my drapes gets me out of bed to see this. Someone tells me the next day that they're burning trash. I hope so, but the obviously-visible foam plates just below the fires leads me to suspect that.|
|The fire photo above reminds me of this scene from farther up the river. This woman has swept clean the area above her, but it goes no father that the gully, where eventual rains will wash it into the river.|