Temple Of Dawn

Temple Of Dawn by Yukio Mishima

Book: Temple Of Dawn by Yukio Mishima Read Free Book Online
Authors: Yukio Mishima
surprise. His attention was drawn from the foliage of the lime trees stretching out over the river surface between the many ghats. Each leaf was said to house for ten days the soul of one just deceased while it waited to be reborn.
    The boat had already passed the Dasasvamedha ghat and was alongside the House of Widows, a building of red sandstone by the river. The window frames were decorated with green and white mosaic and the interior was painted green. Incense wafted from the windows, and bells and the chanting of kirtana could be heard echoing from the ceiling and spilling over the river surface. Here widows gathered from all corners of India to await their death. Emaciated by sickness and anticipating the salvation of extinction, for these people their last days in Mumukshu Bhavan, or the “House of Happiness,” in Benares were their happiest. Everything was conveniently close. The crematory ghat was situated to the immediate north, while just above rose the golden spire of the Nepalese Temple of Love, on which the sculptures honored the thousand postures of sexual intercourse.
    Honda’s eyes picked out a package wrapped in cloth floating beside the boat. He remarked that the shape, bulk, and length suggested the corpse of a two- or three-year-old child and was told that that was precisely what it was.
    Honda glanced at his watch. It was forty minutes past five. The evening dusk was gathering. At that instant, he distinctly saw a fire in front of him. It was the funeral pyre of the Mani Karnika ghat.
    Facing the Ganges, it consisted of five-tiered platforms of varying widths on a Hindu-style base. The temple was formed of a group of stupas of different heights that surrounded a large central one, and every structure had a Mohammedan-style arched balcony in the shape of a lotus petal. As this gigantic brown cathedral was smoke-stained and stood on high colonnades, the closer Honda’s boat approached the more its gloomy, imposing silhouette, uninhabited and smoke-swathed, loomed like an ominous hallucination in the sky. But a vast muddy stretch of water still lay between the boat and the ghat. On the darkening surface of the water, a profusion of flower offerings—including the red java flowers he had seen in Calcutta—and incense came floating down like trash; and the inverted reflection of the towering flames of the funeral pyre played clearly on the water.
    The pigeons inhabiting the stupas fluttered about in confusion, mingling with the sparks that rose high in the sky. The heavens had turned a dark indigo touched with gray.
    A sooty stone grotto stood near the water, and flowers had been placed before the statues of Shiva and one of his wives, Sati, who had flung herself into a fire in order to uphold her husband’s honor.
    Many boats piled high with wood for the funeral pyres were moored in the area, and Honda’s craft hung back from the center of the ghat. Behind the brightly burning fire a small flame was visible deep under the temple arcade. It was the sacred, eternal flame, and every funeral pyre received its fire from it.
    The river breeze had died and a suffocating heat hung over the area. Like everywhere else in Benares, noise rather than silence prevailed here too; it mingled with the constant movement of people, cries, children’s laughter, and the chanting of sutras. People were not the only bathers; emaciated dogs followed the children into the water; and from the dark depths away from the fires, there where the extremity of the ghat steps lay submerged, the sinewy, shiny backs of water buffalo suddenly emerged one by one, herded on by the cackling shouts of their keepers. As they teetered up the steps, the funeral fires were mirrored on their wet black backs.
    Sometimes the flames were enveloped in white smoke and flickering red tongues would appear through rifts. The smoke wafted up to the temple balconies and eddied like some living thing in the dark recesses of the building.
    The Mani Karnika

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