CHAPTER XVI. CONTINUATION OF JOURNEY AND SOJOURN.
Salsetta (also called Tiger Island) is united to Bombay by means of a short artificial dam. The distance from the fort to the village, behind which the temples are situated, is eighteen miles, which we travelled, with relays of horses, in three hours. The roads were excellent, the carriage rolled along as if on a floor.
The natural beauty of this island far exceeds that of Bombay. Not mere rows of hills, but magnificent mountain chains here raise their heads, covered even to their summits with thick woods, from which bare cliffs here and there project; the valleys are planted with rich fields of corn, and slender green palms.
The island does not appear to be densely populated. I saw only a few villages and a single small town inhabited by Mahrattas, whose appearance is as needy and dirty as those near Kundalla.
From the village where we left the carriage we had still three miles to go to the temples.
The principal temple alone is in the style of a chaitza; but it is surrounded by an uncommonly high porch, at both extremities of which idols one-and-twenty feet high stand in niches. Adjoining to the right is a second temple, which contains several priests' cells, allegorical figures of deities, and reliefs. Besides these two, there are innumerable other smaller ones in the rocks, which extend on both sides from the principal temple; I was told there were more than a hundred. They are all viharas with the exception of the principal temple; the greater number, however, are scarcely larger than ordinary small chambers, and are destitute of any peculiarity.
The rock temples of Elephanta and Salsetta rank, in respect to magnitude, grandeur, and art, far below those of Adjunta and Elora, and are of interest only to those who have not seen the latter.
It is said that the temples at Salsetta are not much visited, because there is considerable danger attending it; the country is represented to be full of tigers, and so many wild bees are said to swarm round the temples that it is impossible to enter them; and moreover the robbers, which are known by the name of bheels, live all round here. We fortunately met with none of these misfortunes. Later, indeed, I wandered about here alone. I was not satisfied with a single sight, and left my friends privately while they were taking their noon rest, and clambered from rock to rock as far as the most remote temple. In one I found the skin and horns of a goat that had been devoured, which sight somewhat frightened me; but trusting to the unsociability of the tiger, who will rather fly from a man in broad day than seek him out, I continued my ramble. We had, as I have said, no danger to resist; it was different with two gentlemen who, some days later, nearly fell victims, not indeed to wild beasts, but to wild bees. One of them knocked upon an opening in the side of the rock, when an immense swarm of bees rushed out upon them, and it was only by the greatest exertion that they escaped, miserably stung on the head, face, and hands. This occurrence was published in the newspapers as a warning for others.
The climate of Bombay is healthier than that of Calcutta; even the heat is more tolerable on account of the continual sea-breezes, although Bombay lies five degrees further south. The mosquitoes here, as in all hot countries, are very tormenting. A centipede slipped into my bed one evening, but I fortunately discovered it in time.
I had already decided upon taking my passage in an Arabian boat, which was to leave for Bassora on the 2nd of April, when Herr Wattenbach brought the news that on the 10th a small steamer would make its first voyage to Bassora. This afforded me great pleasure - I did not suspect that it would happen with a steamer as with a sailing vessel, whose departure is postponed from day to day; nevertheless, we did not leave the harbour of Bombay until the 23rd of April.