Parsees and other merchants were circulating in the crowd, making notes of the prices; and the great variety of representatives of different countries was surprising to the visitors. Not far from this bazaar is the great mosque of the Mohammedans. After all the magnificent buildings of this kind the party had visited in Turkey, Egypt, and Algeria, it was not a great attraction. It was not to be compared with many mosques they had seen. As usual, the party were invited to remove their shoes, though the sight hardly paid for the trouble. The scene was the same as in others of the kind. A venerable Moollah was expounding the Koran to a group of true believers.
His audience were all seated on the pavement, and they seemed to be giving excellent attention to the discourse. Sir Modava explained that the Mohammedans of Bombay were more orthodox, or strict, in the observance of the requirements of their religion than in Bengal; for a considerable proportion are direct descendants from the original stock who had emigrated to India from Persia. They are bitterly opposed to the Hindus, and a serious riot had occurred not long before.
There are many Hindu temples in Bombay, though not many of them are accessible to strangers; but the party drove to one in the Black Town. It had a low dome and a pyramidal spire. Both of them were of the Indian style of architecture, very elaborate in ornamentation. It looked like a huge mass of filigree work.
The visitors next found themselves at Girgaum, which is a forest of cocoanut-trees extending from the Bazaars to Chowpatti, at the head of the Back Bay. Among the trees, as the carriages proceeded along the Queen’s Road, they found a great number of Hindu huts, half hidden in the dense foliage. They paused to look at one of them.
The walls were of bamboo and other tropical woods, and the roof was thatched with cocoanut leaves, which required poles to keep them in place. It had several doors, and cross-latticed windows. There was no particular shape to the structure, and certainly nothing of neatness or comeliness about it. A large banana tree grew near it; a woman stood at one of the doors, staring with wonder at the strangers, and a couple of half-naked coolies were at work farther away. The morality of the residents of this section could not be commended.
“In the evening this grove is lighted up with colored lamps,” said the viscount. “Taverns and small cafes are in full blast, the sounds of music are heard, and a grand revel is in progress. Europeans, Malays, Arabs, Chinese, and Hindus frequent the grove. Far into the night this debauchery continues, and I trust the authorities will soon clean it out.”
The carriages continued on their way to Malabar Hill, and made a thorough survey of the locality. At the southerly point they came to the village of Walkeshwar, whose pagoda-like towers they had seen from the ship, filled with residences, though not of the magnates of the city. Most of the buildings here were very plain. The hill is not a high one, but along its sides the elaborate bungalows of the merchants and others were erected, all of them with fine gardens surrounding them.