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A Handbook to Agra and the Taj by E. B. Havell

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The Ram Bagh

Among a number of more or less ruined garden-houses on this bank
of the river, there is one, a little beyond the Chini-ka-Rauza, of
especial interest, on account of the tradition which associates it
with the Emperor Babar. It is called the Ram Bagh, and is believed to
have been one of the "elegant and regularly planned pleasure-grounds"
which Babar laid out and planted with fruit trees and flowers, as he
has described in his memoirs.

No doubt this was the scene of many imperial picnics; not the drunken
revels of Babar's Kabul days--for just before the great battle with
the Rajputs in 1527 he smashed all his gold and silver drinking-cups
and took a vow of total abstinence, which he kept faithfully--but
the more sane and temperate pleasures which music, poetry, and his
intense delight in the beauties of nature could furnish. Here is a
charming picture he has given of another garden he laid out in the
Istalif district of Kabul:--

"On the outside of the garden are large and beautiful spreading
plane-trees, under the shade of which there are agreeable spots,
finely sheltered. A perennial stream, large enough to turn a mill,
runs through the garden, and on its banks are planted plane and other
trees. Formerly this stream flowed in a winding and crooked course,
but I ordered its course to be altered according to a plan which
added greatly to the beauty of the place. Lower down ... on the lower
skirts of the hills is a fountain, named Kwajeh-seh-yaran (Kwajeh three
friends), around which are three species of trees; above the fountain
are many beautiful plane trees, which yield a pleasant shade. On the
two sides of the fountain, on small eminences at the bottom of the
hills, there are a number of oak trees. Except on these two spots,
where there are groves of oak, there is not an oak to be met with on
the hills of the west of Kabul. In front of this fountain, towards the
plain, there are many spots covered with the flowering arghwan tree,
and, besides these arghwan plots, there are none else in the whole
country. It is said that these three kinds of trees were bestowed
on it by the power of these three holy men, beloved of God; and that
is the origin of the name Sej-Yaran. I directed this fountain to be
built round with stone, and formed a cistern of lime and mortar ten
yez by ten. On the four sides of the fountain a fine level platform
for resting was constructed on a very neat plan. At the time when
the arghwan flowers begin to blow, I do not know of any place in the
world to be compared with it. The yellow arghwan is here very abundant,
and the yellow arghwan blossom mingles with the red."

The Ram Bagh was the temporary resting-place of the body of
Babar before it was taken to Kabul for interment in another of the
gardens he loved so much. The old Mogul style of gardening is a lost
art, and one misses in the Ram Bagh the stately rows of cypress,
interspersed with flowering trees, the formal flower-beds glowing
with colour like a living carpet, which were planted by Babar; but
the terraces, the fountain, the water-channels, and the little stone
water-shoots--cunningly carved so that the water breaks over them
with a pleasant gurgling sound--which may have recalled to him the
murmurings of his native mountain-streams--the old well from which
the water of the Jumna is lifted into the channels, can still be seen,
as well as the pavilions on the river-bank, now modernized with modern
bad taste.

In later times the Ram Bagh was the garden-house of the Empress Nur
Mahal. It was kept up by all succeeding Governments, and it is said
to have obtained its name of Ram Bagh from the Mahrattas in the
eighteenth century.

THE ZUHARA BAGH.--Between the Chini-ka-Rauza and the Ram Bagh there is
another great walled enclosure, which contained the garden-house of
Zuhara, one of Babar's daughters, and is named after her the Zuhara,
or Zohra Bagh. This formerly contained the largest garden-palace
at Agra, and is said to have possessed no less than sixty wells. A
great well, just outside the enclosure, 220 feet in circumference,
and of enormous depth, was filled up some years ago.


Sikandra, a village about five miles from Agra, and the burial-place of
Akbar, is reached by two roads. The older one follows, to some extent,
the alignment of the great military road to Lahore and Kashmir, planned
by Babar and completed by his successors. A few of the _kos-minars_,
pillars which marked off the _kos_--a distance of about two and a half
miles--can still be seen along the road, or in the adjoining fields.

Numerous remains of archaeological interest are passed on the way of
the old road. First the Delhi gate of the old city walls. About a
mile further on the right-hand side, is a great walled enclosure,
named after Ladli Begam, the sister of Abul Fazl, Akbar's famous
Prime Minister and biographer. It formerly contained her tomb, as
well as that of Sheikh Mubarak, her father, and of Faizi, her eldest
brother. Many years ago the whole enclosure was sold by Government. The
purchasers, some wealthy Hindu merchants of Muttra, promptly pulled
down the mausoleum, realized the materials, and built a pavilion
on the site. In front of the great gateway was a splendid _baoli_,
or well-house, the largest in the neighbourhood of Agra. This was
filled up about five years ago.

Not far from Ladli Begam's garden is the Kandahari Bagh, where the
first wife of Shah Jahan, a daughter of Mozaffar Husein, who was the
great-grandson of Shah Ismail Safvi, King of Persia, is buried.

About a mile further along the road, on the left-hand side, is a
curious statue of a horse in red sandstone, which, tradition says,
was put up by a nobleman whose favourite horse was killed at this spot;
the syce who was killed at the same time has his tomb close by.

Nearly opposite to this is a large dried-up tank, called the
Guru-ka-Tal, which, with the adjacent ruined buildings, are attributed
to Sikandar Lodi, one of the Afghan predecessors of the Mogul Emperors,
who has given his name to Sikandra.

Akbar's Tomb.

Akbar's tomb stands in the midst of a vast garden, enclosed by four
high battlemented walls. In the centre of each wall is an imposing
gateway seventy feet high. The principal one, on the west side,
has an inscription in Persian, which states that the mausoleum was
completed by the Emperor Jahangir, in the seventh year of his reign,
or 1613 A.D. It is elaborately ornamented with bold but rather
disjointed inlaid patterns, which seem to show that the designers
were unaccustomed to this method of decoration. Neither are the
four minarets at the corners of the roof, which are said to have
been broken by the Jats, contrived with the usual skill of the Mogul
architects. Above the gateway is the Nakkar Khana, an arcaded chamber
with a balcony, where at dawn and one watch after sunrise the drums
and pipes sounded in honour of the dead.

The mausoleum was commenced by Akbar himself. It is different in plan
from any other Mogul monument, and, contrary to the usual Muhammadan
custom, the head of the tomb of Akbar is turned towards the rising
sun, and not towards Mecca. The whole structure gives the impression
of a noble but incompleted idea; both in its greatness and in its
incompleteness, it is typical of Akbar and his work.

The original design was somewhat modified by Jahangir. He has
stated in his memoirs that on his first visit to the tomb after his
accession he was dissatisfied with the work which had been done,
and ordered certain parts of it to be rebuilt. Fergusson supposes
that the original intention was to cover the tombstone and raised
platform of the uppermost story with a domed canopy, and in this
he is supported by a statement of William Finch, who visited the
mausoleum when it was being built, that it was to be "inarched over
with the most curious white and speckled marble, to be ceiled all
within with pure sheet gold richly inwrought." Such a canopy is just
what is required by aesthetic considerations to complete the curiously
truncated appearance of the top story, and there is nothing in the
structural design to make it impossible or improbable.

The approach to the interior of the mausoleum is through the central
archway of the lower story, which opens into a vestibule richly
ornamented with raised stucco work, and coloured in blue and gold,
somewhat in the style of the Alhambra. A part of this decoration has
been lately restored. An inclined passage, like the entrance to an
Egyptian pyramid, leads down into a high vaulted chamber, dimly lighted
from above, where a simple sarcophagus of white marble contains the
mortal remains of the great Akbar. Whatever decoration there may have
been on the walls is now covered with whitewash. The Emperor's armour,
clothes, and books, which were placed beside the tomb, are said to have
been carried off by those insatiable marauders, the Jats of Bharatpur.

Smaller chambers surrounding the central one, on the level of the
platform, contain the tombs of two of Akbar's daughters and a son of
the Emperor Shah Alam. These also have suffered much from neglect and
whitewash, The whole of the facade of the lower story was originally
faced with red sandstone, or perhaps with fine stucco decorated in
fresco. The present coat of common plaster is modern work, which,
except as a protection for the brickwork, would have been better
left undone.

The lower story is 320 feet square. Above this are three others,
diminishing in size up to the highest, which is just half these
dimensions. The roof of the topmost is surrounded by cloisters,
the outer arches of which are filled with very fine marble tracery
(Plate X.). In the centre, on a raised platform, is a solid block of
pure white marble, delicately carved with flowers and sacred texts,
representing the real tomb in the vault beneath. At the head is
the inscription, "Allah-o-Akbar" (God is Great), and at the foot,
"Jalli Jalalohu" (Magnificent is His Glory). These sentences were
the formula of Akbar's new religion, which he called "The Divine
Faith." On the sides the ninety-nine attributes of God are carved in
the Arabic character. The carved marble pedestal at the end of the
tomb was a stand for a golden censer.

THE KANCH MAHAL.--Outside the enclosure of Akbar's tomb, a little
to the east of the principal entrance, is a rare and remarkably fine
example of Mogul domestic architecture. This is a two-storied building,
known as the Kanch Mahal, and supposed to have been built by Jahangir
as a country seat. In its extremely elaborate ornamentation, inlaid
stone and enamelled tiles have been most effectively combined with the
carving. The repairs lately carried out under Lord Curzon's orders have
been very carefully done, though it is easy to see the inferiority of
the new work where the old carving had to be reproduced. Our fatuous
policy of adopting European styles in all public buildings in India
is bound to cause a deterioration in the native art handicrafts, for
it closes the principal source from which they have sprung. Unless
this policy is reversed, nothing will prevent the ultimate extinction
of Indian art.

SURAJ-BHAN-KA BAGH.--This is another two-storied building of about
the same period, but not quite so fine in style, facing the Agra road,
at a little distance from the Kanch Mahal.

MARIAM ZAMANI'S TOMB.--A short distance further on, in the direction
of Muttra, is the building supposed to have been originally the garden
house of Sikandar Lodi, in which Mariam Zamani, one of Akbar's wives,
is said to have been buried. It has been used for many years as a
printing establishment for a Mission Orphanage.

Other Buildings and Tombs at or near Agra

The tomb of Feroz Khan, opposite to the third milestone on the Gwalior
road, is an interesting building of Akbar's time, richly carved and
decorated with tile-work. Close by is the tomb of the Pahalwari,
where a celebrated wrestler of Shah Jahan's time is buried. There
are a considerable number of buildings and numerous ruins in Agra,
and round about, which possess only historical or archaeological
interest. In the town are the following:--

The KALI MASJID, or Black Mosque, otherwise called the Kalan Masjid,
or Grand Mosque, is of the early Akbar style. It was built by the
father of Shah Jahan's first wife, the Kandahari Begum. This is near
to the Government dispensary.

In the Nai-ki-Mundi quarter is the mosque of Shah Ala-ud-din Majzub,
commonly known as ALAWAL BILAWAL, a saint who lived at the time of
Shere Shah. He established a school of Muhammadan law, and founded a
monastery besides the mosque. The accumulations round the mosque have
reached up to the springing of the arches, and tradition accounts for
this by the following story: A camel-driver in Shere Shah's service
stabled his beasts in the mosque, in spite of the protests of the saint
Thereupon the building began to sink into the ground, and did not cease
descending until the camels and their driver were crushed to death.

The HAMMAN, or Baths of Ali Verdi Khan, in Chipitolla Street, built
in the time of Jahangir. An inscription over the gateway gives the
date, 1620 A.D. They cannot be compared in interest with the splendid
"Hakim's Baths," at Fatehpur Sikri.

The ROMAN CATHOLIC CEMETERY, in the quarter known as Padritollah,
near the Law Courts, is one of the most ancient Christian cemeteries
in India. The ground was granted to the mission by the Emperor
Akbar. There are a number of Portuguese and Armenian tombs dating from
early in the seventeenth century. It also contains the tomb of the
notorious Walter Reinhardt, or Samru, as he was called, the founder
of the principality of Sirdhana, whose history is given at p. 38. The
Dutch General Messing, who held Agra Fort for the Mahrattas in 1794,
has a very florid mausoleum of red sandstone, more curious than
beautiful; the design of which is in imitation of the Taj.

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri is the famous deserted city, about twenty-three miles
from Agra, built by Akbar. It was formerly merely a village, called
Sikri, celebrated as the abode of Sheikh Salim Chishti, a Muhammadan
_pir_, or saint. In 1564, Akbar, returning from a campaign, halted
near the cave in which the saint lived. The twin children of his
Rajput wife, Mariam Zamani, had recently died, and he was anxious
for an heir. He consulted the holy man, who advised him to come and
live at Sikri. The Emperor did so, and nine months afterwards Mariam,
who was taken to Chishti's cell for her confinement, gave birth to a
son, afterwards the Emperor Jahangir. He was called Sultan Salim in
honour of the saint. Jahangir, who describes all these circumstances
in his memoirs, adds: "My revered father, regarding the village of
Sikri, my birthplace, as fortunate to himself, made it his capital,
and in the course of fourteen or fifteen years the hills and deserts,
which abounded in beasts of prey, became converted into a magnificent
city, comprising numerous gardens, elegant edifices and pavilions,
and other places of great attraction and beauty. After the conquest
of Gujarat, the village was named Fatehpur (the town of victory)."

The glory of Fatehpur Sikri was short-lived. Akbar held his court
there for seventeen years, and then removed it to Agra; some say on
account of the badness of the water supply, others that the saint,
disturbed in his devotions by the bustle and gaieties of the great
city, declared that either he or Akbar must go. "Then," replied the
Emperor, "let it be your servant, I pray." The entire city was given
up to the beasts of the surrounding jungle. Finch, who visited it in
the early part of the next reign, describes it: "Ruin all; lying like a
waste desert, and very dangerous to pass through in the night." This,
however, was an exaggeration, for the principal buildings are still
in a good state of preservation, probably owing to the remoteness of
the place from any great highway or large town.

The city, which was some six miles in circuit, was surrounded on three
sides by high battlemented walls, which had nine gateways. The fourth
side was formed by a great artificial lake, now dry. The principal
buildings are on the summit of the high ridge which runs throughout
the length of the city.

THE AGRA GATE.--The visitor usually enters by the Agra Gate,
concerning which an amusing story is told. One night Akbar, attended
by some of his ministers, was inspecting the ramparts near this
gate, when he observed a highway robbery being committed close by
the walls. Turning severely to those responsible for the peace of
the city, he demanded why such an outrage was permitted in the very
presence of the Emperor. "It is always darkest directly under the
shadow of the lamp," was the courtly reply.

THE NAUBAT KHANA.--Inside the gate the road passes, by the right, a
large quadrangle surrounded by a ruined cloister, which was probably
used for barracks. Beyond this the road was formerly lined on both
sides by the houses of the bazar. It next passes through the inner
gateway, called the _Naubat Khana_, or Music House, where, as in all
Mogul fortresses, the court musicians played to announce the Emperor's
arrival or departure, and various state ceremonials.

THE MINT.--Some distance beyond the Naubat Khana, on the right, is a
large building believed to have been the Imperial Mint. Rare specimens
of gold, silver, and copper coins from the Fatehpur Mint are in the
British Museum. The brick domes of this building are interesting,
as they are probably the earliest examples in India of the use of
radiating courses instead of horizontal layers in dome construction.

Opposite to the Mint is a smaller building known as the Treasury.

THE DAFTAR KHANA.--Passing through the great quadrangle of the
Diwan-i-am, the visitor arrives at the Daftar Khana, or Record Chamber,
now adapted for a travellers' rest-house. This was Akbar's office,
and is immediately opposite to his own sanctum, the Kwabgah, and
the principal buildings of the Imperial Palace. A staircase in the
south-east room leads to the roof, from which a fine view of the city
and surrounding country can be obtained. The principal buildings can
be easily identified by help of the plan.

THE PALACE.--A door in the side of the quadrangle, opposite to
the Daftar Khana, leads into Akbar's palace, the Mahal-i-Khas. The
two-storied building on the left on entering contains Akbar's private
apartments. The first room on the ground floor is panelled into
numerous recesses for keeping books, documents, or valuables. There
are some remains of painted decoration representing flowers, such as
the tulip, poppy, and almond flower, executed with much vigour and
technical skill. Behind this is a chamber which, according to Edmund
Smith, was used by a Hindu priest attached to Akbar's court. It
contains a stone platform raised on pillars, upon which he is said
to have performed his devotions. It was more probably intended for
Akbar's own gaddi, or throne. A door in the west wall leads into the
cloisters, which formerly connected Akbar's apartments with the Daftar
Khana and with Jodh Bai's palace.

THE KWABGAH, or sleeping apartment, is a small pavilion on the
roof. Originally the walls were entirely covered by fresco paintings,
but only a few fragments now remain. Unfortunately, these have been
protected by a coat of varnish, which reduces them all to a dull
monochrome. It is to be regretted that a more scientific method of
preserving them was not adopted. They are all in the Persian style,
and, except for the Chinese element which is often present in Persian
art, there is no ground for Edmund Smith's supposition that Chinese
artists were employed here.

On the side window over the eastern doorway is a painting of a
winged figure, in front of a rock cave, supporting a new-born babe
in its arms. In all probability it refers to the birth of Jahangir
in the cell of the Saint Salim Chishti, which Akbar, no doubt,
thought miraculous. Many archaeologists make the great mistake of
attributing every winged figure in these decorations to some Biblical
story. Heavenly beings with wings, the inhabitants of Paradise,
spirits of the air, or "angels," are very common in Persian and Indian
painting, and are by no means a monopoly of European artists.

It is known that Akbar took a great interest in painting. Abul Fazl,
in the "Ain-i-Akbari," states that "His Majesty from the earliest
youth has shown a great predilection for the art, and gives it
every encouragement, as he looks upon it as a means both of study
and amusement. Hence the art flourishes, and many painters have
obtained great reputations. The works of all painters are weekly
laid before his Majesty by the Daroghas and the clerks; he confers
rewards according to the excellence of workmanship, or increases
their monthly salaries. Much progress was made in the commodities
required by painters, and the correct prices of such articles were
carefully ascertained."

Akbar himself remarked, "Bigoted followers of the law are hostile
to the art of painting, but their eyes now see the truth. There are
many that hate painting, but such men I dislike. It appears to me as
if a painter had a peculiar means of recognizing God; for a painter,
in sketching anything that has life and in drawing its limbs, must
feel that he cannot bestow personality upon his work, and is thus
forced to think of God, the giver of life, and will thus increase his
knowledge." The enlightened court of Akbar was evidently a paradise
for artists.

Opposite to Akbar's apartments is a large square tank with a platform
in the centre, approached by four narrow stone paths. The tank was
filled from the waterworks near the Elephant Gate, and the water was
kept constantly fresh by an overflow channel connecting with the tank
at the back of the Diwan-i-Khas.

THE TURKISH SULTANA'S HOUSE.--In the north-east angle of the
Mahal-i-Khas quadrangle is a small, picturesque building, one of the
gems of Fatehpur, called the Turkish Sultana's House. It contains only
a single apartment, surrounded by a verandah, but in the carving of
every surface within and without there is a wealth of invention and
decorative skill rarely achieved even by the Mogul artists. The dado
panels are especially remarkable for the charming conventionalized
rendering of trees, flowers, birds, and animals. They have suffered
much from the hands of some of Aurangzib's fanatical followers, and
all the representations of animate nature have been mutilated. The
carving was intended as a groundwork for painting and gilding which
were never added, for the Fatehpur Palace was abandoned even before
it was finished. Nothing is known with certainty of the lady who
inhabited this delightful bower, but she must have been one of Akbar's
favourites. A covered passage connected the house with the Kwabgah,
and also with another block of buildings of no special interest,
known as the Girls' School.

A staircase from the south verandah leads down to some interesting
baths outside the south-west corner of the Diwan-i-am quadrangle,
which were probably for the use of the Turkish Sultana. They are
worth seeing, though not so fine as the so-called HAKIM'S BATHS. The
latter, which are situated just opposite to these baths, on the
steep slope of the ridge, are the finest of their kind existing in
India. They form an extensive hydropathic establishment, decorated
in the most excellent taste with polished plaster and _sgraffito_,
or cut-plaster work. Undoubtedly they were used by Akbar himself,
and they derive their present name from their close proximity to the
quarters occupied by the Hakims, or doctors.

PACHISI BOARD.--In the northern half of the great palace quadrangle
is a _pachisi_ board, cut on the pavement, similar to the one in the
Samman Burj in the Agra Fort. Here Akbar and the ladies of the Court
would amuse themselves by playing the game with slave girls as living
pieces. The dice were thrown on the small platform in the centre of
the board.

THE DIWAN-I-KHAS.--Further towards the north, immediately opposite
to the Kwabgah, is a square detached building, a fine example of the
dignified style of the period, for it owes none of its effects to
imposing dimensions, but only to the skill with which the architect
has treated a difficult subject. This is the Diwan-i-Khas, or Hall of
Private Audience. On the outside it would appear to be a two-storied
building, but on entering it is seen to contain only a single vaulted
chamber, surrounded halfway up by a gallery. A magnificent carved
column, with a gigantic bracket capital (Plate XI.), standing alone in
the centre of the chamber, supports four branches or railed passages,
which meet this gallery at the four corners. This most original
construction carried Akbar's throne, which was placed immediately over
the great column. The ministers attended at the four corners of the
gallery; the great nobles and others admitted to the audience thronged
the floor beneath. The gallery is approached by two staircases,
in the thickness of the walls, which also lead up to the roof. [14]

THE ANKH-MICHAULI.--Close by the Diwan-i-Khas, on the west side,
is a building which the native guides, always ready to amuse the
innocent tourist, describe as the Ankh-Michauli, or "Blind-man's
Buff House." There is a legend that Akbar here played hide-and-seek
with the ladies of the zanana. The same story is told about a set
of apartments in the Jahangiri Mahal in the Agra Fort, but the only
ground for it seems to be that the arrangement of the rooms might lend
itself to such diversions. It most probably contained strong-rooms
for the safe custody of valuables, either state archives or jewels.

THE YOGI'S SEAT.--At the corner of the Ankh-Michauli is a square
platform covered by a domed canopy. The great carved brackets
which support the architraves are very characteristic of Jaina
construction. This was the seat of one of the Yogis, or Hindu fakirs,
who enjoyed the Emperor's favour. Akbar devoted much attention to
the occult powers claimed by these men. He even practised alchemy
and showed in public some of the gold made by him.

THE HOSPITAL.--Adjoining the Ankh-Michauli are the remains of a long,
low building, which was the hospital; a few of the wards still
remain. Possibly this was arranged on the model of the hospital
which Akbar allowed the Jesuit Fathers to build in the city. He
also permitted them to construct a small chapel. The records of the
missionaries tell us that Akbar once came there alone, removed his
turban and offered prayers, first kneeling in the Christian manner,
then prostrating himself according to the Muhammadan custom, and,
finally, after the ritual of the Hindus. One of the Christian
congregation having died about this time, he granted permission for
the funeral procession to pass through the streets of Fatehpur with
all the ceremonies of the Catholic faith. Many of the inhabitants,
both Hindus and Muhammadans, attended the funeral. Akbar was never
persuaded to become a convert to Christianity, nor does there appear
to be any ground for the belief that one of his wives was a Christian.

THE DIWAN-I-AM.--The west side of the Diwan-i-am (Hall of Public
Audience) and its cloisters coincide for the whole length with the
east of the palace quadrangle. The description already given of the
Diwan-i-am at Agra will explain the functions for which this building
was intended. The throne, or judgment seat, of Akbar was placed
between two pierced stone screens in the verandah in front of the hall.

THE PANCH MAHAL.--This curious five-storied pavilion is nearly
opposite to the Diwan-i-am. It is approached by a staircase from the
Mahal-i-khas. Each story was originally enclosed by pierced stone
screens; this, and the fact that the whole building overlooked the
palace zanana, make it tolerably certain that it could only have
been used as a promenade by Akbar and the ladies of the court. The
ground-floor, which was divided into cubicles by screens between the
columns, may; as Keene suggests, have been intended for the royal
children and their attendants. The building is chiefly remarkable for
the invention and taste shown in the varied designs of the columns,
in which the three principal styles of Northern India, the Hindu,
Jain, and Saracenic, are indiscriminately combined.

MIRIAM'S KOTHI.--Another doorway in the west side of the palace
quadrangle leads to Miriam's House, a very elegant two-storied building
showing marked Hindu feeling in the design. The Rama incarnation
of Vishnu appears on one of the carved brackets of the verandah. It
seems to have derived its name from Akbar's Hindu wife, Mariam Zamani,
the mother of Jahangir. Her name literally means "Mary of the age,"
a common designation used by Muhammadan women in honour of the Mother
of Jesus. This has led to the fable that the house was occupied by a
Christian wife of Akbar. The whole building was originally covered with
fresco paintings and gilding, and was hence called the Sonahra Makan,
or "Golden House." The frescoes are supposed to illustrate Firdousi's
great epic, the Shahnama, or history of the Kings of Persia. As in the
Kwabgah, the fragments which remain have been covered with varnish as
a preservative, which has had the effect of destroying all the charm
of colour they once possessed; and will eventually, when the varnish
turns brown with age, obliterate them altogether. The paintings are
all in the style of the Persian artists who were employed by Akbar to
illustrate his books and to paint the portraits of his Court. Over
the doorway in the north-west angle of the building is a painting
which the guides, perhaps misled by the suggestion of some uninformed
traveller, point out as "the Annunciation."

There would be nothing _prima facie_ improbable that Akbar should have
caused some events of Biblical history to be painted on the walls
of his palaces; but on the other hand, there is nothing whatever to
connect this fresco with the Annunciation. The winged figures here
represented are of the type commonly found in paintings of stories
from Persian mythology.

Perhaps the most interesting of all the paintings is a portrait in
a panel in one of the rooms. One would like to know whether this was
the lady of the house; but there seems to be no tradition connected
with it.

Judging from the style of the frescoes, it would seem probable that
this was not the residence of Mariam Zamani, but of one of Akbar's
first two wives, whose connections were mostly with Persia.

Jodh Bai's Palace.

Though "Miriam's House" is generally regarded as the abode of Mariam
Zamani, there is a great deal to support the view that the spacious
palace known as Jodh Bai's Mahal, or Jahangiri Mahal, was really her
residence. It is undoubtedly one of the oldest buildings in Fatehpur.

We know that Akbar went there on Mariam's account; and, after
Jahangir's birth, Akbar's first care would be to build a palace
for the mother and her child, his long-wished-for heir. Mariam was
a Hindu, and this palace in all its construction and nearly all its
ornamentation belongs to the Hindu and Jaina styles of Mariam's native
country, Rajputana. It even contains a Hindu temple. [15] It is also
the most important of all the palaces, and Mariam, as mother of the
heir-apparent, would take precedence of all the other wives.

On the left of the entrance is a small guard-house. A simple but
finely proportioned gateway leads through a vestibule into the inner
quadrangle. The style of the whole palace is much less ornate than the
other zanana buildings, but it is always dignified and in excellent
taste. It must be remembered that the severity of the architectural
design was relieved by bright colouring and rich purdahs, which were
used to secure privacy for the ladies of the zanana and to diminish
the glare of the sunlight.

Archaeologically its construction and ornamentation are very
interesting. Many of the details are of Jain origin, and of the same
type as the mixed Jain and Saracenic style, which was being developed
about the same period in Gujarat. The arrangements of the palace are
shown in the annexed plan. One of the most interesting features is
the Hawa Mahal, a pavilion projecting from the north side, enclosed
by pierced stone screens. Here the ladies could enjoy the cool breezes
and the view of the lake with the distant hills beyond, without being
exposed to the vulgar gaze. The palace was formerly connected with
Akbar's private apartments by a covered way, supported on pillars,
near the entrance. This was removed some years ago. Another private
passage led from the Hawa Mahal to the zanana garden opposite, and,
probably, from thence right down to the tower known as the Hiran Minar.

Rajah Birbal's House, or Birbal's Daughter's House.

Rajah Birbal was a Brahman minstrel, who came to Akbar's court in
the beginning of his reign, and by his wit and abilities gained the
Emperor's favour. He was first created Hindu Poet Laureate; from
that dignity he was raised to the rank of Rajah, and became one of
Akbar's most intimate friends and advisers. Birbal was one of those
who subscribed to Akbar's new religion, "The Divine Faith." When
he perished in an unfortunate expedition against some unruly Afghan
tribes, Akbar's grief was for a long time inconsolable.

The house which is named after him was originally enclosed within the
precincts of the imperial zanana, and a covered way connected it with
Jodh Bai's palace. It is one of the most richly decorated of all the
adjacent buildings, and next to Jodh Bai's palace, the largest of
the imperial residences. As in so many other instances, the vague
local tradition which assigns this palace to Rajah Birbal seems to
be at fault. Abul Fazl, that most careful and precise biographer,
records that Akbar ordered a palace to be built for the Rajah, and that
when it was finished in the twenty-seventh year of his reign (1582)
the Emperor honoured it with his presence. An inscription discovered
by Edmund Smith upon the capital of a pilaster in the west facade of
the building, states that it was erected in Samvat 1629 (A.D. 1572),
ten years before this date, and three years after the commencement
of the city.

Though the Rajah was one of Akbar's most trusted friends, his palace
would hardly be placed within the enclosure of the Emperor's own
zanana and connected with it; nor is it likely that Akbar would
provide Birbal with a residence so incomparably more magnificent than
those he gave to his other two intimate friends, Abul Fazl and Faizi,
by the side of the great mosque.

All the probabilities are that this was one of the imperial palaces
occupied by Akbar's wives, which were the first buildings erected at
Fatehpur. Fergusson's assumption that Birbal's daughter was one of
Akbar's wives would explain everything; but the fact that Abul Fazl
makes no mention of such a daughter, is very good evidence that Akbar
was not connected with Birbal by marriage.

The house is a two-storied building, splendidly ornamented with
carving, both inside and out. From the construction, it would appear
that Hindus were the architects; but the decoration, from which it is
easy to discover the taste of the occupants, is nearly all Arabian or
Persian in style, and conveys no suggestion that the palace was built
for a Hindu rajah or his daughter. Though on a much smaller scale,
it is of the same type as Akbar's splendid palace in the Agra Fort,
and was evidently intended for one of the highest rank in the imperial
zanana. [16]

The Hathi Pol and Adjoining Buildings.

Close under Birbal's house is the main road leading down to the great
lake--now drained, the embankment of which formed the north-west
boundary of the city. It passes through the gateway called the Hathi
Pol, or Elephant Gate, from the two great stone elephants, mutilated by
Aurangzib, standing on either side of the outer archway. On the left of
the gateway are two buildings, the so-called Pigeon's House, probably
intended for a magazine; and the Sangin Burj, a great bastion supposed
to be part of the fortifications begun by Akbar and left unfinished,
owing to the objections of Shaikh Salim Chishti. A little beyond this,
on the right, are the remains of the waterworks which supplied the
whole city. Opposite to these, is the great traveller's rest-house,
or Karwan-serai, in a very ruined state.

The, furthest of this block of buildings is a curious tower called
the Hiran Minar, or Deer Tower, 72 feet in height, ornamented with
stone imitations of elephant tusks. According to tradition, it was
built by Akbar in memory of a favourite elephant, and used by him
as a shooting tower; the plain on the margin of the lake being the
haunt of antelope and other game.

The splendid stretch of water, six miles long and two in breadth,
induced many of the princes and nobles to build pavilions and
garden houses on this side of the city. This was the place for great
tournaments and festivities, and in the palmy days of Fatehpur all
the chivalry of the Mogul Court must have made a brave show here. The
Hiran Minar was connected with the zanana by a covered way, so that
the ladies might assist at these spectacles and enjoy the cool breezes
from the lake.

The Jami Masjid, or Cathedral Mosque.

The great mosque of Fatehpur is worthy of its founder's lofty ideals
and nobility of soul. It is one of the most magnificent of all Akbar's
buildings; the historic associations connected with it combine with
its architectural splendour to make it one of the most impressive of
its kind in the world. It is said to be copied from one at Mecca;
but this cannot be altogether true, because, though the plan and
general design follow Muhammadan precedent, many of the details show
Akbar's Hindu proclivities.

Within the great mosque, Akbar frequently held religious discussions
with the learned doctors of Islam; and here, also, after the chief
Mullahs had signed the famous document which declared Akbar to be Head
of the Church, the Emperor mounted the pulpit, and stood before the
congregation as the expounder of "the Divine Faith." He commenced
to read a _Khutbah_, or litany, which Faizi, Abul Fazl's brother,
had composed for the occasion--

"The Lord, who gave to us dominion,
Wisdom, and heart and strength,
Who guided us in truth and right,
And cleansed our mind from all but right,
None can describe His power or state,
Allahu Akbar--God is Great."

But before he could finish three lines of it, the sense of the
tremendous responsibility he had undertaken overpowered him. He
descended the pulpit trembling with emotion, and left the Imam of
the mosque to continue the service.

There are two entrances, approached by broad flights of steps. The one
on the east side is the Emperor's Gate, by which Akbar entered the
mosque from the palace, and the other, the majestic Baland Darwaza,
or High Gate, which towers above everything on the south side, and
even dwarfs the mosque itself with its giant proportions. The latter
gate, however, was not a part of the original design, but was added
many years after the completion of the mosque, to celebrate Akbar's
victorious campaign in the Deccan.

The mosque itself was built in honour of the Saint of Fatehpur, Sheikh
Salim Chishti, whose tomb, enclosed in a shrine of white marble, carved
with the delicacy of ivory-work, glitters like silver on the right of
the quadrangle. Barren women, both Hindu and Muhammadan, tie bits of
string or shreds of cloth to the marble trellis-work as tokens that if
blessed with a son they will present an offering to the shrine. Close
by is a plainer, but much larger mausoleum, for his grandson, Nawab
Islam Khan, who was made Governor of Bengal by Jahangir. This also
contains the remains of many other of the Sheikh's male descendants. A
separate vault, called the Zanana Rauza, for the women of his family
is formed by enclosing a portion of the adjoining cloisters.

The mosque proper contains three chapels, crowned by domes. The
principal one, in the centre, is screened by the facade of
the entrance, the doorway being recessed, in the usual style of
Saracenic buildings, in a great porch or semi-dome. An inscription
over the main archway gives the date of the completion of the mosque
as A.D. 1571. The chapels are connected with each other by noble
colonnades of a decidedly Hindu or Jain character. The Saracenic
arches combine most happily with the Hindu construction, and the
view down the "long-drawn aisles" is singularly impressive. Much of
the charm of the interior is due to the quiet reserve and dignity of
the decoration, which is nearly all in the style of Arabian mosques,
and may account for the statement on the central arch, that "this
mosque is a duplicate of the Holy Place" (at Mecca).

At each end of the mosque there is a set of five rooms for the
mullahs who conducted the service; above them are galleries for the
ladies of the zanana. Spacious cloisters surround three sides of the
quadrangle; these are divided into numerous cells for the _maulvis_
and their pupils.

The triumphal gateway, called the BALAND DARWAZA (Plate XIII.), is
really a building in itself. It must be seen from the outside of the
quadrangle, for, magnificent as it is there, it certainly does not
harmonize with the mosque viewed from the quadrangle. This mighty
portal, 176 feet in height from the roadway, is a landmark for miles
around. From the top of it the Taj, twenty-five miles away, and the
distant Fort of Bharatpur are visible.

There are three doors recessed in the immense alcove on the front
of the gate. One is the horseshoe door, so called from the numerous
votive offerings of owners of sick horses, donkeys, and bullocks,
which were nailed on in the hope of obtaining the favour of the
saint. The doorway on the right of this has the following inscription
carved over it in Arabic:--

"His Majesty, King of kings, Heaven of the Court, Shadow of God,
Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, Emperor. He conquered the kingdom of
the South and Dandes, which was formerly called Khandes, in the 46th
Divine year [_i.e._ of his reign] corresponding to the Hijira year,
1010 [A.D. 1602]. Having reached Fatehpur, he proceeded to Agra. Said
Jesus, on whom be peace! The world is a bridge, pass over it, but build
no house there. He who hopeth for an hour, may hope for eternity; the
world is but an hour, spend it in devotion; the rest is worth nothing,"

Over the left doorway is the following:--

"He that standeth up in prayer, and his heart is not in it, does not
draw nigh to God, but remaineth far from Him. Thy best possession is
what thou givest in the name of God; thy best traffic is selling this
world for the next."

Akbar himself died four years after this great sermon in stone was

The Stone-Cutters' Mosque.

At the back of the great mosque is a graveyard containing the tomb of
an infant son of Sheikh Salim. The legend concerning him is, that at
the age of six months he addressed his father, telling him that all
of Akbar's children must die in infancy, unless some child died for
them. He therefore had resolved to sacrifice himself for the Emperor's
sake, and immediately after this miraculous speech he died. Jahangir
was born nine months afterwards. Sceptics have suggested that he was
really a son of the Sheikh, substituted for a still-born child of
Mariam Zamani.

Some distance beyond this tomb there is a small mosque, built in honour
of the saint by the quarrymen of Fatehpur, before he had attracted
the notice of the great Emperor. It is called the Stone-Cutters'
Mosque, and is supposed to have been erected on the site of the
cave where he lived the life of a hermit It is an unpretending
little building; the brackets which support the cornice are the only
noticeable architectural features. They are direct imitations of wooden
construction, and are copied, with greater elaboration of carving,
in the marble shrine inside the Jami Masjid. The cell where the saint
is said to have lived is on the right-hand corner of the mosque.

The birthplace of Jahangir is pointed out in a dilapidated palace
not far from this mosque. It is occupied by a lineal descendant of
Salim Chishti, and is only rarely shown to visitors.

The Houses of Abul Fazl and Faizi.

The houses where these two famous brothers, the friends of Akbar,
lived, are close under the north wall of the great mosque. Their
father, Sheikh Mubarak, was one of the most learned men of the age,
and the sons were as distinguished as the father. Faizi was the Persian
Poet Laureate, and tutor to the Royal Princes. He was also employed on
many diplomatic missions. Abul Fazl was the author of the celebrated
"Akbarnama," a history of the Mogul Emperors down to the forty-seventh
year of Akbar's reign. He was for a long time Akbar's Prime Minister;
he took a prominent part in the religious discussions inaugurated by
the Emperor, and often discomfited the orthodox followers of Islam with
his arguments. Sheikh Mubarak drew up the famous document declaring
Akbar to be the Head of the Church, and both his sons subscribed to
it. Abul Fazl declares that the document "was productive of excellent
results: (1) The Court became the resort of the learned men and
sages of all creeds and nationalities; (2) Peace was given to all,
and perfect tolerance prevailed; (3) the disinterested motives of
the Emperor, whose labours were directed to a search after truth,
were rendered clear, and the pretenders to learning and scholarship
were put to shame."

Notwithstanding his high character and generous disposition, Abul
Fazl had many enemies at Court. He was at last assassinated at the
instigation of Jahangir, who believed him to be responsible for a
misunderstanding between himself and his father.

There is nothing architecturally interesting about the two houses,
which have been for some time used as a Zillah school.

* * * * *

Bharatpur and Other Places In the Vicinity of Agra.

There are some other places of considerable interest easily accessible
from Agra, but it would be beyond the scope of this book to describe
them in detail.

BHARATPUR.--This place, which has been often alluded to, is the capital
of a native state of that name, founded by the Jats under Suraj Mal
about 1750. The origin of the Jat race is obscure, but probably they
are of Scythian descent. Some authorities have put forward a theory
that the gypsies of Europe and the Jats are of the same race. They form
a large proportion of the population of North-Western India. Their
religion varies with the locality, but the Jats who occupied Agra
under Suraj Mal were Hindus.

In 1809, the fort at Bharatpur resisted for six weeks a siege by
General, afterwards Lord Lake, who withdrew, after four desperate

The Palace of Suraj Mal is at Dig, twenty-one miles by road from
Bharatpur. It was commenced about 1725, and is the finest and most
original of the Indian palaces of that period. The Jat chief carried
off to it a great deal of the loot from the Agra Fort.

GOVARDHAN.--The tombs of Suraj Mal and his two Ranis are at Govardhan,
a very picturesque place about eight miles from Dig. There are also a
number of very interesting tombs and buildings of later date. Fergusson
[17] says of one of these, which was in course of construction when
he was there in 1839, that he acquired from its native architect
more knowledge of the secrets of art as practised in the Middle Ages
than he had learnt from all the books he had read. The same living
architectural art is practised all over Rajputana at the present
day. The preference we show for the incomparably inferior art of
the mongrel eclectic styles we have imported into India, is only a
proof that there is something wanting in the superior civilization
and culture which we believe ourselves to possess.

There is also at Govardhan a very fine Hindu temple, dating from the
time of Akbar.

A great fair is held here every year about the end of October,
or beginning of November, on the occasion of the Hindu Diwali, or
Feast of Lamps, one of the most beautiful and impressive of all the
Hindu festivals.

Muttra, the Mathora of the Greeks, about fourteen miles from Govardhan,
and within easy reach of Agra by rail, is one of the most sacred places
of the Hindus, from being the reputed birthplace of Krishna. It is
a great centre for the worship of Vishnu.

Brindaban, or Bindaraban, which is a very short distance further
by rail, possesses an old Hindu temple, dedicated to Govind Deva,
or Vishnu, of the same period as the other at Govardhan, and built
by the same person, Rajah Man Singh of Amber, an ancestor of the
present Maharajah of Jaipur. Fergusson describes it as one of the
most interesting and elegant temples in India.

There is also a great Vishnu temple of the last century, in the
Dravidian style of Southern India, built by a Hindu millionaire
merchant. Krishna's childhood and early youth were passed in the
vicinity of Brindaban, and on that account it is held especially
sacred by the followers of the Vaishnavite sect of Hinduism, who
flock there in thousands on the anniversary of Krishna's birth,
in the month of Bhadon (August--September).


[1] Babar's "Memoirs," translated by Erskine.

[2] For further particulars of Babar's history the reader is referred
to the "Memoirs," or to Stanley Lane-Poolers admirable "Life of Babar,"
in the "Rulers of India Series" (Macmillan & Co.).

[3] The State documents of the Mogul Emperors, "given under the
royal hand and seal," were sometimes actually impressed by the royal
hand. Plate I. reproduces part of a letter, addressed by Shah Jahan
to an ancestor of the present Maharajah of Gidhour. In this letter
the Raja Dalan Singh is informed that "the auspicious impress of the
royal hand" is sent as a mark of royal favour, and he is commanded to
proceed to Court to participate in the festivities and to pay homage
to the Emperor.

[4] Bernier's "Travels"--Constable's translation.

[5] These elephant statues have been a vexed point with
archaeologists. Bernier, in his description of Delhi, refers to
two great elephants of stone, with their riders, outside of the
Fort Gates. The riders, he says, were portraits of the famous
Rajput chiefs Jaymal and Patta, slain by Akbar at the siege of
Chitore. "Their enemies, in admiration of the devotion of the two
heroes, put up these statues to their memory." Now, Bernier does not
say that the statues were put up by Akbar, but General Cunningham,
inferring that Bernier meant this, propounded a theory that they were
originally in front of the Agra Fort, which Akbar built, and removed
to Delhi by Shah Jahan, when he built his new palace there. Keene,
who discusses the question at length in his "Handbook to Delhi,"
accepts this suggestion. Neither of these authorities seem to have
been aware of the existence of the marks of the feet on the platform
in front of the Agra Hathi Pol. I have compared the measurements of
these marks with the dimensions of the elephant which still exists
at Delhi, and find that they do not correspond in any way. The Delhi
elephant is a much larger animal, and would not fit into the platform
at the Agra gate. General Cunningham's theory, therefore, falls to the
ground. It is just possible that the Delhi elephants were intended to
be copies of those placed by Akbar at Agra. Shah Jahan is not likely
to have intentionally perpetuated the memory of the Rajput chiefs,
but popular tradition or imagination may have fastened the story told
by Bernier on to the Delhi statues. Elephants were so commonly placed
in front of Indian palaces and fortresses that, except for this story,
there would be no need to suppose any connection between those at
Agra and those at Delhi.

Purchas, quoting William Finch who visited Agra in Jahangir's time,
describes the elephants at the Hathi Pol, but gives a different origin
to the statues. "Beyond these two gates you pass a second gate, over
which are two Rajaws in stone. It is said that they were two brother
Rajputs, tutors to a prince, their nephew, whom the King demanded
of them. They refused, and were committed; but drew on the officers,
slew twelve, and at last, by multitudes oppressing, were themselves
slain, and here have elephants of stone and themselves figured." The
expression "over" (the gate) has the meaning of "high up," and not,
as Keene supposes, its more modern sense of "on the top of."

[6] The old Mogul road led directly from the Elephant Gate to the
entrance of the Diwan-i-am. I understand that this road will be
restored shortly by the Archaeological Department.

[7] An ugly modern marble rail, in imitation of wood, probably a
reminiscence of the time when the palace was occupied by the British
garrison, still disfigures and stunts the proportions of the upper
storey of the Samman Burj.

[8] This question is discussed at length in an article by the author,
entitled "The Taj and its Designers," published in the June number
of the _Nineteenth Century and After_, 1903.

[9] Tavernier says twenty-two years probably including all the
accessory buildings.

[10] The present garden is a jungle, planted by a European overseer
without any understanding or feeling for the ideas of the Mogul
artists. The overgrown trees entirely block out the view of the mosques
on either side, which are an essential part of the whole composition,
serving as supporters to the slender, detached minarets. I understand,
however, that it is intended to remove some of the more obstructive of
the larger trees; but the avenue of cypress trees, which perished from
drought some years ago, has been replanted on lines which eventually
will clash seriously with the architectural composition.

[11] This represents the condition of the garden twenty or thirty
years ago.

[12] The conjunction of Jupiter and Venus; referring to the
circumstance that Timur and himself were born at the conjunction of
these planets. (KEENE.)

[13] It is very probable that the black slate or marble panels in the
Delhi Palace, which are purely Florentine in design, were imported
complete from Italy, and fixed in the wall by Indian workmen, who
only designed the ornamental scrolls surrounding the panels.

[14] It is known that in 1575 Akbar completed a great building at
Fatehpur, called the Ibadat Khana, or hall in which the learned men of
all religions assembled for discussion. It was described as containing
four halls, the western for the Sayyids, or descendants of the Prophet;
the southern for learned men who had studied or acquired knowledge;
the northern for those famed for inspired wisdom: the eastern hall was
reserved for the nobles and state officers. Thousands of people from
all quarters of the world assembled in the courtyard. The Emperor
attended every Friday night and on holy festivals, moving from one
to the other of the guests and conversing with them. Keene, in his
"Handbook to Agra," suggests that possibly the Diwan-i-khas may
be the building thus described (taking the word _aiwan_, or hall,
to mean a side gallery), as no other building at all answering to
the description now remains at Fatehpur. This supposition is highly
improbable, if only for the reason given by Edmund Smith, namely, that
an assembly of this kind would not take place within the precincts of
the palace. The description given by Abul Fazl and Badayuni clearly
indicates a building like the Diwan-i-am, enclosing a great quadrangle.

[15] Keene suggests that Akbar's first wife and cousin, Sultana Raqia
Begam, lived here, but she was a Muhammadan. It is quite possible that
the name of Jodh Bai (Princess of Jodhpur) really refers to Mariam, and
not to Jahangir's Rajput wife (the daughter of the Raja of Jodhpur),
as is commonly supposed. Miriam's family resided in the province of
Ajmir, which adjoins Jodhpur. She might have been known as the Princess
of Jodhpur. In any case, it is easy to see how a confusion might have
arisen between Jahangir's mother and his wife, both Hindus and Rajputs.

[16] Birbal's house is now used as a travellers' rest-house for
high officials and "distinguished" visitors; which is not only very
inconvenient for the undistinguished who may wish to see it, but
involves alterations which should never be permitted in buildings of
such unique artistic and archaeological interest. Neither the Daftar
Khana nor this building should be devoted to such purposes, merely
to avoid the paltry expense of providing proper dak bungalows.

[17] "History of Indian and Eastern Architecture."

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