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eighty years, under monarchs who were as powerful and energetic as the Moguls, were sufficient to make Agra a very different place from what it had been previously. The fort alone, which was built during the first part of those eighty years, would be a not unworthy memorial of the greatest of monarchs. It is a very extensive, solid piece of fortification, the circuit of whose great outer walls of red sandstone measures more than a mile. Within it are three buildings, beautiful in design and in material: Akbar's Palace; his Judgment Hall, or Dewan-i-aum; and the Motee Musjid, or Pearl Mosque.
The Moguls seldom condescended to build in brick and mortar: regal marble was more in keeping with their magnificence, and accordingly that is the material of these three buildings. The Palace is somewhat injured by Time, and by other and ruder hands than his; but there still remain in it some handsome marble screens, and some marble ceilings inlaid with agates, jaspers, and other valuable stones. The Dewan-i-aum is a very spacious hall, 200 ft. in length by 70 ft. in breadth, now converted into an arsenal. Its walls, and the thick columns which help to support the roof, are lined and surrounded with stands of rifles, carbines and muskets, numbering 20,000 in all, and with groups of swords, pistols, daggers, and other deadly implements; while from the ceiling are suspended flags with records on them of Indian, Chinese, and Burmese campaigns.
But the Motee Musjid by far excels in beauty the two other buildings. We pass through a handsome gateway of marble, and enter at once on a quadrangle 60 or 70 yards square, with arched cloisters running round three sides of
, it. The fourth side is occupied by the mosque itself, its front supported on pillars, and surmounted by three light domes. All is of marble : pillars, domes, walls, screens, and floors. When the sun is shining into the quadrangle,
a dazzling brightness robs the eye of the power to look at its beauties steadily ; but when a cloud passes across the sun's face, or in the early and late hours when the sun is low, all has that pure, bright, and polished look which marble alone can give.
But if the Motee Musjid is the Pearl Mosque, there is another building not far off which is the very pearl of pearls. A mile and a half from the fort, lower down on the right bank of the Jumna, stands the world-renowned Tâj Mehal—that wondrously beautiful mausoleum which is a lasting monument to the taste, magnificence, and affection of Shah Jehan its builder, and to the worth of his wife Noor Jehan, to whose memory it was built.
You may have heard many accounts and many praises of it; you may have seen photographs, which give all its beautiful outline and its exquisite proportions ; you may have formed very high expectations of it, but you cannot realise its full beauty till you see it. The first near view of it as you pass through the great gateway to the south of it, enter the garden in which it stands, and see its fine white form at the end of a vista of dark-green cypresses-is, you must acknowledge, exquisite : approach still nearer; walk up the steps that lead up to the marble basement on which it stands; mark the richness of the inlaid work in precious stones which covers it, the great size but greater lightness of the centre dome, the perfect proportions of the four minars which stand at the four corners of the basementits charms multiply upon you : enter by the arched door, examine the delicate marble screen which surrounds the tombs of Shah Jehan and his consort; listen to the fine echo which reverberates in gentle cadence from the lofty dome as you sound a bar or two of song, and your admi
, ration must have reached a climax.
You must stay long in and round it, and allow its
beauties to grow upon you, as they are sure to do: and if you would see it at its highest perfection, go at full moon, or early in the morning when the cold grey twilight softens and mellows its perfect whiteness. There is about it an elegant simplicity, a chaste grandeur, a rich harmony, which cannot but charm at first sight, and which, the oftener and the longer it is looked upon, tend more and more to make it that “thing of beauty' which is a joy for ever.'
Not far from the Bridge of Boats, on the left bank of the river, there is a building, which but for the proximity of the peerless Tâj, would rank perhaps as the first building in or around Agra for uniqueness and beauty combined. It is the mausoleum of Itmud-00-Dowlah, the prime minister of Akbar. Like the Tâj, it is of marble, much inlaid, and stands on a raised basement. But in size it is much inferior: it is oblong, whilst its more renowned neighbour is square, and it is surmounted by canopies in the place of domes. Its marble screen-work equals in delicacy and beauty that of the tomb of Noor and Shah Jehan, though the inlaid work will not compare, either in minuteness or finish, with the exquisite mosaics which adorn that unrivalled mausoleum.
Akbar did much to beautify his favourite city, and to leave behind him fit monuments of his greatness, nor did he leave out of his list of handsome buildings a mausoleum for his own remains.
Five miles from Agra, is Secundra Bagh, where the great monarch is himself entombed. The mausoleum stands, like the Táj, and like almost every other Mogul building of the same period, in the centre of a large square garden, which is surrounded by a high wall, a lofty gateway being inserted in the middle of each side of the square. It is a massive pile of dark-red sandstone, this stone being hard enough to
THE TOMB OF AKBAR.
be:ar cutting into screens and elaborate cornices. On the summit of the building, which is of six storeys, is a small quadrangle, surrounded by pillared cloisters, all of white marble. In the centre of the quadrangle is the marble tomb of Akbar, richly carved, the ninety-nine Moslem sacred names, or attributes of God, forming part of the carving.
The Hindus and Mussulmans, though excelling, as shown in these buildings and those at Benares, in carved designs and scroll-work, seldom seem to attempt figures of animals or men. As to the Mussulmans, it is against their creed to represent in sculpture any living thing; but with the Hindus no such obstacle exists, and yet anything beyond a grotesque or atrociously ugly representation of an animal or man we have not yet seen in their carving. With flowers just the reverse is the case; much of the inlaid work in the Tâj represents flowers with a skill equal to that of Florentine mosaics; and in Akbar's palace in the fort at Agra there are several ceilings on which are some flowers in fresco, excellently painted.
No traveller should go to Agra, even for a few days, without spending one day, at least, in a drive to Futteh. poor Sikri, and an examination of the ruins there. The distance is twenty-three miles, along a flat and tolerably well-laid road.
We commit ourselves to a buggy, and are to change horse-if undersized "screws' are worthy of the nametwice on the road. As we get out into the open country, we meet bullock-carts trailing slowly in towards the city, the drivers sitting apathetically on the shaft, and looking as if they would be quite content to travel at even half the slow pace at which they are actually moving.
We pass through one or two mud villages, where there are naked little urchins running or rolling across the road, and mongrelly pariah dogs ready to bark furiously at the passing Feringhie. Our second horse comes near being a cause of broken bones to us, for, choosing to back instead of go forwards as soon as he is harnessed, he pushes the buggy off the road and down the low embankment at the side ; but by jumping out one at each side, in apparently indecorous haste, we rob the Agra surgeons of two interesting cases, and after some trouble succeed in getting the horse and ourselves over the rest of the journey.
Futtehpoor Sikri was occupied as a royal residence by Akbar, before he set up the seat of his empire in Agra. The remains of what was once the scene of all the pomp and display of a Mogul court are very extensive.
They comprise a large mosque with a very fine quadrangle in front of it, several palaces assigned to Akbar himself, his ministers, and his favourite wives, and a solid wall which runs round nearly the whole of the ruins. They are nearly all of a hard red stone, similar to that at Secundra Bagh. The palaces are built in a Hindu style of architecture, with angular columns, no arches, and projecting cornices; and two of them, that of Beerbul, and that of the Belatee Begum, are ornamented with a profusion of carving, both inside and out, which has preserved its freshness and clearness of outline most remarkably. But the gem of the ruins is the tomb of Sheik Selim, which stands in the great quadrangle in front of the mosque.
It is a small building, 40 ft. in length by 30 ft. in breadth, surrounded by a verandah, and standing on a slightly raised basement. Built all of pure white marble, its sides consisting of a series of exquisite fret-work screens, the verandah supported on tasteful pillars, and the light roof taking the appearance of an elegant canopy, it stands out in beautiful relief against the red stone which composes the rest of the quadrangle; and when entered and examined, it shows a