1 THE Moguls, in spite of their warlike propensities, were not devoid of culture, and the period of their rule in India was particularly favorable for poets and prose writers, whether novelists or historians. They were more luxurious and elegant in their tastes than the early Mahomedan rulers, and were from the beginning great patrons of science and literature.
2 The reign of Baber was so short that no great change was effected in the tastes of the people ; that of Humayoon was so broken and disturbed that public tastes and morals rather retrograded than otherwise ; but during the long prosperous reign of Akbar, and the shorter but as prosperous one of Jahangeer, science and literature flourished as they never had previously in Hindoostan.
3 The reign of Shah Jahan was equally beneficent and prosperous ; while in the magnificence of his entertainments and his passion for splendid architecture he went quite beyond all his predecessors.
4 In 1628, a year after his accession to the throne, he was proclaimed king in the city of Agra, and on that occasion made a most gorgeous display of the wealth of the royal treasury. A suite of tents was manufactured of the finest Cashmere shawls, for royal occupation. He revived the ancient Hindoo custom of being weighed against gold, silver, and gems, which were afterward distributed among the courtiers. Vases were filled with gems and waved over his head, and then emptied on the floor for a general scramble. The expense of these festivities was estimated at seven and a half millions of dollars.
5 He was a liberal patron of poets, prose writers, and musicians, and left the impress of his genius and taste upon the face of the country as no other monarch has done.
6 The present city of Delhi was built by him, and was called Shahjahanabad, or the "City of Shah Jahan." It stands about five miles from the ruins of the old city, and is in a fair state of preservation in spite of the many sanguinary events which have transpired within its walls. The city has ten gates. Its massive wall is five and a half miles in circumference, and that of the fort is one and a half miles around, with two strongly fortified gates. Within this fort are the royal palace and mosque, and two fine audience halls. These buildings are all of beautiful marble, except the Diwan-i-Amm, or Hall of Audience for the Common People. That is a fine structure of red sandstone. The Diwan-i-Khass, or Hall of Select Audience, was the place where, more than anywhere else. Shah Jahan displayed his glory before the people. It is a fine open hall, with pillars and arches all of white marble. The pillars and cornices are beautifully ornamented with flowers in mosaic of precious stones and gilding, and on the latter at each corner of the hall, is sculptured and overlaid with gold the far- famed sentence, "If there be a Paradise on earth it is here."
7 The ceiling was once covered with silver filagree work, but it was taken off and coined by the Mahratta conquerors in 1759. It amounted to about eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The marble table on which stood the famous peacock throne is still there, but the golden peacocks no longer spread their jeweled tails beneath the pearl-fringed golden canopy under whose shelter the "king of the world" used to give audience to the nobles of his realm.
8 A parrot, cut out of a single emerald, stood between the two sparkling peacock tails ; and two velvet umbrellas, fringed with pearls, stood on either side. These almost priceless gems of nature and art were all carried off by the Persian invader, Nadir Shah, in 1739.
9 The royal palace, baths, and mosque are all of marble, and, with the exception of the latter, are ornamented with mosaic of precious stones, arranged in flowers and fantastic designs, gilding and sculptured flowers in the cornices and around the windows of marble network. Much of this beautiful work has been defaced, and the stones extracted, and paint has been used to repair it.
10 The rooms for the women are small and low, but cool and bright — gilded cages they might well be termed ; and, O ! how weary the dark-eyed inmates must have become of their unvarying splendor ! What longing glances they must have cast out of the marble lattice over the blue waters of the Jumna, and the hazy, far-reaching plains beyond !
11 It seems to have been the custom of the Moguls to name the royal mosque the Pearl Mosque, probably because they are built of such small but perfect proportions. The one here a pearlis the pearl of mosques. It is a square platform of marble, with a wall on three sides, of the same material, with scalloped top, while on the fourth side is the place for prayer and preaching, surmounted by three pearl-like domes of dazzling whiteness and perfect symmetry. The stand where the preacher, or moulvai, stands, is ornamented with carved marble work of exquisite finish.
12 The past and present are placed in close juxtaposition within the walls of the Delhi fort. On one side are these beautiful and grand memorials of the past, and on the other stand several fine modern barracks for English soldiers ; while the cabbages and onions of the soldiers' gardens flourish under the shadows of Shah Jahan's chaste and elegant creations.
13 There is a magnificent mosque outside the fort, and not far from it, called the Jama Musjid, or "Clothes Mosque." There is always onesuch mosque at least in every Mahomedan city. The first word is often corrupted into Jummabut the real word is Jama, or clothes, and is so named from the beautiful custom of having a store-room connected with the mosque, where clothing is kept for distribution to the needy among the faithful ; and close by which, a saraee, or hotel, is always open for the reception of Mahomedan travelers, especially pilgrims to Mecca. They are fed and clothed gratis for a few days, and a small sum of money is given to each as he sets off again on his journey. Is not this custom worthy of being adopted and adapted by all Christian Churches?
14 The lovely Mumtaz Mahal never saw these beautiful palaces and mosques, for she had been moldering back to dust long before they were even conceived in the mind of Shah Jahan. But it is probable that she was the indirect cause of their erection, for the building of her surpassingly beautiful mausoleum brought so many skilled workman into the country, and was such a perfect success, that Shah Jahan's taste for fine architecture was developed, and he determined to build a new and more splendid Delhi.
15 Mumtaz Mahal, the favorite queen of Shah Jahan, the fifth Mogul emperor, was the daughter of Asof Khan, the brother of Noor Mahal, and was even more beautiful than her celebrated aunt. Her real name was Arzoomund Banoo Begum, and the title of Mumtaz Mahal, or the "Chosen of the Palace," was bestowed upon her by the king on account of his affection and preference for her above all the other inmates of the royal seraglio.
16 She was married to Shah Jahan in 1615, while he was only Prince Khurrum, and was greatly beloved and honored by him. She shared all his campaigns and perils, and rejoiced to see him surmount them all, but was not spared long to enjoy the pre-eminence so long waited and sought for. She died two years after he came to the throne. This event occurred during a campaign in the Deccan, on which she accompanied her husband.
17 When it became evident that she had only a few hours to live the king was sent for, and she made two requests of him. One was, that he should not exalt another wife to her position as queen ; and the second was, that he would build a tomb for her that should command the admiration of the whole world.
18 He probably granted both these requests ; certain it is that he fulfilled the latter. He long mourned his chosen and faithful companion, and the solace of the greater portion of his after life was to superintend the erection of the mausoleum, that should hand the name of his beloved queen, conjointly with his own, down to succeeding generations.
19 The remains of Mumtaz Mahal were carried to Agra and deposited in the beautiful garden where the mansoleum was afterward erected. It was her favorite resort when in the enjoyment of health and manifold earthly blessings. She passed many pleasant hours with her husband and children in its cool, fragrant groves, and it was probably selected by her as the spot where, "brief life and its fever o'er," the king and herself should be buried.
20 Shah Jahan, immediately upon his return to Agra, set about the work that lay upon his heart. He sent for various plans and models from different countries, and read descriptions of all the celebrated monuments he could hear of. At last an architect, who was sent to him by the sultan of Turkey, furnished him with the model of the Taj Mahal as it now stands.
21 The garden in which the Taj Mahal and the mosque, with its answering edifice, stand, lies on the bank of the Jumna river, about one mile east of the Agra fort. The road to it is cut through mounds of the ruins of ancient palaces. The entire garden is inclosed by a high wall of red sandstone, with cloisters around the interior. The lofty gateway is of the same material, surmounted by a row of small white marble domes. The whole structure is beautifully ornamented with white marble, in which are inscriptions from the Koran inlaid with black marble. The beautiful garden, which is kept in the finest order under the superintendence of an English gardener, is filled with every variety of flower, and shrub, and tree obtainable.
22 Lemon and orange, fig and mango, plantain, palm, bamboo, and cypress trees abound; while jasmine, honeysuckle, and various other flowering vines and plants perfume the air with their fragrant blossoms, and the bussorah, cloth of gold, and Marshal Neil roses vie with each other in sweetness.
23 The poinsetta, with its brilliant crimson leaves, and the eccentric cactus, and the angular, but fragrant-flowering gulacheen, or China rose tree, with many other tropical growths, beautify this lovely spot, in the midst of which repose the ashes of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan in their right royal receptacle.
24 Several fountains are scattered throughout the premises, which, when at play, give a refreshing coolness to the atmosphere, and thus, in a measure, supply the only lacking charm of this exquisitely lovely spot.
25 The building stands upon a high platform of marble, with a lofty minaret at each corner. It is square, with the comers truncated or flattened, and is sur- mounted by a dome, the peculiarity of which is, that it is slightly smaller at its base than at its center. This unusual formation causes the illusion by moonlight of its seeming to expand, and the looker-on half expects to see it burst, and the whole fairy-like creation vanish like "the baseless fabric of a vision."
26 The dome is fifty feet in diameter by eighty in height. It tapers to a point, and is crowned by the significant crescent, that unfailing symbol of the Moslem. Four small domes cluster around the central and superior one. The four sides of the building are precisely alike. In the center of each is a high pointed arch, and these form the entrance to the apartment under the dome, in which are the tombs of the Mogul king and queen. Not the true ones ; they are below on the ground floor, and are often decked with flowers by Mohamedan visitors ; but these are directly above, and represent them.
27 Around these upper tombs is a marble screen six feet high, with one open space for entrance to them. The spaces on either side the pointed tops of the entrance arches, the tombs, and the narrow panels between the lattice-work slabs of the screen, are inlaid with precious stones in flowers. Jasper, lapis lazuli, agate, carnelian, bloodstone, onyx, amethyst, and other valuable and beautiful stones, were used in this work. The cornice and various parts of the room are inlaid with inscriptions from the Koran in black marble. Mahomedans claim that the whole of the Koran is thus inscribed upon the Taj, but that is, undoubtedly, an exaggeration. The room is wainscoted with the most delicately-sculptured flowers in bass-relief upon the marble panels.
28 The prevailing impression made upon the mind by this exquisite room is purity, the marble is so pure and so beautifully wrought and polished ; while the gleams of color from the precious stones in the few places where they are used, serve to keep the apartment from seeming cold and gloomy.
29 There is a wonderful echo in the dome, which is delightful, if only single notes are used, but it is painful to the ear otherwise.
30 The whole structure is of dazzling marble, almost entirely white, and is so perfect in all its details as to be without its equal in the world. It has been called a marble poem.
31 The following anonymous lines appeared in an English journal in India a few years ago : —
THE TAJ MAHAL.
"With minarets of marble rising stately from a sea
Of the dark-leaved mango's foliage streaked by the jaman tree,
Up to the empyrean where the crescent glitters bright,
Calm and unchanged still shining through the fall of Moslem might,
One majesty of whiteness the Taj of Agra stands,
Like no work of human builder, but a care of angel hands.
Look down the entrance vista through the lofty sandstone door ;
How near it seems, though distant five hundred yards or more.
So down the shadowy vista of twice one hundred years
The past becomes the present, and the distant near appears,
And in a vision rises before the raptured eye
The splendor of the monarch who ruled in days gone by.
When 'neath the shade of snow-white domes, with pinnacles of gold,
In royal state, surrounded by pomp and wealth untold,
He sat dispensing justice, or discussed affairs of weight,
With councilors and princes of many a subject State ;
Or when summoned to the conflict with a vast array he spurred,
To wreak upon Golconda the vengeance long deferred.
But see ! — the sinking sun the fort in strong relief has brought,
Whose lengthening shadow forward creeps, as though it fondly thought
To reach the Taj and converse hold of glories passed away.
To hear the deeds of Shah Jahan and tell of Akbar's sway.
But the cruel sun in sinking turns the shadow from its goal,
And between, a bar forever, the Jumna's waters roll ;
And as the light grows fainter, and clouds lose their golden rim,
The vision also changes, and its glory waxes dim.
The mighty realm is torn by strife, the notes of war resound ;
Disgraced, deposed by filial hands, the monarch stands uncrowned !
His servants fled, for none were found of all the craven band
For the beleagured sovereign in peril firm to stand !
'Ere death call no man happy, lest the future evil bring,'
Such the moral history teaches to the peasant and the king.
But though the sovereign's sunset days were clouded o'er by ill,
A token of his glory — the Taj stands firmly still.
Majestic shrine of other days, to thee the power belongs
To resist the flight of ages and to awe the stranger-throng ;
Long as the sacred Jumna o'er its bed of sand shall flow.
Thy glorious dome to heaven shall raise its massive breast of snow
For the spirit of the monarch and the builder's art combine
To guard from lightning's levin-bolt, and time's decay, the shrine."
32 The common workmen on the Taj did not receive wages, but were daily supplied with food ; but it is said that the officials, whose duty it was to deal out the rations, took such heavy toll that there was great distress and mortality among them. A poet of that time describing these events says the poor laborers used to cry out,
"O God, relieve our misery,
Else with the queen we also die !"
33 Twenty thousand workmen were seventeen years in building this mausoleum and the edifices connected with it.
34 The cost of the Taj was about nine million dollars. It is said that there were silver doors at the four arched entrances, and that they were taken away when the Jats conquered and sacked Agra.
35 The measurements of this celebrated spot are as follows: --
36 "The inclosure, including the garden and outer court, is a parallelogram of one thousand eight hundred and sixty-feet by more than one thousand feet The outer court (which is a saraee, or hotel) is surrounded by small rooms for travelers, built against the wall, and all opening into the central court-yard, and has four gateways. It is an oblong, occupying in length the whole breadth of the inclosure, and is about four hundred and fifty feet deep. The platform is eighteen feet high, and is an exact square of three hundred and thirteen feet each way. The four minarets at the comers are one hundred and thirteen feet high, and are crowned with little open domes or pavilions. The mausoleum itself occupies a space of one hundred and eighty-six feet square in the center of the platform.
37 On the left of the Taj, from the garden side, is a mosque of red sandstone, with three marble domes ; and on the right is a similar building, called the Juwab, or Answer, as it was built to preserve the symmetry of the whole design. This building is, in these latter days, often appropriated to the use of European travelers and parties of pleasure, and is thought to be a particularly suitable place for newly- married couples to reside during the honeymoon.
38 But we must now leave this wonderful creation, which can never be fully described by the pen of the writer nor portrayed by the brush of the artist, and follow the fortunes of its projector and builder.
39 After a series of campaigns in the Deccan, eight years in duration, peace was established, and the result to the Mogul Government was the acquisition of part of the kingdom of Ahmadnugger, and of an annual subsidy from the king of Golconda.
40 Meanwhile the Portuguese had obtained a foothold in Bengal. They had been allowed to establish a factory at Hooghly, and they had improved the opportunity afforded them by also building a fort and mounting it with guns. They soon grew insolent and rapacious, and their conduct was reported to the king. Shah Jahan had received a repulse from Michael Rodrigues, the head of the Portuguese colony, when he asked for assistance during his mis- fortunes, and he now sent the order, "Let the idolaters be immediately expelled from my dominions." Upon receiving this peremptory message, the Mogul viceroy in Bengal at once attacked the Portuguese and gained a complete victory over them. They killed over a thousand men, and took four thousand men and women prisoners. The most beautiful among the latter were forwarded to the king. This event occurred in 1632, and was the end of Portuguese power in Bengal.
41 In 1637 the Persian governor of Candahar rebelled against his king, and made the province aver to the Moguls, to whom it formerly belonged. He then sought refuge in the Mogul capital where he was received with great favor by Shah Jahan, and was employed by him in military operations. Marshman says of this general, Ali Merdan, that " his fame has been perpetuated in India by the great public works which he executed, and more especially by the canal near Delhi, distinguished by his name, which has proved an incalculable blessing to the country it irrigates." It seems, therefore, that his talents were not confined to military tactics.
42 For the next ten years the Mogul Government carried on expensive and fruitless military operations beyond the river Indus, but at length relinquished their plans for conquest in that quarter. They were, however, obliged presently to take the field against the Persians, who had retaken Candahar. The Moguls made three efforts to recover their ancient inheritance, but were unsuccessful.
43 In 1655 Shah Jahan renewed offensive operations in the Deccan, and the war then begun continued for fifty years to harass the Mogul Government, and, doubtless, hastened its downfall. Aurungzebe, the third son of Shah Jahan, was the commander of the southern army, and conducted the war with mingled craft and bravery.
44 In 1656 the king of Golconda was defeated, and reduced to submission; and the succeeding year Aurungzebe attacked the king of Beejapore, and would probably have extinguished the independence of that kingdom had not the news of his father's serious illness reached him just at the time. He was anxious to hasten to Agra, to join in the contest for the throne, and, having obtained a large sum of money from the king of Beejapore, he concluded a treaty whith him, and hastened, with his army, northward.
45 Shah Jahan had four sons, and each happened at this time to be in command of an army. Each was also of the opinion that he was well fitted to succeed his father, and was willing, for the public good, to take up the cares of Government. " Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," and yet foolish mortals covet the glittering symbol of power even if accompanied with disquietude. In no event of life is the willingness to suffer for the good of others so brilliantly exemplified as when a responsible and honorable official position is in question.
46 Dara, the eldest son, was a talented and haughty man, and had been declared the successor to the throne by Shah Jahan. Soojah, the second son, was viceroy of Bengal, and was also a man of talent and energy, but was dissipated in his habits. Aurungzebe was able, ambitious, and cunning, and, unlike his brothers, who were free-thinkers, was a bigoted Mahomedan. Morad, the youngest, was a drunkard. Soojah, upon hearing the news, hastened from Bengal with his army.
47 Morad, the viceroy of Gunzerat, seized the public treasure of that province, and assumed the title of king. He then also, with his army, hastened toward the capital.
48 Aurungzebe, with his usual craftiness, determined to pretend to favor Morad, and joined him on the banks of the Nerbudda river. He saluted him as king, and assured him that it was the wish of his heart to see him firmly established on the throne, and when that should be happily accomplished he would renounce the world, and go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
49 Dara had the advantage of being already at the capital, with the royal army and treasury at his command. He prepared to meet the two attacks by sending Raja Jai Sing to meet Soojah, and Raja Jesswunt Sing against the combined forces of Aurungzebe and Morad. It is an interesting fact that two Hindoo generals were sent in command of the imperial armies at so important a juncture, and it shows us that the policy of attaching the Hindoos to the Mogul Government by intermarriages, was at least partially successful. Just at this time Shah Jahan rallied, but it was too late to prevent fratricidal war.
50 Soojah was defeated near Benares, and retreated to Bengal ; but in the conflict which ensued near the city of Ojain, between the forces of Aurungzebe and Morad and Jesswunt Sing, the latter was defeated, and the brothers advanced with thirty-five thousand troops toward Agra.
51 Dara came out to resist them with one hundred thousand foot, twenty thousand horse, and eight pieces of cannon. A terrific contest ensued, in which Dara was completely routed, and driven from the field with only two thousand men.
52 Aurungzebe then showed his true colors, and instead of advancing his brothers claims, as he had promised, quietly ignored them and placed himself at the head of the whole army. He at once took possession of the capital, deposed his father, and assumed control of the kingdom under the title of Alamgeer, that is, "Conqueror of the World."
53 Thus ended the thirty years' reign of Shah Jahan. He was sixty-seven years old when he was deposed by the ambitious and ungrateful Aurungzebe, and lived seven years longer, a prisoner in his own palace. He was treated with the greatest kindness and consideration by the king, but these last years would have been very lonely and sad for the aged monarch had he not been cheered and comforted by the presence and devotion of his lovely and devoted daughter, Jahanara Begum, who refused to join in the amusements of the Court, and gave herself entirely to the work of cheering the closing years of her father's life. This lady was a sister of Prince Dara, who was so ruthlessly supplanted by Aurungzebe. She was possessed of an amiable, loving disposition, and was of a religious turn of mind. Indeed "every virtue" adorned her character, if we may believe the flowery descriptions of Hindoostanee writers.
54 The tomb of this lady is to be seen by tourists, near several other exquisite mausoleums, in old Delhi, about five miles from the present city. It is not as fine a structure as one would naturally suppose would cover the remains of the favorite daughter of Shah Jahan. It is a simple tomb of white marble, with a cavity on the top filled with earth and sown to grass. The inscription, mostly written by herself, explains this unusual arrangement : "Let no rich canopy cover my grave. This grass is the fittest covering for the tomb of the poor in spirit ; the humble, the short-lived Jahanara, the disciple of the holy men of Chist, the daughter of the king Shah Jahan." Her friends and admirers could not, however, allow her grave to be quite as unadorned as she wished. It is surrounded by a screen of marble network of the most exquisite design and finish.
55 There is a curious work of Jahanara Begum's in Delhi, which is interesting because it shows the admiration she had for her father's works. It is a miniature copy of the Jama Musjid, or Clothes Mosque, made of marble and delicately finished. But this choice memorial of the reign of Shah Jahan has been utilized by the English, by converting it into a commissariat bakery.
56 The glory of the Mogul dynasty culminated in Shah Jahan's reign, and began to decline under Aurungzebe. During the latter's long reign of forty- nine years he pursued an entirely different policy from that of his forefathers. This change was probably caused by his being so stanch a Mahomedan. He did not favor the Hindoos, but, on the contrary, was so intolerant of their religious scruples that their hearts were turned from him ; and even the Rajpoots, who had considered themselves identified with Mogul power, turned against him.
57 The wonderful rise of the Mahratta nation in the Deccan, and their determined hostility to the Moguls, formed another link in the chain of providential events by which God caused the Mogul dynasty, which appeared to be so strongly cemented, to slowly crumble to its fall.
58 Aurungzebe died in 1707, and the Mogul dynasty, although weakened and shattered, was not extinct when, nearly one hundred years later, the English army, under General Lake, gained a complete victory over a native army commanded by a French general at Delhi.
59 When the English took possession of the city they found a poor old blind man in the royal palace, who claimed to be the Mogul king. Lord Wellesley, the governor general of India at that time, desired to remove this shadow of a king to Monghyr, and so break the center of intrigue. But the royal family clung with such tenacity to their native city that the plan of their removal was not carried into execution; a great mistake, as was afterward manifest.
60 From this time forward Delhi was under the English Government, but a pageantof royalty was allowed to exist within the walls of the fort, and it became a hot-bed of treasonable plans and intrigues, which culminated in the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857.
61 Bahadur Shah, the puppet Mogul king, doubtless hoped to revive something of the former glory of the dynasty ; but his ambition was the cause of his ruin, and by his perfidious treason against the power that had protected him from his enemies he only won for himself distress and exile. He died in Burmah, whither he and his family were transported after the suppression of the Rebellion, and his death closed the Mogul dynasty, which had existed in India for three centuries.