|CHAPTER 7 -- The sequence
of the same route, from Delhi to Agra.
[] *Agra* is in 27 degrees 31 minutes latitude, in a sandy soil; which is the cause of excessive heat in summer. It is the largest town in India, and was formerly the residence of the Emperors. The houses of the nobles are beautiful and well built, but those of private persons have nothing fine about them, as is the case in all the other towns of India. They are separated from one another, and are concealed by the height of the walls, from fear lest any one should see the women; so it is easy to understand that all these towns have nothing cheerful about them like our towns in Europe. It should be added to this that, Agra being surrounded by sands, the heat in summer is excessive, and and it is in part this which induced Shah Jahan to abandon the place, and to remove his court to Jahanabad.
All then that is remarkable at Agra is the palace of the Emperor, and some beautiful tombs both near the town and in the environs. The palace of the Emperor is a considerable enclosure with a double wall, which is terraced in some places, and above the wall small dwellings have been built for certain officers of the court. The Jumna flows in front of the palace; but between the wall and the river there is a large square where the Emperor makes his elephants fight. They have purposely selected this spot near the water, because the elephant being excited by his victory, they would not be able to pacify him for a long time if they did not urge him into the river, to effect which it is necessary to use artifice, by attaching to the end of a handpike fuses and petards, which are set on fire to drive him into the water; and [] when he is two or three feet deep in it he forthwith becomes appeased.
There is a large square on the side of the town in front of the palace, and the first gate, which has nothing magnificent about it, is guarded by some soldiers. Before the Emperor had given up his residence at Agra for that at Jahanabad, whenever he went to the country on a visit he entrusted the custody of the palace, where his treasure was, to one of the principal and most trustworthy of his *Umrahs*, who, until the return of the Emperor, never moved, neither day nor night, from this gate where his lodging was. It was during such an absence that I was permitted to see the palace at Agra. The Emperor having left for Jahanabad, where all the court followed, and even the women too, the government of the palace was conferred on a noble who was a great friend of the Dutch, and, in general, of all the *Franks*.
M. Velant, chief of the Dutch factory at Agra, as soon as the Emperor had left, went to salute this noble and make him a present, according to the custom. It was worth about 6,000 écus, and consisted of spices, Japanese cabinets, and beautiful Dutch cloths. He invited me to go with him when he went to pay his compliments to the Governor; but this noble was offended at being offered a present, and obliged him to take it back, telling him that, in consideration of the friendship he had for the Franks, he would take only one small cane out of six which formed a part of the gift. They were those Japanese canes which grow in short nodes; it was even necessary to remove the gold with which it had been embellished, as he would not receive it except in its unadorned condition. Compliments having passed on both sides, the Governor asked M. Velant what he desired him to do to serve him; and he having prayed him to have the goodness, as the court was absent, to permit him to see the interior of the palace, it was granted him, and six men were given to accompany us.
[] The first gate, where, as I have said, the dwelling of the Governor of the palace is situated, is a long and dark arch, after which you enter a large court surrounded with porticoes, like the Place Royal or Luxembourg at Paris. The gallery which is opposite is larger and higher than the others, and is supported by three rows of columns, and under those, on the three other sides of the court, which are narrower and lower, there are several small chambers for the soldiers of the guard. In the middle of the great gallery you see a niche in the wall through which the Emperor obtains access from his harem by a small concealed staircase, and when seated there he looks like a statue. He has no guards about him then, because he has nothing to fear; and because neither before nor behind, from the right nor from the left, can any one approach him. During the great heat he keeps only one eunuch by him, and most frequently one of his children, to fan him. The nobles of the court remain below in the gallery under this niche.
At the end of the court there is, on the left hand, a second gateway which gives entrance to another great court, which is also surrounced by galleries, under which there are also small rooms for some officers of the palace. From this second court you pass into a third, where the King's apartments are situated. Shah Jahan had intended to cover the arch of a great gallery which is on the right hand with silver, and a Frenchman, named Augustin de Bordeaux, was to have done the work. But the Great Mogul seeing there was no one in his kingdom who was more capable to negotiate at Goa an affair with the Portuguese, the work was not done, for, as the ability of Augustin was feared, he was poisoned on his return from Cochin. This gallery is painted with foliage of gold and azure, and the floor is covered with a carpet. There are doors under the gallery giving [] entrance into very small square chambers. I saw two or three of them which were opened for us, and we were told that the others were similar.
The three other sides of the court are altogether open, and there is but a simple wall to the height of the support. On the side overlooking the river there is a projecting *Divan* or belvedere, where the Emperor comes to sit when he wishes to enjoy the pleasure of seeing his brigantines, and making his elephants fight. In front of this Divan there is a gallery which serves as a vestibule, and the design of Shah Jahan was to cover it throughout with a trellis of rubies and emeralds, which would represent, after nature, grapes green and commencing to become red; but this design, which made a great noise throughout the world, required more wealth than he had been able to furnish, and remains unfinished, having only two or three wreaths of gold with their leaves, as all the rest ought to be, and enamelled in their natural colors, emeralds, rubies, and garnets making the grapes. About the middle of the court you see a great tank for bathing, of forty feet in diameter, and of a single piece of sandstone, with steps cut in the stone itself, both within and without./1/
As for the tombs in Agra and its environs, there are some which are very beautiful, and every eunuch in the Emperor's harem is ambitious to have as magnificent a tomb built for himself. When they have amassed large sums they earnestly desire to go to Mecca, and take with them rich presents; but the Great Mogul, who does not wish the money to leave his country, very seldom grants them permission, and consequently, not knowing what to do with their wealth, they expend the greater part of it in these burying-places, and thus leave some memorial.
[] Of all the tombs at Agra, that of the wife of Shah Jahan [the *Taj Mahal*] is the most splendid. He purposely made it near the Tasimacan,/2/ where all foreigners come, so that the whole world should see and admire its magnificence. The Tasimacan is a large *bazaar*, consisting of six large courts all surrounded with porticoes, under which are chambers for the use of merchants, and an enormous quantity of cottons is sold there. The tomb of this *Begam*, or sultan queen, is at the east end of the town by the side of the river in a large square surrounded by walls, upon which there is a small gallery, as on the walls of many towns in Europe. This square is a kind of garden divided into compartments like our parterres, but in the places where we put gravel there is white and black marble. You enter this square by a large gate, and at first you see, on the left hand, a beautiful gallery which faces in the direction of Mecca, where there are three or four niches where the *Mufti* comes at fixed times to pray.
A little farther than the middle of the square, on the side of the water, you see three great platforms raised one upon the other, with towers at the four corners of each, and a staircase inside, for proclaiming the hour of prayer. There is a dome above, which is scarcely less magnificent than that of the Val de Grace at Paris. It is covered within and without with white marble, the centre being of brick. Under this dome there is an empty tomb, for the Begam is interred under a vault beneath the first platform. The same changes which are made below in this subterranean place are made above around the tomb, for from time to time they change the carpet, [] chandeliers, and other ornaments of that kind, and there are always there some *Mullahs* to pray.
I witnessed the commencement and accomplishment of this great work, on which twenty-two years have been spent, during which twenty thousand men worked incessantly; this is sufficient to enable one to realize that the cost of it has been enormous. It is said that the scaffoldings alone cost more than the entire work, because, from want of wood, they, as well as the supports of the arches, had all to be made of brick; thas has entailed much labour and heavy expenditure. Shah Jahan began to build his own tomb on the other side of the river, but the war with his sons interrupted his plan, and Aurangzeb, who reigns at present, is not disposed to complete it. A eunuch in command of 2,000 men guards both the tomb of the Begam and the Tasimacan, to which it is near at hand.
On one side of the town the tomb of King Akbar is to be seen; as for those of the eunuchs, they have but a single platform with small chambers at each of the four corners.
When you reach Agra from the Delhi side you meet a large bazaar, close to which there is a garden where the King Jahangir, father of Shah Jahan, is interred./3/ Over the gate of this garden you see a painting which represents his tomb covered by a great black pall with many torches of white wax, and two Jesuit Fathers at the ends. One is much astounded at seeing that Shah Jahan, contrary to the practice [] of the Musalmans, who hold images in abhorrence, has allowed this painting to remain, and it can only be explained because the Emperor his father and he himself had learnt from the Jesuits some principles of mathematics and astrology.
But he had not the same indulgence for
them in another matter, for on going one day to see a sick Armenian, named
*Khwaja* ... [gap in original
text], whom he much loved, and whom he had honoured with splendid appointments,
and the Jesuits who had their house close to that of the Armenian, happening
to ring their bell just then, the noise proved displeasing to the Emperor,
and as he thought it might inconvenience the sick man, in a rage he commanded
it to be removed and hung on the neck of his elephant; this was promptly
done. Some days after, the Emperor seeing the elephant with this heavy
bell suspended from its neck, thought that so great a weight might injure
it, and he therefore ordered it to be carried into the office of the *Kotwal*,
which is a sort of barrier where a provost administers justice to those
of the quarter, and it has remained there ever since. This Armenian had
been brought up with Shah Jahan, and as he was very clever and an excellent
poet, he was high in the good graces of the Emperor, who had given him
valuable governorships, but had never been able, either by promises or
threats, to induce him to become a Musalman.
N O T E S
/1/ The reference is apparently to the Bath or Cistern of Jahangir, now in the court opposite the Divan-e Am. It is nearly 5 feet in height, 4 feet in depth, 8 feet in diameter, and 25 feet in circumference, with an inscription in Persian characters giving the date A.D. 1616, the year in which Jahangir married Nur Jahan. --Crooke
The Taj, sometimes known as Taj-makan, "Taj-house"; Taj-muqam,
"Taj residence"; one of which is represented in Tavernier's Tasimacan,
Tajmahall, "Taj palace," or Taj-ganj, "Taj bazaar," was erected as the
tomb of Arjumand Bano Begam, known as Mumtaz Mahall, "exalted of the palace,"
daughter of 'Asaf Khan, the Vazir. She was born in 1592, was married to
Shah Jahan in 1612, died in childbed in 1631. The Taj was built in 1532-54.
Among other sources: *Sleeman
on Agra*; *Havell*;
--Crooke & FWP.
/3/ This is a mistake: Jahangir was buried at Shahdara, Lahore. The difficulty is the identification of the building mentioned by Tavernier. Mr. R. Barkley-Smith, Magistrate of Agra, kindly referred the question to Father H. Hosten, who writes: "I have always understood that the passage in Tavernier applies to Akbar's tomb at Sikandra. When I visited Sikandra in 1912 I looked carefully for the pictures which he mentions, but I could not see anything. Many Christian paintings existed in Jahangir's palace about 1608-9: in fact, his whole palace, I mean the public buildings, was covered with Christian paintings." Tavernier, on his visit, could not have examined the place carefully. --Crooke
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