Modern India eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 495 pages of information about Modern India.

About three feet from his head stands a low marble column exquisitely carved.  It is about four feet high, and in the center of the top is a defect, a rough hole, which seems to have been left there intentionally.  When the mighty Akbar died, his son and successor, the Emperor Jehanghir, imbedded in the center of that column, where it might be admired by the thousands of people who came to the tomb every day, the Kohinoor, then the most valued diamond in the world and still one of the most famous of jewels, and chief ornament in the British crown.  It was one of the most audacious exhibitions of wealth and recklessness ever made, but the stone remained there in the open air, guarded only by the ordinary custodian of the tomb, from 1668 to 1739, when Nadir, Shah of Persia, invaded India, captured Delhi, sacked the palaces of the moguls, and carried back to his own country more than $300,000,000 worth of their treasures.

XV

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OF BUILDINGS

Once upon a time there lived an Arab woman named Arjumand Banu.  We know very little about her, except that she lived in Agra, India, and was the Sultana of Shah Jehan, the greatest of the Mogul emperors.  She must have been a good woman and a good wife, because, after eighteen years of married life, and within twelve months after his accession to the throne, in 1629, she died in giving birth to her fourteenth baby.  And her husband loved her so much that he sheltered her grave with a mausoleum which, without question or reservation, is pronounced by all architects and critics to be the most beautiful building in the world—­the most sublime and perfect work of human hands.

[Illustration:  The Taj Mahal]

It is called the Taj Mahal, which means “The Crown of the Palaces,” and is pronounced Taash Mahal, with the accent on the last syllable of the last word.  Its architect is not definitely known, but the design is supposed to have been made by Ustad Isa, a Persian, who was assisted by Geronino Verroneo, an Italian, and Austin de Bordeaux, a Frenchman.  They are credited with the mosaics and other decorations.  Austin designed and made the famous peacock throne at Delhi.  Governor La Fouche of that province, who has carefully restored the park that surrounds the building, and is keeping things up in a way that commands hearty commendation, has the original plans and specifications, which were discovered among the archives of the Moguls in Delhi after the mutiny of 1857.  The records show also that the tomb cost more than $20,000,000 of American money, not including labor, for like those other famous sepulchers, the pyramids of Egypt, this wonderful structure was erected by forced labor, by unpaid workmen, who were drafted from their shops and farms by order of the Mogul for that purpose, and, according to the custom of the time, they were compelled to support themselves as

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Modern India from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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