THE TEMPLES AND TOMBS OF DELHI
Seven ancient ruined cities, representing successive periods and dynasties from 2500 B. C. to 1600 A. D., encumber the plains immediately surrounding the city of Delhi, within a radius of eighteen or twenty miles; and you cannot go in any direction without passing through the ruins of stupendous walls, ancient fortifications and crumbling palaces, temples, mosques and tombs. Tradition makes the original Delhi the political and commercial rival of Babylon, Nineveh, Memphis and Thebes, but the modern town dates from 1638, the commencement of the reign of the famous Mogul Shah Jehan, of whom I have written so much in previous chapters. About eleven miles from the city is a group of splendid ruins, some of the most remarkable in the world, and a celebrated tower known as the Kutab-Minar, one of the most important architectural monuments in India. You reach it by the Great Trunk Road of India, the most notable thoroughfare in the empire, which has been the highway from the mountains and northern provinces to the sacred River Ganges from the beginning of time, and, notwithstanding the construction of railroads, is to-day the great thoroughfare of Asia. If followed it will lead you through Turkestan and Persia to Constantinople and Moscow. Over this road came Tamerlane, the Tartar Napoleon, with his victorious army, and Alexander the Great, and it has been trodden by the feet of successive invaders for twenty or thirty centuries. To-day it leads to the Khyber Pass, the only gateway between India and Afghanistan, where the frontier is guarded by a tremendous force, and no human being is allowed to go either way without permits from the authorities of both governments. Long caravans still cross the desert of middle Asia, enter and leave India through this pass and follow the Grand Trunk Road to the cities of the Ganges. It is always thronged with pilgrims and commerce; with trains of bullock carts, caravans of camels and elephants, and thousands of pedestrians pass every milestone daily. Kipling describes them and the road in “Kim” in more graphic language than flows through my typewriter. In the neighborhood of Delhi the Grand Trunk Road is like the Appian Way of Rome, both sides being lined with the mausoleums of kings, warriors and saints in various stages of decay and dilapidation. And scattered among them are the ruins of the palaces of supplanted dynasties which appeared and vanished, arose and fell, one after another, in smoke and blood; with the clash of steel, the cries of victory and shrieks of despair.