A Handbook to Agra and the Taj eBook

Ernest Binfield Havel
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 98 pages of information about A Handbook to Agra and the Taj.

The gate is a fine example of the early Mogul style; it contains the Naubat khana, or music gallery, where the royal kettledrums announced the Emperor’s arrival or departure, and all state functions.  It was also a guard-house, and probably the quarters of a high military officer, but it is certainly not, as the guides have it, the “Darshan Darwaza,” or “Gate of Sights,” described by William Finch, where the Emperor Jahangir showed himself at sunrise to his nobles and to the multitude assembled in the plain below.  The Darshan Darwaza was undoubtedly near the old disused water-gate, which was joined to the royal apartments of the palace by a private passage, and answers to Finch’s description of “leading into a fair court extending along the river.”  The Elephant Gate is at a considerable distance from the palace, and was never connected with it, except by the public road.

It is worth while to climb the top of the gate by the staircase on the right, inside the Fort.  There is a fine view of the Fort, and beyond the walls the ever-beautiful white domes of the Taj appear in the distance.  The Itmad-ud-daulah is visible on the left.  Towards the town you look down into the quadrangle of the Jami Masjid.  The pavilions on the summit of the great octagonal towers flanking the gate are finely carved, and bear traces of painting and enamelled tile-work.  Descending the staircase to the floors beneath, one can wander through the curious small chambers and look out from the balconies on the front of the gate.

The Muti Masjid.

The road to the left after passing the Elephant Gate leads up to the entrance of the Muti Masjid, or “Pearl Mosque,” placed on the highest point of the Fort enclosure. [6] You pass on the left a building known as Dansa Jat’s house, said to have been occupied by the Rajahs of Bharatpur when the Jats held the Fort.  It has been made hideous by modern additions which have converted it into officers’ quarters.

The entrance to the Muti Masjid is very plain and unpretending, so that one is hardly prepared for the beauty, purity, and the unaffected expression of an exalted religious feeling which characterize the interior.  It is rare to find an Indian building in which the effect is produced with hardly any ornament, but solely by the perfection of proportions, beauty of material, and harmony of constructive design.  The courtyard, in front of the mosque, with its arcades and gateways, is a noble setting to the Pearl, as the mosque is appropriately called.  There is a subtle rhythm in the placing of the three domes over the seven arches of the mosque, which saves the whole design from monotony, while the marvellous grace of the contours, which is so characteristic of the finest of Shah Jahan’s buildings, makes each dome grow up from the roof like a flower-bud on the point of unfolding.  The octagonal pavilions at the four corners of the mosque, and the dainty little kiosques placed as decoration over the arches and over the gateways of the courtyard, echo the harmonies of the larger constructive details, and give completeness to the composition.

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A Handbook to Agra and the Taj from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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