On the river side of the palace there is an octagonal pavilion placed similarly to the Samman Burj, which is very charming in its fresco decoration, though the colour has faded very much. It is possibly this pavilion to which Badayuni, one of Akbar’s biographers, refers when he describes a Brahmin, named Debi, being pulled up the walls of the castle, sitting on a charpai (a native bed), till he arrived near the balcony where the Emperor used to sleep. “Whilst thus suspended he instructed his Majesty in the secrets and legends of Hinduism, in the manner of worshipping idols, the fire, the sun, and stars, and of revering the chief gods of these unbelievers.” The priests of other religions were similarly carried up to converse with Akbar.
Adjoining this is a set of small rooms, known as Akbar’s apartments, which, even in their present dilapidated state, show that they must have possessed a richness and beauty of decoration inferior to nothing else in the whole Fort. The dados were decorated with gesso work on a gold ground. The borders are still almost intact, but the rest of the relief ornament seems to have been wantonly hacked off out of pure mischief. I believe this is the only example of gesso work in any of Akbar’s buildings. The treatment of the upper part of the walls with the characteristic cuspings of Arabian and Moorish architects is admirable.
Passing through these, we enter a long room known as the library, in which a not very successful attempt was made some years ago to restore the painted decoration. It is to be devoutly hoped that this and other dangerous experiments of the kind will not be continued, except under skilled artistic supervision. The restoration of the structural parts of the palace and of the stone carving is a more easy matter, for the descendants of the very men who built and carved the palace still practise their art in Agra and round about. This has been admirably carried out by the Public Works Department under Lord Curzon’s orders.
The outer courtyard, on the riverside, is very interesting, especially for a very elegant and original porch, in which Saracenic feeling predominates; but on entering the inner courtyard (Plate VI.) it is more easy to realize that this Palace is one of the great masterpieces of Mogul architecture. The beauty of this inner quadrangle is derived not so much from its fine proportions and rich ornamentation as from the wonderful rhythmic play of light and shadow, produced by the bracket form of construction and the admirable disposition of the openings for doors, windows, and colonnades. The north side of the quadrangle is formed by a pillared hall, of distinctly Hindu design, full of the feeling of mystery characteristic of indigenous Indian styles. The subdued light of the interior adds to the impressiveness of its great piers stretching their giant brackets up to the roof like the gnarled and twisted branches of primeval forest trees. A very interesting point of view can be obtained from the gallery which runs round the upper part of the hall.