The two mosques of red sandstone on either side of the Taj are in the same style as the entrance gateway, the interiors being decorated with fresco and fine cut plaster-work. The one towards the west was intended for prayers only; the floor is panelled into separate spaces for each worshipper. The opposite mosque was known, as the Jamaat Khana, or meeting-place for the congregation before prayers, and on the occasion of the great anniversary service. Standing on the platform in front of this mosque, one has a splendid view of the Taj, the river, and the distant Fort.
As the garden is now arranged; a full view of the magnificent platform, with its two mosques, and the Taj itself, can only be obtained from the opposite side of the river, which is not very accessible except by boat. When the traveller leaves Agra by rail, going east, the Taj in all its glory can be seen in the distance, floating like the mirage of some wondrous fairy palace over the waving tufts of the pampas grass, until at last it sinks into the pale horizon.
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NOTE.—A small museum has been established lately by the Archaeological Department, in the western half of the Taj main gateway. It contains an interesting collection of photographs and drawings of the Taj at different periods, and specimens of the stones used in the pietra dura, or inlay work of the building. There are also samples illustrating the technique of pietra dura, and the tools used by native workmen.
The tomb of Itmad-ud-daulah, “the Lord High Treasurer,” is on the east or left bank of the river, and is reached by crossing the pontoon bridge. It was built by Nur Mahal, the favourite wife of Jahangir, as a mausoleum for her father, Mirza Ghias Beg, who, according to one account, was a Persian from Teheran, and by another a native of Western Tartary.
A story is told of the Mirza’s early life, of which it can only be said, Se non e vero e ben trovato. He left his home, accompanied by his wife and children, to seek his fortune in India, where he had some relatives at Akbar’s court. His slender provision for the journey was exhausted in crossing the Great Desert, and they were all in danger of perishing from hunger. In this extremity his wife gave birth to a daughter. The unhappy parents, distracted by hunger and fatigue, left the infant under a solitary shrub. With the father supporting his wife and children on the one bullock which remained to them, they pushed on in the hope of finding relief; but as the tiny landmark where the infant lay disappeared in the distance, the mother, in a paroxysm of grief, threw herself to the ground, crying, “My child! my child!” The piteous appeal forced the father to return to restore the babe to her mother, and soon afterwards a caravan appeared in sight and rescued the whole party.