A Handbook to Agra and the Taj eBook

Ernest Binfield Havel
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 82 pages of information about A Handbook to Agra and the Taj.

The approach to the interior of the mausoleum is through the central archway of the lower story, which opens into a vestibule richly ornamented with raised stucco work, and coloured in blue and gold, somewhat in the style of the Alhambra.  A part of this decoration has been lately restored.  An inclined passage, like the entrance to an Egyptian pyramid, leads down into a high vaulted chamber, dimly lighted from above, where a simple sarcophagus of white marble contains the mortal remains of the great Akbar.  Whatever decoration there may have been on the walls is now covered with whitewash.  The Emperor’s armour, clothes, and books, which were placed beside the tomb, are said to have been carried off by those insatiable marauders, the Jats of Bharatpur.

Smaller chambers surrounding the central one, on the level of the platform, contain the tombs of two of Akbar’s daughters and a son of the Emperor Shah Alam.  These also have suffered much from neglect and whitewash, The whole of the facade of the lower story was originally faced with red sandstone, or perhaps with fine stucco decorated in fresco.  The present coat of common plaster is modern work, which, except as a protection for the brickwork, would have been better left undone.

The lower story is 320 feet square.  Above this are three others, diminishing in size up to the highest, which is just half these dimensions.  The roof of the topmost is surrounded by cloisters, the outer arches of which are filled with very fine marble tracery (Plate X.).  In the centre, on a raised platform, is a solid block of pure white marble, delicately carved with flowers and sacred texts, representing the real tomb in the vault beneath.  At the head is the inscription, “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is Great), and at the foot, “Jalli Jalalohu” (Magnificent is His Glory).  These sentences were the formula of Akbar’s new religion, which he called “The Divine Faith.”  On the sides the ninety-nine attributes of God are carved in the Arabic character.  The carved marble pedestal at the end of the tomb was a stand for a golden censer.

THE KANCH MAHAL.—­Outside the enclosure of Akbar’s tomb, a little to the east of the principal entrance, is a rare and remarkably fine example of Mogul domestic architecture.  This is a two-storied building, known as the Kanch Mahal, and supposed to have been built by Jahangir as a country seat.  In its extremely elaborate ornamentation, inlaid stone and enamelled tiles have been most effectively combined with the carving.  The repairs lately carried out under Lord Curzon’s orders have been very carefully done, though it is easy to see the inferiority of the new work where the old carving had to be reproduced.  Our fatuous policy of adopting European styles in all public buildings in India is bound to cause a deterioration in the native art handicrafts, for it closes the principal source from which they have sprung.  Unless this policy is reversed, nothing will prevent the ultimate extinction of Indian art.

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