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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.
Keene, who discusses the question at length in his “Handbook to Delhi,” accepts this suggestion.  Neither of these authorities seem to have been aware of the existence of the marks of the feet on the platform in front of the Agra Hathi Pol.  I have compared the measurements of these marks with the dimensions of the elephant which still exists at Delhi, and find that they do not correspond in any way.  The Delhi elephant is a much larger animal, and would not fit into the platform at the Agra gate.  General Cunningham’s theory, therefore, falls to the ground.  It is just possible that the Delhi elephants were intended to be copies of those placed by Akbar at Agra.  Shah Jahan is not likely to have intentionally perpetuated the memory of the Rajput chiefs, but popular tradition or imagination may have fastened the story told by Bernier on to the Delhi statues.  Elephants were so commonly placed in front of Indian palaces and fortresses that, except for this story, there would be no need to suppose any connection between those at Agra and those at Delhi.

Purchas, quoting William Finch who visited Agra in Jahangir’s time, describes the elephants at the Hathi Pol, but gives a different origin to the statues.  “Beyond these two gates you pass a second gate, over which are two Rajaws in stone.  It is said that they were two brother Rajputs, tutors to a prince, their nephew, whom the King demanded of them.  They refused, and were committed; but drew on the officers, slew twelve, and at last, by multitudes oppressing, were themselves slain, and here have elephants of stone and themselves figured.”  The expression “over” (the gate) has the meaning of “high up,” and not, as Keene supposes, its more modern sense of “on the top of.”

[6] The old Mogul road led directly from the Elephant Gate to the entrance of the Diwan-i-am.  I understand that this road will be restored shortly by the Archaeological Department.

[7] An ugly modern marble rail, in imitation of wood, probably a reminiscence of the time when the palace was occupied by the British garrison, still disfigures and stunts the proportions of the upper storey of the Samman Burj.

[8] This question is discussed at length in an article by the author, entitled “The Taj and its Designers,” published in the June number of the Nineteenth Century and After, 1903.

[9] Tavernier says twenty-two years probably including all the accessory buildings.

[10] The present garden is a jungle, planted by a European overseer without any understanding or feeling for the ideas of the Mogul artists.  The overgrown trees entirely block out the view of the mosques on either side, which are an essential part of the whole composition, serving as supporters to the slender, detached minarets.  I understand, however, that it is intended to remove some of the more obstructive of the larger trees; but the avenue of cypress trees, which perished from drought some years ago, has been replanted on lines which eventually will clash seriously with the architectural composition.

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