Entering the enclosure, and walking along the avenue of cypress-trees, one obtains his first view of the great dome of the Taj. It looks like about three-fourths of a globe, capped with a slender spire. From this point, through the trees, may be seen a forest of minarets, cupolas, towers, and inferior domes. The mausoleum is in the form of an irregular octagon, the longest side being one hundred and twenty feet in length. Each facade has a lofty Saracenic arch, in which is an entrance.
The interior surpasses the exterior in magnificence, the ceiling, walls, and tombstones being a mass of mosaics. The resting-place of the empress and Shah Jehan is in the centre of the edifice, enclosed by a marble screen. Some experts who have examined the building thoroughly are unable to find any architectural faults, though perhaps others would be more successful. The party visited several other mosques and mausoleums; but nothing could compare with the Taj. The commander suggested that they ought to have visited it last, as the pie or pudding comes in after the fish or meats at Von Blonk Park.
The members of the party were unable to say enough in praise of the Taj, and no one seems to be in danger of exaggerating its beauty and its wonders. On their return to the hotel, they seated themselves in their parlor, and talked till dinner-time about the mausoleum, for they had many questions to ask of the viscount and the Hindu gentleman.
“There seemed to be two other mosques back of the mausoleum,” said Mrs. Belgrave; “we did not visit them.”
“The Mohammedan traditions require that a mosque should be erected in connection with every mortuary temple,” replied Sir Modava. “Isa Mohammed, a later emperor, built one at the western end of the terrace. It was a beautiful building with three domes, in keeping with the Taj. But the builder found that it gave a one-sided appearance to the view; and he erected the one on the east end, to balance the other and restore the proportions. Either of them is equal to the finest mosque in Cairo or Constantinople.”
“That was an expensive method of making things regular,” added the commander. “Some one spoke in Delhi of a durbar in connection with Agra. I think it was Mr. Meerza.”
General Noury laughed at this title; for it sounded funny to him, applied to an Oriental, and the captain had forgotten the rest of the name.
“Abbas-Meerza, we call him, without any ‘mister,’” he added.
“I will try to remember it,” replied the commander. “But what is a durbar? Is it something good to eat?”