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Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.
Influence of Electricity on Vegetation—Agra and its Buildings

On the 30th and 31st,[1] we went twenty-four miles over a dry plain, with a sandy soil covered with excellent crops where irrigated, and a very poor one where not. We met several long strings of camels carrying grain from Agra to Gwālior.

A single man takes charge of twenty or thirty, holding the bridle of the first, and walking on before its nose. The bridles of all the rest are tied one after the other to the saddles of those immediately preceding them, and all move along after the leader in single file.

Water must tend to attract and to impart to vegetables a good deal of electricity and other vivifying powers that would otherwise he dormant in the earth at a distance. The mere circumstance of moistening the earth from within reach of the roots would not be sufficient to account for the vast difference between the crops of fields that are irrigated, and those that are not.

One day, in the middle of the season of the rains, I asked my gardener, while walking with him over my grounds, how it was that some of the fine clusters of bamboos had not yet begun to throw out their shoots.

'We have not yet had a thunderstorm, sir,' replied the gardener.

'What in the name of God has the thunderstorm to do with the shooting of the bamboos?' asked I in amazement.

'I don't know, sir,' said he, 'but certain it is that no bamboos begin to throw out their shoots well till we get a good deal of thunder and lightning.'

The thunder and lightning came, and the bamboo shoots soon followed in abundance. It might have been a mere coincidence; or the tall bamboo may bring down from the passing clouds, and convey to the roots, the electric fluid they require for nourishment, or for conductors of nourishment.[2]

In the Isle of France,[3] people have a notion that the mushrooms always come up best after a thunderstorm. Electricity has certainly much more to do in the business of the world than we are yet aware of, in the animal, mineral, and vegetable developments.[4]

At our ground this day, I met a very respectable and intelligent native revenue officer who had been employed to settle some boundary disputes between the yeomen of our territory and those of the adjoining territory of Dhōlpur.

'The Honourable Company's rights and those of its yeomen must', said he, 'be inevitably sacrificed in all such cases; for the Dhōlpur chief, or his minister, says to all their witnesses.

"You are, of course, expected to speak the truth regarding the land in dispute; but, by the sacred stream of the Ganges, if you speak so as to lose this estate one inch of it, you lose both your ears"—and most assuredly would they lose them,' continued he, 'if they were not to swear most resolutely that all the land in question belonged to Dhōlpur. Had I the same power to cut off the ears of witnesses on our side, we should meet on equal terms. Were I to threaten to cut them off, they would laugh in my face.'

There was much truth in what the poor man said, for the Dhōlpur witnesses always make it appear that the claims of their yeomen are just and moderate, and a salutary dread of losing their ears operates, no doubt, very strongly. The threatened punishment of the prince is quick, while that of the gods, however just, is certainly very slow—

Ut sit magna, tamen certe lenta ira deorum est.

On the 1st of January, 1836, we went on sixteen miles to Agra, and, when within about six miles of the city, the dome and minarets of the Tāj opened upon us from behind a small grove of fruit- trees, close by us on the side of the road. The morning was not clear, but it was a good one for a first sight of this building, which appeared larger through the dusty haze than it would have done through a clear sky. For five-and-twenty years of my life had I been looking forward to the sight now before me.

Of no building on earth had I heard so much as of this, which contains the remains of the Emperor Shāh Jahān and his wife, the father and mother of the children whose struggles for dominion have been already described. We had ordered our tents to be pitched in the gardens of this splendid mausoleum, that we might have our fill of the enjoyment which everybody seemed to derive from it; and we reached them about eight o'clock.

I went over the whole building before I entered my tent, and, from the first sight of the dome and minarets on the distant horizon to the last glance back from my tent-ropes to the magnificent gateway that forms the entrance from our camp to the quadrangle in which they stand, I can truly say that everything surpassed my expectations.

I at first thought the dome formed too large a portion of the whole building; that its neck was too long and too much exposed; and that the minarets were too plain in their design; but, after going repeatedly over every part, and examining the tout ensemble from all possible positions, and in all possible lights, from that of the full moon at midnight in a cloudless sky to that of the noonday sun, the mind seemed to repose in the calm persuasion that there was an entire harmony of parts, a faultless congregation of architectural beauties, on which it could dwell for ever without fatigue.

After my quarter of a century of anticipated pleasure, I went on from part to part in the expectation that I must by and by come to something that would disappoint me; but no, the emotion which one feels at first is never impaired; on the contrary, it goes on improving from the first coup d'œil of the dome in the distance to the minute inspection of the last flower upon the screen round the tomb.

One returns and returns to it with undiminished pleasure; and though at every return one's attention to the smaller parts becomes less and less, the pleasure which he derives from the contemplation of the greater, and of the whole collectively, seems to increase; and he leaves with a feeling of regret that he could not have it all his life within his reach, and of assurance that the image of what he has seen can never be obliterated from his mind 'while memory holds her seat'.

I felt that it was to me in architecture what Kemble and his sister, Mrs. Siddons, had been to me a quarter of a century before in acting—something that must stand alone—something that I should never cease to see clearly in my mind's eye, and yet never be able clearly to describe to others.[5]

The Emperor and his Queen he buried side by side in a vault beneath the building, to which we descend by a flight of steps. Their remains are covered by two slabs of marble; and directly over these slabs, upon the floor above, in the great centre room under the dome, stand two other slabs, or cenotaphs, of the same marble exquisitely worked in mosaic.

Upon that of the Queen, amid wreaths of flowers, are worked in black letters passages from the Korān, one of which, at the end facing the entrance, terminates with 'And defend us from the tribe of unbelievers'; that very tribe which is now gathered from all quarters of the civilized world to admire the splendour of the tomb which was raised to perpetuate her name.[6] On the slab over her husband there are no passages from the Korān—merely mosaic work of flowers with his name and the date of his death.[7]

I asked some of the learned Muhammadan attendants the cause of this difference, and was told that Shāh Jahān had himself designed the slab over his wife, and saw no harm in inscribing the words of God upon it; but that the slab over himself was designed by his more pious son, Aurangzēb, who did not think it right to place these holy words upon a stone which the foot of man might some day touch, though that stone covered the remains of his own father.

Such was this 'man of prayers', this 'Namāzī' (as Dara called him), to the last. He knew mankind well, and, above all, that part of them which he was called upon to govern, and which he governed for forty years with so much ability.[8]

The slab over the Queen occupies the centre of the apartments above and in the vault below, and that over her husband lies on the left as we enter. At one end of the slab in the vault her name is inwrought, 'Mumtāz-i-mahal Bānū Bēgam', the ornament of the palace, Bānū Bēgam, and the date of her death, 1631. That of her husband and the date of his death, 1666, are inwrought upon the other.[9]

She died in giving birth to a daughter, who is said to have been heard crying in the womb by herself and her other daughters. She sent for the Emperor, and told him that she believed no mother had ever been known to survive the birth of a child so heard, and that she felt her end was near. She had, she said, only two requests to make; first, that he would not marry again after her death, and get children to contend with hers for his favour and dominions; and, secondly, that he would build for her the tomb with which he had promised to perpetuate her name.

She died in giving birth to the child, as might have been expected when the Emperor, in his anxiety, called all the midwives of the city, and all his secretaries of state and privy counsellors to prescribe for her. Both her dying requests were granted. Her tomb was commenced upon immediately. No woman ever pretended to supply her place in the palace; nor had Shāh Jahān, that we know of, children by any other.[10]

Tavernier saw this building completed and finished; and tells us that it occupied twenty thousand men for twenty-two years.[11] The mausoleum itself and all the buildings that appertain to it cost 3,17,48,026—three karōr, seventeen lākhs, forty-eight thousand and twenty-six rupees, or £3,174,802 sterling;—three million one hundred and seventy-four thousand eight hundred and two![12]

I asked my wife, when she had gone over it, what she thought of the building.

'I cannot', said she, 'tell you what I think, for I know not how to criticize such a building, but I can tell you what I feel. I would die to-morrow to have such another over me.'

This is what many a lady has felt, no doubt.

The building stands upon the north side of a large quadrangle, looking down into the clear blue stream of the river Jumna, while the other three sides are enclosed with a high wall of red sandstone.[13] The entrance to this quadrangle is through a magnificent gateway in the south side opposite the tomb; and on the other two sides are very beautiful mosques facing inwards, and corresponding exactly with each other in size, design, and execution.

That on the left, or west, side is the only one that can be used as a mosque or church; because the faces of the audience, and those of all men at their prayers, must be turned towards the tomb of their prophet to the west. The pulpit is always against the dead wall at the back, and the audience face towards it, standing with their backs to the open front of the building.

The church on the east side is used for the accommodation of visitors, or for any secular purpose, and was built merely as a 'jawāb' (answer) to the real one.[14] The whole area is laid out in square parterres, planted with flowers and shrubs in the centre, and with fine trees, chiefly the cypress, all round the borders, forming an avenue to every road. These roads are all paved with slabs of freestone, and have, running along the centre, a basin, with a row of jets d'eau in the middle from one extremity to the other.

These are made to play almost every evening, when the gardens are much frequented by the European gentlemen and ladies of the station, and by natives of all religions and sects. The quadrangle is from east to west nine hundred and sixty-four feet, and from north to south three hundred and twenty-nine.[l5]

The mausoleum itself, the terrace upon which it stands, and the minarets, are all formed of the finest white marble, inlaid with precious stones. The wall around the quadrangle, including the river face of the terrace, is made of red sandstone, with cupolas and pillars of the same white marble. The insides of the churches and apartments in and upon the walls are all lined with marble or with stucco work that looks like marble; but, on the outside, the red sandstone resembles uncovered bricks.

The dazzling white marble of the mausoleum itself rising over the red wall is apt, at first sight, to make a disagreeable impression, from the idea of a whitewashed head to an unfinished building; but this impression is very soon removed, and tends, perhaps, to improve that which is afterwards received from a nearer inspection. The marble was all brought from the Jeypore territories upon wheeled carriages, a distance, I believe, of two or three hundred miles; and the sandstone from the neighbourhood of Dhōlpur and Fathpur Sīkrī.[16]

Shāh Jāhan is said to have inherited his partiality for this colour from his grandfather, Akbar, who constructed almost all his buildings from the same stone, though he might have had the beautiful white freestone at the same cost. What was figuratively said of Augustus may be most literally said of Shāh Jahān; he found the cities (Agra and Delhi) all brick, and left them all marble; for all the marble buildings, and additions to buildings, were formed by him.[17]

This magnificent building and the palaces at Agra and Delhi were, I believe, designed by Austin de Bordeaux, a Frenchman of great talent and merit, in whose ability and integrity the Emperor placed much reliance. He was called by the natives 'Ustān [sic] Isā, Nādir-ul-asr', 'the wonderful of the age'; and, for his office of 'naksha navīs', or plan-drawer, he received a regular salary of one thousand rupees a month, with occasional presents, that made his income very large.

He had finished the palace at Delhi, and the mausoleum and palace of Agra; and was engaged in designing a silver ceiling for one of the galleries in the latter, when he was sent by the Emperor to settle some affairs of great importance at Goa. He died at Cochin on his way back, and is supposed to have been poisoned by the Portuguese, who were extremely jealous of his influence at court. He left a son by a native, called Muhammad Sharīf, who was employed as an architect on a salary of five hundred rupees a month, and who became, as I conclude from his name, a Musalmān.

Shāh Jahān had commenced his own tomb on the opposite side of the Jumna; and both were to have been united by a bridge.[18] The death of Austin de Bordeaux, and the wars between his [scil. Shāh Jahān's] sons that followed prevented the completion of these magnificent works.[19]

We were encamped upon a fine green sward outside the entrance to the south, in a kind of large court, enclosed by a high cloistered wall, in which all our attendants and followers found shelter. Colonel and Mrs. King, and some other gentlemen, were encamped in the same place, and for the same purpose; and we had a very agreeable party.

The band of our friend Major Godby's regiment played sometimes in the evening upon the terrace of the Tāj; but, of all the complicated music ever heard upon earth, that of a flute blown gently in the vault below, where the remains of the Emperor and his consort repose, as the sound rises to the dome amidst a hundred arched alcoves around, and descends in heavenly reverberations upon those who sit or recline upon the cenotaphs above the vault, is, perhaps, the finest to an inartificial car.

We feel as if it were from heaven, and breathed by angels; it is to the ear what the building itself is to the eye; but, unhappily, it cannot, like the building, live in our recollections. All that we can, in after life, remember is that it was heavenly, and produced heavenly emotions.

We went all over the palace in the fort, a very magnificent building constructed by Shāh Jahān within fortifications raised by his grandfather Akbar.[20]

The fretwork and mosaic upon the marble pillars and panels are equal to those of the Tāj; or, if possible, superior; nor is the design or execution in any respect inferior, and yet a European feels that he could get a house much more commodious, and more to his taste, for a much less sum than must have been expended upon it.

The Marquis of Hastings, when Governor-General of India, broke up one of the most beautiful marble baths of this palace to send home to George IV of England, then Prince Regent, and the rest of the marble of the suite of apartments from which it had been taken, with all its exquisite fretwork and mosaic, was afterwards sold by auction, on account of our Government, by order of the then Governor-General, Lord W. Bentinck. Had these things fetched the price expected, it is probable that the whole of the palace, and even the Tāj itself, would have been pulled down, and sold in the same manner.[21]

We visited the Motī Masjid or Pearl Mosque. It was built by Shāh Jahān, entirely of white marble; and completed, as we learn from an inscription on the portico, in the year A.D. 1656.[22] There is no mosaic upon any of the pillars or panels of this mosque; but the design and execution of the flowers in bas- relief are exceedingly beautiful.

It is a chaste, simple, and majestic building;[23] and is by some people admired even more than the Tāj, because they have heard less of it; and their pleasure is heightened by surprise. We feel that it is to all other mosques what the Tāj is to all other mausoleums, a facile princeps.

Few, however, go to see the 'mosque of pearls' more than once, stay as long as they will at Agra; and when they go, the building appears less and less to deserve their admiration; while they go to the Tāj as often as they can, and find new beauties in it, or new feelings of pleasure from it, every time[24]

I went out to visit this tomb of the Emperor Akbar at Sikandara, a magnificent building, raised over him by his son, the Emperor Jahāngīr. His remains he deposited in a deep vault under the centre, and are covered by a plain slab of marble, without fretwork or mosaic.

On the top of the building, which is three or four stories high, is another marble slab, corresponding with the one in the vault below.[25] This is beautifully carved, with the 'nau nauwē nām'-the ninety-nine names, or attributes of the Deity, from the Korān.[26] It is covered by an awning, not to protect the tomb, but to defend the 'words of God' from the rain, as my cicerone assured me.[27]

He told me that the attendants upon this tomb used to have the hay of the large quadrangle of forty acres in which it stands,[28] in addition to their small salaries, and that it yielded them some fifty rupees a year; but the chief native officer of the Tāj establishment demanded half of the sum, and when they refused to give him so much, he persuaded his master, the European engineer, with much difficulty, to take all this hay for the public cattle.

'And why could you not adjust such a matter between you, without pestering the engineer?'

'Is not this the way', said he, with emotion, 'that Hindustan has cut its own throat, and brought in the stranger at all times? Have they ever had, or can they ever have, confidence in each other, or let each other alone to enjoy the little they have in peace?'

Considering all the circumstances of time and place, Akbar has always appeared to me among sovereigns what Shakespeare was among poets; and, feeling as a citizen of the world, I reverenced the marble slab that covers his bones more, perhaps, than I should that over any other sovereign with whose history I am acquainted.[29]


1. December, 1835.

2. It is not, perhaps, generally known, though it deserves to be so, that the bamboo seeds only once, and dies immediately after seeding. All bamboos from the same seed die at the same time, whenever they may have been planted. The life of the common large bamboo is about fifty years. [W. H. S.] The period is said to vary between thirty and sixty years. Bamboo seed is eaten as rice when obtainable. The author's theories about electricity are more ingenious than satisfactory.

3. Better known as the Mauritius.

4. This proposition may be accepted with confidence. Electricity is a great mystery, which becomes more mysterious the more it is studied.

5. A letter of the author's, dated 13th March, 1809, is extant, in which he gives a full description of the performance of Macbeth at the Haymarket by Kemble and Mrs. Siddons on Saturday, 11th March. The author sailed in the Devonshire on the 24th March.

6. No European had ever before, I believe, noted this, [W. H. S.] Moīn-ud-dīn (p. 49) says that this phrase, 'Thou art our patron, help as therefore against the unbelieving nations,' is from the long chapter 2 ('The Cow') of the Korān, but I have not succeeded in finding the exact words in Sale's version of that chapter.

I suspect that the words have been misread. Moīn-ud- dīn gives as the words at the north side of the tomb, script characters 'the unbelieving nations', whereas Muh. Latīf (Agra, p. 111) says that the words 'on the head of the sarcophagus' are script characters 'He is the everlasting. He is sufficient.' It will be observed that the characters in the two readings are almost identical.

7. The Empress had been a good deal exasperated against the Portuguese and Dutch by the treatment her husband received from them when a fugitive, after an unsuccessful rebellion against his father; and her hatred to them extended, in some degree, to all Christians, whom she considered to be included in the term 'Kāfir', or unbeliever. [W. H. S.] Prince Shāh Jahān (Khurram) rebelled against his father, Jahāngīr, in A.D. 1623, and submitted in A.D. 1625.

The terrible punishment inflicted by Shāh Jahān when Emperor on the Portuguese of Hūgli (Hooghly) is related by Bernier (Constable's ed., pp. 177, 287). The Emperor had previously destroyed the Jesuits' church at Lahore completely, and the greater part of the church at Agra.

8. The cleverness, astuteness, energy, and business capacity of Aurangzēb are undoubted, and yet his long reign was a disastrous failure. The author reflects the praises of Muhammadans who cherish the memory of the 'namāzī'. The Emperor himself knew better when, in his old ago, he wrote to his son Azam the pathetic words, 'I have not done well by the country or its people.

My years have gone by profitless' (Lane-Poole's version in Aurangzib (Rulers of India), p. 203. Letter No. 72 in Bilimoria, Letters of Aurungzbe, Bombay, 1908. Another version in E. and D. vii, 562.) His reign lasted for almost forty-nine years, from June 1658 to February 1707, and not for only forty years.

9. The real tombs are in the vault below. Beautiful cenotaphs stand under the dome. The inscription on the tomb of the Empress is exactly repeated on her cenotaph, and runs thus:-

'The splendid sepulchre of Arjumand Bānō Bēgam, entitled Mumtāz Mahall, deceased in the year 1040 Hijrī.'

The epitaph on Shāh Jahān's tomb is as follows:-

'The sacred sepulchre of His Moat Exalted Majesty, nesting in Paradise, the Second Lord of the Conjunction, Shāh Jahān, the Emperor. May his mausoleum ever flourish. Year 1076 Hijrī.'

The inscription on Shāh Jahān's cenotaph adds more titles and gives the exact date of death as 'the night of Rajab 28, A.H. 1076'. 1040 Hījrī corresponds with the period from July 31, A.D. 1630 to July 19, 1631; and 1076 Hijrī with the period July 4, A. D. 1665 to June 23, 1666, Old Style. The dates in New Style would be ten days later.

The epithet 'nesting in Paradise' (firdaus āshiyānī) was the official posthumous title of Shāh Jahān, frequently used by historians instead of his name.

The title 'Second Lord of the Conjunction' means that Shāh Jahān was held to have been born under the fortunate conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, as his ancestor Tīmūr had been.

10. The details in the text are inaccurate. Arjumand Bānō Bēgam, daughter of Āsaf Khān, brother of Nūr Jahān, the queen of Jahāngīr, was born in A.D. 1592, married in 1612, and died July 7, 1631 (o.s.), at Burhānpur in the Deccan. After a delay of six months her remains were removed to Agra, and there rested six months longer at a spot in the Tāj gardens still remembered, until her tomb was sufficiently advanced for the final interment. Her titles were Mumtāz-i-Mahall, 'Exalted in the Palace'; Qudsia Bēgam, and Nawāb Aliyā Bēgam. She bore her husband eight sons and six daughters, fourteen children in all, of whom seven were alive at the time of her death. The child whose birth cost the mother's life was Gauharārā Bēgam, who survived for many years (Irvine, Storia do Mogor, iv. 425). Beale wrongly gives her name as Dahar Ārā.

Shāh Jahān, two years before his union with Arjumand Bāno Bēgam, had been married to a Persian princess, by whom he had a daughter who died young. Five and a half years after his marriage to Arjumand Bāno Bēgam, he espoused a third wife, daughter of Shāh Nawāz Khān, by whom he had a son, who died in infancy. This third marriage was dictated by motives of policy, and did not impair the Emperor's devotion to his favourite consort (Muh. Latīf, Agra, p. 101).

11. The testimony of Tavernier is doubtless correct if understood as referring to the whole complex of buildings connected with the mausoleum. He visited Agra several times. He left India in January, 1654, returning to the country in 1659. Work on the Tāj began in 1632, and so appears to have been completed about the close of, 1653 (Tavernier, Travels, transl. Ball, vol. i, pp. xxi, xxii, 25, 110, 142, 149).

The latest dated inscription, that of the calligraphist Amānat Khan at the entrance to the domed mausoleum, was recorded in the twelfth year of the reign, A.H. 1048, equivalent to A.D. 1638-9. That year may be taken as the date of the completion of the mausoleum itself, as distinguished from the great mass of supplementary structures.

12. Various records of the cost differ enormously, apparently because they refer to different things. If all the buildings and the vast value of the materials be included, the highest estimate, namely, four and a half millions of pounds sterling, in round numbers, is not excessive (H.F.A., 1911, p. 415) The figures are recorded with minute accuracy as 411 lākhs, 48,826 rupees, 7 annas, and 6 pies. A karōr (crore) is 100 lākhs, or 10 millions.

13. The enclosure occupies a space of more than forty-two acres.

14. This statement, though commonly made, is erroneous. The building is named the 'assembly house' (jamā'at khāna), or 'guest-house' (mihmān khāna) and was intended as the place for the congregation to assemble before prayers, or on the anniversaries of the deaths of the Emperor Shāh Jahān or his consort. Tāj Mahal (Muh. Latīf, Agra, p. 113). Of course, it also serves as an architectural balance for the mosque.

15. The gardens of the Tāj have been much improved since the author's time, and are now under the care of a skilled European superintendent, and full of beautiful shrubs and trees. The author's measurements of the quadrangle seem to be wrong. Different figures are given by Moīn-ud-dīn (Hist. of the Tāj, p. 29) and Fergusson (ed. 1910, vol. ii, p. 313). No official survey is available.

16. The white marble that forms the substance of the building came, Mr. Keene thinks, from Makrāna near Jaipur, but according to Mr. Hacket (Records of the Geographical Survey of India, x. 84), from Raiwāla in Jaipur, near the Alwar border [note].

The account of these marbles given in the Rājputāna Gazetteer, 1st ed. (ii. 127) favours Mr. Keene's view' (N.W.P. Gazetteer, 1st ed., vol. vii, p. 707). The ornamental stones used for the inlay work in the Tāj are lapis lazuli, jasper, heliotrope, Chalcedon agate, chalcedony, cornelian, sarde, plasma (or quartz and chlorite), yellow and striped marble, clay slate, and nephrite, or jade (Dr. Voysey, in Asiatic Researches, vol. xv, p. 429, quoted by V. Bail in Records of the Geological Survey of India, vii. 109). Moīn-ud- dīn (pp. 27-9) gives a longer list, from the custodians' Persian account.

17. There is some exaggeration in this statement. Shāh Jahān's concern was with his wife's tomb, and his fortified palaces, more than with 'the cities'.

18. Sleeman's talk about Austin de Bordeaux is wholly based on his misreading of Ustān for Ustād, meaning 'Master', in the Persian account, which names Muhammed-i- Īsā Afandi (Effendi) as the chief designer. He had the title of Ustād, and some versions represent Muhammad Sharīf, the second draughtsman, as his son.

Muhammad, the son of Īsā ('Jesus'), apparently was a Turk. He had the Turkish title of 'Effendi', and the Persian MS. used by Moīn- ud-dīn asserts that he came from Turkey. The same authority states that Muhammad Sharīf was a native of Samarkand.

Austin de Bordeaux was wholly distinct from Muhammad-i- Īsā, Ustād Afandi, and there is no reason to suppose that he had anything to do with the Tāj. Sleeman's story about his work at Agra and his death comes from Tavernier (i. 108, transl. Ball: see next note).

Austin was in the service of Jahāngīr as early as 1621, and probably came out to India from Persia in 1614. He is described as an engineer (ingénieur), and is recorded to have made a golden throne for Jahāngīr (J.R.A.S., 1910, pp. 494, 1343-5).

Sleeman's misreading of ustād as ustān, and his consequent blunders, have misled innumerable writers. In cursive Persian the misreading is easy and natural. He took Ustān as intended for 'Austin'. Certain marks in the garden on the other side of the river indicate the spot where Shāh Jahān had begun work on his own tomb. Aurangzēb, as Tavernier observes, was 'not disposed to complete it' (see A.S.R., iv. 180).

For a summary of the controversy concerning the alleged share of Geronimo Veroneo in the design of the Tāj, see H.F.A., 1911, pp. 416-18. Personally, I am of opinion, as I was more than twenty years ago, that 'the incomparable Tāj is the product of a combination of European and Asiatic genius'. That opinion makes some people very angry.

19. I would not be thought very positive upon this point, I think I am right, but feel that I may be wrong. Tavernier says that Shāh Jahān was obliged to give up his intention of completing a silver ceiling to the great hall in the palace, because Austin de Bordeaux had been killed, and no other person could venture to attempt it. Ustān [sic] Īsā, in all the Persian accounts, stands first among the salaried architects. [W. H. S.]

Tavernier's words are, 'Shāh Jahān had intended to cover the arch of a great gallery which is on the right hand with silver, and a Frenchman, named Augustin de Bordeaux, was to have done the work. But the Great Mogul, seeing there was no one in his kingdom who was more capable to send to Goa to negotiate an affair with the Portuguese, the work was not done, for, as the ability of Augustin was feared, he was poisoned on his return from Cochin.' (Tavernier, transl. Ball, vol. i, p. 108. )

The statement that Austin had 'finished the palace at Delhi, and the mausoleum and palace of Agra' is not warranted by any evidence known to the editor.

20. Akbar erected his works on the site of an older fort, named Bādalgarh, presumably of Hindu origin, 'which was of brick, and had become ruinous.' No existing building within the precincts can be referred with certainty to an earlier date than that of Akbar. The erection began in A.H. 972, corresponding to A.D. 1564-5, and the work continued for eight (or, according to another authority, four) years, costing 3,500,000 rupees, or about £350,000 sterling. The walls are of rubble, faced with red sandstone.

The best account is the article by Nūr Baksh, entitled 'The Agra Fort and its Buildings', in A.S. Ann. Rep., 1903-4, pp. 164-93.

21. It is difficult to understand how men like the Marquis of Hastings and Lord William Bentinck could have been guilty of such barbarous stupidity. But the fact is beyond doubt, and numberless officials of less exalted rank must share the disgrace of the ruin and spoliation, which, both at Agra and Delhi, have destroyed two noble palaces, and left but a few disconnected fragments.

Fergusson's indignant protests (History of Indian and Eastern Architecture, ed. 1910, vol. ii, p. 312, &c.) are none too strong. Sir John Strachey, who was Lieutenant-Governor of the North- Western Provinces in 1876, is entitled to the credit of having done all that lay in his power to remedy the effects of the parsimony and neglect of his predecessors. The buildings which remain at both Agra and Delhi are now well cared for, and large sums are spent yearly on their reparation and conservation. The credit for the modern policy of reverence for the ancient monuments is due to Lord Curzon more than to any one else.

22. This date is erroneous. The inscription is dated A.H. 1063, in the 26th year of Shāh Jahān, equivalent practically to A.D. 1653. It is given in full, with both text and translation, in A.S. Ann. Rep. for 1903-4, p. 183. It states that the building was erected in the course of seven years at a cost of 300,000 rupees, which = £33,750, at the rate of 2s. 3d. to the rupee current at the time. Errors on the subject disfigure most of the guide-books and other works commonly read.

23. The beauty of the Motī Masjid, like that of most mosques, is all internal. The exterior is ugly. The interior deserves all praise. Fergusson describes this mosque as 'one of the purest and most elegant buildings of its class to be found anywhere', and truly observes that 'the moment you enter by the eastern gateway the effect of its courtyard is surpassingly beautiful'. 'I hardly know anywhere', he adds, 'of a building so perfectly pure and elegant.' (Ind. and E. Arch., ed. 1910, vol. ii, p. 317. See also H.F.A., p. 412, fig. 242.)

24. I would, however, here enter my humble protest against the quadrille and tiffin [scil. lunch] parties, which are sometimes given to the European ladies and gentlemen of the station at this imperial tomb; drinking and dancing are, no doubt, very good things in their season, even in a hot climate, but they are sadly out of place in a sepulchre, and never fail to shock the good feelings of sober-minded people when given there. Good church music gives us great pleasure, without exciting us to dancing or drinking; the Tāj does the same, at least to the sober-minded. [W. H. S.]

The regulations now in force prevent any unseemly proceedings. The gardens at the Tāj, of Itimād-ud-daula's tomb, of Akbar's mausoleum at Sikandara, and the Rām Bāgh, are kept up by means of income derived from crown lands, aided by liberal grants from Government.

25. The anthor's curiously meagre description of the magnificent mausoleum of Akbar is, in the original edition, supplemented by coloured plates, prepared apparently from drawings by Indian artists. The structure is absolutely unique, being a square pyramid of five stories, the uppermost of which is built of pure white marble, while the four lower ones are of red sandstone.

All earlier descriptions of the building have been superseded by the posthumous work of E. W. Smith, a splendidly illustrated quarto, entitled, Akbar's Tomb, Sikandarah, Agra, Allahabad Government Press, 1909, being vol. xxxv of A. S. India. Work had been begun in the lifetime of Akbar. The lower part of the enclosing wall of the park dates from his reign.

The whole of the mausoleum itself probably is to be assigned to the reign of Jahāngīr, who in 1608 disapproved of the structure which had been three or four years in course of erection, and caused the design to be altered to please himself. The work was finished in 1613 at a cost of five millions of rupees (50 lākhs, more than half a million of pounds sterling).

The exquisitely carved cenotaph on the top story is inadequately described by Sleeman as 'another marble slab'. It is a single block of marble 3¼ feet high. The tomb in the vault 'is perfectly plain with the exception of a few mouldings'.

26. The ninety-nine names of God do not occur in the Korān. They are enumerated in chapter 1 of Book X of the 'Mishkāt-ul-Masābih' (see note 10, Chapter 5 ante):

'Abū Hurairah said, "Verily there are ninety- nine names for God; and whoever counts them shall enter into paradise. He is Allaho, than which there is no other; Al- Rahmān-ul-Rahīmo, the compassionate and merciful," &c., &c.' (Matthews, vol. i, p. 542.)

The list is reproduced in the introduction to Palmer's translation of the Korān, and in Bosworth-Smith, Muhammad and Muhammadanism.

27. The court, 70 feet square, of the topmost story, is open to the sky, but the original intention was to provide a light dome, presumably similar to that built a little later to crown the mausoleum of Itimād-ud-daula. Finch, the traveller, who was at Agra about 1611, was informed that the cenotaph was 'to be inarched over with the most curious white and speckled marble, and to be seeled all within with pure sheet gold, richly inwrought.' The reason for omitting the dome is not recorded.

28. The area is much larger than 40 acres, being really about 150 acres. Each side is approximately 3½ furlongs.

29. This remarkable eulogium is quoted with approval by another enthusiastic admirer of Akbar, Count von Noer (Prince Frederick Augustus of Schleswig-Holstein), who observes that 'as Akbar was unique amongst his contemporaries, so was his place of burial among Indian tombs—indeed, one may say with confidence, among the sepulchres of Asia.' (The Emperor Akbar, a Contribution towards the History of India in the 16th Century, by Frederick Augustus, Count of Noer; edited from the Author's papers by Dr. Gustav von Buchwald; translated from the German by Annette S. Beveridge. Calcutta, 1890.)

This work of Count von Noer, unsatisfactory though it is in many respects, is still the best exiting modern account of Akbar's reign. The competent scholar who will undertake the exhaustive treatment of the life and reign of Akbar will be in possession of perhaps the finest great historical subject as yet unappropriated. The editor long cherished the idea of writing such an exhaustive work, but if he should now attempt to deal with the fascinating theme, he must be content with a less ambitions performance.

Colonel Malleson's little book in the 'Rulers of India' series, although serviceable as a sketch, adds nothing to the world's knowledge. Akbar's reign (1556-1605) was almost exactly coincident with that of Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603). The character and deeds of the Indian monarch will bear criticism as well as those of his great English contemporary.

'In dealing', observes Mr. Lane-Poole, 'with the difficulties arising in the Government of a peculiarly heterogeneous empire, he stands absently supreme among Oriental sovereigns, and may even challenge comparison with the greatest of European rulers.'

Unhappily, there is reason to believe that the marble slab no longer covers the bones of Akbar. Manucci states positively that 'During the time that Aurangzēb was actively at war with Shivā Jī [scil. the Marāthās], the villagers of whom I spoke before broke into the mausoleum in the year 1691 [in words], and after stealing all the stones and all the gold work to be found, extracted the king's bones and had the temerity to throw them on a fire and burn them' (Storia do Mogor, i. 142).

The statement is repeated with some additional particulars in a later passage, which concludes with the words: 'Dragging out the bones of Akbar, they threw them angrily into the fire and burnt them' (ibid. ii. 320).

Irvine notes that the plundering of the tomb by the Jāts is mentioned in detail by only one other writer, Ishar Dās Nāgar, author of the Fatūhāt-I- Alamgīrī, a manuscript in the British Museum. Manucci seems to be the sole authority for the alleged burning of Akbar's bones. I should be glad to disbelieve him, but cannot find any reason for doing so.

The book




1893 1915




Annual Fairs held on the Banks of Sacred Streams in India


Hindoo System of Religion


Legend of the Nerbudda River


A Suttee on the Nerbudda


Marriages of Trees—The Tank and the Plantain—Meteors—Rainbows


Hindoo Marriages


The Purveyance System


Religious Sects—Self-government of the Castes—Chimneysweepers—Washerwomen —Elephant Drivers


The Great Iconoclast—Troops routed by Hornets—The Rānī of Garhā—Hornets' Nests in India


The Peasantry and the Land Settlement




The Silver Tree, or 'Kalpa Briksha'—The 'Singhāra', or Trapa bispinosa, and the Guinea-Worm


Thugs and Poisoners


Basaltic Cappings of the Sandstone Hills of Central India—Suspension Bridge—Prospects of the Nerbudda Valley—Deification of a Mortal


Legend of the Sāgar Lake—Paralysis from eating the Grain of the Lathyrus sativus


Suttee Tombs—Insalubrity of deserted Fortresses


Basaltic Cappings—Interview with a Native Chief—A Singular Character


Birds' Nests—Sports of Boyhood


Feeding Pilgrims—Marriage of a Stone with a Shrub


The Men-Tigers


Burning of Deorī by a Freebooter—A Suttee


Interview with the Rājā who marries the Stone to the Shrub—Order of the Moon and the Fish


The Rājā of Orchhā—Murder of his many Ministers


Corn Dealers—Scarcities—Famines in India


Epidemic Diseases—Scape-goat


Artificial Lakes in Bundēlkhand-Hindoo, Greek, and Roman Faith




Pestle-and-Mortar Sugar-Mills—Washing away of the Soil


Interview with the Chiefs of Jhānsī—Disputed Succession


Haunted Villages


Interview with the Rājā of Datiyā—Fiscal Errors of Statesmen—Thieves and Robbers by Profession


Sporting at Datiyā—Fidelity of Followers to their Chiefs in India—Law of Primogeniture wanting among Muhammadans




The Suicide-Relations between Parents and Children in India


Gwālior Plain once the Bed of a Lake—Tameness of Peacocks


Gwālior and its Government


Contest for Empire between the Sons of Shah Jahān


Aurangzēb and Murād Defeat their Father's Army near Ujain


Dārā Marches in Person against his Brothers, and is Defeated


Dārā Retreats towards Lahore—Is robbed by the Jāts—Their Character


Shāh Jahān Imprisoned by his Two Sons, Aurangzēb and Murād


Aurangzēb Throws off the Mask, Imprisons his Brother Murād, and Assumes the Government of the Empire


Aurangzēb Meets Shujā in Bengal, and Defeats him, after Pursuing Dārā to the Hyphasis


Aurangzēb Imprisons his Eldest Son—Shujā and all his Family are Destroyed


Second Defeat and Death of Dārā, and Imprisonment of his Two Sons


Death and Character of Amīr Jumla


Reflections on the Preceding History


The Great Diamond of Kohinūr


Pindhārī System—Character of the Marāthā Administration—Cause of their Dislike to the Paramount Power


Dhōlpur, Capital of the Jāt Chiefs of Gohad—Consequence of Obstacles to the Prosecution of Robbers


Influence of Electricity on Vegetation—Agra and its Buildings


Nūr Jahān, the Aunt of the Empress Nūr Mahal, over whose Remains the Tāj is built


Father Gregory's Notion of the Impediments to Conversion in India—Inability of Europeans to speak Eastern Languages


Fathpur-Sīkrī—The Emperor Akbar's Pilgrimage—Birth of Jahāngīr


Bharatpur—Dīg—Want of Employment for the Military and the Educated Classes under the Company's Rule


Govardhan, the Scene of Kriahna's Dalliance with the Milkmaids




Declining Fertility of the Soil—Popular Notion of the Cause


Concentration of Capital and its Effects


Transit Duties in India—Mode of Collecting them


Peasantry of India attached to no existing Government—Want of Trees in Upper India—Cause and Consequence—Wells and Groves


Public Spirit of the Hindoos—Tree Cultivation and Suggestions for extending it


Cities and Towns, formed by Public Establishments, disappear as Sovereigns and Governors change their Abodes


Murder of Mr. Fraser, and Execution of the Nawāb Shams-ud- dīn


Marriage of a Jāt Chief


Collegiate Endowment of Muhammadan Tombs and Mosques


The Old City of Delhi


New Delhi, or Shāhjahānābād


Indian Police—Its Defects—and their Cause and Remedy


Rent-free Tenures—Right of Government to Resume such Grants


The Station of Meerut—'Atālīs' who Dance and Sing gratuitously for the Benefit of the Poor


Subdivisions of Lands—Want of Gradations of Rank—Taxes


Meerut-Anglo-Indian Society


Pilgrims of India


The Bēgam Sumroo



Abolition of Corporal Punishment—Increase of Pay with Length of Service—Promotion by Seniority


Invalid Establishment


Thuggee and the part taken in its Suppression by General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B., by Captain J. L. Sleeman

Supplementary Note by the Editor

Additions and Corrections

Maps Showing Author's Route


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