top of page
Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.
Fathpur-Sīkrī—The Emperor Akbar's Pilgrimage—Birth of Jahāngīr

On the 6th January we left Agra, which soon after became the residence of the Governor of the North-Western Provinces, Sir Charles Metcalfe.[1] It was, when I was there, the residence of a civil commissioner, a judge, a magistrate, a collector of land revenue, a collector of customs, and all their assistants and establishments. A brigadier commands the station, which contained a park of artillery, one regiment of European and four regiments of native infantry.[2]

Near the artillery practice-ground, we passed the tomb of Jodh Bāī, the wife of the Emperor Akbar, and the mother of Jahāngīr. She was of Rājpūt caste, daughter of the Hindoo chief of Jodhpur, a very beautiful, and, it is said, a very amiable woman.[3]

The Mogul Emperors, though Muhammadans, were then in the habit of taking their wives from among the Rājpūt princes of the country, with a view to secure their allegiance. The tomb itself is in ruins, having only part of the dome standing, and the walls and magnificent gateway that at one time surrounded it have been all taken away and sold by a thrifty Government, or appropriated to purposes of more practical utility.[4]

I have heard many Muhammadans say that they could trace the decline of their empire in Hindustan to the loss of the Rājpūt blood in the veins of their princes.[5] 'Better blood' than that of the Rājpūts of India certainly never flowed in the veins of any human beings; or, what is the same thing, no blood was ever believed to be finer by the people themselves and those they had to deal with.

The difference is all in the imagination, and the imagination is all-powerful with nations as with individuals. The Britons thought their blood the finest in the world till they were conquered by the Romans, the Picts, the Scots, and the Saxons. The Saxons thought theirs the finest in the world till they were conquered by the Danes and the Normans. This is the history of the human race.

The quality of the blood of a whole people has depended often upon the fate of a battle, which in the ancient world doomed the vanquished to the hammer; and the hammer changed the blood of those sold by it from generation to generation. How many Norman robbers got their blood ennobled, and how many Saxon nobles got theirs plebeianized by the Battle of Hastings; and how difficult it would be for any of us to say from which we descended—the Britons or the Saxons, the Danes or the Normans; or in what particular action our ancestors were the victors or the vanquished, and became ennobled or plebeianized by the thousand accidents which influence the fate of battles.

A series of successful aggressions upon their neighbours will commonly give a nation a notion that they are superior in courage; and pride will make them attribute this superiority to blood—that is, to an old date. This was, perhaps, never more exemplified than in the case of the Gūrkhas of Nepal, a small diminutive race of men not unlike the Huns, but certainly as brave as any men can possibly be.

A Gūrkha thought himself equal to any four other men of the hills, though they were all much stronger; just as a Dane thought himself equal to four Saxons at one time in Britain. The other men of the hills began to think that he really was so, and could not stand before him.[6]

We passed many wells from which the people were watering their fields, and found those which yielded a brackish water were considered to be much more valuable for irrigation than those which yielded sweet water. It is the same in the valley of the Nerbudda, but brackish water does not suit some soils and some crops.

On the 8th we reached Fathpur Sīkrī, which lies about twenty- four miles from Agra, and stands upon the back of a narrow range of sandstone hills, rising abruptly from the alluvial plains to the highest, about one hundred feet, and extends three miles north-north- east and south-south-west. This place owes its celebrity to a Muhammadan saint, the Shaikh Salīm of Chisht, a town in Persia, who owed his to the following circumstance:

The Emperor Akbar's sons had all died in infancy, and he made a pilgrimage to the shrine of the celebrated Muīn-ud-dīn of Chisht, at Ajmēr. He and his family went all the way on foot at the rate of three 'kōs', or four miles, a day, a distance of about three hundred and fifty miles. 'Kanāts', or cloth walls, were raised on each side of the road, carpets spread over it, and high towers of burnt bricks erected at every stage, to mark the places where he rested.

On reaching the shrine he made a supplication to the saint, who at night appeared to him in his sleep, and recommended him to go and entreat the intercession of a very holy old man, who lived a secluded life upon the top of the little range of hills at Sīkrī.

He went accordingly, and was assured by the old man, then ninety-six years of age, that the Empress Jodh Bāī, the daughter of a Hindoo prince, would be delivered of a son, who would live to a good old age. She was then pregnant, and remained in the vicinity of the old man's hermitage till her confinement, which took place 31st of August, 1569.

The infant was called after the hermit, Mirzā Salīm, and became in time Emperor of Hindostan, under the name of Jahāngīr.[7] It was to this Emperor Jahāngīr that Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador, was sent from the English Court.[8] Akbar, in order to secure to himself, his family, and his people, the advantage of the continued intercessions of so holy a man, took up his residence at Sīkrī, and covered the hill with magnificent buildings for himself, his courtiers, and his public establishments.[9]

The quadrangle, which contains the mosque on the west side, and tomb of the old hermit in the centre, was completed in the year 1578, six years before his death; and is, perhaps, one of the finest in the world. It is five hundred and seventy-five feet square, and surrounded by a high wall, with a magnificent cloister all around within.[10] On the outside is a magnificent gateway, at the top of a noble flight of steps twenty-four feet high.

The whole gateway is one hundred and twenty feet in height, and the same in breadth, and presents beyond the wall five sides of an octagon, of which the front face is eighty feet wide. The arch in the centre of this space is sixty feet high by forty wide.[11] This gateway is no doubt extremely grand and beautiful; but what strikes one most is the disproportion between the thing wanted and the thing provided—there seems to be something quite preposterous in forming so enormous an entrance for a poor diminutive man to walk through—and walk he must, unless carried through on men's shoulders; for neither elephant, horse, nor bullock could ascend over the flight of steps.

In all these places the staircases, on the contrary, are as disproportionately small; they look as if they were made for rats to crawl through, while the gateways seem as if they were made for ships to sail under.[12] One of the most interesting sights was the immense swarms of swallows flying round the thick bed of nests that occupy the apex of this arch, and, to the spectators below, they look precisely like swarm of bees round a large honeycomb.

I quoted a passage in the Korān in praise of the swallows, and asked the guardians of the place whether they did not think themselves happy in having such swarms of sacred birds over their heads all day long.

'Not at all,' said they; 'they oblige us to sweep the gateway ten times a day; but there is no getting at their nests, or we should soon get rid of them.'

They then told me that the sacred bird of the Korān was the 'abābīl', or large black swallow, and not the 'partādīl', a little piebald thing of no religious merit whatever.[13]

On the right side of the entrance is engraven on stone in large letters, standing out in bas-relief, the following passage in Arabic:

'Jesus, on whom be peace, has said, "The word is merely a bridge; you are to pass over it, and not to build your dwellings upon it".'

Where this saying of Christ is to be found I know not, nor has any Muhammadan yet been able to tell me; but the quoting of such a passage, in such a place, is a proof of the absence of all bigotry on the part of Akbar.[14]

The tomb of Shaikh Salīm, the hermit, is a very beautiful little building, in the centre of the quadrangle.[15] The man who guards it told me that the Jāts, while they reigned, robbed this tomb, as well as those at Agra, of some of the most beautiful and valuable portion of the mosaic work.[16]

'But,' said he, 'they were well plundered in their turn by your troops at Bharatpur; retribution always follows the wicked sooner or later.'[17]

He showed us the little roof of stone tiles, close to the original little dingy mosque of the old hermit, where the Empress gave birth to Jahāngīr;[18] and told us that she was a very sensible woman, whose counsels had great weight with the Emperor.[19]

'His majesty's only fault was', he said, 'an inclination to learn the art of magic, which was taught him by an old Hindoo religious mendicant,' whose apartment near the palace he pointed out to us.

'Fortunately,' said our cicerone, 'the fellow died before the Emperor had learnt enough to practise the art without his aid.'

Shaikh Salīm had, he declared, gone more than twenty times on pilgrimage to the tomb of the holy prophet; and was not much pleased to have his repose so much disturbed by the noise and bustle of the imperial court. At last, Akbar wanted to surround the hill with regular fortifications, and the Shaikh could stand it no longer.[20]

'Either you or I must leave this hill,' said he to the Emperor; 'if the efficacy of my prayers is no longer to be relied upon, let me depart in peace.'

'If it be your majesty's will,' replied the Emperor, 'that one should go, let it be your slave, I pray.'

The old story:

'There is nothing like relying upon the efficacy of our prayers,' say the priests, 'Nothing like relying upon that of our sharp swords,' say the soldiers; and, as nations advance from barbarism, they generally contrive to divide between them the surplus produce of the land and labour of society.

The old hermit consented to remain, and pointed out Agra as a place which he thought would answer the Emperor's purpose extremely well. Agra, then an unpeopled waste, soon became a city, and Fathpur- Sīkrī was deserted.[21]

Cities which, like this, are maintained by the public establishments that attend and surround the courts of sovereign princes, must always, like this, become deserted when these sovereigns change their resting-places. To the history of the rise and progress, decline and fall, of how many cities is this the key?

Close to the tomb of the saint is another containing the remains of a great number of his descendants, who continue to enjoy, under the successors of Akbar, large grants of rent-free lands for their own support, and for that of the mosque and mausoleum.

These grants have, by degrees, been nearly all resumed;[22] and, as the repair of the buildings is now entrusted to the public officers of our government, the surviving members of the saint's family, who still reside among the ruins, are extremely poor.

What strikes a European most in going over these palaces of the Moghal Emperors is the want of what a gentleman of fortune in his own country would consider elegantly comfortable accommodations. Five hundred pounds a year would at the present day secure him more of this in any civilized country of Europe or America than the greatest of those Emperors could command. He would, perhaps, have the same impression in going over the domestic architecture of the most civilized nations of the ancient world, Persia and Egypt, Greece and Rome.[23]


1. The Act of 1833 (3 & 4 William IV, c. 85), which reconstituted the government of India, provided that the upper Provinces should be formed into a separate Presidency under the name of Agra, and Sir Charles Metcalfe was nominated as the first Governor. On reconsideration, this arrangement was modified, and instead of the Presidency of Agra, the Lieutenant-Governorship of the North-Western Provinces was formed, with head-quarters at Agra. Sir C. Metcalfe became Lieutenant-Governor in 1836, but held the office for a short time only, until January, 1838, when Lord Auckland, the Governor-General, took over temporary charge. The seat of the Local Government was moved to Allahabad in 1868.

From 1877 the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces was also Chief Commissioner of Oudh. The name North-Western Provinces, which had become unsuitable and misleading since the annexation of the Panjāb in 1849, could not be retained after the formation of the North-West Frontier Province in 1902.

Accordingly, from that year the combined jurisdiction of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh received the new official name of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. The title of Chief Commissioner of Oudh was dropped at the same time, but the legal System and administration of the old kingdom of Oudh continued to be distinct in certain respects.

2. The civil establishment and garrison are still nearly the same as in the author's time. The inland customs department is now concerned only with the restrictions on the manufacture of salt. The offices of district magistrate and collector of land revenue have long been combined in a single officer.

3. Akbar married the daughter of Bihārī Mal, chief of Jaipur, in A.D. 1562. There is little doubt that she, Mariam-uz- Zamānī, was the mother of Jahāngīr. See Blochmann, transl. Aīn, vol. i, p. 619. Mr. Beveridge has given up the opinion which he formerly advocated in J.A.S.B., vol. lvi (1887), Part I, pp. 164-7.

The Jodhpur princess was given the posthumous title of 'Mariam-uz- Zamānī', or 'Mary of the age', which circumstance probably originated the belief that Akbar had one Christian queen. Her tomb at Sikandara is locally known simply as Rauza Maryam, 'the mausoleum of Mary', a designation which has had much to do with the persistence of the erroneous belief in the existence of a Christian consort of Akbar.

Mr. Beveridge holds, and I think rightly, that Jodh Bāī is not a proper name. It seems to mean merely 'princess of Jodhpur'.

The only lady really known as Jodh Bāī was the daughter of Udai Singh (Mōth Rājā) of Jaipur, who became a consort of Jahāngīr. Sleeman's notion that Jahāngīr's mother also was called Jodh Bāī is mistaken (Blochmann, ut supra).

4. It was blown up about 1832 by order of the Government, and the materials of the gates, walls, and outer towns were used for the building of barracks. But the mausoleum itself resisted the spoiler and remained 'a huge shapeless heap of massive fragments of masonry'.

The building consisted of a square room raised on a platform with a vault below. The marble tomb or cenotaph of the queen still exists in the vault. A fine gateway formerly stood at the entrance to the enclosure, and there was a small mosque to the west of the tomb (A.S.R. vol. iv. (1874), p. 121: Muh. Latif, Agra, p. 192). It is painful to be obliged to record so many instances of vandalism committed by English officials.

This tomb is the memorial of Jodh Bāī, daughter of Udai Singh, alias Mōth Rājā, who was married to Jahāngīr in A.D. 1585, and was the mother of Shāh Jahān. Her personal names were Jagat Goshaini and Bālmatī. She died in A.D. 1619. Akbar's queen, Maryam- uz-Zamānī, daughter of Rājā Bihārī Mall of Jaipur (Ambēr), who died in A.D. 1623, is buried at Sīkandra. (See Beale, s.v. 'Jodh Bāī' and 'Mariam Zamānī'; Blochmann, transl. Aīn, pp. 429, 619.) The tomb of Maryam-uz- Zamānī has been purchased by Government from the missionaries, who had used it as a school, and has been restored. (Ann. Rep. A.S., India, 1910-11, pp. 92-6.)

5. Although it may be admitted that the Rājpūt strain of blood improved the constitution of the royal family of Delhi, the decline and fall of the Timuride dynasty cannot be truly ascribed to 'the loss of the Rājpūt blood in the veins' of the ruling princes.

The empire was tottering to its fall long before the death of Aurangzēb, who 'had himself married two Hindoo wives; and he wedded his son Muazzam (afterwards the Emperor Bahādur) to a Hindoo princess, as his forefathers had done before him'. (Lane-Poole, The History of the Moghul Emperors of Hindustan illustrated by their Coins, p. xviii. ) The wonder is, not that the empire of Delhi fell, but that it lasted so long.

6. When the author wrote the above remarks, Englishmen knew the gallant Gūrkhas as enemies only; they now know them as worthy and equal brethren in arms. The recruitment of Gūrkhas for the British service began in 1838. The spelling 'Gōrkhā' is more accurate.

7. The 'kōs' varies much in value, but in most parts of the United Provinces it is reckoned as equal to two miles. According to the N.W.P. Gazetteer (p. 568), the nearest approximate value for the Agra kōs is 1¾ mile. Three kōs would, therefore, be equal to about 5¼ miles. Muīn-ud- dīn died in A.D. 1236. Sleeman, on I know not what authority, represents Akbar as resorting to Salīm Chishtī, Shaikh of Fathpur- Sīkrī, on the advice given by a vision accorded at Ajmēr.

The Tabaqāt-i-Akbarī simply records that Akbar had visited the Shaikh, the 'very holy old man' of Sleeman, several times, and had obtained the promise of a son. That promise was fulfilled by the birth of the princes Salīm and Murād, who both saw the light at Fathpur-Sīkrī. The pilgrimage of Akbar on foot to Ajmēr, which began on Friday, Shabān (8th month) 12, A.H. 977, took place after the birth of Prince Salīm, which occurred on the 18th of Rabī-ul-auwwal (3rd month) of the same Hijrī year.

Akbar travelled at the rate of 7 or 8 kōs a day, and spent about 25 days on the journey (E. & D. v. 333, 334). If he had moved at the rate stated by Sleeman he would have been nearly three months on the road. He reached Ajmēr about the middle of February (N.S.). Shaikh Salīm Chishtī died in A.D. 1572 (A. H. 979) aged 96 lunar years.

8. Sir Thomas Roe was sent out by James I, and arrived at Jahāngīr's court in January, 1616. He remained there till 1618, and secured for his countrymen the privilege of trading at Surat. The best edition of his book is that by Mr. William Foster (Hakluyt Soc., 1899).

9. Fathpur-Sīkrī is fully described and illustrated in the late Mr. E. W. Smith's fine work in quarto entitled The Moghul Architecture of Fathpur-Sīkrī (4 Parts, Allahabad Govt. Press, 1894-8), which supersedes all other writings on the subject. The double name of the town means 'Fathpur at Sīkrī' according to a familiar Indian practice. The name Fathpur ('City of Victory') was bestowed in A.D. 1573 to commemorate the glorious campaign in Gujarāt, but building on the site had been begun in 1569.

The historians usually call the town simply Fathpur, which name also is found on the coinage, from probably A.H. 977 (A.D. 1569-70). The mint was not in regular working order until eight years later (A.H. 985). Coins continued to be struck regularly at Fathpur until A.H. 989 (A.D. 1581-2). Akbar abandoned his costly foundation a little later. The only coin from the Fathpur mint of subsequent date is one of the first year of Shāhjahān (Wright, Catalogue of Coins in Indian Museum, Mughal Emperors, 1908, p. xlvii). But Rodgers believed in the genuineness of a zodiacal gold coin of Jahāngīr purporting to be struck at Fathpur (J.A.S.B., vol. lvii (1888), Part I, p. 26).

10. Sleeman's dates and details require much correction. The mosque was completed at some time in the year A.H. 979 (May 26, 1571, to May 13, 1572, o.s.), excepting the Buland Darwāza, which was erected in A.H. 983 (1575-6). The 'old hermit', Shaikh Salīm, died on February 13, 1572 (Ramazān 27, A.H. 979). E. W. Smith (op. cit., Part IV, p. 1) gives the correct measurements as follow:

'Exclusive of the bastions upon the angles it measures 542' from east to west to the outside of the līwān or sanctuary, or 515' 3" to the outside of the west main wall (which sets back from the outer wall of the līwān) and 438' from north to south. The general plan adopted by Muhammadans for their masjids has been followed. In the centre is a vast courtyard open to the heavens, measuring 359' 10" by 438' 9", surrounded on the north, south, and east sides by spacious cloisters 38' 3" in depth, and on the west by the līwān itself, 288' 2" in length by 65' deep. It is said to be copied from one at Makka [Mecca], and was erected according to a chronogram over the main arch in A.D. 1571, or at the same time as Rajah Bir Bal's house.'

The 'six years before his death' of Sleeman's text should be 'six months' (Latif, Agra, p. 149).

11. The southern portal, known as the Buland Darwāza, or Lofty Gateway, does not match the other gateways. It was built in A.D. 1575-6 (A.H. 983), and was adorned in A.D. 1601-2 (A.H. 1010) with an inscription recording Akbar's triumphant return from his campaign in the Deccan. The date is fixed by a chronogram, preserved in Beale's work entitled Miftāh-ul- tawārīkh (Ann. Progr. Rep. A. S. Northern Circle, for 1905-6, p. 34, correcting E. W. Smith). Correct measurements are:

From roadway below to pavement 42 feet

From pavement to top of finial 134 "

Breadth across main front 130 "

Breadth across back facing the mosque 123 "

Depth 88½ "

Full details, with ample illustrations, are given by E. W. Smith, op. cit., Part IV, chap. ii. In the original edition of Sleeman a chromolithograph of the gateway is inserted. Photographs are reproduced in H.F.A., Pl. xcvi, and Fergusson, History of Indian and E. Archit. (ed. 1910), fig. 425.

12. Fergusson (ed. 1910, vol. ii, p. 297) successfully justifies the vast size of the gateway. 'The semi-dome is the modulus of the design, and its scale that by which the imagination measures its magnificence.'

The cramped staircases criticized by Sleeman are those ascending from the pavement to the roof, one on the north-west, and the other on the north-east side of the gate. Each flight has 123 steep steps.

13. See the 105th chapter of the Korān. 'Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the masters of the elephant? Did he not make their treacherous design an occasion of drawing them into error; and send against them flocks of swallows which cast down upon them stones of baked clay, and rendered them like the leaves of corn eaten by cattle?' [W. H. S.]

The quotation is from Sale's translation, but Sale uses the word 'birds', and not 'swallows'. In his note, where he tells the whole story, he speaks of 'a large flock of birds like swallows'.

The Arabic, Persian, and Hindustānī dictionaries give no other word than 'abābīl' for swallow. The word 'partādīl' (purtadeel) occurs in none of them. According to Oates, Fauna of British India (London, 1890), the 'abābīl' is the common swallow, Hirundo rustica; and the 'mosque-swallow' ('masjid-abābīl'), otherwise called 'Sykes's striated swallow', is the H. erythropygia, H. Daurica of Balfour, Cyclop. of India, 3rd ed., s.v. Hirundinidae. This latter species is the 'little piebald thing' mentioned by the author.

14. Muh. Latif (Agra, pp. 146, 147) gives the text and English rendering of the inscription, which is in Persian, except the logion ascribed to Jesus, which is in Arabic. His translation of the Jesus saying is as follows:

'So said Jeans, on whom be peace! "The world is a bridge; pass over it, but build no house on it. He who reflected on the distresses of the Day of Judgement gained pleasure everlasting.

'"Worldly pleasures are but momentary; spend, then, thy life in devotion and remember that what remains of it is valueless".'

Like the author, I am unable to trace the source of the quotation. The inscription probably was recorded after Akbar's breach with Islam, which may be dated from 1579 or 1580. When he built the mosque, in 1571-5, he was still a devout Musalman, although entertaining liberal opinions. He died on October 25, 1605 (N.S.; October 15, O.S.)

15. For a full account of the exquisite sepulchre of Shaikh Salīm, see E. W. Smith, op. cit.. Part III, chap. ii. An inscription over the doorway is dated A.H. 979 = 1571-2, the year of the saint's death. The building, constructed regardless of expense, must be somewhat later.

'As originally built by Akbar, the tomb was of red sandstone, and the marble trellis-work, the chief ornament of the tomb, was erected subsequently by the Emperor Jahāngīr' (Latif, Agra, p. 144).

16. The first plundering of Akbar's tomb at Sikandra by the Jāts occurred in 1691 according to Manucci (ante, chapter 51, note 29.). The outrages at Fathpur-Sīkrī seem to have been later in date, and to have happened after the capture of Agra in 1761 by Sūraj Mall, the famous Rājā of Bhurtpore (Bharatpur). The Jāts retained possession of Agra until 1774 (I.G., 1908, vol. viii, p. 76).

That is the period while they reigned, to use the author's words. Tradition affirms that daring that time they shot away the tops of the minarets at the entrance to the Sikandra park; took the armour and books of Akbar from his tomb, and sent them to Bharatpur, and also melted down two silver doors at the Tāj, which had cost Shāh Jahān more than 125,000 rupees (N.W.P. Gazetteer, 1st ed., vol. vii, p. 619)

17. We besieged and took Bharatpur in order to rescue the young prince, our ally, from his uncle, who had forcibly assumed the office of prime minister to his nephew. As soon as we got possession, all the property we found, belonging either to the nephew or the uncle, was declared to be prize-money, and taken for the troops. The young prince was obliged to borrow an elephant from the prize agents to ride upon. He has ever since enjoyed the whole of the revenue of his large territory. [W. H. S.]

The final siege and capture of Bharatpur by Lord Combermere took place in January, 1826. The plundering, as Metcalfe observed, 'has been very disgraceful, and has tarnished our well-earned honours'. All the state treasures and jewels, amounting to forty-eight lākhs of rupees, or say half a million of pounds sterling, which should have been made over to the rightful Rājā, were treated as lawful prize, and at once distributed among the officers and men. Lord Combermere himself took six lākhs (Marshman, History of India, ed., 1869, vol. ii, p. 409).

18. The 'little dingy mosque' was built over the cave in which the saint dwelt, and was presented to him by the local quarry-men. It is therefore called The Stone-cutters' Mosque. It is fully described by E. W. Smith, op. cit., Part IV. chap. iii. It is earlier in date than any of Akbar's buildings, having been built in A. H. 945 (A.D. 1538-9), a year after the saint had settled in the 'dangerous jungle' (Progr. Rep. A. S. N. Circle, 1905-6, p. 35).

19. The people of India no doubt owed much of the good they enjoyed under the long reign of Akbar to this most excellent woman, who inspired not only her husband but the most able Muhammadan minister that India has ever had, with feelings of universal benevolence. It was from her that this great minister, Abūl Fazl, derived the spirit that dictated the following passages in his admirable work, the Aīn-i-Akbarī;

'Every sect becomes infatuated with its particular doctrines; animosity and dissension prevail, and each man deeming the tenets of his sect to be the dictates of truth itself, aims at the destruction of all others, vilifies reputation, stains the earth with blood, and has the vanity to imagine that he is performing meritorious actions. Were the voice of reason attended to, mankind would be sensible of their error, and lament the weaknesses which led them to interfere in the religious concerns of each other. Persecution, after all, defeats its own end; it obliges men to conceal their opinions, but produces no change in them.

'Summarily, the Hindoos are religious, affable, courteous to strangers, prone to inflict austerities on themselves, lovers of justice, given to retirement, able in business, grateful, admirers of truth, and of unbounded fidelity in all their dealings.

'This character shines brightest in adversity. Their soldiers know not what it is to fly from the field of battle; when the success of the combat becomes doubtful, they dismount from their horses, and throw away their lives in payment of the debt of valour. They have great respect for their tutors; and make no account of their lives when they can devote them to the service of their God.

'They consider the Supreme Being to be above all labour, and believe Brahmā to be the creator of the world, Vishnu its preserver, and Siva its destroyer. But one sect believes that God, who hath no equal, appeared on earth under the three above-mentioned forms, without having been thereby polluted in the smallest degree, in the same manner as the Christians speak of the Messiah; others hold that all these were only human beings, who, on account of their sanctity and righteousness, were raised to these high dignities.' [W. H. S.]

The passage quoted is from Gladwin's translation, vol. ii, p. 318 (4th ed., London, 1800). The wording varies in different editions of Gladwin's work. A better version will be found in Jarrett, transl. Āīn (Calcutta, 1894), vol. iii, p. 8.

There is no substantial foundation for the author's statement that Abūl Fazl learned his charity and toleration from the Hindoo mother of Jahāngīr. The influences which really moulded the opinions of both Abūl Fazl and his royal master are well known. When Akbar and Abūl Fazl are compared with Elizabeth and Burleigh, Philip II and Alva, or the other sovereigns and ministers of the age in Europe, it seems to be little less than a miracle that the Indian statesmen should have held and practised the noble philosophy expounded in the above quotation from the 'Institutes of Akbar'.

No man has deserved better than Akbar the stately eulogy pronounced by Wordsworth on a hero now obscure:

A meteor wert thou in a darksome night;

Yet shall thy name, conspicuous and sublime,

Stand in the spacious firmament of time,

Fixed as a star: such glory is thy right.

(Sonnets dedicated to Liberty, Part Second, No. XVII.)

20. The story is absurd, the saint having died early in 1572, when the Fathpur-Sīkrī buildings were in progress.

'The city . . . is enclosed on three sides by high embattlemented stone walls pierced by. . . gateways protected by heavy and grim semi- circular bastions of rubble masonry. The fourth side was protected by a large lake.' There were nine gateways (E. W. Smith, op. cit., pp. 1, 59; pl. xci, xciii). The Sangīn Burj, or Stone Tower, is a fine unfinished fortification (ibid., p. 34). The dam of the lake burst in the 27th year of the reign, A.D. 1582 (Latif, Agra, p. 159). The circumference of the town is variously stated as either six or seven miles.

21. Akbar began the works at the fort of Agra in A.H. 972, corresponding to A.D. 1564-65, several years before he began those at Fathpur in A.D. 1569-70 (E. & D., vol. v, pp. 295, 332); and the buildings at Agra and Fathpur were carried on concurrently. He continued building at Fathpur nearly to the close of his reign. Agra was never 'an unpeopled waste' during Akbar's reign. Sikandar Lodī had made it his capital in A.D. 1501.

22. That is to say, the grantees have now to pay land revenue, or rent, to the state.

23. No good general description of the buildings at Agra, Sikandra, and Fathpur-Sīkrī exists. The following list indicates the beat treatises available.

(1) Syad Muhammad Latif—Agra, Historical and Descriptive., &c.; 8vo, Calcutta, 1896, Useful, but crude and badly illustrated.

(2) E. W. Smith—The Moghul Architecture of Fathpur- Sikri; 4 Parts, 4to, Government Press, Allahabad, 1894-8.

(3) Same author—Moghul Colour Decoration of Agra; 4to, Government Press, Allahabad, 1901.

(4) Same author—Akbar's Tomb, Sikandarah; posthumous; 4to, Allahabad Government Press, 1909.

The three works by Mr. E. W. Smith are magnificently illustrated and worthy of the subject.

(5) Nūr Baksh—'The Agra Fort and its Buildings', in A.S. Annual Report for 1903-4, pp. 164-93.

(6) Moin-ud-din—The History of the Taj, &c.; thin 8vo, 116 pp.; Moon Press, Agra, 1905. Useful, as being the only book devoted to the Tāj and connected buildings, but crude and inadequate.

The Archaeological Survey of India, since its reorganization, has not had time to study the Tāj buildings, except for conservation purposes. The report by Mr. Carlleyle on the minor remains at and near Agra in A.S.R., vol. iv, 1874, is almost worthless.

In 1873 Major Cole prepared a handsome volume entitled Illustrations of Buildings near Muttra and Agra, &c.

Some information, to be used with caution, is to be found in gazetteers of different dates.

The brief observations in Fergusson's History of Indian and Eastern Architecture (ed. 1910) are of permanent value. The plan of the editor's work, A History of Fine Art in India and Ceylon (H. F. A.), Oxford, 1911, does not permit of detailed descriptions.

The well-known little Handbook by Mr. H. G. Keene contains many errors and is unworthy of the author's reputation as an historian.

A good guide-book, prepared with knowledge and accuracy, is badly wanted. It would be difficult to find an author possessed of the needful local knowledge and sufficiently well read to compile a satisfactory book. An adequate illustrated history of the Tāj buildings on the lines of Mr. E. W. Smith's work on Fathpur- Sīkrī is much to be desired, but would be a formidable undertaking, and is not likely to be written for a long time to come. Perhaps some wealthy admirer of Akbar and his achievements may appear and provide the considerable funds required for the preparation of the desired treatise.

The Christian antiquities of Agra also deserve systematic treatment. At present the information on record is in a chaotic state.

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


bottom of page