The present Fort was commenced by Akbar in 1566, on the site of an older one constructed by Salîm Shah Sur, the son of Shere Shah. Its vast walls (seventy feet in height, and a mile and a half in circuit), its turrets, and noble gateways present from the outside a most imposing appearance. It contains within its walls that most exquisite of mosques, the Mûti Masjid, and the palaces of Akbar and Shah Jahan. The principal or north entrance is the Delhi Gate, nearly opposite to the railway station and the Jâmi Masjid. Formerly there was a walled enclosure in front of this gate, called the Tripulia, or Three Gates, which was used as a market. This was cleared away by the military authorities in 1875. Crossing the drawbridge over the moat which surrounds the Fort, the visitor passes the outer gate, and by a paved incline reaches the Hathi Pol, or Elephant Gate (Plate III.), so called from the two stone elephants, with riders, which formerly stood outside the gate, on the highest of the platforms on either side of it. The statues and elephants were thrown down by order of Aurangzîb. There are four hollow places in each platform, where the legs of the elephants were morticed into it. 1
The gate is a fine example of the early Mogul style; it contains the Naubat khana, or music gallery, where the royal kettledrums announced the Emperor’s arrival or departure, and all state functions. It was also a guard-house, and probably the quarters of a high military officer, but it is certainly not, as the guides have it, the “Darshan Darwaza,” or “Gate of Sights,” described by William Finch, where the Emperor Jahangir showed himself at sunrise to his nobles and to the multitude assembled in the plain below. The Darshan Darwaza was undoubtedly near the old disused water-gate, which was joined to the royal apartments of the palace by a private passage, and answers to Finch’s description of “leading into a fair court extending along the river.” The Elephant Gate is at a considerable distance from the palace, and was never connected with it, except by the public road.
It is worth while to climb the top of the gate by the staircase on the right, inside the Fort. There is a fine view of the Fort, and beyond the walls the ever-beautiful white domes of the Taj appear in the distance. The Itmâd-ud-daulah is visible on the left. Towards the town you look down into the quadrangle of the Jâmi Masjid. The pavilions on the summit of the great octagonal towers flanking the gate are finely carved, and bear traces of painting and enamelled tile-work. Descending the staircase to the floors beneath, one can wander through the curious small chambers and look out from the balconies on the front of the gate.
The Mûti Masjid.
The road to the left after passing the Elephant Gate leads up to the entrance of the Mûti Masjid, or “Pearl Mosque,” placed on the highest point of the Fort enclosure. 2 You pass on the left a building known as Dansa Jât’s house, said to have been occupied by the Rajahs of Bharatpur when the Jâts held the Fort. It has been made hideous by modern additions which have converted it into officers’ quarters.
The entrance to the Mûti Masjid is very plain and unpretending, so that one is hardly prepared for the beauty, purity, and the unaffected expression of an exalted religious feeling which characterize the interior. It is rare to find an Indian building in which the effect is produced with hardly any ornament, but solely by the perfection of proportions, beauty of material, and harmony of constructive design. The courtyard, in front of the mosque, with its arcades and gateways, is a noble setting to the Pearl, as the mosque is appropriately called. There is a subtle rhythm in the placing of the three domes over the seven arches of the mosque, which saves the whole design from monotony, while the marvellous grace of the contours, which is so characteristic of the finest of Shah Jahan’s buildings, makes each dome grow up from the roof like a flower-bud on the point of unfolding. The octagonal pavilions at the four corners of the mosque, and the dainty little kiosques placed as decoration over the arches and over the gateways of the courtyard, echo the harmonies of the larger constructive details, and give completeness to the composition.
The interior of the mosque owes its dignity to the same greatness of style and perfection of the proportions. The three aisles are formed by massive piers of single blocks of marble. With all its simplicity, there is consummate art both in the placing of the ornament and in the beautiful springing of the arches from the supporting piers. The fine workmanship is worthy of the art.
On either side of the mosque there is a small chamber for the ladies of the zanana, with a window filled with a carved marble grille looking on to the interior. They could thus attend to the services of the mosque without being seen. The staircases on the right and left of the courtyard give private access to the apartments of the palace.
The Persian inscription inlaid in black marble under the wide, projecting cornice of the mosque is a poetic tribute to the beauty of the building and a panegyric of its founder. From it we learn that it was built by Shah Jahan, it took seven years to build, and cost three lakhs of rupees.
The dimensions of the courtyard, given by Fergusson, are 154 feet by 158 feet; and of the Mosque: length, 159 feet; depth, 56 feet, internally.
The Dersane Darwaza.
Nearly opposite to the Mûti Masjid, you pass on the left an inclined passage which leads to an old gateway, a part of Akbar’s buildings. Very little remains of the original buildings which connected it with the palace in the time of Jahangir, but there cannot be much doubt that this was the locality described by William Finch as the “Dersane Darwaza, leading into a fair court, extending along the river, in which the King looks forth every morning at sun-rising, which he salutes, and then his nobles resort to their Tesillam (obeisance). Right under the place where he looks out, is a kind of scaffold, whereon his nobles stand, but the Addis with others await below in the court. Here also every noone he looketh forth to behold Tamâshâh, or fighting of Elephants, Lyons, Buffles, killing of Deare with Leopards, which is a custom on every day of the weeke, Sunday excepted, on which is no fighting; but Tuesday, on the contrary, is a day of blood, both of fighting beasts, and justiced men, the King judging and seeing executions.”
The road now turns towards the right, through the Mîna Bazar, the old market-place, where merchants displayed jewellery, brocades, and similar stuffs for the nobles and others attending the court. A gateway leads into the great courtyard of the Dîwan-i-âm, or Hall of Public Audience, which, with its surrounding arcades, was for a long time used as an armoury for the British garrison. The hall itself was restored in 1876 by Sir John Strachey, then Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces. The courtyard has recently been put back, as far as possible, into its original condition by Lord Curzon’s orders. A further great improvement has been made by the removal of the hideous modern additions which entirely concealed all the arcades.
The present hall, which is an open pavilion formed by a triple row of colonnades, was commenced by Shah Jahan, but, if we may believe tradition, was not completed until the 27th year of the reign of Aurangzîb. The arcades surrounding the quadrangle are probably of Akbar’s time. The interior dimensions of the hall are 192 feet by 64 feet. It is constructed of red sandstone, plastered over with a fine white polished stucco, which served both as a protection to the stone and as a ground for coloured decoration and gilding. This plaster-work was carried to the perfection of a fine art by the old Mogul builders, but the restoration of it in 1876 was very indifferently carried out.
The throne of the Emperor was in an alcove of inlaid marble at the back of the hall, and connected with the royal apartments behind. Here he sat daily to give audience to his court, to receive ambassadors, and to administer justice. At the foot of the alcove is a square slab of marble, about 3 feet in height, on which, it is said, his ministers stood to receive petitions to the Emperor, and to convey his commands thereon. On the right and left of the throne are chambers with perforated marble windows, through which the ladies of the zanana could view the proceedings. Bernier’s lively description, though it properly belongs to the Dîwan-i-âm at Delhi, will enable us to picture the scene in the days of the Great Mogul:—
“The monarch every day, about noon, sits upon his throne, with some of his sons at his right and left, while eunuchs standing about the royal person flap away the flies with peacocks’ tails, agitate the air with large fans, or wait with undivided attention and profound humility to perform the different services allotted to each. Immediately under the throne is an enclosure, surrounded by silver rails, in which are assembled the whole body of omrahs (nobles), the Rajas, and the ambassadors, all standing, their eyes bent downwards and their hands crossed. At a greater distance from the throne are the mansebdhars, or inferior omrahs, also standing in the same posture of profound reverence. The remainder of the spacious room, and, indeed, the whole courtyard, is filled with persons of all ranks, high and low, rich and poor; because it is in this extensive hall that the King gives audience indiscriminately to all his subjects; hence it is called Am Khas, or audience chamber of high and low.
“During the hour and a half, or two hours, that this ceremony continues, a certain number of the royal horses pass before the throne, that the King may see whether they are well used and Usbec, of every kind, and each dog with a small red covering; lastly, every species of the birds of prey used in field sports for catching partridges, cranes, hares, and even, it is said, for hunting antelopes, on which they pounce with violence, beating their heads and blinding them with their wings and claws.”
After this parade, the more serious business of the day was attended to. The Emperor reviewed his cavalry with peculiar attention, for he was personally acquainted with every trooper. Then all the petitions held up in the assembled crowd were read and disposed of before the audience closed.
On festivals or other special occasions the pillars of the hall were hung with gold brocades, and flowered satin canopies fastened with red silken cords were raised over the whole apartment. The floor was covered entirely with the most magnificent silk carpets. A gorgeous tent, larger than the hall, to which it was fastened, and supported by poles overlaid with silver, was pitched outside. Every compartment of the arcades round the courtyard was decorated by one of the great nobles, at his own expense, with gold brocades and costly carpets, each one vying with the other to attract the attention of the Emperor, to whom, on such occasions, an offering of gold or jewels, more or less valuable according to the pay and rank of the giver, must be presented.
JAHANGIR’S CISTERN.—Just in front of the Dîwan-i-âm is a great stone cistern, cut out of a single block, with steps inside and out, known as Jahangir’s Hauz, a bowl or bath-tub. There is a long Persian inscription round the outer rim; the only part now decipherable shows that it was made for Jahangir in 1019 A.H. (A.D. 1611). It is nearly 5 feet in height and 8 feet in diameter at the top. Its original place is said to have been one of the courts of the Jahangiri Mahal.
THE TOMB OF MR. COLVIN.—Close by Jahangiri’s Hauz is the grave of Mr. John Russell Colvin, the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces, who died in the Fort during the disturbances of 1857.
The Inner Mîna Bazar.
Before entering the private apartments of the palace, which are at the back of the Dîwan-i-âm, we may pass through the gateway on the left of the courtyard, and enter a smaller one, which was the private bazar where merchants sold jewellery, silks, and costly brocades to the ladies of the zanana, who were seated in the marble balcony which overlooks it (Plate IV.). A narrow staircase gave access to the balcony from the courtyard.
We may well believe that a considerable part of the ladies’ time was spent in this quarter of the palace. Sometimes the Great Mogul and his court would amuse themselves by holding a mock fair, in which the prettiest of the nobles’ wives and daughters would act as traders, and the Emperors and the Begums would bargain with them in the most approved bazar fashion. The Emperor would haggle for the value of an anna, and the ladies would feign indignation, scold his Majesty roundly, and tell him to go where he could suit himself better. “The Begums betray, if possible, a still greater anxiety to be served cheaply; high words are heard on every side, and the loud and scurrilous quarrels of the buyers and sellers create a complete farce. But, when at last the bargains are struck, the Begums, as well as the Emperor, pay liberally for their purchases, and often, as if by accident, let slip out of their hands a few gold instead of silver roupies, as a compliment to the fair merchant and her pretty daughter. Thus the scene ends with merry jests and good humour.” (Bernier.)
THE CHITORE GATES.—The further corner of this courtyard, on the left, leads to the Chitore gates, the trophies which Akbar placed there as a memorial of his capture of that great Rajput stronghold in 1657, after a desperate resistance by its gallant defenders. They form the principal entrance to the Machhi Bhawan, the great courtyard behind the Dîwan-i-âm, but are generally kept closed.
THE HINDU TEMPLE.—Beyond the Chitore gates you enter into another quadrangle surrounded by arcades, which recalls a different chapter in the chequered history of the palace. Here is a Hindu temple, built by one of the Bharatpur Rajahs, who sacked Agra about the middle of the 18th century, and occupied it for ten years.
The Machhi Bhawan.
Returning now to the Dîwan-i-âm, we can ascend by one of the small staircases to the throne-room, and enter the upper arcades which surround the Machhi Bhawan, or “Fish Square.” The courtyard has suffered so much from ruthless vandalism that it is difficult to realize its former magnificence. It was formerly laid out in marble with flower-beds, water-channels, fountains, and fish-tanks. These were carried off by the Jâts to the palace of Suraj Mai, at Dîg. A large quantity of mosaic and exquisite marble fretwork, from this and other parts of the palace, was put up to auction by Lord William Bentinck, when Governor-General of India. The Taj only escaped the same fate because the proceeds of this sale were unsatisfactory.
On the side opposite to the throne-room is an open terrace, originally roofed over and connected with the Dîwan-i-khas. This also was dismantled by the Jâts.
THE NAJINA MASJID.—On the left of the throne-room, at the end of the corridor, is a door leading into a small mosque of white marble, built by Aurangzîb for the ladies of the zenana. It is something like the Mûti Masjid, but far inferior in design.
The further corner of it opens into a small chamber, overlooking the courtyard of the Dîwan-i-âm, which is pointed out by the guides as the prison where Shah Jahan was confined. This may be accepted or not, according to the choice of the visitor. When distinct historical authority is wanting, it is very difficult to distinguish real tradition and pure fable in the tales of these garrulous folk. The historical evidence seems to show that Shah Jahan was not kept a close prisoner, but simply confined to certain apartments in the palace.
We will now pass over to the river side of the Machhi Bhawan, and approach that part of the palace which contains the Dîwan-i-khas, or Hall of Private Audience, the Zanana and Mahal-i-khas, all built by Shah Jahan and occupied by him in the days of his royal state and sovereignty. They rank with the Dîwan-i-khas at Delhi as the most exquisite of Shah Jahan’s buildings. From this classification I purposely omit the Taj, gleaming on the banks of the river lower down. The Taj stands by itself.
The Dîwan-i-khas was built in 1637. Though much smaller than the Dîwan-i-khas at Delhi, it is certainly not inferior in the beauty of its proportions and decoration. Most of the decorative work of these marble pavilions is directly derived from Persian art, and inspired by the Persian love of flowers which almost amounted to flower-worship. All the details are charming, but the dados, especially, edged with inlaid work and carved with floral types in the most delicate relief, show to perfection that wonderful decorative instinct which seems to be born in the Oriental handicraftsman. The designer has naïvely translated into marble the conventional Indian flower-beds, just as they were in every palace garden, but there is perfect art in the seeming absence of all artifice. The dados outside the Taj are similar in design to these, though larger and correspondingly bolder in style. The roof of the Dîwan-i-khas, with its fine covered ceiling, is interesting for its construction.
JAHANGIR’S THRONE.—On the terrace in front of the Dîwan-i-khas are placed two thrones, one of white marble on the side facing the Machhi-Bhawan, and the other of black slate on the river side. From the Persian inscription which runs round the four sides of the black throne we learn that it was made in 1603 for Jahangir. This was two years before the death of his father, Akbar, and he was then only Prince Salîm. The throne was, therefore, probably made to commemorate the recognition by Akbar of his son’s title to the succession.
On this terrace Jahangir sat to enjoy the sight of his brigantines on the river, or to watch the elephant fights on the level place beneath the walls. From side to side of his throne there is a long fissure, which opened, so says tradition, when the Jât Rajah, Jawahar Singh of Bharatpur, in 1765, set his usurping feet on the throne of the Great Mogul. The tradition holds that blood spurted out of the throne in two places, and red marks in the stone are pointed out as evidence of the truth of the story. The impious chief was shortly afterwards assassinated in the palace.
THE BATHS.—On the side of the terrace directly opposite to the Dîwan-i-khas are the baths, or the Hammam. The water was brought up from a well, outside the walls, 70 feet below. These baths, in their present state, are by no means so fine as those at Fatehpur Sikri, to be described hereafter.
The Marquis of Hastings, when Governor-General of India, broke up one of the most beautiful of the baths of the palace, and sent it home as a present to the Prince Regent, afterwards George the Fourth.
The Samman Burj.
A doorway at the back of the Dîwan-i-khas leads to the beautiful two-storied pavilion, surmounting one of the most projecting of the circular bastions on the river face, and known as the Samman Burj, “the Jasmine Tower” (Plate V.). The style of the inlaid work shows it to be earlier in date than the Dîwan-i-khas, and supports Fergusson’s conjecture that it was built by Jahangir. In that case it must have been the apartment of his Empress, the beautiful and accomplished Nur Mahal. It was afterwards occupied by Mumtaz Mahal, the lady of the Taj. Here, also, in full view of the famous monument he had raised to her memory, died her husband, Shah Jahan—sensualist, perhaps, but true to his last hours to one great master-passion. The faithful Jahanara, who shared his captivity for seven years, attended him on his death-bed, and, as the shades of night closed in and hid the Taj from view—praying Divine forgiveness for his sins, and with a few consoling words to his daughter—he went to join his beloved!
After the rites prescribed by the Muhammadan law, the body was placed in a coffin of sandalwood and conveyed by the passage which leads from the Samman Burj to the low gate beneath it, which was specially opened for the occasion. Thence, followed by a procession of mourners, it was carried out of the Fort through the Sher Hâji gate, nearly opposite (now closed), and conveyed across the arm of the river to its last resting-place in the Taj.
The death of Shah Jahan and his funeral are minutely described by Mulla Muhammad Kâzim in his “Alamgir Nama.” The guides wrongly point out a pavilion in the Jahangiri Mahal as the place where he died.
In front of the Samman Burj is a beautiful little fountain hollowed in the floor; on one side of the courtyard is a raised platform laid out in squares of black marble for the game of pachisi, an Eastern backgammon. 3
The Khas Mahal.
From the Samman Burj we step into the next set of apartments of the zanana, connecting with the Khas Mahal and a similar set on the other side. This part of the zanana forms the east, or river side, of the Anguri Bagh, or Grape Garden. There is an indescribable grace and charm about all this quarter of the palace, to which the beauty of the material, the perfect taste of the ornament and elegance of the proportions, the delightful background of the landscape, and the historical associations all contribute. It should be seen towards evening, not in the full glare of the morning sun.
When the afterglow fills the sky, burnishes the gilded roofs, and turns the marble to rose-colour, imagination may re-people these lovely pavilions with fair Indian women—revel in the feast of colour in saris, brocades, and carpets; in the gold, azure, and crimson of the painted ceilings; and listen to the water splashing in the fountains and gurgling over the carved water-shoots—a scene of voluptuous beauty such as the world has rarely known since the wealth and elegance of Rome filled the palaces and villas of Pompei.
In the walls of the Khas Mahal are a number of niches which formerly contained portraits of the Mogul Emperors, beginning with Timur, which, like so many other things, were looted by the Rajah of Bharatpur. A number of similar portraits and other fine paintings of the Mogul period are preserved in the Government Art Gallery, Calcutta.
A Persian poem inscribed on the walls of the Khas Mahal gives the date of its construction, 1636.
THE UNDERGROUND CHAMBERS.—A staircase to the south of the Khas Mahal leads to a labyrinth of underground chambers, in which the Emperor and his zanana found refuge from the fierce summer heat of Agra. In the south-east corner there is a well-house, called a bâoli; this is a set of chambers surrounding a well—a favourite retreat in the hot weather. There were formerly many of the kind round about Agra, constructed by the Mogul Emperors or their nobles. Besides these resorts of ease and pleasure, there are gloomy dungeons which tell of misbehaving slaves and indiscreet sultanas, who were hurried down to meet their fate at the hands of the executioner, the silent Jumna receiving their lifeless bodies.
The Anguri Bagh.
The great quadrangle in front of the Khas Mahal is the Anguri Bagh, surrounded on three sides by arcades, probably built by Akbar and intended for his zenana. They were occupied in the Mutiny days by the British officers and their families who were shut up in the Fort.
The Anguri Bagh is a very typical specimen of the old Mogul gardens, laid out in geometrical flower-beds, with four terraced walks radiating from the central platform and fountain. A stone trellis formerly enclosed the flower-beds, and probably supported the vines which gave the garden its name.
Among the many improvements lately made by Lord Curzon in the Fort is the clearance of the wire-netting fernhouses and bedraggled shrubs which formerly disfigured the quadrangle. If it cannot be kept up in the old Mogul style, it is certainly better to leave the garden uncultivated.
SHISH MAHAL.—On the north side of the Anguri Bagh, close to the zanana, a passage leads to the Shish Mahal, or “palace of glass.” This was the bath of the zanana. The marble slabs of the floor have been torn up, and the decoration with a kind of glass mosaic seems to have suffered from clumsy attempts at renovation. A passage from the Shish Mahal leads to the old water gate.
THE “SOMNATH” GATES.—Before entering the Jahangiri Mahal, on the opposite side of the Anguri Bagh, we will pause at a corner of the zanana courtyard, where a small apartment contains an interesting relic of the Afghan expedition of 1842—the so-called “Somnath” gates, taken from the tomb of Mahmud of Ghazni in the capture of that city by the British. They were the subject of a most extraordinary archæological blunder by the Governor-General, Lord Ellenborough, who, in a grandiloquent proclamation, identifying them with the gates of carved sandalwood which Mahmud according to tradition, had taken from the celebrated Hindu temple of Somnath in 1025, announced to the people of India that “the insult of eight hundred years had been avenged.” The gates were conveyed on a triumphal car through the towns of northern India to the Agra Fort, and deposited there with great ceremony. As a matter of fact, the wood is deodar, and not sandalwood, and from the style of the ornament there can be hardly a doubt that the gates were made at or near Ghazni. One glance would convince any expert in Oriental archæology that they could not by any possibility have been the gates of a Hindu temple.
It has been supposed that the original gates were destroyed by fire, and that these were made to replace them, but there seems to be considerable doubt whether Mahmud really took away any gates from the Somnath temple. It certainly would have been unusual for the great Muhammadan plunderer to have burdened himself with an archæological relic which, in those days, was not easily convertible into cash.
A horse-shoe which is nailed to the gate is not, as is generally supposed, a propitiation of the Goddess of Fortune, but a token from the owner of some sick animal that he would bring an offering to the shrine in the event of a cure resulting from his visit. This was an old custom among the Tartars and other nomad tribes, who valued horses and cattle as their most precious possessions.
The Jahangiri Mahal.
The palace called after Jahangir, the Jahangiri Mahal, is in many respects the most remarkable building of its class in India. Nothing could be more striking than the contrast between the extreme elegance, bordering on effeminacy, of the marble pavilions of Shah Jahan’s palaces, and the robust, virile, yet highly imaginative architecture of this palace of Akbar; for though it bears Jahangir’s name there cannot be much doubt that it was planned, and partially, if not completely, carried out by Akbar with the same architects who built Fatehpur Sikri. It is the perfected type of the style which we see in process of evolution at Fatehpur, and were it not for the Taj, we might regret the new element which came into Mogul architecture with Itmâd-ud-daulah’s tomb. Both of these styles, which appear side by side in the Agra Fort, are intensely typical of the men and the times which produced them. The one is stamped throughout with the personality of Akbar, the empire-builder, and distinguished by the stately solidity of Jain and Hindu architecture. In the other the native vigour of the earlier Indian styles has been softened by the cultured eclecticism of Persia and Arabia, for the manly dignity of Akbar’s court had given place to the sensual luxury of Shah Jahan’s.
On the river side of the palace there is an octagonal pavilion placed similarly to the Samman Burj, which is very charming in its fresco decoration, though the colour has faded very much. It is possibly this pavilion to which Badâyunî, one of Akbar’s biographers, refers when he describes a Brahmin, named Dêbi, being pulled up the walls of the castle, sitting on a charpâî (a native bed), till he arrived near the balcony where the Emperor used to sleep. “Whilst thus suspended he instructed his Majesty in the secrets and legends of Hinduism, in the manner of worshipping idols, the fire, the sun, and stars, and of revering the chief gods of these unbelievers.” The priests of other religions were similarly carried up to converse with Akbar.
Adjoining this is a set of small rooms, known as Akbar’s apartments, which, even in their present dilapidated state, show that they must have possessed a richness and beauty of decoration inferior to nothing else in the whole Fort. The dados were decorated with gesso work on a gold ground. The borders are still almost intact, but the rest of the relief ornament seems to have been wantonly hacked off out of pure mischief. I believe this is the only example of gesso work in any of Akbar’s buildings. The treatment of the upper part of the walls with the characteristic cuspings of Arabian and Moorish architects is admirable.
Passing through these, we enter a long room known as the library, in which a not very successful attempt was made some years ago to restore the painted decoration. It is to be devoutly hoped that this and other dangerous experiments of the kind will not be continued, except under skilled artistic supervision. The restoration of the structural parts of the palace and of the stone carving is a more easy matter, for the descendants of the very men who built and carved the palace still practise their art in Agra and round about. This has been admirably carried out by the Public Works Department under Lord Curzon’s orders.
The outer courtyard, on the riverside, is very interesting, especially for a very elegant and original porch, in which Saracenic feeling predominates; but on entering the inner courtyard (Plate VI.) it is more easy to realize that this Palace is one of the great masterpieces of Mogul architecture. The beauty of this inner quadrangle is derived not so much from its fine proportions and rich ornamentation as from the wonderful rhythmic play of light and shadow, produced by the bracket form of construction and the admirable disposition of the openings for doors, windows, and colonnades. The north side of the quadrangle is formed by a pillared hall, of distinctly Hindu design, full of the feeling of mystery characteristic of indigenous Indian styles. The subdued light of the interior adds to the impressiveness of its great piers stretching their giant brackets up to the roof like the gnarled and twisted branches of primeval forest trees. A very interesting point of view can be obtained from the gallery which runs round the upper part of the hall.
One of Jahangir’s wives, a Hindu princess of Jodhpur, hence known as Jodh Bai, lived in this part of the palace, and the room on the west side of the quadrangle, surrounded by a number of oblong niches, is said to have been her temple, in which the images of Hanuman and other Hindu deities were kept.
On the roof of the Jahangiri Mahal there are two fine pavilions; also a number of cisterns, which supplied the palace with water. In the side of one of them there are a number of pipe-holes, lined with copper, over each of which is a circular stone label inscribed with the part of the palace to which it gave a supply.
On the rising ground behind the courtyard of the Dîwan-i-âm there formerly existed a palace called the Salîmgarh. Before Jahangir’s accession he was known as Prince Salîm, and tradition associates this palace with him. Fergusson, however, states that in his time an exquisite fragment of a palace built by Shere Shah, or his son Salîm, existed here. The Salîmgarh at Delhi is named after the son of Shere Shah, Salîm Shah Sur, who built it, and there is some doubt as to which of the two Salîms gave his name to the Salîmgarh at Agra. Akbar’s Fort is known to have been built to replace an older one (known as the Badalgarh) by Salîm Shah Sur, but it is quite possible that a part of the palace may have been left, and retained the name of its founder.
The only part of the Salîmgarh which now remains is a large two-storied pavilion in front of the barracks. The upper half of the exterior is carved with extraordinary richness. The style of design certainly indicates the period of the Jahangiri Mahal and Akbar’s buildings at Fatehpur Sikri, rather than Shere Shah’s work.
- 1. These elephant statues have been a vexed point with archæologists. Bernier, in his description of Delhi, refers to two great elephants of stone, with their riders, outside of the Fort Gates. The riders, he says, were portraits of the famous Rajput chiefs Jaymal and Patta, slain by Akbar at the siege of Chitore. “Their enemies, in admiration of the devotion of the two heroes, put up these statues to their memory.” Now, Bernier does not say that the statues were put up by Akbar, but General Cunningham, inferring that Bernier meant this, propounded a theory that they were originally in front of the Agra Fort, which Akbar built, and removed to Delhi by Shah Jahan, when he built his new palace there. 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.”
- 2. The old Mogul road led directly from the Elephant Gate to the entrance of the Dîwan-i-âm. I understand that this road will be restored shortly by the Archæological Department.
- 3. 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.