There are some other places of considerable interest easily accessible from Agra, but it would be beyond the scope of this book to describe them in detail.
BHARATPUR.—This place, which has been often alluded to, is the capital of a native state of that name, founded by the Jâts under Suraj Mal about 1750. The origin of the Jât race is obscure, but probably they are of Scythian descent. Some authorities have put forward a theory that the gypsies of Europe and the Jâts are of the same race. They form a large proportion of the population of North-Western India. Their religion varies with the locality, but the Jâts who occupied Agra under Suraj Mal were Hindus.
In 1809, the fort at Bharatpur resisted for six weeks a siege by General, afterwards Lord Lake, who withdrew, after four desperate assaults.
The Palace of Suraj Mal is at Dig, twenty-one miles by road from Bharatpur. It was commenced about 1725, and is the finest and most original of the Indian palaces of that period. The Jât chief carried off to it a great deal of the loot from the Agra Fort.
GOVARDHAN.—The tombs of Suraj Mal and his two Ranis are at Govardhan, a very picturesque place about eight miles from Dig. There are also a number of very interesting tombs and buildings of later date. Fergusson1 says of one of these, which was in course of construction when he was there in 1839, that he acquired from its native architect more knowledge of the secrets of art as practised in the Middle Ages than he had learnt from all the books he had read. The same living architectural art is practised all over Rajputana at the present day. The preference we show for the incomparably inferior art of the mongrel eclectic styles we have imported into India, is only a proof that there is something wanting in the superior civilization and culture which we believe ourselves to possess.
There is also at Govardhan a very fine Hindu temple, dating from the time of Akbar.
A great fair is held here every year about the end of October, or beginning of November, on the occasion of the Hindu Diwâli, or Feast of Lamps, one of the most beautiful and impressive of all the
Muttra, the Mathora of the Greeks, about fourteen miles from Govardhan, and within easy reach of Agra by rail, is one of the most sacred places of the Hindus, from being the reputed birthplace of Krishna. It is a great centre for the worship of Vishnu.
Brindâban, or Bindarâban, which is a very short distance further by rail, possesses an old Hindu temple, dedicated to Govind Deva, or Vishnu, of the same period as the other at Govardhan, and built by the same person, Rajah Man Singh of Amber, an ancestor of the present Maharajah of Jaipur. Fergusson describes it as one of the most interesting and elegant temples in India.
There is also a great Vishnu temple of the last century, in the Dravidian style of Southern India, built by a Hindu millionaire merchant. Krishna’s childhood and early youth were passed in the vicinity of Brindâban, and on that account it is held especially sacred by the followers of the Vaishnavite sect of Hinduism, who flock there in thousands on the anniversary of Krishna’s birth, in the month of Bhadon (August—September).
- 1. “History of Indian and Eastern Architecture.”