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THE LAND OF THE GREAT MOGULS.
THERE are few chapters in history more interesting than the story of the Mohammedan conquest of northern India. Here, a short time after the discovery of America, was established the empire of the Great Moguls.
A simple description of the splendor of these powerful rulers, their gorgeous palaces, and their beautiful mosques built of marble and richly decorated with gold and gems, reads like pages from the Arabian Nights Tales. Here are to be seen ruins of palaces, tombs, and mosques, quite as interesting as any in England or on the banks of the Rhine. But all these remarkable structures are not ruins. Many splendid palaces and beautiful columns, as well as magnificent tombs of kings and queens, remain nearly as perfect as they were in the time of the great rulers by whom they were built.
Delhi and Agra were the centers of Mohammedan power. Delhi was the capital city till Akbar the Great removed the seat of government to Agra. Years afterwards, his son, Shah Jehan, made Delhi again the capi- . tal, and it so remained until the whole country came under English rule.
Delhi is one of the most interesting cities in Asia. It is a very old city. Its history runs back to a time hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Not Rome, nor Athens, nor Jerusalem can claim so great
antiquity. In some respects Delhi may be compared to Rome. It was once the proud capital of Asia, as Rome was of the Roman Empire.
At least three cities have occupied the site of the present Delhi. The plain for miles around is strewn with the ruins of mosques and tombs. The city is
situated on the Jumna River, and is surrounded by a wall seven miles in length, through which are ten arched gateways. Entering through one of these, the Lahore Gate now called the Victoria Gate — we find ourselves on the Chandni Chouk, or Silver Street, which is, in many respects, one of the most remarkable thoroughfares of the world. It is nearly a mile in length, and through the middle of it runs an old aqueduct from which the people formerly obtained their supply of water. By means of this aqueduct the gardens and fields about Delhi were irrigated.
On either side of the street are the houses, with broad verandas, and the shops of the rich merchants. The shops are like square cells, or recesses, of almost uniform size. Here are for sale rich shawls, brocades, gold and silver embroidery, jewelry, metal work, carpets, pottery, and all the other beautiful wares for which India is noted. One is besieged on every side by shopkeepers, and urged to buy the wares which are so temptingly displayed.
Not content with seeking your trade in their shops, the shopkeepers will follow you in the streets, and will even send their assistants to your hotel with large packages of goods to display. With great patience they show articles of silver of the most beautiful workmanship, shawls, ivory paintings, rugs, and many other things to tempt the purchaser.
If, after all, you still refuse to buy anything, they pack up their wares quietly and politely leave you, but at the first opportunity they renew their efforts. They will even follow you to the train, when you are leaving the city, and there strive to sell something at a much reduced price. If they fail in this last attempt their politeness vanishes, and they then heap all kinds of Hindu curses on your
head. The streets of Delhi are crowded with people from every part of central and southern Asia. The native costumes lend a picturesque appearance to the scene. Every visitor to Delhi visits the Jâmi Musjid, or Great Mosque, and the Imperial Palace of the Moguls. These are two of the principal attractions. There are as many as forty mosques in Delhi, but the Great Mosque surpasses them all. It stands in the center of the city, and, like all other mosques, is open at all hours.
The dark red sandstone of which it is built, with
its white marble ornamentation, produces a fine effect. There are marble domes of dazzling whiteness, turrets, and minarets. From the summit of one of these tall minarets is to be seen the best view of Delhi.
Above all other attractions, our attention is chiefly given to the Great Palace.
When occupied by the Mogul emperors, it was probably the most splendid palace in the world. It was built by Shah Jehan, the greatest of the imperial builders of India, whose name will always be associated with this magnificent
structure. Neglected as it has been much of the time since the downfall of the Mogul emperors, the Great Palace is even now worthy to rank among the most beautiful buildings of India.
As we gaze upon the mighty fortress, we realize more fully the stately pomp and grandeur of these old Mohammedan rulers. A French traveler, who visited Delhi during the reign of the Great Moguls, tells of the crowds of courtiers and soldiers in gorgeous attire, the tumult of palanquins, horses with nodding plumes, elephants with howdahs of ivory and gold, and slaves carrying richly embroidered parasols to protect their masters from the sun. Such was the sight which met the eye of the stranger as he approached the gate of the palace.
But no sooner had he entered the walls than all the joys of fairyland seemed to be realized. Marble-paved courts musical with fountains, and groves of orange and other spreading trees, were surrounded by pavilions which shone like structures of polished ivory.
This wonderful palace is three thousand feet long, and sixteen hundred feet wide. It is built around an open court in which as many as ten thousand horsemen could be mustered. The throne hall is empty now, but the description by one who saw it in its glory will help us to imagine something of its regal magnificence.
“ The ceiling was covered with a tissue of gold and silver, of elegant workmanship, estimated at a value of five million dollars. Heavy silk draperies, festooned with chains of solid gold, hung in the arched entrances.