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“In the center stood the wonder of wonders, the famous Peacock Throne. This throne of solid gold measured six feet in length and was five feet wide, forming a low, broad seat, the back of which spread out in the form of a peacock's tail. A dais in solid gold, bordered with a long fringe of pearls and resting upon twelve golden columns, covered the rear of the throne. The front was a canopy formed by two colossal velvet parasols embroidered with pearls, and their gold handles inlaid with diamonds."
The eyes of the peacock were represented by two immense diamonds. One of these diamonds was the Kohinur, or Mountain of Light, which has had a most interesting history. When the Mogul Empire was overthrown at Delhi, and the Peacock Throne spoiled of its wealth, the Kohinur was not to be found. The conqueror could not be satisfied without it. It had been concealed in the turban of the conquered emperor, but at last the secret of its hiding place was revealed.
How to obtain it, without insulting the royal prisoner, was the question. At a great ceremony the conqueror proposed to the Mogul emperor to exchange turbans as a pledge of good faith. This the poor man could not refuse to do; and so the priceless jewel passed into other hands. It was taken to Lahore and there remained until 1849, when the whole Punjab was taken under British rule. Then the East India Company received the famous diamond, with the understanding that it should be presented to Queen Victoria. It was placed in the care of an army offioer, who afterwards became the famous Lord Lawrence. Thus, after having been for centuries the cause of strife, and the spoil of one conqueror after another, this famous gem passed into the possession of a powerful nation, whose greatness had, in large measure, been gained since the Kohinur was discovered. It now occupies a conspicuous place among the crown jewels of England.
There is one more sight which must be seen before leaving Delhi. This is a great tower called the Kuttub-Minar. Kuttub was one of the Mohammedan conquerors of Delhi. He, as did all the Mohammedan conquerors, turned the temples of the Hindus into quarries, and took the huge blocks of stone for the building of mosques.
The tradition is that this pillar was so transformed. It is covered from base to summit with broad bands of inscriptions, in Arabic, setting forth the praises of many emperors. The Hindus say that this tower was once a temple, and was built by a king to please his daughter. By ascending to its summit, she could worship the rising sun and behold its first gleam upon the sacred waters of the Jumna.
There are many reasons for believing that this gigantic pillar was built by the ancient Hindus. The carving on certain portions consists of clusters of bells, entirely different from Mohammedan art. The door faces to the north, which is the custom in all Hindu temples; while, if built by the Mohammedans of India, it would have faced to the west, or toward Mecca. Whoever built it, Mohammedan or Hindu, all are gone, and the splendid ruin alone remains to fill us with wonder and delight.
This magnificent tower is two hundred and thirtyeight feet high, and is divided into five stories by projecting balconies. From its summit there is a fine view of the whole Delhi plain, which is but a succession of ruined citadels and fortified palaces.
Near the Kuttub-Minar stands an iron pillar, which is one of the most curious things in India. It is interesting both because of the wonder as to its origin and the legend connected with it. It is a solid shaft of iron, sixteen inches in diameter, and stands twenty-two feet above the ground. How could such a large column have been forged without the aid of steam? It is a striking proof that the Hindus were skilled in one or more of “the lost arts.”
The legend is, “that this pillar was erected in the sixth century. It went so deep into the ground that it pierced the head of the serpent god who supports the earth. The priests told the rajah that because of this his kingdom should endure forever. But the rajah was not satisfied, and so the column was dug up to see if the priests were right.
- The end was found to be covered with blood, and the priests then told the rajah his kingdom would soon pass away
“ The pillar was again planted deep, but this time it did not touch the serpent, and ever after was unsteady.
“So the priests named the place Dhilli, which means unstable, and prophesied that many evils would befall the rajah. He was killed soon after, and his kingdom was seized by the Mohammedans. Since that time no Hindu prince has reigned in Delhi.”
Leaving Delhi, a journey of one hundred and thirty miles brings us to Agra, the second city both in size and importance in the Northwest Provinces. It is
a great bend of the Jumna River. In many respects Agra is the most interesting place in all India.
In 1566 Akbar the Great removed the seat of government from Delhi to Agra, and, as his first great work, built the famous red sandstone fort which stands uninjured to the present day. The walls of the fort are about a mile and a half in circuit, and are eighty feet in height. The whole is surrounded by a wide moat, crossed by a drawbridge at the only entrance, which is called the Delhi Gate.
Within these walls are many beautiful and interesting buildings. Here is the Pearl Mosque (much larger and more beautiful than the one in Delhi), which was the private chapel of the Mogul emperors. Standing in the bright sunlight, the dazzling whiteness of this lovely building is simply blinding, and it can be viewed only through colored glasses. It is built entirely of white marble, and an inscription upon it informs us that it is like a precious pearl, for no other mosque in the world is lined throughout with marble.”
A short walk brings us to the emperor's palace, with its great corridors, its magnificent halls, its wide pavilions, and its marble baths. Within the great Audience Hall, the Prince of Wales, who may one day rule over a larger Indian Empire than that of the Mogul emperors, held a durbar, or public reception of the native princes, during his visit to India in 1876.
The great square of The Fort was where the emperors held their games, elephant tournaments, and other amusements ; but it is now disfigured with ugly