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A Handbook to Agra and the Taj by E. B. Havell

On the north side of the Anguri Bagh


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 _baoli_; 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 archaeological 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 archaeology that they could not by any possibility have been the gates of a Hindu temple.


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