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

One has a splendid view of the Taj


The

real cenotaphs containing the remains of Shah Jahan and his wife are immediately under these tombs, in the vault below. Not the least of the wonders of this wonderful building is in its acoustic qualities. It does not respond to vulgar noises, but if a few notes be slowly and softly sung in this vault, and especially if the chord of the seventh be sounded; they are caught up by the echoes of the roof and repeated in endless harmonies, which seem to those listening above as if a celestial choir were chanting angelic hymns. "It haunts the air above and around; it distils in showers upon the polished marble; it rises, it falls.... It is the very element with which sweet dreams are builded. It is the spirit of the Taj, the voice of inspired love!"

Surrounding the central chamber are eight smaller ones for the mullahs who chanted the Koran and for musicians who played soft Indian and Persian melodies. The vault below was only opened once a year, on the anniversary day, when the Emperor and all his court attended a solemn festival. Even on ordinary occasions none but Muhammadans were admitted into the interior. Bernier tells us that he had not seen it, on that account, but he understood that nothing could be conceived more rich and magnificent.

The two mosques of red sandstone on either side of the Taj are in the same style as the entrance gateway, the interiors being decorated with fresco and fine cut plaster-work.

The one towards the west was intended for prayers only; the floor is panelled into separate spaces for each worshipper. The opposite mosque was known, as the _Jamaat Khana_, or meeting-place for the congregation before prayers, and on the occasion of the great anniversary service. Standing on the platform in front of this mosque, one has a splendid view of the Taj, the river, and the distant Fort.

As the garden is now arranged; a full view of the magnificent platform, with its two mosques, and the Taj itself, can only be obtained from the opposite side of the river, which is not very accessible except by boat. When the traveller leaves Agra by rail, going east, the Taj in all its glory can be seen in the distance, floating like the mirage of some wondrous fairy palace over the waving tufts of the pampas grass, until at last it sinks into the pale horizon.

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NOTE.--A small museum has been established lately by the Archaeological Department, in the western half of the Taj main gateway. It contains an interesting collection of photographs and drawings of the Taj at different periods, and specimens of the stones used in the _pietra dura_, or inlay work of the building. There are also samples illustrating the technique of _pietra dura_, and the tools used by native workmen.


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