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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Gertrude Bell
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1 entry, paper

Dec 25 [25 December 1902] Xmas Day. Up at 8, a delicious cold
sunny morning, feeling as fresh as possible after my night in my nice
tent, and washed my hair. H. [Hugo] went to church and we
breakfasted together at 9.30. After which he went to Church again and
I strolled down to the town and into the Fort. Magnificent great gate -
the Delhi Gate - within another splendid red sandstone gate called the
Elephant Gate, all inlaid with white marble and carved. I then went up
to the Moti Musjid which is all of white marble veined a greyish blue. A
large court leads up to the mosque which is the most lovely I have yet
seen. There is no touch of colour except the black lettering over the
front and a little red and gold decoration round the mehrab. Gradually
in the cool grey whiteness you realize the exquisite beauty and
perfect finish of every detail and you give thanks for the discretion
which left the marble to speak for itself. A charming old party showed
me round and we conversed in Urdu. I then went on to the court of the
Diwani 'Am, which latter is also a perfect audience room, all
columned, the only break in the evenness being the recess in the
back, raised up and decorated with pietra dura and carving in low
relief. Here Aurungzib sat. Then I went on into the Machchi Bhawan, a
two storied cloister on 3 sides, on the 4th the cloister is one storied of
red sandstone and supports a big platform on which is the famous
black stone throne. This platform covers Mumtaz i Mahal's summer
rooms and from it is one of the great views of the Taj. To the NW. is a
divine little court with a tiny mosque in it the Naginah Musjed, and on
the SW end is the Meena Musjed, a miracle of white marble and
pietra dura. From here you see the Saman Burj, Mumtaz i Mahal's
winter quarters, the most heavenly pavilion standing out over the river
with a little court in front paved for Pachisi. They played it with slave
girls dressed in 4 different colours for counters. So into the Anguri
Bagh, the garden of the palace. Lord C. [Curzon] has cleared it out
but it used to be covered with vines and the little grass plots between
the stone trellised pavement were once {tanks} pools of living water.
At one end are the 2 Golden Pavilions, women's quarters with curious
deep holes in the walls for jewelry, and between them the Khas Mahal
once covered with colour. The view of the Taj through the arches of
the Golden Pavilions is the best of all. To the right are Shah Jehan's
private rooms and on the river an octagonal pavilion in which he died,
gazing at the Taj. It is almost as lovely as the Saman Burj. Here I
turned back and went out and took a garri and drove to the Pontoon
Bridge over which I walked and so to the tomb of Himad ud Daula,
Nur Jehan's father. A garden leads to it. It is surrounded by red
sandstone walls with 4 pavilions inlaid with white; itself white marble
and pietra dura and marvellous pierced marble windows. The view
through the river pavilion is superb. So back along the river when I
photographed buffaloes, and over the railway bridge. I jumped into
an ekka and jolted home. My driver was a charming old man with
whom I had a long conversation. After lunch Mr C. Bentinck sent us to
Sergeant Major Clements to show us round the Fort. We jumped into
an ekka and drove up to his house where we waited till he was ready
and talked to his wife and daughter. He was a charming man and an
excellent guide. He took us through the Dewan i Am court and to the
Jehangir Mahal which is all of red sandstone carved and inlaid with
white marble and blue and green tiles but simpler than Shah Jehan's
building. Outside we noticed some elephant brackets exactly like
some we afterwards saw at Fattehpore Sikri [Fatehpur Sikri]. The
rooms within are most lovely, all with carved and vaulted ceilings,
each one different from the others, and great doorways with the
crossbeam and the carved Hindu bracket. There is a wonderful
carved quadrangle in the middle with a columned chamber out of it.
The work here is as good as anywhere in the Fort and typically Hindu.
All the rooms have niches in the walls up to the roof. Beyond is a
long passage with servants' rooms and outside a little open place
between the palace and the fort walls with a beautiful buttressed and
carved tower. Above on the roof there are some charming Hindu
pavilions, possibly temples. We now went to the Shish Mahal in the
Anguri Bagh, wonderful stucco rooms set with glass in exquisite
designs and with octagonal baths let into the centre of the floor. The
back one is quite dark and was lighted behind the bath with candles
set in tiny niches before which covered glass was placed and over
this the water fell. The lower part of the walls and of two alcoves are
covered with painting of flowers and fruits, perfectly fresh. A long stair
near the Saman Burj leads down to the Water gate - as the Jumna
[Yamuna] used to come quite up to the walls, the queen cd go down
here and bathe in it. There is a lovely bit of marble work in front of the
Khas Mahal forming a conduit for water, coloured marbles set zigzag
[sketch] and so on. From here the water fell into the Anguri Bagh. We
also saw lots of chambers to the left of the Saman Burj with marble
lattices looking onto the Jumna. We crossed the Anguri Bagh and
went down below the palace into endless long passages. They are
supposed to lead underground to the Taj, to Sikandra [Sikhandra]
and to Fattehpore Sikri. The whole deep palace is honeycombed
with them and they have been stopped up because people got in and
lost themselves. 2 soldiers were lost thus 30 years ago and never
reappeared nor cd their bones be found. In one of these passages
was a big dark chamber with a sandstone bath in the middle of it and
here the prisoners used to made their last ablutions. Next to it is a
room with a niche for an image - the Hindu prisoners' temple. Still
further underground is a dark place with a great carved beam above
it - below blackness - a blackness that used to lead straight down to
the Jumna. By this road the Moguls sent their foes to another
incarnation. We went up onto the roof and photographed and them
away to the Pearl Mosque and up onto its roof where we met Mr
Macdougall with whom we walked home in the sunset. The Pearl
Mosque has a little pattern on the walls - simple lines of black and
yellow, a kind of stencilling forming prayer carpet figures and outlining
the blocks.

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