Then came two victims, each borne on a richly decorated palanquin. They were loaded rather than decked, with jewels. Several ranks of soldiers surrounded them to preserve order and to keep back the great crowds that flocked in from every side.
The two queens were accompanied by some of their favorite women, with whom they occasionally conversed.
Then followed relatives of both sexes, to whom the victims had made valuable presents before leaving the palace. An innumerable multitude of Brahmins and persons of all castes followed in the rear.
On reaching the spot where their fate awaited them, the victims were required to perform the ablutions and other ceremonies proper on such occasions and they went through the whole of them without hesitation and without the least sign of fear. When, however, it came to walking round the pyre, it was observed that their features underwent a sudden change.
During this interval the body of the king had been placed on the top of the pyramid of sandalwood. The two queen, still wearing their rich attire and ornaments, were next compelled to ascend the pyre. Lying down beside the body of the deceased prince, one on the right and other on the left, they joined hands across the corpse.
The officiating Brahmins then sprinkled the pile with holy water, and emptied the jars of ghee over the wood, setting fire on it at the same moment. The flames quickly spread and the props being removed, the whole structure collapsed and in its fall must have crushed to death the two unfortunate victims. Thereupon all the spectators shouted aloud for joy.
During the sixth century the Gupta Empire collapsed under the repeated attacks of the White Huns (perhaps related to the Huns who plagued the Roman Empire during the fifth century) India again entered a period of political disorder; the country became divided into small warring kingdoms. Waves of foreign invaders again entered the land; but as in the past, Hinduism absorbed these foreign elements into Indian society. However, the history of India took a dramatic turn when northern India fell under the domination of Muslims who brought with them a religion and culture as strong as Hinduism.
After years of constant raids, Muslim warriors conquered much of northern India, where they established a Muslim kingdom in 1206 near the city of Delhi. Almost immediately a conflict arose between the Muslim and Hindu elements within Indian society. This was a struggle not only between two religions, but between two distinct ways of line. The Hindus believed in many gods, but the Muslims acknowledged only one.
The Hindus followed the rigid caste system while the Muslims believed in the equality of all men before their god, Allah.
Although Muslim control of northern India ended at the close of the fourteenth century, the hostilities between Hindus and Muslims in Indian society have continued to the present.
Muslims contributed to the development of Indian culture. They left the valuable monument of art, the great masterpiece - Taj Mahal.
Of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World, two were dedicated to sentiment in marriage: the Mausoleum, monument of a wife's devotion to the memory of her husband; the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, erected by a husband for the happiness of a favourite wife. Among the wonders of the modern world, one of the most famous commemorates a husband's devotion to a wife.
It is, of course, the incomparable Taj Mahal, the tomb that Shah Jehan created for the beauteous Mumtaz Mahal, at the city of Agra, in India. The French traveler Francois Bernier, who toured the East three centuries ago, was in Agra during the 1660s, saw the building when it had been up for less than twenty years, and wrote in his journal: "Possibly I have acquired an Indian taste, but I am of the opinion that this monument has much more right to be included among the wonders of the world than the pyramids of Egypt". Some critics have gone beyond him, declaring the Taj Mahal to be the most beautiful edifice ever erected by man. Shah Jehan was one of the Mogul emperors who reigned over India in golden splendour. A Moslem, he practiced the polygamy ordained in the Koran, which permitted four wife not counting the concubines whom it was customary for an Islamic potentate to have in his harem. Mumtaz Mahal, young dainty, and beautiful, was the favourite wife. Taj Mahal, therefore, is a monument to romantic sentiment in the harem, a husband's devotion in polygamous family life.
The Taj Mahal is the masterpieces of Mohammedan Art. That it arose on Indian soil is explained by history. The Moglus came originally from Central Asia, their name being a variant of the world "Mongol". They were Moslems, and they conquered India.
The founder of the Mogul Empire was one of the remarkable men of all time. In martial ardor and ability to command, Baber may have been a typical princeling of Iartary, but he was also a man of culture, the author of perhaps best political memoirs ever written by a reigning monarch. In December of 1525 he led his army into India. The battle took place on April 12, 1526, and proved to be one of the decisive conflicts of world history for Baber won the victory, that gave him a permanent foothold in the land that was to be ruled by this descendants.
Baber did not finish the work of integrating an imperial domain. But the Moguls were lucky in the next representative of their dynasty Akbar, known to history as Akbar The Great. He introduced a new system of government, bringing ale the land under his direct authority naming his own viceroys, setting up a comprehensive tax levy, keeping the provincial military forces in the pay of the central treasury to prevent local rebellious before they could get started.
At his death (1605) he left behind an empire so closely knit and organized that it could continue in much the same form for another century. By patronizing artists and architects he forwarded the development of style and skill to the point where under his grand son,the miracle of the Taj Mahal became possible. Akbar was succeeded by his son Sahangir, the potentate to whom the title of "The Great Mogul" was first applied. The imagination of the west was inflamed, by stories of the beauty, power, luxury and oriental splendour of the Mogul Empire. Merchants, travellers, ambassadors, missionaries - all helped to fill in the picture of the Great Mogul and his kingdom.
Iahangir died in 1627 and the throne passed to his son, Shah Jehan. Under his popular rule the Mogul Empire reached its height. His reign was remembered for its order, security and justice. In 1612 he had married Argumand Banu a cousin, and their wedded bliss until her death in 1631 constitutes one of the great love stories of the world. It was not dimmed by the fact that Shah Jehan, in Moslem fashion, had a harem of other wives. She was his