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A Forgotten City.-By J. F. FANTHOME.
[Read May, 1904.]
History makes mention of many cities, only the names of which have survived through the lapse of ages, but their sites are unknown. Madāin, the capital of the celebrated Nushērwān, is one. By some it is identified with the modern Hamadan in Persia, by others as the present Qandahār in Afghanistan; others again trace it to a town of a similar name which Sale, the translator of the Quran, places in the south of Arabia, and calls it Madian. The exact geography or location of the city is therefore unknown.
That these cities which flourished for indefinite periods, should have perished leaving scarcely any memorial of themselves upon the records of time, is hardly to be credited than that a city founded by a powerful monarch for his pleasure should have come into existence, flourished, decayed, and swept off the earth as it were, within the short space of three decades, is a phenomenon in history which cannot fail to strike the imagination or to point the moral in regard to the transitory nature of things human. Such a city, however, sprung up during the early days of the great Akbar's reign, and ended its brief duration even before that monarch had closed his by-no-means short reign of fifty-one years. I refer to the town of NAGARCAIN, a name not to be found, as far as I am aware, in contemporary annals except two, nor in any of the chronicles of the subsequent period of Mughal domination.
After Akbar had been seated on the throne nine years, his historian informs us, he caused a city to be built within easy distance of his capital, Agra, upon a plain which lies due south of the present city of that name. This city which he named Nagarcain, he intended for a resting-place, as the name imports, or a "camping-ground" for the Imperial cavalcade. To it he retired frequently for "rest"—for recreation from the cares of Government-and spent the time in hunting and hawking, in playing caugān or polo, and in witnessing races and
other games, to relieve and divert his mind. It was, in short, if we may so term it, a hunting-seat, or, what in Europe would perhaps be called, a villa or country-seat; but something more pretentious than the villas at Rupbās or Bārī still extant. It seems nevertheless to have been a place of greater magnitude than a villa, for it rose in a very short time to be a city, which derived its importance and its magnificence from the occasional residence in its midst of the Court of one of the greatest potentates the world has seen.
The Royal wish having been expressed, palaces and baths and temples and mansions, and other handsome edifices soon came out of the builders' hands. The courtiers, encouraged thereto, followed suit, and within a very short time a city rose, excelling in the number of its inhabitants, and in the gorgeousness of its public and private edifices most of the Indian capitals of the present day; for though the extent or the dimensions of the inhabited site are not given, it is safe to assume that it was in every respect equal to the requirements of a magnificent Court, the pomp and pageantry of its appointments, and the vast multitudes of followers that usually formed the camps of the Mughal Emperors, as we find recorded in other places; not to mention the calls, public business, manufactures, commerce, and curiosity, and travel make upon space and surroundings.
Akbar ascended the throne in the year 1556 A.D. Nagarcain was therefore founded in the year 1565; but when Badayuni wrote his "History," to which a date may be assigned prior to the conclusion of the reign in 1605, Nagarcain had already ceased to be a city, not a trace of it was left. The fact is almost incredible, but I take it as I find it recorded in the pages of one whose comments upon the events of this reign were not always favourable.
I shall now proceed to quote from Abul Fazl's Akbarnāma in support of my description; the translation is mine.
"To relate the event of the founding of Nagarcain is to gain the prize (caugān) of pleasure with the aid of good fortune. The Constructor of the great wonders of creation and the Wise Designer of the grand edifices of the variegated world has determined with His perfect foreknowledge and infinite power that the being of His Majesty shall every moment prove the means of demonstrating the celestial arts, and that in every place His Majesty's ideas of beauty may be adopted as a correct examplar for the decoration of cities. Hence His Majesty turned his attention-the beautifier of the world-to adorn and embellish the village of Kalakrāli. The whole area of this village, from the purity of its climate and the luxuriance of the soil, and its plains, is by contrast much to be preferred to any other land of pleasantness; J. I. 36
and it lies at the distance of one farsang from the capital of Agra, During these days it so happened, whenever the exalted retinue proceeded from the city to the open country for the purpose of recreation or sport, His Majesty's mind, spotless in its conceptions, was frequently attracted to that alluring region; and there among the inspiriting green swards, freed from care, the carpet of sport being spread, he indulged in hunting the wild animals or snaring the feathered tribes. At this period, while the banners of good fortune were returned from their excursion through the tracts of Mandu and were established at the seat of empire, the artificer of lofty resolutions expressed his will that soulstirring edifices and life-nourishing gardens shall be built upon that wealth-promoting plain. Accordingly, at the auspicious moment and under lucky influences, harmonising with the aspirations of pleasure and delight, the designers with the magical compasses and the builders with enchanting ideals laid the foundations of charming mansions and beautiful structures such as might serve to encase therein the spirits of desire; and within a short space of time the builders with nimble hands and the artificers possessing active ability finished the construction in accordance with the ideas inscribed deeply in the picture gallery of His Majesty's enlightened mind. Likewise, the Ministers of the State and the Pillars of the Empire, as well as the whole body of officials of the sublime threshold, made mansions and gardens to the extent of their means and in accordance with the respective positions they occupied, and indulged in the enjoyment of them. And so, within the time appointed, that inhabited spot spread its luxuriance to such a degree that it might have been considered as a (black) mole upon the cheek of all the cities of the Universe. And the great Emperor gave to that flourishing settlement, to that freshly-produced fruit of Paradise, the rame of Nagarcain; that is, the place of ease and comfort. And before that time His Majesty used (in the same place) to carry off (victoriously) the prize of pleasure from Fortune, and to pay the dues of sensibility, delight and gratification in the indulgence of sport and recreation."
The next quotation which I shall give is from 'Abdul Qadir Badāyūni's Muntakhaib-ut-tawārīkḥ, the perusal of which indeed has led me to make these remarks:
"In this year the building of the city of Nagarcain took place. On this subject one of the nobles, at the time of the composition of the Akbār-nāma, ordered me to compose some lines which I here insert without alteration. 'When the Architect of the workshop of invention through the promptings of original genius, suggested to the lofty thoughts of the absolute monarch who is the builder of the metropolis of the