Wherever the viceroy may hold court, wherever the government may sit, Delhi always has been and always will be the capital of India, for have not the prophets foretold that the gilded marble palaces of the Moguls will stand forever? Although Benares and Lucknow have a larger population, Delhi is regarded as the metropolis of Northern India, and in commerce and manufactures stands fourth in the list of cities, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras only surpassing it in wealth, industry and trade. If you will look at the map for a moment you will notice its unusually favorable location, both from a commercial and military standpoint. It occupies a central place in northern India, has railway connections with the frontier and is equidistant from Bombay and Calcutta, the principal ports of the empire. It receives raw materials from the northern provinces and from mysterious regions beyond the boundary. Its cunning artisans convert them into finished products and ship them to all the markets of the world. Being of great strategic importance, a large military garrison is maintained there, and the walls of an ancient fort shelter arsenals filled with guns and magazines filled with ammunition, which may be promptly distributed by railway throughout the empire on demand. It is the capital of one of the richest and most productive provinces, the headquarters of various departments of the government, the residence of a large foreign colony, civil, military and commercial; it has the most learned native pundits in India; it has extensive missionary stations and educational institutions, and is the center and focus of learning and all forms of activity. It is a pity and a disgrace that Delhi has no good hotels. There are two or three indifferent ones, badly built and badly kept. They are about as good as the average in India, but ought to be a great deal better, for if travelers could find comfortable places to stop Delhi might be made a popular resort.

Travelers complain also of the pestiferous peddlers who pursue them beyond the limit of patience. We were advised by people who know India not to buy anything until we reached Delhi, because that city has the best shops and the best bazaars and produces the most attractive fabrics, jewelry and other articles which tourists like to take home to their friends. And we found within a few moments after our appearance there that we would have no difficulty in obtaining as many things as we wanted. We arrived late at night, and when we opened the doors of our chambers the next morning we found a crowd of clamoring merchants in the corridor waiting to seize us as we came out. And wherever we went - in temples, palaces, parks and in the streets - they followed us with their wares tied up in bundles and slung over their backs. When we drove out to "The Ridge," where the great battles took place during the mutiny of 1857, to see a monument erected in memory of the victims of Indian treachery, two enterprising merchants followed us in a carriage and interrupted our meditations by offering silks, embroideries and brass work at prices which they said were 20 per cent lower than we would have to pay in the city. When we went into the dining-room of the hotel we always had to pass through a throng of these cormorants, who thrust jewelry, ivory carvings, photographs, embroideries, cashmere shawls, silks and other goods in our faces and begged us to buy them. As we rode through the streets they actually ran at the sides of the carriage, keeping pace with the horses until we drove them off by brandishing parasols, umbrellas and similar weapons of defense. We could not go to a mosque or the museum without finding them lying in wait for us, until we became so exasperated that homicide would have been justifiable. That is the experience of every traveler, especially Americans, who are supposed to be millionaires, and many of our fellow countrymen spend their money so freely as to excite the avarice of the Delhi tradesmen. And indeed it is true that their goods are the most attractive, although their prices are higher than you have to pay in the smaller towns of India, where there is less demand.

The principal business section, called Chandni Chauk, which means Silver street, has been frequently described as one of the most picturesque and fascinating streets in the world. It is about a mile long and seventy-five feet broad. In the center are two rows of trees, between which for several hundred years was an aqueduct, but it is now filled and its banks are used as a pathway, the principal promenade of the town. But a stranger cannot walk there in peace, for within five minutes he is hemmed in and his way is blocked by merchants, who rush out from the shops on both sides with their hands filled with samples of goods and business cards and in pigeon English entreat him to stop and see what they have for sale. Sometimes it is amusing when rival merchants grapple with each other in their frantic efforts to secure customers, but such unwelcome attentions impair the pleasure of a visit to Delhi.

The shops on both sides of the Chandni Chauk are full of wonderful loom and metal work, jewelry, embroidery, enamel, rugs, hangings, brocades, shawls, leather work, gems and carved ivory and wood. Delhi has always been famous for carvings, and examples of engraving on jade of priceless value are often shown. Sometimes a piece of jade can be found in a curio shop covered with relief work which represents the labor of an accomplished artist for years. In the days of the Moguls these useless ornaments were very highly regarded. Kings and rich nobles used to have engravers attached to their households. Artists and their families were always sure of a comfortable home and good living, hence time was no object. It was not taken into consideration. They were indifferent whether they spent five months or five years in fashioning a block of ivory or engraving a gem for their princely patrons. The greatest works of the most accomplished artists of the Mogul period are now nearly all in the possession of native princes and rich Hindus, and if one comes into the market it is snapped up instantly by collectors in Europe and the United States. Some of the carved ivory is marvelous. An artist would spend his entire life covering a tusk of an elephant with carvings of marvelous delicacy and skill; and even to-day the ivory carvers of Delhi produce wonderful results and sell them at prices that are absurdly small, considering the labor they represent.

Akbar the Great, who sat upon the Mogul throne the latter half of the sixteenth century, was a sensible man, and endeavored to direct the skill and taste of the artisans of his empire into more practical channels. Instead of maintaining artists to carve ivory and jade he established schools and workshops for the instruction of spinners, weavers and embroiderers, and offered high prices for fine samples of shawls and other woolen fabrics, weapons, pottery and similar useful articles. He purchased the rich products of the looms for the imperial wardrobe and induced the native princes to imitate his example. He organized guilds among his workmen, and secured the adoption of regulations which served to maintain a high standard, and permitted none but perfect products to be placed upon the market.

The descendants of the master workmen educated under this policy are still living and following the trades of their ancestors in Delhi, and there may be found the finest gold and silver cloth and the most elaborate embroidery produced in the world. The coronation robe of Queen Alexandra of England, which is said to have been of surpassing richness and beauty, was woven and embroidered in a factory upon the Chandni Chauk, and the merchant who made it is constantly receiving orders from the different courts of Europe and from the leading dressmakers of London, Paris and Vienna. He told us that Mrs. Leland Stanford had commissioned him to furnish the museum of her university in California the finest possible samples of different styles of Indian embroidery, and his workmen were then engaged in producing them. Her contract, he said, amounted to more than $60,000. Lady Curzon is his best customer, for she not only orders all of the material for her state gowns from him, but has brought him enough orders from the ladies of the British court to keep his shop busy for five years. He told us that Lady Curzon designed the coronation robe of Queen Alexandra; he declared that she had the rarest taste of any woman he knew, and that she was the best dressed woman in the world - an opinion shared by other good judges.

He spread upon the floor wonderful samples of the skill and taste of his artists, brocades embroidered with jewels for the ceremonial robes of native princes; silks and satins whose surface was concealed by patterns wrought in gold and silver thread. And everything is done by men. Women do not embroider in India. He keeps eighty men embroiderers constantly employed, and pays them an average of 18 cents a day. The most famous of his artists, those who design as well as execute the delicate and costly garnishings, the men who made the coronation robe of the British queen, receive the munificent compensation of 42 cents a day. That is the maximum paid for such work. Apprentices who do the filling in and coarser work and have not yet acquired sufficient skill and experience to undertake more important tasks are paid 8 cents a day and work twelve hours for that.

Delhi is the principal distributing point for the famous Cashmere shawls which are woven of the hair of camels, goats and sheep in the province of Cashmere, which lies to the northward about 300 miles. They are brought packed in panniers on the backs of camels. I was told at Delhi that the foreign demand for Cashmere shawls has almost entirely ceased, that a very few are shipped from India nowadays because in Europe and America they are no longer fashionable. Hence prices have gone down, the weavers are dependent almost entirely upon the local market of India, and one can obtain good shawls for very low prices - about half what they formerly cost.

In northern India every Hindu must have a shawl; it is as necessary to him as a hat or a pair of boots to a citizen of Chicago or New York, and it is customary to invest a considerable part of the family fortune in shawls. They are handed down from generation to generation, for they never wear out; the older they are the more valuable they are considered. You often see a barefooted, bare-legged peasant with his head wrapped in a Cashmere shawl that would bring a thousand dollars in a London auction-room. It is considered absolutely essential for every young man to wear one of those beautiful fabrics, and if there is none for him in the family he saves his earnings and scrimps and borrows and begs from his relations until he gets enough money together to buy one. Most of the shawls are of the Persian pattern familiar to us. The groundwork is a solid color (white and yellow seem to be the most popular), and there are a good many of blue, green, orange and pink. A crowd of Hindus in this part of the country suggest a kaleidoscope as they move about with their brilliant colored shawls upon their shoulders.

The amount and fineness of embroidery upon the border and in the corners of shawls give them their value, and sometimes there is an elaborate design in the center. The shawl itself is so fine that it can be drawn through a finger ring or folded up and stowed away in an ordinary pocket, but it has the warmth of a Scotch blanket. Shawls are woven and embroidered in the homes of the people of Cashmere, and are entirely of hand work. There are no factories and no steam looms, and every stitch of the decoration is made with an ordinary needle by the fingers of a man. Women do not seem to have acquired the accomplishment.

A great deal of fun used to be made at the expense of Queen Victoria, who was in the habit of sending a Cashmere shawl whenever she was expected to make a wedding present, and no doubt it was rather unusual for her to persist in forcing unfashionable garments upon her friends. But there is another way of looking at it. The good queen was deeply interested in promoting the native industries of India, and bought a large number of shawls every year from the best artists in Cashmere. Up there shawl-makers have reputations like painters and orators with us, and if you would ask the question in Cashmere any merchant would give you the names of the most celebrated weavers and embroiderers. Queen Victoria was their most regular and generous patron. She not only purchased large numbers of shawls herself, but did her best to bring them into fashion, both because she believed it was a sensible practice, and would advance the prosperity of the heathen subjects in whom she took such a deep interest.

The arts and industries of India are very old. Their methods have been handed down from generation to generation, because sons are in the habit of following the trades of fathers, and they are inclined to cling to the same old patterns and the same old processes, regardless of labor-saving devices and modern fashions. Many people think this habit should be encouraged; that what may be termed the classic designs of the Hindus cannot be improved upon, and it is certainly true that all purely modern work is inferior. Lord and Lady Curzon have shown deep interest in this subject. Lord Curzon has used his official authority and the influence of the government to revive, restore and promote old native industries, and Lady Curzon has been an invaluable commercial agent for the manufacturers of the higher class of fabrics and art objects in India. She has made many of them fashionable in Calcutta and other Indian cities and in London, Paris and the capitals of Europe, and so great is her zeal that, with all her cares and responsibilities, and the demands upon her time, she always has the leisure to place orders for her friends and even for strangers who address her, and to assist the silk weavers, embroiderers and other artists to adapt their designs and patterns and fabrics to the requirements of modern fashions. She wears nothing but Indian stuffs herself, and there is no better dressed woman in the world. She keeps several of the best artists in India busy with orders from her friends, and is beginning to see the results of her efforts in the revival of arts that were almost forgotten.

The population of Delhi is about 208,000. The majority of the people, as in the other cities of northwestern India, are Mohammedans, descendants of the invaders of the middle ages, and the hostility between them and the Brahmins is quite sharp. The city is surrounded by a lofty wall six miles in circumference, which was built by Shah Jehan, the greatest of the Moguls, some time about 1630, and the modern town begins its history at that date. It has been the scene of many exciting events since then. Several times it has been sacked and its inhabitants massacred. As late as 1739 the entire population was put to the sword and everything of value within the walls was carried off by the Persians. In the center of the city still remains a portion of what was probably the most splendid palace that was ever erected. It is surrounded by a second wall inclosing an area 3,000 feet long by 1,500 feet wide, which was at one time filled with buildings of unique beauty and interest. They illustrated the imperial grandeur of the Moguls, whose style of living was probably more splendid than that of any monarchs of any nation before or since their time. Their extravagance was unbounded. Their love of display has never been surpassed, and while it is a question where they obtained the enormous sums of money they squandered in ceremonies and personal adornment, there is none as to the accuracy of the descriptions given to them. The fact that Nadir Shah, the Persian invader, was able to carry away $300,000,000 in booty of jewels and gold, silver and other portable articles of value when he sacked Delhi in 1739, is of itself evidence that the stories of the wealth and the splendor of the Moguls are not fables. It is written in the history of Persia that the people of that empire were exempt from taxation for three years because their king brought from Delhi enough money to pay all the expenses of his government and his army during that time. We are told that he stripped plates of gold from the walls of the palace of Delhi and removed the ceilings from the apartments because they were made of silver, and the peacock throne of itself was of sufficient value to pay the debts of a nation.

A considerable part of the palaces of the Moguls has been destroyed by vandals or removed by the British authorities in order to make room for ugly brick buildings which are used as barracks and for the storage of arms, ammunition and other military supplies. It is doubtful whether they could have secured uglier designs and carried them out with ruder workmanship. Writers upon Indian history and architecture invariably devote a chapter to this national disgrace for which the viceroys in the latter part of the nineteenth century were responsible, and they denounce it as even worse than the devastation committed by barbarian invaders. "Nadir Shah, Ahmed Khan and the Maratha chiefs were content to strip the buildings of their precious metals and the jeweled thrones," exclaims one eminent writer. "To the government of the present Empress of India was left the last dregs of vandalism, which after the mutiny pulled down these perfect monuments of Mogul art to make room for the ugliest brick buildings from Simla to Ceylon. The whole of the harem courts of the palace were swept off the face of the earth to make way for a hideous British barrack, without those who carried out this fearful piece of vandalism thinking it even worth while to make a plan of what they were destroying, or making any records of the most splendid palace in the world. Of the public parts of the palace, all that remain are the entrance hall, the Nobut Khana, the Dewani Aum, the Dewani Khas and the Rung Mahal, now used as a mess room, and one or two small pavilions. They are the gems of the palace, it is true, but without the courts and corridors connecting them they lose all their meaning and more than half their beauty. Being now situated in the midst of a British barrack yard, they look like precious stones torn from their settings in some exquisite piece of oriental jeweler's work and set at random in a bed of the commonest plaster."

It is only fair to say that no one appreciates this situation more keenly than Lord Curzon, and while he is too discreet a man to criticise the acts of his predecessors in office, he has plans to restore the interior of the fort to something like its original condition and has already taken steps to tear down the ugly brick buildings that deface the landscape. But something more is necessary. The vandalism still continues in a small way. While we were being escorted through the beautiful buildings by a blithe and gay young Irish soldier, I called his attention to several spots in the wall where bits of precious stone - carnelian, turquoise and agate - had been picked out and carried away as relics. The wounds in the wall were recent. It was perfectly apparent that the damage had been done that very day, but he declared that there was no way to prevent it; that he was the only custodian of the place; that there were no guards; that it was impossible for him to be everywhere at once, and that it was easy enough for tourists and other visitors to deface the mosaics with their pocket knives in one of the palaces while he was showing people through the others.

The mosaics which adorn the interior marble walls of the palaces are considered incomparable. They are claimed to be the most elaborate, the most costly and the most perfect specimens of the art in existence. The designs represents flowers, foliage, fruits, birds, beasts, fishes and reptiles, carried out with precious stones in the pure white marble with the skill and delicacy of a Neapolitan cameo cutter, and it is said that they were designed and done by Austin de Bordeaux, the Frenchman who decorated the Taj Mahal, and it was a bad man who did this beautiful work. History says that "after defrauding several of the princes of Europe by means of false gems, which he fabricated with great skill, he sought refuge at the court of the Moguls, where he was received with high favor and made his fortune."

The richest and the loveliest of the rooms in the palace is the Diwan-i-Khas, or Hall of Private Audience, which is built entirely of marble and originally had a silver ceiling. The walls were once covered with gold, and in the center stood the famous peacock throne. Over the north and south entrances are written in flowing Persia, characters the following lines:

  If there be a Paradise on Earth 
  It is This! It is This! It is This!

The building was a masterpiece of refined fancy and extravagance, and upon its decorations Austin de Bordeaux, whose work on the Taj Mahal pronounces him to be one of the greatest artists that ever lived, concentrated the entire strength of his genius and lavished the wealth of an empire. Mr. Tavernier, a French jeweler, who visited Delhi a few years after the palace was finished, estimated the value of the decorations of this one room at 27,000,000 francs.

One of the several thrones used by the Moguls on occasions of ceremony was a stool eighteen inches high and four feet in diameter chiseled out of a solid block of natural crystal. M. Tavernier asserts that it was the largest piece of crystal ever discovered, and that it was without a flaw. It was shattered by the barbarians during the invasion of the Marathas in 1789. But the peacock throne, which stood in the room I have just described, was even more wonderful, and stands as the most extraordinary example of extravagance on record.

A description written at the time says: "It was so called from its having the figures of two peacocks standing behind it, their tails being expanded, and the whole so inlaid with diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, pearls and other precious stones of appropriate colors as to represent life. The throne itself was six feet long by five feet broad. It stood upon six massive feet, which, like the body, were of solid gold, inlaid with rubies, emeralds and diamonds. It was surrounded by a canopy of gold, supported by twelve pillars, all richly emblazoned with costly gems, and a fringe of pearls ornamented the borders of the canopy. Between the two peacocks stood a figure of a parrot of the ordinary size carved out of a single emerald. On either side of the throne stood an umbrella, one of the emblems of royalty. They were formed of crimson velvet, richly embroidered and fringed with pearls. The handles were eight feet high, of solid gold thickly studded with diamonds."

This throne, according to a medical gentleman named Bernier, the writer whose description I have quoted, was planned and executed under the direction of Austin de Bordeaux. It was carried away by Nadir Shah to Teheran in 1739, and what is left of it is still used by the Shah of Persia on ceremonial occasions. The canopy, the umbrellas, the emerald parrot and the peacocks have long ago disappeared.

The same splendor, in more or less degree, was maintained throughout the entire palace during the reign of the Moguls. The apartments of the emperor and those of his wives, the harem, the baths, the public offices, the quarters for his ministers, secretaries and attendants were all built of similar materials and decorated in the same style of magnificence. Some of the buildings are allowed to remain empty for the pleasures of tourists; others are occupied for military purposes, and the Rung Mahal, one of the most beautiful, formerly the residence of the Mogul's favorite wife, is now used for a messroom by the officers of the garrison. A writer of the seventh century who visited the place says: "It was more beautiful than anything in the East that we know of."

At one end of the group of the buildings is the Moti Majid, or Pearl Mosque, which answered to the private chapel of the Moguls, and has been declared to be "the daintiest building in all India." In grace, simplicity and perfect proportions it cannot be surpassed. It is built of the purest marble, richly traced with carving.

It is within the walls of this fort and among these exquisite palaces that the Imperial durbar was held on the 1st of January, 1903, to proclaim formally the coronation of King Edward VII., Emperor of India, and Lord Curzon, with remarkable success, carried out his plan to make the occasion one of extraordinary splendor. It brought together for the first time all of the native princes of India, who, in the presence of each other, renewed their pledges of loyalty and offered their homage to the throne. No spectacle of greater pomp and splendor has ever been witnessed in Europe or Asia or any other part of the world since the days of the Moguls. The peacock throne could not be recovered for the occasion, but Lord and Lady Curzon sat upon the platform where it formerly stood, and there received the ruling chiefs, nobles and princes from all the states and provinces of India. Lord Curzon has been criticised severely in certain quarters for the "barbaric splendor and barbaric extravagance of this celebration," but people familiar with the political situation in India and the temper of the native princes have not doubted for a moment the wisdom which inspired it and the importance of its consequences. The oriental mind is impressed more by splendor than by any other influence, and has profound respect for ceremonials. The Emperor of India, by the durbar, recognized those racial peculiarities, and not only gratified them but made himself a real personality to the native chiefs instead of an abstract proposition. It has given the British power a position that it never held before; it swept away jealousies and brought together ruling princes who had never seen each other until then. It broke down what Lord Curzon calls "the water-tight compartment system of India."

"Each province," he says, "each native state, is more or less shut off by solid bulkheads from its neighbors. The spread of railways and the relaxation of social restrictions are tending to break them down, but they are still very strong. Princes who live in the south have rarely ever in their lives seen or visited the states of the north. Perhaps among the latter are chiefs who have rarely ever left their homes. It cannot but be a good thing that they should meet and get to know each other and exchange ideas. To the East there is nothing strange, but something familiar and even sacred," continued Lord Curzon, "in the practice that brings sovereigns together with their people in ceremonies of solemnity. Every sovereign in India did it in the old days; every chief in India does it now; and the community of interest between the sovereign and his people, to which such a function testifies and which it serves to keep alive, is most vital and most important."

And the durbar demonstrated the wisdom of those who planned it. The expense was quite large. The total disbursements by the government were about $880,000, and it is probable that an equal amount was expended by the princes and other people who participated. That has been the subject of severe criticism also, because the people were only slowly recovering from the effect of an awful famine. But there is another point of view. Every farthing of those funds was spent in India and represented wages paid to workmen employed in making the preparations and carrying them into effect. No money went out of the country. It all came out of the pockets of the rich and was paid into the hands of the poor. What the government and the native princes and nobles expended in their splendid displays was paid to working people who needed it, and by throwing this large amount into circulation the entire country was benefited.

The extravagance of the Viceroy and Lady Curzon in their own personal arrangements has also been criticised, and people complain that they might have done great good with the immense sums expended in dress and entertainment and display, but it is easy to construe these criticisms into compliments, for everyone testifies that both the viceroy and his beautiful American wife performed their parts to perfection, and that no one could have appeared with greater dignity and grace. Every detail of the affair was appropriate and every item upon the programme was carried out precisely as intended and desired. Lord and Lady Curzon have the personal presence, the manners and all the other qualities required for such occasions.

Dr. Francois Bernier, the French physician who visited the Mogul court in 1658, and gives us a graphic description of the durbar and Emperor Aurangzeb, who reigned at that time, writes: "The king appeared upon his throne splendidly appareled. His vest was of white satin, flowered and raised with a very fine embroidery of gold and silk. His turban was of cloth of gold, having a fowl wrought upon it like a heron, whose foot was covered with diamonds of an ordinary bigness and price, with a great oriental topaz which may be said to be matchless, shining like a little sun. A collar of long pearls hung about his neck down to his stomach, after the manner that some heathens wear their beads. His throne was supported by six pillars of massive gold set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds. Beneath the throne there appeared the great nobles, in splendid apparel, standing upon a raised ground covered with a canopy of purple with great golden fringes, and inclosed by a silver balustrade. The pillars of the hall were hung with tapestries of purple having the ground of gold, and for the roof of the hall there was nothing but canopies of flowered satin fastened with red silken cords that had big tufts of silk mixed with the threads of gold hanging on them. Below there was nothing to be seen but silken tapestries, very rich and of extraordinary length and breadth."