[On the Origins of the Fortress at Mandou]

Another marvellous relation which I am led to introduce into my narrative, is that which refers to the origin of the stupendous fortress of Mandou, one of the most celebrated in Hindûstaun, and which we are taught to believe derived its existence from the following circumstances.

A poor inhabitant of one of the cities in Hindûstaun, by repairing with his axe to one of the neighbouring woody hills every day, and bringing to town at night such fuel as he was able to collect, contrived with the produce to provide the scanty means of subsistence for his family. Occasionally, as necessity required it, he was in the habit of taking his axe to a smith for the purpose of getting the edge restored: but on one occasion his hatchet glancing aside from a billet of wood struck a stone, which stone happened to be that which possesses the qua­lity of changing iron into gold: the effect was that the woodman’s hatchet was immediately transmuted into a wedge of gold. In the extreme of ignorance and folly the woodman again took his hatchet to the smith. “This is a pretty sort of job,” said he, “that you have done by my hatchet, the edge is not only de­stroyed but the instrument by which I earned my bread is turned into copper.” The smith, being much better informed than his customer, told him that certainly his hatchet was now not worth repairing, and that if he chose, as it was but just that he should make good the injury, he would give him a new one in its stead. But come,” said he, “Shew us the stone which has spoilt your hatchet by turning it into copper.” The silly rustic took him to the spot without hesitation, and pointed out the stone, which, with a joy not difficult to imagine the wary smith instantly conveyed home, where without divulging the secret of his pre­cious deposit to wife or child or any one else, he locked it up most carefully in his chest. He did not, however, dismiss the poor wood-cutter without giving him an excellent new hatchet according to promise.

The fortunate blacksmith now proceeded by degrees to turn every bit of iron in his possession into gold. In process of time he built for himself a sumptuous palace. He entertained in his service numbers of armed men, all clad in coats of mail, and all experienced in the trade of war, to many or most of whom he assigned yearly stipends of from two to three hundred tomauns* a man. In short, the fame of his bounty and liberal encouragement to those who enrolled themselves under his standard extended to all parts of the world, and men of talent and courage from every region flocked to his presence, and were sure of a kind and generous reception.

This, as may well be imagined, could make but little impression on a treasury, which derived its means from a source so inexhaustible. He became however anxious to secure for himself and treasures some place of strength, to resist any attempt of superior power which on any future occasion might be disposed to assail him. He accordingly selected for his purpose four lofty contiguous hills, which, lifting their summits to the skies, contained within their precincts a spa­cious and extensive plain; and these he determined to fortify by all the means to be derived from the art of war and the science of defence.

In short he commenced his operations without further delay, by setting twenty thousand masons and pioneers, under his own directions, to carry on the works on one side of the position which he had fixed upon, while his son with an equal number of workmen was similarly employed on the opposite side; until at the termination of thirty years,* father and son met together, and the two extremi­ties of the stupendous work became thus united. The fortifications thus com­pleted, extended to little less than fourteen farsangs in circumference;* and as to the expense incurred in the execution of such an undertaking, it would surpass the power of words or writing to form an estimate.

In order to facilitate the communications with the exterior, the fortress con­tained ten large gateways and four sally-ports in different directions; and from each of the gateways, which were erected on lofty eminences,* a flight of steps cut in the solid rock led from top to bottom of the mountain, making altogether fifty thousand steps; that is, properly speaking, a staircase of five thousand steps to every principal gateway. He built, moreover, within the fortifications a lofty and spacious mosque, containing one thousand chambers, or perhaps cloisters, each chamber or seffah containing a pulpit for the recitation of the khotbah and other services of religion on Fridays; and such in a short time was the multitude of human beings accumulated within the circuit of this stupendous fortress, that on occasions of public worship the whole of the thousand and one oratories were completely crowded. Parallel with the mosque, or contiguous to it, he built also an extensive karavanserâi, and a lofty dome or rotunda; this latter to serve as the burial-place of his family. In this dome it is moreover described that they introduced four warm-water springs, the contents of which being made to drop slowly, drop by drop, gradually formed a petrified mass of such solidity and mag­nitude, as to supply for his children, and others bound to him by the ties of affection, a material for their tombs, superior to, and more delicate than the finest marble.

To bring the matter within as short a compass as possible, when this sump­tuous place of worship and its appurtenances had been completed, and the country round for the space of a month’s journey in circuit had been subjugated to the authority of our fortunate blacksmith, an ambassador from the monarch of Bûr­hanpour arrived at Mandou, to solicit the hand of his daughter for the son of that monarch, the prince of Bûrhanpour. Having signified his assent to this arrangement, he took some time to prepare the suitable equipments, and the requisite paraphernalia for the bride: after which she was formally delivered to the ambassador to be conducted to Bûrhanpour. On the departure of his daughter, however, the royal blacksmith deposited in her palanquin, and sealed up in a purse of cloth of gold, this inestimable gold-creating stone: and she was instructed to acquaint the monarch that on parting with her, her father should have said that for a single methkal, or scruple of that stone, worthless as it seemed, he would not have taken a thousand tomauns of gold; nevertheless, from the excess of his affection to his child, he had resigned to her this ines­timable jewel. At the same time he explained to her the miraculous properties of the stone; conceiving that from his simple statement alone of its extraordinary value, without further particulars, the monarch of Bûrhanpour would be led to conclude that there was something very wonderful connected with this stone, and that it must contain some very mysterious latent property.

Under the care of the ambassador, who was also hâjeb, or lord chamberlain of his court, the princess of Mandou, accompanied by a suitable retinue of her father’s people, set off for Bûrhanpour, the well known city of that name on the river Tapty, and having proceeded to a river, (without doubt the Nerbuddah), within four days journey from that city, she was there met by the Bûrhanpourian with a numerous escort of his nobles, an imperial and sumptuous suit of tents having been set up for her reception on the banks of the river. Having bestowed upon the princess and her retinue the usual marks of royal bounty, in khelaats, and gold, and beautiful horses, and in other respects liberally discharged the duties of hospitality, he was a little disappointed when, viewing her equipment, he could discover nothing that bespoke the splendour of a royal bride; and he could not forbear observing that as her father did not appear to have sent with her immediately any part of her marriage portion, peradventure it was his inten­tion to supply this defect at a future opportunity.

The daughter of the royal blacksmith now thought fit to apprize the monarch of Bûrhanpour, that on taking leave, her father had presented her with a bag of gold brocade containing a jewel, the weight of a methkal of which was equal in value to the revenue of a hundred provinces: at the same time she had been instructed, when inquiry should be made as to the jewels and other appendages of royal splendour which were expected to accompany her, to present to the Bûrhanpourian monarch that same bag of brocade; with which, the princess laid the bag on the floor, before her intended father-in-law. The prince of Bûr­hanpour on disclosing the bag, and perceiving nought but the stone, which in appearance exhibited nothing very remarkable, expressed considerable displea­sure; and suspecting that the brocaded purse with its stone contents had been transmitted with no other view than to indicate the opinion entertained of his character, he indignantly snatched the stone from the hands of the princess, and threw it into the middle of the river. From the same spot, without further ceremony, he dismissed the princess and sent her back to Mandou to the pre­sence of her father.

The chief of Mandou, on the return of his daughter thus dishonoured, took no further notice of the insult than by transmitting a letter to the Bûrhanpourian conceived in the following terms: “The article which I sent thee by my daughter, and of which thou hadst not the common sense to understand the value, would have produced thee every day gold by the horse-load. Hast thou had the folly to cast it into the Nerbuddah, from whence it can never more be recovered?” It is needless to expatiate upon the regret and remorse of the king of Bûrhanpour, when on receipt of this epistle he came to understand the extent of his error: and although he employed every exertion and expedient to search the bed of the river, not a vestige of this most precious of stones was ever found.

Ages afterwards, when my father Akbar set on foot his expedition against a subsequent monarch of Bûrhanpour, one of the elephants in the imperial train from its furious and intractable temper had a ponderous iron chain* attached to one of its legs. In passing this same river, the Nerbuddah, the chain came in contact with this long-lost and mysterious pebble, and when seen on the opposite side of the ford, was discovered to have been transmuted into solid gold.* The circumstance was immediately made known to my father, and a number of people was forthwith employed to search the ford, in the hope that something might be discovered of this miraculous substance; but entirely without success, and the search was of course abandoned in despair.

Of this celebrated fortress of Mandou it remains to add, that notwithstanding every advantage of strength and situation, my father, after a siege of six months, made himself master of the place; when he caused the gateways, towers, and ramparts, together with the city within, to be entirely dismantled and laid in ruins, for the possession of this formidable strong-hold had but too frequently led its possessors into rebellion against their sovereign. The dependencies, lands, and inhabitants of the province, continued however as flourishing, if not more so, than ever, notwithstanding the destruction of Mandou.

I have yet further to observe, that at the period when I found it necessary to erect my victorious standard for the purpose of chastising the refractory rulers of the south of India, I came to the vicinity of this celebrated place, and ascended to view its stupendous ruins. I found the walls only demolished in part, and I became so highly delighted with the freshness and salubrity of the air and cli­mate, that I determined to restore the town. For this purpose I accordingly ordered the foundation to be marked out, among the ruins of the ancient city, of a variety of spacious and lofty structures of every description, which were carried to a completion in a much shorter time than might have been expected. I continued to reside there for one whole year, during which I laid out, more­over, several fine gardens, with beautiful water-works and cascades; and the members of my court and camp, actively emulating the example of their sovereign, soon filled the place in every part with palaces and gardens, of similar beauty and description.

My favourite son Khoorum had concluded a treaty with Auddel Khaun and the princes of the Dekkan, by which it was agreed to put my lieutenants in possession of the best and most flourishing parts of the country, and among others of the city or town of Puttun,* celebrated for its manufacture of cloth of gold, such as is not to be met with elsewhere in all India. Often had my father declared, that whenever this place should come into his possession, he would build the walls with alternate wedges of gold and silver; and in very truth the place is not unworthy of such a cincture, however gorgeous and costly. Another of the towns ceded by the same treaty was Ahmednuggur, the metropolis of Husseyne Nizam Shah; and we shall add Khânapour, a district which for verdure of landscape and deliciousness of climate has not any where its equal. Another of the acquisitions derived from this treaty was the province of Berâr, of a month’s journey in compass, and for its numerous towns and flourishing population equal to any part of Hindûstaun. All these were now transferred to my sovereign authority, together with a train of elephants four hundred in number, of the highest value for size and courage; these were furnished with caparisons, chains, neck-fastenings, and bells, all of gold, each of them bearing on its equipments not less than five maunns Hindy, equal to fifty maunns of Irâk of gold.* The velvet housings of the elephants had on them, moreover, the figures of various kinds of animals embroidered in pearl; and among the peishkesh, or presents of homage, conveyed to me on this occasion, were three chaplets of pearl, each chaplet moderately valued at sixty thousand rupees; and of every kind of precious stone, diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, and other articles of the most costly description, such a quantity was conveyed to my treasury and wardrobe as it would be unnecessarily tedious to enumerate.

At the intercession of Khoorum, after all, through whom their prayer was conveyed on the occasion, I gave up to the vanquished chiefs several districts or townships, as well for the maintenance of some degree of state, as from my royal disposition to forget the past, and as far as possible to heal the wounds of discomfiture. In fact, I restored great part of the territory subjugated by my armies in the field, reserving to myself only the honours of the coinage and khotbah, or invocation from the pulpits. At the same time I consigned the government of the conquered countries, with unlimited powers, to Khaun Khanan, whom I have long since learnt to regard as if he were mine own son or brother.

At the period when Sûltan Khoorum came to visit me from Bûrhanpour, he brought with him Oustaud Mahommed Nâë (the piper), whom he introduced to me as the most skilful musician of the age, adding moreover, that he had com­posed a particular melody which he had dignified with my name.* But beyond all, he was particularly celebrated for his unrivalled performance, as his name implied, upon the flageolet. In truth, when he proceeded to exhibit the prowess of his superior skill in my presence, he produced from his instruments such exquisite strains as absolutely burst upon the ear, so surprising were the effects of his performance. I experienced at all events such delight on the occasion, that I commanded a pair of scales to be brought before me, in order that I might reward him with his weight in gold. Without uttering a syllable the man abruptly quitted my presence; but immediately afterwards returning, he appeared with the piece of music fixed to one arm, and a little girl of about six years of age on the other; and he stated in explanation, that when he composed the melody this his little daughter was in his arms, and he therefore could not persuade himself that she was not entitled to share in my bounty. I nodded assent. He was placed in one of the scales and a quantity of gold in the other, and his weight was found to be five maunns Hindy. I ordered him to be weighed the second time, and the weight in gold to be given to the daughter.

Such, however, was the rapacious avarice and absence of all sense of pro­priety in this man, that in spite of the expostulations of the treasurers, he was not to be restrained from the most ludicrous attempts to increase the weight of gold; and his disrespect and want of decorum became so glaring that it was not to be overlooked, and I at last ordered him to be turned out of my camp. Before I proceeded to this extremity he had, however, had the assurance to demand that I should order him the daily supply of a camel-load of water, which further convinced me that there were no bounds to the man’s insolence; and thus was the merit he possessed completely marred by the sordid spirit of avarice. Neither is it to be forgotten, that there are few defects among mankind of a more pernicious tendency than that want of sober respect, which is always due to those invested with the functions of sovereign authority. It subsequently appeared, however, that this was not the first time the man had been punished for his folly, for Auddal Khaun had formerly driven him from his capital for a similar instance of insatiate avarice.

While my court continued at Mandou on this occasion, it came to my knowledge that Mirza Rûstum had, in some way or other, accumulated debts to the amount of four thousand tomauns,* and his creditors were become extremely clamorous in their demands for payment, notwithstanding that he derived from his dignity of a commander of five thousand, an annual income of nearly thirty-two laks of rupees, independently of occasional presents, and other proofs of my bounty. This was a debt, however contracted, whether through extravagant habits or improvident management, from which there was no great probability that he would ever he able to relieve himself. As I could never discover that he was at any time devoted to singers, or that description of per­sons, I could not avoid suspecting that those whom he employed had taken a dishonest advantage of his indolence. Considering, therefore, that his energies would have been altogether extinguished under such a load of debt, I summoned the creditors to my presence, and immediately discharged the whole of it; at the same time desiring it to be understood, that, for the future, whoever gave credit to Mirza Rûstum, under any circumstances, would be subject to a penalty to the full amount of the debt, be it great or be it small.