Chain of Justice


Agra  The Taj Mahal is pretty amazing.  No argument there.  A massive mausoleum that has stood for over 350 years is a wonder, but it’s still a grave site when all is said and done.  
      There is a part of me that’s jaded.  Having seen a hundred pictures of something, the surprise is gone when confronted with the real deal.  It almost seemed banal to take the iconic picture, but I wasn’t going to leave without it.
To enter the mausoleum you are required to take off your shoes.  Foreigners are given some airport style booties to put over their shoes, while everyone else is barefooting.  The booties are a mistake.  Putting your bare feet on the cool, silky smooth marble finally brings home the power of the work right from your toes to your mind in a way that almost nothing else about the experience did.  Putting your fingers over the intricate designs and their smoothness was a close second.
The fort where the Kings lived along the river with its 5000 apartments for the harem was fascinating in a different way.  I was especially interested in the area where the “chain of justice” has been kept.  This was new to me and a fascinating innovation in governance.
       When Jahangir became King in 1605 in his first order he had a chain of justice wrought that was made of pure gold and stretched 80 feet in length with 60 odd bells attached.  One end was fastened to the battlements and the other to a stone on the river bank.  Those involved in the administration of justice were advised that if they were dilatory or hypocritical, then the King wanted the aggrieved parties to shake the chain so that when that happened the matter would come to his direct attention.  The engraved marble headstone describing the chain said that this was a “…novel way to redress grievances.”  In short people without being barred by caste or creed or wealth could bypass the normal system and get their matter right to the King as the final arbiter of justice in their world at that time.  That seemed very interesting and important.
     Many of us try something or other.  We don’t screen calls in the office.  We conceal our email addresses.  We meet with whoever comes to the door.  All of these things allow access.  It’s another matter to devise something that creates a path to justice.  That’s worth more thought and was a gift from a day in Agra.