Monday, December 30, 2013

Forgotten pitstop in the wilderness - Chingus Sarai

The Mughals era has left a prominent mark on the historical landscape of the sub-continent. Their imprints are there be it culture, tradition, lifestyle, religion, administration, socio-political fabric or architecture. The contribution is immense with all the richness that lies between the corridors of these monuments. They also contributed to improve connectivity scaling down the vastness of Indian subcontinent with building of the network of roads and pathways. The Mughal Empire existed from the mainland till the suburbs of Hindu kush. One of the many remarkable connecting routes dating back to the Mughal era is the Mughal Road passing across the Pir Panjal mountain range. Emperor Akbar and his son Emperor Jehangir regularly took this route to travel to the beautiful vale. 
After many centuries, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir in 2005 started construction on this forgotten link that was frequently chosen by the royals of the Mughal empire to travel to Kashmir. The road unifies and brings closer the districts of Poonch and Rajouri to the Kashmir valley. The construction and renovation of this route is in the final stages and the completion of the project will bring alive the forgotten legacy and unearthen the beautiful architectural and historic treasures of Mughal era. A number of monuments built by Mughals adorn the route making it significant and a treat for visitors. The monuments include Pir ki Gali, Noor Mahal Fort, Anayatpura Sarai, Dhanidhar Fort, Shalimar Garden, Nain Sukh Sarai, Saj Saria, Thannmandi Fort and Sarai, Deragali Fort, Norrichamb and Aliabad Sarai, Shadimarg Sarai and Chingus Sarai among many others. Most of these monuments were used as halting stations and inns by the Mughal travellers while taking this route. An inn is supposed to be a simpler makeshift shelter but the majesty of these structures speak loudly about the grandeur with which the Mughal royals associated themselves. However, the downfall of the Mughals led to the neglect of these architectural marvels for centuries.
While Mughals kept on building stunning marvels throughout their tenure, there are other monuments hidden in the roads paved by them that can never be ignored. Each one of them has a fascinating story to tell. One of these interesting structures hidden in the wilderness of the Mughal road is the Chingus Sarai, built by an Iranian architect during the regime of Emperor Jehangir. Chingus Sarai is situated on the stretch between Nowshera and Rajouri lying about 130 kilometres away from Jammu city.
Chingus Sarai served the Mughal caravans for about two centuries till the downfall of the Empire. The sarai was an important halting station as realised by the architecture and the built of the structure. The word ‘Chingus’ derives its meaning from Persian language meaning ‘gut’ or ‘intestines’. In 1627 A.D., Emperor Jehangir while travelling via Mughal road fell seriously ill and passed away at a village known as Khanpur in Rajouri. Queen Noor Jehan who was accompanying the Emperor took a bold decision to hide the news of the death of Emperor in view of a possible succession tussle among the heirs.
It was decided to take the body to Lahore for burial. To avoid any possibility of decomposition of the mortal remains of the Emperor Jehangir during transit, the viscera were removed out of the body and buried within the confines of the transit camp. After the burial of entrails, this Sarai came to be known as Chingus Sarai. Since then village Khanpur became Chingus. The dead body was then rested on an elephant in a way to conceal the death of the Emperor and taken to Lahore for burial. It is believed that the doctor who removed the entrails was also buried inside the Sarai.
The Sarai complex has a small mosque in the centre. In the corridor of the mosque is the burial place of the entrails of Emperor in the form of a tomb made up of marble. This magnificent structure reflects a special feeling once you step inside via the main entrance. On my recent visit, it felt like entering a beautiful maze of symmetrical residential cells and surrounded by thick brick wall enclosure. I could imagine the buzz when royal caravans would have halted at this beautiful camping structure. The background and the story of this structure in itself merit praise. The fort was supposed to cater to large armies, numerous stables and feeding rooms inside the brick walls. Though at a slower pace, the authorities have done well in considering the importance of this royal inn as well as other similar monuments across this ancient route.
In June 1984, Chingus Sarai was declared as a ‘State Protected Monument’ by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. The Government of Jammu and Kashmir has already spent Rs. 93.80 crore on major restoration and conservation works of Chingus Sarai and efforts are being made to complete the pending tasks at the earliest.
In the early 1990s, a few huts were built by the tourism department near the Sarai for tourists however, the huts could not be used for the said purpose. Things have started changing now with the growing interest of visitors that has constrained the concerned authorities to come up with schemes for the revival of its pristine glory. To trigger tourist influx, Jammu And Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation has put on anvil ‘caravan tourism’ for the revival of the historic essence of Mughal road. These caravans will bring alive the magic of journeying on the route.
Individual as well as collaborative steps need to be taken to improve the access of such historically significant sites spread across this picturesque route. Inclusion of ample information about the historical background of such sites in the curriculum will encourage the children. Conducting learning trips and heritage picnics for educational institutions on the theme of importance and conservation of heritage structures if pursued would help in sensitizing the masses about the rich history through such relics of our past.

Previous post: Chingus Sarai

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Old man and his Kanger

Old man and his Kanger (a pot filled with hot embers) sits on the bank of Dal Lake.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Imagine, Line of Control

When the concertina wire weaves your nightmares,
overshadows your homes, stretches lengths.
Imagine, Line of Control.

They throwing letters wrapped in stones towards their own, across the stream,
they cannot meet.
Imagine, Line of Control.

When a son kneels down and mourns his father's demise,
watches the funeral from far across the fence.
Imagine, Line of Control.

Almost a no-man's land,
where shells fly more frequently than birds,
Imagine, Line of Control.

The contentious blood smeared line,
drawn out of fanatic egos, fulfilling greed.
Imagine, Line of Control.

Endless wait, dried up tears and blurred visions,
women waiting for their sons, brothers and husbands.
Imagine, Line of Control.

Decorated with electrified barbs, watchtowers and locked villages,
where each person is known by a mere number.
Imagine, Line of Control.

We watch each footstep on our own soil, unaware what might come beneath the next one
the soil may explode, ending our story in a whisker.
Imagine, Line of Control.

Where you hold your breath, trying to feel the breeze flowing towards you from across,
emotions touch the chasm.
Imagine, Line of Control.

Envy these birds in flight, they know no confines,
we too wish to fly to see life around.
Imagine, Line of Control.
Image details: This river in the above image, located in Tanghdar area of Indian Administered Kashmir, splits the two sides of Jammu and Kashmir. The bridge links the ghosts.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The dark age

Was doing a casual research on Africa. If you believe the corporate media, then the ongoing devastation in nations like the Democratic Republic of the Congo is all just a case of ugly tribal warfare. But that is a superficial, simplistic explanation that fails to connect this terrible suffering with the immense fortunes that stand to be made from manufacturing cell phones, laptops and other high-tech gadgets. 
What is really at stake in this bloodbath is control of natural resources such as diamonds, tin, and copper, as well as cobalt - which is essential for the nuclear, chemical, aerospace, and defense industries - and coltan and niobium, which is most important for the high-tech industries. 
And, I keep on thinking!!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chingus Sarai

'Chingus' (Persian for Gut/intestines) Sarai
A few days back I had an opportunity to visit this monument of Mughal era located on Nowshera-Rajouri route (Rajouri District in the Jammu division, J&K). The monument dates back to 16th century AD.
Emperor Jahangir passed away in 1627 A.D while travelling via Mughal road near Rajouri. In order to avoid possible confrontation of succession among the princes, Noor Jahan kept the fact a secret from the people and the caravan and to avoid decomposition of the body the entrails were buried at this monument known as Chingus Sarai.
Then the rest of the body was taken to Lahore for formal burial. After the burial of entrails, this Sarai came to be known as Mughal Sarai-Chungus or Chingus Sarai.
(A detailed article follows soon)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Iftar at Jama Masjid

It was one of those hot but colourful days when you want to quench your thirst each moment you take a turn in those tight lanes and bylanes of old Delhi. The month of Ramzan (Ramadan) brings unique colours into the lives of the believers in one way or the other. That blissful win over that eagerness to gulp in a bite to defeat a tussling empty stomach. Conquest, battle within a battle, empowerment, enrichment is what one feels somewhere within. The physical fast is a way of learning to be above the demands of the body while also stepping into the shoes of people who routinely do not have enough to eat.
That day was a battle through the busy streets of Chawri bazar to reach the magnanimous Jama Masjid just in time.
As soon as I stepped in barefooted over the tiles of hot red stone, I could see young men and boys arranging queues of platters full of delicacies to be distributed among the attendants to open a day long fast.
Thudd! Two shattering blasts marked the end of the fast. The blasts are echos of simpler times, before most people owned a clock or watch and there were no loudspeakers or TV channels to announce the Iftar time.
The cannon is fired each day to announce the breaking of the fast at the sunset prayers of Maghrib.
I managed to capture few light moments right before the sun faded away.
The hue and aura captivated the senses and one could feel mystic sublime soothing one's inner self.
Above: Women waiting for maghrib while reciting Holy Quran.
Above: Jama Masjid after dusk.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The pinhole of life

The world through the pinhole of life,
peeping into the unknown,
always curious about the unseen realms.
I hear the calls, 
then draw shapes out of my imagination.
I am still me,
but the only thing that tends to play with senses is the quest for,
the invisible,
the unseen.
The bubbles of thoughts,
the bouquet of ideas,
leads you to draw fluffy castles one over the other..

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Glow midst the woods

You will find something more in these woods than in books. So many stories, silent whispers, the glow... Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods in the dark.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rains leave a pattern

These rains leave a pattern,
one has to learn to read,
the messages they deliver.
The sound that originates,
out of these free falling droplets,
leaves a rhythm,
a pattern,
a song to sing.

These rains craft these ripples,
and these bubbles.
While falling down, in my imagination,
they carve dreams.

These droplets make a dull window pane glitter.
They bring alive, life.
Above. A man pulling his cart midst a mild shower. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

An assembly of thoughts

Let a hundred flowers bloom
Let a thousand spread across these meadows
Let them spread the fragrance 
Let them please the vision 
Let them live long enough
To scatter the gold-dust of love 
Let them not get stamped
By cruel jackboots of the intruder
Let them breathe fresh air
Let them be free
Set them free.

An assembly
Life within..

Monday, March 4, 2013

A plunge between the lines

A plunge between the lines and I wonder how everything, whether good or bad, truth or lies, always fits this newspaper. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Silence, even in this harsh winter, is loud. This is Kashmir.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Shards of snow

The frolic architecture of the snow. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

He stands close by you!

Give up imagining that the skill of killing desire, and meditating on the Self are too costly to buy;
He stands close by you! Do not look for Him far away.
The void was dissolved in the Void!
- Lal Ded
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