Explore India – Agra, Beyond Taj Mahal, The Unknown Monuments – 1

The Unknown Monuments – 1

This is the second part in the series Explore India – Agra, Beyond Taj Mahal. In the first part we had talked about some Lesser Known Monuments.

Read about Lesser known Monuments

These are the sites which people are aware, the tourist flow is less but still some do visit them. These sites have a huge potential to become a huge crowd puller.

You would be surprised to know that there is still much more to Agra. There are many sites which are literally unknown to the tourists and even the residents. These are the sites with ample architectural value and historical importance; they help in recreating the missing links and understanding the Mughal Empire in a better way.

I have tried to compile these sites in multiple parts, this is the part A.

khwajasara-4
Pic Courtesy: agraredco.com

The Tomb of Firoz Khan Khwajasara

First of all let’s understand what is the meaning of a Khwajasara? Literal translation would be transgender individuals who are born male, alternative term eunuch.

The Muslim king (including the Mughals) maintained a huge harem. The eunuchs played an important role with regards to these harems. They acted as guards, supervisors, guardians in these harems. The Mughals had a hierarchy of Eunuchs managing the affairs of Zenana, the senior eunuchs were known as Nazirs and Khwajasara. The chief guardian of the Zenana (ladies quarters) or the Harem was known by their Persian title – “Khwajasara”.

During the time of Mughals (and even before them) it was a common practice in the eastern part of India (especially Bengal) where the parents suffering from poverty castrated (emasculated) their male offspring, offer them to the governor in place of revenue referred as Mal-Wajibi. Not only this, the eunuchs in the slave market fetched three times the price of a normal slave. The practice during Emperor Jehangir’s time became widely prevalent across the continent, so much so that he issued farmans (orders) banning the practice of Mal-Wajibi. Even Emperor Aurangzeb prohibited castration of young boys throughout the empire. But these orders remained orders only and were never implemented or followed in full spirit. Emperor Jehangir and his Mughal successors continued to accept this eunuchs as gifts for duties in the harem.

(Reference: ‘Sexual and Gender Diversity in the Muslim World. History, Law & Vernacular knowledge’, Vanja Hamzic, ‘Muslim Slave System in Medieval India’, K.S. Lal)

Some of these Khwajasaras became quite powerful and strong in the Mughal empire.

Firoz Khan was one such Khwajasara. He was the caretaker of Emperor Shahjahan’s harem. He was promoted to the post of Diwan-i-Kul (Chief Diwan-had the responsibility of managing revenue and finance). He died in the year 1637 and tomb was built by him in his lifetime.

His tomb is situated at Tal Firoz Khan, a village 5 km from Agra and about 0.5 km west of the Gwalior road. The tomb is on the west side of a water tank which now bears his name.  Architecturally this two storey tomb is interesting and quite unique, instead of providing a separate gateway it has been attached to the eastern side of the main building, there is no iwan leading into the mausoleum, a broad staircase leads above on the 1st floor terrace. The first floor is the main part. The ground floor has the grave in the crypt.

The tomb is built using red and grey sandstone. No white marble has been used. Unique style of using stylised Arabesque and floral designs in stone carving minus calligraphic art makes this tomb stand apart in the Mughal architectural history. One can see lotus motifs, vases, swans etc. in carvings.The tomb is octagonal in plan, the cenotaph is surrounded by hemispherical dome. The tomb has open arched chambers on the sides.

The tomb is a protected monument under Archaeological Survey of India.

Dhakri-ka-Mahal

dhakri-ka-mahal-8agraredeco.jpg
Pic Courtesy : agraredeco

Akbar had 300 wives/consorts. They must have died also. So there definitely would be multiple graves in one location for non important consorts and separate tombs for more important ones. Interestingly none out of these 300 is buried next to Akbar (i.e. in his tomb at Sikandara), his favourite or the Padshah begum Ruqaiya Sultan Begum is buried in Kabul, the wife which gave him the first living son (Akbar had many other surviving sons after Salim aka Jehangir from different consorts/concubines including Murad-born to Bibi Kheira, a concubine and Daniyal born to an Armenian concubine Bibi Miriam) is buried a kilometre away from his tomb.

Read about the tomb of Miriam uz Zamani

Dhakri-ka-Mahal is not a Mahal (literal translation Palace), it’s a tomb located in Mauza Gopalpura area on Agra Bharatpur road. A Persian inscription on the monument reads “it is the sepulchre of Bibi Ishwardi”. It is assumed that she was one of the consorts of Akbar.

The red sandstone tomb is square in plan. The cenotaph is missing. The roof of the ground floor has a beautiful kiosk built with pillars, a miniature kiosk of similar design adorn each corner.

This is an ASI protected monument.

Barah Khamba

This structure is located near to Taj Mahal, close to the Fatehpuri Masjid. It is built in red sandstone and brick and lime. Has a octagonal plan with a dome supported by eight sand stone pillars surmounting its open pavilion. There is a grave of a male and female (one each) located here. There is no inscription available which can help identify who is buried here. The structure on its stylistic ground is assigned to the reign of Jehangir/Shah Jahan.

This is an ASI protected monument.

Heard about Itibari Khan’s Mosque, Statute of  Horse, Rauza Diwanji Begum and Mosque…. want to know more about them? Coming in the next part of Unknown Monuments.

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19 thoughts on “Explore India – Agra, Beyond Taj Mahal, The Unknown Monuments – 1

  1. Thanks for the post. Normally we all go to the usual tourist spots in Agra so to know about these places is really useful 🙂

    By the way I do like your caption “Travelogue for people wanting to look beyond the cliche” 🙂

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  2. I’ve been looking at creating an itinerary for visiting India, so it’s great to know what other monuments are in the major tourist places to visit. Thanks for such an informative post.

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  3. Thanks for this! I’m looking forward on heading to India in the next couple of years and all the info about off the beaten path destinations is lways super helpful!

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  4. These places look really cool! I love reading about off-the-beaten-path stuff like this. Are there any little-known hiking spots around Taj Mahal you would recommend?

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  5. Cool. great info and post on exploring the area around the Taj Mahal, you are right there seems to be so much more info and insight into the culture and life of the period looking away from the Taj Mahal. Fascinating.!

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    1. For understanding the period of Mughals and India of that time one needs to go beyond the Taj Mahal and other regular hot spots. They are also an integral part of the Mughal era and one cannot ignore them, but only visiting them means just checking the tip of the iceberg.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. India is such a fascinating country. There are so many incredible monuments and buildings to see! I’ve been there & saw so many amazing places but I didn’t even go to the Taj Mahal.

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