Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monumental Greatness

We drove down to Rajmahal via NH 80. 80 kms later I am left with no doubt this is one of the narrowest in the country. Surrounded by fileds though it is quite picturesque, made all the more enjoyable by Kishore Kumar humming in the background. In Rajmahal, we went to see the monumental structures erected by a homesick Mughal community leaving symbols of continuity and reassurance. The Singhi Dalan (Marble Pavillion), a structure on the banks of the Ganga subjected to much ransacking by later rulers, so much so that once made of marble, the only traces of the material are in the pillars. The Jami Maszid, a splendid structure resplendent of Mughal architectural glory, modelled on a mosque in Damascus, diminished a little by the ASI’s attempts at renovation, The Akbari Maszid still in use and The Mughal bridge.
In 1592, Raja Man Singh the appointed ruler of Gaur or Greater Bengal (included Bihar and Jharkhand) built the mosque as a token to show his allegiance to Akbar. At the time, Rajmahal was the recognized capital of the state of Gaur, and was witness to several mutinies, revolts and wars between the tribal factions and their Mughal rulers. Although modelled on a mosque in Damascus, Man Singh appears to have tried his best to replicate the Mughal architecture we recognize so well. A large preayer hall, a courtyard with a fountain supplied water from channels running across the mosque, three gateways, the mosque has it all.

Three generations later, Shah Jahan’s son Shah Shuja appointed the governor of the area was responsible for the Singhi Dalan. Rumour has it that Shah Shuja was paranoid in expectation of an attack and had a hollow pipe installed at the base of pavillion used for communication across different buidings in the area. Much like a telephone control tower today. My insight reveals that this was probably put to good use during Aurangazeb’s attack on Rajmahal for the succesion to Shah Jahan’s throne. Aurangazed’s revolt against his father resulted in the annexing and destruction of all such monuments. It was then that Rajmahal surrendered its importance to Calcutta.

The Singhi Dalan was reminiscent of Red Fort on a normal day in Delhi. People catching naps in shaded corners, professors chatting around, groups of men playing cards, college boys sneaking around for a smoke. During a good monsoon, the Ganga would’ve reached right up to the stairs for descent. Commendalble though that it missed its mark by a mere 25 yards this year. The sign on the outside proudly declared

“The Singhi Dalan or Marble Pavillion built Shah Shuja, the son of Shah Jahan but many believe it was made by Raja Man Singh for his monsoon viewing…..”

We walked around Jami Maszid, revelling in its magnificience of its effect on a sunset. The ASI has been working on its renovation for the last 6 years, kindly displayed by their contracted labour who’ve been sitting and gossiping for the last hour or more I’ve spent here. A noe must be made to commend their performance on parts that they have finished with. They really do give the ruins a lot of character.
We start leaving when a car drives up and offloads some tourists. They look at the construction material strewn around and rush back towards their car pushing each other out of the way for the best seat. The driver looks at us, grins looking at us and exclaims – “Press?” I shake my head. Out of the corner of my eye I see Rakesh Uncle nodding.

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