Carrying a message from bygone times, historical monuments often bear a silent testimony to the old lifestyles, values, technologies, and customs, now no longer in use. Currently there is an increasing global consciousness regarding historical structures as universal inheritance, and in this context it is essential to create a local level awareness and sense of responsibility towards protecting the old structures, while retaining their authenticity. It is therefore important that certain basic principles are framed and guidelines created for the correct way of conserving our ancient monuments, wherein the structures should be aimed at preserving the way they are. In India, the main bodies associated with heritage monument conservation are the ASI and the State Archaeological Departments. The first move towards protecting historical monuments in India was taken by the ASI in 1861, by framing the conservation legislation. In free India, the constitution makes its mandatory to value and preserve the rich heritage of our country by placing it under the ambit of fundamental duties for all citizens. Currently, archaeological activities in India are regulated by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation act) Act 2010 (AMASR), and the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act (1972).
In this article, I have described some forgotten heritage monuments of Narnaul and Farukhnagar – two small towns in Haryana, which are rich in heritage but are in urgent need of serious conservation.
Narnaul goes long back into history, where the town was initially controlled by the Jogis. Later the Rajput Rathores took over, until Islamic rulers came to power. The Sur-Afghans were the most prominent here, and Sher Shah’s grandfather, Ibrahim Khan, was the first to arrive as a jagirdar. Narnaul has witnessed some violent wars and riots under the Satnami sadhus, Aurangzeb, Nawab of Narnaul, and later during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
Narnaul has three ASI ‘protected’ monuments:
- Tomb of Ibrahim Shah Khan,
- Jal Mahal and
- Maqbara of Shah Quli Khan.
Other well known monuments, mostly under protection of the Haryana state government include, Tripolia Gateway, Chatta Rai Bal Mukund Das ki haveli, Shah Vilayat’s Tomb, Chor Gumbad, Birbal ka Chhatta, and Mirza Ali Jan’s Baoli. Most monuments lack proper approach, and are surrounded by residential buildings and agricultural fields, thus discouraging tourists. Furthermore, majority of the monuments are ruinous, with little, poor, or no conservation work going on. There are no promotional activities by the Haryana State Government to showcase this historically important township.
Ibrahim Khan’s tomb:
Ibrahim Khan’s tomb is by far the best preserved monument in Narnaul, but its location does nothing to enhance the beauty of this structure, as is evident in the pictures, with ugly wire meshing and closely hemmed-in houses destroying the beauty of this 16th century structure. The tomb was constructed over the grave of Ibrahim Khan Sur (died 1518 AD) under instructions of his grandson Sher Shah Suri (1540-45 AD).
Pir Turkman’s tomb:
Beautiful wall carvings now in ruins at the Pir Turkman’s tomb, a 12th century construction, shows various forms of architecture that range from Tughlaq period to colonial times. Much of the original structure has been changed during later period constructions. The tomb and mosque were constructed in Tughlaq era; the dome, eastern colonnades, some parts of the enclosure were constructed in 1357 AD by Alam Khan Mewati; while the building walls show traces of modern frescoes. The portico was constructed during the colonial era, while remaining structures are from the Mughal period.
Mirza Ali Jan’s Baoli:
Mirza Ali Jan’s Baoli was built by the Nawab of Narnaul during Akbar’s reign. The baoli has a huge arched gateway carrying the ‘Takht’ and pillared ‘Chhatri’ on top. The arched gate opens to a three-storied ‘baoli’ that lies empty and in ruins owing to complete lack of conservation.
Chor gumbad, a Feroz Shah Tughlaq era structure, now plastered over, thus changing the original façade
Jal mahal (built in 1591) ~ the water body around was dry when we visited, but the structure remains intact with signs of conservation. The ceiling shows some remains of beautiful frescoes. This is under the ASI, hence better maintained.
Rai Bal Mukund Das ki haveli (built during Shahjahan’s reign), which must have once been a beautiful mansion, now lies abandoned and ruined (picture credit: Sarika Pahwa Virk)
Farukhnagar is a town under the Gurgaon municipality, sharing its border with Jhajjhar. This township was established by the first Nawab of Farukhnagar, Faujdar Khan, in 1732, under the Mughal rule. Farrukhnagar grew largely due to its flourishing salt trade until the end of 19th century; however, with acquisition of the nearby Sambhar salt planes in Rajasthan, Farrukhnagar was abandoned and soon forgotten by the British rulers. The town still has some Mughal era monuments; most are in dire state of repairs or are being poorly conserved.
Shethani ki chatri. This once beautiful, early 20th century building (likely year of construction is 1905) , now lies forgotten, in the corner of an agricultural land, with water from a burst sewage pipe flowing near it (when we visited the building, it was difficult to navigate the entrance, due to foul smelling water that flooded the road). Frescoes that once adorned its walls are now almost gone, and the building is crumbling, due to lack of maintenance. Lately (in 2017) have seen photos of this building and it now appears to have been occupied through illegal encroachments, the doors seen here cemented, and the lower part of the building closed to visitors.
A doorway inside the Shethani ki chatri with the walls still showing signs of faded frescoes.
Some beautiful frescoes that are still seen inside the Shethani ki chatri, on the ceilings of the first floor chatri. The fresco photos seen here are all by Yashpal Guliya ji, who has recorded most of the historical heritage monuments of Haryana, many of which are not yet explored or documented elsewhere. He is an expert on the history of this state, and has written about all his explorations and the Haryana monuments in his book titled “HERITAGE OF HARYANA.” Among recent photos of this chatri, Yashpal ji has some that show the chatri being sealed and painted, as the illegal occupier takes over the base part, the chabutra. The photos are given below:
Photo credit : Yashpal guliya ji
Farukhnahar baoli or Baoli Ghaus Ali Shah~ conservation work by the ASI is being carried out. It’s a rare circular baoli.
Frescos that once adorned the Farukhnahar baoli walls are now seen only in some parts, rest being painted or plastered over.
The baoli gateway that was once the entrance to the city, is battered, due to constant movement of high backed trucks that have broken/ damaged parts of it.
Haryana, a state rich in history and heritage monuments, needs a great deal of change in perspectives, as regards, rightful conservation; and a complete overhauling of its archaeological conservation techniques in order to preserve, maintain, and restore its historical buildings while retaining their ‘integrity’, as are evident from the pictures shown above.
(This was published in the July 2015 issue of the e-magazine ‘Heritage Archives’, a heritage awareness magazine by the NGO ‘Youth for Heritage Foundation’)
Link to the e-magazine: