Chini Ka Rauzah

Chini Ka Rauzah & Kala Gumbad

(C. 1628-39 A.D.)

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Popularly known as ‘Chini-Ka-Rauzah’, owing to its glazed-tile decoration. This is the Tomb of Shukrulla-Shirazi ‘Afzan Khan Allami’, Vazir of Shahjehan. He hailed from Shiraz (Iran). ‘Abdul Haq Shiraz’ entitled Amanat Khan, the celebrated calligrapher who did the monumental inscriptions of the Tomb of Akbar (Sikandara) and, later, of the Taj Mahal, was his brother Shukrullah was an extremely learned man and a poet who composed under the pen name ‘Allami’. Jehangir bestowed upon him the title: ‘Afzal Khan’. He was prince Shahjehan’s Diwan. He helped him in his campaigns of Mewar and the Deccan. After access on, Shahjahan made him his Vazir and gave him the Mansab of 7000/4000.

Shukrullah built his tomb in his lifetime (C. 1628-39) and also a palace in the nearby locality called ‘Katra Vazir Khan’. He died in 1639 at Lahore. His body was brought to Agra and interned in this tomb. It was a vast complex with high enclosing walls, a four quartered garden (Charbagh) and a gateway on the eastern side. There also were, on the river side, two 3-storeyed octagonal towers and a Ghat (Quay), 64 feet long and 50 feet wide, of stone masonry between them. Now only one towe, and the tomb proper have remained. It is a domed square building of 79 feet side. The central octogonal hall has spacious arched portals on the sides and square rooms at the corners, all interconnected by passages. This hall had been exquisitely painted in rich colours with stylized designs. A gallery rotates around, its upper part, overlooking it from the first floor. The tomb is roofed by a double-dome. It is all brick masonry, which has been plastered over.

The most important feature of this building is the glazed tile work with which its whole exterior is covered and which has given it its present name. The flat mural surface is panelled, and stylized floral designs with borders are depicted upon them in a wide variety of colours and shades as blue, yellow, green, orange and white. This is mosaic of glazed tiles. The patterns are made up of thousands of tiny pieces of tiles skillfully embedded into the plaster in the tessellated style, each flower or leaf bring represented by a separate tile. The brick surface was first overlaid with a two inch thick coat of plaster, upon which a finer coatings of one inch thickness was done. The design was traced upon this upper plaster when in a plastic state, after which tiles 5/8th of an inch thickness were bedded into it. According to the design, Kashan in Persia was the home of this art, the tiles were, therefore, called ‘Kashi’. Halla in Sindh soon became the centre of glazed-ware in India. The potters were known as ‘Kashigar’ and the art itself became famous as ‘Kashikari’. The technique of its preparation remained the same. It consisted of three parts: Plaster called ‘Khamir’, glass called ‘Kanch’ and ‘Asthar’, put between them . It was a very complicated process in which various chemicals, sands stones and other ingredients were used, through an elaborate system of heating and fusing in specially built kilns. The ensured the glazed-tiles and their lustre to last for a thousand years. This is also why this art has died out.

It has no pillars, lintels, brackets, chhajjas, chhatris or any other indigenous element. There are no Jalis or relief stone carving and it has only a flat mural surface prepared by the Architect for the display of ‘Kashikari’ by the ‘Kashigar’. Chini-Ka-Rauzah, the tomb of a polished and cultured Iranian, who served India is an Iranian monument standing on the Indian soil. In its class, it ranks among the best. While such representative buildings as the picture wall of the Lahore Fort (1612-19). Wazir Khan’s Mosque (C.1634) and Asaf Khan’s Tomb (1641-45) are at Lahore, it is the only specimen of this marvellous Iranian art at Agra and in the Braja region. It marks the climax of Iranian influence on Mughal Court, Culture and Art.