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Tomb of Sheikh Chilli at Thanesar, India

Mirza Firuz Shah
Architectural and Building
Shah Jahan 1627–1658

Tomb of Sheikh Chilli at Thanesar, India



Sheikh Chilli's Tomb is complex of structures located in Thanesar, in the Kurukshetra district of Haryana, India. It includes two tombs, a madrasa, Mughal gardens and various subsequent features. The main tomb belongs to Sufi Abd-ur-Rahim Abdul-Karim Abd-ur-Razak, popularly known by the name of Sheikh Chilli. He was Qadiriyya Sufi master of Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh. The architectural plan of the tomb shows considerable Persian influence. There is another tomb in the complex, believed to be of Sheikh Chilli's wife. This beautiful tomb and attached Madrasa are associated with the Sufi Saint Abd-ur-Rahim. There is a mosque called Pather Masjid (Stone Mosque) that was built in red sandstone. On the north side are the Mughal Gardens. The ceiling of the mosque, resting on pillars is decorated with floral designs carved in low relief. The pillars are also profusely decorated with floral designs, while the bases over the mouldings show chaitya-window motifs. The Qibla in the centre of the western wall is flanked on either side by two arched niches inscribed with verses from the Quran. The masonry terrace forming the front court was added at a later date. The masjid is assignable to the seventeenth Century A.D. Adjoining the southern flank of the complex (i.e. north of the tomb of Sheikh Chilli) is a large sized building which on account of both stratigraphic evidence and style of construction appears to be a garden complex following the pattern of a typical Mughal Garden and is divided into four equal, symmetrical parts (the charbagh pattern) with a square hauz in the centre. Water to the hauz (tank) was supplied by terracotta pipes from the east, concealed within the wall. On the eastern side of the central hauz there is a small rectangular tank connected with a raised open drain coming from further east. The tank had on the northern side a small cistern having cussed patterns on both longitudinal ends and a copper fountain in the center. The water used to run through a concealed conduit pipe provided below the lime plastered surface, meant for the flow of water from the cascade. The Park now popular as the Harshvardhan Park is entered through an elaborate double storey gateway, located in the center of the eastern wall from which one of the paths leads to all its four sides, hosting on the exterior, a series of double roomed chambers, on three sides i.e., the east, north and west respectively with provision of niches and alcoves on its walls. The western wing of this sarai however had double storeyed chambers which could be reached through a flight of steps provided at the center and towards the extreme south-western corner. Exactly opposite to the main entrance gateway was another majestic structure, constructed just like the main entrance gateway. However this structure didn't carry any entrance from the ground floor, but had an opening towards the west on the upper storey. This opening on the upper floor gave a direct accessibility from the Raja Harsha-ka- Tila located west of the sarai and the chamber is constructed in such a way that probably this was the place from where an authority used to address the gathering below within the sarai. West of the tomb are the ruins of Harsh-ka- Tila. Excavations conducted at this site revealed a continuous habitation at the site from about the first century A.D. to the late Mughal period. The findings of a few sherds of painted Grey Ware along with associated plain grey, black-slipped and red wares in pre-Kushana levels also suggest the inhabitation of the site in the first millennium B.C. It is one of the most striking tombs in the northern India and David Ross has justly ranked it second only to the famous Taj Mahal (Ulus. 36). It stands picturesquely to the west of the north-end of the main bazar of the town. On this site there is said to have been a temple of Siva which was razed to the ground by the Muhammedans. The tomb is made of red granite faced with white marble. It stands on an octagonal platform, each side measuring 10.3 m. This platform was once surrounded with posts and trellis work. This work was 52 cm. high and the posts which supported it were 66 cm. high and 12.7 cm. square. This platform is in the middle of an enclosure measuring 53 m. square and once paved with marble. This enclosure rises 12.5 m. above the level of the plain. Its walls have in it 12 cupolas, each of which was once decorated with glazed tiles. The traces of blue, purple and green tiles arc still extant on some of them. The tomb itself is octagonal, each side being 5.4 m. on the exterior and 3.5 m. on the interior. Each face of the tomb has a rectangular recess covered with a cusped arch and adorned with two marble screens (Ulus. 37). Ornamental battlements rise above the projected eaves. The whole is crowned with a pear-shaped dome resting on a circular neck and surrounded by eight elegant pinnacles, one at each angle. The soffit of the dome is decorated with painted designs. Two graves occupy the interior. Harmonious proportions combined with fine work manship characterise the monument. This tomb was turned into a Gurudwara by the Sikhs who are said to have carried off portions of its marble latticework to Kaithal, It was in ruins when William Barr saw it in 1839 A D . Still he inferred that in its pristine condition “it was deficient neither in beauty nor elegance'. Later on, it was restored by the Department of the Archaeological survey of India. In the western wall of the enclosure is another structure, said to be the tomb of Sheikh Chillie s wife. But I think that it is, in fact, a mosque. It stands on a marble platform and is covered with an elongated dome of the same material. It measures 6.7 m. by 4.1 m. inside. Its sandstone walls are divided into panels, each having a simple design carved in it, in low relief (Ulus. 38). It is not known for certain who Sheikh Chillie was Rodgers is of the view that Chillie was not his name, but only a title, conferred upon one who frequently performed Chillas. There is also a dissension regarding his name, some having called him Abdur-Rahim, some Abd-ul-Karim and others Abd-ulRazzak.47 He is, however, familiarly known by the name o r title of Sheikh Chillie and is said to have been the author of a book entitled Lives of the Walis or Muhammedan saints. There is no inscription on the tomb, but on the basis of its pear shaped dome and flowered marble lattice, Cunningham ascribes it to the days of Dara Shikoh to whom Sheikh Chillie is said to have been spiritual advisor, o r about 1650 A.D. 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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


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