Located on the west bank of the Yamuna river in the Kamla Nagar district of Agra, the chattris of Jaswant Singh closely resembles a riverside tomb garden, but here the monument is the memorial (or chhatris) of a Hindu nobleman.
The name of this chhatris today is perhaps a little misleading, as Jaswant Singh was in fact the builder of the chhatris. What stands today is actually a memorial to Jaswant’s brother, Amar Singh Rathore, both of whom served under the mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the first half of the 17th century.
The chhatris was built in 1644 and consists of a small rectangular building set in the middle of a small garden, which by all accounts has quite an impressive facade on the riverfront that I was not able to inspect. Architecturally the chhatris is a mix of hindu and muslim designs, with pretty Jali screens reminiscent of sultanate Islamic tombs, but with columns carved in a style that would not look out of place in a Hindu temple.
It’s a pretty location, slightly let down by the relatively poor upkeep of the monument. There are no signs to help you find this place, you will need to rely on Google Maps to navigate yourself to the location which is set right next to a densely populated area with narrow lanes alongside the bank of the Yamuna river.
So who was Amar Singh Rathore ?
Despite being disinherited by his father and exiled for saving a bandit from the Mughals, Amar Singh Rathore was well known as a great warrior and subsequently joined Shah Jahan’s Delhi Sultanate.
Amar’s rise in popularity and standing did not sit well some in court, in particular Shah Jahan’s brother-in-law Salabat Khan, who was constantly looking for opportunities to discredit Amar Singh.
Amar Singh’s unauthorised absence from court one day was the opportunity Salabat had been looking for, he blew the misterminar out of all proportion and lobbied Shah Jahan to impose his authority, which he did, by insisting Amar Singh pay a penalty.
Salabat then confronted Amar Singh, insisting that the fine should be paid on the spot and that Amar would not be allowed to leave until the penalty was paid. Amar was furious over the deception, and hacked Salabat to death on the spot with his sword. You can visit Salabat Khan’s tomb a short distance away, just 3km east of Akbar’s Tomb.
Shah Jahan’s soldiers then attempted to kill Amar on the emperor’s orders, but were unsuccessful, Amar’s skills as a warrior were no match for them and he managed to escape Agra fort.
Not surprisingly, Shah Jahan was furious at what had unfolded, and announced a jagir (land grant) would be given to anyone who managed to kill Amar Singh. Knowing of Amar’s great fighting skills, nobody was willing to take up the offer, apart from one man. Amar Singh’s brother-in-law, Arjun, was tempted by the reward and persuaded Amar to return to court, stating that Shah Jahan had realised his mistake and would not want to lose a warrior like Amar. So a meeting at court was arranged, under the pretence that a truce had been established.
Amar duly returned to court at Agra fort. On meeting Shah Jahan he was forced to enter through a small wooden doorway that had been recently constructed in front of the throne, thus forcing Amar (who was apparently unusually tall) to bow in front of the emperor. Amar Singh refused to do this, upon which Arjun stabbed him multiple times in the chest before beheading him and presenting the severed head to the emperor. Shah Jahan never kept to his word about the land grant reward, and subsequently had Arjun killed as well.
On hearing of Amar Singh’s death, his wife along with the Rajput soldiers headed by Bhallu Singh and Ram Singh attacked the fort where the body of Amar Singh was lying. However, thousands of Mughal soldiers surrounded the Rajput forces and the valiant Rajput forces resisted them until Amar Singh’s body was taken away from the fort. Amar Singh’s wife subsequently committed sati.
The main entrance to Agra Fort today, which has small wooden door built into the gates, is popularly known as Amar Singh Darwaza (Amar Singh’s Door) as it marks Rajput gallantry over Shah Jahan’s army. Some historians claim that Shah Jahan ordered the door to be closed permanently as it would remind him of his near defeat at the hands of the forces.
The Chhatris of Jaswant Singh (or rather, Amar Singh Rathore) is a great example of how a little bit of research on what can appear on the surface to be a relatively small and humble building, can lead to incredibly interesting facts and stories, often associated with other nearby monuments. In many respects I think this is what brings me to India time and time again, that and the people…and sabudana wada of course 🙂
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